Space age - the futuristic interior of a capsule pod in Sydney's Capsule Hotel
First emerging in 1970s Japan, the aptly named ‘capsule’ style of hotel is as far from 5-star as you can get. However, it’s an accommodation trend that has since gone global, spreading to both the UK and US and - as of two years ago - Australia.
In this story for Escape, The Hop founder, Paul Ewart, checks in for a night to experience a night in the capsule hotel firsthand.
Opened in Sydney’s CBD, The Capsule Hotel, is the first of its kind in the country and it’s 70 wallet-friendly, futuristic-looking pods, are touted as offering the comforts of a traditional hotel room - just without the ‘room’ part.
Standard capsule is 79 inches in length and 47 inches in width. To put that in comparison, your average coffin is 84 inches long and 28 inches wide.
THE INS AND OUTS
A night at the Capsule Hotel means you'll be in close proximity to your neighbours
With visions of fast-froward, futuristic Tokyo in my head I climb up and crawl into my ‘pod’ to take in the amenities. The stark white interior, bright lights and tech-y control panel make me feel like I’m on the set of Star Trek or similar and considering the (undeniably) tiny space there’s pretty much everything you’ll need.
One panel houses USB plugs, headphone jacks, an alarm clock, power point and climate and light controls. Above this is a large mirror and at the opposite end of the pod a decent sized LCD TV is fixed to the wall. The fit out also includes a smoke detector, fire alarm, fire extinguisher and ‘SOS’ button the safety conscious.
For luggage, a small safety deposit box is inside the pod and outside an accompanying large locker. Downstairs there are kitchen and laundry facilities and several communal bathrooms are available on every floor. $5 will get you a rental towel for the night.
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LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
Sydney's Chinatown is mere steps away from the Capsule Hotel
You simply can’t get more central. In the heart - and I mean heart - of Sydney CBD, the hotel sits above George Street’s Century Bar. Chinatown, the main cinema complex, Town Hall, Central Station and the QVB, are all minutes walk away in different directions.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
The reception of the Capsule Hotel
Positioned as medium between a hostel and an Airbnb (though it’d have to be a cheap one) prices for a single pod here range from $50 to $70 for a deluxe capsule, which features a double bed. But given its central location, there’s plenty of competition.
A stones throw away is the Ibis World Square property, which offers standard twin or double rooms at $224 a pop. Also nearby, the Travelodge has a standard queen room for $240. While at the fancier end of the scale, the ultra-hip QT (so swish it comes with day spa, barbershop and lavish suites) comes in at $480 per night for a king room. Similarly plush, the InterContinental offers deluxe king rooms starting at $340.
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Everything you need? A safe, mirror, and climate control at Sydney's Capsule Hotel
The common thread linking my fellow guests and I is undoubtedly saving cash. My neighbours are a mix of young international backpackers and business travellers looking for a cheap hotel alternative. Striking up conversation with one such corporate type, I discover that he’s staying here to make his per diem allowance go further (namely on few drinks and a slap-up dinner) while another young tourist is here to avoid the precarious hostel dorm room.
Part of the success of capsule hotels in the Land of the Rising Sun are its customer base of drunken salarymen that live away from the CBD who, rather than face a lengthy and costly ride home, save cash and crash in a pod to sleep off it off. And for Sydneysiders on a big night out, depending on how far you live out of the city, there’s similar money-saving potential for utilising this bargainous accommodation.
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THE EXPERIENCE ITSELF Official check-in is between 2 pm and 11 pm and checkout between 7 am and 10 am. Being local and sans large bags I arrive later in the afternoon, however, for tourists that want to arrive early and explore, luggage can be stored at reception until check in time.
Despite being open for mere weeks there’s a rundown feel to the place. Most of the sinks weren’t working, the shared toilets lacked hand wash or paper towels and the ‘secure access’ swipe card panels didn’t work on anything aside from the pods themselves.
The Travel Hop's Paul Ewart bedding down for the night at Sydney's Capsule Hotel
I try to watch a bit of tele, however, just like the inspiration for the capsule hotel itself, the TV system has also apparently been inspired by Japan. Every word is in Japanese and there’s no hint as to how to change it to English.
Bedding down for the night, I discover that the mattress is only two inches or so thick, which isn’t exactly comfortable, but the main issue prohibiting decent shuteye is the noise. SO much noise. Every time someone enters or leaves their pod, my flimsy plastic pod literally shakes. I hear every word from my neighbours, plus given its location on the main thoroughfare in the city, every beep, cackle and drunken shout permeates my ears.
One of my main concerns was a frisky pod neighbour that had gotten lucky after a night out on the tiles. Happily there’s a a strict one-guest-only policy. So, if that’s on your radar then perhaps wait until Japan’s infamous ‘love hotels’ make their Aussie debut. It can only be a matter of time, right?
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To book a pod visit: www.thecapsulehotel.com.au
Originally published in Escape