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“Great if you don't want to sleep”

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HI Ottawa Jail Hostel
Chichester, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
9 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Great if you don't want to sleep”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 July 2014

This is a great idea and a novelty. The staff are nice, the bed was OK and it was all clean though 2 showers for all the girls is not enough! Breakfast was tasty and the visit interesting. There is wifi but it's slow. The huge BUT is that there's loud music till 3am and they don't tell you that you will not sleep. So, if you don't mind paying for something you won't get, and you don't mind being exhausted when doing your touristy things next day, go there!

  • Stayed July 2014, travelled solo
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank bridget c
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
traveller315, General Manager at HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, responded to this review, 18 July 2014
Hello Bridget:

Thanks for your feedback. I am glad you enjoyed our breakfast and our staff. They all work hard to provide a good service. Sorry about the bar keeping you awake. We do try and let all our guests know about it in advance of booking and at check-in. Mugshots is designed primarily for hostel guests and they get free admission and inexpensive beverages and meals. However, not al lour guests want to participate, so our front desk staff would've been able to move you to another part of the hostel where you would've not been disturbed so much, or they could have offered you ear-plugs.
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442 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    3 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    3 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (62)
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English first
Karlskrona, Sweden
Level Contributor
366 reviews
41 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 174 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 July 2014

This place is like an attraction itself more then a hostel. It is different experience to sleep in an old cell where the doors are in thick steal and the corridors is long and sad.

The rooms doesn't have a lot of space, and the beds might not be the best, but there is at least a locker for each and everyone in the room. The WIFI might reach up to your room if you are lucky (depending on which side of the building you stay in).

The location of the hostel is good, It's walking distance to all attraction you might do in Ottawa, as well close to restaurants and shopping. The reception is open 24h, but I experienced that the staff is gone for very long breaks once and a while. When they do are in the reception, they happily answer all your questions about the city.

There is free WIFI in the building, but depending on where you are, the signal may very. The best is in the bar and in the reception.

As I said, this building is more like an attraction then an hostel, which is correct. All day until midnight they have big groups of children coming in and out of the hostel to do a tour. This is very annoying since they are loud and runs around.
The good thing is that once a day you can do the same tour, which I thought was interesting and fun.

They have a kitchen that has everything you need. It's clean and big. Here you have a fridge and a freezer so you can cook your own meals.

They also have a bar, which is open for anyone (even people not staying in the hostel). They sometimes have live-band performing. When the bar is open, you do hear the sound up to your room (depends on which side of the hostel you are staying at).

The breakfast is included and contains coffee/tee, fruit and bread.

  • Stayed June 2014, travelled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank DanielHenrysson
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Southampton, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
7 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 4 July 2014

Turned up to be given keys to a room that already had occupants in, then given a cheaper room than that we paid for with twin bunks instead of a double bed and told at this was the only option they had left despite booking two months in advance! Rooms are so small there is not even room to put a suitcase down next to your bunk bed.

Rooms don't have air conditioning and to combat this doors are only half the size to allow for 'ventilation' it is far to hot in the rooms and the ventilation does not work! Due to only have half a door you can also hear the bar which on our first night stay conveniently moved outside, playing loud music till the small hours of the morning.

The toilets are unclean, with fixtures rusting. The shared bathrooms are shared between at least 15-20 there are two altogether, and clearly in a state of disrepair and are not cleaned frequently enough for the amount ofeople using them.

This hostel was booked on it's novelty, but the novelty soon wears off when as a couple your staying in a cell no wider than 6ft and no longer than 8ft long!

  • Stayed July 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Annifd92
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
traveller315, General Manager at HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, responded to this review, 18 July 2014
Hello Annifd92

I am sorry your stay with us did not go as expected. We try very hard to provide as high a level of service as possible. You may not know, but the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel is housed in a 152 year old former Ottawa Jail. it is a designated heritage property and as such, we are often very constrained in what we can change and adjust in the hostel. When we do make adjustments it is very complicated and expensive. We intended to leave those cells doors on the cell blocks, as they are part of the history of the building, the privacy panels and the locks on the doors are a relatively new upgrade we've managed to get approved. We do however have rooms at the front of the hostel that are more of a traditional hostel style rooms that could have provided more of the experience you may have been looking for.
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Travellers are raving about these Ottawa hotels

Paris, France
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 1 July 2014

This was one of the best experience of travel that I never had! The breakfast is free, the staff is amazing (they know everything), you are REALLY in a cell (I took a one person cell at floor 8) and it's really clean. It's also not expensive at all.

