The latest addition to the popular Once in Cape Town brand, this hostel is hard to ignore when you stay in Johannesburg. The TripAdvisor reviews speak for themselves, with a 5 star rating and reviewers commenting on the hotel-quality rooms, I had to check this place out for myself during my recent visit to the city.
This was my first time staying in a “poshtel” and I was really looking forward to seeing the finer side of backpacking life. Champagne wishes and caviar dreams here I come!
Once in Joburg is easy to find and well located. A professional and spacious reception area allows for plenty of room to move around and you feel comfortable and welcome instantly.
Staff handed me a welcome kit with my room key, wifi password, breakfast vouchers and local tour info. This is the first time I’ve seen this in a hostel and a great start to my stay. It means you’re not bombarded with information right at the beginning and have time to read through it all at your leisure. I was personally taken to my room and shown around the hostel area and facilities.
There is also an activity board right at the exit so you can quickly see what is on each day and staff were always on hand and available whenever I needed someone. Staff wear uniforms as well so you can easily spot who works there, a big pain point of mine with some hostels.
Once in Joburg offers private rooms and four-bed dorms, both mixed and female-only. Dorms have custom made beds, all with individual charging stations and lights. All rooms have air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms with a shower and toilet so even if you’re in a dorm, you will only have to share with three other people.
I stayed in a private and was treated to a modern hotel-quality room. I usually only stay in hotels when I’m travelling with family so being able to experience the same level of comfort at hostel prices was a huge surprise. Private rooms are where Once in Joburg excels and if you’re in the market for a private room then you should definitely give these guys a try.
Several types of private rooms are on offer, including twin, double and family-sized rooms. Facilities are considered four-star and I could see why. All rooms provide air-conditioning, a flatscreen TV, tea and coffee making facilities, a hanging space and shelves for your clothes and a safe.
The bathrooms are modern and well designed. It’s one of the nicest that I’ve ever seen in a hostel anywhere. Roomy showers are perfect for getting your morning started right!
Price-wise, Once is higher than you’ll experience when travelling around most of South Africa but comparable to other hostels in Joburg and other large cities like Cape Town and Durban. For the four-bed dorm, it’s cheaper than it’s closest competitor in Maboneng and offers extras like breakfast, air-conditioning and an ensuite.
The private rooms are definitely worth the cost based on hotel prices in the local area and around Johannesburg. They’re some of the best privates I’ve personally seen in any hostel around the world.
Once in Joburg includes a light breakfast as part of their room rate, served by The Immigrant, the in-house restaurant. This is a great service as I felt it made my integration into the city a lot easier. You don’t need to go wandering the streets looking for something to eat first thing in the morning and in a city like Johannesberg, this is definitely a huge positive. Navigating the urban streets can be overwhelming for a first-time visitor and it’s a great idea to offer breakfast in-house.
The breakfast option at the time of my visit was a hot drink of your choice, juice, piece of fruit and either a bagel with a yummy spread or muesli with yoghurt. As usual, Once have thought of every little detail and provided a breakfast voucher in your welcome kit where you can tick your choices and hand it in when you order breakfast. The light breakfast should be enough for most people and is available as a take-away option for those on the go.
There are several bars and restaurants located in the same complex as Once, along with The Immigrant, so you never have to walk very far to find something to eat. There are several outdoor dining options as well which I loved. Having a nice glass of local wine while sitting in the courtyard with some new friends was one of my favourite ways to spend my afternoons.
The common area in Once in Joburg is located in a large space on the first floor. There’s a shared kitchen and lots of seating space with comfy couches, bean bags and hammocks. Hammocks are my favourite thing in the whole world so I spent a LOT of time relaxing with a book and a drink while swinging away.
There's a well-stocked book exchange as well as a pool table to help with breaking the ice with other travellers. When the weather is good, there’s also a large balcony sitting area to enjoy the Joburg sunshine with a cold drink.
One small criticism is the fact that the common area and adjacent bar and restaurant are located on separate floors and are out-of-sight, which means guests need to go out of their way to see “what’s happening” and who’s around. Some hostels have their bar located within the common area or at the exit so it’s easy to jump in on the action. Once is limited by the existing layout and do their best to counteract this design quirk by being proactive with fun activities to get guests together every day.
Once's activity board is full of organised activities and suggested things to do. This included quirky “off the beaten track” suggestions and once-off and regular events happening in the local area. A free activity was offered each day with events like walking tours, an excursion to the Botanical Gardens and a fun Instagram Graffiti Walk. I thought these were creative ways to see the city and get to know fellow travellers.
