Staying in hostels rather than expensive hotels is a great way to get more vacation for less money. On a recent trip to London, England, I decided to try out Generator Hostel, a popular budget accommodation located just a few blocks from King’s Cross Station.
You are probably asking, are hostels really wheelchair accessible? Prior to my stay at Generator Hostels in London, I had stayed at the Urban House Hostel in Copenhagen and the ClinkNOORD Hostel in Amsterdam. Both of those hostels were pretty accessible and I had high hopes for what I might find in London.
My stay at Generator London lasted three nights. It was cheap, the bed was accessible and the bathroom had a roll-in shower. That’s really all I needed—an affordable place to sleep and shower. I would consider staying again, but there are some things I wish I had known in advance. Read on to find out if Generator Hostels London is wheelchair accessible enough for you.
Generator London: Reservations & Prices
Before making a reservation, I checked prices and reviews for Generator London on Hostelworld. You can make your reservations through the Hostelworld website and payment is accepted in a variety of currencies (including U.S. Dollars).
The hostel has only two accessible rooms: a private twin room and an 8 bed mixed dormitory. All of the bathrooms are shared at Generator London.
The cheapest accessible option is the 8 bedded shared dormitory, so that’s what I booked. The cost was about £16 GBP (~$20 USD) per night for the dates of my booking, which is a pretty standard rate. The private twin room would have cost about $80 USD per night.
After booking, you should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and confirmation number to let them know that you are a wheelchair user and will need an accessible room. I forgot to do this after making my booking and had issues at check-in as a result.
Because I hadn’t sent that e-mail, I never actually got into the truly accessible dor
Accessible Building Entrance
Getting into the building is a challenge. The main entrance, down the alley of Compton Place off Tavistock Place (and marked with a red arrow below) is accessible only via stairs or a wheelchair stair lift. The stair lift was broken during my stay, and I was instead directed to use the delivery entrance off Judd Street (marked with a green arrow below).
Both the wheelchair stair lift and delivery entrances send wheelchair users to level 0. Check-in is on level 1 and is accessible via a single elevator.
Pictured above is the gate blocking the delivery entrance on Judd Street. The gate was locked at night, but typically open during the daytime. The call button did not work, and I had to call the hostel from my mobile phone when I wanted back in.
The gate opens to reveal an angled drive of a little more than 100 feet. The street angles down towards the building. It’s a bit steep, but short enough that most manual wheelchair users should be able to manage without assistance. My power chair had no problem.
In the mornings, this drive was often littered with garbage. It wasn’t always blocked like shown above, but if it is you can ask staff to clear a pathway for you.
A set of double doors at the bottom of the drive lead into the building’s level 0. They were always unlocked and one door was typically held ajar. I was able to get my power wheelchair through with only one door open, but wider chairs may require the space of both. The doors were light and swung open easily.
My biggest issue with this hostel was the elevator situation. The building had only one elevator, and it was tiny. It could fit my wheelchair and one able-bodied person, but no more.
The accessible building entrances, my dorm, the accessible bathrooms and lockers were all located on level zero, which meant I didn’t have to use the elevator to reach any of those things. But the check-in desk, restaurant, bar and social areas were all located a floor up, on level 1.
When I would call the elevator from level zero in the mornings and early at night, the elevator would arrive packed with people who had boarded on the 1st floor and who were headed to a higher floor. It would sometimes be 5 cycles before I was able to get on the elevator!
Part of the problem was that people on level 1 did not pay attention to whether it was going up or down. With only one floor down below, they wouldn’t have seen it as a problem to ride down to go up. But for me, that was a serious problem. The hostel management should find a way to make the direction of the elevator more apparent to guests. A sign on the elevator door at level 1 could do the trick.
Wheelchair Accessible Dorm Rooms
I checked-in late at night after arriving on a flight from Frankfurt, Germany. Because I had forgotten to confirm my accessibility needs via e-mail, all of the bunks in the accessible dorm were occupied. The staff were very helpful and I was ultimately accommodated in another dorm that wasn’t listed as accessible, but still worked for me.
Pictured above was my bunk. Two rolling chests were placed underneath each bunk bed, and provided a place to lock-up your belongings. As shown above, my duffel bag was able to fit inside.
The low height of the lower bunk made it easy to transfer from my wheelchair. If you require the use of a Hoyer lift, that is possible, but you’ll first need to roll the storage bins out from under the bunk bed.
Linens were provided free of charge and I found the bed to be comfortable.
There were no power outlets provided inside the bunk, but outlets were available on a nearby wall. It was using this outlet that I charged my power wheelchair.
Help in mind that electricity in the United Kingdom is delivered at 240 volts. Travelers from the United States/North America will need to use a step-down power transformer to charge wheelchairs that rely on the 120V standard. Please see the FAQ on charging a power wheelchair abroad for more information and tips.
Wheelchair Accessible Bathroom
Two wheelchair accessible bathrooms with roll-in showers were located on level zero, the ground floor. The bathrooms were kept locked by staff, and I had to ask for them to bee unlocked when I needed to use them. While this frustrated me at first, I ultimately realized the necessity of reserving these bathrooms for use by those who needed them – myself included.
The sink was small, but the bathroom was otherwise accessible. An abundance of grab bars were installed around the toilet and sink, and there was plenty of space to move around in my wheelchair.
The roll-in shower wasn’t ideal, but it was accessible and met my needs. A built-in shower chair folded down from the wall and seemed sturdy under my weight.
Grab bars were available on both sides of the seat. The water controls and a handheld shower head were both within reach. A shower curtain hung nearby, and protected my wheelchair from the water.
The bathroom at Generator Hostels was more accessible than others I have seen at full-service hotels in London. It certainly could have been better, but it was more than adequate.
The opportunity to meet new people from around the world is one of the major benefits of staying in a hostel. I interacted with people of all age groups at Generator Hostel London, from young adults in their 20s to people in their 50s and 60s.
The lobby level has a restaurant, bar and several other areas to hang out and socialize. I was in London for a conference and to visit friends, so I didm’t have a lot of time to chill out at the hostel. That said, there are plenty of opportunities to meet people if you want to.
If you’re like me, the most important amenity anywhere is free wi-fi access. The wi-fi speeds at Generator Hostel were fantastic and I had no trouble getting connected on all of my devices.
Some extras worth mentioning included storage lockers that could be rented for £8 GBP per day (24 hours) and washers/dryers in the laundry room. All of these features were located one there ground floor, which made it super convenient for me.
Location & Transportation
With King’s Cross station and St. Pancras International less than half a mile away, you won’t find a better location in London. Think of the convenience of sleeping just a few blocks away from London’s transit hub!
Public transportation in London is wheelchair accessible (read about it here), and I use it almost exclusively when visiting the city. King’s Cross is an accessible underground station and there are countless connections to city bus routes right outside.
Restaurants, convenience stores, pubs and more are all within walking distance of the hostel and the area sidewalks are wheelchair-friendly. It’s truly a great part of town.
Generator Hostel London isn’t perfect. It’s not the nicest or most accessible hostel I’ve stayed in. But it’s incredibly convenient, with its great location in the heart of London.
There is certainly room for improvement, like fixing the call buttons at the building entrances, fixing the wheelchair stair lift (or building a ramp instead), adding power to each bunk bed and making the doors wider throughout. Hopefully they’ll work on that.
For $20 per night, I was able to sleep comfortably, shower safely and finish off my day with a pint of beer at the bar. That’s pretty great, right?