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“Let's Get Real About Mbizi”

Mbizi Backpackers Lodge
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Mbizi Backpackers Lodge
Reviewed 17 October 2013

Stayed in September 2013 with my girlfriend, and despite having traveled for over 5 months around the world, I have not yet felt compelled to write a review of a lodging until now. Why Mbizi is the top-rated hostel in Johannesburg (on TripAdvisor and Hostelworld) either speaks to systemic, massive grade inflation on the part of the typical reviewer or an extremely low standard for hostels in this area. The owner, Patrick, is a nice guy and helpful with tours and safaris, but we need to get real about this hostel. Below are my ratings and their explanations:

0% Security: I would define security as keeping out the people that aren't supposed to be in the hostel while allowing in those that are. At no time is this achieved. During the daylight hours and sometime after darkness, the front gate is unlocked, the front door is wide open, there is no staffed front desk, the rooms have no locks on them, and there are no lockers. There is literally nothing stopping anyone from the Johannesburg public from walking in and having their way with your things and/or you aside from an unlocked front gate. At night, the owner padlocks the front gate and front door shut preventing everyone from entering or exiting. Aside from being a massive fire hazard, this means that you'll be stuck in or out if he is not around to unlock these doors. As he is the sole manager of the property and must necessarily run errands, sleep, use the bathroom, etc. you definitely cannot count on this being a possibility when you may need it. I may also add that we payed for a "Private" which I have a hard time classifying as "Private" given the absence of locks which resulted in THREE no-knock, uninvited incursions into our room by strangers during our short, two-night stay at all hours of the day and night. In one instance, this was executed by a member of the cleaning staff which is inexcusable as they should know better than to simply barge into a guest's room without so much as knocking. After somebody came in at 10 PM and shined a flashlight in my face before I yelled to drive him out, we did our best to bar the door with a piece of furniture. Patrick, I don't care if it is a safe neighborhood (with electric fences, barbed wire, and "armed response" signs everywhere?), put some locks on the doors and give the guests keys.

20% Location: There is a low-quality Chinese restaurant, a pub that serves pizza, a mini-mart, a pool hall, and a gas station near by. The nearest grocery store is about 3/4 km with no sidewalks which is a significant distance if you are carrying four or five days worth of safari food in the heat and sun, for example. Otherwise, there is nothing else and no public transportation nearby. It is physically close to OR Tambo Airport, but given our experience with the airport transfer, this didn't mean much (see below).

50% Staff: The owner, Patrick, is the only staff aside from cleaners present. When he is present and available, he is friendly and helpful. However, as he is only one man, this is not always possible. This was evident in multiple situations in our two days there: A woman guest who could not check in because Patrick was out when she arrived and loudly gave up in frustration and left, being awakened one night by some poor soul yelling "hello" from the locked front gate and honking his horn, (by the time I got up to look, he had given up and driven away), arriving from the airport and having to explore the entire place before finding Patrick in the back smoking in his bar watching TV so we could check in. In that last instance, keep in mind that he knew we were coming as we had arranged an airport transfer with him for that time. The transfer itself, provided not by Patrick as promised in e-mail but by a fellow that wasn't quick to convince us that he wasn't a hustler as he did not have Patrick's phone number and did not know our names (that took some sorting out), was 20 minutes late on top of the hour buffer they had added on our landing time, and this was followed by another 40 minutes of waiting for another guest to be picked up. Throw in some traffic, and in total, it took about 1.5 hours to make the "15 minute" trip from the airport.

60% Atmosphere: There wasn't one. Even when the place was full according to Patrick, the social aspect of staying in a hostel just didn't happen. People kept to themselves, the bar wasn't full or interesting, and at best you could play pool with your friends or watch a movie from their DVD collection. Fine for resting aside from the noise of people leaving early for Safaris and the occasional small groups of men being drunk and disorderly, retching in the bathroom, etc.

75% Cleanliness: The rooms, kitchen, and bathroom were kept generally very clean, but the pool was very murky. I would not have gone in it for money. The lawn chairs in the back are also rather dirty making lounging in the sun uninviting.

