Plenty of accommodation is scattered throughout Lao Cai, especially near the train and bus stations and near the border. Although you won't find anything outstanding in the guesthouse category, it's mostly adequate and you can upgrade a bit if you need some added comforts.
Opened in 2013, the Swiss Belhotel, located right next to the immigration office at the border, is an imposing 186-room offering. We're not sure that Lao Cai was exactly crying out for that many new four-star hotel rooms but it's a welcome addition for those looking for a comfortable stay in town. At the time of our last visit all rooms were at a promotional rate of US$75 – including the... Read our full review of Swiss Belhotel.
The Nest – or Nga Nhi 340 as it's also known – is a good value option directly opposite the train station. Rooms at the front are very large, with three beds – not quite doubles so it'd be a tight squeeze for more than three people – and a small balcony overlooking the station. As pleasant as they are, we expect that they get noisy in the morning, so unless you're a heavy sleeper or... Read our full review of The Nest.
The semi-luxury option in town, Thien Hai is conveniently located next to the train station — look left, you can't miss it — and offers good value three-star hotel standard rooms equipped with decent bedding, good furnishings, clean carpets – yes, carpets -- and a shower cubicle or bathtub. Price includes breakfast but the restaurant is also open to non-residents and offers a good value... Read our full review of Thien Hai Hotel.
In case you arrive at the border to China too late to cross, or if you arrive from China too late to care, there are plenty of places to stay a short walk from the gate. Not that it much matters which one you pick, but this one does the job: rooms are spacious, with armoires, low tea tables, low beds, broadcast TVs and reasonable bathrooms that feature naked-lady tiles -- no extra points for that... Read our full review of Hoang Hiep Guest House.
The smallest rooms at Hai Yen – or the Binh Dan as it also appears to be known -- are some of the cheapest digs in Lao Cai and will do the job for the budget traveller. The rooms are certainly nothing fancy but are light and have air-con, although bathrooms are particularly small and damp; upgrade to a larger room if your budget permits. It's located near the bus station so is good for onward... Read our full review of Nha Nghi Hai Yen.
If the budget hotels near the border along Nguyen Hue are a bit too enclosed for your liking, walk a further five minutes or so and check out Thuy Hoa. It's slightly pricier but the light rooms are set around a courtyard and the more expensive options at the front have small balconies with river views. All have fan, air-con and a TV. To get there, cross the Coc Lou Bridge and turn immediately... Read our full review of Thuy Hoa Hotel.