A wildly popular hotel concept from Asia has finally arrived in Richmond—and it’s a great option for visitors searching for budget-friendly accommodation rates and a comfy, well-connected place to crash.

Opened in May of this year, Panda Pod Hotel is an easy five-minute walk from the Canada Line’s Richmond-Brighouse Station. Fusing hostel and hotel approaches with value-added features—as well as a friendly front desk staff and quirky panda-themed visuals—the property is Metro Vancouver’s first-ever pod hotel.

But what exactly is a pod hotel? We dropped by to check it out.

Panda Pod Hotel
The outside of Richmond's pod hotel. | Photo: Panda Pod Hotel

What’s the big idea?

Pod hotels have been widespread in Japan, Taiwan, and other Asian destinations for many years. The concept is to provide guests with a small, well-designed private sleeping unit, along with good quality shared facilities such as washrooms, shower rooms, and kitchen areas. Rates are typically positioned between regular hostels and basic hotel prices.

At Richmond’s Panda Pod Hotel, rates are currently $69 per night on weekdays and $73 per night on weekends. For that you receive your own pod unit in one of two large, single-sex rooms: there are 34 pods in the male room and 28 in the female room. Each air-conditioned pod room is lined with two rows of pods, stacked in double layers. The second-level pods are accessed via short ladders.

Panda Pod Hotel
The pods on the second level are accessed via a ladder. | Photo: Panda Pod Hotel

What are the pods like?

The pods are like small boxes that are open at one end. Designed for single occupancy—there’s room to sit and lay down—you climb in and pull down a screen for privacy when it’s time to sleep. Each pod’s ‘floor’ is covered by a comfortable mattress, fresh sheets, a duvet, and pillows. Soundproofing insulation has been installed between the walls of the pods.

Panda Pod Hotel
A glimpse inside a pod. | Photo: Panda Pod Hotel

Inside each pod, there’s an LED light that turns on and off at the wave of a hand, a laptop-sized table that folds out when needed and a power outlet to plug in your devices (there’s free wi-fi throughout the property). There’s also a wall-mounted rail if you need to hang anything up, complete with a small paper bag for garbage.

The pods have everything you need for a cozy night’s sleep—and that’s the entire point. These accommodation units are not for hanging out in. Instead, they’re aimed at travellers who are out all day enjoying the city’s sights and attractions and then heading back to crash for a good night’s sleep.

Panda Pod Hotel
Each pod has a fold-down table and an outlet. | Photo: Panda Pod Hotel

What are the other facilities?

When you check in at the front desk, you’re given an electronic key fob that gives you access to the adjoining shoe lockers. This is where you exchange your outdoor footwear for the soft slippers you’ll wear inside for the duration of your stay. The key also includes access to your own storage locker, plus another smaller locker located underneath your individual pod.

Panda Pod Hotel
Guests place their outdoor shoes in lockers when they arrive. | Photo: John Lee

At the front desk, you can pick-up cost-free razors, toothbrushes, and other handy items you may have forgotten to pack. This includes free earplugs, which are always handy for light sleepers. You’ll also be given your own towel. Panda Pod Hotel has two clean and well-designed single-sex washroom and shower room areas, each lined with private stalls and shower cubicles.

Just behind the front desk, there’s also a small communal lounge and kitchen area. Its yellow walls include a map of the world, so you can point out to all the other guests exactly where you’re from. There’s also a sink, microwave, and hot water dispenser here, plus a vending machine stocked with snacks, treats, and instant noodle bowls. A beverage vending machine is just along the corridor.

Panda Pod Hotel
The washroom and shower facilities. | Photo: Panda Pod Hotel

Location, location, location

You’ll likely only need those instant noodles in an emergency, though. One of the big advantages of this property is its location. Staying in the heart of city centre Richmond, you’re just a few steps from dozens of restaurants—including Vietnamese and Taiwanese eateries located on the same block as your hotel.

Located across the street from Richmond City Hall, the hotel is also just a short stroll from Minoru Park, the Richmond Museum, and the Richmond Art Gallery. CF Richmond Centre is also nearby and its food court is ideal for budget-conscious diners.

And with Richmond-Brighouse Station just along the street, Panda Pod guests can easily reach the Vancouver International Airport or downtown Vancouver via the Canada Line.

Need to know

Panda Pod Hotel is located at 6940 No. 3 Road, although entry is around the back via Granville Avenue. The rates quoted above are standard for this time of year, but discounts and promotions are also announced via this page on the property’s website. Keep in mind that only one guest is allowed per pod and children are not permitted—all guests must be aged 18 or over.

Panda Pod Hotel
The panda theme prevails throughout the property. | Photo: John Lee