If you make your way through the countries of Southeast Asia with a hotel budget of $50 a night, are you going to be happy with where you’re staying?
After traveling through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam with my wife and daughter for three weeks, I can assure you that you’ll not just be satisfied. You will probably be thrilled.
First, you probably already know what $50 a night will usually get you in Western Europe (a hostel) or the U.S. (a roadside Motel 6 that’s far from the center).
In Southeast Asia though, even in the heart of Bangkok’s main tourist district, it gets you a hotel like the one pictured at the top: Villa Cha Cha. Yes, that’s the pool pictured there, with a nice restaurant next to it, a bar open 24 hours (but not by the rooms), and interesting sculptures giving it a strong sense of place. Our nice and quiet room had cranking air-con, free Wi-Fi, a fridge, TV, a sofa, and comfy beds.
Villa Cha Cha is near the infamous Khao San Road, but two blocks from the street itself, so you’re near the Grand Palace and the river taxis without being in the crush of the crowds. You can usually book this hotel for around $50 or less at Priceline or Agoda.
We took the train up to Ayutthaya for one night to check out the ruins and stayed at the large Hotel Ayothaya for one night. It was $40 for the three of us, including breakfast, and had a big swimming pool that was a welcome site at the end of a hot day of sightseeing. If it’s two of you sharing a bed, you can book this for less than $30 at Hotels.com or Priceline. This was the only place in three weeks that didn’t offer free Wi-Fi though, so factor in a few extra bucks for that if you need to get online.
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A $50 Hotel in Siem Reap
First of all, this may go down as the best hotel value I’ve ever experienced. For $44 a night we got two connecting rooms (so we could shut the door on our daughter) and the biggest a la carte hotel breakfast I’ve ever seen. (One of the choices was porridge, bacon, eggs, sausage, fruit, potatoes, coffee, and toast. Not “or” – and.) The entrance, pictured here, crossed a small pond, where the staff on the other side would greet us with a cool moist towel and a cold glass of water each time we returned from an excursion. The top-floor restaurant was breezy and spacious and the food was terrific. When we ordered cocktails at happy hour, we got a free t-shirt!
The staff here was phenomenal, even by Asian standards, quickly responding to any request and going out of their way to make sure we enjoyed our stay. They set up a tuk-tuk driver for touring the ruins at $14 a day, the whole day. When my daughter told them it was my wife’s birthday, they went into overdrive. They dressed up the beds, put flower petals in the bathtub, and lit candles on a cake for her. Did I mention we were paying $44 a night for two nice rooms?
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$50 Hotels in Vietnam
The $50 Denang one was not really special, but the room was really large and both the A/C and Wi-Fi cranked. The restaurant was a welcome sight that night as it was pouring down rain and a breakfast buffet was included in the rates.
In Hue, if it had just been my wife and I we could have gotten into a big resort with a pool, right on the river for our $50 budget, but we needed something that would work for a family and those rooms were all booked. They were too at our second choice (Hong Thien), where we showed up without a reservation and found them full. No worries: they led us a block away to their sister hotel where we got a triple room for $20. That’s not a typo. For $20 a night we had a room that slept three, with a balcony, that had a fridge, A/C, hot water, and breakfast included. Here’s a shot of the room, with my daughter lounging on the bed.
The best place was in Hanoi though, where overwhelmingly positive TripAdvisor reviews led us to a family room at Splendid Star Grand Hotel. We paid a tad more here, at $57 a night, but it was well worth it.
This was the kind of hotel room you’d be happy with if you paid $200 in Japan or Korea, with a big flat-screen TV, minibar, desk with wired or wireless internet included, nice toiletries, hardwood floors, plus thick mattresses and duvets. There was even a whirlpool tub in the bathroom. The location was quiet and the staff was terrific. One of the guys met us at the train station at no cost, let us check in at the crack of dawn, and threw in an extra breakfast. The breakfast here was unique too: a full menu of western and Vietnamese dishes, with the request to “Order whatever you want. If you’re still hungry after, ask for something else.”
Hotel Splendid Star Grand is not an anomaly in Hanoi: the reason we turned to TripAdvisor is that you can find 100 great deals in this price range. This one’s in a quiet location by the cathedral though, shielded from the relentless motorbike traffic. So the restaurant and lobby are not just pretty, but quiet. Book with them direct or on Hotels.com.
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