Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam – is known for its rich history, busy street life and centuries of French, Asian and Chinese influences all blended into one bustling city. For first time travellers though, it can be a little overwhelming. So, we’ve got the need-to-know info for travelling to Hanoi.
Things to Know Before Travelling to Hanoi
1. The Traffic is Insane!
Mopeds rule the city here, and they whizz by at all times of the day and night. There’s no such thing really as pedestrian crossings, so to cross the road you have to be brave! Don’t worry: wait for small gap in the traffic and just walk slowly and confidently across the road. The drivers WILL go around you – they’re used to it.
2. The Street Food is a Must-Try
If there’s one city hat’s absolute heaven for food lovers, it’s Hanoi. With a French influence in many of the dishes here, the food is fragrant and full of flavour. From steaming chicken noodle soups to crispy savoury pancakes and frothy coffees, the street food is fantastic. Check out our top dishes to eat here.
3. Cash is King in Hanoi
You’ll feel like a millionaire in Hanoi – literally – as around $100 USD = 2 million Dong. There’s no coins in Vietnam, only notes. It takes a while to get used to but there’s plenty of ATMs all over the city. Very, very few places (apart from Western-style restaurants and hotels etc) accept card so make sure to carry cash.
4. Download the Grab App to Your Phone
The Asian version of Uber, Grab is the easiest way to book a car taxi or motorbike taxi. Wherever you are, simple go onto to the app and input your location. It’s cheaper than a private taxi that you would hail on the street and you can also pay via your credit or debit card.
We don’t really recommend getting the local bus, unless you don’t mind missing your stop! It’s cheap (just 5,000d a ticket) and covers all the main areas, but it can be hard to navigate where to get off and it’s slow.
5. Explore Outside of the Old Quarter
While the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem lake is beautiful and full of places to shop and eat, there’s plenty of other great areas in the city. Tay Ho (West Lake) is about 15 minutes west of the Old Quarter and is popular with expats. There’s some charming cafes here. Ba Dinh is a great insight into a more “local” side of Hanoi.
6. The Weather Can Really Vary
Unlike the south of Vietnam, which is hot pretty much all year-round, Hanoi has four seasons.
June, July and August are the hottest months, while December – March are cold. Like, 10 degrees Celsius cold but with wind chill.
We suggest visiting from February to April/May or September to early November.
7. Locals Appreciate You Trying to Speak the Language
You will soon see that the people you meet here are friendly and happy to engage with tourists, so go out of your way to learn a few key words – it will especially help you when bartering in markets.
- Hello = Xin Chao (Sin chow)
- Thank you = Cam on (kahm uhn)
- Goodbye = Tam Biet (Tarm Byeet)
- How much? = Bao nhieu? (Baow nyew)
- Too expensive = Mac Qua (Mac wa)
- Excuse me (to waitress) = Chi oi
- Excuse me (to waiter) = Anh oi
- The bill please = Tinh Tien (Din ting)