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The standard of accommodation in Vietnam is, by and large, excellent. In the main tourist areas the range caters to all budgets, and though prices are a little expensive by Southeast Asian standards, the quality is generally quite high. Competition is fierce and with the construction boom still ongoing rooms are being added all the time – great for the traveller, as it keeps prices low and service standards high. There has been a massive increase in the number of luxury resorts along the coast (mainly aimed at the Asian package tour market), while budget travellers and those travelling off the tourist trail will find good budget accommodation throughout the country.

Tourist booth staff at the airports in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi will phone to reserve a room for you, and it’s increasingly simple to book online. Be wary of asking advice from cyclo or taxi drivers, as travellers are often told that their hotel of choice is full or closed. It’s also important to note that Vietnam is full of copycat establishments – to avoid being taken to a similarly named hotel, write down the street name and show it to your driver.

Once you’ve found a hotel, look at a range of rooms before opting for one, as standards can vary hugely within the same establishment. You’ll also need to check the bed arrangement, since there are many permutations in Vietnam. A “single” room could have a single or twin beds in it, while a “double” room could have two, three or four single beds, a double, a single and a double, and so on.

When you check in at a Vietnamese hotel or guesthouse, you’ll be asked for your passport, which is needed for registration with the local authorities. Depending on the establishment, these will be either returned to you the same night, or kept as security until you check out. If you’re going to lose sleep over being separated from your passport, say you need it for the bank; many places will accept photocopies of your picture and visa pages. It’s normally possible to pay your bill when you leave, although a few budget places ask for payment in advance.

Room rates fluctuate according to demand, so it’s always worth bargaining – making sure, of course, that it’s clear whether both parties are talking per person or per room. Your case will be that much stronger if you are staying several nights.

All hotels charge 10 percent government tax, while top-class establishments also add a service charge (typically 5 percent). These taxes may or may not be included in the room rate, so check to be sure. Increasingly, breakfast is included in the price of all but the cheapest rooms; in budget places it will consist of little more than bread with jam or cheese and a cup of tea or coffee, while those splashing out a little more may be greeted by a gigantic morning buffet. Prices given in the guide are based on those found at the time of writing for the cheapest double room. Prices are often quoted in dong, which have been converted to dollars at the rate as it was at the time of going to press. However, because of the extreme volatility of the exchange rate (which can change by hundreds or thousands of dong each week), these prices are subject to constant change.

Although the situation is improving, hotel security can be a problem. Never leave valuables lying about in your room and keep documents, travellers’ cheques and so forth with you at all times, in a money pouch. While top-end and many mid-range hotels provide safety deposit boxes, elsewhere you can sometimes leave things in a safe or locked drawer at reception; put everything in a sealed envelope and ask for a receipt. In the real cheapies, where the door may only be secured with a padlock, you can increase security by using your own lock.

In some older budget hotels, rooms are cleaned irregularly and badly, and hygiene can be a problem, with cockroaches and even rats roaming free; you can at least minimize health risks by not bringing foodstuffs or sugary drinks into your room.

Pretty much any guesthouse or hotel will offer a laundry service, and Western-style laundry and dry-cleaning services are widely available in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other major cities. Washing is often given a rigorous scrubbing by hand, so don’t submit anything delicate.

Finally, prostitution is rife in Vietnam, and in less reputable hotels it’s not unknown for Western men to be called upon, or even phoned from other rooms, during the night.