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“The Hostel of Doom - steer well clear” 1 of 5 stars
Review of Gemini Backpackers Lodge

Gemini Backpackers Lodge
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Gemini Backpackers Lodge
1 Van Gelder Road, Johannesburg 2160, South Africa   |  
Hotel amenities
Senior Contributor
37 reviews 37 reviews
30 hotel reviews
Reviews in 32 cities Reviews in 32 cities
44 helpful votes 44 helpful votes
“The Hostel of Doom - steer well clear”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed July 8, 2010

I have happily backpacked my way through 88 countries in the past 20 years but this place will last long in the memory as an awful hostel run by a bunch of chancers. We soon nicknamed it the Hostel of Doom.

The first and biggest con is that they promise a free pick-up and drop-off shuttle service - vital as the hostel is way out of town on the edge of the sprawling Alexandra township. On arrival, they say they will pick you up from Marlboro Gautrain station. I got there and had to phone them five times before they turned up after THREE HOURS. There were no buses or taxis at the newly-opened station and they kept promising they were on their way when they weren't. Once at the hostel, I discovered that two to three hours had been everyone's average wait.

From then on, there was no free shuttle at all. Either you had to arrange your own transport (and none of the taxi drivers in JoBurg had the first idea where the place was as it was in the middle of nowhere) or you had to pay the hostel rip-off fares for the 'free' shuttle. We called them at one point to be picked up from where we had been dropped off in Sandton, agreed it all, waited and waited, gave up and caught a taxi - to find our 'driver' doing a barbecue at the hostel.

The hostel had power cuts every few minutes that made charging phones or using the internet largely impossible. There was very rarely any hot water and the rooms were bunk beds in freezing cold dorms. The temperatures were sub-zero at night (it was the South African winter) and you had to wear jackets, scarves, hats etc.

The rooms and bathrooms never seemed to be cleaned properly that I could see and the manager Aaron did not appear to have any idea who was staying there at any given time. They had lost people's bookings, moved people's belongings from one room to another without telling them (I came back in the early hours one night and had to hunt for all my gear in the dark from room to room) and were unaware that some people staying there had just walked in and stayed without paying after realising how shambolic it all was.

The chancer owners had hiked their prices fourfold for the World Cup and their main role seemed to be to turn up each morning and encourage as many people as possible to pay for breakfast (the one thing that was decent but costing an extra 40 rand a pop).

I stayed in regular basic hostels on Long Street, Cape Town afterwards and some beautiful ones on the Garden Route. I roughed it in Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein, as I have all over the world. Long after I left JoBurg, I ran into people still complaining about Gemini. There was a shared spirit of surviving the Blitz among all who had been there.

This place stands out a mile. It was a disgrace and you should steer well clear!

  • Stayed June 2010, traveled solo
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 1 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    2 of 5 stars
  • Location
    1.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    1.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    3 of 5 stars
  • Value
    2 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    2 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (4)
Date | Rating
  • Danish first
  • English first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
5 reviews 5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed July 5, 2010

This place was awful, such as disappointing end to our trip to South Africa. It was really hard to find, and on the edge of a township which is easy to end up in if you miss your turning. They got our booking wrong and we had to stay in a shared dorm when we booked a double room, eventhough we'd spoke on the phone and emailed to confirm we wnated a double room. The dorms weren’t too bad, but the bathroom/shower was filthy and flooded. The kitchen wasn’t much better, on opening the cutlery drawer I was greeted with a cockroach! I’d give this one a miss if I were you.

  • Stayed June 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 1 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 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.
Bristol, United Kingdom
11 reviews 11 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed February 28, 2010

In many ways this is a very bad hostel indeed. So bad in fact, that it's actually funny! So bad that it has a certain eccentric charm, and if I ever pass that way again, I'd be tempted to be a glutton for punishment and stay another night or two there.

It's not that the place is particularly bug infested or anything. The toilets, floors, and food preparation areas are actually kept reasonably clean (by backpacker hostel standards).

What's funny is the extraordinary state of extreme disrepair that the buildings and everything inside them are in. The kitchen is a graveyard of decrepit equipment. The toaster had only two out of the four elements working, meaning that only one side of your bread could be done at any one time. Worse still, one of the wire guards was missing, meaning that if you put the bread in at the wrong angle, it would soon burst spectacularly into flames! Meanwhile there was such a shortage of spoons that we reckon there was only one to share between all the guests.

On the first night we were there, a hole appeared in the ceiling of the bar area with water dripping through from the leaky roof. A week later, not only had no attempt been made to fix the leak, but the hole had become progressively larger with each rain storm!

My room was an ensuite one - part of a very simple ivy-clad shed-type structure opening out into a surprisingly well-tended garden. The well-tended garden unfortunately contained an alarmingly badly-tended, scary and uninviting-looking swimming pool with black patches on the bottom. In reality the pool probably just needs a lick of paint, but I think I was the only person to venture in there all week. Our room had two "beds," one a double, one a very small single. Both were made of solid concrete(!), the former with a very thin sprung mattress on top, the latter with a wafer-thin foam mattress. The toilet and shower were not separated from the sleeping area by a door, and had no proper ventilation. This arrangement is therefore not really ideal unless you've got the room to yourself!

I slept OK, but my friend got the short straw and spent an excruciatingly uncomfortable first night on the single bed. In the morning he asked for a better mattress and was given a thicker one from the dorm, which was too long for the bed and looked comical, but was nevertheless a massive improvement. Generally the staff were helpful, and if you asked them for something within reason you usually got it.

There is a full-sized snooker table in the reception area, which is fun if you're not too serious a player, and I found the atmosphere in the hostel perfectly friendly and sociable. The bar is a simple one, serving a limited range of reasonably priced drinks. Just take care not to be sitting under the hole in the ceiling when it's raining! It's probably quite big by now.

If this place wasn't so cheap, I'd have given it a real slating, but the truth of the matter is that it is cheap, and despite its multitude of shortcomings, if you consider the fact that free airport pickups are offered, it does offer fairly decent value for money if you're prepared to stay somewhere so basic. If you're on a really tight budget, you can even pitch a tent in the garden rather than having a room or a dorm bed. There's free internet access too, although the speed is pretty slow.

The friendly and helpful staff at Gemini are also in contrast to those of the rude and unhelpful staff at Backpackers Ritz where I have stayed in the past. For that reason alone I would tentatively recommend Gemini to travellers on a very tight budget, especially those wanting an accommodation-related story to tell!

  • Stayed January 2010, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 2 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Houston, TX
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed August 4, 2009

Stinky, moldy rooms (design flaw of having carpet in the bathroom).

Worst of all-- they refused to honor the 24-hour free airport pick-up prominently displayed on their website on the day of my arrival (I had called previously to arrange the pick-up) leaving me stranded at the airport at midnight in Jo-burg. No thank you.

Not worth it, not even remotely worth it. Look elsewhere

  • Stayed July 2009
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 1 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Gemini Backpackers Lodge

Address: 1 Van Gelder Road, Johannesburg 2160, South Africa
Location: South Africa > Gauteng > Greater Johannesburg > Johannesburg
Free Parking
Hotel Style:
Ranked #43 of 66 Specialty lodging in Johannesburg
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $

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