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Travel Guide Asia Vietnam Hanoi

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Introduction

strawberries in Hanoi

strawberries in Hanoi

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Sprawled along the banks of the Red River, Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam. Originally founded in 1010 by King Ly Thai To as Thang Long (city of ascending dragons), the city has since become a fascinating combination of East and West as strong Chinese and French influences have merged with the Vietnamese way. This is specifically reflected in the city's architecture which is now having to also make room for more modern developments alongside. Hanoi's past can be taken in at sites like Hoa Lo Prison and Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum. Plenty of green areas, lakes and shady boulevards, as well as over 600 temples and pagodas, add to the appeal of Hanoi.

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Neighbourhoods

The city consists of three main areas:

  • The Ancient Citadel Area (11th century) was home to the Royal Family
  • The Old Quarter (Ancient Business Area) dates back to the 11th century and is considered the city's centre.
  • The French Quarter used to be home to French during their time in Hanoi.

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Sights and activities

  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - Visitors are to be respectful both in dress (long pants and sleeved-shirts) and in attitude. Electronic devices are to be deposited before entering the mausoleum. Hours: 08:00am - 11:00am except for Monday and Friday, Price: VND25, 000
  • The One-pillar Pagoda - One of the unofficial symbols of Hanoi, dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. The Pagoda symbolises a lotus blossom (representing purity) growing out of a sea of sorrow.
  • The Temple of Literature - Built in 1070 as a place to worship Confucius and his disciples, it became Vietnam's first university 6 years later. The original area was burned down and destroyed by the French colonialists. Address: Quoc Tu Giam St., south of the Mausoleum, Hours: Daily 07:30am - 5:30pm, Price: VND30, 000 dong
  • History Museum - As its name suggests this museum is a showcase of Vietnam's history. Address: Tran Quang Khai Street, behind the Opera House, Hours: 07:30am - 11:30am & 1:30pm - 4:30pm. Closed on Monday
  • Army Museum - History of the country and of its military. Artifacts include wreckage of B52 bombers, F111 fighter aircrafts and different kinds of weapons from the war. Address: Dien Bien Phu Street, the Ancient Citadel Area, Hours: 07:30am - 11:30am & 1:30pm - 4:30pm. Closed on Monday and Friday
  • Hoa Lo Prison Museum - Home to US prisoners of war, the prison was often called the "Hanoi Hilton". Address: Hoa Lo Street, between Ly Thuong Kiet Street and Hai Ba Trung Street, Hours: 07:30am - 11:30am & 1:30pm - 4:30pm. Closed on Monday, Price: VND20, 000
  • Women's Museum - Includes tributes to women soldiers during the war as well as costumes worn by ethnic minority groups. There are often one-off exhibitions on the 3rd floor. Address: Bao Tang Phu Nu, 36 Pho Ly Thuong Kiet, to the south of the Old Quarter, Hours: 08:00am - 4:00pm. Closed on Monday
  • Thang Long Puppet Theatre - Water puppet show, where the stage is a pool of water surrounded by an exotic pagoda like set, behind which the puppeteers stand in the water. It is accompanied by singers and an orchestra. They charge a nominal amount if you want to take photos. Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hours: Starts about 4:00pm, and there are four shows each night, each lasting about one hour, Price: Admission VND100, 000
  • Hoan Kiem Lake - Beautiful lake in central Hanoi. Jade Mountain Temple, or Den Ngoc Son stands on an island in the lake and to access cross the stunning Red Sunbeam Bridge or The Huc. In the temple there is a preserved giant turtle that died in 1968, and is part of the legend surrounding the lake. Address: Hoan Kiem District, Hours: 7am-7pm, Price: Admission VND30, 000
  • St Joseph's Cathedral - Stunning Catholic cathedral inaugurated in 1886. Beautiful neo-gothic style architecture with amazing stained glass windows. Services are daily and fill up. Address: Nha Tho Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hours: 5:00am-7:00pm, Price: Admission free

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Events and Festivals

The Hanoians love any reason to celebrate, so all of Vietnam's major festivals are celebrated here. The main event is Tet, celebrated at the end of January or early February depending on the moon.

