Before going to Canada to live for 4 months, I was totally clueless about Canada. The culture, the people, the places – everything! I just inferred that Canadians should be pretty similar to Americans, since they’re so close to each other and together they make up about 90% of North America (seemingly). It’s not until when I touch down in their territory that I realised they could be so different. Like I’ve mentioned in my previous post, I’m not sure how to go about introducing Canada but here’s my second attempt. 🙂

Back in early January, after I moved in to my new house in London, ON for a week or two, my housemates and I decided to go on our first adventure together – to the capital of Canada, Ottawa! It was our first weekend trip, and it was pretty eventful. It took us a 6h overnight greyhound bus that transits at Toronto to get there! So, what’s this jail experience about? It’s actually a real jail – originally the Carleton County Gaol – that was closed in 1972 and converted into a hostel by Hostelling International (HI).

image credit
image credit (this was how my 6 beds mixed dorm looks like inside)
yes, even the shower looks like a prison. I’m not sure if the prisoners showered though?

There are dorms and private rooms for you to choose from. We stayed in a 6 beds mixed dorm because that was the cheapest and there were 5 of us. The hostel had preserved the structure of the original jail such that it really felt like you’re walking around and sleeping in prison, except that you have the key to your own cell and you can roam around all you want. It was definitely not the most comfortable, but it is decent. It also forced us out of our comfort zone a little especially we, first world country kids, couldn’t live without our phones and internet. Here’s the proof:

yeah they totally don’t mind standing there just to charge their phones & leech the free wifi 

The room itself has only 2 sockets, placed together. So if you’re also suffering from first world problems, please bring along an extension plug/cord (whatever you call it) so you can charge several things at once and share with your friends (unless you’re travelling solo). If not… good luck and maybe you can befriend your fellow ‘jail’ mates and ask if you can have the socket for awhile. 😉 There is free breakfast – bagels (you get it everywhere in Canada’s hostels), cereals, fruits and coffee/tea/juice. Simple but fulfilling, and well, you save money on a meal! There are also free movies for you to watch at the lounge – but it’ll be too wasteful to go on a trip and spend it on a couch watching past season movies that can be torrented (oops).


Like many other hostels, they have different activities lined up for every day of the week which you can join. Lastly, they do free jail tours everyday on an hourly basis for their ‘prisoners’. Go check it out, it’s really informative and they bring you around the hidden areas of the jail, which was creepy and cool at the same time. i.e. you get to see the place where people were hanged, and the cells they were made to stay in when waiting for their death (literally, thus the creepiness). I would love to share some of my own photos during the tour but sadly they’re MIA right now. 🙁

Point to note for all HI hostels: the prices you see online are before taxes and assume you are members. If you’re not a member, they’ll either urge you to sign up or you have to pay $5 extra per night for your stay. We did the latter since we might not be staying in their HI hostels around the globe. But I’ve to say all their hostels have pretty good reviews!

Overall, the entire stay was quite an experience. Now staying in jail is sth off the bucket list, kinda. Besides recommending you places to go (in one of the pictures above), they also have cheaper deals such as renting you ice skates for only $12 for the whole day. Apparently if you rent it from the shops outside along Rideau Canal (more on places to go next post), it’s more expensive and only have a few hours time limit. Nevertheless, that’s for tourists of course – most Canadians have their own skates because they have so many random places during Winter to skate!!! (I love this fact so much, I’m not sure why) The location is great because it’s walking distance to most of the attractions, so you save on transport. 🙂

So here’s hoping you’d be adventurous and give this jailcation a try! 😀

keep travelling,