Capsule Hotel Guide

Capsule hotels, also known as pod hotels, started in Japan as a clever response to high urban living costs and limited space. These hotels offer minimalistic, efficient, and cost-effective accommodations, primarily targeting travelers needing a short stay or a place to sleep.

Capsule hotels are a practical and innovative solution for modern travelers seeking convenience and affordability. While they may not offer the luxury of traditional hotels, they provide a unique lodging experience that is both efficient and memorable. Whether you are a budget traveler, a businessperson, or just curious about this minimalist concept, capsule hotels offer a glimpse into the future of urban accommodation.

What is Capsule Hotel?

A capsule hotel is a type of unique, budget-friendly accommodation that originated in Japan and has since spread globally. It is designed to provide guests with a private, enclosed sleeping space or “capsule,” typically measuring around 1.2 meters wide, 2 meters long, and 1 meter high.

These compact sleeping pods are stacked side-by-side and on top of each other in a space-efficient manner, often resembling a beehive structure.

image showing a capsule hotel with pods stacked on top of one another
An image showing Haneda’s 9Hours Capsule Hotel with pods stacked on top of one another

Emerging in the 1970s, these hotels were initially designed to provide Japanese businessmen a convenient place to sleep without the long commute home. Capsules, or pods, typically measuring 3 cubic meters around 2.4 cubic meters provide a private, enclosed sleeping space equipped with essential amenities.

History and Evolution

The first capsule hotel, “Capsule Inn Osaka,” opened in 1979, designed by Kisho Kurokawa. The concept quickly gained traction in Japan and has since spread globally, evolving to cater to various travelers’ needs.

Historical and Architectural Significance

The concept of capsule hotels is deeply rooted in the Japanese architectural movement known as Metabolism, which emerged in the post-war era. Metabolism, influenced by ideas of organic growth and renewal, emphasized the creation of modular, flexible structures that could adapt and grow like living organisms.

This movement was marked by the design of plug-in capsule towers, where individual pods could be added or replaced, reflecting a continuous development process.

One of the most iconic examples of this is Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo, built in 1972. This building exemplified the Metabolist vision with its prefabricated capsules that could be individually removed and replaced, symbolizing a fusion of architecture with biological processes.

Nakagin Capsule Tower built in 1972 and was the first capsule hotel
Nakagin Capsule Tower. Credit: Nakagin’s Wikipedia Page

More images below;

Check out this Guide on Airports with Sleeping Pods

Modern Adaptations and Global Spread

Today, the capsule hotel concept has evolved and spread globally, adapting to various cultural and practical needs. Modern capsule hotels, like the Yellow Capsule Hotel near Cancun Airport, blend the original principles with contemporary amenities and design innovations.

These hotels cater to a diverse range of travelers, offering facilities like free WiFi, air conditioning, and ergonomic bedding, while maintaining the space-efficient, cost-effective ethos. The Yellow Capsule Hotel, for instance, provides capsules for both solo travelers and couples, complete with amenities such as lockers, hot breakfast, and an airport shuttle service, all located conveniently close to Cancun Airport.

Capsule hotels are not just a lodging option but a testament to innovative architectural thinking that combines efficiency, privacy, and modern comforts in a compact space. Their continued evolution and adoption worldwide highlight their enduring appeal and practicality in today’s fast-paced, urbanized world.

Features of Capsule Hotels

Capsule hotels are known for their compact sleeping pods and shared facilities. Here’s a closer look at their key features:

  1. Sleeping Pods (Capsules):
    • Dimensions: Typically, capsule pods have dimensions of around 2 square meters and a height of 1.2 meters. This space is designed to comfortably fit a single person.
    • Interior: Each pod usually contains a mattress, pillow, blanket, reading light, power outlet, small TV, and sometimes a ventilation system. Some also come with an alarm clock and a radio.
    • Privacy: Pods are separated by curtains or doors, offering a degree of privacy but not complete soundproofing.
    • Security: Lockers are generally provided for personal belongings and valuables.
    Expert Insight: For some people, the compact size of the pods might induce a claustrophobic sensation. It’s always a good idea to inspect the pod before booking if you have such concerns.
  2. Communal Areas:
    • Bathrooms: These are shared and usually gender-segregated, featuring common facilities like toilets and washbasins.
    • Lounges: Common areas with seating, Wi-Fi, and sometimes vending machines or a small café.
    • Dining: Some capsule hotels have dining areas or partner with nearby restaurants.
    • Workspaces: Business travelers can find workspaces equipped with desks, power outlets, and internet access.
  3. Additional Amenities:
    • Laundry Services: Coin-operated washing machines and dryers.
    • Wellness Facilities: Some upscale capsule hotels offer saunas, spas, or fitness centers.
    • Entertainment: In-room entertainment systems, communal game rooms, or libraries.
    • Kitchenette: Some capsule hotels provide a small kitchen area for guests.

