Vietnam now has a wide range of hotels from the very basic to five-star luxury. A hotel with a permit to accommodate foreign visitors is called a khach san; a simpler (and cheaper) hotel aimed at local custom…
Vietnam now has a wide range of hotels from the very basic to five-star luxury. A hotel with a permit to accommodate foreign visitors is called a khach san; a simpler (and cheaper) hotel aimed at local custom is called a nha nghi. Foreigners can usually get a room in a nha nghi now, bur while some are fine, others are real flophouses. With all the ageing state hotels now competing with international chains and private ‘mini-hotels’ (often a good deal: look for tall, thin buildings like modern Vietnamese houses), there is no shortage of rooms, so DO shop around. Look at a room before agreeing to take it, check the air conditioning or fan, and verify the level of noise from the street and from the karaoke bar in the next room. Ask to see a cheaper/nicer/quieter room with a softer mattress and a bath (almost all rooms have a shower and toilet en suite), suggest they throw in breakfast or give a reduction if you are staying several nights, etc. If no agreement can be reached, head for the next hotel down the street. Either you will be called back (a low paying customer is better than an empty room) or you can get the same deal or better next door.
You will be asked (ordered, in fact) to hand over your passport at the hotel reception. Your identity will be carefully recorded, and, in some more far-flung or sensitive areas, your passport will even be taken on a visit to the local police station during the evening. Unfortunately, the same diligence is often sadly lacking the following morning, so DON’T forget to pick up your passport when you check out! Many a traveler has had to waste a day’s traveling at more in order to recover his papers. One way to avoid this infuriating situation is to carry photocopies of your passport. Some hotels profess not to accept them, so just say that you’ve left your passport behind to obtain a visa, to rent a motorbike, or similar: it might even be true. It used to be almost impossible to stay at someone’s house in Vietnam. This has been relaxed of late; bur the owner should technically register your presence with the local police. Most of the time you will not even be aware of the paperwork (if any) involved. If you seek shelter in a remote or rural area, you will usually receive unhesitating and unstinting hospitality. In the morning, despite your hangover, DO give a little money or some food: it makes for a seemly token of gratitude, and you know that it’s going to people who need and deserve it.