Vietnam offers accommodations for every budget and taste, from bare-bones backpacker lodging to luxe resorts and everything in between. There are international chains, hostels and small boutique hotels too.
What's best for you? If it's your first time in Vietnam, you may want to go with established brands or well-reviewed independent hotels. If you're a history buff, lodgings set in a former colonial villa or ancient shophouse might be the ticket. If you're more adventurous and on a budget, you might consider a village homestay.
Here are a few important things to keep in mind: Taxi drivers may try to pull a switcheroo by saying your hotel is booked or closed, but don't fall for it. Vietnam is also rife with copycat businesses that slap up the same name as an established company, so make sure the address for your hotel matches the address of the one you booked, even if the name is the same. Finally, independent hotels are often coupled with travel agencies or, at the least, will urge you to buy tours through them. Just be prepared for the pitch and don't feel obligated.
Expect a 10 percent tax added to your bill, plus a 5 percent service charge in better establishments. Proprietors will want to see your passport, and some may want to keep it until you check out.
Cautions aside, Vietnam is an exciting destination with a lot to offer. Here are some lodging options to get you started on your dream trip.
Following the Vietnam War (or the American War, as the Vietnamese call it), the state took over many hotels in south and central Vietnam. Often these were poorly run and maintained, but things have improved a bit. There's been an effort to upgrade properties, and one state-owned hotel is now even managed by Sheraton. Some are colonial grand dames, including the Hotel Continental Saigon; others are newer, but still have a story to tell -- like the Caravelle, a Saigon hangout for journalists during the war that has seen major upgrades since, including the addition of a new tower. You'll find the 50-plus state hotels listed at state-owned Saigon-Tourist.com.
International chains are well represented in larger cities, particularly the French group Accor, which owns one of the country's most stunning colonial hotels, the renovated Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi. In major cities, Accor offers brands in multiple price ranges, including MGallery, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis. The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is represented by InterContinental and Crowne Plaza properties, while Sheraton and Hyatt also have a few properties. Luxury brands like Aman Resorts, Banyan Tree and Six Senses have also opened resorts in Vietnam.
Vietnamese companies and local entrepreneurs offer a bounty of hotel options, from upscale to basic. These small to midrange hotels are often referred to as "mini-hotels," though the term "boutique" is starting to get popular (more as a reference to size than upscale style or amenities). In general, go for newer properties and ask about availability of air-conditioning, hot water and, in rural locations, continuous electricity. Small hotel groups with good reputations include Victoria Hotels and Elegance Hotels (which also operates Essence Hotels).
Vietnam Hotel Resources:
Vietnam's deep history provides an opportunity to stay in lodgings repurposed from past eras. This could include a renovated French villa in the mountain town of Dalat (Ana Mandara Villas), an ancient shophouse in Hoi An (such as Vinh Hung Heritage Hotel) or a former French administration building in Hue (La Residence by MGallery). Of course, there are also historic hotels that have always been hotels, including the Metropole, Rex and Continental.
Vietnam Historic Lodging Resources:
If you're more independent or spending an extended amount of time in one location, you might decide to go with a vacation rental. Airbnb offers hundreds of listings in Vietnam, ranging from basic rooms to condos and beach villas. Other listing services like Homeaway and VRBO also have offerings.
Be sure to check out online reviews before booking -- this is particularly important with Vietnam's abundance of scams -- but remember, previous guests may have had different needs or expectations than you do.
Question the rental agent or host about street noise and safety. Ask about restaurants and shops in the neighborhood, and where the nearest market can be found. Check availability of air-conditioning, hot water, continuous electricity, Wi-Fi and phone service. If there's no phone, consider how you will contact the agency or host, since your U.S. cell phone may not work in Vietnam. Carry the emergency number with you at all times just in case you lose your keys.
Vietnam Rental Resources:
What Americans consider to be B&Bs are often called "homestays" in Vietnam. These can range on the upper end from charming spots like An Bang Seaside Village Homestay -- where the ensuite accommodations have amenities like TV, Wi-Fi, refrigerators and air-conditioning -- to a mattress on the floor of a communal room.
Generally, in the more popular tourist areas, you'll find more creature comforts, while in remote villages things can get a bit grim -- though outfits like Bho Hoong Bungalows are starting to change that. In some parts of the Mekong Delta, the term "guesthouse" or "homestay" can mean a dormitory out back from the family house. Always get a clear idea of what your accommodation will actually be like before committing, and consider working with a tour company if remote trekking and homestays are on your wish list.
Vietnam Homestay Resources:
Vietnam offers plenty of budget accommodations, which can range from bare-bones and a bit scary to hostels accredited by Hostelling International. Check for options like fans, Wi-Fi and hot water if those are necessities for you. And, as always, put safety first and keep an eye on your belongings. As we mentioned above, in some parts of the Mekong Delta, the term "guesthouse" or "homestay" can mean a dormitory out back from the family house. Unless you're staying at an accredited hostel, always check out where you'll be sleeping before committing.
Vietnam Hostel Resources:
--written by Gayle Keck
Editor's Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc.