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“Nights with the ghosties” 4 of 5 stars
Review of HI Ottawa Jail Hostel

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HI Ottawa Jail Hostel
2.0 of 5 Hostel   |   75 Nicholas St, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada   |  
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Ranked #4 of 18 Specialty Lodging in Ottawa
Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Top Contributor
65 reviews 65 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 28 cities Reviews in 28 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
“Nights with the ghosties”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 18, 2013

To say I was nervous about staying here was an understatement!!! But I was pleasantly surprised :-). I was in an 8 bed dorm above the death row cells which from part of the guided tours. The room was massive and was no way overcrowded like some big dorms can be. Breakfast was good and the staff were pretty knowledgable. Cleanliness wasn't the best, on more than one occasion we had to ask for a bathroom to be cleaned and it wasn't until the next day, and it was very 'dirty'!!! Overall, pretty good.

Room Tip: There are no elevators, and 9 floors.
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled solo
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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203 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    3 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3 of 5 stars
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    3.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (29)
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Montreal, Qc
Contributor
20 reviews 20 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed September 13, 2013

I am a teacher and have stayed at this hostel many times with my students. It was okay in the past (clean, interesting for the students). This past May, we stayed there for the last time. There was a mix up with our reservation (we had asked for girls on one floor, boys on another which we didn't get) and not even enough rooms for our entire group ! One teacher had to sleep on the floor of a boys room because they wanted him to sleep on another floor !
Then, there was the problems with the fire alarms ! They rang 3 times in 1 day ... once in the morning, twice at night. The staff was NOT trained to react in these types of emergencies.
They even told our students to stay inside ... that it wasn't a big deal ! Then, they blamed us ... said we had taken too many showers and the steam was the problem. Some of the staff started insinuating that our students had pulled the alarm !
When we discussed it with them ... one employee was rude. Not all the staff ... management seemed nice but the staff on-hand wasn't properly trained. We had to explain what to do in case of an emergency ! We have strick rules when responsible for children !

Anyway, used to be a good hostel. But the management needs to train their staff better and update the kitchen (very dirty).

Room Tip: Not all rooms are as shown in pictures ! Rooms on the «Lounge-Bar» side of the building will give y...
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  • Stayed May 2013, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 2 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
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traveller315, General Manager at HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, responded to this review, September 17, 2013
Dear Jazzfang

Thank you for your feedback. All feedback is important as it helps us improve our services to guests. I am sorry to hear that your stay in Jail did not meet all of your expectations. We work very diligently to meet the needs of all of our guests and it is troubling to hear that we did not meet all of yours – even four months after your stay with us.

As you may remember, the hostel is a very unique property in that it was designed in a particular way, and not with the needs of modern guests in mind. It is one of the endearing features that make it as popular with travellers of all ages as a one of a kind experience, but it also creates a fair number of challenges other more modern properties are able to deal with easier. All room assignments are based on the needs of the group and what is available at the time the booking contract is received. I am sorry if we were unable to accommodate your group on two separate floors as you had requested. At the time of booking, we gave the best rooms that we had available. This information should have been shared with the main group leader dealing with us at the time and confirmed in writing.

I know the issues you raised with regards to our fire alarm and how my staff dealt with said alarms. We take fire alarms very seriously and in fact, we review the procedures at the start of every staff meeting as required by the Worker Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) of Ontario. The cause of the alarms was a malfunctioning sensor and we dealt with it as fast as possible. However, with our state of the art alarm system, we were quickly able to identify that said fire alarms were not in fact actual fires, but caused by the malfunctioning sensor. We ordered a technician in to fix the problem as quickly as possible, which they did, however, it did take a full day for them to arrive. As you can guess, it would be better not to turn off our alarm system, but rather apologize to guests as to the nature of the alarm ringing by letting them know it was not an actual fire, but a malfunctioning sensor and turning the bell off as quickly as possible and informing the fire department as to the nature of the alarm and that it was in fact false. My night staff made an executive decision not to vacate the building and not to implement our fire evacuation procedures as they knew the nature of the problem and had already implemented the procedures for fixing the errant sensor. I am sorry if you disagree with that decision of my staff, but they also had to weigh the impacts of implementing the full evacuation procedures on the rest of our guests. Perhaps they could have communicated the situation to you better.

