Although few foreign visitors make it to this small town, Thais come from as far away as Bangkok for weekend visits and so there is a wide range of accommodation with some very good options in budget, mid and upper mid ranges. Correspondingly that means that prices can fluctuate considerably between high season – winter months - and low, but also between week days and weekends/public holidays. Storm clouds over the lake can provide some very photogenic views so we wouldn’t worry about the season much, but if you can time your visit for mid week you should find some excellent deals.
Smaller guesthouses and boutique inns are found on or close to the waterfront. Some of those with the more prime locations may have somewhat inflated prices but there are also some excellent hotel deals in the centre or town where you’re only a five minute walk from the lake anyway. Note the local fashion is for ‘homestay’ which you’ll see on plenty of hotel signs but they are just guesthouses, or bed and breakfast type lodgings, and not what are generally known as homestays.
There are quite a few of these ‘homestay’ type spots in the quiet back lanes behind Chai Kwan and off Prasat and Tha Kwan Roads with more on the way, but Jumjai and Kwan Phayao Villa got our votes, while away from the lake, the excellent Win Hotel in town, is simply one of our favourite hotels in any north Thai town. Note that many of the small lakeside guesthouses have limited rooms with views and not only will those be invariably more expensive but they also fill up first, with the remainder of the rooms being poor value when compared to an off-the-lake option.
Yes, oddly, our top accommodation choice in Phayao goes to a concrete hotel block with no view at all of the lake. Well actually you ought to be able to get glimpses across the rooftops from the top floors, but we felt Win was a perfect example of how much of a cosy; fun, interestingly decorated, well furnished and great value for money hotel you can get out of what is fundamentally a badly... Read our full review of Win Hotel.
This beautifully constructed, but small, mid-range site, set just back a bit from the lake, manages to keep rates reasonable – which you can’t say for all these places – and has some rather nice rooms. The large, wooden-floored and panelled rooms are very well-sized, comfortably furnished and come with en-suite hot water showers as well as TV, fridge and Wi-Fi. The better rooms out front... Read our full review of Kwan Phayao Jumjai Homestay.
Located down a small lane off Chai Kwan this new, attractive building is home to an excellent coffee shop with a couple of huge rooms upstairs. The villa consecrates the entire second and third floors to just one vast room each, with three double beds and a couch/lounge area; flat screen TV and a large bathroom with two toilets. A small indoor seating area on the roof has lovely views of the lake... Read our full review of Kwan Phayao Villa.
Another guesthouse reaching two extremes, though less exaggerated than the Buakaew, with lake view rooms not as great but the viewless rooms not such a rip off. Arunothai has a prime location in the centre of Chai Kwam Road, directly opposite the lake. While clearly a very popular spot, it didn’t seem very accommodating, even in mid week during low season, and we reckon there’s a big dose of... Read our full review of Arunothai Homestay .
With a great location opposite the lake in the centre of town and with a recent name change, make-over and price increase, Buakaewplace is now targeting the top end of Phayao’s visitors. That’s all very well, and their best rooms are beautiful with great views through large windows, wooden panelling and balconies facing the lake but they also showed us a room without any windows for which... Read our full review of Buakaewplace Hotel.
Away from the lake, in the centre of town, Northern Lake is very convenient for the bus station and has the vast, night, food market setting up right on its doorstep so it is not a bad choice if you don’t want to pay lakeside prices and you can’t manage to find Win. Huge and very much generic, this must have been Phayao’s top digs when it first opened, but that was clearly a while ago and... Read our full review of Phayao Northern Lake Hotel.