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Best Travel Ideas for First Timers in Hanoi, Vietnam

 

Find there the best Travel Ideas for First Timers in Hanoi, Vientam. They range from fun things to do in Hanoi old quarter, to Hanoi Instagram spots, must try Hanoi food experiences, Hanoi shopping options, markets and even a tip how to be an extra in a Vietnamese movie. Discover also the best places where to stay in Hanoi. #hanoi #vietnam #hanoitravel #oldquarter #hanoivietnam #hanoihotels

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam is a vibrant city with so much to offer. It was one of our last stops in our month-long Vietnam trip and I sure can say that the trip ended the best way possible, as Hanoi left us with a great impression on Vietnam.

I would describe Hanoi as a hot mess since it’s literally very hot most of the time. It’s very loud from all the traffic on the streets, but also pretty cool with something happening around every corner.

 

Night bus Hanoi Vietnam
On the overnight bus from Da Nang to Ha Noi

How to get to Hanoi

By plane

There are different options on how to travel around Vietnam as the distances between cities are huge. The most convenient one is by plane, as there is a great airport just outside Hanoi.

For traveling inside Vietnam there’s a Vietnamese national airline VietJetAir, that offers daily flights for budget prices. For example flight from Ho Chi Minh City, which is located in the South of Vietnam, to Hanoi in the North costs only about 50 USD one way.

By train

Another popular option is taking a train. There are train stations in most major cities and it’s another convenient way how to cross the whole country. And the views that you’ll get along the way are well worth the long journey.

The prices are slightly more expensive than for a flight (starting from 60 USD and up from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi) and the travel time will be much longer. However, it’s an adventure!

By bus

As we were in Da Nang, which is a city in the middle part of Vietnam, we decided to take an overnight bus. It would be just a good night sleep on a 10-hour bus ride and we’re there.

And it is actually the cheapest option how to travel in Vietnam. You can get from across the whole country by bus for about 30 USD. It takes more time, but the journey is comfortable and no luggage hassle like it’s in the case of flights.

I’m sure 10-hour bus ride sounds terrifying at first, these buses are actually very convenient way how to travel through the whole country And the cheapest option as well. All of the long-distance buses are actually „Sleeper busses”, where you don’t even have an option to sit up. You will just lay down on a chair which is in a horizontal position and get comfortable for the ride. We used „Futa Bus” services through the whole country and were extremely satisfied.

If you can’t decide which option, bus or train, would fit you better for traveling in Vietnam, check out this guide on how to get around Vietnam to have more insight.

Hanoi Traffic
Hanoi Traffic

If you are planning a longer visit to Vietnam, get some good ideas in this 1 month Vietnam itinerary. Or if you wanna continue your travels to nearby countries, taking the bus from Vietnam to Laos is always a great idea.

How to get around Hanoi

Our first impression when arriving at the bus station was „extreme”. We were just woken up after a long night sleep and got out of the bus in the middle of the crazy heat, noise and what felt like thousands of people around just going on with their day. We were suddenly approached by taxi drivers offering to take us to our hotel.

We met some cool Chinese girls on the bus and teamed up with them to get a taxi as all of our hotels were in the same area. As we found out taxi drivers ask very high prices if they see that the person is not local.

So we opted for Uber. Luckily one of the Chinese girls had a local SIM card with mobile data and was able to get an Uber which ended up taking us to our hotel 4x cheaper than a taxi.

!!!IMPORTANT TIP: If possible, always try to get a local SIM card with some amount of mobile data, so that you are able to get online and call UBER in order to get someplace. It actually goes for different kind of emergencies. In most countries, you can rely on finding a cafe with free wi-fi, but in many parts of Vietnam, it’s quite impossible.

Overall we learned that the best options to get around Vietnam are using such apps as UBER or GRAB, where you can also get a motorbike taxi. Using a regular taxi as a foreigner will usually cost you much more than it should have.

Depending on the area you are in, Hanoi is very walkable. That was our own favorite option how to move around the areas that we were exploring.

Traveling in Vietnam is an art. Click here to learn some useful and very interesting things you might want to know before arriving in Vietnam.

Best areas to live in Hanoi

Hanoi street, Vietnam
Streets in Hanoi are never empty

For a first time traveler to Hanoi, the two main areas to consider should be Hoan Kiem, also called as Hanoi Old Quarter or Tay Ho known as the expat area of Hanoi.

Hanoi Old quarter is a very lively and touristic part of the town where everything happens. It basically consists of a labyrinth of small streets, little shops, cafes, hotels, markets, street food vendors and so much more. Spending time in this part of the city will give you a real taste of Vietnam.

Tay Ho is a beautiful area by the West Lake and is a popular expat choice of living. In this part of the city, you will have a mixture of cultures, different restaurants with European and American cuisines, more cosmopolitan lifestyle. Many parts of this area actually made us feel like we are walking the streets of Paris. You can really feel the French influence over there.

