Staycation Review: YOTEL Singapore Orchard Road (ft. robots!)

If you don't need a lot of space for a night's stay, consider YOTEL Singapore. It infuses contemporary style with practical functionality, and elevates the hotel experience with a touch of tech savviness. 

The YOTEL brand, headquartered in the UK and with close to 20 properties worldwide, is said to have drawn inspiration from the concept of Japanese capsule hotels as well as first class airline lounges. In its Southeast Asia debut, it opened the YOTEL Singapore on Orchard Road in 2017, and a subsequent YOTELAIR at Changi Airport's Jewel in 2020. Here we focus on the latter, a 610-room property located at the city's most popular shopping district.

"Technowall" at YOTEL Singapore
The "technowall" at YOTEL Singapore

Checking In

The hotel entrance is just behind the International Building (walking over from Shaw Centre, turn right onto the path after The Connoisseur Concerto and before Hans im Glück). Purple signs for YOTEL and its restaurant Komyuniti will signal that you are on the right way.

Signs for YOTEL and Komyuniti
Signs for YOTEL and Komyuniti

The lobby is bright, compact, and exudes a futuristic charm. It is where you can locate "Mission Control" or what the hotel calls its reception. Self-service machines are fitted for guests to check in and out by themselves; this can make for an efficient check out process, particularly during the hotel's standard check out time at noon.

YOTEL Singapore hotel lobby
Hotel lobby

YOTEL self-service check in machine
Self-service machines to check in or out

It is in this lobby that guests may experience their first encounter with the hotel's two autonomous robots named Yoshi and Yolanda. These robots can deliver amenities such as towels and bottled water to rooms while having basic interactions with guests (more on that later).

YOTEL's autonomous robot named Yoshi
One of the hotel's two autonomous robots, named Yoshi

Lift lobbies and lifts are decked in the hotel's theme colour, which is purple (and you'll see this in many elements of the hotel). This makes for a fancy ride to the guest rooms that occupy floors 11 to 30. Higher-end room types occupy upper floors. For instance, the Premium Queen View occupy higher floors than the Premium Queen, and are otherwise the same. The highest-end room type, the VIP King Suite View, is housed on the top floor and features the best available panoramic views on a private balcony.

YOTEL lift lobby in purple
Lift lobby decked in purple

YOTEL Cabin Features

In fact, the rooms at YOTEL are referred to as "cabins"; this sets the expectations for their modest size, and accordingly there really isn't much walking space around unless it's a suite. The cabin types are:

  • Premium Queen / View (max 2 guests, 175 sqft or 16 sqm)
  • Premium Queen with Bunk / View (max 3 guests, 175 sqft or 16 sqm)
  • First Class Queen (max 2 guests, 229 sqft or 19 sqm)
  • First Class King Junior Suite (max 3 guests, 398 sqft or 37 sqm)
  • VIP King Suite View (max 4 guests, 797 sqft or 74 sqm)
Regardless, the centrepiece of each cabin is the adjustable smart-bed, which reclines using an electronic switch.

Premium Queen View with smart-bed
Premium Queen View cabin, with the adjustable smart-bed in upright position

Still, the modest space does not compromise on functionality. The "technowall" is equipped with a smart TV that provides useful information about the hotel, and connects with mobile devices easily. The panel beneath opens up as a small work space. Furthermore, the cabin has many of the items that you might expect from a hotel, and they are stowed away in an innovative and space-efficient manner.

Here's an example of YOTEL's "technowall":

Mini work area, hooks, umbrella, and ironing board

Mini work area, hooks, umbrella, and ironing board
AFTER: Mini work area, hooks, umbrella, and ironing board

Here's another example:

In-room safe and minibar

In-room safe and minibar
AFTER: In-room safe and minibar

And amidst the ongoing pandemic, the hotel was thoughtful to provide sanitisers for guests.

