Real Darling Café encourages a love-hate relationship in its quirky, thoroughly penny pinching array of guests. It must be a favourite in Japanese guidebooks because it gets a steady stream of Japanese travellers, along with Europeans, Indians, and Africans – not your usual combination in Southeast Asia’s budget traveller haunts. Rooms are very damp smelling with iffy linen and mattresses that resemble lunar craters. It might be the cheapest double in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, but you certainly get what you pay for. The linen is only sporadically washed, so check your sheets before you sleep on them. The surly male staff member will change them if you insist, but you’ll probably be stuck with one of the miniature polyester towels which leaves you covered in blue fluff like a smurf. Luong, the lady at reception, is kind and helpful, but she’s the only one at Darling.
Cost: US$9 for a double room with fan and en suite bathroom (which all the rooms have) – US$8 if you ask nicely. Single US$7, triple US$12, dorm bed US$4.
Finding it: 33 Hang Quat Street, Hoan Kiem District (See map below.)
Contact: +84 (0) 4 3826 9386
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