Photo: A misty morning.

Where to stay in Sam Neua

Sam Neua

Though tourism in Sam Neua has dwindled and many guesthouses have fallen into disrepair or closed down, the town still has a decent selection of budget accommodation. Rest assured, none will be full and it’s easy to show up and search on foot. The majority can be found in one area near the roundabout/next to the bridge in the centre of town. Sam Neua has some of the longest, coldest winters in Laos and the chief concern from around November to February will be staying warm. Buildings are not built to keep out the cold. Guesthouses usually provide extra thick blankets, free hot tea and have robust shower water heaters.

Beside stadium/central park
Under US$10

Chantong Guesthouse

# Beside stadium/central park T: (020) 9890 0013

Chantong Guesthouse literally stands out from the crowd with its location in a central but more local part of Sam Neua. Unlike the majority of budget accommodation options, which are found in a neighbourhood around the roundabout, Chantong is across from the stadium and sprawling concrete park, the area the town has tried to make into Sam Neua’s heart.

Easy to find.

Easy to find. Photo: Cindy Fan

Staying at Lao-owned Chantong adds an extra 800 metre walk from the roundabout and this will be worth it to the traveller looking for the most comfort in Sam Neua. As of 2018, this is the town’s newest, most modern and flashiest budget accommodation. When we inspected, everything shone, from the glossy tile to the metal handrails to the lift. Obviously this may not be the case in a few years but what can be relied upon is that the four-storey building has spacious rooms with a few hotel stylings like tall ceilings, big windows, flat screen TV and sturdy, solid wood furnishings. Guests can also opt for a room with air-con, a feature not found in other places.

Other than that, it shares similarities with budget accommodation like Phasouk Guesthouse. There’s WiFi, free coffee/tea, a firm bed, bedside plugs and wetroom style bathroom with a robust hot water heater. Because of its newness, it is definitely better value as same-priced Chittavanah or Phonchalern.

I’d like a room with half a view please.

I’d like a room with half a view please. Photo: Cindy Fan

Rooms on the ground floor don’t receive much natural light as the windows are partially blocked by a wall so try to get one on the upper floors. There’s oodles of natural light and a view to the stadium and park where every evening locals stroll the concrete paths or browse the very small night market that pops up. It’s certainly not a guesthouse feel and the extra distance from the bus station won’t make sense for those only staying in Sam Neua for a night. This is all about getting a bit of modern comfort if Sam Neua’s predominantly basic cheapies are too rough.

More information

Walk–in rates ( kip): 100,000—140,000

Maps: Apple | Google
GPS: 104º2'45.64" E, 20º25'0.38" N

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Just off the main ropunabout
Under US$10

Phasouk Guesthouse

# Just off the main ropunabout

Located in the cluster of budget accommodation just off of Sam Neua’s main roundabout, Phasouk Guesthouse offers excellent value and is one of the most popular places with backpackers as they roll into town.

Street frontage.

Street frontage. Photo: Cindy Fan

Phasouk is set in a three storey building with big echoey hallways and modestly sized rooms that have tile floors and solid walls. Though the rooms show some wear and tear, they are comfortable and equipped with a table and chair, box TV, bedside electrical outlet and hooks on the wall. The bed has enough space to walk on either side and is topped with cotton linens (including a duvet cover) and an extra thick blanket for cold nights. Towels are threadbare but clean. Windows have insect screens and curtains. Rooms at the front will boast more natural light since windows are on two walls—and therefore will have more rooster noise in the morning. In room WiFi depends upon the proximity to the router. Each floor has a front balcony with a clothesline guests can make use of.

The private wetroom bathroom is on the small side, which means almost showering over the toilet, something you’ll quickly forget once that blissfully hot, strong shower gets going. Sam Neua is one of the few places in Laos we’ve seen where robust water heaters are standard for budget accommodation—no small electric heater in this bathroom. Guests can enjoy a solid 10 minutes of hot water before it fades to cold and needs time to refill. Incredibly, there’s even hot water available at the sink.

We love the curtains.

We love the curtains. Photo: Cindy Fan

On our favourite topic of hot water, the lobby, which doubles as the family’s living room, has the biggest supply of hot drinking water we’ve ever seen. There’s dispensers and thermoses galore, and the family is happy for guests to take one to the room. In Sam Neua from October to March, it can be difficult to get warm and all the buildings seem built to actually retain the cold like an ice box. But at Phasouk, the inexpensive room rate, free cups of tea and touches like daily housekeeping are enough to give budget travellers a warm feeling, despite no English being spoken.

More information

Walk–in rates ( kip): 70,000—70,000

Maps: Apple | Google
GPS: 104º2'56.61" E, 20º24'49.73" N

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Next to Dan Nao Meuang Xam Restaurant, beginning of bridge, Sam Neua
Under US$10

Bounhome Guesthouse

# Next to Dan Nao Meuang Xam Restaurant, beginning of bridge, Sam Neua T: (064) 312 223

Bounhome is one of the first guesthouses travellers will see if they’ve walked down the hill from the bus station and into the cluster of accommodation in front of the bridge.

Bright with a blanket.

Bright with a blanket. Photo: Cindy Fan

There’s nothing wrong with choosing to throw down the backpack here and get going with exploration, as the rooms are typical Lao guesthouse style. If you’ve already been travelling around Laos, there are no surprises here. The ground floor holds a small, tidy reception and a shop while the accommodation is found on the upper floors of the four storey building. Some rooms are clearly in better shape than others. One room we inspected felt a bit cramped with two single beds and was badly in need of fresh paint. Another room at the front of the building looked clean and great, windows on two walls brightening up the space. If you’re picky, you may want to look at a few before choosing which room as they vary.

