What’s It Like to Stay in a Capsule Hotel?

Capsule hotels are ideal for solo travelers on a budget, but not for couples or the claustrophobic.
Ramsey Qubein
By Ramsey Qubein 

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On a recent trip to Asia, I took the opportunity to stay in a capsule hotel while on a short layover in Taipei. This was not my first time, but the experience continues to be unique. It’s certainly not the standard airport hotel on a layover (no airplane views or even windows here).

Capsule hotels can be found around the world in airports and city centers — both places where space may come at a premium and hotel prices can be expensive.

The biggest benefit of capsule hotels is saving travelers time and money, as almost all guests are only staying for one night — or even just a few hours.

While you generally can’t redeem points and miles to stay at a capsule hotel, some options may be bookable by using credit card points. More on this to come.

What is a capsule hotel?

Originating in Osaka, Japan, capsule hotels are space-saving properties where guests sleep on shelves (or in pod-like capsules) rather than in traditional guest rooms. While this minimizes the space available to guests down to the bare necessities, it’s often exactly what one needs on a short layover, quick stay or small budget.

Capsule hotels were originally developed for Japanese business people who would work all day and stay out with colleagues and clients into the late hours of the night. Instead of going home during the few hours they had to sleep before the next day’s work, they would reserve a bunk in these convenient capsule hotels.

What is the capsule hotel experience like?

Photo by Ramsey Qubein

My overnight stay at CHO Stay Capsule Hotel in Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, was very comfortable. When you first arrive, they explain the rules, which include removing your shoes and valuables to place them in a sealed locker.

Then, you are shown the way to your chosen accommodation, which can include a private bunk bed room or shared bunk bed room, separated for males and female. My bunk bed was just over $50 for the night.

Photo by Ramsey Qubein

My shared men’s bunk bed room included one full row of beds on shelves with privacy shades. They are stacked on top of each other with guests required to climb a ladder to reach the top bunk. I was on a lower bunk, which made it easy to climb inside, although I did hit my head more than once.

Photo by Ramsey Qubein

The staff suggests storing large luggage in the hallway to avoid making noise within the sleeping quarters, but my carry-on bag fit conveniently on the side shelf with me.

I had to crouch down to crawl inside the bunk, but it had a reading light, small shelf for personal items, two power outlets and a comfortable pillow and duvet. I lowered the sleeping shade, checked some email using the free Wi-Fi and then went to sleep.

Photo by Ramsey Qubein

A sign on the wall indicated that talking, listening to music and even snoring are prohibited. That last regulation seemed to be ignored on the night I was there, although my white noise app and ear buds helped.

Photo by Ramsey Qubein

When I woke up, I went to the communal bathroom where a modest supply of toiletries and individual showers came in handy. There was a small lounge to enjoy tea, coffee or light snacks as well as a library to borrow reading materials.

With only an eight-hour overnight layover, this option made more sense than taking a taxi to an airport hotel at night and repeating the process the following morning.

What else you need to know

Where can you find capsule hotels?

You’ll find capsule hotels most often in Asian cities as well as their respective airports, but the trend is growing.

U.K.-based brand Yotel is cornering this market in airport terminals with its YotelAir properties. They’re now all over the world including in cities like Kyoto, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tel Aviv and Rio de Janeiro, as well as U.S. cities like Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C.

There are also several within airport terminals such as Mexico City, Mexico; Moscow, Russia; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Taipei, Taiwan; among others. These are enclosed sleeping spaces rather than nap pod chairs within the terminal itself that can be found in many airports.

Can I earn or redeem miles or points at a capsule hotel?

Generally, no. Most capsule hotels are not part of a traditional hotel loyalty program, but if you book a stay using a credit card that earns miles or points, you would earn based on how much you spend.

This means that not only will you earn extra points for travel expenses, but you’ll also be protected by travel insurance included in credit card bookings that cover hotel stays. For me, this was important if my inbound flight were to be canceled. I would end up with a refund and a new hotel in any travel city I was stuck in on that day.

Are there any Priority Pass perks at a capsule hotel?

Priority Pass has a network of airport lounges, restaurants and retail outlets where cardholders can gain access. This can be especially beneficial if your credit card comes with complimentary Priority Pass membership.

One of the benefits of Priority Pass includes the opportunity to sleep in an airport capsule hotel, although these are located outside of the United States.

If you’re looking for a similar experience in the U.S., your closest bet is Minute Suites, which gives guests a small room with a bed and desk. These can be rented by the hour or for an entire overnight. Priority Pass often provides one complimentary hour to use these facilities in airports like Atlanta, Charlotte and Dallas-Fort Worth, among others.

  • Capsule Transit Sleep Lounge, Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 1 (three complimentary hours).

  • 9h nine hours Narita Airport, Tokyo Narita International Airport Terminal 2 (five complimentary hours).

  • Sleep 'n fly Sleep Lounge, Dubai Terminal 3, Concourse A (two to four complimentary hours based on time of day).

  • Sleep 'n fly Sleep Lounge (South Node), Doha (three complimentary hours).

  • Sleep 'n fly Sleep Lounge & Showers (North Node), Doha (three complimentary hours).

  • YotelAir, Paris-Charles de Gaulle Terminal 2E (three complimentary hours).

  • Kepler Club, Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport, International Terminal (three complimentary hours).

  • Wait N' Rest, Bogota, Terminal 1 (two complimentary hours).

Is a capsule hotel worth it?

If you have a short layover or don’t want to pay for an overpriced hotel in a busy area, capsule hotels can provide a good alternative.

Their small spaces are not always ideal for those who are claustrophobic or traveling with a partner or children, but when traveling light, this is a solid option for taking a nap on a budget.

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