A solo traveler here wondering if I should even bother to reserve a room/hostel for my first night in; word on the grapevine's that the hostel'll give your room away to anyone who comes earlier (w/ cash of course). The only caveat is that I fly in at around 11:30 and have the visa on arrival thing to deal with.
Also, any recommendations for Ha Long tours? I'm thinking about 3 days and 2 nights w/ kayaking. I'm hearing word against Headsapan. How's Kangaroo Cafe or Ocean Tours? From the website, Ocean Tours seem a bit pricey...I'd like to keep it under $90 (even lower'd be nice), though, of course, I'd like a good tour. Also, does the travel service arrange to lock your stuff up or should I just expect to bring my pack (w/ netbook) with me?
#1 alljokingaside has been a member since 20/12/2011. Posts: 18
Your first problem would be finding a bed after midnight for late night arrival in Hanoi - most inexpensive places close their doors by this hour. It is very true that cheaper places often give a reservation away (it happened to me on my first trip). I think I've found a way around this - to book a room with airport pickup. Costs a tad more than just using a cab, but it's well worth it in Hanoi (home to the worst cab situation in SE Asia in my opinion). Try the Especen Hotel on Tho Xuong Street - good inexpensive rooms without all the frills in a great area near the St. Joseph's Cathedral. I've stayed there several times, and they've always held my room this way.
I can't help you with a cruise, but can tell you that there are real dangers in going too low in price (think vermin and marine accidents). Most hotels are also in the travel/cruise selling business - ask about them when you contact the Especen.
I've used VOA for Hanoi 4 times, and also arrive just B4 midnight - no waiting at that hour - 15 minutes at most. You can speed it up even more by downloading the "Form on Arrival" that you can fill out in advance - download from many online vendors.
I'd book a room, at least for the first night in since you're arriving pretty late...
I stayed at Hanoi Guesthouse, excellent service, nice rooms and pretty cheap too! They helped me with my itinerary and picked me up from the train station even at 4am in the morning, and they have 2 numbers when you can contact them at all times.
A little bit more about them on my blog here, hope it helps!