UPDATED HANOI TRAVEL GUIDE 2019 | In a tail-end of a long-term trip and long relationship, I arrived in Hanoi in cool October 2017 with a heavy heart and wheeled backpack, ballooning body and credit card bill, and a very light savings barely enough to cover rent and essentials for the coming two months. I told myself I would only stay for six months. When the 6thmonth arrived, I proclaimed I would stay for six more months. It has been almost two years now that I now claimed Hanoi as my Point A, as my home sans my cats and my library.
The longer I stayed in Ha Noi, the longer the list of things I cannot live without becomes. Bidet for example, LOL. That precious bum gun I instinctively reach out after using the toilet wherever I am.
So here is a travel guide that mixes the touristy, the local, and the expat-ish Hanoi, Viet Nam.
From 1883 to 1945, Hanoi was the heart of French Indochina colony. The French built a modern administrative city south of Old Hanoi, creating broad, perpendicular tree-lined avenues of opera, churches, public buildings, and luxury villas, but they also destroyed large parts of the city, shedding or reducing the size of lakes and canals, while also clearing out various imperial palaces and citadels. This is most evident in Old Quarter, otherwise known as French Quarter (Bai Dinh District), which is next to Hoan Kiem District.
The capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city, the modern Hanoi (Vietnamese: Hà Nội) is the child between France and the old Vietnam.
While Southeast Asia is all about t-shirt and shorts day, Hanoi is that character that doesn’t conform. Unlike its sister Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hanoi has four seasons.
From December to January, it can be really cold. The temperature can dip as low as 5ºC. Some houses and buildings are not really built for weather condition like this. So if your trip falls into these months, bring warm or legit winter clothes. Winter in Hanoi is mostly gray and rainy, too gray you forget blue sky actually existed. On the positive side, it is not humid; and walking around, as long as it is not rainy, is very relaxing. I prefer it to the sweaty and humid as fuck June and July.
The ideal time to travel in Hanoiis spring and autumn. From September to November, there is a change in temperature. Not too hot, but not chilly either. It is a comfortable time to explore the city and its neighboring destinations.
Spring is a big business for the Vietnamese.February is the start of the lunar calendar, so there is this Tet Holiday, a holiday that can span up to 10 days. Some places, especially the local ones, can be closed for the holiday. But it doesn’t mean Hanoi becomes a ghost town eh. Less local flare, less traffic, but the city is functioning just fine.
SOME IMPORTANT NOTES ON VISA-ON-ARRIVAL IN VIETNAM
VERY IMPORTANT! Again, you need a pre-approved visa letter before arriving in Noi Bai International Airport. It looks like this.
Depending on where you are, a flight to Hanoi is not expensive, especially if you book it in advance. I always use Skyscanner to compare different prices on different days, airlines, and even months!
What Are the Power Sockets/Outlets Popular in Hanoi and Vietnam?
In the city, it is mostly Type A.
Hanoi or Vietnam in general is known for its affordable street food. Most people travel here to experience the vast options of food you can easily find while walking around. That being said, cash is the most popular mode of payment. Some hotels, especially 3-stars and up, offer credit card payment options. But when you are on the street, bring VND.
VERY IMPORTANT! Vietnamese Dong (VND) can be a tricky currency to navigate. You will be a millionaire in Vietnam. Things to watch out, 50KVND (2USD) and 200K VND (8.5USD) kinda look the same. The same goes with 20KVND (.90USD) and 500K VND (21USD). It happened to me! It was painful to my pocket and ego to mistake 500K VND for 20KVND! No, some locals will try to be sneaky about change, so make sure to double-check your bills and change.
I’m from the Philippines, so Internet-wise, Vietnam is heaven for me. With my line of work and with my constant state of being lost, I can’t function without Google Maps. LOL
It is very easy to get a sim card here. You can get it in any Thegioididong Shop (these yellow stores are everywhere!) You can also directly get it from Viettel (I’m using this), Vinaphone, and Mobifone. Don’t forget to bring your passport with you coz they need it for their database. If you want to top up your phone, you can get it in any Circle K or Vinmart.