During my stay they had a “No Power Hour” one night at The Immigrant. To help facilitate conversation you weren’t allowed to bring your phone and drinks were provided by the hostel. This was a great way to meet the other guests and an initiative that I think should definitely be taken up by other hostels.
I was able to organise paid tours and activities at reception as they offered a full concierge service. Once can help with car rentals and booking tickets for the local red bus tour, Kruger National Park or Pilansberg safaris and tours to Soweto. I felt that staff were well trained in what was on offer and knew the local area.
Free wifi is provided and the connection is fast. I did experience some drop-outs while staying there but nothing that caused any major issues. There are also large meeting rooms that can be used when you need some extra quiet or a place to work. As a digital nomad, this was a massive plus for me and I spent a whole day there working without any distraction.
Location isn’t usually something that I comment on or even find too important when I’m considering what to review. If a hostel is good enough then it doesn’t often matter where it’s located. In a place like Johannesburg, however, it’s important to touch on it. Especially as you’ll read a lot about safety and where you can and cannot walk around and explore.
Once in Joburg is located in Braamfontein, or Braam as the locals call it. This is one of two neighbourhoods that I would recommend staying in as a tourist, the other being Maboneng.
Urban renewal has taken place in Braam, once a no-go zone. A great example is that in this once run down business district, Braam now hosts one the highest rated coffee shops in the country and some of the best nightlife in the city.
Braam has an interesting mix of historical landmarks, like the Lord Milner Hotel dating back to 1906, and a bustling modern African medley of hair salons, fast-food restaurants, spaza (local informal) shops and eateries. You’ll also find Manhattan-stye loft apartments, art galleries and trendy hotels, like Once.
You can walk around several of the city blocks in Braam during the day and not come across any issues. At night it’s recommend to take an Uber or Taxify to get to and from the nightlife in the city. Just like in any large city, you need to be aware of your belongings at all time and do not display anything of value. Muggings have occurred but nothing of a violent nature. I made it a habit of just walking with the cash I needed and never had any issues.
The major transport hub of Park Station is located within walking distance of Once. You could easily get to and from the airport and other interesting neighbourhoods, like Rosebank, by using the Gautrain. Other train travel is not recommended but available nonetheless.
Fast facts on Johannesburg
To help put the city of Joburg into context here are some interesting facts from the Joburg Tourism website.
- Johannesburg is one of the world’s youngest major cities, founded in 1886
- It is the most powerful commercial centre on the African continent
- The city’s profusion of approx. 6 million trees make it the largest man-made forest in the world
- Greater Johannesburg covers an area of 2,300km2, making it larger than Sydney, London or New York, and similar to Los Angeles in size
- Johannesburg is home to some 3.8 million people, the majority of whom are aged between 19 and 39
- The city enjoys an average of 12 hours of sunlight a day
- 40% of the entire world's human ancestor fossils have been found in areas close to Johannesburg
- You can drink the tap water here and it actually tastes great!
What I liked
- Excellent service and friendly staff
- Light breakfast included
- Roomy accommodation
- Modern facilities and great design
- Super clean
- Lovely views over Braamfontein
- Free activities daily
What I didn’t like
- The wifi signal had a tendency to cut out
- Separate common area and bar/restaurant facilities reduce chances of guest interaction
Who should stay here?
This hostel is great for those who are seeking the communal benefits of a hostel - common room, shared kitchen and organised activities - but also like the comfort and privacy of a well-maintained hotel. The meeting rooms are great work spaces for those working on the road.
- Digital nomads
Once in Joburg has the largest and best designed common areas I’ve seen in a hostel. The lack of internal bar and restaurant and the common area being on a separate floor has the potential of reducing the interaction amongst travellers but the regular activities organised by the hostel help combat this.
Private rooms are the great strength of Once in Joburg and I would recommend them solely based on my experience in their lovely rooms. You’ll be more than comfortable in the oasis that they’ve created after spending a day exploring the urban sights of Johannesburg.
Modern design, clean facilities, the best location and excellent staff make this hostel a great choice for most travellers and I highly recommend a stay.
Once in Joburg
90 De Korte Street
Price: 235R - 785R inc breakfast
T: +27 (76) 4123663
Read the latest Trip Advisor reviews here
My stay was sponsored by Once in Joburg but all opinions are my own and are an honest reflection of my experience. This post includes affiliate links. When you make a purchase via these links, I receive a small percentage at no additional cost to you. Very small but very appreciated.