Many guesthouses follow the same format: six or seven floors with three rooms per floor, all tiled with AC, a TV and private bathroom. Rooms that overlook the hall are about $10 in most, about $12 to $15 if you have a window facing the street or back. Many are family run, meaning shoes off inside! You get breakfast and most have free Internet access, some even have WiFi access. Conditions in the humidity age things quickly – and you’ll find water stains on cheaply painted walls creeping up quickly. If a room seems poorly kept up, look around – new guesthouses are constantly being built or renovated.

The best place, in my mind, is the guesthouse-filled alley snaking off from 283 Pham Ngu Lao. It’s quiet, with several new options, such as Phan Lan (see below for these recommendations). Another appealing, and very local, area is the guesthouse zone in the back alleys around the landmark Miss Loi Guesthouse, 10 minutes walk southwest from De Tham St.

Those wanting a little more comfort should try An An, stylish Ki Hotel or Duc Vuong. The Liberty chain has two hotels here, the better being Liberty 4.

If you’re trying to keep a tight budget, Yellow House Hotel has $5.25 dorm rooms.


$10 TO $15

It’s hard to justify the noise of staying on Pham Ngu Lao, Bui Vien or De Tham, when you have so many options on this quiet pleasant side alley off Pham Ngu Lao, which has just exploded with guesthouses like this. Steps lead up the seven floors where you’ll find three rooms per floor, with clean rooms with mint-green walls, cable TV, intense air con, and water heaters in the private bathroom. This is a good one. Free Internet in the ground-floor where free breakfast is served (and occasional Vietnamese lessons, given unprompted). Phan Lan also runs 70 Guesthouse at 70 Bui Ven.
Tel 08-837-8749; [email protected]; 283/6 Pham Ngu Lao Q1; rooms $10-15

Brand new budget hotel on the 283 Pham Ngu Lao side alley — right across from the Phan Lan — with new tile rooms typical of the budget sphere. Internet in lobby.
Tel 08-837-3566; [email protected]; 283/25 Pham Ngu Lao St; rooms including breakfast US$12-15 

Another friendly guesthouse on the 283 Pham Ngu Lao side alley, with Internet, AC and clean rooms.
Tel 08-377-547;; 283/14 Pham Ngu Lao; rooms $10-15

It’s older but nothing else around feels more homey than Lucy. For over a decade, Lucy has welcomed long-term Saigon guests, often taking advantage of the $360 monthly rates. Rooms break the regular-hotel template – of boxy rooms and cheap modern furniture and wrong pastels – and add details that make it feel like home. There’s DSL access in rooms, a work desk, bamboo bookshelves; some have balconies, others kitchens. Do Quang Dau is an intriguing sideroad that’s over half time-defying local storefronts that sell pig parts or serve cheap rice meals popular with locals. It’s fronted by palms that advertise Lucy’s newer resort location in Mui Ne.
Tel 837-9917,, 61 Do Quang Dau Q1, rooms $12-15

In the back alleys off real-deal Co Giang Street (about 10 to 15 minutes walk southwest from Pham Ngu Lao), Miss Loi is the most famous of a bundle of guesthouses in a tight alleyways where fruit sellers squat by little pagodas, and shirtless guys offer passerby an iced-down beer at noon. It’s near enough Pham Ngu Lao to take advantage of the Cu Chi tours and fruit shakes, but without any of the hassle. Miss Loi has long been here, with over a dozen rooms with cranberry tile and pink walls. There’s WiFi (and billiards) in the lobby. Staff are so laid back that a guest actually showed me around when I dropped by.
Tel 08-837-9589; [email protected]; 178/20 Co Giang St; rooms with fan/AC $10/12

Across from Miss Loi in the alleys of Co Giang Street (about 10 to 15 minutes’ walk southwest from Pham Ngu Lao), the friendly Xuan Thu has five rooms with AC – all spotless, with framed portraits of horses in paradise above the beds. The $14 room has a balcony. Lots of toys and kids around.
Tel 08-836-9335; 178/17 Co Giang St; rooms $12-14