  • Cow Racing Festival - Initially a solemn event, where family member pay tribute to those who have passed away by lighting candles and incense at temples. Afterward, this festival becomes much more lively and cow races are held. The field of the races is meticulously groomed for the festival and prepared long in advance. When the cows arrive, so do hundreds of spectators, who cheer on their cow for this grand event. This event occurs every March in Hanoi.
  • Ba Chua Xu Festival - This festival celebrates the female goddess Ba Chua Xu, who is believed to promoste business success, health, fertility, domestic harmony, and academic success. During this four day celebration in May, devotees flock to temples to worship and offer her offer her gifts and animal sacrifices. During her festival, the markets around her temple light up with activity, and special events, including magic shows, beauty pageants, and sideshows are held in her honor.
  • Buddah's Birthday - During this celebration, Buddha's life, enlightenment, and death are celebrated. Thousands of devotees gather in the streets and create processions that lead to the popular temples in the area. Lanterns are lit all around the city in remembrance of Buddah and the lessons he imparted to his followers. This event is held every April/May in accordance with the lunar calendar.
  • Tet Doan Ngo - This is one of Hanoi's most celebrated events. This festival is also known as the "parasite killing festival", where locals hope to ward away illness and evil spirits with religious ritual. All of those who participate in the festival, must wake up early and eat the traditional dish of fermented rice called, ruou nep". This dish is intended to purify the body and purge the individual of all disease. This festival is held every year around the time when the weather changes from Spring to Summer.
  • The Master Pagoda Festival - This important religious event occurs in March/April each year in accordance to the lunar calendar. This festival is in honor of Monk Tu Dao Hanh, who is believed to have achieved nirvana. This festival is in honor of Tu Dao Hanh's greatness and legacy. To celebrate, locals participate in a lot of religious rituals and perform a special dance that commemorates the birth, death, and reincarnation of this monk.

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Weather

Hanoi has a warm tropical climate with generally two seasons. The hot and wet season lasts from May to September, while the cooler but drier season is from November to February. Temperatures can drop below 10 °C during this time, but generally you will have pleasantly warm weather. Most of the rain falls in July and August when hot and muggy weather prevails, with temperatures frequently hitting more than 30 °C. March and November are good months for a visit. Bear in mind that the months of September and October sometimes bring tropical storms, though these are not usually too severe.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max19.3 °C19.9 °C22.8 °C27 °C31.5 °C32.6 °C32.9 °C31.9 °C30.9 °C28.6 °C25.2 °C21.8 °C
Avg Min13.7 °C15 °C18.1 °C21.4 °C24.3 °C25.8 °C26.1 °C25.7 °C24.7 °C21.9 °C18.5 °C15.3 °C
Rainfall18.6 mm26.2 mm43.8 mm90.1 mm188.5 mm239.9 mm288.2 mm318 mm265.4 mm130.7 mm43.4 mm23.4 mm
Rain Days8.411.31513.314.214.715.716.713.796.56

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Getting There

By Plane

Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) is located about 45 kilometres from the centre of Hanoi and is the biggest airport in northern Vietnam. About 30 airlines serve Hanoi and some main destinations include Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Vladivostok, Moscow, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Paris, Beijing, Guangzhou, Osaka, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Singapore, Frankfurt, Kunming, Melbourne, Danang, Nha Trang and Sydney.

To/from the airport

  • Airport Transfers include shuttle services, minivans and regular taxis, taking 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.
  • There is a shuttle bus in front of the the Air Vietnam Offices just outside of the city centre starting at 5:00am and ending at 5:00pm.

By Train

The main Hanoi Train Station (Ga Hang Co, 120 Le Duan Street. Ticket office open from 07:30am-11:30am and 2:30pm-7:30pm) serves trains heading south. North bound trains depart from Tran Quy Cap Station behind the main station.

