We decided to take the long journey over to Hanoi in sections with a long haul flight. We spent the night airside in a hotel at Kuala Lumpur which was just perfect! We ended the whole experience feeling freshed and ready to explore Hanoi instead of tired and jetlagged. It was the first country we visited which was completely different to what we know and have at home so we were very excited to get stuck in!
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment right in the centre of the old quarter. It is the vibrant, busy, beautiful part of the city and 100% the best place to stay! Just go out for the day with no particular plan except to explore. You’ll find yourself wondering down beautiful little backstreets, finding lovely little shops and cafes.
Make sure you visit Hanoi over a weekend as every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night one of the main old quarter streets gets closed to traffic to set up a huge night market full of goods, gifts and replica products. It’s a great place to spend an evening, testing out your haggling skills and getting some bargains!
This was one of our favourite areas to explore. Costing only 30,000 vnd per person it’s a great place to see some beautiful temples and learn some Hanoi history. We went around 4/5pm just as it was going dark and it was so quiet and peaceful at this time.
At the end of the old quarter the lake connects all different parts of the city together. Take a walk around the lake which feeds off into the more modern part of the city, the french quarter and back round to the old quarter.
Free to explore the grounds after a quick security check it’s a good place to add onto the list if you have more time. There is also the museum you can go in but I think it comes with a fee.
For 30,000 vnd per person this is a must if you want to understand more about Hanoi, Vietnam and the wars history. A lovely, informative place to spend an hour or two.
A little further out the city centre (20/30 mins from old quarter outskirts) but a truly beautiful pagoda! Free to visit and it’s a small area so you won’t need much time to see this place.
Nestled into the streets of Hanoi are some beautiful little streets for the trains to pass through the city. Go and wander along the train tracks and have a drink at one of the tiny cafes on the side while you wait for the train to arrive. Make sure you squeeze in as they come pretty close by!
It was a complete culture shock but we loved it. I think you get some really big misinterpretations about Asian countries which we feel (here in Vietnam anyways) are wrong. We have felt safer here than in most American cities. The people are so friendly and always willing to help and give you the best quality service!
We also love that they are healthier, happier and much more social than we see in our homes today. They sit around in the streets together instead of being stuck inside consumed by technology. They also eat their meals together and generally enjoy the company of others. We also didn’t see any homeless or crazy drugged up people which we saw hundreds of in the other countries.
Maybe a little naive but we hadn’t even given the issue of smog a second thought before arriving in Hanoi. However, once arriving and seeing the fog like sky surrounding the city we gave it a little google! We then discovered how much of a problem it is here. Hanoi is one of the worst cities in the world to suffer from smog. As I (Lottie) has asthma I really struggled here in Hanoi. It instantly affected my breathing and sleeping so we bought some masks to wear when outside. A very strange feeling but for the sake of our health well worth it! Hanoi is working towards a total motorbike and car ban in certain city centre areas by 2030 which is good to hear, but I think will also completely change the feel of the city. I would love to come back to see the changes after then!
A very personal one here as most people rave about the street food here but it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t like it from a hygiene aspect and much preferred to try out all the different cafes and restaurants around the city. Maybe one day I’ll pluck up the courage to try it! The restaurants and cafes are cheap in comparison to western countries, but the street food is pennies! A no brainier if on a really tight budget.
I think for the both of us we were completely hit here with a culture shock. It is completely different to home so here are just a few pointers to help you settle in. Don’t worry – it won’t take long and after a while you’ll love it!
The traffic is CRAZY here in Hanoi! The pathways are non-existent so the roads are for a mixture of walkers, bikes, scooters, cars and buses. Our advice is trust the system. The locals are the experts here and will maneuver around you. Try to keep a steady pace when crossing the road. Be confident, don’t hesitate and the locals will adjust their route to suit you. Also don’t be put off by all the beeping... it’s mainly there to alert you they’re behind you and going to overtake.
This is the norm here in Vietnam. For the goods they expect you to barter and admire you for it. Give yourself a price you’re not willing to go above and stick to it. If you walk away they will most likely come after you with another offer! We also found out off some fellow travelers that they give you different carrier bags for your goods dependent on how tough a haggler you are! They use this to communicate between themselves who is a hard haggler and who’s not too bad. Most customers just get the red plastic bags but they will give you a green one if you’re really tough!
It may sound obvious but just get your head around the conversion rate. You will then know whether prices sound reasonable or not before you’re committed to the sale. One thing you will learn is just how much cheaper everything is here! Coming from the expensive first world countries we loved it right away. Also, just double check before handing money over – 10,000 and 100,000 vnd look so similar and are very different amounts of money!