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Anushka Jain
Traveller
Published: Sep 18, 2018 | 30 Views

Hanoi travel guide: what to see, do, costs, & ways to save

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam is a bustling settlement, of museums, street food, motorbikes, and beer- very cheap beer!

It is its second largest city and also one of its most well facilitated. Hence travelling around it isn’t a pain.

Connected by buses, shuttles, taxis and of course, motor-bikes, travelling in hanoi is cheap and time saving. But, you need a comprehensive travel guide if you want to get around comfortably, enjoying your time.

Here are all the ways you can soak in all that Vietnam has to offer, during your stay in Hanoi quickly, comfortably and cost-effectively!


Getting around-

The closest airport to Hanoi is the Noi Bai Airport, which is roughly 25 Kilometres away.

The Hanoi railway station is within city limits. A number of trains connect Hanoi to nearby towns and cities. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city),Hué, Danang, Nha Trang are all connected by air-conditioned trains, sleeper trains.

While the city is connected by cheap shuttles, buses and affordable taxis, locals prefer motorbikes for going around the city. Tourists having an international driver’s license, could probably rent a motorbike.

However, check with your own service providers before taking the risk of renting one.

If not, you can always ply by the motorbike taxis which are present everywhere. There are also ‘green’ city tours on electric cars. If all else fails, you can also use the Uber Taxis.

Even travelling on foot isn’t too bad.

Most places are close-by or easily connected by Hanoi’s cheap public transportation system.

Popular spots-

Hoàn Kiếm Lake

Hoàn Kiếm Lake

The name Hoàn Kiếm Lake means ‘the lake of the returned sword’. Legends say a golden turtle had once surfaced on the waters of the lake, demanding that an emperor return a magical golden sword.

Legends say, it was that sword using which the emperor had defeated an army of 30,00,000 soldiers.

In the middle of the lake,  is a pagoda called the Ngoc Son Temple, which also has a pillar that pays homage to the turtle that had once surfaced here. is on an island called the Jade Island.

The Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the Old Quarter of Hanoi is best for long strolls. At anytime during the day, it is a nice place to spend some time.

However as night comes, the lights across at the other side switch on,  giving a really beautiful effect.

Timings:It is a public place so you can visit whenever you like.

Location:Hoàn Kiếm Lake -Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam Cost:20,000 VND to enter the temple

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Vietnam’s revered leader’s embalmed body is kept on display here inside a glass casket.

Visitors are allowed free entry, but aren’t allowed to take any pictures of the body. On doing so, they risk a fine or worse, imprisonment.

Right opposite stands the Big Lenin statue which is the world’s second largest, after the one standing in Russia.

Timings:Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from7:30 AM to 10:30or 11PM

Location: 2 Hùng Vương, Điện Bàn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội 100000, Vietnam

Cost:Free

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Another of Hanoi’s defining structures, located in the heart of the city, the Imperial Citadel has been standing in its place since the last 1,000 years.

It had been the centre for political power in the region and has a distinct mix of south east Asian architectural styles.

It is one of the many UNESCO world heritage sites in the country.

Timing:It is open from 8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m from Tuesday to Sunday

Location: 9 Hoang Dieu, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi

Cost: 30,000 VND

Propaganda Posters shopping

An interesting but scarring part of Vietnamese history was its time under the communist regime. Propagated through art and culture, there are now a collection of posters from that period lying in Vietnam.

You can take a piece of this history home through propaganda poster shops lining Dong Xuan and Old Quarter markets in Hanoi.

The originals come at hefty prices however many reproductions are freely and cheaply available.

Timings:Vary

Location: Old Quarter, Đồng Xuân Market

(Đồng Xuân, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi 100000, Vietnam)

Cost: Variable.

Thang Long water puppet theatre

Water Puppetry is an art that has been in Vietnamese tradition for thousands of years. Especially in Hanoi in fact, it emerged along the Red River delta (where Hanoi lies) itself.

