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HI Ottawa Jail Hostel
Ranked #3 of 27 Specialty Lodging in Ottawa
Reviewed July 17, 2013

There are some major upsides to this hostel. The location is great, and the price is right. I opted to book into a private room so you get your own jail cell. I would definitely recommend doing that if you can. The history of the building is very cool - up on the top floor they've kept a section in it's original condition. However the history of the building also means it's super loud. Jails were built so that every noise echoed for the guards to hear. So it was quite noisy. It also appeared other people didn't quite get this fact when they decided to get up super early in the morning. I'd suggest bringing earplugs. Also, i stayed on the weekend there was a bar in the basement that was blasting music and echoing. The bathrooms were shared and quite so-so.

Room Tip: Pick the private rooms. you get your own cell which can be locked up.
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  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled solo
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Thank JennHowell
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 15, 2013

This was my first experience in any hostel. When i checked in and went up to my room i defiantly had second thoughts. Sleeping in the same room with 7 strangers, and ghosts. However I stayed the night.
The staff were super friendly, the room clean, the washroom o.k. , for some reason the 6th floor with the mens shower was locked, but there was a tub/shower on the 9th floor.
I expected to have a restless sleep, with the the place being haunted and on a rickety bunk bed. But was I ever wrong. It was the best sleep I've had in a long time. Quiet and comfortable.
I'll be back

  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled solo
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Thank TopherGuns
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 reviewResponded July 17, 2013

Thanks for your comments. We try and provide a good experience for guests.
Greg

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 14, 2013

I stayed here 7-8 years ago and just loved it. Things have gone downhill very dramatically since then. They seem more focused now on the public bar they have installed in the basement and in the back courtyard, than on the accommodations. The music from the bar was quite loud each night and we found it really disturbing when trying to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. Also, the crowd that patrons the bar are a rough bunch, as I had the displeasure of finding one of them urinating beside my car in the parking lot, before they zipped up and headed right back inside!! The following morning we also saw used needles in the parking lot. The whole experience made us feel very unsafe and I would never recommend this hostel for children.

The other major issue was how dirty the place was - bathrooms, rooms, hallways and kitchen. I almost felt embarrassed for them. It's like the GM and staff have no pride in the presentation of their building. There was junk everywhere!

The location of the building is still excellent and the architecture/history of it is very cool. The staff were reasonable friendly.

Room Tip: Stay away from rooms near the back at the building as they seemed to be where the bar noise was wors...
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  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled with friends
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6  Thank ontheroadagain1199
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 reviewResponded July 17, 2013

Hello and thanks for the feedback. It is always important for us to know of problems that guests may have so we can improve our services.

In terms of your specific concerns in an effort to increase the fun factor in the hostel, we opened a bar and we do have events in there that are open to the public as well as hostellers. In fact about 1/3 of our hostel guests also attend Mugshots events. It is a good chance for hostellers to meet and interact with the local Ottawa music community in a safe secure environment. It is a safe and secure environment as we have two or three security staff on during events in Mugshots and they all have been smart served and have the appropriate security license. Based on your feedback and others, we have increased the security perimeter to include the parking lot as well as added additional motion sensitive lighting as well as additional security video cameras. Our night auditors walk through the entire property hourly (including the parking lot) to ensure the safety of our guests and their belongings.

Obviously, some hostel guests do not wish to be part of the celebration of Ottawa culture, and for those guests we have attempt to move into the front parts of the building away from the more noisier areas.

We endeavour to keep the hostel as clean and organized as possible, but in a 151 year old property built to be meting out punishment, it is sometimes more challenging than in a traditional building to keep clean and organized at all times. We have a professional cleaning company who provides two-three staff daily to clean the entire hostel, top to bottom, sweeping, dusting, mopping, scrubbing all the showers and toilets, taking out garbage and recycling. Our kitchen however, is in dire need of a renovation. As you can guess, any renovations inside a heritage building need several levels of approvals and financing. If all goes according to plan, it will be totally renovated and redone in within the next two years. The kitchen however, is cleaned every day twice and is neat and tidy in appearance.

In conclusion, I am sorry your stay didn’t meet your expectations. We are doing the best we can with the unique heritage building we have and we’ll continue to try hard to improve our services for all guests so thanks for that feedback.

Greg - General Manager, HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel and Mugshots Jail Bar

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Reviewed July 13, 2013

The location is great. It is close to downtown and most tourist sights. Staff is friendly and offers a lot of information on town.

They do have some serious problems with cleanliness. The showers are either dirty or under 'renovation', also there is only a few of them in the whole building, and none of the showers are located next to the bathrooms with wash basins. It is quite annoying that you have to go to another floor to get a shower, and then yet to another place to brush your teeth. The air in the hostel feels very stuffed and dirty. Also it may get quite noise on the nights when there is a party going on in Mugshots bar downstairs.

For the price they ask, it is not really worth staying here.