There are 2 trains a week between Hanoi (Vietnam) and Beijing. Trains from Hanoi leave on Tuesdays and Fridays at 6:30pm, and arrive two days later at 1:30pm at the Beijing West train station. From Beijing trains depart on Sundays and Thursday around 4:00pm, arriving early in the morning at around 8:00am in Hanoi. The journeys requires a train switch at the border town of Dong Dang. Other intermediate stops include Nanning, Guilin and Zhengzhou, all in China.

Trains also travel south towards Ho Chi Minh City and depart at 7:00pm (SE1), 11:00pm (SE3), 12:25pm (SE5), 05:55am (SE7) and 10:05am (TN1) daily. The 10:05am train is generally not recommended as there are only hard sleepers and hard seats available. Trains SE1-SE8 on the other hand, have air-con soft sleepers (4-berth), air-con hard sleepers (6-berth), air-con soft seats as well as an air-con restaurant car.

By Car

You can hire a car with driver or a motorcycle from most travel agencies in Vietnam. Road conditions are generally good around Hanoi and to the northeast. Roads to the northwest however, a little ropey. As an example a 6-day trip in a 4WD (including the car, driver and petrol) should cost around US$275 - US$550.

By Bus

Hanoi usually is the end or the beginning of the open bus ticket. Many different companies operate open bus tickets and remember to ask around before buying into one company for the journey all the way south to Ho Chi Minh City. For more information on the open bus ticket read the Ho Chi Minh City article.

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Getting Around

By Car

A popular and probably the easiest way to see Hanoi is by taxi. Fare is normally approximately 11,000 dong to 17,000 dong for the first kilometre and then around 9,000 dong after that. Be aware of scams and try to stick to reliable companies such as Hanoi Taxi.

By Public Transport

Hanoi has no metro service, so the only way to get around by public transport is by bus. There are now over 60 public bus lines and these serve many areas of Hanoi as well as a few destinations on the outskirts. Generally, the buses are clean and comfortable, but can get very overcrowded during peak times. Most guesthouses should be able to provide you with a bus map and/or timetable.

By Foot

Central Hanoi can easily be navigated on foot. Walking around this city is the only way to experience the sights, sounds (and smells) it has to offer. Walking around the city makes you part of the traffic - good or bad - but it is the easiest way to have that true local experience. The Old Quarter in particular is best experienced on foot due it's narrow alleyways and small, crowded streets.

The New York Times has a well commentated walking tour of the old quarter here. It is a good start for a self guided walking tour of the old quarter.

Note: Try to study the map discretely and know your next turn before arriving at an intersection. If you ask for directions, motorbike taxi drivers will just implore you to hire them for a ride and even try to confuse you. Learn to look for distinct rooflines. Just a short time in the Old Quarter will have you distinguishing a Chinese temple or community house from a tube house or more French-influenced construction. Most streets will have signs giving the road name.

By Bike

Bicycles and motorcycles are also great ways to get around Hanoi, but are not for the faint-hearted! Many hotels and guest houses can rent you a bicycle for around US$1-US$2 a day.

Xe Om (or motorbike taxis) are readily available for longer distances and often work out cheaper than a taxi for single travellers. You'll undoubtedly be bombarded with offers as you walk down the streets of Hanoi.

Cyclos, bikes with a covered seat in front for passengers are also prevalent, but be careful and negotiate your price and destination up front. Can seat two adults and one child.

Hiring a motorcycle yourself is a lot of fun, but should only really be attempted by confident driver. The traffic in Hanoi can be pretty crazy, especially during rush hour. If you can get the hang of it though, you'll feel like you've truly experienced Hanoi and seen more than the average traveller. Hotels and guest houses can rent you a motorbike or scooter for around US$6 a day. Scooters are strongly recommended for first-time Asian-city-drivers.

