Accommodations in Vietnam run the gamut from historic boutique hotels and plush resorts to basic guesthouses. Luxury hotels are found in all large cities and beaches, while budget lodgings are available throughout the country. Major hotels offer amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, restaurants, and even nightclubs. Resorts, many of which are concentrated along the central coast, also offer ample opportunities for self-indulgence. While budget hotels and guesthouses lack the high-end frills, all but the very cheapest are air-conditioned and have Western-style toilets and hot water. Dormitories are rare and camping almost unheard of, but an alternative is the homestay, where travelers can lodge with a family from the village. Not only does this give you a close-up glimpse into daily life in rural Vietnam, but it often allows you to sample the most delicious and authentic local cuisine.
There is an official system for grading hotels in Vietnam, but the price remains the only indication of luxury or the lack thereof. Typically, establishments charging more than US$100 per night would fall into the four- or five-star category in Europe or the US. Keep in mind that overall prices notwith- standing, the same hotel may demonstrate varying standards across rooms, ranging from opulent suites to motel-style quarters. Also note that there is a distinction between a hotel (khach san) and a guesthouse (nha khach). While the latter can resemble budget hotels, they have fewer amenities.
Vietnam offers reasonably priced accommodation options for all. A room in the most upscale resort will not cost anywhere near what it would in most Western countries. In major cities, a room with basic amenities such as a TV and air-conditioning will be available for as little as US$15 a night, and in smaller towns US$8–US$10. Mid-range hotels average between US$40 and US$70, and all the luxury of a high-end hotel can be experienced for US$100 and up. Note that most establishments charge different prices for Vietnamese and foreign tourists; this is especially true in government-owned hotels.
Advance booking is advisable for visitors traveling during the high season, especially at major hotels and resorts. Both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi receive a steady stream of business travelers throughout the year, and hotels catering to them may be booked solid at any time of year. While any travel agent can help make reservations, all high-end hotels have websites offering online booking services. A surprising number of budget hotels also provide this facility. Alternatively, contact one of the several reliable accom- modation service outfits in operation, such as Hotels in Vietnam, Vietnam Stay, and TNK Travel. All have websites on which they represent a range of hotels, resorts, apartments, and guesthouses. In addition to being efficient and quick, such groups also negotiate with hotels to ensure the best rates.
When checking in, guests will normally be asked for their passport, which is then kept by the hotel for the duration of their stay. The hotel needs it to report a guest’s presence to the local police. Large establishments in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi may simply copy the information and return the passport instead of retaining it for the duration of your stay. If your passport has been sent to an embassy for visa renewal, or if you are uncomfortable leaving it with the hotel, a photocopy is usually acceptable.
A selection of luxury hotels is available at every major tourist destination in Vietnam. As a result, the country is popular with more than just the backpacking set – it is also a getaway for the rich and famous. Places like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Nha Trang, and Mui Ne boast multinational chains such as Sheraton, Hilton, Novotel, Sofitel, and Six Senses. The Victoria Hotels and Resorts chain offers luxurious and chic accommodations in beautiful buildings and scenic locations. Business travelers will find a wide array of facilities in most of these hotels, including meeting rooms, conference calls, and Internet services. Virtually every four- and five- star hotel boasts a spectacular food service, employing skilled international chefs. Their superb restaurants serve gourmet foreign cuisine, including French, Chinese, Japanese, and Italian. Breakfast is an extremely lavish affair, featuring a spread of American, Continental, and Vietnamese fare. In the evenings, a number of high-end hotels are transformed into glamorous venues for Western-style entertainment. Some boast discotheques, and several provide some kind of musical performance in their lounges every night.
Vietnam is no stranger to elegant resort hotels, which were first introduced to the country by leisure-loving French colonists. A few of these charming old quarters, now substantially upgraded and renovated, still remain. The Dalat Palace in Dalat, for instance, has been converted into a beautiful holiday getaway. The trend, however, is for the development of modernly outfitted resorts, mostly along the extensive coastline. A couple of the most luxurious are the Nam Hai in Hoi An and the Six Senses Hideaway in Ninh Hoa. Some resorts do not look very different from any other high-rise hotel, but qualify as resorts on the technicality that they are somewhat isolated from the towns. Particularly affected by tourist-oriented development, both Nha Trang and Phan Thiet have earned reputations as resort towns. Their seaside establishments have all the usual amenities such as a swimming pool, fine restaurants, and, of course, a beautiful, white-sand beach. Most also offer a range of adventure activities, including diving and kiteboarding. A large number of resorts also offer specialized tours and holiday packages. Treks to hill-tribe communities are arranged by Sapa’s local tour guides and operators, while in Hue, the Saigon Morin arranges historic trips down the Perfume River. The Sun Spa Resort in Dong Hoi offers free early morning yoga and tai chi classes on the beach.