80% Facilities: It had most everything you could expect at a hostel though the pool, in its current state, is simply false advertising. Shower pressure/temperature was prone to dramatic fluctuation. The internet and the use of Wi-Fi wasn't free.

20% Value for Money: In the absence of security and it's other failings, it is difficult to justify paying much of anything to stay here. Really, how do you even sleep soundly or go out confidently when you know that some random person or even a member of the staff can and will walk into your room where you and/or all your belongings lay exposed at any time?

Overall average rating: 44%

Room Tip: Don't bother with a private: it won't be
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  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank JamesBradley5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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23 - 29 of 62 reviews

Reviewed 16 October 2013

I stayed here for 3 days. Patrick is amazing and will help you with anything.

Pros
- bar on site
- clean
- feels like home
- lots of secure parking
- breakfast is included (toast, coffee, and tea)
- close to OR Tambo airport

Cons
- far from Joburg's core area (fine if you have a car)
- Wi-fi/internet isn't free
- swimming pool isn't in use

Note: Soweto Tour is very expensive for what you get. I believe it was R550 each person and we were shuttled around without being able to go into any of the areas we saw such as Nelson Mandela's house or the high school where the Soweto riots started.

  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled solo
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Thank Michelle S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 September 2013

I spent one night here. Basically a nice place to stay, the owner is nice and will arrange activities for you and help you to sort out what to do.
Before I came here I stayed in Cape Town for a week where I had a great experience. And I'm sorry to say that this place did not measure up to that in any way, but still it's not all that bad.
The rooms are clean and neat and there are good facilities in kitchen and living area.
Distances in Joburg are apparently quite long, so an afternoon trip to the Apartheid museum was a bit costly compared to other activities elsewhere. So make sure you have a rental car, which is probably the cheapest option to do things.

  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled solo
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Thank Yorick D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 September 2013

Very convenient location close to OR Tambo. Very clean rooms and facilities! Patrick is an awesome host and treats you as a friend coming to visit more than a paying guest. It was chilly that evening and he already had gone in and put electric blankets on the mattresses for us so we would be sure to stay warm. overall a VERY enjoyable experience. Quiet and Quaint.

  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled as a couple
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Thank WorldBackpackers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 August 2013

I stayed during 3 night during my vacation in Johannesburg in Mbizi Backpackers. Mbizi looks like more a homestay, Patrick the host is friendly and easy going person (it was very pleasant to take some bear with him at the bar !).
There are a large Kitchen and large garden with swimming pool (this garden is good to relax).
This place is very friendly, and it s very easy to met new people and talk.

- Location : close from the airport. If you want visited Jo burg from Mbizi is better to have a car however the gautrain station is not far and you can use tour bus (pick up at Mbizi).
The location is in a safety area, some restaurant are 10 minutes by walk from Mbizi.
- Price : not expensive
- Room / bath room : like your room.

Conclusion : i advice to you to go there

Regis

  • Stayed: August 2013, travelled solo
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Thank 581Reg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 April 2013

Great place to start or end your trip as located near to OT airport.

Clean rooms and shared kitchen. Great bar area with flat screen tv and pool. The owners are really helpful and can arrange tours into Jo'burg and Soweto.

Great selection of books and DVD s to watch if you are just wanting to chill out.

Would have been 5 star review but they were having internet problems when we stayed.

  • Stayed: March 2013, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank cantwait2holiday
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 January 2013

This place is great if you are going to/coming from the airport. The rooms are nice and the living room and outdoor area is very friendly and welcoming. The lodge isn't located near any attractions so you will need a car to get anywhere. There is a restaurant, small store, and ATM a 5 minute walk away however.

  • Stayed: December 2012, travelled with friends
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1  Thank Brodie H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Mbizi Backpackers Lodge

Address: 288 Trichardts Road | Parkdene, Boksburg 1459, South Africa
Region: South Africa > Gauteng > Greater Johannesburg > Boksburg
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 7 Speciality Lodging in Boksburg
Price Range: £19 - £25 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 21
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