Vietnam is famously known as the land of ‘Ascending Dragon’ due to its geographical shape on the world map.
It is an exotic and compelling country with a surreal seascape of limestone islands, distinct and unforgettable food, diverse and complex culture and all the thrills and chills.
Hanoi is the capital and second most populous city (after Ho Chi Minh City) of Vietnam. Hanoi is located in the northern region of the country, situated in Vietnam’s Red River delta. The Legacy of Chinese and French colonial influence can still be seen throughout the city.
This old city is large and spread out and Hoam Kien is the heart of the city where Hoan Kiem Lake is located.
The Old Quarter is the most happening place where you’ll spend all your money and time. All the activity and touristy spots are located here. This is the place where most of the cafes, mid-budget Hotels, lounges, markets, clubs, street stalls, and shops are concentrated.
The most overwhelming thing is that more than half of the vehicles in Hanoi are motorbikes. Crossing streets can be a bit tricky.
Hanoi, Vietnam currency
Like the rest of Vietnam, Hanoi uses Vietnamese Dong (VND). Get your money exchanged in Vietnam. USD has a better rate than any other currency.
The Exchange rate is around $1USD = 22,000 dong.
You can get your money exchanged at Banks, or at gold and jewellery shops. ATM’s are scattered all around the city, save your few bucks by withdrawing money from Banks.
How to reach
By Plane: The Hanoi Airport named as Noi Bai Airport is 10 miles north of the city. Both International and Domestic flights land here. From there you can take a bus or a taxi.
Note: Make sure to check if you need a visa before arriving in Hanoi.
Train/Bus: There are bus services connecting smaller cities to Hanoi. The North-South railway connects all important stops to Hanoi. There are many trains plying between the destinations.
Best Time to visit Hanoi
Hanoi experiences all the four seasons. The best time is Autumn (from September to November) and Spring (March and April). The weather is mild and pleasant.
Summer in Hanoi is hot and humid and winters can be surprisingly cold.
Language and People In Hanoi
The people of Hanoi are very sweet and chilled out. They are in no rush.
People don’t speak English here or speak at a beginner’s level. You will not face any problem because the workers at tourist places and young students can speak English easily. Vietnamese is the official language.
Some Vietnamese words to know
- “Cam On” = Thank You
- “Sin Chao” = Hello
- “Tam Biet” = Goodbye
- “Mot, Hai Ba” = One, Two, Three
Getting around Hanoi
- Take Uber/Grab: The ride-sharing apps in Hanoi offer convenient, reliable and cheap service. They wouldn’t try to rip you off like local taxis and are much safer.
- By Taxi: This option is not suggested due to unfriendly drivers and overpriced rides.
- By Bus: You can travel by bus also. From Airport Jetstar and Vietnam Airlines run private buses to the designated stops in Hanoi.
Where to stay
There is a plethora of accommodations in Hanoi around the Old Quarter. It is the best place to stay as it has pretty stylish hotels, cafes, shops and most of the attractions at walking distance.
You can book hotels in advance ranging from high to low according to your budget.
Some of the Budget Hanoi Hotels are
- Hanoi Little Town Hotel
- Angel Palace Hotel
- Hanoi Fantasea Hotel
- Luxury Backpackers
- Spring Flower Hotels
Things to do in Hanoi
- Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake
The meaning of Hoan Kiem lake is the “lake of the returned sword”. The lake located at the center of Old Quarter and is a major scenic spot of the capital. The beautiful lake is an escape for locals on weekends when cars are blocked off and it’s for pedestrians only.
- Take a stroll in and around Old Quarter
This is the best place for the people who want to grasp the city’s culture or have a curiosity to travel back in time. This place is full of old hidden gems, churches (especially St Cathedral church), French colonial architecture and tons of cafes, bars etc.
- Go on an overnight Ha Long Bay Cruise
Ha Long Bay is Unesco World Heritage site about three hours east of Hanoi. The beauty of this place is due to the Emerald green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, limestone pillars and around 2000 islets. It is a vision of ethereal beauty.
- Go to the weekend night market
Held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the main street in town- vibrant gathering of food stalls, mini vendors, locals and tourists. Open at 19:00 onwards, starting from Hang Dao Street and running north to the edge of Dong Xuan Market. Bargain half the price of what they offer. It’s all fake products cheap market.
- Watch a water puppet show
Catch a water puppet show if you are interested in cultural shows at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater in Hanoi. You’ll be entertained with hour-long performance of Vietnamese folktales with a live orchestra.
- Hire a private tour guy
Hanoi is full of group tours and they are dirt cheap. It’s hassle-free and affordable and you’ll get a guide who will take to the most frequently visited tourist sites.
- Drink a Beer on Ta Hien Street
It is known as the Beer street of Hanoi where people sit outside on small chairs drinking local beer and eating BBQ. People wander around with friends and party.
- Take a motorbike taxi
It is probably going to be the best experience. Book a motorbike by uber/grab and hang out in Hanoi like a local.
- Visit the Temple of Literature
It is also known as the Van Mieu Temple is a great example of Vietnamese architecture. It was originally dedicated to Confucius.
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
This place is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh. He was the most iconic and popular leader of Vietnam. His body is preserved in a glass case at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in central Hanoi.
Things to eat in Hanoi
Vietnamese food will make you a fan. It is as diverse as its landscape.
Here food is all about balance. It may be in terms of nutrients, taste(between sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty)or presentation. Fried food is served with fresh vegetables, hot pork with cold vermicelli, and soft noodles with crunchy vegetables. Some of the best dishes are:
Pho: It is the most classic Vietnamese dish, which is rice, noodles served with beef or chicken, onions, garlic and cilantro in a sour and tasty broth.
You can get the best Pho at GIA TRUYEN on 49 Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm between 18:00 to 22:00.
Bun oc: It is the snail noodle soup which is Hanoi’s classic comfort food. It comes with rice noodles (bun), tofu, sometimes beef and crab meat, and a heaping plate of the greens that accompany most Vietnamese dishes.
Spring Rolls: These spring rolls are stuffed with green vegetables and chicken or shrimp and are either wrapped in rice sheets or deep fried.
Hanoi-style barbecue: Hanoi Barbecue street food stall is full of lazeez meat kebabs, seafood skewers and veggies.
The best place at Old Quarter is 66 P Hang Bong, fill your plate and get grilling at mini barbecues that are placed near each table.
Bun Cha: This dish is only served in Northern Vietnam. It’s pork fatty meatballs, grilled over a fire, and served in a soup with rice noodles and green vegetables.
Banh Mi: It is a sandwich made on a French Baguette and loaded with tons of vegetables, meat and Vietnamese spices.
Banh Xeo: It’s a crispy crepe made with fried rice flour batter filled with pork belly, shrimp, green onions, and bean sprouts.
Cha Ca: It is white fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric and served on a sizzling pan.
The best place to have this is 21 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi.
Bun Thang: It is rice vermicelli with chicken, egg, and pork can be enjoyed at any time of the day. The clear yet flavored broth is made with 20 ingredients. All these are carefully arranged as a flower. Best Place to Eat this dish is 48 Cao Go, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.
Overall you will get to enjoy the city’s culture and a delicious mix of french colonial architecture.