If you prefer your own privacy, you’ll find simple fan rooms in either a guesthouse or hotel (khach san), with prices starting at around $10; these are likely to be en-suite, although you might not get hot water at this price level in the warmer south.
Grading accommodation isn’t a simple matter in Vietnam travel. The names used (guesthouse, mini-hotel, hotel and so on) can rarely be relied upon to indicate what’s on offer, and there are broad overlaps in standards. Vietnam’s older hotels tend to be austere, state-owned edifices styled upon unlovely Eastern European models, while many private mini-hotels make a real effort. Some hotels cover all bases by having a range of rooms, from simple fan-cooled rooms with cold water, right up to cheerful air-conditioned accommodation with satellite TV, fridge and mini-bar. As a rule of thumb, the newer a place is, the better value it’s likely to represent in terms of comfort, hygiene and all-round appeal.
There are a burgeoning number of “resorts” appearing across the country. In contrast to the Western image of an all-inclusive complex, in Vietnam these are simply hotels, usually with pretty landscaped gardens, located on the beach or in the countryside. All that’s included in the rate is breakfast, though it is possible to eat all your meals here.
The very cheapest form of accommodation in Vietnam is a bed in a dormitory, though as yet, very few cities have such facilities – there are dedicated hostels in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hué, where you can expect to pay from about $6 for a bed, sharing common facilities. Do note that though most of these have private rooms, you’ll pay less elsewhere. In the two main cities there are also a fair few budget guesthouses equipped with “backpacker” dorms – you’ll generally find these around the De Tham enclave in Ho Chi Minh City, and the Old Quarter in Hanoi Vietnam (see the respective chapters for more). In Hanoi there is also a small network of youth hostels fully accredited by Hostelling International (w hihostels.com); you’ll need a current Youth Hostel card, which you can buy when checking in.
If you prefer your own privacy, you’ll find simple fan rooms in either a guesthouse or hotel (khach san), with prices starting at around $10; these are likely to be en-suite, although you might not get hot water at this price level in the warmer south. Add air-conditioning, satellite TV and slightly better furnishings, maybe even a window, and you’ll be paying up to $20. Upgrading to $20–30 will get you a larger room with better-standard fittings, usually including a fridge and bathtub, and possibly a balcony. Note that while many hotels advertise satellite TV, which channels you actually get varies wildly, let alone the quality of reception, so check first if it matters to you.
Mid- and upper-range accommodation
For upwards of $30 per room per night, accommodation can begin to get quite rosy. Rooms at this level will be comfortable, reasonably spacious and well appointed with decent furniture, air-conditioning, hot water, fridge, phone and satellite TV in all but the most remote areas.
Paying $30–75 will get you a room in a mid-range hotel of some repute, with in-house restaurant and bar, booking office, room service and so on. At the top of the range the sky’s the limit. Most of the international-class hotels are located in the two major cities, which also have some reasonably charismatic places to stay, such as the Metropole in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh’s Continental. However, in recent years developers have targeted Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang and Ha Long City, all of which now boast upmarket resort hotels. Off the main trail, there’s usually one or two upper-range hotels in each main city, though very few exist in the countryside.
Village accommodation and camping
As Vietnam’s minority communities have become more exposed to tourism, staying in stilthouses or other village accommodation has become more feasible.
In the north of the country, notably around Sa Pa and in the Mai Chau Valley, you can either take one of the tours out of Hanoi which includes a home-stay in one of the minority villages, or make your own arrangements when you get there. In the central highlands, the Pleiku and Kon Tum tourist offices can also arrange a stilthouse home-stay for you.
Accommodation usually consists of a mattress on the floor in a communal room. Those villages more used to tourists normally provide a blanket and mosquito net, but it’s advisable to take your own net and sleeping bag to be on the safe side, particularly as nights get pretty cold in the mountains. Prices in the villages vary from $5–15 per person per night, depending on the area and whether meals are included.
Where boat trips operate in the Mekong Delta, notably around Vinh Long, tour operators in Ho Chi Minh City or the local tourist board can arrange for visitors to stay with owners of fruit orchards, allowing a close-up view of rural life.
Virtually no provisions exist in Vietnam for camping at the present time. The exceptions are at Nha Trang and Mui Ne, where some guesthouses offer tents for a few dollars a night when all rooms are full. Some tour companies also offer camping as an option when visiting Ha Long Bay.
See more: Tips for visiting Sapa Vietnam in this winter