In the five years that I’ve been traveling, I’ve stayed in scores of hostels. Out of all of them, it’s always the pod hostels that are the best.
What is a Pod Hostel
While hostels have been around for decades, usually as an option for youth travelers, pod hostels are fairly new. Also known as capsule hostels, the first one apparently opened in Japan 40 years ago, but it’s only in the past couple years that they’ve really started opening up in cities around the world.
The concept of a pod hostel is that, instead of using traditional bunk beds, individual “cubby boxes” are built for each bed. Okay, that might sound a little claustrophobic, but that’s rarely the case. Instead, it’s all about the privacy and comfort that your own little room affords.
I’ve seen all kinds of arrangements for pod hostels. Some are actually like cubbies which you crawl into from the end. Others are entered by the side with a thick curtain to partition them off. One in Bangkok used to use shipping containers with one whole side cut off to allow adequate air flow and give access to the bottoms of the beds. Sadly, their land was claimed for development and their new building doesn’t have the same feel.
Some of My Favorite Pod Hostels Around the World
CODE Hostel – Edinburgh, Scotland
This is the only pod hostel in Scotland and it’s as close to perfect as you could imagine. As of August 2019 they’re opening a new location right next to St. Giles Cathedral in the center of town. Using an old courthouse, the hallways have the old jail doors (way cooler than scary), the bathrooms are ultra-modern and they even have an elevator! I couldn’t believe their attention to detail, even down to the duck boards in the showers.
Hello I’m Local – Haarlem, Netherlands
I don’t even know how to consider this one a hostel. Verily, they only have three dorms to their nine private rooms, but they’re about to add a few dozen more beds in new dorm rooms. The four manager hostel team is incredibly friendly and inviting, the whole hostel is exquisitely decorated with no two rooms the same, the breakfasts are absolutely delicious, and, well, it’s in Haarlem. If you’ve never heard of Haarlem, check out my story about how beautiful it is.
Bed Bike Hostel – Chiang Mai, Thailand
As the birthplace of pod hostels, there are plenty in Asia. I stayed in a few, and one of my favorites was Bed Bike Hostel in Chiang Mai. It wasn’t incredibly fancy, but the beds were big, the rooms were cold (a blessing in the Thailand heat) and the location was fantastic.
Bed Square – Marrakech, Morocco
If the beds at Bed Bike were big, the ones at Bed Square were huge! It really was like my own little room in the bed, but then there was the rest of the hostel. And what a hostel! If you’ve ever heard of a riad, those wonderful accommodations in Marrakech with balconies and a pool in the middle, this was the same idea, just with dorm rooms. They even served a delicious breakfast every morning on the rooftop terrace.
Obviously these are all still hostels, and some people just prefer to stay in a hotel. But if you want to save a bit of money in your travels and still have really nice accommodations, consider these. After all, they all also have private rooms you can rent. That’s just not quite the same experience.