Types of Capsule Hotels

  1. Standard Capsule Hotels:
    • These focus on affordability and convenience, making them ideal for budget travelers or short stays.
  2. Luxury Capsule Hotels:
    • Offering enhanced comfort with better mattresses, upscale interiors, and additional services like spas and high-end dining options, these cater to business travelers or those seeking more comfort.
  3. Themed Capsule Hotels:
    • Decorated around specific themes such as space, anime, or traditional Japanese aesthetics, they provide a unique and immersive experience.
  4. Mixed-Gender and Female-Only Capsule Hotels:
    • These have separate floors or sections for men and women, with some catering exclusively to women travelers for added security and privacy.

Classification Criteria for Capsule Hotels

Capsule hotels are subject to various criteria to ensure safety, comfort, and proper functioning. Here are some key points from the classification checklist:

  1. General Requirements:
    • Equipment and facilities should be in perfect working order and maintained in a clean, hygienic condition.Air conditioning should maintain a temperature between 18°C – 24°C year-round.Free Wi-Fi should be available at all times.At least five capsules and shared areas should meet the minimum standards.
    Insight: Consistent maintenance and cleanliness are vital in ensuring a comfortable stay, as shared facilities can quickly deteriorate if not properly cared for.
  2. Accessibility:
    • Capsules and shared washrooms must be accessible and meet minimum standards.
  3. Security and Safety:
    • Light switches and sockets should be free of defects.
    • Emergency procedures and telephone numbers should be posted in English and Arabic.
    • Adequate lighting (minimum 200 lumens) should be available in all areas for safety.
  4. Lobby and Reception:
    • A main entrance and a clearly visible reception area are essential.
    • The reception should be occupied 24/7, with at least one English and Arabic-speaking employee per shift.
    • Free Wi-Fi, charging facilities, and a TV providing English and Arabic channels should be available in the lobby.
  5. Capsules:
    • Capsules generally have a floor area of about 2 square meters and a height of 1.20 meters.Beds should be at least 120 cm wide and 2 meters long, equipped with linens, pillows, and an alarm clock.Capsules should have either doors or curtains in good working order.Recognizable signs (letters or numbers) should be available for each capsule.Only non-smoking capsules with ventilation or air conditioning are allowed.
    Insight: The compact design of the capsules maximizes space efficiency but might feel restrictive for those accustomed to more spacious accommodations.
  6. Shared Bathroom:
    • Bathrooms should be gender-segregated with private shower areas.
    • Toilets should be available at a ratio of 1 per 4 beds.
    • Continuous hot and cold water supply, with towels and bath towels available on request.
    • Shower areas should have anti-slip devices, and adequate lighting (300-500 lumens) should be provided above the washbasin.
    • Lockers with a locking mechanism should be available for each cabinet.
  7. Shared Areas:
    • Each floor should have a seating area with a TV providing English and Arabic channels, including sports channels.
    • A kitchenette or kitchen area should be available on each floor.
    • Laundry facilities such as washing machines and lines for clothes drying should be present.
  8. Coffee Shop:
    • A coffee shop should have clearly visible opening hours in English and Arabic.
    • The menu, available in English and Arabic, should include a sufficient selection of coffee, tea, juices, pastries, and snacks.
    • Food must be stored hygienically and cooled sufficiently, with a vending machine for drinks and snacks available.
    • Regular site hygiene inspections should be carried out and documented.
  1. Japan:
    • Capsule Inn Osaka: The original capsule hotel with basic amenities.
    • Nine Hours: A chain offering sleek, modern design and a unique 9-hour stay concept (1 hour to shower, 7 hours to sleep, 1 hour to prepare).
  2. China:
  3. Singapore:
    • The Pod: Upscale capsules with luxurious bedding and comprehensive amenities.
  4. United States:

9Hours Hotel Capsule Hotel in Haneda Airport, Tokyo Japan:

The 9hours hotel offers an innovative and modern take on the traditional Japanese capsule hotel, which has historically provided low-cost accommodations for commuters. Opened in December 2009, the 9hours hotel combines functional design with aesthetic appeal to cater to a broader audience, setting new standards for capsule hotels.