VIETTEL USERS: Once a month, I top up for 100K VND (Php223, $4.30, 3.80 €) and dial *191* to get a monthly Internet package. That cheap, bitch! Whereas in the Philippines, I had to pay at least $30 a month for my Internet consumption!
If you’re only staying for a short period, I personally think you don’t need a sim, WiFi is everywhere!
If you’re a worry wart that you might be scammed, you can always ease your overthinking mind by booking a private car. I sometimes use Klook to book a car for visiting friends if I can’t pick them up in the airport and/or they’re not comfortable traveling by Grab or bus.
BOOK A RELIABLE PRIVATE CAR HERE
Beware of the taxis in northern Vietnam. Scamming can be rampant here. So instead of taxiing around Hanoi, I highly recommend you download Grab (Southeast Asia’s version of Uber) and book your ride through this app. Noi Bai International Airport is 10 km away from the Old Quarter.
G7 is a local app dedicated to taxis. It is a bit cheaper than Grab. But it is as reliable. You pay what is reflected on the meter while the app gives you a range of what you have to pay. So far, so good with this app.
As of 2019, there are two new bike-riding apps available aside from Grab: Beand Go Viet.
Whether you are a doe-eyed tourist or a seasoned backpacker, chances are you gonna stay at Old Quarter, otherwise known as French Quarter and Hoan Kiem District. You take Bus 86, which comes and goes every 15-20 minutes outside the Arrival Gate. Check the airport map and the timetable below for more information.
Before coming here, make sure your Google Maps is updated. Google Maps has all the bus routes and bus stops around the city. Most buses, except the airport buses, only cost 7000VND a ride. It is rare to get scammed in city buses, the price of the ride is printed in the ticket.
If you’re sensitive with the mattress quality you’re sleeping on, check the photos for the thickness of the mattress. Why am I very specific about this? Most Vietnamese prefer to use a slim and hard mattress for sleeping. While there are many hostels and budget accommodations that now use thick mattresses, be vigilant and ask beforehand. 😉
IMPORTANT NOTE! All accommodations collated in this travel guide are all located in Old Quarter, Hanoi, which is the ideal place to stay if you want to travel more conveniently
With safety deposit boxes, a fireplace, a selection of shops, a convenience store, and an infirmary, it offers various convenient features to make your stay more comfortable. It offers family rooms, so your whole family will have adequate space to hang out together. From a coffee shop to room service, the Hanoi Evergreen Hotel features a range of dining and snacking options for guests to enjoy.
Address: 21 Hàng Đồng, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
You will love the Luxury Backpackers with its exceptional location in Hanoi, giving you easy access to all the memorable attractions. The rooms at this hostel have street and courtyard views for guests to choose from, so you are bound to be peering out at appealing scenery.
Address: 56 Ngõ Huyện, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Visit the D’annam Hostel Hanoi and take in all that Hanoi has to offer. The rooms here overlook the city for picturesque views of Hanoi. From a concierge to daily housekeeping, the D’annam Hostel Hanoi offers numerous useful and convenient services, ensuring that you get the most out of your stay in Old Quarter. This Hanoi hostel features family rooms, giving you space to spend time together throughout your stay.
Address: 28 Lương Văn Can, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
The Hanoian Elite Home Hotel is an excellent choice for the ultimate holiday. All of the rooms come with air conditioning, an in-room safe box, an alarm clock, and linens.
Address: 35 Hàng Gà, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Planning an incredible vacation is simple when you stay at the Hanoi Hanvet Hotel. The hotel provides a variety of convenient services, such as luggage storage, a concierge, as well as dry cleaning services.
Address: 5 Ngõ Huyện, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
The Hanoi Garden Boutique Hotel and Spa is in an exceptional spot from which to discover Hanoi and surrounding areas. The hotel offers street, garden, city, and courtyard views, so you are bound to be peering out at appealing scenery.