I came there for trying to live in a cell and I had what I was expecting : cell bars, small small room and that's all. I simply don't understand the people who are making bad comments about that. When you rent the room on the web you see that clearly. They advertise their hotel that way. And also, if you know already that you are claustrophobic, please don't bother going in a small cell. Take another room (they have plenty of choice).

But if you DO want to spend nights in jail (I slept 4 days), it's REALLY FUN! It's really cheap and you are right in the touristic section of the city. I said cheap and I'm not kidding because my train tickets Quebec-Ottawa, Ottawa-Québec were more expensive thant my 4 days at the hôtel! It's worth it!

  • Stayed June 2014, travelled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank 57Joanna
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
traveller315, General Manager at HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, responded to this review, 18 July 2014
Thanks for the comment. I am glad you had a great stay with us.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
1 review
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 27 June 2014

The idea is great but badly and carelessly reviesed. The rooms are noisy because of ventilation but its still hot. In the night loud music from the hostel bar disturbes your dreams far after midnight. The bathrooms and showers are beyond acceptable standarts: bad smell, rusty doors and dirty. Staff was at least nice.

  • Stayed June 2014
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Ma B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
44 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 25 June 2014 via mobile

This is our first visit to Ottawa after 30 hours of flight. When we saw there's an old jail turned into a hostel we booked it in excitement. The room was as expected for a hostel, but we found it a bit confusing to find the numbers (management should really change the room numbers) even the staff said it's a bit confusing.

Don't expect a window when you stay here but at night it's getting comfy with the cold air or the old jail walls. The sound of doors banging from other rooms are quite a disturbance. Wear an earplug when you sleep to make it work.

There was this busy Monday morning packed with guests for breakfast but no milk, no coffee, no egg and no staff. Seriously?

The worst thing is there's only one men's washroom all the way in the other alley (our room was in 408 on the other side and it only have girls washroom). Very unpractical when you really need to pee in the middle of the night. Especially with the lights on the alley turned off. And always check the flush before using because sometimes it doesn't work.

And maybe Matt could use a smile and loose the attitude once in a while when serving his guests :)

  • Stayed June 2014
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Rainer O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
38 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 16 June 2014

Should have listened to the reviews rather than trying it for myself first. Poor decision since it is everything the reviews say.

We arrived to receive a room on the 5th floor and I tell you the smell was bad even while we were waiting outside to check in. I saw the reviews said that its an old jail but the smell was outside as well so I'm not sure. We nearly didn't check in. As far as it being a part of hostelling international, it is by far the worst hostel I have stayed in and I have travelled a fair bit. I think HI would do better dropping them from their website since it brings nothing but bad reviews.
The room was extremely hot and after awhile and a strong husband we were thankfully able to open the windows. Because they didn't stay up we stuck a garbage bin and one of the side lamp tables under the windows to keep them open. I would assume if they could get all the furniture and bath/showers into the rooms they could fix a few windows. The showers were tiny and water poured out of both the shower door and the bathroom door which is why they probably have the bedroom entry tiled because they are aware of the problem. We weren't, until we showered and found the puddle of water to the entrance of the bathroom.

The next night we went down for dinner around 6pm as we had things we had planned for later in the night to which we were rudely told by one of the staff due to his incompetence and lack of organisational skills that maybe we could leave and come back a bit later on because he was running 40mins late for a group of kids that weren't staying in the hotel and he was making dinner for them. To which I replied with no because it was a communal kitchen and we had our own plans. He also told some other people who tried to use the kitchen to come back later. Between that and the girl at the front desk we were pretty much over the service there, and even standing back while waiting for service the girl clearly needed a new job since she treated most of the customers the same.

