I’ve written this thorough New York City Pod Hotel review to help you with a problem many of us face. (And give you the honest-to-goodness, eye-opening truth about both Pod 51 and Pod 39.)
There are some things that just seem impossible to locate (ahem, car keys when you’re in a hurry), affordable accommodations in Manhattan that aren’t under a bridge in Central Park are among them. Enter: the Pod Hotels in New York City.
Pod Hotel review expert
I first stayed at a New York Pod Hotel back in 2015 and I’ve been staying at them regularly ever since. I’ve even stayed at the Pod Hotel in Washington D.C. so I do consider myself somewhat of a schooled expert—a Pod person, if you will.
I’ve stayed in bunk rooms, double rooms, rooms with shared bathrooms, rooms with private bathrooms, and like every Pod combo you can come up with. I have stayed at Pod Hotels in the summer, fall, winter, and during busy holiday weekends (even during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade).
I’ve stayed in them solo; I’ve shared rooms with friends; and I’ve shared Pod hotel rooms with my husband. And if sharing a bunk bed with your spouse to save more money for beer isn’t the most romantic thing out there, I don’t know what is.
(Also, yes, the only way to photograph these rooms is with a fisheye lens.)
New York City Pod Hotels
In Manhattan you’ll find three Pod Hotels:
This post will focus on just the two most popular: spilling the beans on Pod 51 and Pod 39.
Pod Hotels are not hostels
Now, before we get started, I do want to point out that these New York Pod Hotels are not hostels. Sure, the bunk bed thing, the shared bathroom thing, and the low costs may have thrown you off.
However, this is indeed a hotel. You don’t have to bathe next to anyone else, make your own bed, or store your luggage in a locker with a combination lock. Pod Hotels provide all the traveling necessities and comforts of a true hotel—towels, soap, heating and air conditioning, hot water, hippie-free common area, etc. See? Hotel. It’s right there in the name.
New York Pod Hotel bathrooms
I realize one of the most-wondered about aspects of the Pod Hotels is the bathroom situation, so this Pod Hotel review is going to get right to it.
Pod Hotel rooms feature either “shared bathroom” or “private bathrooms.” However, regardless of which room type you choose, all Pod Hotel rooms come with a mirror, sink, soap, and towels in the room itself.
So, face and hand washing, tooth brushing, makeup application and/or removal, and all your other essential bathroom duties outside the realm of pee, poop, and shower can be done from the comfort of your own pod.
Pod Hotel shared bathrooms
Again, as this is not a hostel, so your idea of what designates a “shared bathroom” may be different from what you’ll find at the Pod Hotels.
The Pod Hotels’ “shared bathrooms” are actually private bathrooms, just ones that can be used by anyone on your floor. There are four of these shared bathroom on every floor and each one contains a toilet, shower, and sink. And for the most part, they are always clean and stocked.
There are two locks on each bathroom door and they can only be entered using a room key. You don’t have to shower next to strangers; these aren’t multi-toilet, multi-shower rooms. They are “shared” but definitely not “communal.”
Each of these shared bathrooms has a vacant/occupied panel on the door itself and there’s even a special light board in your room that tells you which of the four shared bathrooms are in use at any given time. So, you don’t have to leave your room or go to each one to find out if there’s a bathroom open. It’s quite genius.
Pod Hotel private bathrooms
Unless this is your first time ever in a hotel, you already understand the concept of a “private bathroom.” This is your standard, in-room hotel bathroom. Well, maybe not so standard because this hotel is a little different.
If your Pod Hotel room offers a private bathroom, you get a shower (and tub in some rooms), sink, mirror, toilet, etc. Typically these are separated from the actual room by a super awkward sliding glass door. (More on that in this Pod Hotel review.)
What’s better, shared or private bathroom?
Obviously, you would assume the private bathroom is the way to go because it’s private and as a society we all want our own stuff. Sharing is out, stinge is in! This is also what I thought when I booked my first New York Pod Hotel for myself and a very close friend.
