Welcome to Hanoi, an enthralling balance between tranquillity and chaos…
Landing in Hanoi can be a bit of a shock to the system if you have never been to Asia. The capital of Vietnam is packed with fascinating historical attractions like colonial buildings, ancient pagodas and unique museums, most of which are easily accessible on foot or by bike, especially with Vietnam travel agencies.
There is so much to see, so much to do and so much to savor, but let’s start at the very beginning…it’s a very good place to start.
Hanoi essentials – what to pack
Knowing what to pack when visiting Hanoi will help you get the most out of your stay.
You’ll be able to find most of what you need in Hanoi so remember to pack lightly. This way you’ll be able to move around comfortably and you’ll also have plenty of room for souvenirs – bonus!
Here is Vietnam travel agency list of must-haves when you travel to Hanoi.
The climate for the most part of the year is exceptionally humid. That said, it’s best to be prepared for just about anything so aim for lots of layers. It’s also really important to remember the Vietnamese culture is a conservative one, so be respectful and wear the appropriate attire during your stay.
Cellphone, camera, and kindle are all important items to help you capture moments, pass the time and keep in touch with loved ones while on your adventure. Don’t forget to bring a universal power adapter so you are not stuck powerless – literally.
If you have prescription medicines that you take regularly, talk to your doctor ahead of time to get a supply that will last you the entirety of your trip. While you’ll most likely be able to find most of what you need at a pharmacy on the side of most main roads, or asks for help from Vietnam travel agencies, when you’re sickly that sounds like the worst possible thing - so best just come prepared. Medication for an upset stomach, headaches, eye drops and some good old flu medicine should also all be packed…just in case.
Hand sanitizer & tissues
Hand sanitizer is essential no matter where you are, because, well you never know when you’ll need it, and I can promise you that you will.
Carrying tissues with you at ALL times is also a necessity, because there’s no guarantee there will be any in the toilets you use in and around the city. Additionally, people who suffer from hay fever or other allergies may also find the pollution causes flare-ups, and with this in mind, you may not want to be without a tissue or two.
Before your travels, going through a packing list like this can seem daunting because there’s a lot of stuff to think about – but really it’s all pretty straightforward and once that’s out of the way why not learn the language?
Learn Some Vietnamese
While there are many people in Hanoi that speak English and more than enough Vietnamese travel agents to help, there is a great sense of accomplishment and pride when you can communicate (even just a little) with the locals in their own language even if just by learning a few basic phrases – at the very least, know that xin chao means ‘hello’ and cam on means ‘thank you’. Also, consider downloading an offline translator (Google Translate) to enhance communication between everyone from taxi drivers to those you meet and greet on the street.
The best way to travel around
Scooter or motorbike is the best (really the only) way to travel. Not only is it cheap, but it’s convenient and fun! No scooter? No problem. If you’d also rather not navigate yourself through the Hanoi traffic you can grab a Grab – yes you read right.
Grab is an app that allows you to order a taxi or bike to come and collect you and drop you off at your requested destination. The app gives you an estimated price before you order and drivers accept both cash and card, making it nice and easy for those just passing through.
The Grab drivers are professional and friendly, and a great bonus with Grab is that you are no longer the one in the driver’s seat which means you can sit back and really enjoy the view as you zoom around the eventful town. Just remember, if you’re new to the city it’s totally normal to be flabbergasted with the traffic coming at you from every direction – but somehow the organized chaos just works!
Where to eat (amazing food)
The Vietnamese are extremely friendly and really know how to show visitors a good time. If that isn’t enough, just wait until you try the food…
Hanoi is foodie heaven and the city has a great dining scene, with so much variety and something accessible for every palate. That said, Hanoi is a city where most of the tastiest dishes are served on the streets. From the iconic noodle soup phở to the flame-grilled bun cha, most dishes are served on the sidewalks of the capital. Everything is cooked fresh, which allows you a better chance to enjoy a real local experience.
Let’s just say eating on the streets of Hanoi is the ultimate must-do, any Vietnam travel agency would say so themselves. Here, not only will you be able to find pocket-friendly local places street side, but more high-end international offerings are also available - depending on what you feel like. So, not only can you enjoy authentic Vietnamese dishes like and bánh mì (Vietnamese style baguette), if the craving strikes you could even enjoy a cheesy pizza or flavourful burger with an extra side or fries.
The choices are endless, so our advice? Come hungry!
The best thirst quenchers
A coffee in the morning, a fresh coconut in the afternoon and a local beer in the evening…the streets of Hanoi are generous when it comes to quenching your thirst.
Coffee is an essential part of the Vietnamese culture and the Vietnamese have this intricate way of brewing their coffee which makes it some of the best in the world.
