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“safe place but way too many stairs” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Brown Sugar Backpackers

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Brown Sugar Backpackers
75 Observatory Avenue | Observatory, Johannesburg 2198, South Africa   |  
Hotel amenities
Brisbane, Australia
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
“safe place but way too many stairs”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed October 22, 2012

stayed here 2 nights, room ok but the mould in the bathroom and leaking shower really should be repaired. the owners were friendly but also a bit intense. on reflection I think they were trying to make sure we made the most of our time in Jozi but sometimes travellors just need to chill and not constantly be on the move. the service was very good, the meals ok and they are a bas buz pickup point.

once the owners left for the day and the place was turned over to the staff and it was super noisy during the night. the fact our room was directly under the bar and the TV was way TOO loud and the use of the pool table til early hours of the morning meant we really didn't get much sleep.

we asked for a twin en-suite and at R480.00 per night it was very expensive. this place is build on a very steep slope so be prepared for climbing LOTS of stairs with your luggage and possibily having to drag it all back down again if your room is located under the bar/deck area or if you are in a dorm up narrow, dark stairs.

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled with friends
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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78 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (6)
Date | Rating
  • Danish first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
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English first
New York City, New York
Top Contributor
173 reviews 173 reviews
41 hotel reviews
Reviews in 55 cities Reviews in 55 cities
178 helpful votes 178 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed August 1, 2012 via mobile

I would have given them 3 stars if it weren't for the staff. They had terrible customer service. In 6 weeks of South African travel, this was the most expensive double room (400 rand) and the smallest, and by far the worst customer service in the country. I did meet the owners for 5 minutes and they seemed to really care that you were having a good stay, but the rest of the time (4 days, 3 nights) the staff would never offer a smile, even though we were extremely polite and always said thank you whenever they did anything for us (like sold us Internet time, accepted our payment for another night, etc). They do have a good breakfast included on the price of the room, but you do pay for it with the high price. The showers lack hooks, so good luck with your clothes and towel not falling on the floor. The wifi did not work at all while we were there and the Internet went out as well. It costs 20 rand for an hour. They do not keep track of your Internet time, but are happy to tell you that you have been on for too long or tell you that you did not pay even though you have a receipt to prove you did. We were accused of using all of our time earlier in the day, even though we said "we will use our last 15 minutes later, okay?" and they agreed that it would be fine. Later, three of them argued with me over and over that we had used it all up, even though we kept track of it and even though I explained it calmly (and had bought 4 hours of time-it's not like we weren't willing to pay for internet!). It was very offensive how rude they were, especially because they were in the wrong. The power went out one night around 8 pm, and they did not offer a candle or torch nor apologize the next day. They also refused to put our luggage in the huge, locked, half-empty luggage storage area and just set it behind the desk instead, which is sometimes staffed with a person and often times is not. They did not empty the trash every day. There were rodents outside in the courtyard. Here is the worst part: there was a drunk fist fight between guests one night (one of the guys involved even had stolen small items from another guest in the dorm room and been caught when he was patted down by staff and not asked to leave at that point) and the police were not called and the guests were not asked to leave because the staff did not want the lodge to get a bad reputation. So, the rest of us just stayed in our rooms so as to not ET involved in the drunken mess, and had to avoid the drunk, fighting thief every time he walked by and started saying crazy stuff to us (which he did while wearing nothing but a loosely draped towel around his waist), even though we did not attempt to talk to him.  Do not stay here. The staff needs to be replaced. There are way too many people who  would be grateful for their job. Go to Diamond Digger's instead! (Where we moved to and were so grateful for). 

Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
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Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
19 hotel reviews
Reviews in 22 cities Reviews in 22 cities
31 helpful votes 31 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 22, 2012

Stayed a couple of days in Brown Sugar before and after the 11 day Livingstone Trials tour (see my review on them also here on TA) which has a pickup from Brown Sugar.
First contacts were via e-mail and they were swift, friendly and very correct. The place itself is huge, but still gives you a pleasant feeling to it. It’s not too big or impersonal. Crew is (mostly) very fun and correct. Providing information, tour arrangements, and more than ok food during the day and evenings. Breakfast is average, but it’s included for free.
Accommodations come in many different options. And were perfect value for money. Showers come with good hot water (nice during the cold winters) and rooms were equipped with extra blankets and even electrical blanket for the cold nights. The free pickup service was nice and very convenient.

