Last updated on November 17th, 2018 at 04:25 pm
In our recent trip to Vietnam, we enjoyed visiting Hanoi so much! Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and it is indeed a great city for tourists and digital nomads like us. There are a lot of places for sightseeing, and many things to do in Hanoi. You can hang out and drink beer, eat street food, drink coffee, walk around parks and lakes – there’s so much to do there! There are indeed many things to do in Hanoi and we loved it because they had solid internet connection, a very important requirement for maintaining our online job. We will mention our best food to try in Hanoi, best time to visit Hanoi, where to stay in Hanoi.
Hanoi, as the country’s cultural hub, is the best place to learn about Vietnam’s modern culture. The city has been through a lot but survives and thrives as a modern Asian metropolis despite it all. The people of Hanoi are very amiable – they don’t mind talking to strangers at all! While Ho Chi Minh in the South is a more sophisticated city in Vietnam, Hanoi is definitely a more underrated yet delightfully authentic city to visit up North.
Read here to know about budget travel in Vietnam and how much do you need per day!
How to get to Hanoi
In 2015, Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport opened its new terminal that allowed smoother travels by airplane to the city. There are plenty of different airlines that travel to Noi Bai especially ones from Asia like Cebu Pacific, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines. Budget travel and great deals are also possible by plane with airlines like AirAsia and Tigerair. From the airport, there are buses and taxis that can take you to the city center 35 km away.
If you’re traveling from the Philippines, tickets cost around 3,350 PHP. Those coming in from Western countries like the US can expect to pay $460 USD. You can always check SkyScanner.com for the best airfare deals before you travel.
There are international trains going to and from China in Hanoi’s Gia Lam Station, just 5 km away from Hanoi Station. Sleeper buses tickets typically go for 1,060,000 VND (around $45 USD) and leaving late in the evening means you’ll reach your destination early in the morning. The Tran Quy Cap Station to and from northwest Vietnam. If you’re traveling from Sapa, this is where your train arrives.
Travel tip: You should always book sleeper train tickets in advance as these can be sold out several days before your desired date.
The Giap Bat bus station has buses to and from southern Vietnam. A ticket to Ninh Binh, a city 2 hours away from Hanoi, costs 80,000 VND or less than $4 USD. You can also travel to and from Laos on the bus for around 372,000-341,000 VND. Those who want to take the bus to China can travel from Gia Lam station to Dong Dang, a city in Vietnam just by the Chinese border, for 60,000 VND. From the Vietnamese passport control, you can walk into the Chinese immigration control center. There are motorbike taxis nearby that you can take to Pingxiang for less than 20 US cents.
We recommend riding a bus and night train to save time and get free accommodation for at least one night. Sleeper buses in Vietnam are pretty awesome, too. We really enjoyed our trip on the bus.
Best time to visit Hanoi
Hanoi has a tropical climate, so the city experiences hot and humid days much of the year. It will be harder to go around and enjoyt the places to visit in Hanoi during the summer months of May to early September. Weather-wise, the best time to visit Hanoi is in autumn (mid-September to November) and spring (March and April) when the weather is cooler and pleasant enough.
When visiting a tropical country, always make sure to use sunscreen and to keep yourself hydrated, especially if you’re going to be hopping around from place to place. Stay fresh, stay cool!
Hanoi is known to be city of mainstream tourism and that could be too boring for a modern traveller like you. Good news is, it’s 2018 and you can now enjoy creative experiences crafted by Hanoian.
LandedVibe is the guys behind the curtain curating lots of non-mainstream and less-tourist travel experiences in Vietnam, check them out!
Transportation around Hanoi
While taxis are the most convenient way to travel, you will be well advised to still stay vigilant when riding one. There may be drivers who would negotiate a fixed rate instead of using the meter. These should be avoided if you aren’t familiar with Hanoi because drivers will most likely overcharge you. There are reliable taxi companies that you should choose such as Hanoi Group Taxi, Thanh Nga Taxi and Mai Linh Taxi. A taxi will typically start a ride at 14,000 VND and add 16,300 VND for every kilometer or 6,000 VND every 5 minutes lapsed.
Travel tip: Most drivers in Hanoi don’t speak English very well so it’s best to ask your hotel to write the name and address of your destination in Vietnamese. You can also ask for your hotel’s business card so the drivers will know where to take when you decide to head back.
A cyclo is Vietnam’s version of a pedicab, a cycle rickshaw or a bike taxi. These are cheaper vehicles to use than taxis but are better for shorter distances. Prices do vary based on your negotiation skills and some drivers may try and trick you by “getting lost” and charging more to reach your destination. Just keep in mind that 100,000 VND is good for a 30-minute ride anywhere in Hanoi.