I’ve since learned I actually prefer the shared bathrooms. So, don’t jump the bathroom gun when choosing your Pod. Hear me out…
Private bathroom pros and cons
Sure, it’s nice to shower in your own room, dry off, get dressed right there. The alternative being getting dressed when you’re not fully dry or sprinting wet down the hall in a towel (or worse, getting out of your shared shower and realizing you forgot to bring a towel with you).
However, when you take a shower in a hotel room as tiny as the Pod Hotel, your entire hotel room steams up like a sauna. This is not good for trying to get ready and tame that mane.
Private bathrooms are not private
However, in a shocking turn of events, the biggest factor against private bathrooms: zero privacy. Where a New York City Pod Hotel private bathroom is concerned, there are no secrets.
You must keep in mind that your entire hotel room is about 100 square feet. And that the only thing separating the bedroom from what happens in the bathroom is little more than a slightly frosted sliding glass door. (It’s only frosted to your shoulders and doesn’t even fully close.)
What I’m trying to say is, every sound and smell that comes out of there is shared between your travel buddies. And everything you do in there, be it up high, down low, or behind closed frosted doors can still be seen clear as day by the unlucky one who ended up on the top bunk.
It’s also crowded and inconvenient. With a private bathroom, the sink is in the bathroom. So if your travel partner is showering, using the sink may be awkward.
Shared bathroom pros and cons
Being able to go down the hall to do your business is actually way more private than the “private” bathroom. These bathrooms are actually private, with toilets, sinks, a mirror, a shower, thick walls, secure doors. Your secrets are safe.
They’re stocked with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and hand soap so you don’t have to carry a lot of stuff to the bathroom or fear forgetting anything. Except a towel. Forgetting a towel is how secrets spread.
As already mentioned, you can tell which bathrooms are open and which are occupied before even leaving your room. They keep the bathrooms stocked with toilet paper and they’re always clean. (Just remember to wear your flip-flops!)
Plus, when you get up in the middle of the night to do whatever it is you have to do, you won’t wake up your room buddy. Unless you suffer a violent fall coming down out of the top bunk. (Bunking is hard after middle school!)
The biggest downside to the share bathrooms, in my opinion, is that they’re not for the claustrophobic (but really none of this hotel is).
The shared bathrooms are spacious enough that they don’t feel cramped, but there aren’t any windows and the fear of those heavy locks on those thick doors not unlocking is real. Or maybe that’s just me?
Another con is that they aren’t stocked with towels (which is actually good from a cleanliness point of view). So, you have to remember to take a towel with you if you plan on washing your hands (please do!) and taking a shower.
Review: Pod 51 New York
Located at 230 E 51st Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, Pod 51 is the most popular of the New York Pod Hotels.
Pod 51 has an outdoor café, a patio and courtyard, and an awesome open-air roof deck with 360° views (so there are plenty of ways to get some fresh air if you find the tiny rooms claustrophobic). Though the rooms are small, the hotel itself offers plenty of space in the common areas.
At the Pod Café you can pick up coffee and simple breakfast items but also beer and wine because they know a thing or two about people on vacation.
They offer free guided walking tours for all guests and will happily store your luggage (for free) before you check in and/or after you check out so you can do some more sightseeing sans baggage.
Pod 51 review: location
Located on a tree-lined block in Midtown Manhattan, Pod 51 is situated near many of the top New York City sights (but enough out of the way that it’s actually charming instead of chaotic). For instance, Pod 51 is just a short walk to:
- Grand Central Station, 10 minutes
- Rockefeller Center, 13 minutes
- Museum of Modern Art, 15 minutes
- Times Square, 20 minutes
- Central Park, 20 minutes
- Empire State Building, 28 minutes
- Or about half these times if you take a taxi
Again, Grand Central Terminal is very close and, besides that, there are stops for numerous subway lines nearby. In short, it’s not hard to get anywhere in New York City from Pod 51.
