Staying in a Japanese style capsule hotel had been on my bucket list for a while. I then read somewhere that a lot of the ones in Japan are ‘male only’, so I wouldn’t be welcome anyway! HOWEVER in May 2017, Australia’s very first Capsule Hotel opened in Sydney and during my 2018 trip, I booked in for 4 nights!
What is a Capsule Hotel?
This is a question that I got asked the most! The best way to describe a capsule hotel would be ‘a glorified hostel’. Now put it this way, I have never been a hostel traveller. Being a light sleeper I couldn’t think of anything worse. 10 years ago during my first trip to Australia, I stayed in 4 person dorm rooms…where I knew 2 of the other people…and hoped that the 4th bed would stay empty (it didn’t). I felt like I was treading on egg shells and couldn’t relax.
The difference being with a capsule hotel is that you get your own PRIVATE SPACE. Yes some of the rooms have up to 16 beds in them (which in theory should be my worst nightmare), but having your own space with solid walls and a door makes all the difference. So imagine bunk beds with doors and walls and you won’t be far off what a capsule hotel is like!
The next question I was asked concerned claustrophobia. I was surprised by how spacious the capsules (or pods) felt. Some people couldn’t get past the fact that it looks too much like a morgue! Not that I’ve ever slept in a morgue but I’d imagine there’s a little more breathing room in the capsules!
In the video above, I try to give you an idea of the amount of space there is in the capsules. I am 5ft 4, so OK yes I’m not much bigger than a hobbit, but sitting up with my arm stretched above my head, my hand would lay flat against the roof (go on, try it!). I think it also helped that despite the outside of the capsules being dark grey in colour and very space age looking, the inside was white and very well lit. A huge mirror on one of the walls also gave the impression that the pod was double the size too.
The majority of capsules are single sized with either a front or side entrance. If you want a little more space, there are double ones available for a little extra but they are all only single occupancy still.
The Capsule Hotel Sydney
Each capsule was packed with tech! To start with, each capsule had keycard entry…’safer’ than a bunkbed! The same keycard then gets inserted into a slot, just like some hotels, which then activates the light switches. You could choose from a main light, a mirror light or if you wanted it dimmer, a couple of overhead reading lights (or if you wanted to be a pig, you could have them all on). I loved this. The capsule was never pitch black due to the emergency lights, but they were dim enough to be able to sleep comfortably. It also meant that if someone switched on the main light in the room, it never affected you or the other way round, if you want to sit in the capsule with all the lights on, the other people in the room wouldn’t have even known you had them on!
When you leave the pod TAKE THE KEY CARD WITH YOU!! If you shut the door, the card gets locked inside!
As well as the buttons for the lights, the control panel then has 2 USB charging ports (*note* 6ft leads don’t work, you have to use the standard sized ones), a power outlet that fit ANY worldwide plug, yep: EU, UK, US, AU!, the door unlock button and a dial to control the cooling fans (similar to the air vents in a car). On the roof there is a fold down Android TV…that none of us managed to get working…but then it was never really a big deal for us, if we were that bothered I’m sure the staff would have given us a helping hand!
Other features of the capsule include: 2 little cubby hole areas with hooks, a fold out table, WiFi and a small safe. I found that I could also comfortably keep a change of clothes and my day bag at the end of the bed and not really notice that they were there.
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Now the capsules aren’t totally noise proof. For the most part the people in my room were quiet and you generally couldn’t hear them. One night a loud group came in at 1am but then sometimes when you stay in hotels you can hear people in the hallways or in neighbouring rooms. Some of the ladders to the top row capsules were a little squeaky, the guy in the pod next to me couldn’t find his alarm one morning and I did hear someone fart. I did do my Duolingo lessons each morning though and my sister in the pod below me said she couldn’t hear me doing it.
As well as the keycard opening up the capsule, it also opened up a locker which had the same number as the pod. Weirdly the top bunks had the bottom lockers and the bottom bunks had the top lockers. My weedling of a sis had a top locker and struggled to lift her suitcase up into it…as for the coat hangers, she had no chance of reaching them and partly moved into my ‘bottom shelf’ one. They were really spacious though!
The Toilet Situation
I’m pretty sure people would be interested in the toilet situation. I believe on my floor, there were 22 capsules (I think the other room had 8). Now I’m not sure exactly what the occupancy rate was, I’m pretty sure it must have been nearly full by the looks of the shoes on the floor outside the pods, but I never had to wait for the toilet or a shower, despite there only being 2 toilets and 3 showers. Each bathroom had private shower and toilet cubicles and I’m not talking ones with big gaps under the doors, they were totally sealed in. Each of the showers also had private sinks. As for toiletries, other than hand soap, you have to take your own. Towels also have a $3 hire fee but I always have a travel towel on me anyway. If you book direct through the Capsule Hotel website, at the moment (correct at the time of writing) they are including towel hire as a promo.
The reception and communal kitchen are on level 3 (along with 1 room of capsules). The majority of rooms are on level 4 and 5. Level 4 also has a guest laundry room. The kitchen works in the same style as that of a hostel, you have to label your food items and are expected to wash up anything you get dirty. The Capsule Hotel does provide free tea, coffee and powdered milk though which I liked. The door in the corner, kinda squished behind a table, actually leads to an outside terrace and sitting area!
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The reception isn’t open 24 hours a day. It opens at 9am and shuts around 11pm, so whatever you do, don’t lock yourself out of your pod if you get up for a toilet run in the night! If I remember rightly, there’s a charge if you have to do an out of hours call out and if you plan on arriving after 10.30pm, you have to let the reception know in advance! You can also borrow hair dryers from the reception for free…just make sure you shower during reception opening times 😉 .
The Capsule Hotel Location and Century Bar
The Capsule Hotel is located at 640 George Street in Sydney, Australia. For those that haven’t visited Sydney before, George Street feels very much like the main central street. It’s currently a bit of a construction zone at the moment, as they are planning on extending the Light Rail network. George Street is packed with bars, restaurants, train stations, hotels, shopping centres, you name it. If you follow it, it takes you all the way down into Circular Quay and The Rocks area near the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
On my last 2 visits to Sydney I was based along George Street nearer to Central Station but I much preferred the location of The Capsule Hotel as it felt a little more central, a few minutes from Darling Harbour, 30 minutes from Circular Quay and the Bridge and a 5 minute walk from Museum Station which has buses to Bondi Beach and is on the train line to the airport (the closest station is Town Hall but to get to the airport the train goes round the full city loop first).
The Century Bar is located on levels 1 and 2 of the hotel. One is a regular bar and the other is more of a darts bar (machines are around $2AUD per player for one of the ‘decent’ darts games). Unlike some accommodation above bars, you actually hear zero noise from them!
There is one small teeny tiny lift that is slow so you could walk up to level 4 carrying all your luggage and it would still be on the ground floor.
Book a stay at The Capsule Hotel Sydney
The front entrance capsules start from $47AUD ($35USD/£25GDP) with the doubles (solo occupancy) setting you back around $75AUD a night.
For more information visit: The Capsule Hotel website.
What are your thoughts of Capsule Hotels? Do you think they are a good budget option that’s a step up from a hostel but cheaper than a private room?