Bevis's Travels

The Yotel Experience

The Yotel Experience

For my trip to Russia I needed to be at Heathrow Terminal 1 at around 5.00am. The idea of getting up at 2.30am to drive from the south coast to Heathrow was not very attractive, so I looked on the internet for hotels near the airport. Generally speaking the closer they are the more expensive they are, but there was one actually inside Terminal 4 called the Yotel that sounded interesting and would not completely break the bank.

 During a trip in Japan some years ago I wanted to stay in a capsule hotel, but could not find one on my planned route. They are usually in town centres, and are aimed at businessmen who have missed the last train or cannot go home to their wives for some other reason. The accommodation provided is the bare minimum, and they really are nothing much more that a pod with a bed in it.

 The idea for the Yotel came from Simon Woodroffe of Yo! Sushi fame, who wanted to make a capsule hotel that would be acceptable to westerners. He enlisted the services of the designer of the BA First Class cabins to provide a system of compact but comfortable accommodation, with three different levels, Premium, Double, and Standard. Full details can be found on , and at the time of writing there are Yotels at Heathrow, Gatwick and Schiphol (Amsterdam).

 Reservations and payment are made on the internet, and cabins can be booked for periods of 4 hours upwards. I booked a Standard cabin from 9.00pm to 5.00am, which suited my travel arrangements very well and would give me a reasonable night's sleep. At the time of booking you receive a reference number. At the entrance to the Yotel you enter the number and your credit card details into a computer terminal, and it gives you a receipt and room key card. Any extras that you order in the way of food and drink are then charged to your credit card.

 A short distance from the entrance is a counter called the Galley, which is manned 24 hours and from which refreshments are available. It also serves as the checkout. The internal architecture of the Yotel could be described as early space modular, and there is no visible external architecture. The lighting in the corridors is indirect, in some colour between pink and purple that only a woman could put a name to.

The cabins have small windows on to the corridors, and as I walked along I was surprised to see how spacious they were. That was, until I got to mine, which was about half the size of the others. It seems that they were either Premium or Double, whereas mine was the most basic one.

It took me a while to get sorted out with my large wheelie case and small backpack. On the right hand side was a narrow 'room' containing a toilet, small washbasin and shower area. One entire wall was a mirror which effectively doubled the apparent size of the cabin. Directly in front was a fold-down table, and at the side was a folding stool like the ones used by anglers. The bed was high up on the left hand side, with a flat screen TV on the wall at one end. There seemed to be a large amount of lost space under the bed, but it appears that this actually contains the bed in the next cabin, as the cabins overlap, some having high beds and others low. The doors to the high bed cabins have a couple of steps up from the corridor and the low bed ones steps down.

The whole unit was very clean, and the only defect I could see was a small tear in the plastic covering on the side wall below the bed. To provide access to the bed there is a large fold down step, but it still requires some agility. The bed itself is 2m long by 1m wide, and seemed perfectly comfortable to me, but I am not a good person to judge, because I can sleep quite well under a polythene sheet in the corner of a field.

 The air quality was ok, although there was some noise from the ventilation system. Some people might find it claustrophobic, but anyone who is used to spending time in a small yacht, camper van or submarine would have no problem. Most of the sort of people who would be likely to try it would be satisfied, but it is not for non tech-savvy arthritic octogenarians.

 The TV remote control had a large QWERTY keyboard attached to it which defeated me. It was possible to select the programme channels, but I could not see how to adjust the volume, which was a bit too loud. The Yotel is said to have WiFi throughout.

 To my mind the biggest advantage of the Yotel is peace of mind if you have a very early flight. You can go to sleep without having to worry about getting to the airport. However, it can take longer than you might think to get to the other terminals at Heathrow. The free Heathrow Express shuttle did not start until 5.23, and although I left the Yotel at 5.00am I did not get to Terminal 1 until about 5.45.

 In front of me at the checkout was the sort of person I imagine myself to be, a tall fit-looking chap of about 25 with a large backpack, and as he handed his card in he declared himself to be well satisfied with the accommodation. No doubt he could work the TV remote.