The hotel itself is fine, with comfortable rooms, good air conditioning and a fair priced bar/restaurant attached. The backpacking area is only a ten minute walk and has lots of lively bars and restaurants. Our personal favourite was the Bread and Butter which has friendly staff and a does a cracking Sausage and Mash, albeit with German style bratwurst. We would also suggest the good value happy hour cocktails at Cheeky Monkey bar. I would have given the hotel a fairly positive review aside from what happened when we tried to check-out.
We were called at about ten to nine to say our taxi had arrived and proceeded to the reception desk to check out. We were then asked to wait whilst they checked the room. We asked what they were going to check, and were told it was in case we'd "left anything". The receptionist, her name-badge said "Lucy", made a phone call which wasn't answered and then shouted at the bell boy who got in the lift. I asked if we could pay whilst the room was checked, but I got no response from Lucy who seemed to be filling time by shuffling paperwork. It was obvious they were checking for THEIR own protection, which is highly irregular and I have never experienced anywhere else in the world, and even more baffling given that they had taken a pre-authorisation of my credit card at check in.
A few minutes later the bell boy reappeared and asked us to sit down whilst we waited. I pointed out that we had a taxi waiting outside, we'd had enough of waiting, and just wanted to pay. Lucy, who had now become quite surly, finally gave us the bill and we paid by card before leaving, during which time a maid appeared and headed to the elevator, presumably to check our room.
Just as we'd got into the taxi the bell boy came running out to say there was "a problem". Upon returning inside I was told that "wine" was missing from the mini bar, and shown a slip on which Lucy highlighted the whisky, vodka and cognac. I was by now pretty frustrated and made very clear that we'd not had those drinks, and infact had only had the free bottles of drinking water replenished in our room for two out of the four days so clearly the maid wasn't checking the mini bar properly. After the accusation was made and countered a number of times, and Lucy had made yet another phone call, I was told I could go.
Vietnam is known for it's scams, and most tourists know to be wary of taxi drivers, but you don't expect unscrupulous behaviour from hotels. This is quite obviously a scam to try and increase hotel takings by about $15, which perhaps some people feel pressured into giving in and paying. My suggestion would to be avoid the Empress Hotel. Despite being a fine hotel, the attempted scam by the staff was insulting and left a really sour taste. Find another of the many good value hotels in HCMC, but preferably one with integrity.
Also, be careful to watch out for taxi scams. We were picked up from the bus station by a taxi and driven 5 minutes to our hotel whilst watching the meter rocket up. When we got there we were asked for 288,000d ($15), which is outrageous compared to standard metered price. We refused and only gave 50,000d, which he accepted after I took photos of his registration and said I would phone his office. We later found out the bus stop was just around the corner and the taxi should have cost only around 10,000d. We also heard of another couple paying $30 from the airport when it should cost no more than $9 including all fees.
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- Also Known As:
- Empress Hotel Ho Chi Minh City