  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled solo
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1  Thank nakemiiin
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 reviewResponded July 17, 2013

Thanks for your feedback. All customer comments are important so we can improve our services offered to guests. In terms of cleanliness, we do have a professional cleaning company that cleans the building top to bottom every day including all accommodation rooms, bathrooms and common areas. The problem you mention is not with cleanliness, but more with the fact a lot of our facilities are run down and need to be replaced. We have a plan in place to invest over $100,000 over the next two years to redo all the bathrooms, showers and kitchen areas of the hostel. We started this year with the showers on level 4, which were totally stripped down, repaired and new facilities were installed and the end result is beautiful showers for both male and female. Hopefully, we'll redo them all within two-years.

Thanks again for your feedback.

Greg - GM

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Reviewed July 11, 2013

I thought that staying here would be an interesting experience as the hostel is an old jail however I would not recommend it. Right away the building had a foul smell when I came into the lobby. The front desk staff were cold and abrupt. Once I walked to my room and checked out the bathroom, I was surprised at how filthy the building was.The toilet was clogged! I was not the only one to complain about the conditions during my stay. Some people down the hall mentioned that they were concerned they had found bud bugs!! Eeeep.

In the evening, when I tried to make dinner, the main dining area was being used as a public bar space known as "Mugshots" so I had nowhere to sit down and enjoy my food. Apparently, it is used as a public bar every night. Loud music from the bar and outside continues late into the night which is not good if you need to be up early to sightsee.

Overall, I strongly recommend not staying here as the building is loud and in strong need of a cleaner, a repairman and welcoming staff.

  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled with friends
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4  Thank Brianne L
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 reviewResponded July 17, 2013

Thanks for your feedback. All customer comments are important so we can improve our services offered to guests.

In terms of cleanliness and foul smells in the lobby. We have rectified that, by changing the cleaning detergents the cleaning staff was using on that floor. For an unknown reason, the bleaches used on that floor in an effort to keep it clean, were not working and were creating the foul smell. We have rectified this by changing detergents in this area and the problem has now largely dissipated.

We have a comprehensive strategy for dealing with those types of invasive critters, starting with our cleaning staffs that clean the building and all rooms every day, going through monthly inspections by our maintenance staff through to monthly inspections by our external exterminators. When a case is reported to us or discovered by us, our well trained staff are experts at helping guests deal with them and ensuring they a) move the guest, b) launder all of their belongings including wiping down all bags, purses and phones with a special detergent, c) laundering all of their linens in their room and calling our external exterminator to inspect and spray the room.

Thanks for your feedback!

Greg General Manager, HI-Ottawa Jail Hostel and Mugshots Jail Bar

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Reviewed July 2, 2013

The place is very dirty, bathrooms are not well kept, some staff members were friendly, some were not. Great location tho, everything is close by. For the price they charge, I don't think it's worth it.

Stayed: July 2013, traveled with friends
2  Thank Lucia G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 1, 2013

I found the overall atmosphere quite depressing :(. Even though many guests, especially the very young ones I guess, seemed to enjoy themselves I have to say and the staff was friendly. BUT: The place definitely lacks in cleanliness and the kitchen is a bad joke: very badly equipped, not even dishcloths. No real recycling.
I didn't sleep in a cell but stayed in a dorm-room which was airless, hot and sticky, even though there was AC. It would have helped more if we had been able to open a window, but that wasn't possible.
The first evening there was a party in the (public) "Mug Shot Bar" (which is also the dining area) in the basement and all the tables were stored away to make room for the party-guests. So I had my dinner from a plate balancing on my lap :(. The next morning there was a big group of school kids (approx. 40) for whom the majority of tables was reserved. Guess how I ate my breakfast? And because of the bar area also serving as eating area = common room, there was no way to get away from the loud music.
I did get the impression the individual hostel guests did not count as much as the groups, bar- and party guests :(.
I will not recommend this place even though it is situated in a real convenient downtown location.

  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled solo
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2  Thank ilsara55
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 reviewResponded July 17, 2013

Thanks for your feedback. All customer comments are welcomed and encouraged so we can evaluate and improve our services offered to guests.

I agree our kitchen is in bad need of renovation. I have a capital budget of over $100,000, but we have many needs in the hostel, and our kitchen is slated to be renovated in 2014-15 fiscal year. I wish it could be sooner. We do have a very comprehensive and expensive recycling program. We recycle all aluminum, plastics, fine-papers, cardboard and we compost all food. As a business, we have to pay an additional (and significant) fee for that service to a third party as the city does not provide this service to businesses.

I am sorry that my staff didn’t inform you that there is ample seating in our outside courtyard for breakfast or outside in the front yard at the picnic tables.

School groups do stay with us from time to time, after all we were founded by a teacher for teachers to provide their students with an affordable accommodation options while travelling. My staff informed me there was seating options available for you, but you chose not to sit with anyone else at breakfast. It is a hostel and as such there are shared services from time to time.
Thanks for your feedback.
Greg GM

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about HI Ottawa Jail Hostel

Address: 75 Nicholas St, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B9, Canada
Phone Number:
Location: Canada > Ontario > Ottawa
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 27 Specialty Lodging in Ottawa
Price Range: $37 - $101 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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 Jail 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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