Sparkling new, male or female dorms
Tucked into the middle of Saigon’s Pham Ngu Lao backpacker’s area, Saigon Backpackers Hostel is one of the few true hostels in the city. Somewhat hard to find on a first visit, the hostel is actually just a short walk down an alley hidden behind Thai Binh market.
This is one of the only spots in Saigon with gender-assigned, bunk-bed dorms. You have a choice between staying in a four-person dorm, a much smaller room with no window but fewer people, or a six-person dorm, which has more people but is quite a bit larger and comes with a balcony. Either way the price is the same and the rooms offer the same basic amenities, such as private lockers and air-con, although the six-person room does have a nicer bathroom, complete with an enclosed shower. If you’re looking for something more private there are a couple of double rooms, which are the same as the four-person dorm rooms except instead of two bunk-beds there is one bed.
While the rooms are one thing, the real reason to stay at a hostel is to meet your fellow traveller and at Saigon Backpackers you will find one of the few places in town where an attempt at community has been made. It starts with the friendly, courteous staff that gives the hostel more of a guesthouse feel. Downstairs, besides the typical tour booking desk and two-computer internet area, the hostel has also added a pool table, entertainment centre and community kitchen for its guests. The entertainment area is actually quite enviable; a large flat-screen television, surround sound and a PlayStation 3 available throughout the day at no charge. In the kitchen you have full use of all the equipment, from the cook-tops to the fridge, and with your close proximity to the market you may actual find a use for it. The kitchen is also where you receive your included breakfast every morning.
Although the doubles here are adequate, at around 400,000 VND a night you could do better, both in price and quality, elsewhere. The real reason to choose Saigon Backpackers is for their dorm beds, which at 160,000 VND are among the most affordable beds in Ho Chi Minh City. Couple their price with the hostel’s overall atmosphere and you have something hard to beat.
But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies at Saigon Backpackers. The location isn’t ideal, as the alley gets dark being off the road behind the market. Not that the area has a particular reputation for crime, but we would recommend exercising caution if you’re alone and it’s getting late. Also, if you find yourself on one of the hostel’s upper floors, be prepared for the absence of an elevator. It may not seem like a huge deal but during a humid Saigon day you may break into a sweat just going up a floor or two.
Saigon Backpackers is quickly gaining a solid reputation among travellers looking for the hostel experience; as such you may no longer be able to walk in off the street during high season and find a bed. Instead book online, which they actually seem to prefer, and save yourself the trouble.
If they are full, the neighbours have caught copy fever and several have added hostel to their name, the best of these being the Long Hostel. For a step up in amenities try the An An Hotel on Bui Vien or the Elios Hotel on Pham Ngu Lao. If you want something a little outside of the backpacker’s area, head to the California Guesthouse on Co Bac where you will find a similar sense of community but far fewer beds.
Check rates at Saigon Backpackers Hostel - rated 7.8/10 on Agoda.com.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.