I love the Pod 51 neighborhood and always feel safe there. (But always pack all the right travel safety gear just in case.) There are also a lot of great food and drink spots nearby:
- Lucky Cat Ramen – 232 E 53rd St
- Obao – 222 E 53rd St
- the Halal Guys – Corner of 53rd St and 6th Ave
- And about a hundred others within just a few minutes’ walk of Pod 51
Pod 51 review: rooms
If the New York Pod Hotels are known for one thing, it’s for the tiny rooms from which it gets its name. You can totally call these rooms “pods,” just don’t confuse them with the ones you’ll find in the similarly named “capsule hotel” whose rooms are little more than a drawer.
The rooms in the NYC Pod Hotels are small, sure, but this is Manhattan, dahling! How much time are you really going to spend in there anyway? If your answer is anything more than “hardly at all,” you’re doing the Big Apple all wrong.
Despite the small sizes, the rooms are cozy and the beds are comfortable. (Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s opinion may differ.) I’ve never used the desk for desk-ing, but it works as more space to put your stuff. The rooms are quiet given they’re a bit off the main drags and the clientele is pretty respectful.
What’s included in Pod 51 rooms
The rooms have everything you need despite their small size:
- A plethora of electrical outlets (even two next to each bed and bunk)
- Flat-screen TVs
- Hairdryer, soap, towels, extra toilet paper
- Free WiFi
- Desk and chair
- Lots of hooks and hangers
On the downside, honestly as much as I want to make bunk beds work, those ladders are terrible. Climbing up and down that awkward ladder is cumbersome, uncomfortable, and I almost always come tumbling down after missing a step. Plus, it takes up half the room.
Also, it’s a metal ladder on a metal bed and it rattles constantly. It’s not steady when you’re on it and it gets hella in the way. I take full responsibility for this as a grown-ass adult who is trying to justify sleeping in a bunk bed to save money.
Pod 51 room types
Pod 51 offers a variety of room types that cater to different budgets, party sizes, and your personal need for elbow room. (You don’t have to rent the tiniest rooms if you don’t want to stay in the tiniest rooms.) Some come with private bathrooms, some don’t.
Single Pod, shared bathroom
If you’re flying solo on your journey to New York City, Pod 51’s Single Pod is all you need. It features a single bed, a desk with chair, free WiFi, and a TV. It’s small and simple, without all the extra hotel crap you never use anyway (yet most definitely pay for).
Bunk Pod, shared bathroom
Best for friend trips is the Bunk Pod featuring a twin-style bunk bed with a private TV for each bed. The Bunk Pod also features a desk with chair, free WiFi, an in-room safe, and the fun of sleeping in a bunk bed which you probably haven’t done since you were 12.
When booking either of these first two room types, you’ll have access to a shared bathroom. However, there is a sink, mirror, and towels in your room.
Contrasting to the first two is the Studio Pod with its full-sized closet, a private bathroom with tub (and rainfall shower), a bona fide sitting area, desk with chair, and the ability to sleep you and up to three other guests you are totally fine with sharing close quarters with.
Even though it features a full bed, the Full Pod is still a tiny room and is really just recommended for single travelers who simply need more space and a private place to do their business. And I can definitely attest to this as we thought it’d be cool for two people. It was not cool.
So yes, the Full Pods offer fully private, en suite bathrooms and the same as the rest: TV, free WiFi, desk and chair, in-room safe, etc.
Double Full Pod
Offering two double beds, the Double Full Pod is better for families and groups up to four. It has a doubling of double beds, a double-sized desk with two chairs, a flat-screen TV, full-sized closet, private bathroom with shower, and all the other goodies.
The perfect room choice for two people: the Queen Pod. It features a queen bed and private bathroom with shower, and all the other Pod Hotel amenities.
The Queen Pod is also available as an ADA room for those with special requirements.