Here are some great accommodation options to consider when visiting Hanoi. None of these will disappoint you:

BUDGET $

Old Quarter View Hanoi Hostel – a nice budget hostel for as low as 9 USD per night in a dorm room. They offer both mixed and female only dorms. They are located in the Hoan Kiem area, being very close to the main attractions around.

Check the price and availability here!

Hanoi Brother Inn & Travel  – very centrally located hostel offers dorms for 7 USD per night, as well as private rooms starting at about 20 USD per night. They offer a great service, very clean rooms, and the location is perfect for exploring Hanoi Old Quarter.

Check the price and availability here!

MIDDLE CLASS $$

Hanoi La Selva Hotel – a beautifully designed hotel in the heart of the Hanoi Old Quarter. Short walking distance from everything you might need. Prices start at 43 USD per night and are incredibly worth it.

Check the price and availability here!

Hanoi Golden Holiday Hotel – this hotel has it all. Perfect location in the Old Quarter, delicious breakfast, extremely clean and great wi-fi. For the price of approximately 45 USD, you’ll experience great comfort.

Check the price and availability here!

UPSCALE $$$

Lotte Hotel Hanoi – staying here will make you feel like a king. Beautiful rooms, amazing pool and a WOW moment is what you are up for staying here. Rooms start at about 160 USD per night.

Check the price and availability here!

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi – this is as luxury as it gets in Hanoi. Located in a historical building near the Old Town, it offers great service, royal rooms, and amazing food experience. Prices start at around 300 USD.

Check the price and availability here!

While planning your next Vietnam trip, take a fun flags of Asia quiz to test your knowledge of Asian countries.

Things to do for First Timers in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam
Local ladies doing a morning work out. Always easier to keep fit as a team.

1.Wander around Hanoi Old Quarter to experience the unique character of this old city

Here you will duck and dive to avoid the swarms of motorbikes that race through the narrow streets. You will pass hundreds of small shops, street vendors, locals living their lives right on the sidewalks and so much more. It’s going to be intense, but unforgettable.

2. Visit Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. You will hear traditional Vietnamese folk music and see a puppet performance of the water. This is a unique experience as this form of art is more than 1000 years old. It was first invented by Vietnamese farmers who performed the puppet theatre over the flooded rice fields. What a unique way to learn more about this culture!

3.Experience Vietnamese tough history in Hỏa Lò Prison

Many parts of Hanoi still shows marks of Vietnamese history with French and Americans, and one of the brightest examples Hỏa Lò Prison – nowadays called the “Hanoi Hilton”. This is a notorious prison that has housed a lot of torture and tough times. This visit will give you an insight into how Vietnam has changed through the decades.

 

Phở, an incredibly delicious Vietnamese noodle soup

4. My personal favorite of all – Enjoy a steamy bowl of Phở

Use the opportunity to taste Phở at the place where it was created. It is the most popular Vietnamese dish – a noodle soup with beef or chicken. There’s an option to add some lime juice, which makes the taste heavenly.

You can get Phở at absolutely any cafe, big or small. Vietnamese themselves normally eat it for breakfast, but this delicious soup can be enjoyed any time of the day. My absolute favorite place where I had the best chicken pho was Phở Huyền, located at 31 Chau Long street, Hanoi.

5. Try Vietnamese coffee

This is another unique experience. Vietnamese coffee is usually served in a small glass and coffee fills just a tiny part of it. You are supposed to fill the glass up with ice cubes and let them melt, to make a nice cold drink.

If you order white coffee, a sweet and thick condensed milk will be added to the glass. It tastes unique and great all at once. There are some cafes where they offer Vietnamese coffee with coconut milk. If you ever see that on the menu, make sure to try it. Coconut coffee tastes incredible there!

 

Flower market, Hanoi, Vietnam
A typical flower market in Vietnam

6. Visit local Quang Ba flower market near Tay Ho district

It’s a unique experience to see the beauty of Vietnamese flowers and the buzz that happens around them. The variety and abundance of flowers will surprise you and handmade pots and pottery will add to the beauty and magnificent aroma in the air.

It’s an exciting experience as everything happens during the night-time. The market opens around 11 pm and stays open until early morning. The best time to visit is around 1 am – 2 am when you will experience totally different Hanoi.

7. Take a city tour in Cyclo

Cyclo is a bicycle rickshaw where you can sit back and relax for a tour of the area and through the intense traffic. It will be an adventure worth experiencing! The best chance to find a Cyclo is near Hoan Kiem Lake in the Old Quarter. However, they can be found all over the Old Quarter. Just make sure to agree on the price with the driver before you get in.

