Yo, Yotel!

So I’m spending the night in the new Yotel that’s gotten a lot of buzz in the travel world lately. At least a few years in the making, Yotel is a UK-conceived, Japanese-inspired line of small hotels inside airports. This one in Gatwick is the first, and opened up in early July 2007.

Given that I don’t have any friends in the London area, and that it’s a hassle to get into the city, and that London is ridiculously expensive, I opted to spent my overnight here at the Yotel. I got in from Berlin at about 7 pm, and don’t head out to Dallas (and then onto Oakland) until 2:30 pm the next day.

Basically once you get out of the baggage claim and clear customs, there’s an elevator that goes down one floor — and all of a sudden, it’s like you’re in this serene space that shouldn’t exist in a loud international airport like this one. To the left is a set of computers where you check it — once you’re confirmed (it almost feel like you should get a retinal scan), it prints out your receipt with your WiFi code on it, and gives you the keycard to your room.

Gatwick’s Yotel currently has 46 rooms, and from what I can tell about one-third of them are the “premium” class rooms, which are slightly bigger, with and extra three inches of television screen (23″ vs. 20″) and are the ones shown in the photos on the website. The premium will run you 82 GBP ($168) vs. the “standard” room, which is what I have, which “only” costs 55 GBP ($110) for 24 hours. The minimum charge for the room is 25 GBP ($50) for four hours.

Equipped with the keycard, you then glide through a transparent plastic arch and into the hallways of rooms. Honestly, the calm of the whole place is a little eerie, but I guess that’s the point. The rooms are supposed to be soundproof (well, mostly), and the ambient noise is a low airy hum that permeates the space.

The room is tiny, but it makes you wonder why you’d ever actually need more space than seven square meters. Basically once you’re through the door, you see that the room is divided into three adjacent rectangles. The middle one, the walkway, is about 4 paces (at most) long, and maybe 1.5 paces wide. There’s a fold out desk and small stool.

To the left is the bed, which the website advertises sleeps a “cozy two” — in other words, think your college dorm bed, but maybe slightly wider. The bed is raised up a good 3-4 feet, so that when you lay down you can watch that 20″ TV. Via the TV there’s Internet access (there’s a remote and a wireless mini keyboard), and you can watch English, Spanish, French, German and Arabic-language channels. Movies can be purchased for 5 GBP ($10), or porn for 8 GBP ($16).

To the right is the shower, sink, and toilet — with that entire wall covered by a mirror, which means every time you turn in bed to look towards the bathroom, you get to stare back at yourself.

The fun part, though, about the TV, is that it acts essentially as your telephone to communicate with the “concierge.” You can order food from “The Galley” (most expensive thing on the menu is 7 GBP), drinks (oddly, the only beer on the menu is Cobra), and they’ll deliver it to your door , 24 hours a day.

Still, there don’t seem to be very many other guests — I talked with one guy from Manchester and a woman from Leeds who both seemed to be very up on the whole experience. Both are on their way to holidays in the Greek Islands and Budapest, respectively.

I’m not sure I’d want to spend more than one night in a place like this (particularly if you were sharing the room with someone else, as there’s not a lot of space). But hey, it’s a really comfortable way to spend an overnight layover.