Cheap, clean, friendly
Packed into a tight alley filled mostly with guesthouses and hotels in the middle of Saigon’s backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao, the Saigon Youth Hostel is one of the few spots in the city that offer dorm-styled rooms.
Although it says ‘youth hostel’ on the can, the Saigon Youth Hostel doesn’t actually have any limitations on the age of its occupants, which is a good thing since Ho Chi Minh City is rather thin on hostels. Their 160,000 VND dorm beds are divided into two types of dorms; women only and mixed, with not a lot of differences between the rooms except that the mixed dorms have balconies.
Dorm rooms here are a little tight on space, so if you’re staying in one of the dorms with three other strangers be prepared to get to know one another. Still, the dorms have a private locker for each bed, a bathroom for each dorm and air-con. Besides that, the dorms are pretty light when it comes to other furniture or free space. Things inside are clean, probably due to a combination of daily cleaning and their ‘no shoes’ policy.
The hostel is also home to two small 300,000 VND private rooms; one double, the other a single. Both are cosy, but the double is substantially bigger and has a window. If you’re a claustrophobic person, you may want to steer clear of the private single, which is so small that it uses the mini-fridge as its nightstand and doesn’t have a window. If you can manage the tight quarters you will have the advantage of having your own private bathroom, fridge and television.
While the beds will get you through the night, the real reason you’re staying at the Saigon Youth Hostel is because it’s cheap and to interact with your fellow travellers. With this in mind, the hostel does a good job creating a sense of community between travellers. The common room downstairs has plenty of room to sit and mingle, plus there is a foosball table with which you can challenge your fellow stable mates. You also won’t have trouble finding space downstairs in the lobby/dining area where you’ll be served your included breakfast. In the lobby you’ll also find their two-computer internet area; if you brought your own computer, free WiFi is available throughout the building.
The drawbacks to the hostel are similar to other spots in the area; if you have a room on the top floor, prepare yourself for a hike, as you won’t find an elevator in the building — add that to a general lack of space in the hallways and you may find your climb to the top packed full of obstacles. Another minor problem is that the hostel is in the middle of a rather thin alley and, if you’re new to the area, you may find it difficult to find, especially at night. Lastly, unlike some of the guesthouses in the immediate area, the hostel has a lot of beds but a limited number of staff. If the hostel is nearing capacity, be prepared to ask for things twice.
While not the roomiest hostel in the city, Saigon Youth Hostel does have one of the better hostel locations and is on par price wise with competing hostels. Due to its prime location, and a general lack of hostels in the nearby area, things can get crowded in a hurry — it took several visits before we were even able to see a room. Your best course of action is to book online to secure your spot.
If you can’t get a bed here, a five-minute walk down Pham Ngu Lao will lead you to the Saigon Backpackers Hostel, which is a little further out of the way but has more room, or the Long Hostel, which is less of a hostel and more of a guesthouse. If you’d rather have more intimate service, you’re in the same alley as Vy Khanh Guesthouse, a standout with a limited number of rooms, and also Thien Hong Hotel. If your budget and style stretches to a “proper” hotel, the Elios Hotel, just a short walk away, is one of the area’s few three-star hotels.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.