ONCE in Joburg has come out on top as the best 4-star backpackers in South Africa, providing an exceptional offering to travellers seeking affordable accommodation with a memorable, authentic Johannesburg city experience.

With ONCE in Cape Town's win in 2017 and now ONCE in Joburg's win in 2018, ONCE continues to be a favourite amongst locals and tourists alike.

 ONCE locations have provided an exceptional offering in budget-orientated accommodation with a social atmosphere, scoring high in the areas of communal facilities (free WIFI, kitchen, bar, restaurant, work spaces, relaxation spaces, etc.), security, cleanliness, location, value for money, food and drink, customer service, amenities and overall vibe, atmosphere and experience.

“Each city has its own personality and the same goes for each hotel,” says ONCE Business Development Manager, Sophie Bagheri.

“Joburg is the sleek and stylish business woman that likes to let her hair down on the weekend after a week of hustling. Cape town is the laid-back hipster sister that likes to take things slow, enjoys drinking beer and watching the sunset. Skateboarding and hiking are also her favourite past times.”

And with these differentiating traits, ONCE proves to be making waves in the accommodation industry, pushing the boundaries of what they offer their guests, and how they better the lives of their staff and the local community.

Fair Trade Tourism Accredited 

ONCE in Cape Town received 100% on their Fair Trade Tourism audit completed by KPMG. This is a prestigious accolade for any African tourism business making a commitment to responsible and sustainable tourism and ultimately having a positive impact on the host destination. 

The Fair Trade Tourism certification label represents best-practice responsible tourism defined by fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.

“By choosing the mark of best practice, travellers are directly contributing to the livelihoods of everyone involved in their trip, from the staff who work for the establishments they stay at, the communities they support and the suppliers who provide them with services,” says Bagheri.

Multi-day festivals packages: Southern Africa

ONCE has partnered with multi-day festivals around the country to make them as easily accessible for people as possible. By launching their festival department, ONCE organises packages that include transport to and from the event, camping equipment, hosting, and twin/share tents. This service is offered to both locals and international tourists. All guests have to do is bring themselves and ONCE takes care of everything else.

“We’re looking to expand across Southern and Eastern Africa for multi-day festival itineraries,” says Bagheri.

Events ONCE has already collaborated with include MTN Bushfire Swaziland, Oppikoppi, Rocking the Daisies and AFROPUNK. 

Khwela Tourism Academy

In April of this year, ONCE started a non-profit organisation called KhwelaKhwela means ‘to climb’ in isiXhosa. Khwela is a non-profit for young women who will take the challenge to climb out of adversity, by empowering themselves to learn and grow within the youth tourism sector in South Africa.

ONCE trains the young women for three months using cutting edge, Swiss-accredited video learning content, after which they embark on a three-week roadtrip across the country to truly experience the breathtaking views and beauty of South Africa. The women learn to face their fears by going horse riding and bungee jumping. They hike through the Transkei and even leave South Africa to explore Swaziland. They visit the Kruger and the vibrant city of Johannesburg. After this immersive experience, where they are the actual tour guides for two days, they embark on a six months paid internship in relevant youth tourism businesses. 


ONCE encourages all their staff to start their own businesses and to use the establishment’s platform to help get them off the ground.

“One staff member started a bike tour around Braamfontein called ‘Braam by Bike’ where travellers are taken around local spots for food, street art, museums and art galleries,” explains Bagheri.

With an array of awards already under their belt, including the likes of the 2016 Sanlam Top Destination Award and 2017 Thinc HVS Top Hotel, this year’s Lilizela Tourism Awards are just another milestone in the growth journey of ONCE. ONCE in Cape Town walked away as the Lilizela National Tourism winner in 2017, and it is a feat in itself that ONCE in Joburg is already a finalist after opening its doors only two years ago.

ONCE is a brand where the sky's the limit,” Bagheri remarks.

“The team on every level and in every department, from housekeeping to marketing are encouraged to dream big and carry out their ideas whether big or small, fail or succeed. It makes me incredibly proud to be a part of the ONCE community in South Africa.