Hanoi, as Vietnam’s capital and second largest city, is hardly an off-beat travel destination. But a bustling metropolis like it never fails to entertain its first-time visitors — so much so that you’ll be itching for another visit before even leaving the city. Here’s everything you need to know before going:
Any airline that flies to Vietnam has direct flights to the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. From there, you can choose to ride a private car, taxi, shuttle bus, or public bus to get to your hotel. The price will of course vary depending on your choice of transportation and your destination, but do expect to pay between 30,000 VND and 400,000 VND (1 GBP to 14 GBP).
Where to stay:
Most backpackers tend to favour the Old Quarter because of its cheap accommodations and its proximity to all the action. Plus, CNN notes that it’s also the nightlife district — perfect for young travellers looking to socialise and have fun. Even during the day, the Old Quarter is alive with street vendors, motorcycles, and tourists exploring the wonders of this French colonial city.
If you want a bit of quiet and can afford to splurge a bit more on accommodations, then the areas of Tay Ho and Ba Dinh are not as crowded and are good options. They are, however, still close to many historical and cultural sites.
What to bring:
There are lots of shopping centres where you can find anything you might need. Just be sure to pack weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear, as you’ll surely be doing loads of walking.
Winter in Hanoi is during the months of December to March. While it’s still moderately sunny during the day, it can get pretty chilly at night. It’s best to have layers on hand, as something like Tom Tailor’s transitional jacket can keep you warm when needed, while still being very fashionable. Opt for waterproof layering during the spring (March-May) because the city does get a bit of rain. Summertime lasts from June to August, which calls for light fabrics and sun hats. The downside is that Hanoi can get very humid during this time, compared to fall (September-November) when the temperature is pleasant all around.
How to Budget:
Vietnam is relatively inexpensive, but your budget still depends on where you’re going. ExpatBets’ guide to living in Vietnam highlights that the cost of living here is slightly lower than in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s most expensive city. But expats in Hanoi get by comfortably on 400-500 GBP per month, which isn’t intimidating especially for short-term visitors.
Overall, it’s relatively affordable for travellers from all over the world. There are lots of ways to minimise your expenses, like staying in the Old Quarter, going around on foot, and dining in affordable local places. Fortunately, all these money-saving tips are not difficult to do in Hanoi.
Things To Do:
When in Hanoi, you must not miss walking around the French Quarter. Here, the colonial architecture is very distinct compared to the rest of the city and there are many spots that are perfect for photoshoots. The neoclassical exterior of the Sofitel Legend Metropole is very grand and worthy of a glimpse, especially at night when all the lights are turned on. It can make for a very romantic walk, too.
Don’t forget to check out any upcoming shows in the Hanoi Opera House for a cultural activity. The Vietnamese Women’s Museum and the National Museum of Vietnamese History are also worth visiting to understand a bit of the local history.
If you want to learn a new skill on your travel, do check out Vietnamese cooking classes. Even better you can take a pottery class in Bat Trang, a traditional village Southeast of the main city centre. Making ceramics and pottery is very intricate, and understanding how it’s made will surely evoke a newfound appreciate for this lost art.
And if you have the time, you can also take a day trip to Ha Long Bay. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-visit for a reason , and its quaint floating villages, limestone formations, and gorgeous waters will surely tell you why.
With all this in mind, it might be a while before you can travel to Hanoi, Vietnam. Hopefully, this guide will help you get started on the planning so you don’t miss out anything important.