If you’re reading this, then you’re likely one of two people: One, you’re wondering what the heck a capsule hotel is and are curious to find out about it. Or two, you’ve been considering staying in a capsule hotel and want to know a bit more about them to see if it’s going to be the best option for your next travel adventure.

No matter who you are or why you’re interested in learning more about capsule hotels, we’ve got you covered. This handy guide will tell you everything you need to know about capsule hotels so you can decide if it’s something you want to look into more for your next trip abroad, or if you’d rather skip them and opt for something a little more familiar (and spoiler, probably a tad more comfortable).

What are capsule hotels?

First things first — what the heck is a capsule hotel?

While most notably existing in the metropolitan areas of Japan, a capsule hotel is almost exactly what it sounds like. It’s a hotel where the “rooms” are more like single-bed spaces, sometimes as many as 12 in one room. Your “capsule” is pretty much just a small sleeping nook with a single bed, sometimes a TV, or even a window with a view. While amenities vary as far as what you’ll find in your small-scale hotel room, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll have a small shelf, an outlet for your electronics, and a bed with all the dressings.

To put it simply, capsule hotels offer small, self-contained, mini hotel rooms. They’re the perfect accommodation for just a basic one-to-two-nights’ stay on a dime, as they pretty much offer the bare basics to get by — a bed, a hot shower, and a bathroom. Granted, the showers and the bathrooms are shared, as are the common or “living” areas.

Every capsule hotel is a bit different in layout and offers. Some of the rooms that host the dozen or so sleeping capsules may be coed, while some separate men and women by floor.

Pros of staying in a capsule hotel

The overarching benefit of staying in a capsule hotel is the price: For around 30 dollars, you can get a cozy bed for the night and a hot shower in the morning. Also, depending on who you are, you may view the openness and communal aspect of capsule hotels as benefits, as you get to meet other travelers in similar situations and learn more about the surrounding area through social interaction.

Another benefit of capsule hotels is that the bathrooms, lockers, and storage areas are often incredibly clean and orderly. This may not be the case for all of them, but one shared bathroom means communal areas get more attention from the staff.

Yet another prominent pro about capsule hotels is their location. Often, they’re located right in the heart of scenic Japanese cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Takayama. If you’re a traveler looking to optimize your experience, capsule hotels place you right in the middle of the action.

capsule hotel
Getty/VCG

Cons of staying in a capsule hotel

The cons mostly relate to the cultural differences between the Japanese and Westerners. The capsules, because of their size, can be a bit stifling and a trigger for people with claustrophobia. Additionally, privacy can be seen as another issue. While there’s always some sort of curtain or closure to close the open end of your capsule, that’s pretty much the only thing between you and the dozens of people in capsules around you.

Noise can also be seen as another con. Because the capsules are close together, noise of any kind can easily be amplified by the structure of the capsules themselves.

Traveling with a partner? One capsule is often incredibly uncomfortable for two people, so you may have to separate and each get your own capsule.

When would you want to consider staying in a capsule hotel?

This would certainly vary. In order of most luxurious accommodations to the least, it would go hotel, then hostel, then capsule hotel. A capsule hotel, while quick, easy, and cheap, literally gives you the bare-bones that you’d need for a night’s stay. Even a hostel offers a bit more (albeit, not much) than a capsule hotel. Obviously, a hotel room (though varying by the entity) gives you the most you’d need for a comfortable night’s stay.

That being said, you’d want to consider staying in a capsule hotel if you’re traveling to multiple cities in a country where they’re offered, you’re traveling light, and you want to travel on a budget. If you’re looking at staying in one city for multiple nights and you’re interested in springing a little extra cash for a more comfortable, vacationlike experience, a capsule hotel is not your best bet. 

So, are capsule hotels worth the hype?

Let’s recap.

A capsule hotel is exactly what it sounds like. Your “room” is going to be more like a single-bed pod with the bare-bones necessities, and often about a dozen or so of these sleeping pods are in one room. Bathrooms and living spaces are communal.

Pros: inexpensive, basic, clean, location, and social aspects.

Cons: can be noisy, cramped, uncomfortable, and not ideal for pairs or for more than three or so nights.

When would you want to consider a capsule hotel? When you’re a single, light traveler looking for a “quick and dirty” nightly accommodation at a relatively low cost.

When should you skip the capsule hotel and opt for an actual hotel? When you’re spending multiple nights in one city, your stay is more vacation-esque, you’d like to spring the cash for something more private and comfortable, and you have more than just a backpack or small suitcase. Also, if you’re claustrophobic or have severe anxiety, a capsule hotel may not be best suited for you.

So, is it worth the hype? If the hype is that it’s the perfect option when you literally just need a warm bed and hot shower during your travels, then yes, it is absolutely worth the hype.