Motorbike drivers, or Xe Om in Vietnamese, can be found all over Hanoi. Just keep in mind that 10,000 VND per kilometer is a reasonable enough price. Find out how far your destination is from where you’re going with a Xe Om so you can negotiate a fair price. Another great way to make sure you don’t get swindled is by writing down the exact price that you and the driver have agreed upon.
For those who want to ride on a motorbike and explore the city by themselves, you can rent one for around $6 USD per day. Just ask your hotel to make the arrangements. Many establishments have bike attendants that charge around 2,000-5,000 VND to make sure your vehicle is safe. Riding a motorcycle can be a really cool way to explore the city and other quieter destinations nearby.
The bus is the cheapest way to travel around Hanoi. However, it may be a bit confusing at first. It’s best to get a printed map from Trang Tien street that shows Hanoi’s various bus lines so you can find your stop and see which bus will take you there. When you ride the bus and pay for a ticket, make sure to ask your conductor to drop you off at your destination since stops are usually unannounced. A ride on the bus only costs 7,000 VND or 30 US cents. If you want to plan your bus ride in advance, click here to check Hanoi’s bus routes before your trip!
ATMs and Currency in Hanoi
The city of Hanoi uses the Vietnamese Dong (VND) as its currency, where $1 USD = 23,315 VND, more or less. Click here to check the exact exchange rate between VND and your currency. There are numerous ATMs all over Hanoi especially near the bus stops by banks like International Bank, Shinhan Bank and Agribank. HSBC and Citibank are also available in Hanoi but the former charges up to 8,000 VND for withdrawals. ANZ has a low withdrawal fee of 20,000 VND while TechComBank and AB Bank, on the other hand, have no fees.
Daily budget to visit Hanoi
Your dollars, euros and pounds will definitely go along way when you travel Hanoi. There are so many affordable places to eat, sleep and relax in the city. Prices are often written in thousands but don’t get too surprised; the Vietnamese Dong (VND) has a much lower value than Western money and even other Asian currencies.
For budget travelers, you can get a hearty meal for 30,000-50,000 VND. On the other hand, 300,000-500 VND (only $13-22!), you can split a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant. A glass of bia hoi, Vietnam’s famous local beer, goes for less than 12,000 VND or $0.50 USD! Cool, right? Finally, for around $20 USD, or less than 470,000 VND, you can eat a gourmet restaurant in Hanoi.
Thinking of where to stay in Hanoi? There are many options from all kinds of travelers, from solo backpackers to large families. A nice hostel, guesthouse or homestay in Hanoi can go for 70,000-390,000 VND ($3-17 USD). For those who prefer somewhere more comfortable, you can stay at a hotel in Hanoi for 450,000-550,000 VND. A luxury hotel room can go for millions in VND. However, you can still experience a luxurious stay in the city that fits your budget with AirBnB! There are chic apartments in Hanoi available for only 240,000 VND ($10.30 USD)! Click here to get a great deal off your first booking with AirBnB!
Things to do in Hanoi
Have you ever heard about egg coffee? It was our first time trying this unique kind of coffee and we really loved it became in one of our favorite things to do in Hanoi! Our friend Tuan guided us around the city and showed us the best places to have some egg coffee. It´s creamy and really delicious. Sunflower seeds will be served to you in coffee shops while drinking egg coffee.
You’ll definitely love street food in Hanoi. We loved Vietnamese food so much. These are our favorite choices: Pho, Bahn mi, pizza and ice cream.
Walking around the lakes
There are beautiful lakes around the city. In the morning and evening, you’ll find Vietnamese people doing sports, walking around the lake or waiting for the sunset. It´s indeed a perfect place to relax, meeting with friends and taking pictures around Hanoi.
We liked the atmosphere in Hanoi at sunset time. A lot of local people wait for the sunset to take beautiful photos. Eating an ice cream or drinking a beer while waiting for the sunset was one of our favorite things to do in Hanoi.
There are a few places to visit in Hanoi. You should try walking around Old Quarter and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. You can also visit interesting museums and pagodas there.
Going for a beer
Hanoi nightlife was really fun. People, both the locals and foreigners, hang out for beer. There are bars with loud music and bars with tiny chairs where you can order some food to pair up your beer with.
It´s a must-visit place when visiting Hanoi. We had an experience sleeping in a cruise and also visiting caves and kayaking around. We also sailed around the limestones in one of the most beautiful places that we have ever visited. It reminded us of El Nido, Palawan. There are day trips but you can also spend a two or three-night tour in Halong Bay cruise. We recommend that you ask for references first from other travelers before taking the tour. This will somehow assure you that you will get what the tour agency promises.
