In a general sense, you have two options: You can stay in one of the waterfront lodgings, most of which (with the exception of the two reviewed below) are very basic; or you can spend the night in the relative peace and comfort of the Cantonment area, where the most "luxurious" options are. Still, with the exception of our three choice picks, the Cantonment hotels tend to look very frayed, if not downright decaying. And the downside of staying in the Cantonment is that you feel very cut off from the real Varanasi, and require an earlier morning wake-up call to get to the ghats; for the sunset aarti, when the streets are often jammed, it may take 30 minutes (and a blood-curdling taxi or rickshaw ride) to get there, and you'll walk the last part. These issues can be solved by staying in a hotel on the Ganges, but this also means you have no chance of unwinding at a pool, eating meat, or drinking alcohol -- still, if you manage to bag a river-facing room, you will have the delight of a waterfront view, with the surreal experience of Varanasi on your doorstep. Note: Staying in one of the budget hotels away from the ghats is inadvisable unless you're used to budget traveling; many have no windows, and the noise is incessant.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.