Jun 29 2011
There aren’t many what I’d call ‘real’ hostels in Asia at all, probably most likely due to the low cost of guesthouse and hotel accommodation. But they are slowly popping up and combining good value accommodation — particularly for single travellers — with an easy to access social scene.
Most hostels in Hanoi however are still little more than guesthouses with multi-bed rooms, and lack the truly communal nature associated with a good hostel. I had a look at some of the hostel options among the guesthouses and hotels in Hanoi last week and here are my findings.
Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel on Ngo Huyen was the first “international-style” hostel in Vietnam and has been a stalwart of the Hanoi backpackers’ scene since 2004. Now a new branch has opened on Ma May, one of the liveliest streets in Old Quarter (the original one’s still open too). HBH is a true hostel — providing communal areas for guests and organised social activities. The branch on Ma May also houses a particularly raucous bar and restaurant.
The new hostel also offers the best quality beds — large with comfy mattresses, personal lights, lockers for valuables and large bags — and the funkiest bathrooms of all the hostels I saw, although bathrooms are not en suite. They’re slightly pricier than the other dorm beds in town but if you book online you’ll just pay US$6. Double-bedded dorms and private rooms are also available.
The Drift is another well established, Western-run hostel. It’s a bit of a way from the Old Quarter but that’s clearly not off-putting as plenty of people were hanging around drinking beer and using the free internet when I visited. Their rooms are as good as at HBH — lockers, lights — and have en suite bathrooms. A cafe serves food all day but it lacks a bar area — hence the groups of guys standing around on the street outside drinking beer. It does have a movie room though, so there’s enough space for chilling out and doing nothing if that’s your desire. Rooms are on special at the moment at US$5 per night — they’re usually $5.50 — which includes breakfast and free internet and WiFi. Private rooms are US$20+.
Beyond HBH and The Drift the other hostels are more about cheap beds than the communal/social scene, though some give it a go.
Gecko 3 on Bat Dan has a decent area on the first floor where they serve breakfast. With a TV and DVD player and even a guitar in the corner, it looks like it could easily turn into a social space. Rooms are good too: they’re bright and clean and I loved the floaty net curtains that give each bed some privacy. Bathrooms are also better than some of the other options, with each floor having two shower cubicles and two toilets. They also provide male and female only dorms — not the case in some of the other places. Beds are on special at US$5, usually US$6.
Hanoi World Hostel is on the same alley as the original Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel. It’s a great location with a cheerful entrance, but beyond that it gets a bit tatty. It’s also a bit of a walk up to the higher rooms, but that’s something you get used to with guesthouses or hostels in Hanoi. The room I saw wasn’t particularly appealing, not helped by being dark and messy, but it only had 4 beds, so an option if you prefer a smaller crowd. I couldn’t get in to see the bathroom.
One of its selling points is the rooftop bar — Minsk’s Rooftop — where bia hoi is sold for just 5,000 VND per glass. You’ll need it after walking up five flights of stairs! It’s worth mentioning the identity crisis this place seems to be facing — whether intentionally or not, its flyers call it ‘Hanoi Youth Hostel’ and it lists the website of the Hanoi Youth Hostel, which, oddly enough, doesn’t reference it at all. Trying to bounce off the success of the other location perhaps?
The actual Hanoi Youth Hostel is on Luong Ngoc Quyen. The list of freebies here is impressive yet not really differentiating: free breakfast, free beer (17:00 to 18:00), free WiFi, free tea, free city maps, free tours information, free coffee, free fruit … and staff were smiley enough, but the rooms were nothing special with a slightly grubby feel to the place and a “shower over toilet” set up in the bathrooms. They also have mixed rooms only but the staff member I spoke to said that larger groups of friends could hire a room to themselves if they liked. Well, yes. It’s also US$5 a night.
Last, but by no means least, I visited Central Backpackers’ Hostel. It’s another Western-style hostel and had quite a buzz about it as I walked up to the entrance (it’s down an alley). Their website claims “The best things about central backpackers are the crazy travellers, super friendly staff, comfy beds, free internet, Breakfast and most of all Free Beer!!!!!” Need I say more. I will. The rooms are decent with two showers per room and there’s an outside terrace area and lounge. They only have small lockers, but larger items can be left at reception. Staff were Western and Vietnamese and very welcoming despite being busy with guests. I visited their original location at 45A Ly Quoc Su but they have a new hostel at number 16. Dorm beds are US$5 and private rooms are US$30.
UPDATES: Drift Backpackers’ and Gecko 3 have both now closed and Central Backpackers’ has moved down the road – review will be on Travelfish July 2012. Nothing stays still in this city!
Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel – Ngo Huyen
48 Ngo Huyen, Hanoi
T: (04) 3828 5372
Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel – Ma May
9 May May, Hanoi
T: (04) 3935 1890
The Drift Backpackers Hostel
42 Truong Han Sieu St, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
T: (04) 3944 8415
www.thedriftbackpackershostel.com Gecko 3 Hostel
27 Bat Dan Street, Hanoi
T: (04) 3923 3989
Hanoi World Hostel
56 Ngo Huyen, Hanoi
Hanoi Youth Hostel
5 Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
T: (01687) 665 555, (0912) 513 894
Central Backpackers’ Hostel
16 Ly Quoc Su Street, Hanoi
T : (04) 3938 1849, (0976) 218 699
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