In Vietnam it is possible for budget travelers to travel, eat and stay cheaply. On a recent trip to the country, I had the chance to try out two hostels, one in each of the country’s largest cities: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Here are my thoughts:
I arrived at Little Hanoi Hostel after 10:00 p.m. and was glad I had reserved a bed because I was ready to crash! I stayed in the only downstairs room at the hostel, which is a six-person bunk dorm. The room was comfortable and very dark. For the most part, it was also a quiet room, but in the early morning, people wandered in and out of the room to drop off their backpacks. I’m assuming that, because it’s the only room on the first floor, it becomes a storage area of sorts for backpackers who will be checking in for the next night or for those who are taking a tour through the hostel.
The six-person dorm had a bathroom of it’s own, which was relatively clean. The water was warm and the water pressure was pleasant. Each person was issued a storage cabinet and given a key of their own, though my (smallish) backpack didn’t fit into the storage locker. Each guest was also issued a blanket, pillow and towel.
Breakfast is included in the morning for each guest. Choose from one beverage option (I went with the coffee, which, in Vietnam is strong and served with sweet milk) and one “meal” (I chose bread and jam, but you can also choose from a combo of bread, cheese, eggs and meat).
The owners of Little Hanoi Hostel speak English very well and are extremely helpful and accessible in answering questions about the city and travel plans. They arrange budget-friendly tours from the hostel, offer free wi-fi if you’d prefer to do it yourself and are gracious enough to store backpacks for travelers who are coming or going.
Little Hanoi Hostel is conveniently located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi within walking distance of several restaurants and cafes, shops, booking offices and tourist sites. It is a 15-minute walk to Hoàn Kiêm Lake, around which many of the city’s top attractions are located.
I paid $6.00 to spend one night in the six-person dorm room, and I’d do it again. I highly recommend you make reservations in advance (I used HostelWorld.com) as I saw several people turned away at the door because they hadn’t reserved a bed and the hostel was at full capacity.
My My Arthouse is a simple hostel tucked down a narrow alleyway in the highly accessible District 1 part of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). I’m really glad I took a cab to find this one because even when the driver dropped me off in the right place, it took me awhile to navigate the convoluted alleys before I found it. Once I did though, I was really glad I had chosen this particular part of the city as a home base for my short stay in Vietnam’s largest city.
District 1 is the hub of most of the sites in Ho Chi Minh City, and once I dropped my bag off at My My Arthouse (my room wasn’t ready until 1:30 p.m.), I could easily check out a lot of the highlights in the city. Within 30 minutes I was able to reach the War Remnants Museum, and the popular Ben Thanh market was less than 10 minutes from the hostel. It is also located just a couple minutes walk from the Crazy Buffalo, which is a popular, tacky tourist hangout but also a good place to meet up with friends.
At the hostel itself I had booked a single room with a double bed for myself, which cost $16.00/night. Six-person mixed dorm rooms go for about $7.00/night. This includes a simple breakfast of coffee or tea and a selection of bread, cheese, jam and eggs from a set menu.
My room, located on the third floor, was clean but simple with a TV and air conditioning controlled by my room key. A pillow and towel came with the room. Water in the bathroom was warm though the shower head was a bit loose and a little dangerous. I had a 3-inch resident beetle in my bathroom the entire time I was there, which didn’t bother me, but it might have given some people the creeps.
The hostel has no elevator, so while the walk to the third floor wasn’t too bad, those on the sixth floor definitely had a hike (and my understanding is that there are not any lockers in this room so security may be an issue). Also, I had the fleeting thought that if there was a fire, there was no way I was going to make it out alive, but this is true of the design of many hostels like this one.
There is one person at My My Arthouse who speaks English really well; the others do not. I was surprised that I was charged for a local phone call when this wasn’t an issue at Little Hanoi Hostel, so I’m not sure what the norm is in Vietnam. The only other thing that didn’t appeal to me was the lack of a gathering space. Besides the eight-person breakfast table, there was nowhere to hang out with other people staying at My My Arthouse. The lack of couches, chairs and general meeting space made it feel a bit unwelcoming.
In many ways, My My Arthouse is just like any other hostel you’re going to find in this part of Ho Chi Minh City – clean, comfortable and affordable but nothing special.
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