From the airport:
Hanoi is one of the few places I would recommend taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel. Or ask your hotel to arrange a pick up – someone with your name on a sign waiting for you when you arrive. Official taxi rate is 360 000 dong (17USD) (at least to the Old Quarter) – don’t pay more. To avoid taxi scams, take official taxis only.
There is a public bus from the airport (approximately 3 000 dong – yes, a lot cheaper than a taxi), but it stops short of the Old Quarter, so you have to catch a taxi from there to your hotel anyway, and you’ll probably pay far too much for it.
There are so many hotels in Hanoi, just take your pick. If you’re happy to stay in very basic accommodation you can find some quite cheap rooms. We paid $16 USD for a double room in our favourite hotel, but you can find cheaper. We’ve stayed here several times now – Fantasea Hotel, Hanoi. As in most cases, it looks better on the website than in reality. But if you’re looking for a basic clean hotel in a convenient location, this is the one we use and can recommend. You can change money at reception (USD and Euro) and they can also do all your tour and train ticket bookings for you.
I suggest before you come to Hanoi, book the first couple of nights in a hotel of your choice, and if, after you get there, you don’t like the hotel, or just want to change, go for a walk in the area you’d like to stay and you’ll find plenty of hotels to choose from.
Walking is the way to go in Hanoi. Or take a motorbike taxi. Or rent a motorbike or a scooter – only for the brave. And check your travel insurance documentation before you get on 2 wheels in Hanoi to make sure you’re covered for accidents.
We usually walk, though, which is possible if you’ve got the time and are in reasonably good shape. The Old Quarter is definitely better on foot, there’s so much to see you’ll miss everything if you’re flying by on a bike. Plus the streets are usually so crowded with cars, bikes and scooters, sellers and tourists that it’s just much more practical on foot.
There’s so much choice here it’s just a wonderland of deliciousness! Most, if not all, street food in Hanoi is going to be delicious. If you’re afraid of eating in unclean places, then you probably shouldn’t be in Hanoi. Or you should find some expensive restaurants to eat in if you’re worried about the hygiene in the streets (although you can’t be sure that an expensive restaurant has good kitchen hygiene either, can you?). Footpath eating is the go here.
Don’t be afraid, just enjoy every bite! Here’s a handy guide to Vietnamese food in Hanoi.
Some local food:
- Pho (soup)
- My xao (noodles with meat/vegetables)
- Bahn Mi (sandwich with pate, meat, salad, chilli sauce and cheese spread)
- Bahn cuon (steamed rice rolls with meat and mushrooms)
- Nem (fried spring rolls)
Drinks to try in Hanoi must include the local beer, Bia Ha Noi – perfect on a hot sticky day or night in Hanoi.
There’s also the famous iced coffee Vietnamese style, and the delicious green tea which is served everywhere.
Markets are the best place for almost everything. Although there are more traditional shopping centres to be found in Hanoi (Trang Tien Plaza for example), the markets are 100 times more fun and you never know what you might find there. There’s fashion, food, shoes, toys, things for the house, bags, souvenirs etc. My favourite market is Dong Xuan Market (and not just for the meatballs we found outside!).
There are so many things to see in Hanoi, the list is endless. There are museums and temples everywhere, interesting historical places, and of course you can go and visit Ho Chi Minh in the mausoleum (be sure to check days and times it’s open. We’ve missed him every time we’ve been to Hanoi).
Some of the most visited places include:
- Hoan Kiem Lake
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- West Lake
- Temple of Literature
- St Joseph’s Cathedral
- Lenin Park
- Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Have your hair cut outside on the footpath!
Hanoi’s Train Street -stand as far back as you can as the train speeds past you.
Couples both young and old, backpackers, honeymooners, adventurers, families with older children.
Don’t bring big suitcases with you to Hanoi (or Vietnam in general). Most hotels I’ve seen here have no lift and very small, narrow staircases, so backpacks are a better option. And book a room at the back of the hotel if possible, not facing the street – Hanoi wakes up very early and you’ll hear everything!
Let me know your favourite things about Hanoi in the comments below!