Central living room / bar is a nice place to meet fellow backpackers and to share tips and stories while traveling. Or watch movies or sport on the big tv. Bit aught though that they do not have a full license to sell beer from the bar. But they’ve found a work-a-round to solve that. Prices for internet access / WIFI are way too expensive. And should be offered for free, as we live in 2012.

Because of the multiple day Livingstone Trails tour on return Brown Sugar offered a free night, free dinner and free transportation to the airport! This was really amazing and very appreciated. The option to safely store remaining bags there for free was very convenient.

So the stay in Brown Sugar was pleasant and good value for money. The place is safe (you are staying in Joburg after all) and clean. And the location is good. Although the city is huge, so driving will take you some time. It’s a good place to stay.

  • Stayed June 2012, traveled solo
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Mancora, Peru
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 29, 2012

After several months in West Africa it was a delight to arrive at Brown Sugar. The staff were helpful and friendly, it was clean, had all the facilities you wnat, lots of areas for relaxing indoors or out and extra touches like the sale of postcards and stamps which they then took to the post box for you.
The breakfast was great and the kitchen had all the things you need to prepare your own food or they do good pub lunches and a set meal at night.
The efficient airport pickup service was a pleasure and while it is located in a quiet pleasant suburb, they will arange transport to wherever you want to go or tell you how to use local transport.
A brilliant start or finish to your travels in South Africa

  • Stayed April 2012, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Pietarsaari, Finland
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2012

Spent the last 2 nights of our stay in SA in this backackers. Didn't really enjoy Johannesburg too much, riots all over the city and depressed about leaving the country :)
Ok backpackers, good service, nice food, calm neighbourhood.

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Maputo, Mozambique
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed February 20, 2012

I was grateful to have a prompt airport pickup and a courteous driver waiting at arrivals after an overnight flight. The design of the house and garden was nice from the outside, really impressive driving in. It's perched on a hill and the back of the house offered nice views of the area.

Other than that, this place left a lot of room for improvement. The front desk staff averaged at apathetic. Friendly in some exchanges, nickeling and diming at others, visibly annoyed at times, but mostly just apathetic. I got more courtesy and saw more enthusiasm from the cleaning staff.
The WIFI was down, the internet was only accessible during front desk hours. There was a cockroach walking across the table as I sat down to a not so good dinner. The cooking staff seemed to take pride in their work, I might have had some bad luck on the dish they served that night. The "newly renovated" areas were hard to come by. The facilities were adequate, but the claims on the internet just set me up for disappointment. The house had a strange, old, nostalgic, italian grandma's feel to it. The upstairs smelled like it hadn't been aired out since the 70's, the pictures, furniture, design all added up to a strange vibe.

The free transport is a huge upside, but other than that, with so many other options out there, this will now be my last resort for joburg. Luckily, their biggest weakness can be addressed more easily with some training and/or personnel changes, but I can't really recommend this place as it is now.

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled solo
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
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MILWAUKEE
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed February 2, 2012

Location is inconvenient; the area is not at all safe after dark. But the transfers were handled well, and the staff was helpful, if not terribly friendly. WIFI was down, and only one computer was working. Rooms and showers were adequate.

  • Stayed January 2012, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Brown Sugar Backpackers

Address: 75 Observatory Avenue | Observatory, Johannesburg 2198, South Africa
Location: South Africa > Gauteng > Greater Johannesburg > Johannesburg
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #14 of 68 Specialty Lodging in Johannesburg
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 15
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
This 'Ex-Mafia Mansion' offers clean, spacious, comfy and secure accommodation from camping, dormitories, family rooms, doubles, twin, triples and singles with shared or privite bathrooms. We are the largest hostel in Johannesburg and offer the following freebies: A Scrumptious breakfast, Free pick up from OR Tambo Airport and Park Station, Wi-Fi and internet, Lockers, day and long term storage, tea and coffee. Print, scan and postage facilities available. Self service coin operated laundry room. We have credit card facilities and our own ATM on site. We have our own drivers and vehicles for cheap shuttles to the shops and other locations. Our in-house tour guide is available daily for the most popular local tours of Joburg. The staff can assist you with a Kruger Park Tour, Victoria Falls or Chobe National Park tours. We are a Baz Bus stop and just waiting to welcome you. ... more   less 
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