Unless you are crossing the world by bicycle in one trip and already have camping gear on you, there is no point in bringing a tent to Southeast Asia. There is two reasons for this;
- The first one being there is generally sleeping options every 50km at a very affordable rates. Usually of a decent standard in terms of hygiene and comfort. It is also a great way to meet local people and you may even be invited into the family room to have dinner together.
- The second being many sections of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are still littered by unexploded ordnance and land mines. Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. There was more than 580, 000 bombing missions between 1964 - 73. There was more tonnage of bombs dropped on Vietnam by the Americans than the total combined amount in WW2.
The locals don't camp so there is no chance of a campground and so your only choice would be to head off into a field and it simply isn't worth it.
Depending on the season and the location, you should consider whether booking a room in advance is worth it or not. We used booking.com a few times for major cities and often were disappointed by the quality of the bed and the cleanliness. Instead of booking in advance, we rode in, stopping when we saw something we liked. You will often find nicer, cosier, family run businesses that don't use the internet.
Hint: it's worth shopping around and making the most of having a bicycle by going door to door seeing what you can get for your money. Figure out the price first, then check out the room for powerful running water (you will appreciate that shower), a suitable mattress (you don't want to get a bad nights sleep on tour) and for wifi (you will need to plan the following day.) By arriving on the day it not only gives you the option to move on if it doesn't match your needs but gives you some negotiating powers (asking for no A/C will save you another dollar a night).
Another way of meeting locals on your trip and as a last resort if there is no accommodation around, is to write a letter in the local language. We made sure we did this at the beginning of every country we visited. We only ever needed it once, when in Laos, but it was nice knowing that we had that backup if we didn't make it all the way.
Something we recently discovered is warmshowers.org. This is a website for cyclists/hikers on the road to meet others and have a chance of a warm shower, a lovely meal or to rest for the night. We look forward to trying this on our next trip in Portugal.
Seasons are an important factor to consider when booking your flight/bus/boat/train to your next destination. Buddhist festivals are huge in South East Asia and you could easily end up having no place to sleep at all. Western holidays will also influence the price and the availability of accommodation. Keep an eye on where you are and what time of the year it is.
Apart from Bangkok, we were only in the north. Where most rooms range between 350-600.
There was a clean, high standard throughout the country, offering very sweet local home stays/guest houses in and out of the cities. Our finest experience being in Wiang Pa Pao, where we were offered fruit upon arrival, a bungalow, use of a motorbike to get into the nearest town for dinner and a hearty breakfast in the morning for the very reasonable price of 400baht.
Prices range from the extremely cheap in the north (150baht a night cheapest for private double) to the higher demand in the South and the Islands.
There was a considerable difference between Laos and Thailand in terms of quality. The rooms seemed to have had little work since they were first built and quite often they smelt damp , sadly. We're not talking here about higher rang budget in Luang Prabang, which looked fantastic.
The wifi is a lot weaker Thailand and Vietnam, don't plan on loading big picture or skyping it could be difficult. We still always had an en-suite bedroom with a lovely cold shower and a fan. Just what you need !
Prices were between 70-100,000 kip for a standard double.
Vietnam consistently had a great range of accommodation to cater for the large population that travel its own country. The quality is high and you will have a good wifi connection 99% of the time. Cold shower and a fan is the key to have a lower price.
'Nha Nghi' is the word for 'motel' and by knowing this it will be critical to find somewhere to stay in the remoter places. It also will give you wider options than your eyes normally see in the bigger cities, and you will most likely get more of a 'local' price here.
The rooms seemed to be a little more pricey than the other countries in the region,. With our budget at $10, it was almost impossible to find a room in the cities we visited. Instead we pushed the boat out to $15 and weren't completely satisfied with what was offered. The accommodation was probably the only downside to this magnificent country.
Wifi was inconsistent functioning roughly 30% of the time. The rooms were clean, but we found the beds to be quite uncomfortable. Our best experience was in Siem Riep, were we had a family room with three beds for the price of one.