Key Features and Innovations

1. Capsule Design:

  • Dimensions: Each capsule measures 1.20 x 2.34 meters, maintaining the standard size for capsule hotels.
  • Material: The sleeping capsules are made from glass fibre-reinforced plastic, ensuring durability and a clean, modern look.
  • Construction: Capsules are arranged in a honeycomb-like structure on a steel sub-construction, creating an efficient use of space and a distinctive visual appearance in the corridors.

2. Comfort and Aesthetics:

  • Design Philosophy: Despite the minimal space, the design aims to offer a high standard of comfort and a pleasant atmosphere.
  • Colour Scheme: The hotel uses a strategic color palette to differentiate areas:
    • Entrance and Lounge: Gleaming white for a welcoming feel.
    • Washrooms: Shades of grey to create a neutral, calming environment.
    • Sleeping Areas: Black-floored corridors for a restful ambiance.

3. Guest Segregation:

  • Separate Floors: Dedicated storeys for male and female guests, each with its own showers, washrooms, and lockers to ensure privacy and convenience.

4. Amenities:

  • Innovative Service Concept: Includes essentials like toothbrushes and slippers, catering to the needs of guests staying for short durations.
  • Recommended Duration: The hotel’s name, “9hours,” suggests an ideal stay duration of seven hours for sleep and one hour each for showering and dressing, aligning with its functional purpose.

Naruse Inokuma Architects set out to redefine the capsule hotel experience with the Nine Hours Capsule Hotel, creating a new standard for this unique accommodation type. Their goal was to reinvent the conventional image of capsule hotels by blending functionality with a rich, enjoyable stay experience.

Reimagined Stay Experience

The stay at Nine Hours Capsule Hotel is divided into four distinct stages, each thoughtfully designed to enhance the guest experience:

  1. Reception: A welcoming area that sets the tone for the stay.
  2. Prologue Corridor: A transitional space that builds anticipation.
  3. Sanitary Lounge: A functional yet relaxing area for hygiene needs.
  4. Sleeping Pod Spaces: The ultimate relaxation and sleep environment.

By carefully selecting colors, materials, and lighting for each of these areas, Naruse Inokuma Architects have created a functional hotel that also enriches the guest experience, from the moment of arrival to the final restful sleep.

Target Audience

While capsule hotels traditionally served commuters, the 9hours hotel targets a wider range of guests, including tourists and business travelers, looking for a cost-effective yet comfortable stay in major cities.

Some thoughts on this capsule hotel:

The 9hours capsule hotel redefines the concept of capsule accommodation with its innovative design and focus on comfort and aesthetics. By offering a well-thought-out environment with essential amenities and segregated areas for privacy, it successfully appeals to a broader audience beyond its traditional commuter base. The strategic use of space and materials, along with the modern design elements, positions the 9hours hotel as a leading example in the evolution of capsule hotels.

Avagard Capsule Hotel at Bangkok Airport

The Avagard Capsule Hotel at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport offers a unique, comfortable, and affordable solution for travelers needing rest during layovers. Unlike other airport sleep technologies, such as GoSleep’s futuristic reclining chairs, Avagard capsules are spacious enough to fit a queen-sized bed, providing more comfort and amenities. Located conveniently on floor B1 near the train terminal, these capsules offer a serene escape from the bustling airport environment.

Unlike Haneda’s 9 Hours Capsule Hotel, which focuses on minimalistic design and functionality, Avagard offers a more spacious and comfortable experience. While both provide a unique sleep solution within airports, Avagard’s capsules are larger and include more amenities, catering to travelers looking for a bit more luxury during their layover.

Image showing Capsule Hotel in Bangkok Airport
Image showing Capsule Hotel in Bangkok Airport. Credit: Business Insider.

Pricing:

In terms of pricing, the Avagard Capsule Hotel is considered reasonable. The 7-hour day use access is priced at 900 THB ($25) and is available from 10 am to 5 pm, while the 15-hour overnight access costs 2200 THB ($60) and is available from 6 pm to 9 am. These rates are competitive compared to other sleep solutions, though some users have noted slow WiFi speeds and the lack of showers as drawbacks.

Read our Guide on Bangkok Airport Sleep at Avagrand Capsule Hotel

IzZzleep Capsule Hotel at Mexico City Airport

The IzZzleep Capsule Hotel at Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport provides an innovative, comfortable, and cost-effective sleep solution for travelers.

Inspired by the Japanese capsule hotel concept, IzZzleep offers private, secure, and budget-friendly sleeping capsules, known as pods, that cater to passengers with long layovers or early morning flights. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the IzZzleep sleep pods at the airport.

