SINGAPORE - What started out as a form of basic, fuss-free overnight accommodation in Japan has now become part of a rising trend of quirky accommodation alternatives in Singapore.
Created in 1979 for exhausted Japanese businessmen, the humble capsule hotel concept has been revamped with unusual themes in Singapore, offering budget tourists and backpackers a cheaper and more interesting alternative to conventional hotels.
More than 10 such hostels have sprung up in Singapore since 2012 and two more are set to open in the next two years.
International chain Yotel will open its first capsule hotel in Asia in Orchard Road next year and another at Jewel Changi Airport, the new retail-cum-airport development that will open at the end of 2018.
Rates for a pod here range from $20 to $55 a night, cheaper than the average three-star hotel, which would cost more than $150 a night. A backpackers' hostel charges from $40 to $100, depending on location.
Says Mr Vinoth Kumar, 28, general manager of capsule hostel Vintage Inn in Race Course Road, which opened in 2013: "Previously, there were only major hotel brands offering rooms at higher prices or dormitory-style hostels offering theirs at low prices.
"But we realised there was a demand for capsule hostels. The individual pods give guests the privacy of a hotel room with the affordable rates of a dormitorystyled hostel."
Like a regular hotel, these capsule hostels provide customers with free Wi-Fi, private power sockets, personal locker spaces and breakfast. Female travellers can look for female-only rooms for added security and comfort.
Business is reportedly brisk, with occupancy rates ranging from 50 to 70 per cent on average, and from 80 to 100 per cent during peak periods.
Malaysian Connie Khor, 27, a casino employee, stayed at The Pod in Beach Road when she was here on a two-day vacation in November last year. She says: "Even though it was slightly small, it was a unique experience. You get privacy, but you also get to meet people from other countries."
Even with the compact concept, the capsule hostels here make the effort to create stylish and comfortable interiors.
Chic Capsule Otel
What: The hostel boasts a stylish space, with its capsules decked out in sleek wood veneers and dark brassy tones, complete with warm lighting. Every pod comes with a smart television set. Rates start from $38 a night.
Where: 13 Mosque Street
Info: To book, call 8380-0500 or go to facebook.com/chic.capsules.otel
Capsules @ The Little Red Dot
What: There is no missing this brick red building, aptly named The Little Red Dot. Inside, the stacked capsules are simply furnished with bold accents of red, complete with dim mood lighting for a restful night. Rates start from $20 a night.
Where: 125 Lavender Street
Info: To book, call 6294-7098
BRIGHT AND BOLD
Matchbox The Concept Hostel
What: The hostel's all-white interior is refreshed with bright punchy colours through its accent furnishings. Unlike most capsule hotels, which install curtains or blinds in each pod for privacy, the hostel does away with them to encourage guests to mingle. Rates start from $40 a night.
Where: 39 Ann Siang RoadInfo: To book, call 6423-0237 or go to matchbox.sg
What: The hostel is a three-storey historic shophouse with a Chinese baroque facade. But its interior has an interesting futuristic twist, with pods boasting sound-resistant walls, anti-glare LED reading lights and colourful backlights. Rates start from $50 a night.
Where: 8A Mosque Street
Info: To book, call 6222-2940 or go to winkhostel.com
What: With its palette of neutral tones and warm wood veneers, this hostel boasts elegant furnishings and tasteful artwork flanking the capsules. On top of the usual complimentary amenities, it also provides free dry-cleaning services. Rates start from $50 a night.
Where: 289 Beach Road
Info: To book, call 6298-8505 or go to www.thepod.sg
What: Despite the simple decor, a monochrome theme keeps the hostel looking spacious, while the airy, all-white interior of the capsules offers peaceful respite to the weary traveller. Rates start from $40 a night.
Where: 2 Tan Quee Lan Street
Info: To book, call 9226-8310 or go to www.plush-pods.com
What: The hostel uses red as an accent colour to offer a homely space to travellers, but ups the chic factor with an eclectic mix of tribal decorations and a brick wall in the lounge area. Rates start from $30 a night.
Where: 280 Lavender Street
Info: To book, call 6295-2495 or go to www.rucksackinn.com
The Plot Hostels
What: Clean lines and a mix of textures provide visual interest, while wood veneers and an earthly palette dominate the sleeping space, giving travellers a cosy home away from home. The hostel groups capsules in rooms with an ensuite bathroom. Rates start from $46 a night.
Where: 259 Outram Road
Info: To book, call 6298-8889 or go to theplothostels.com
What: Warm tones and woody elements complement the striking black-and-white chequered floor for a touch of vintage. The hostel shows its rich heritage through its collection of South-east Asian artwork and antiquities. Rates start from $45 a night.
Where: 60 Race Course Road
Info: To book, call 6396-8751 or go to vintageinn.sg
What: The hostel stands out with its eclectic mix of modern and antique furniture as well as local artwork of flora and fauna. Feather down or foam pillows are available, reflecting Adler's label as a luxury hostel. Rates start from $55 a night.
Where: 259 South Bridge Road
Info: To book, call 6226-0173 or go to adlerhostel.com