Every time I stay at a Selina, I tell myself I won’t do it again. Buckle up for a good old fashioned rant, kids.
I have stayed at three different Selinas (Sayuliata in Mexico, Mexico City, and Parque 93 in Bogotá, Colombia). They already have over 160 locations worldwide, and continue to expand rapidly. But, as with so many things in life – quantity doesn’t always go hand in hand with quality.
There are a lot of things I look for in a place to stay – you can read about how I choose where I stay, what to look for, and specific places I recommend here.
For me, Selina is trying to be too many things for too many people – and not doing any of them well enough. In my experience, Selina is a lot of smoke and mirrors – it looks perfect on Instagram, but the reality is disappointing.
Selina markets to digital nomads like myself; they even have a “colive” program (which is nothing like the coliving places I recommend). They say they are a four-star “hostel.” There are dorm rooms, and then private rooms with varying levels of niceness.
Let’s talk about it!
As a digital nomad, here is where Selina falls short for me:
- Bad wifi in the rooms. Wifi is literally the #1 thing you need to be a digital nomad, so if you don’t have that, you should not market yourself to nomads. In both Sayulita and Mexico City, the wifi in my room barely worked and was not good enough for calls. In both places I paid extra for access to the coworking space. In Sayulita it was oversold and there wasn’t always space (that I had paid for). There was only one call room – so not enough spots to take calls. In Bogotá, the wifi worked in my room, but the lighting was so dark it would not have worked to take calls there after dark.
- Lack of community. Selina acts as though they have tons of fun community-building events going on all the time. In my experience, a lot of these events in the city locations don’t actually exist, are sparsely attended, and there is no real sense of community. The whole point of staying at a “hostel” is to make friends and have fun. In the beach towns, Selina does actually tend to have cool and fun events that are well-attended by locals – which is awesome.
- It’s a façade/not functional. Selina is built for Instagram, not for real life. The rooms are too dark. I literally had to use my headlamp to unpack my suitcase in Bogotá. In both Sayulita and Mexico City, the area behind the bed was the only colorful space in the room – designed for photographs, not for what you actually spend your time looking at. In Mexico City and Bogotá they had converted old hotels – and it showed. They added some colorful and cheap interior design changes so that the place photographs cool – but it doesn’t feel that cool to be there. In my experience, the photo rarely looks like the room you end up with – they add tons of details to stage the photos well.
- They don’t take coworking seriously. If you’re a digital nomad, you join a coworking space, above all else, to have a reliable workspace. In Sayulita, the coworking space was vastly oversold, and you couldn’t always get the seat you had paid for. In Bogotá, they would randomly close the coworking space whenever they were able to sell it for an event. They wouldn’t communicate that to folks in advance – so you’d have already paid for AND be out a space.
- Too loud. In the Sayulita location, they’d have really loud parties til super late, including on weeknights. Fine if you’re on vacation; but if you’re a digital nomad, it’s not ideal.
On the other hand, I do have friends (and digital nomad friends) who have enjoyed their experience at Selina and made friends there.
Reasons I don’t love the Selina colive program:
- Cost. Right before I joined, they had upped the price every few months by hundreds of dollars (without adding any value).
- No desk. The standard version does not come with a desk in the room – you have to pay for an upgrade. If you’re marketing to digital nomads, a desk should be standard – especially if you’re overselling your coworking space to others and we’re not guaranteed a seat we paid for.
- The colive program isn’t easy to use. It’s not easy to make bookings through the colive program – you can’t do it online; you have to go back and forth over email with customer service. It can take a long time, and sometimes you don’t even realize the location is sold out.
I have nomad friends who have done the colive program, and they say the Selina retreats (accessible in the colive program) are a great value.
Here are general reasons I don’t like Selina:
- Value. It’s overpriced for what it is. And that goes for everything – the rooms, the food, the massages. Honestly, I’ve rarely been satisfied with what I’ve gotten there – food, a massage. When they did my laundry, they actually destroyed all my lace underwear – it had clearly been put through the dryer on high heat.
- It’s smoke and mirrors. Continuing on the façade theme, Selina will make you a lot of promises and show you things that look really pretty but don’t live up too the hype. For example, they’ll tell you you get a welcome drink, but you have to force them to give it to you (they won’t give you the coupon when you check in, and if you ask at the bar, they’ll tell you to get the coupon from reception). They say they have a yoga room for use, but usually it’s just a locked normal hotel room (without the bed) that you have to ask them to keep open or give you a key to.
- Not paying or training their staff well. A lot of the staff volunteer for free lodging. I’m of the opinion you should pay your staff and train them well, not just give them free lodging. Plus, this results in a lot of the staff not actually knowing how to do their jobs.
- Trying to do too many things and not doing any of them well. Selina tries to get you to pay for everything there – the room, the coworking space, food/restaurant, drinks, and tours. The restaurant is always overpriced and not tasty (especially for the price), and they are always out of things. I’ve never gone on a Selina tour; I simply do not trust them to create a good experience. They are trying to be all things to all people – an overpriced party hostel, a nice hotel, and a coliving place for digital nomads. As a digital nomad, I can say this is not my vibe. I think Selina’s are much better suited to the young hostel crowd who would rather spend more money on a chain than on a cool local place.
- Trying to get you to buy everything there, without any of the benefits. The whole point of having everything in one place (like an onsite restaurant) is the ease of using it – except not at Selina! You can’t put food on your room or card; you have to pay every time you want to get a day pass for the coworking space or buy a meal a the restaurant.
- They feel whitewashed. As a chain, they usually feel devoid of any sense of local culture or community, aside from the staff.
- It doesn’t feel like they take security seriously. Whether COVID or the shooting directly outside the Mexico City location they didn’t mention; safety just didn’t feel like a big priority to them.
- They are always cutting corners. From the security guard checking me in (when reception was still supposed to be open), to the unfulfilled promises you have to fight for (for example, with the colive program they say you get 10% off at the restaurant, but it’s a huge pain to actually get it.)
- Not great service. I would not say Selina lives up to “4-star” service. Most of the staff I’ve met seemed to be in high school, and didn’t seem well trained. For those who are volunteers and not even being paid, I can’t blame them.
- Selina sure does photograph well.
- The Sayulita location is beautiful – love that the ‘yoga room’ is on the roof, and the pool. This location had a lot of well-attended and fun events.
- The Parque 93 coworking space has a really beautiful view of the hills.
- The Mexico City coworking was spacious and had a lot of locals, which was cool. The Mexico City yoga room was at least more than one room put together, so it was a larger space.
So, that’s my two cents.
Selina, if you’re reading this, let’s fix it! I’m an award-winning business, brand, and marketing strategy consultant. I’ve worked with brands like Amazon, Slack, Intel, Facebook, the World Bank, and the Peace Corps. Book a Strategy Session with me here.
Should you stay there? That’s up to you! I always recommend trying things out for yourself. Let me know what you think!
Tell me your thoughts on Instagram @t.prad! What has your experience been with Selina? Where did you stay, and how was it? Did you feel like it was good value?