Location and Access

IzZzleep sleep pods in Terminal 1 are located on the upper floor in the corridor leading from the foreign buses to the international parking lot. In Terminal 2, the pods are situated on the first floor in the pre-security area on the ground floor, near the national arrivals exit and adjacent to the bus terminal. This central location provides easy access for travelers arriving or departing from Terminal 2.

Amenities

Each IzZzleep pod is equipped with modern amenities to ensure a comfortable stay:

  • USB Charging Ports: Multiple ports for all your tech gadgets.
  • Bottled Water: Complimentary to keep you hydrated.
  • Free WiFi: Strong and reliable connection for streaming and browsing.
  • Soundproofing: Ensures a quiet environment despite the bustling airport.
  • Lighting: Overhead lights, reading lights, and lights behind the mirror with a sleep mode button to turn off all lights.
  • Air Conditioning: Adjustable to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  • Lockers: Secure lockers for storing personal belongings, with enough space for a carry-on bag.

Read our Mexico City Airport Sleeping Guide with izZzleep Capsule Hotel Pods in T1 and T2

Yellow Capsule Hotel near Cancun Airport

The Yellow Capsule Hotel, few minutes from Cancun Airport, offers a modern stay for solo travelers and couples. With single and queen capsules, guests enjoy amenities like free hot breakfast, all-day coffee, WiFi, lockers, and shared bathrooms. The hotel also provides an airport shuttle and organizes tours to key Mexican Caribbean destinations.

Located in Plaza La Roca, the hotel is near various restaurants, cafes, convenience stores, a movie theater, and a gym, making it ideal for exploring Cancun. With 24-hour services, including a rest area and terrace, The Yellow Capsule Hotel ensures a comfortable and convenient stay for travelers.

Read our Guide to Sleeping in Cancun Airport with Yellow Capsule Hotel Pods

Pros and Cons of Capsule Hotels

Pros:

  • Affordability: Lower cost compared to traditional hotels.
  • Convenience: Located near transportation hubs, making them ideal for transit passengers.
  • Efficiency: Compact and efficient use of space.
  • Unique Experience: Offers a novel and modern lodging experience.

Cons:

  • Lack of Privacy: Limited soundproofing and communal facilities.
  • Space Limitations: Not suitable for travelers with large luggage or those requiring more space.
  • Amenities: Basic amenities might not suffice for longer stays or luxury needs.Expert Insight: Capsule hotels are perfect for short stays but may not be suitable for extended visits due to the limited space and basic amenities.

Tips for Staying in a Capsule Hotel

  1. Pack Light: Due to limited space, bring only essential items.
  2. Earplugs and Eye Mask: Useful for blocking out noise and light.
  3. Secure Valuables: Utilize provided lockers for personal belongings.
  4. Follow Etiquette: Be respectful of shared spaces and maintain cleanliness.
  5. Check-In and Out Times: Adhere to the hotel’s specific check-in and check-out times to avoid additional charges.

Capsule Hotel Market Size:

In one report that broke down the global market size for capsule hotels, it noted that its growth is being driven by the demand for cost-effective and space-efficient lodging.

The Report summarized in this Linkedin Post indicates that the Capsule Hotel market, valued at USD 213 million in 2023, is projected to reach USD 334 million by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.5% from 2024 to 2030. Another report estimated it to reach $276 million by 2028.

This expansion is fueled by the increasing adoption of capsule hotels among tourists and office workers who seek affordable and convenient accommodations.

A Peer-reviewed Study on Capsule Hotels:

The research “Customer Experience Management in Capsule Hotels” by Victor Olorunsola and colleagues analyzes 1,304 online reviews from top capsule hotels on Booking.com using Leximancer 4.5. The study identifies nine key themes crucial to customer experience management (CEM): staff, hotel, area, location, bed, capsule, check-in, noise, and luggage. These findings emphasize the importance of various aspects of guest interactions and logistics in enhancing the overall customer experience.

The research highlights that effective CEM strategies can significantly boost competitiveness and organizational success in the capsule hotel industry. Hospitality executives are encouraged to tailor strategies based on guest feedback to improve service delivery and satisfaction. This study fills a gap in the literature by providing a practical framework for enhancing customer experiences in low-budget hotels, offering valuable insights for industry practitioners.

Image of Nathan Kip Rotich

Nathan helps travelers find the most comfortable sleep setups during layovers, from cozy airport hotels to futuristic sleep pods. His insights aim to transform layovers into rejuvenating sleepcations, offering travelers an alternative to costly hotels and uncomfortable benches.