The worst thing about the whole stay was 2nd night in no one bothered to tell us there was a live band playing in the arts centre next door which was right beside our room which we did not find out about until the music started booming in our room. When we went downstairs to ask if we could maybe just relocate to another room we were told that the music would be done by 10pm and we were offered earplugs. Disgusting since earplugs would do nothing, it was close enough that the mirror in our room shook when they played. At 10pm the music did not cease so we went down stairs to ask again when it would be done to which the young man said it was 11pm now. When my husband said you told us 10pm he rudely replied with "Why would I say 10pm when it finishes at 11pm that would be stupid". To which we replied with well you said that they would be finished at 10pm in line with local laws and the move inside and why would I make that up when I don't even know what your laws are. How difficult is it to just let people know that there will be a live
band blasting in your room until 11pm. A little bit of a heads up would have been nice. Unable to find anywhere else to stay we checked out the next morning with still 2 nights left in ottawa.

Honestly it is not worth even staying the night for the experience because its not really an experience anyway. You can have the same experience sleeping in your closet at home and save the money or for a real experience sleep in your bathroom with your dirty laundry beside you for the smell. If your really desperate you can go on one of the crappy tours where they talk generic about the history from phamplets and its about 15mins of nothing. More money for generic history. I am sure every old jail has the exact same stories. People are
all saying its an experience but its really one everyone can do without. Listen to the reviews!

I understand its an old jail but none of the stuff that happened would have been part of the old jail experience so really its there to collect money and give nothing back. It is really just a bit of a joke and extremely disappointed with the whole experience. Really will be passing on to anyone who goes to Ottawa
to be bypassing here because its not worth 2 mins of your time.

  • Stayed June 2014
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Jess'ca M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
traveller315, General Manager at HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, responded to this review, 20 June 2014
Thank you for your review of the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel. We take all feedback very seriously as it identifies where we have to improve our guest experiences.

I am sorry we did not meet your expectations. We try very hard to identify to all guests that the HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel is a 152 year old heritage building and it has a different set of challenges than most other buildings. As a heritage designated structure any renovations or repairs of any sort have to be approved by the municipal heritage building committee and the process is very long and expensive. We are working on a long-term development plan for the hostel where our windows among other things will be replaced in the not too distant future.

It was too bad there was confusion over the use of the guest kitchen on Wednesday night. My chef was working in the guest kitchen to prepare a meal for 45 hostel guests. The meal was planned as an outdoor BBQ, and as you may remember, there was excessive rain that afternoon necessitating him being forced to move inside to prepare and present the meal. As I am sure you can understand preparing a meal for 45 people then having an unexpected change like the weather can cause you some stress. When he asked if you could come back later to use the kitchen, he was actually thinking of your needs as well. He was using most of the kitchen space and most of the stovetops at that time. There was no physical space for you to do your own cooking as he was using them. Sorry for the inconvenience, he meant the best for everyone. He cleaned up quickly and the kitchen was re-opened to other guests shortly afterwards. That kind of demand for the kitchen is not a regular occurrence.

As for the noise from the event next door and letting you know, we obviously failed to communicate and we will learn from this and make sure we do a better job of letting guests know of these things. I think we may have failed because events in SAW Gallery Patio are very rare and are required to be moved indoors by 11 PM. We’ll improve our staff training on customer service.

I can’t believe you did not appreciate our complimentary orientation tour of the hostel. The intention of that tour is more to give the accommodation guests of the hostel access to the spaces they would not otherwise have. For those looking for a more historical or ghost tour, we refer guests to our tour partner, the Haunted Walks of Ottawa who provide two excellent and award winning tours of the Jail, the Crime and Punishment and the Ghost and the Gallows tours. Unfortunately, to participate in these tours guests are charged a rate of $10.75 plus tax. This does include a $4.00 discount that hostel guests receive.

I hope that this helps explain the unfortunate circumstances around your stay with us and we look forward to seeing you in our hostel network again in the future.
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Additional Information about HI Ottawa Jail Hostel

Property: HI Ottawa Jail Hostel
Address: 75 Nicholas St, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B9, Canada
Region: Canada > Ontario > Ottawa
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 21 Speciality Lodging in Ottawa
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): £
Hotel Class:2 star — HI Ottawa Jail Hostel 2*
Number of rooms: 29
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Located in downtown Ottawa, the HI-Ottawa Hostel is within easy walking distance of Parliament Hill, the Byward Market and all the major downtown attractions. We offer a relaxing, friendly atmosphere, heaps of on-site parking, free wi-fi, linen and towels. A great place to hang! ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Hi Ottawa Jail Hotel Ottawa

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