More things to do in Hanoi
This is one of the most touristic places in Vietnam. We highly recommend this place because of our experience. We spend two days hiking between the mountains and rice fields in Sapa. It´s very similar to Banaue in the Philippines. You can spend the night in a local homestay and have a really good local experience drinking happy water. Just make sure you bring both warm clothes and rain coats, just in case it rains. Breathe fresh air and take beautiful pictures in Sapa. We did the tour with Lili´s Agency and we highly recommend it. All people were really happy at the end of the tour. We stayed with Mao in her homestay and she was super friendly. She took care of us and I can say that it was one of our best experiences!
Visiting Hanoi is something you shouldn’t miss while in Vietnam. It’s a really accessible place and can be an arrival or exit point. It’s also the base point if you are heading to Halong Bay or Sapa. We enjoyed traveling by sleeper bus at night. The buses were very comfortable for and has a Wi-Fi connection on board (good speed). A sleeper bus ride is very affordable, too! You can have your trip starting from $10-$15 for around 10-12 hours. Yeah! Vietnam is indeed a great place for traveling on a budget.
When traveling, you don’t always have the best tour companies. Based on other travelers’ experiences and ours as well, not all tours in Vietnam are the good. However, our experience with Lily’s Agency was great! We paired up with them in our trip to Sapa and we really got what they promised. The staff was welcoming. They welcomed us with smiles on their faces and took care of our luggage. They also let us walk around the beautiful area for sightseeing. The staff are very accommodating (always greeting us “Hello!”) and they even offered us a “Welcome Juice” with smiles on their faces.
Food to try in Hanoi
Ah, Pho. A true Vietnam classic. Now popularly served in restaurants all over the world, eating Pho during your travels is still one of the best things to do in Vietnam. This Vietnamese noodle soup is filled with the best flavors and aromas the country has to offer.
Another extremely delightful local dish in Hanoi is Bun Cha, a grilled pork and vermicelli noodles dish. In an authentic Hanoi restaurant, the meat in Bun Cha is cooked over an open flame. The dish is also prepared with some fresh herbs, garlic, red chili and some pickled papaya. You can also order a plate of Nem, or spring rolls, with your delicious Bun Cha.
Nem Chua Be
Speaking of Nem, a tasty variation of this classic Vietnamese food is Nem Chua Be or crab spring rolls. This dish is also made with vermicelli noodles and is paired with sea crab then fried. This creates a harmony of flavors and textures that make Nem Chua Be so easy and enjoyable to eat.
While the food mentioned above can be found in any typical restaurant in Vietnam, Cha Ca is a true Hanoi specialty. Dill and turmeric are paired with fish (usually snake-head fish or mudfish) to create Cha Ca and it is served on a sizzling pan. A typical accompaniment to this dish is a bowl of rice noodles, peanuts, spring onions, parsley, red chili and nuoc cham sauce (a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce).
A northern Vietnam recipe, Banh Cuon is a light and delicate dish made from a thin sheet of steamed rice that wraps ground meat (chicken, pork or shrimp), cha lua (Vietnamese ham), bean sprouts, cucumbers, onion and wood ear mushrooms into one solid snack. Banh Cuon can also be dipped in nuoc cham sauce and may be served with cilantro and fried shallots on top. Y-U-M-M-Y!
Festivals in Hanoi
Tet Vietnamese New Year
Vietnam honors family values during the lunar new year in a celebration known as Tet, a 3-day event. Tet falls on the month of January or February, and the first day of the festival is traditionally reserved for the nuclear family while the second day is in honor of friends and the third day is dedicated to teachers. During Tet, children greet their elders and receive money placed in a red envelope that they can freely spend on toys and games. There are dragon dances and and many traditional performances during this time.
Dong Da Festival
Falling on the 5th day of the first lunar month is Dong Da Festival, a celebration of Emperor Quang Trung’s victory over Qing (Chinese) troops in 1789. The battle took place at Dong Da Hill in Hanoi and is now where the procession from Khuong Thuong temple ends. There is a reenactment of the battle scene where performers where traditional costumes. A Thang Long Fire Dragon is used in the procession as a symbol of victory. It would be a thrill to be a part of this historical event!
Chemp Temple Festival
Celebrated on the 15th day of the fifth lunar month in Hanoi is the Chem Temple Festival. The Chem Temple in the Tu Liem district was built in honor of Ly Ong Trong, a local hero who was sent to China to help defeat Hung invaders. During the event, the hero’s statue is taken to the Red River. There are also other exciting and unique events to see during Chem Temple Festival like traditional wrestling, human chess, a bird releasing contest and some theater performances.
Where to stay in Hanoi
We spent our Hanoi trip in Hanoi Delight Hotel and we really had a great time with them. Kevin, the owner, was very hospitable and welcomed us. Our room was big and spacious we had a nice view of the city. It was in a quiet area and it’s a perfect place to go for a coffee or local dinner. The staff was very friendly and they gave us the best advices for our Hanoi trip like which places to go and how to move around the place.