In the thick of De Tham, the Lan Anh is a friendly, older place – with a trophy case full of tennis wins of the family’s son in the plain lobby, and clean rooms reached by a newly added lift. The $12 rooms have a hall window, the $15 rooms add a tub in the bathroom and balcony. All have TV, air con and a small writing desk. Breakfast included.
Tel 836-5197, 252 De Tham Q1, rooms $12 & $15 ($2 less for single)

Those counting every dollar canb bunk in seven-bed dorms (or $10 rooms) at the simple, clean guesthouse in the Bui Vien action.
Tel 08-836-8830; [email protected]; 31 Bui Vien St; dorms $5.25
Book It Online

OVER $15

Guidebooks and a few tour groups ensure Pham Ngu Lao’s best hotel keeps busy – but it hasn’t gone to their head. The 11-floor hotel (mercifully with lift) is literally head above shoulders over its neighbors and staff are still cheerful. It has two rooms per floor, each with slightly nicer tile, slightly nicer furniture, and more space than most guesthouses in the area. There’s also extras like a usable writing desk, DSL connection and bath tubs in the showers. All’s clean and higher-up rooms get some big views of the area. Best is room 111, which has windows facing the center, the south and – via a window between the sink and mirror – the action down on Bui Vien. No breakfast.
Tel 837-8087,, 40 Bui Vien, singles/doubles $25/28, ‘lux rooms’ on the 11th floor are $32/36

Opened the day I arrived in October 2006, this 25-room guesthouse isn’t shy to ask for a little more than the bulk of the cheap guesthouses around – and makes up the extra Dong by more thoughtful design in and out of the rooms. All rooms have air con, clean tile floors and cream-colored walls. Halls are split-level with paintings, potted plants and traditional pots hanging in a building-high atrium of shale. Some rooms have no outdoor windows. There’s free Internet in the faintly Chinese lobby, and WiFi on the rooftop lounge. A lone is suite is $40.
Tel 920-6992,, 195 Bui Vien Q1, rooms $18, $20, $25 & $40

This isn’t your parents’ Pham Ngu Lao. Opened in April 2007 — and a firm testimony that Pham Ngu Lao can be mid-range too — the sharp 90-room Elios sports an elegance unrivalled in the area. Inside the walk-up, second-floor lobby, a waterfall drips over the hotel logo, and guests sit in chunky leather sofas while piano muzak plays softly. Two elevators head up too the modern rooms, with pearl/eggshell shiny tile floors and modern digs. I preferred the standard layout too the superior — all are a bit tight. The free breakfast is served in the 12th-floor ‘panorama’ restaurant, where there’s also a small fitness center.
Tel 08-835-5585;, [email protected]; 231-233 Pham Ngu Lao St; standard/superior rooms including breakfast US$48/58 (plus tax)

If you need some mod style and are willing to pay double the price for it, the Lien Ha – run by the people behind the stylish BunTa noodle shop – has traditional-style blankets tossed over the duvets, artful reading lamps hanging from maroon walls, plans for WiFi access, and robes and slippers. Most of thee 35 rooms aren’t any bigger than the other area guesthouses. Free breakfast. **Note: This changed its name from Ki to Lien Ha in early 2007, as ownership changed.**
Tel 08-837-5581; [email protected]; 28/2 Bui Vien St; rooms $17-29

Looking glitzy compared to the traveler’s guesthouses, the Lac Vien looks a lot like the typical mid-range high-rise in the center. Rooms are clean, not overly fussy or styled, but lower-floors get the WiFi access from the lobby, if that’s your thing. The VIP room (from $35) has balcony, the cheapest (from $20) has no window. All get free breakfast.
Tel 08-920-4899;; 28/12-14 Bui Vien St; rooms from $20 to $35

Saigontourist’s city-wide chain has two locations on Pham Ngu Lao, the better being Liberty 4, with business-style rooms, breakfast buffet, a nightclub and massage. Not necessarily that much nicer than the others in the ‘over $15 range.’ Liberty 3 is at 187 Pham Ngu Lao at the busy corner with De Tham St.
Tel 08-836-4556;; 265 Pham Ngu Lao; rooms from $47 Book Liberty 4 Online