Puppets are manipulated by strings from above moving, as if they were floating on water.

The theatre prides itself in being the only theatre across Asia that performs Water Puppetry all 365 days of a year and, is one of Vietnam’s best.

The puppet shows are accompanied by English commentary. Hence, foreign tourists need not worry.

Timings: Timings of shows vary as per their schedule. Please check the theatre's websitefor their corresponding schedule during your visit. (Reservations for seats also take place through there.)

Location: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang street, Hanoi 10000, Vietnam

Cost:  1,00,000 VND

Hanoi Hilton prison

A prison from the times when the country was under its famed communist regime, the Hoa Lo prison has been converted into a museum today.

It is the same prison where former US Senator John McCain was held captive.

The prison was destroyed partly some years ago, however a part of it still remains as a museum documenting how prisoners were kept in captivity and tortured long ago.

Timings: 07:30am - 11:30am & 1:30pm - 4:30pm. Closed on Monday)

Location:9A Phu Doan street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi Old Quarter, Vietnam

Cost: 30,000 VND

Temple of literature

It is a temple complex constructed in honour of Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher.

The temple complex is sprawling. There are five different courtyards, two of landscaped gardens and the rest of the three have unique features.

The third courtyard has a large pond known as the well of clarity, the fourth has a statue of confucius and is called the Sage Courtyard. The fourth is called Thai Coc.

The temple is almost 1000 years old. It also contains a university which was built by the ruling emperor of that time, according to confucius’s taught systems.

Timings:Tuesday - Sunday 8:30 - 11:30 & 13:30 - 16:30

Location:Quoc Tu Giam Street, Dong Da District, Hanoi 100000, Vietnam

Cost: 30,000 VND

Drink Bai Hoi and Hanoi’s street food

Bai Hoi is the world’s cheapest beer. It is consumed unusually commonly in the city. Worry not, it only has 4% of alcohol content and hence it is so.

It isn’t one of the best tasting beers in the world however, it isn’t something not worth the experience, too.

A bottle of the beer costs 5000 VND.

Apart from this, one should try Hanoi’s street food. Bun Cha is Hanoi’s most famous food. A dish of grilled pork and noodle, it is said to have originated in Hanoi itself.

Pho is another dish which is very popular across Hanoi. It is a rice noodle soup with beef and some herbs.

Shops across Đồng Xuân Market, Old Quarter’s streets, and around Hoàn Kiếm Lakeserve street food.

How to save money which travelling in Hanoi

i) To cut down on travel times and cost, it is best to stay in the Old Quarter itself as it has many tourist spots around it.

However, if you identify more with people who love the quiet and its peace you may want to move out of there.

Hotels in Hanoi are cheap, and it has hostels as well. But as you begin to look for more and more comfort, it will get expensive.

You can also choose to put up in homestays, and Airbnbs.

ii) Shopkeepers in Hanoi entertain bargaining, so don’t be scared of attempting it.

Keep your manners and go at it with respect and humour. Do remember, you probably can afford more as a tourist than the trader so be persistent however, not too much so as to insult him/her.

iii) Eat street food when in Hanoi! It’s cheap, it’s the specialty and its very easily available.

Also, how boring would it be if you went back home only to tell your friends you only ate your regular meals from back home? Never tried any Vietnamese dishes? Don’t just visit, travel!

iv) Don’t go for expensive souveniurs at tourist shops. Go street shopping at local markets. That way, you’ll have something that will be truly vietnamese, while experiencing it the way of Hanoi’s citizens and get it for cheap.

v) Keep your eyes and ears open.

If you are living in a hotel, ask your receptionist of what costs to expect so you aren’t ripped off. Otherwise, ask a well-meaning local, a friend who has travelled to Hanoi before, or follow a blogger online and get an idea of costs you can expect around Hanoi.

vi) Use public transport or travel on foot. The city isn’t the best place to drive, and definitely not if you’re driving outside your home country for the first time.

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Anushka Jain

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