Address: 3B Chả Cá, Hàng Bồ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
I’ve lived in Hanoi for almost two years now. So this guide is a mixture of things only tourists do, activities locals find endearing, and the typical fun-fares for expats.
The list goes on and goes on. I have lived here for almost two years now, yet there are still places and dishes I haven’t tried. If it is your first time in Hanoi, the first part of this list are the things you can do in Old Quarter area.
The road surrounding the lake is closed on weekends. Expect a volume of tourists on weekends. A lot of activities around. Singing. Dancing. Eating. And other activities you can expect in a touristy place. Visit Hoan Kiem Lake in a weekday morning, like around 6:30-8:00. It is an entirely different place. Locals often start their day doing some stretches, zumba, dance, badminton matches, and tai chi here. If you are traveling somewhere May-July, expect the fragrance of Barringtonia acutangula tree flowers, locally known as lộc vừng. Of course, the lovely fire trees, golden shower, and banaba bloom this time of the year too.
Here, women wearing non la and with quang gánh (a bent wood where they hang their baskets of goods) on one shoulder trod the streets, looking for people to buy their flowers, fruits, or vegetables. The streets are awash with restaurants, cafes, shops, boutiques, and hostels. Looking at the old French buildings made me think of suffocation. Negative space doesn’t exist here. Everything is cramped. But despite the lack of space, those dirtied blue-yellow buildings felt nostalgic.Jona Branzuela Bering for Rappler.com’s Hanoi: The Charms and Chaos of the Capital
Tired of walking? Be unabashedly tourist. Ride the classic cyclo rickshaw and let an old Vietnamese man show some hidden spots of Hanoi! BOOK YOUR RIDE HERE FOR A DISCOUNTED PRICE
While this might not be interesting for anyone coming from Tondo, Manila, still having coffee or a drink by the railway tracks can be a point of interest. The houses are too closed to the track for comfort. When the train passes by, the tracks are cleared from everything. Yes, it is that narrow.
Time train passes through: 330PM and 730PM
Address: Ngõ 224 Lê Duẩn, Khâm Thiên, Đống Đa, Hà Nội
The classic example of a perfectly chaotic marriage between the local and the foreign. Many travelers called it the backpacker’s street, but no, it isn’t. It is the place where locals—women in their elegant dresses and heels, men in their casual attire—enjoy their weekend with bia hoi (local draft beer), sunflower seeds, and chicken feet. Ta Hien Street is a weekend tradition for many locals. It’s there long before mass tourism existed. It is not your version of Khao San Road.
Bia hoi is light Vietnamese draft beer that only costs 7000K VND a glass. You can see the sign bia hoi anywhere the city. Aside from drinking tea, coffee, popping sunflower seeds, drinking bia hoi is one of the favorite pastimes of the Hanoians. It is very light, that even a non-drinker can gulp his way through five glasses. Ta Hien Street was known for its bia hoi scene back on the days, thus its modern moniker beer street.
Most al-fresco seats in the city face towards the streets for a reason. The Vietnamese love people-watching, if they, especially the digital natives, are not too caught up with their phones ;-). The historic Ma May Street is pretty close to Ta Hien Street but not as busy. It is one of the perfect spots to look at people and have fun. A friend and I often do this on Sunday nighst. We’re nice, but we kinda poke fun of the backpackers who look like they haven’t washed for days.
CAVEAT: So please, if you’re traveling through Hanoi or anywhere for that matter, please lift up our backpacking reputation by showering every day and wearing fresh clothes. So the person next to you doesn’t suffer. The last time I checked, shower in hostels are for free. 🙂 Not showering doesn’t make you cool.
It is a common knowledge that most night markets are utter clichés, they look “same same but different” wherever you are in Southeast Asia. But if you own your tourist self, then there is no harm of walking through a crowded street and check if you need a souvenir for friends back home or a new knock-off Daniel Wellington watch. Regardless, the Night Market is a fun place to see a hodge-podge of knickknacks that surely you don’t need but have the urge to buy and suffer from dead weight once you leave Hanoi.