Review: Pod 39 New York
Located at 145 E 39th St, Pod 39 is in one of the most prime spots in New York City. Pod 39 features a rooftop bar that’s open late and the Playroom Lounge with board games, a fireplace, cocktails, and fancy Mexican food via Empellón Al Pastor. Pod 39 also offers free guided tours and free luggage storage.
Pod 39 review: location
Pod 39 is also located in such a prime location. Maybe less-cozy and tree-lined, Pod 39 still wins in terms of proximity to some of New York City’s most popular attractions. Pod 39 is just a short walk to:
- Grand Central Station, 6 minutes
- New York Public Library, 10 minutes
- Empire State Building, 13 minutes
- Times Square, 18 minutes
- Rockefeller Center, 19 minutes
Grand Central Terminal is even closer to Pod 39 than Pod 51 but still, there are many subway stations nearby that you won’t have a problem getting anywhere on your visit.
The Pod 39 neighborhood is not as quiet and charming as its brother and is much livelier. Yes, by ‘livelier’ I mean the lobby is packed all night long with people coming and going from the roof bar. There are also many great places to eat and drink around here that aren’t on the roof:
- The Black Sheep Irish Pub – 583 3rd Ave
- Bagel Boss – 544 3rd Ave
- Heartland Brewery – Empire State Building
- Reichenbach Hall – 5 W 37th St
- And always Pod 39’s Mexican joint
Pod 39 review: rooms
Like Pod 51 and the entire Pod Hotel brand, the rooms at Pod 39 are small (though they do offer a few different room types).
Like my review for Pod 51, the rooms here are cozy and comfortable, for the most part. Pod 39 does offer some smaller versions which are a really, really tight squeeze. For instance, the Mini Bunk Pod and how any time I wanted to bend over to get into my suitcase my butt rammed into the glass bathroom door. Every time.
And similar to Pod 51, Pod 39 also has all the things you need and none of the stuff you don’t:
- Plenty of outlets
- Flat-screen TVs
- Hairdryer, soap, towels, toilet paper
- Free WiFi
- Desk and chair
- Lots of hooks and hangers
However, what Pod 39 does not have is shared bathrooms. All the room pods at Pod 39 come with private, in-room bathrooms. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s not. It’s definitely an intimate thing. (Have I convinced you that shared bathrooms are the way to go yet?)
Like its uptown counterpart, Pod 39 also has those awkward metal ladders but, again, managing expectations is key.
Pod 39 room types
Pod 39 also offers many different types of rooms for many different types of visitors. As long as these visitors are cool with the not-so-private private bathrooms.
Here you’ll find a twin bed in a tiny room. But at least that room has a private bathroom and, since you’re here all by yourself, it’s actually private.
Mini Bunk Pod
Two twin-sized beds in a bunk formation, each with its own TV.
I stayed in a Mini Bunk Pod during my first ever Pod Hotel stay. It. Is. Mini. And it is intimate. They promote it as “the best deal for two beds in New York that money can buy.” But honestly, it’s borderline too small for two people.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a hilarious and fun experience, but I’d recommend upgrading at least to the next step up if you’re anything bigger than Hobbit-sized.
And for what it’s worth, it’s almost entirely impossible to use both TVs at the same time. You can’t hear yours if they’re both on. So we changed them to the same show, but the sound on one was off by a second so it created a major echo. I guess just don’t watch TV?
Slightly bigger than the Mini Bunk is the full-on Bunk Pod. You can bend over in this room! Two cash-strapped adults can totally make this work.
Again, fits two but is really recommended for a single traveler. A little more elbow room than the single, still with a private bathroom.
The Queen Pod is a great deal for couples in terms of size. (I mean, it’s still small, but it’s all relative here.) Make sure you’re close or the glass bathroom will bring you closer.
Pod 39 Queen Pods are also available in a fully-accessible ADA version.
Conjoined Queen + Mini Bunk Pods
Unique to Pod 39 is the ability to book conjoined Queen and Mini Bunks—ideal for couples with children. You get two full bathrooms and all the regular goodies. You must call to book this combination though.