YOTEL hand sanitiser and alcohol wipe
Hand sanitiser and alcohol wipe

The bathroom features floor-to-ceiling glass windows and provides a good amount of natural light. It is also equipped with bath amenities in bulk-sized containers supplied by Urban Skincare Co.

YOTEL toilet with floor-to-ceiling windows
Toilet with floor-to-ceiling windows

YOTEL rain shower
Rain shower

Bath amenities by Urban Skincare Co.
Bath amenities by Urban Skincare Co.

While the hotel recommends that the blinds be drawn for privacy whenever the bathroom is in use, the windows do afford a good view of the surrounding Orchard Road district. The Hilton Singapore (reviewed here) can be seen, including its rooftop pool if you stay at YOTEL's upper floors.

Hilton Singapore as seen from YOTEL
View of the Orchard Road district, with the Hilton Singapore seen centre-right

YOTEL robots: Yoshi and Yolanda

Back to the topic of autonomous robots — guests may request for additional amenities from Mission Control, and they will be sent by either Yoshi or Yolanda. When the robot has arrived outside the room, guests will then receive an automated phone call to prompt them to retrieve the items. As a trial, I requested for two bottles of water, and I was greeted by Yolanda about 20 minutes later.

YOTEL robot Yolanda delivers water
Yolanda arriving at my door and greeting me

Yolanda delivers bottled water
Retrieving the water from Yolanda

The robots are equipped with simultaneous localisation and mapping capabilities, allowing them to traverse across floors and detect any obstacles in their path.

YOTEL autonomous robot Yoshi
Yoshi on the hallway...

Yoshi at the lift lobby
... heading to another floor

Komyuniti Restaurant

"Komyuniti" is the name of YOTEL's restaurant globally, representing its dining space designed to inspire a sense of community among guests. It is located on level 10 for all-day dining with an à la carte menu. At present, 1-for-1 draft beers are available during selected hours on Tuesdays; 1-for 1 cocktails (with names like "How Are Yee", "The Pretender", and "Mellon Down") Wednesdays.

Hotel restaurant Komyuniti entrance
Entrance to hotel restaurant "Komyuniti"

YOTEL Komyuniti bar
Bar area

At this time of social distancing and precautionary measures, the hotel has switched its breakfast format from buffet-style to a set menu.

Breakfast: English muffin with egg and bacon, assorted pastries
Breakfast: English muffin with egg and bacon, assorted pastries

Lunch: Teriyaki chicken bowl, caesar salad
Lunch: Teriyaki chicken bowl, caesar salad

Outside the restaurant lies a terrace with a swimming pool and loungers, which guests must currently register in advance before use. The gym is located on the same floor (currently not 24 hours).

YOTEL's swimming pool
YOTEL's swimming pool

Overall Thoughts

There is a pain point to mention: travelling on lifts at peak hours. Firstly, the autonomous robots had a tendency to disrupt guests' lift journeys. They are capable of communicating with the lift controls, but do not seem to be able to detect if lifts are full, and if it should give up and wait for the next. The consequence is that I have experienced the lift stopping at a floor on my journey, only to be greeted by a robot that wants to enter and wouldn't budge (it seems to override the "doors close" button). Secondly, service staff with trolleys of linen were also using the same guests lifts, which reduces its capacity and adds on to the number of stops. All this is to say that their present use of "front of house" lifts should be re-considered.

YOTEL autonomous robot Yolanda wants to enter the elevator
Yolanda wants to enter the elevator ... even though it's full she wouldn't let the doors close

On the whole, the hotel's contemporary style and fun vibe does make for an enjoyable stay. I think it strikes a good balance in two dimensions — room size is intermediate between a premium capsule pod and the standard 4-star hotel, while "funness" is intermediate between the standard 4-star and the "try too hard" feel of some themed boutique hotels (and also Aloft properties).

Make memories ... leave footprints
Make memories ... leave footprints

YOTEL Singapore is certified with the SG Clean quality mark and open for staycations. It is located at 366 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238904.


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