Affordable luxury is the name of the game in Vietnam. For what you'd pay to get a cracker-box room in U.S. and European big cities, you get to go in style in Indochina. Pay over $100 and you are royalty. Budget travelers and young backpackers flock to the region, and a big part of the charm is spending $5 to $7 per night. If your trip is short, live it up! Go for a luxury room; take advantage of affordable health and beauty or spa treatments (for a fraction of what you'd pay elsewhere). Midrange boutique hotels and rustic eco-friendly rural resorts are also a new trend as developers discover that "refurbished" is cool and that location -- whether overlooking the Mekong or set in a tropical rainforest -- is everything.
Many of the major chains are in the region. Sheraton and the Mövenpick have hotels in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Hilton has properties in Hanoi, and there's a Park Hyatt in Ho Chi Minh City. The French hoteliers at Accor host a number of Sofitel and Mercure hotels in Vietnam. Many of the big-city properties are aimed at the business market, but in Vietnam, the unique, refurbished Sofitel Metropole takes the cake. There are also a number of good individual brands in Vietnam: the likes of Daewoo in Hanoi, or the Rex and the Caravelle in Ho Chi Minh City.
Budget accommodations mean the ubiquitous minihotel. Quality varies, but these small Chinese-style hotels usually have air-conditioning, hot water, and cable TV starting at just $15. Some minihotels in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are going boutique, a good trend. Maison d'Hanoi hotel in Hanoi is a good bet for a boutique hotel in a good location.
Whatever your financial situation, you will be greeted by high standards with good amenities and services at low cost in Vietnam.
Surfing for Hotels
In addition to the online travel booking sites Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, and Hotwire, you can book hotels through Hotels.com, Quikbook (www.quikbook.com), and Travelaxe (www.travelaxe.net).
HotelChatter.com is a daily webzine offering smart coverage and critiques of hotels worldwide. Go to TripAdvisor.com or HotelShark.com for helpful independent consumer reviews of hotels and resort properties.
It's a good idea to get a confirmation number and make a printout of any online booking transaction.
Another good way to secure an affordable room is booking through an on-the-ground tour agent in Vietnam. Travel agents do, of course, tack on a fee for their services, but that's on top of a very low contract rate they have negotiated directly with the hotel. Vietnam-based online hotel booking is a singularly dodgy affair, but many report success with small local consolidators, exemplified by the likes of www.asia-hotels.com or www.vietnamrooms.com.