Vietnamese iced coffee, also known as cà phê sữa đá is a popular way to drink the brew with sweetened condensed milk.
When visiting Vietnam one cannot simply skip a cà phê sữa đá, even if one is watching ones calorie intake. On the other hand, we almost want to say don’t even try it... because the truth is…it’s highly addictive.
The delicious dark drink is made using a medium to coarse ground dark roast Vietnamese-grown coffee with a small metal Vietnamese drip filter. The hot water is added and the drip filter releases drops of hot coffee slowly into your cup with the condensed milk. This completed cup of hot coffee is then quickly poured into a glass full of ice to make the ultimate ‘cool’ drink.
You don’t drink coffee? Just wait…
On a hot day in Hanoi, there is nothing better than sipping slowly on a cool coconut, or as the Vietnamese call them: dừa. Coconuts are not only tasty, but good for you too and a fruit and flavor very popular in Vietnam. The best part about this drink? Once you’re finished drinking your coconut you can eat it too! Simply use a spoon to scoop out the soft, jellylike meat and enjoy. Coconuts can be easily found on the side of the street, at any marketplace or café - especially in summer time (recommended by both travel agency in Hanoi and Saigon Vietnam).
If it’s a cold one you’re looking for, and the more familiar the better – you know, for when you’re not feeling adventurous or have had too many cà phê sữa đás…well then a Bia Hà Nội (Hanoi beer) should hit the spot. Most cafes, restaurants and street shops have a few different kinds of great local beers to choose from - all of which will quench your thirst in the Hanoi heat.
What to do amidst the hustle and bustle
If you're visiting Hanoi for the first time, the number of things to do can be quite overwhelming! But don't worry, with so much to offer, you will not get bored; however, there are a few must-dos…
Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square is one of the most visited attractions in Hanoi and the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh – a revolutionary and extremely popular communist leader of Vietnam. First open to the public in 1975, the granite building means a great deal to many locals still today, as it ensures that their beloved leader ‘lives on forever’.
Watch the water puppet show
Water puppetry is a unique traditional art form that is more than 1000 years old, first invented by Vietnamese farmers who performed in a puppet theatre over the flooded rice fields.
This unique art form really helps capture Vietnamese traditions, allowing a more insightful look into Vietnamese culture. This long-standing art is an amazing combination of live music, lights, and talented puppeteers to be enjoyed by both adults and children.
Get lost in Old Quarter
The iconic Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of the Old Quarter, is surrounded by lively shopping streets and unlimited local eateries. This is the spot to get all your little trinkets and keepsakes, because here you’ll be able to find just about anything – and probably a whole lot more.
If you stick around until late in the day you’ll witness that the old quarter really comes alive as soon as the sun sets - and there is no doubt that all the shopping has left you a little thirsty. Grab a plastic stool at a street side restaurant and find yourself among hundreds of locals and expats (Bia Hà Nội in hand) sharing stories from all over the world.
P.S. We don’t recommend you drive a bike here unless you’re experienced or a bit of a daredevil. The roads are usually crowded and a little overwhelming if you’re not yet comfortable on two wheels.
Something for everyone
While the hustle and bustle of Hanoi can be a lot for some – for others who enjoy city life and constantly being on the go, this could be the city for you! For those of you prefer taking it easy, have no fear because Hanoi has something for you too…
In Hanoi, there are many beautiful places travellers often overlook because they are not as popular – which doesn’t mean they are not worth a visit. A city so rich in history, naturally results in a city whose offerings are many when it comes to museums.
Why not escape the daytime heat to learn about the past. Some highlights include the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, The Hoa Lo Prison and the Vietnam War Museum.
The other side of Hanoi
In Hanoi, it is common for travellers to seek places where they can experience the city’s culture in its rawest form. With so many visitors rushing around to see everything they often miss things…small things…because when you’re on a schedule you don’t have the time to sit back and observe – one thing many people often don’t think to do when they visit a new country or city.
It could be said that although there is a constant buzzing of scooters and local chatter, Hanoi has a rather relaxed atmosphere.
Hanoi is a beautiful city, filled with friendly people, fresh food, roaming scooters and so much more. If you have the chance, sit back (cà phê in hand of course) and be a part of the experience that is Hanoi.
Sound like your next adventure?
Hanoi is a fascinating holiday destination that’s relatively easy to explore, especially with Vietnam travel agencies. It’s a great choice for you if you’re looking for plenty of cheap shopping options, good (and cheap) local beer, street food and a lively atmosphere.
The best time to visit Hanoi is from October through to December. So, why not get away from your day-to-day and experience a whole new culture by really immersing yourself in the capital of Vietnam.