We take great pride in delivering the best possible service and experience to our guests at the best possible price and if we have failed, we do apologize and hope that you remember all the great experiences you and your students have had in the Jail.

Sincerely,
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Toronto, Canada
Top Contributor
112 reviews 112 reviews
30 hotel reviews
Reviews in 46 cities Reviews in 46 cities
89 helpful votes 89 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed September 9, 2013

I tried making a reservation on their website only to get re-directed to the home page once I put in my credit card. I figured it was a glitch with the site and since I didn't get a confimation email I guessed that my reservation didn't go thru. I tried calling and was told that they were fully booked and unable to take my reservation.
Then, I got my credit card statement. $36.13 charged to my card and when I called about it, I was told that I didn't show up for my booking. What booking? What confirmation email was sent? Did I get an apology? No.
Thanks Jail Hostel, I spent three times your cost to be somewhere that knows how to run a business and I am glad I did.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
traveller315, General Manager at HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, responded to this review, September 10, 2013
We’re sorry to hear about what happened and we’ll be looking into fixing the glitch that caused this problem in the first place. In the meantime, we will be sending you an email to obtain more information about this incident and find a solution.

Sincerely,

Greg
GM
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Levis, Canada
Contributor
20 reviews 20 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed September 6, 2013

I stayed five nights at this place.
The sheets are clean. Personal are friendly. But, they have a lot of noise by the fan close of the dorm. The concept of a hostel in an ancient jail is very nice. The emplacement is close of most attractive thing of Ottawa. Bathrooms can be a little be more clean.
I will suggest this place to a friend.

Room Tip: Take a room far of the fan
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  • Stayed January 2013, traveled solo
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
traveller315, General Manager at HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, responded to this review, September 10, 2013
Thank you for your feedback. I know that fan you mention. It actually belongs to the building next door that is being run by the city. We are working with them to fix that problem, but I am glad that you enjoyed your stay in Jail!

Sincerely,

Greg
GM
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Montreal, Canada
1 review
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 30, 2013

We only stayed there 1 night, and we thought it was awesome!! We wanted to stay there because it was an old building , the history and authenticity of it!! It was also our first Hostel experience. The rooms were basic clean! We were on the 4 th floor and the showers were brand new clean and well kept!! As for the bathrooms they were clogged at times but I was able to sneak to the guys and it was fine!! haha!! Due to the bared doors and well it is a jail it was quite noisy and we were on the side of the bar Mugshots so we could here the music but for us it was no big deal for 1 night and slept no problem!! The bar is awesome really cool people, crafts being done puzzles, drink prices good!! The tour was awesome of the place!! And it is central to everything in Ottawa!! I would definately go back no problem!! Only suggestion bring eye covers if you on the top bunk like i was b/c the light comes in for he air to circulate. As well bring ear plugs if you think the music will be a problem for you!!! Hey how many times can you say I slept in Jail!!! hahah

Room Tip: The 4th floor has new showers for woman...so I would stay there again!!!
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, England, United Kingdom
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 9, 2013

I was sceptical when I first heard about this Hostel. A Jail as a Hostel?! What about the Ghosts, the Nightmarish Conditions and the Stereotypes?! Never needed to worry. This Hostel is superb and I would recommend it to anyone who would like an experience similar to no other. The building retains the feeling of being a Jail while presenting a comfortable experience. It had all the facilities you require and I never once found myself questioning why I was staying there (that was also partly due to being part of a School Trip and it was there or nothing!) One thing, I was staying on the Ninth Floor and you get an extra contribution to your stay. The Hostel is part of numerous ghost tours and we quite frequently found ourselves interrupting but it was all done with good humour (we decided to name the staircase 'The Staircase of Doom' and although we got a few laughs, I don't think we'll be on the comedy scene for a while) Overall, an absolutely ace Hostel, a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a really comfortable place to stay!

