The capsule hotel craze might have started in Japan, but in cities like Sydney, posh pods are proving a welcome alternative to expensive hotel rooms.
Sleeping in a space the size of a coffin may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but for cost-conscious travellers and backpackers, the ‘bed in a box’ phenomenon is one way to see the world without breaking the bank.
The capsule craze started in Japan, with the first pod opening in Osaka in 1979 as a place for tipsy businessman to get a good night’s rest.
Today, you’ll find these tiny sleeping boxes in many big cities and airports, from Tokyo-Haneda Airport and Shanghai Railway Station to Hanoi’s Nội Bài International Airport, London’s Heathrow and Gatwick, Amsterdam-Schiphol and Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
While pods can be a challenge for those who get freaked out by small spaces, modern versions are not the claustrophobic sleeping capsules they once were.
The tiny room mentality is a welcome alternative for cost-conscious travellers.
But they are spartan, and clearly more space age – designed to appeal to tech-savvy, club-hopping millennials who just want to rest their weary heads and turn over.
Sydney, as is the case in most of Asia, is known for its pricey hotel rates, so this tiny room mentality is proving a welcome alternative for domestic and international travellers alike.
It also reflects a growing desire for cheap lodging that provides a bit more privacy than the traditional hostel.
There are three main capsule-style hotels in the Harbour City: the original Capsule Hotel, The Pod and Space Q. They’re all based around Haymarket and George Street, a popular drinking haven for Irish and British backpackers on the southern fringe of Sydney’s CBD.
Just don’t forget the earplugs and eye shades because this is the party end of town and people tend to come and go at all hours of the night.
Plans are also underway to open the city’s biggest capsule hotel at Glebe, in Sydney’s inner west, close to public transport and not far from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
Ryals Hotels, at 247-253 Broadway, has lodged a development application to add 100 self-contained capsule “pods” across four rooms in the 680-square-metre basement of its three-storey hotel.
The development application (below) was lodged with Sydney City Council in November, but is still being assessed.
The Capsule Hotel
The tech-friendly Capsule Hotel, above a Hungry Jacks burger restaurant near Chinatown, has 70 self-contained pods that snap together like a jigsaw piece.
With media streaming services, unlimited free Wi-Fi, USB ports and headphone jacks for music and movie lovers, it’s a popular pick for tech-savvy travellers on a budget.
One night’s stay starts at A$53 for a single bed (100cm x 200 cm) with front or side entrance, and $61 for a deluxe bed (160cm x 200cm) – a fraction of the cost of a hotel room in Australia’s most expensive city. There’s also day-use capsules for $39.
Each capsule is air-conditioned and includes an LCD TV, sensor light switches, a detachable table and a handful of safety features including an SOS button for emergencies and a mini fire extinguisher. There’s also a safe for valuables.
Address: Level 3, 640 George Street, Haymarket
On first impression, Space Q looks like something out of a Star Wars movie. With a modern, futuristic feel, the cosy cocoons are brilliant white and have lots of shiny surfaces (which makes them easy to clean).
There are single and double bed capsules, each equipped with multiple USB charging ports, power points and a fully enclosed safe. Guests are also given a private keycard for their capsule.
There’s free Wi-Fi in public areas, a games room, separate male and female bathrooms with free toiletries and a laundry room.
There’s a non-refundable rate as low as $47 for the Deluxe Side-Entrance Single Bed Capsule when booked direct, while the Standard Single Bed Capsule is normally $65.
Address: 752 George Street, Haymarket
This is not a capsule hotel, but rather a hotel with comfy cubbyholes.
More like hostel dorm accommodation, it includes single bunk-style beds (there’s also a female-only dorm) with curtains rather than doors.
And there’s private accommodation for people travelling in groups of six or four, as well as a more traditional hotel-style room with a double bed.
Rates for a single bed can be as low as A$44 mid week or $61 on busy weekend periods, while the private six-bunk dorm is A$349 a night, and the double room is A$169.
The Pod has a communal space with a TV for guests to unwind, a kitchen and dining area, laundry and shared bathrooms. Guests access enjoy free toiletries, free Wi-Fi and personal lockers for their passports and valuables.
Address: Level 6, 396 Pitt St, Sydney
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