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Eat

Since the mid 1990s, Vietnamese cuisine has grown in quality and variation. Most famous remains "pho ga" (chicken noodle soup) or "pho bo"(beef noodle soup). There are various dishes including chicken, beef, fish and seafood, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of restaurants nowadays in Hanoi catering to everyone's taste.

In Hanoi, there are hundreds of street restaurants in small kiosks on the sidewalk, with plastic tables and chairs on the pavement. Eating at these restaurants is a great way to experience the local food and culture. It is worth mentioning that food quality, freshness, and hygiene can vary greatly. A bowl of noodle soup goes for 30-40,000 dong and market food stalls offer fruit portions, sausages, doughnuts and other foods for 15,000 to 25,000 dong. Check your change as a few vendors seem to forget to give it, and learn a little Vietnamese because vendors often will not speak any or much English.

A local delicacy in the Hanoi area is dog meat (thịt chó), which is especially popular in the winter. There are a number of dog restaurants in the Tay Ho district. Another exotic regional taste is ca cuong, an extract from the belostomatid or giant water bug. Just a few drops are added to noodles for the unique aroma.

Boiled duck foetus eggs are sold by pedlars almost everywhere, and cost about 5,000 dong. The experience consists of the vendor cracking the egg in front of you, and peeling the shell and dropping the contents in a plastic bowl, then garnished with julienned ginger, basil leaf and sprinkled with chili sauce. You can see the severed head and beak of your chick that fell off if you are lucky enough to have your first bite from a different spot.

For groceries, there is a large supermarket east of Hoan Kiem Lake (Finimart, 27A Ly Thai To, at Tran Nguyen Han).

  • KOTO cafe (Know-One-Teach-One cafe) (59, Van Mieu Street) facing the Temple of Literature is a great cafe to have lunch or a snack after visiting the temple. The cafe is part of a registered charity in Australia that trains young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and links them with employment in leading restaurants around Vietnam. The charity is based on the philosophy of the founder, Jimmy Pham that "the greatest accomplishment for the person who has helped you, is to see you stand on your two feet and then in turn help someone else that reminds you of yourself, because if you Know One, you should Teach One". The cafe serves mainly western dishes such as pastas, sandwiches, cakes and some Vietnamese dishes such as the traditional Vietnamese pho at very reasonable prices, around 100,000 dong per person.
  • Sen Restaurant (No. 10, Lane 431, Au Co Road, Tay Ho, Hanoi) is a busy restaurant serving buffet lunches and dinners with dishes from around 60 regions in Vietnam at a reasonable cost of about 100,000 dong per person. The restaurant is filled with lots of local people celebrating various occasions and there is a lot of noise. Nice, live music during dinner.
  • Thai Express facing the Hoan Kiem Lake is great for a juice break or a light lunch or snack. The little cafe has a wide range of fresh fruit juices that are absolutely delicious, especially the Chiang Mai Mango special. Absolutely lovely to rest your tired feet after walking around the lake and browsing through the tiny shops selling Kipling bags and silk shawls and other souvenirs.
  • Snake Restaurants (About ten minutes across the river from the city centre, take Bus 10, 15 or 17 and get off at the large mall" just beyond Gia Lam station, and walk 500m down the road at the right of the mall) - The suburb of Le Mat (aka Snake Village) has numerous restaurants specializing in cobra foodstuffs. Live cobras are stored on the premises much the same way one would find live lobsters at a Western seafood restaurant. If one orders cobra blood wine from the menu, the waiter will take a live cobra, kill it on the spot, drain the blood into a shot glass of rice wine and top it off with the cobra's still beating heart for you to gulp down. Not for animal lovers or the ecologically-minded. Cobras are not cheap, at around 400,000-1,000,000 dong (USD50+), but one snake becomes a dozen unique dishes, and enough to share between 3-4 people. Rượu rắn is cobra steeped whole in rice wine – or, especially in tourist areas, perhaps a cheaper, non-poisonous snake with similar coloring whose body has been stretched to give it the expected shape. Carefully investigate customs restrictions before deciding to bring a few bottles home, as some of the snakes used are endangered species

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Drink

Bia Hơi is abundant in the streets of the Old Quarter. At the crossing of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen five separate venues fill up with travellers in the evenings, but you can get more local atmosphere on some of the side streets.