Address: Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
Open Days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights
That is, if you fit in Vietnamese size. Vietnamese in general are really small, that extra large clothes can hardly fit me. But Dong Xuan Market is a massive place that provides you a summary of the things the locals buy and consume.
1st Floor: electronics, refrigeration, home appliances, watches, backpack, bags, wallets, souvenirs …According to AZLocal Trip’s Guide to Dong Xuan Market
2nd Floor: fabrics for apparel.
3rd Floor: children’s wear, men’s fashion; women and middle age’s wear
Located in the islet of Hoan Kiem Lake, this temple is dedicated to Confucian and Taoist philosophers and Vietnam’s national hero Trần Hưng Đạo. Because of its location, this temple can be really crowded on weekends, so better visit it on a weekday, ideally early in the morning
Four centuries-old, Chùa Cầu Đông is one of the pillars of Buddhist faith in Old Quarter. The scene inside is a stark contrast of the busy streets right outside the temple door.
Address: 38 Hàng Đường, Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
While Vietnam is largely a Buddhist country, there is a place for a Catholic faith, and one of them is St Joseph Cathedral, a late 19th-century Gothic Revival church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi to nearly 4 million Catholics in the country.
Address: 40 Nhà Chung, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
For someone dear, bun cha reminds him of his five-year-old self who thoroughly enjoyed the food he was eating. Bun Cha is a quintessential Hanoi dish. It is hard to find it somewhere else. How to describe it? It is grilled thinly sliced pork belly and grilled meat balls served in a fish sauce-based clear soup with thin green papaya and carrot slices. It is served with a bowl of fresh greens and room-temparature soft bun—Vietnamese vermicelli noodles. Want to spice it up? Put a dash of minced garlic and chilli. It is sooo good.
Price: 50K-70K in Old Quarter
Local places: 30K
My favorite Bun Cha place is at 50 Lac Long Quan Street
The banh mi we’re enjoying today has become a staple in Vietnamese diet since mid-19th century. The banh mi that we know now, which means “bread,” is a French influence. Banh mi culture started in Saigon int he 1950s, so some actually prefer the Saigonese way of stuffing. Not a bread person, I can finish one banh mi. I eventually learned to love cilantro—that herb most foreigners hate, but the Vietnamese ardently love.
One of the most common dishes in Vietnam, a bowl of pho never gets outdated. It’s one of the Vietnamese beloved dishes. While pho places are everywhere, their taste kind vary from one place to another. So if you like it, sample several places. A Filipino, truth be told, I can hardly finish a bowl. It is too big! Haha!
To my fellow rice lovers! One of personal delights is seeing a cơm bình dân sign. It is a buffet, people! For as low as 30K, you can have a plate of rice, two meat dishes and two vegetable dishes with free soup. And the Vietnamese are very generous with rice and calamansi and chilli.
Not a noodle person, I have a hard time finishing a plate or a bowl of noodles regardless of how good it is. But there is something about Phở Xào Phú Mỹ that captivates my tongue. The savory sauce of the sauted beef dripping all over the noodles is soooooo good.
Best place: 45 Bat Dan
Hanoi is a paradise of street food. JOIN A FOOD TOUR to amplify your food experience!
There are more to Hanoi food than pho and bun cha! A foodie? Here is 20 Food You Must Try in Hanoi
The Vietnamese are tea and coffee drinkers. Tea is served alongside coffee. Quaint cafes are aplenty in Hanoi. I ended up frequenting Caphe Cong, the branch overlooking the tiny fountain by Hoan Kiem Lake. Its bestselling coconut coffee blend and green rice milk blend are worth trying, especially in hot and humid days. Giảng Café, on the other hand, is a must for their famous egg coffee. If you want some quietude, try Jouri. If you’re a book and coffee lover, Nest by AIA makes you snap endless photos.Jona Branzuela Bering for Rappler.com’s Hanoi: The Charms and Chaos of the Capital
INTO CAFES? Here are 15 Cafes You Can Enjoy for Their Quaintness, Sceneries, and Quirkiness
Ao Dai is Vietnam’s traditional clothes for women, often worn in important occasions such as graduations and weddings. When the Vietnamese women want their photo taken professionally, they often wear this. So it is rather easy to spot this dress everywhere. Local women with a light make up on and a bouquet of fresh flowers and a long flowing dress with a long slit in each side and flowing pants.
