When I first began traveling abroad with a wheelchair, I always looked to top rated hotels for accommodation. Hostels were not on my radar, as I expected they were unfriendly to wheelchairs. I was wrong.
While it is true that many hostels are not accessible, some of the newest options are. Earlier this month, when I was faced with hotel rates of more than € 1,000 per night in Copenhagen, Denmark, I began searching for a hostel alternative. After a bit of internet research and a few e-mails, I made a reservation at Urban House. Urban House is an affordable hostel located within a block of Copenhagen’s central train station. Although hotel rates were inflated due to a major medical conference, hotels in Scandinavia are generally much more expensive than in other parts of Europe.
Reservation & Check-in
I made my reservation directly on the Urban House website, at www.urbanhouse.me. Based on my e-mail exchange with the hostel’s staff, I learned that the most affordable accessible room type for my dates would be in a 4-bed shared dorm. The room had an ensuite bathroom, and I didn’t mind sharing the space with other travelers. Private rooms with the same accessibility features (which I will describe below) were also available at a higher rate.
Due to the fact that the city’s hotels were nearly sold out, all of the rates at Urban House were a bit more than usual. I booked about a month in advance and paid only 385 DKK (~$56 USD) per night. That’s a far cry from 1,000 Euros!
The check-in desk is right inside the main lobby of the hostel, but it’s a bit different from what I’ve seen before. There are no staff – check-in is completed using the touch-screen computers placed there. Staff are floating around, so you can ask for assistance if you’re unable to reach the devices.
Alternatively, you can check-in from your smartphone. This is the option I chose. With just a few clicks/taps on the screen, the passcode for access to my room was sent via e-mail.
Wheelchair Accessible Hostel Room #208
Armed with my passcode, I took the elevator up to the second floor. According to the check-in confirmation e-mail, I was assigned to bed #4 in room #208.
Immediately outside the elevator, I faced a door requiring entry of my passcode. The door was light and easy to open, with enough space for my wheelchair to stay out of the door’s way. This door ensures that only those people who have been assigned rooms on the 2nd floor will have access to it.
The second photo above is the door to room #208. Here, the passcode was required again – thus securing my room and limiting access to those assigned to that particular room. You’ll notice a security camera attached to the ceiling – these are spread throughout the hostel, and made me feel much more comfortable. Don’t worry – there are no cameras inside the individual rooms!
Pictured above is my assigned bunk. Bed #4 was the lower bunk, and it was easy to transfer to from my wheelchair. The bed was next to a window, but the shades/curtains could be drawn. Power ports were within reach on the wall, and I had plenty of outlets to connect my phone and power transformer.
If you are traveling abroad with a power wheelchair, remember to consider the higher electric voltages used in other countries. I traveled with my own step-up/down power transformer to safely charge my chair.
Every guest of the hostel receives a pillow, pillowcase, duvet/blanket, duvet cover, sheet and towel at no additional charge. The bed was extremely clean, and the linens smelled freshly laundered.
Because I had booked a 4-person shared dorm room, there was an additional bunk bed. Interestingly enough, the other lower bunk was used by a fellow wheelchair user – a new friend I made from the United Kingdom. We discussed our wheelchair accessible hostel experience, and both found Urban House to be extremely accommodating.
The dorm room contained four lockers – one for each guest. The locker could be used to store a bag or personal belongings. My duffle bag was a bit too big for the locker, but I was able to store my backpack inside. If staying in a hostel, make sure to bring your own padlock – these are not provided, but can be purchased from the hostel.
If you have a larger bag like mine, you can also store it in a paid locker, which is available on the first floor. The downstairs lockers are secured with an electronic code of your choosing, and are much larger than those offered in the room. Given that my duffle bag contained only clothes and I had met all three of my roommates, I decided to leave my bag in the room – on the bench next to my bunk. It was never tampered with.
Ensuite Hostel Bathroom
Each dorm room at Urban House has an ensuite bathroom, reserved for use by the occupants of the room. Given that I take a bit more time to shower than able-bodied people, I made sure to communicate with my bunkmates. With only three other men in my room, each of us traveling for different purposes and on different schedules, I never had a problem getting into the bathroom at my preferred time.
I of course encourage you, when staying in a hostel, to limit your time in the bathroom as much as possible. Don’t take an hour long shower. But of course, take as much time as necessary to ensure that you are safe in your transfers and preparation.
My room featured a small, square roll-in shower. When I first arrived to the room, there was no chair present, but the hostel staff quickly found one for me. While this isn’t a typical shower chair or bench, it did the trick. If you don’t believe this set-up will work for you, you may wish to travel with your own bench, stool or chair.
The shower featured a handheld shower nozzle with a long hose – perfect for reaching all parts of your body. The water drain on the floor worked well, and excess water did not spill out into the rest of the bathroom. A shower curtain can be drawn to protect the bathroom (and your wheelchair) from the spray of errant water.
Unfortunately, there were no grab bars attached to the wall, but the chair itself was sturdy. I also placed some of my weight on the sink, and it supported me well.
No soap or shampoo is provided by the hostel, so be sure to travel with your own. You can also purchase toiletries from nearby retailers, including at Copenhagen Central Station.
The photographs above provide a closer look at the bathroom’s sink and toilet.
The sink was wheelchair accessible, and allowed me to safely roll beneath it in my chair. Hand soap is provided via an easy to use dispenser, and a power outlet for shavers is located next to the mirror.
The toilet was very accessible – even with the height of my wheelchair. In addition, grab bars were attached to the wall on either side of the toilet. These bars could be folder up or down, and allowed me to execute safe transfers. There was plenty of space next to the toilet, which allowed me to park my wheelchair directly alongside.
In all, I believe the ensuite bathroom is adequately accessible for most – much more than I expected to find in a hostel. Particularly one in a country, Denmark, that has enacted very little legislation designed to promote equal access for the disabled.
Public Spaces, Common Areas
The hostel’s ground floor contains restaurant and bar, together with numerous common areas for relaxation and conversation. I had many interactions with fellow travelers from all around the world, and the community atmosphere was very nice.
The common rooms felt very “urban,” which is what you might expect at a hostel named Urban House. The photograph above is of a room containing a pool/billiards table. There are also several seats and bookshelves stocked with great reads here.
Other rooms, like the one pictured above, were filled with seats, sofas, chairs and entertainment. In this one, you’ll notice a high definition television, foosball take and a rack with many board/card games. This area was particularly crowded in the evenings.
Some of the hostel’s common areas could be accessed only via a steep ramp coming up from the lobby. My power wheelchair handled this just fine, but manual wheelchair users will need a fast start or help from another. This ramp is pictured above.
Also located at the top of the ramp is a laundry room, with washers and dryers. Tokens needed to operate the laundry machines can be purchased at the front desk.
My stay at Urban House was adequate from an accessibility perspective and enjoyable in every other way. Urban House’s close proximity to the main train station was excellent, as I was able to catch trains, the metro, city buses and the hop-on/hop-off buses all within a radius of just a few blocks. The hostel staff was friendly and helpful, and the travelers who made up the community were wonderful.
If you’ll be visiting Copenhagen and would like to save money on wheelchair accessible accommodation, Urban House may be the answer! If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, don’t worry – Urban House is inviting to budget travelers both new and old.