Hanoi is a lively city on the weekends, but the Old Quarter closes relatively early (at midnight) on weekdays, so you might want to start your night early. Other places outside the Old Quarter stay open later and vary in closing times. Local young people gather around the cathedral located in Ly Quoc Su to have lemon ice tea (tra chanh) and sunflower seeds in street bars. After dark it gets quite crowded.

Sit on a plastic chair in front of one of the bia hoi (fresh beer) establishments which are invariably situated on the corners of many of Hanoi's Old Quarter streets. This preservative-free light beer is the perfect drink to sip as you watch the city's frenetic bustle. The beer costs less than twenty cents and gives you an excuse to relax and take photos of the passing local characters: should not be missed. In the Old Quarter, you will find that almost every corner is filled with stalls selling pho (Vietnamese noodle) and cafe (the name is not limited only to coffee, but also tea, sweets and grocery items, and even to pho).

On Tô Tich, a small street connecting Hang Quat and Hang Gai, you can help yourself to a refreshing fruit milkshake (sinh tố) at one of the stalls (~7,000 dong).

If you are looking for something less watery than Bia Hoi, excellent freshly brewed Czech or German-style beer is available at several breweries, including: Hoa Vien (Czech), Goldmalt (Czech), Legend beer (German), with several branches around the city; prices are around 45000-60000 dong for 0.5l.

Minh Jazz Club is a nice place for some after-dinner coffee or alcoholic drink while listening to some nice, live jazz music performed by the owner Quyen Van Minh and his band every night from 9:00pm - 11:00pm.

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Sleep

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Hanoi or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

With online dance and battle games popular amongst Vietnamese youth, there is no shortage of high speed internet cafés around Hanoi. Rates can be as low as VND3,000 per hour and some of the better internet cafés that can be found in the Old Quarter carry popular software like Skype.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Vietnam's international dialing code is +84. To call to other countries from Vietnam, start with 00, followed by the international number, usually without the first 0. International and domestic phone calls are available in almost every hotel or internet café. International phone charges are high in Vietnam and hotels often add a mark up fee so it is smart to always check the rates before dialling. Public phones require phone cards, which are available at post offices.

Some common and useful phone codes are:

  • 00 - International call prefix
  • 110 - Operator
  • 113 - Police
  • 114 - Fire Department
  • 115 - Medical Aid/Ambulance
  • 116 - Directory Assistance
  • 1080 - Information

Post

Vietnam Post is the government owned national postal service of Vietnam. Services are generally fairly reliable, cheap but not overly fast, except express services. Express Mail Service (EMS) ensures that letters and small parcels are delivered within 24-48 hours domestically. International EMS is associated with over 50 countries worldwide, with a delivery time ranging from 2 to 10 days. Regular services are cheaper but much slower. Most post offices keep much longer hours than most other official businesses, usually starting from 6:30am until 9:30pm and also open on Saturday and even Sunday. You can buy stamps here and they also offer other services like money transfers. You can also try other companies to send parcels, for example with DHL, TNT and UPS.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 21.0341
  • Longitude: 105.8372

Accommodation in Hanoi

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Hanoi searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Hanoi and areas nearby.

Contributors

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Hanoi Travel Helpers

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  • duyducivan

    I am a native of Hanoi, I've been working as a local tour guide for 3 years in hanoi with experiences and knowlege about histories and cultures in hanoi. Especially, Hanoi Old Quarter, cuisine is one of the highlight things that tourists "must-try". What to expect? That's hanoi street food tour. I'll be a local guide bring you an unique experience. Just follow us. Eat Like a Local. Don't hesitate to contact me through email: ducivan2109@gmail.com or phone number: +84988.916.935.

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    I live in Ha Noi, so I can help you learn about Hanoi. :d

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