Want to wear an ao dai for a local traditional feel? RENT AN AO DAI HERE
Said to be designed Gustave Eiffel (the very man who designed Eiffel Tower) and built in 1899-1902 by the architects Daydé & Pillé of Paris, Long Bien Bridge is a dilapidated but strong remnant of the past. It is one of the longest bridges built in Asia back in the days. Now, it becomes a walking destination for many travelers
Hanoi is home to the longest mosaic mural in the world! With a length of about 6.5 km, the ‘Ceramic Road‘ is a sight to behold. Although I have lived here for quite some time, seeing the mural from the bus window ellicits a child-like glee and wonder.
Vietnam is long known for its delicious dishes. If you’re a foodie and an expiring cook, take this opportunity to learn how to cook some of the most popular dishes in the country.
What do you get for joining a cooking class?
One of the interesting buildings in the city, this ship-looking building located by the fountain in Hoan Kiem Lake is a popular spot to jug beer, have Thai or Vietnamese dishes, or drink coffee while looking at the bustles on the roads.
Right outside Hoan Kiem District is Ba Dinh District, the French Quarter—-the area where most important government offices, often with mustard yellow paint and dark green windows—are located.
Hanoi is dubbed as the city of lakes, and Truc Bach, aside from Westlake, must be the most picturesque in the city. It is a relaxed neighborhood dotted with temples, cafes, and old egg-yolk yellow walls.
Want to know more about Truc Bach Lake and Its Neighborhood?
One of the popular pagodas in the city, it is better to go to this place on a weekday or early morning. Located in an islet in Truc Bach Lake, Tran Qouc Pagoda, regardless if you’re a believer or not, is a beautiful place to observe Vietnamese worshipping their ancestors and deities and marvel at the sheer intricacy of Buddhist architecture.
A short five-minute walk from Tran Qouc Pagoda, Quan Thanh Temple’s gates remind me of forgotten dynasties. Rightfully so. “Dated to the 11th century, the temple was dedicated to Xuan Wu, or Trấn Vũ in Vietnamese, one of the principal deities in Taoism. As one of the Four Sacred Temples of the capital, Quan Thánh Temple is located near West Lake in a ward of the same name: Quán Thánh Ward; and is one of the leading tourist attractions in Hanoi. The temple’s name means Place (alternatively shop/restaurant) of the Gods. The name of the long street running by the temple is also called ‘Quán Thánh’ street.”
This is a personal favorite. Contrary to its name, it doesn’t house thousands of books rather it feels like your great grandmother’s backyard with all those aged trees. The temple has five courtyards, divided by centuries-old arches.
Address: 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Ba Đình, Hà Nội
WANT TO CHECK OUT MORE TEMPLES IN HANOI? I collated 15 less known temples that might interest you.
The Vietnamese are voracious readers. No doubt about that. They’re everywhere: on buses and cafes, their noses buried between pages. Bookshops are everywhere! Most popular books are translated to Vietnamese. But if you’re looking some titles in English, Bookworm is a quaint independent bookshop that supplies my literary needs in Hanoi.
Address: 44 Châu Long, Trúc Bạch, Ba Đình, Hà Nội
Contrary to its name, Bluebird’s Cafe is a bookshop, cafe with resident cats who might have eaten all the bluebirds. They have all the drink and snack essentials. Tucked in a small alley, Bluebird’s Nest Cafe is a perfect place to kill some hours with a book.
Joke aside, this lovely place is hidden in a small alley.
31. Admire the Mustard-Yellow Presidential Palace
Most expats, 90% of them are westerners and white, live in Tay Ho area, where the biggest lake in Hanoi is located. Au Co strip is where the fun and the cool expat-ish things happen.
Into urban exploring? Here are 10 Places in Hanoi for Urban Exploring