The Big Six: Capsule hotels

Yotel, Gatwick

YO! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe came up with the idea for the YO! hotel chain after seeing the capsule concept in Japan. The first Yotel opened at Gatwick South Terminal in 2007, offering travellers a pay-as-you-go base. Staffing is kept to a minimum: guests check themselves in, while the purple-coloured pod rooms cover essential needs. Further Yotels have since opened at Heathrow Terminal 4 and Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, plus the first city-centre location, near Times Square in New York.

Yotel, South Terminal, Gatwick Airport (020-7100 1100; yotel.com). Rooms start at £26 (four hours).

9 Hours, Kyoto

Designed as a "minimal transit space" for business travellers passing through Kyoto, this futuristic hotel opened in 2009 with 125 sleeping pods spread over nine floors. Guests first check in, pick up a locker key, shower and then retire to a moulded plastic compartment to sleep. Here, functionality is king – only essential amenities are provided, including towels, toothbrush sets, shampoo and disposable sleepwear. Ear plugs are optional.

Nine Hours Kyoto Teramachi, 588 Teianmaeno-cho, Shijyo, Teramachi-dori, Kyoto, Japan (00 81 75 353 9005; 9hours.jp). Basic charge is Y900 (£7.60) per person, plus Y300 (£2.51) per hour; 10-17 hours costs Y4,900 (£41).

Matchbox, Singapore

Newly opened in the creative enclave of Ann Siang Hill, close to Chinatown, this "concept" hostel brings boutique-style accommodation to those on a backpacker's budget. Inside, playful flashes of colour dominate the interior, from the loft-style communal area, to the primary-hued bathrooms. Modern, airy pods are jigsaw-pieced together in dorms of either 12 or 16, with the "Flamingo" room offering a female-only option. Outside, the surrounding area is peppered with design outlets and fashion boutiques.

Matchbox – The Concept Hostel, 39 Ann Siang Road, Singapore (00 65 6423 0237; matchbox.sg). Pods start at S$45 (£22) per person.

Wilson Hostel, Warsaw

Encased in an unremarkable exterior, this hostel uses solar panels to heat the water and rooms. It offers a mix of traditional dormitory-style bunk beds and eight tiny capsules. These quirky compartments include linen, towels, a mattress and roll-down blinds for privacy – best suited to those wanting to socialise and save cash while exploring Warsaw's historical heart. Bathrooms are colourful though communal, and the café has free Wi-Fi.

Wilson Hostel, Felinskiego 37, Warsaw, Poland (00 48 22 839 40 81; wilsonhostel.pl). Capsules start at €17 per night.

Qbic, Amsterdam

This modular hotel in the Dutch capital is a more expansive affair, with 55 large bunkers close to the attractions of Amsterdam city centre. Rooms are self-service, while furniture inside follows the "Cubi" design: with a stylish bed, bathroom and functional workspace combined in a single linear cabinet.

Qbic, Mathijs Vermeulenpad 1, Amsterdam, Netherlands (00 31 43 321 1111; qbichotels.com). Double rooms start at €39, excluding breakfast.

nitenite, Birmingham

This city-centre hotel provides 104 cabin-style rooms, with easy access to New Street station – the hub of Britain's rail network. Rooms are compact, windowless and affordable. The capsule model is enhanced with plasma TVs and free Wi-Fi. The Saint Béni café downstairs serves modern deli-style food by day, and cocktails by night. Basic items such as ironing boards and hairdryers, are kept at reception to save on space in the rooms.

Nitenite, 18 Holliday Street, Birmingham (08458 90 90 99; nitenite.com). Double rooms start at £29.95 per night, excluding breakfast.

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