Pod Hotel review
Despite which Pod Hotel you choose, you’re going to get a simple, straightforward, pleasant hotel experience. Sure the rooms are small, but you’re in Manhattan. Chances are you won’t even spend that much time in your room. (Besides, small rooms are the Manhattan norm.)
The areas and hotels themselves are safe, clean, and fun to stay in. You can get food and beer and rooftop views at both. The locations absolutely cannot be beat, especially for these prices!
I’m a big fan of the Pod Hotels but, in all fairness, I’m a relatively small, able-bodied person who travels with a small carry-on.
What’s not great about New York Pod Hotels
On the flip side, there are a few things that are less-than-spectacular about Pod Hotels. (But no real deal-breakers)
For starters, the staff is less than enthused. Some employees are nicer than others but when dealing with Pod Hotel staff members—from the concierge, to the receptionists, to the bellmen, and everyone in between—you get a general sense of “blah” or of them just not wanting to deal with you.
This has been consistent over many years of staying at New York Pod Hotels and at both locations so, no, it’s not just me and it wasn’t just a case of the Mondays.
However, the biggest issue I have with both Pod Hotels is: at possibly the worst time every single morning, one of the three elevators gets shut down for housekeeping duties. This creates an absolute sh*tshow between 9-10 am for the entire hotel of people leaving for the day. This happens at both properties.
The elevators are small and the buildings are tall. And when I say “sh*tshow” I mean one time there was a literal 30-minute wait just to get down to the lobby. Obviously stairs are an option (I get so much exercise when I stay at the Pod Hotels), but for some visitors they absolutely are not.
Waiting half an hour to get to and from the lobby is ludicrous. After climbing down eleven flights of stairs, I saw there was also a line of people waiting to head up. Like, a long line. There’s gotta be a better way!
Regardless, I still recommend staying here without any doubts. I, too, will continue to stay at Pod Hotels on my visits to New York City. For me, it’s all about the location + the price + the safety and cleanliness.
Is the Pod Hotel a good value?
As a whole, I feel the New York Pod Hotels do a great job with their mission. They provide visitors to New York City an actually affordable place to stay. And they make sleeping in a tiny room and sharing bathrooms with strangers a pleasant (and fun) experience.
Nowhere else in Manhattan, at least nowhere this clean, safe, and supremely located, can you stay for less than $100 a night. They provide you with what you need without all the “stuff” you don’t.
Sure, some people might be turned off by the Pod Hotel’s lack of in-room coffee makers, gyms, business centers, room service, etc.—but maybe those people don’t understand the definition of the word value.
What you get at a New York Pod Hotel far exceeds what you pay for it. You don’t need coffee in your room—this is Manhattan; coffee is everywhere short of flowing out your sink faucet. You don’t need a gym—you’ll get plenty of exercise in the stairwell. You don’t need a business center—hello? Desk and chair in every room. It even comes with pen and paper!
When staying at hostels you often sacrifice cleanliness, bedsheets, safety, or sleeping without a stray cat in your bed for those low, low prices. But at the Pod Hotel I don’t feel like I have to go without anything necessary in order to still be able to pay my bills that month.
This NYC Pod Hotel review is giving them both a big ol’ gold star for value!
Which is better, Pod 51 or Pod 39?
Ultimately, deciding which Pod Hotel you should stay at—Pod 51 or Pod 39—is up to your personal preferences.
For solo travelers, I would recommend Pod 39 for its lively location and the fact that all the rooms have private bathrooms.
For families, some of the Pod 51 rooms are bigger and better plus the location is nicer and the hotel itself is quieter and less chaotic. For couples, let’s just go with Pod 51 and the shared bathroom situation—you gotta keep some secrets.
Do you want to relax on a rooftop? Go with Pod 51. Do you want to party on a rooftop? Go with Pod 39. Want great Asian food nearby? Stay at Pod 51.
Enjoy your stay in Manhattan!
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