Even if you’re on a tight budget, you can live a pretty luxurious life as a westener travelling around Vietnam. If you’re travelling with other people, even better! Because you can split the price of private ensuite bedrooms (often starting at £12 or £13 a night for 3 to 4 people sharing) and pretend you’re on a regular fancy holiday, instead of accepting that you’re living out of a dirty backpack and washing your pants in the shower.
|Evie and I, making the most of some non-bunk beds|
It’s worth reading reviews on things like hostelworld and booking.com before you commit to anything, because the difference between a £3 hostel bed and a £4 one might be the difference between a damp, filthy room with no lockers and rude staff, and a clean room with half decent security and staff who’ll help you find your way around.
Everywhere in Vietnam seems to have wifi, so that’s not an issue. Da Nang and Saigon both have a fair amount of free wifi you can just access walking down the street, some taxis I’ve been in have had wifi, and the sleeper buses do claim to have wifi but it’s understandably patchy and intermittent. So far everywhere I’ve stayed has had it on every floor- even the cheapest, shittest place!
|Funtastic Beach Hostel, Da Nang|
Be careful to see if your room has aircon or just a fan- you wouldn’t think it would be a huge issue, but when it’s 38 degrees (C) inside your room and you’re sharing with several other body-heat producing people, you’ll be wishing you paid the extra 50p and got a room with proper aircon.
Quite a lot of places offer free breakfasts, free airport transfers and even free shuttle buses to local attractions, so do decent research if you’re hanging around for a few days. If you’re in the middle of all the city action it might be that it’s cheaper to find breakfast on the street than pay an extra couple of quid- but I can vouch for the sheer joy of being able to crawl up to a rooftop seating space in your pyjamas and have breakfast magically appear infront of you to start the day.
|Funtastic Beach Hostel computer/tv room|
I’m currently splashing out just under 5 quid a night to stay at Funtastic Beach Hostel in Da Nang, which is absolutely epic and if you’re coming this way I’d highly recommend it (and their sister hostel, Funtastic Da Nang, in the city centre). My luxury spending has got me a comfy bunk bed with 3 of its own power sockets, a reading light and privacy curtains (hehe) in a small, females-only dorm complete with air con and massive lockers. I also get decent breakfasts and drinks, free shuttles into town or Hoi An, free wifi and use of communal spaces including a kitchen and upstairs eating / outdoor cinema area.
In Saigon I stayed at Venus Hostel where I split the cost of a £12 private room for the night with my travel goons Evie and Millie – not bad for a room with a double bed and bunk beds- and we still got wifi and even a tv and ensuite, but we also got a really grubby bathroom full of mysterious tiny bugs. The staff were great though and a testament to the notion that you can get decent service without paying through the nose (even if you can’t get a nice bathroom).
If you’re staying in Saigon, I’d recommend my other temporary home, Koniko on Bui Vien- you’re in the heart of the action and you’ll get clean, trendy rooms with all the necessary mod-cons. Not much in the way of hangout space to meet travellers outside of the dorm room, but you’re on Bui Vien for god’s sake- if you can’t make friends there, you’re in trouble.
For as long as you don’t start to expect luxury, you’ll continue to be thrilled and surprised when you get it. Remember that you’re not in the western world- there might be bugs. The bathroom will usually be a wet room. The miniature shower is a bidet, not a miniature shower. The wifi might be shit at times, but it’s ok because THERE IS SO MUCH STUFF TO GO OUTSIDE AND DO BECAUSE YOU ARE IN VIETNAM.
|Hanoi Party Backpackers (minimal partying was ever witnessed here)
Photo courtesy of Hostelworld.com
Having private rooms is cool when you’ve done some epically long journeys and your spine feels like it might break if you risk a rock-solid bunk bed (I’m looking at you, Hanoi Party Backpackers) but hostel dorms are better if you actually want to meet new, awesome people from all over the world that you can swap stories with and learn from.
Or, you know, you could just get drunk with them. Goes either way.