Room Tip: If you want a unique experience, try to obtain a room in an actual cell. Some of the rooms are withi...
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  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
traveller315, General Manager at HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, responded to this review, August 21, 2013
Thanks for your comments, all customer feedback is important. I am really glad to hear you had a good stay in jail. After all, how many times can you Skype home and say 'Mom, I'm in Jail!" and laugh about it?

Thanks,

Greg
GM
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Calgary, Canada
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 30, 2013

Spent 3 nights in the Ottawa Jail Hostel in one of the 2 bunk cells. It is exactly as to be expected. The cells have been renovated whereby 3 old cells are now 1 cell for the hostel; however, this is a very old building without air conditioning. The bars are covered but they are kept open at the top which is likely for ventilation. We were here and the temperatures were 20 - 25 degrees. The cell itself was quite warm, but it is manageable for the experience you are getting. Windows get opened along the outside wall which helps if you are able to keep your cell door open and the fan, which is provided, running. There are signs indicating you can get more blankets if needed, so I'm thinking it is also quite cool in the winter months. It is a JAIL; do not come here with your princess expectations and then complain. If they renovated everything into modern, that would totally kill the experience here.
They hostel does have a breakfast which is typical cereal, bagels, and fruit type of options. They also have a bar attached which can be a bit loud with the windows open; however, again it wasn't every night and I was a little disappointed the 1 night it was loud because we went down and checked it out and there were only 8 guys divided between 2 tables chatting so it is not like it is a full on active nightclub so really no reason to have the music cranked like they did. Just DJ arrogance. But the other 2 nights were relatively peaceful. With the cells having bars, and this being a jail, you may experience noise from other travellers; however, the ones that were here when we were, were very quiet and respectful. Staff were very friendly.
Wifi was great access. No issues there. Parking is right next to the building. You have to pay for parking. They will give you a tour of the building, but you can also do the haunted tour which you book on Sparks Street.
The location is amazing. It is only 2 blocks from the Byward Market which has every possible food choice you could want as well as tons of shops and venders. The hop on hop off bus can be caught there too. It is also a short walk to Sparks Street, which is also a hop on hop off bus stop, and the restaurants there which is right by the parliament buildings. Excellent location. Couldn't ask for better. As for the comments about this being a poor neighbourhood. We walked around at night without a problem. The occasional person asking for spare change, but this is downtown, that's to be expected. There were lots of people out and about due to the market being so close. I did not feel unsafe at all.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. I booked this for the experience knowing the downsides and was not disappointed. Had a great stay at the Ottawa Jail Hostel. I would recommend this stay but ensure people were aware of the downsides; hot/cold, noise, IT'S A JAIL.
BTW, the ghost tour has this place as haunted. According to the tour, they used to let people stay on the 8th level for free if they could make it through the night, but a lot of people couldn't. That's where death row was. We had no ghostly encounters tho. Not sure if I am disappointed by this or relieved :-) Hope this review was helpful. Seriously, check it out, stay in the cells, very cool experience.

Room Tip: I loved my stay in the jail cells.
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about HI Ottawa Jail Hostel

Address: 75 Nicholas St, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Phone Number:
Location: Canada > Ontario > Ottawa
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 18 Specialty Lodging in Ottawa
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Hotel Class:2 star — HI Ottawa Jail Hostel 2*
Number of rooms: 29
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Located in downtown Ottawa, the HI-Ottawa Hostel is within easy walking distance of Parliament Hill, the Byward Market and all the major downtown attractions. We offer a relaxing, friendly atmosphere, heaps of on-site parking, free wi-fi, linen and towels. A great place to hang! ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Hi Ottawa Jail Hotel Ottawa

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