Nitty gritty details aside, backpackers will find the rooms serviceable for a couple of nights as beds have white cotton linens, including a duvet cover and an extra thick blanket for chilly nights. The windows have insect screens, there’s a table, box TV, WiFi and a bathroom that’s nearly identical to Phasouk Guesthouse’s just around the corner, right down to the strong hot water heater that makes up for having to shower slightly over the toilet.

Inside there are “no smoking” signs, a rare feature in local hotels. Don’t despair smokers, there’s quick access to the communal balcony at the front of each floor that overlooks nothing in particular except the busy bridge. The family speak bits of English, there’s free hot and cold drinking water and they do offer a small discount on the rate for solo travellers. Bounhome is a reasonable budget option.

More information

Walk–in rates ( kip): 60,000—80,000

Maps: Apple | Google
GPS: 104º2'56.55" E, 20º24'48.31" N

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Riverside, Sam Neua
Under US$10

Phonchalern Guesthouse

# Riverside, Sam Neua T: (020) 9999 1393

Located in the cluster of budget accommodation near the bridge and river, Phonchalern Guesthouse’s slightly above average room rate translates to bigger, brighter rooms.

Stands out.

Stands out. Photo: Cindy Fan

Phonchalern sits in a row of generic local hotels that seem indistinguishable from each other. Inside, however, it’s a notch above the rest and is recommendable for the backpacker seeking a modern budget option. Rooms are roomier, ceilings are tall, mattresses are thick, beds are high and topped with white cotton linens, including a duvet cover. Overall, the place has a bit more flash with extras like a lift, in-room hot drinking water dispenser and mini fridge. The larger space means a sensible layout so guests aren’t tripping and bumping into things. Rooms at the front face the river, which itself isn’t a selling point (the river is like a canal blocked by a row of parked cars). However, these rooms may be worth the extra 20,000 kip as they are larger, sport balconies and receive heaps of natural light.

Flashy extras aside, rooms are typical Lao guesthouse. There’s chilly tile floors, solid walls, windows with insect screens, box TV, wardrobe, table, extra thick blankets to counter Sam Neua’s wintery weather, fan, WiFi and ensuite bathroom with hot water showers. The bathrooms are of a decent size and unlike the other guesthouses, there’s less chance of having to shower over the toilet.

Those blankets will come in useful.

Those blankets will come in useful. Photo: Cindy Fan

A warm and fuzzy feeling won’t be found at Phonchalern (or any Sam Neua hotel really), except perhaps at Phasouk Guesthouse where the cheap room rate, daily housekeeping and endless supply of hot drinking water brought a smile to our face. Still, with all the hotels in town being so similar, we’re only splitting hairs by rating this slightly lower. Phonchalern’s spacious rooms will please larger, taller folks. Stay here if that extra bit of comfort is worth the few extra dollars.

To find Phonchalern, at Sam Neua’s central roundabout, head to the buildings adjacent to the bridge. It’s around the corner from Bounhome Guesthouse and beside Chittavanh Hotel.

More information

Walk–in rates ( kip): 100,000—100,000
Book online: Agoda
Maps: Apple | Google
GPS: 104º2'57.81" E, 20º24'49.7" N

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Beside Yuni Coffee, off roundabout in the direction of bus station
US$10 to 20

Xayphasouk Hotel

# Beside Yuni Coffee, off roundabout in the direction of bus station

In a bigger town, Xayphasouk Hotel would be a forgettable, bland local hotel. In Sam Neua, however, it represents the town’s finest offering. It’s where all the government officials and dignitaries would stay when they roll in for those important meetings.

The hotel doesn’t look like much from the street.

The hotel doesn’t look like much from the street. Photo: Cindy Fan

That being said, don’t expect much as it is quite modest, a nondescript modern building on the slope down from the bus station, just before the big roundabout. Like all accommodation in town, it is sterile and lacking in charm except for the effort made with the row of potted plants at the entrance.

The three storey building is relatively new and features a ground floor lobby/restaurant space with floor to ceiling windows. Upstairs are the spacious rooms of white walls, tile floor, windows and solid wood furniture. It’s all very straightforward and generic. There’s a bedside table and plug, a desk, mini fridge, kettle, small wall-mounted flatscreen satellite TV and WiFi. When we inspected in 2018, the white cotton bed linens looked clean, while decorative pillows and a handwoven bed runner spruced things up. Another positive is the bathroom—the room we saw had an enormous one meaning not everything had to get wet. It was kitted with a sturdy looking hot water heater, a towel rack and sink with a countertop. Frosted windows allowed in some natural light.

The rooms though are quite respectable.

The rooms though are quite respectable. Photo: Cindy Fan

There’s no question that budget conscious travellers should pass on Xayphasouk in favour of a far cheaper guesthouse like Phasouk or Bounhome. Those seeking more of a hotel-style room, in Sam Neua the choice is limited to Xayphasouk or Chantong. Xayphasouk’s proximity to the bus station is convenient for travellers simply passing through town for a night. And for those who need coffee in the morning, having Yuni Coffee next door is a definite perk. Chantong is cheaper but requires an additional 800 metre walk from the roundabout.

More information

Walk–in rates ( kip): 200,000—200,000
Book online: Agoda
Maps: Apple | Google
GPS: 104º2'53.82" E, 20º24'44.82" N

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Sam Neua.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Sam Neua.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Sam Neua.
 Read up on how to get to Sam Neua.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Sam Neua? Please read this.
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