Guesthouses and Budget Hotels
Vietnamese guesthouses generally offer comfortable and clean rooms, with Western toilets, hot water, cable TV, and frequently a refrigerator with a minibar. They are often family-owned and operated. Extra services usually include laundry, breakfast, booking facilities (tours, as well as bus, train, and airplane tickets), luggage storage, bicycle and motorcycle rental, and free Wi-Fi. In cities that have long been on the tourist map, such as Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang, budget hotels are often clustered together (like in the Pham Ngu Lao neighborhood of Ho Chi Minh City). A room in a guesthouse or a budget hotel ranges from as little as US$8 in cities like Dalat to US$25 in Ho Chi Minh City. Expect to pay an average of US$10–US$15. A plain room with a fan and no window can be rented for as little as US$6, and a bed and locker in a decent dormitory costs around $5.
Homestays are growing in popularity and are most easily available in parts of the Mekong Delta, such as Vinh Long, and in the Northern Highlands. This invaluable experience costs upwards of US$15 per night. It is fairly easy to arrange a homestay through a travel agency in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. Innoviet for one, specializes in customized and themed tours, including homestays. Alternatively, contact the local tourist office in the area of interest.
For those staying in one part of Vietnam for more than a few weeks, a serviced apartment or condo can be rented to cut back on costs but still live in luxury. There are not many such operations at present, but they are in demand and more companies may start offering the service. One of the best arrangements in the country is Sedona Suites in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which offers stylish, fully furnished individual suites. A cheaper, if considerably more tiresome, procedure is to go out into the real estate market to rent an apartment. However, this requires a lot of paperwork, and you must register with the local police. It is much easier and cheaper to rent a room in a private home. This allows visitors to experience first-hand the day- to-day life of ordinary people of the country. The best place to find such opportunities are on the bulletin boards of backpacker cafés and restaurants. Registration with the local police is still required when renting a room.
All high-end hotels levy a ten percent tax on the room tariff, plus a five percent service charge. Both amounts are displayed on the bill. In budget operations, the taxes are included in the basic charge, and are not reflected on the bill.
Every hostelry is open to some kind of bargaining if it is not packed to capacity. It is more difficult to lower the price if booking online or on the phone, but if you arrive in person, the published rate is negotiable. For those planning to stay longer than a week, or willing to take a less desirable room, the price can drop by as much as 30 percent in a major hotel. Budget hotels will usually oblige by taking a few dollars off, but they do not have as much room to maneuver.
Although tipping was formerly not customary in Vietnam, with the advent of tourism, it is now becoming the norm. There is no need to tip in major hotels as there is already a service charge, but if a staff member proves to be extremely obliging and helpful, a gratuity of US$1 is considered generous.
Facilities for Children
Although there are virtually no special facilities for kids, except in top-end hotels, all establishments will welcome them. Most hotels allow children under 12 to share a bed with their parents free of charge. For a small fee, parents can rent an extra bed or cot in any decent hotel. Even the more basic establishments will receive children with open arms, and go all out to ensure that they have a comfortable stay. Virtually any hotel, big or small, grand or cheap, would be willing to arrange for an experienced babysitter to watch children for a reasonable fee.
Facilities for Disabled
Travelers Unfortunately, most hotels in Vietnam provide limited facilities for the disabled. While the major and newest luxury properties do have wheelchair ramps, elevators, and other special facilities, such considerations are almost non- existent in lesser establishments. Most hotels will be glad to help a guest hire an attendant, although he or she is unlikely to possess any particular qualifications.
The establishments listed on the following pages have been carefully selected as the best in the country in their respective categories: luxury, historic, boutique, resort, budget, and hostel. These categories reflect the growing variety of accommodations available in Vietnam, a country that had no significant tourist industry until the 1990s. These days Vietnam is making up for lost time, and many international chains are opening up new properties in major tourist towns. The criteria for selection include not only major considerations such as range of facilities, value for money, convenience of location, and level of service, but also small but important points such as whether the staff has sufficient command of English to be able to help guests with any difficulties they face. Those places that excel in several aspects have been selected as DK Choice, and they have more detailed descriptions to explain their particular merits.