8. If you are into museums, visit the Vietnamese Women’s Museum

It portrays the lives of Vietnamese women of different “levels”, as well as their roles in society and culture. Vietnamese women manage to do a lot with so little, as many parts of the life there are still so underdeveloped. Sometimes we were quite shocked, how people even manage to live like that.

9. Be an Extra in a Vietnamese movie

There are many opportunities for foreigners to be as extras in local movies. That would for sure make an extraordinary and fun-filled day in Hanoi. When your trip comes closer, just Google for such opportunities and see if anything is available. I’ve heard there are also several Vietnamese Facebook groups where such opportunities are posted. It’s well worth a look.

 

Halong Bay, Vientam
Halong Bay, Vietnam

10. Go out of Hanoi for a few days to see some wonders of the world

Northern Vietnam has some of the most beautiful things I’ve seen during my travels. Two of the best options for an easy Hanoi getaway are to visit the spectacular Halong Bay (read about or experience in Halong Bay here) and the natural mountain beauty of Mai Chau (read about our stay in Mai Chau here).

Have a wonderful time in  Hanoi and let it surprise you! 😉

We’d like to thank Indochina Voyagesfor taking us on amazing Hanoi city tour and allowing to experience different sides of it. Visit their site to see more of the great things that Vietnam and other SE Asian countries can offer.

 

Are you getting ready for a long flight to Hanoi or any other destination?

Check out our tips about How to make yourself feel good during a long-haul flight. It might make your upcoming trip so much more comfortable.

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14 comments

  1. Be an extra in Vietnamese movie? Have you got a chance to be one? I’m intrigued. 😛

    1. Hahaa no I haven’t but totally would go for it! 😀 I hear from others it’s absolutely doable and very much fun. 😀

  2. This post comes with a fresh perspective about Vietnam. Most posts focus on places like Halong Bay, etc. But this one talks about Hanoi. Very useful for people like us who have not yet traveled to Vietnam. You have captured the life in the city very well and also packed very important information for travelers.

    1. Thanks for the nice feedback! I hope you get a chance to try some of the things mentioned in the post, as Hanoi is so unique and full of exeriences. I wish you to visit it soon! 🙂

  3. Oh man! This was nostalgia altogether. Loved every nook and corner of Hanoi.
    Although most of my time was spent around the old French Quarters, exploring and sipping on coffee and gorging on local delicacies at the corner shops all day long.
    A 10 hour bus ride from Da Nang to Hanoi is pretty nifty compared to the 20 hour bus ride from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh city!
    Never knew it could be that easy to get yourself in a local movie 🙂

    A great post! Feel like going back to Vietnam !!

    1. Thanks for the comment! Awesome to hear your experience! 🙂 The bus rides are crazy there, but still so much fun! 🙂

  4. The first time I was in Hanoi I had a hard time cross the roads in the city center because the traffic of motorcycles was literally non-stop. Other than that, the city has nice with historic buildings and nice food and market to explore. @ knycx.journeying

    1. I was the same! It took some getting used to crossing the roads but after a few days I mastered it well 😀 Great to hear from you!

  5. We loved Hanoi so much! Vietnam is one of my favorite countries in the world and I always find myself coming back to it instead of going somewhere I haven’t been yet.

    I actually enjoyed the chaos of Hanoi. It was unsettling at first, but after walking around for a few hours, it really grew on us!

    Ah, pho. After you’ve had it in Hanoi, you’re ruined for it everywhere else. 🙂

    1. Hi Sarah! I’m so happy to hear your positive thoughts of Hanoi and Vietnam. It sure takes some getting used to it, but when you do, it’s the best thing ever! 🙂

  6. Hanoi is definitely a hot mess! But a fascinating and fun one! Great tip on finding a local SIM so that you can get around with Uber – I’m amazed at how global the brand has gone! The old quarter was my favorite part of the city – so much character to soak in! And you can’t beat some Vietnamese coffee and a steamy bowl of Pho! Thanks for the guide, really great info 🙂

    PS – I had no idea that it was that easy to be an extra in a local movie – SUPER cool idea – next time!

    1. Hi Megan! Thanks for the comment! And good luck with your next Vietnamese movie 🙂

  7. That’s a well timed article as I was just looking into Vietnam for our next trip! Hanoi looks like a great city. How long would you recommend spending there? We have Halong Bay on the list too! Those hotels look lovely. The Hanoi Golden Holiday Hotel seems perfect and so well priced. I’d love to see the old quarter and the puppet show. Great list you’ve got there. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Cindy!

      Thank you for the comment! How exciting to have a Vietnam trip coming up soon! 🙂 From my own experience a week in Hanoi should be great, to be able to visit different sights and parts of the town as well as just relax and not rush around all the time. But you can absolutely get by well with less days, depending how long your trip is in total. Make sure to spend some time in the Old Quarter and also in Tay Ho as they are so different and will give you two opporite experiences of Hanoi.

      Have the best time in Vietnam! 🙂
      Anete