VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

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ACCOMMODATION

Vietnam has something for everyone - from dives to the divine - and we cover them all. Most hotels in Vietnam quote prices in a mix of Vietnamese dong and US dollars. In the provinces the lower dong price is usually reserved for locals, while foreigners pay the higher dollar price. Prices are quoted in dong or dollars throughout this book based on the preferred currency of the particular property. When it comes to budget, we are talking about guesthouses or hotels where the majority of rooms cost less than US$20, These are usually family-run guesthouses, mini-hotels or, usually the least appealing option, government run guesthouses that time forgot. Budget rooms generally come well equipped for the money, so don't be surprised to find air CON, hot water and a TV for 10 bucks or less. Moving on to midrange, we are referring to rooms in the US$20 to USS75 range, which buys some pretty tasty extras in Vietnam. At the lower end of this bracket, many of the hotels are similar to budget hotels but with bigger rooms or balconies. Plash a hit more cash and three-star touches are available, 3ike access to a swimming pool and a hairdryer hidden away somewhere. At the top end are a host of international-standard hotels and resorts that charge from US$75 a room to US$750 a suite. Some of these are fairly faceless business hotels, while others ooze opulence or resonate with history. There are some real bargains when compared with the Hong Kongs and Singapores of this world, so if you fancy indulging yourself, Vietnam is a good place to do it. Most hotels at the top end levy a tax of 10% and a service charge of 5%, displayed as ++ ('plus plus') on the bill. Be aware that some budget and midrange hotels also apply the 10% tax. Check carerully before taking the room to avoid any unpleas ant shocks on departure. Accommodation options are limited in (off-the beaten track destinations in the far north and the central highlands. Usually then will Just be a few guesthouses and basic hotels. However, in major towns and along the coastal strip, there is now an excellent range of rooms, including some of the world's biggest names, like Sofitel and Six Senses. Peak tourist demand for hotel rooms comes at Christmas and New Year, when prices may rise by as much as 25%. There is also a surge in many cities during Tet, when half of Vietnam is on the move. Try and make a reservation at these times so as not to get caught out During quiet periods it is often possible to negotiate a discount, either by email in advance or over the counter on arrival, as there will now be a surplus of hotel beds in many destinations. Passports are almost always requested on arrival at a hotel. It is not absolutely essential to hand over your actual passport, but at the very least you need to hand over a photocopy of the passport details, visa and departure card. Accommodation priceslistedarehigh-season prices for rooms with attached bathroom, unless stated otherwise. An icon is included if air-con is available; otherwise, assume that a fan will be provided.
Camping
Perhaps because so many Vietnamese spent much of the war years living in tents, as either soldiers or refugees, camping is not yet the popular pastime it is in the West. Some innovative private travel agencies in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi offer organised camping trips to national parks, plus camping out in beauty spots like Halong Bay. See Travel Agencies in Hanoi and HCMC.
Guesthouses & Hotels
Many of the large hotels (khach san) and guesthouses (nha khach or nha nghi) are government-owned or Joint ventures. There has also been a mushrooming of minihotels -small, smart private hotels that represent good value for money. The international hotel chains are now well represented in Hanoi and HCMC. There is considerable confusion over the terms 'singles', 'doubles', 'double occupancy* and 'twins', so let's set the record straight here. A single contains one bed, even if two people sleep in it. If there are two beds in the room, that is a twin, even if only one person occupies it. If two people stay in the same room, that is double occupancy. In some hotels 'doubles' means twin beds, while in others it means double occupancy. While many of the newer hotels have lifts, older hotels often don't and the cheapest rooms are at the end of several flights of stairs. It's a win-win situation: cheaper rooms, a bit of exercise and better views! Bear in mind that power outages are possible in some towns and this can mean 10 flights of .stairs just to get to your room in a tall, skinny Saigon - styk -skyscraper. Many hotels post a small sign warning guesb not to leave cameras, passports and other valuables in the room. Most places have a safety deposit system of some kind, but it leaving cash (not recommended) or travellers cheques, be sure to seal the loot in an envelope and have it counter-signed by staff. However, manv readers have been stung when leaving cash at cheaper hotels, so proceed with caution.
Homestays
Homestays are a popular option in parts of Vietnam, but some local governments are more flexible than others about the concept. Homestays were pioneered in the Mekong Delta where it has long been possible to stay with local families. At the opposite end of the map, there are also homestays on the island of Cat Ba. Many people like to stay with ethnic minority families in the far north of Vietnam. Mat Chau was the first place to offer the chance to stay with the hospitable White Thai families. Sapa is the number one destination to meet the hill tribes in Vietnam and it is possible to undertake two- or three-day treks with an overnight in a H'mong or Dzao village If you are serious about homestays throughout the north, consider contacting one of the travel agencies or motorbike touring companies who can help organise things. Vietnam is not the sort of country where you can just drop-in and hope things work out, as there art-strict rules about registering foreigners who stay overnight with a Vietnamese family.
Resorts
Resorts have really taken off in the last few years, particularly along the beautiful coastline. Top beach spots such as China Beach, Nha Trang and Mui Ne all have a range of sumptuous places for a spot of pampering. Up-and coming destinations such as Phu Quoc Island are fast catching up. There are also a number of ecoresorts in the mountains of the north and the far flung corners of Bai Tu Long Bay, a trend that looks set to continue.
HOTELS FROM HELL
It is hardly unique to Vietnam, but there are quite a lot of hotel scams in Vietnam. They are mostly, although not exclusively, happening in Hanoi, although keep the radar up in most of the major cities. Copycat hotels, dodgy taxi drivers, persistent touts, all this is possible and more. Overcharging is a concern, as is constant harassment to book a tour. However, most guesthouse and hotel operators are decent folk and honest in their dealings with tourists. Don't let the minority ruin your Vietnam experience. For more on horror hotels in Hanoi.