On the far east coastline of Southeast Asia, you’ll find the country of Vietnam. It’s a popular country for backpackers to travel to because of the beautiful weather and cheap prices. In the north of the country sits the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi. Hanoi is the country’s second most populous city with almost eight million people. In the country’s capital, there’s so much culture to explore. Mentor Travel your city guide to visiting Hanoi.
1. You Can Become a Millionaire
The currency in Vietnam is called dong, not dollars. The currency in Vietnam uses such large dollar amounts, any traveler can easily become a millionaire. For a frame of reference, $1USD is equivalent to about 22,800VND. You only need about $45USD to become a millionaire in Vietnam.
2. The Coffee Scene
The coffee scene in Hanoi, and Vietnam in general, is thriving. You can find multiple coffee shops on any block with various themes, designs, and flavors. As a native Seattleite (Starbuck’s birthplace), I was a little skeptical to the coffee in Vietnam. But, I’ll tell you, it’s absolutely delicious. Trying a local coffee (ca phe) is a must during your visit. Some great choices are an iced coffee with milk (ca phe sua da) and egg coffee.
3. The View of Hoan Kiem Lake
In the downtown area of Hanoi, there’s a beautiful lake called the Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s surrounded by restaurants, coffee shops, shopping, and street food. It’s a great area to wander and see some of the culture in Hanoi. There will be a group of women working out in one corner, a street vendor selling fruit in another, and tourists taking pictures in another. It’s a very diverse area with a lot to see. Make sure to check out the bright red Huc Bridge while you’re there!
4. Drinks in Old Quarter
To see some of the hustle and bustle in Vietnam, you have to go to Old Quarter. It’s a neighborhood in Hanoi that houses almost all of the backpackers. There’s plenty of hostels, street vendors, bars, and shops. If you’re looking for the fun nightlife in Hanoi, this is the place to go. You can grab a Hanoi Beer or a balloon at any bar in this area. During the day, it’s the perfect place to shop for your souvenirs or clothes. You can even find North Face jackets for about $15USD (cannot guarantee they were actually made by North Face, however).
5. Get Fancy in the French Quarter
France colonized Vietnam for quite a time until Vietnam gained their independence in 1954. Because of this, there is still a lot of French influence in the country. Near the Old Quarter, you’ll find a classier looking neighborhood called the French Quarter. The architecture looks very French, with fancy hotels, shops, and french restaurants. If you have some money to spend, or just want to see a different style of Vietnam, this is a great place to roam.
6. Walk the Long Bien Bridge
If you want to get out of Old Quarter and experience some of the locals, walk up to the Long Bien Bridge. It spans over the Red River and allows you to check out all the traffic and riverside houses in Hanoi. It’s a nice walk over the water to see a different side of Hanoi’s downtown area.
7. Cruise to Ha Long Bay
You cannot leave northern Vietnam without taking a cruise at Ha Long Bay. There’s about 2,000 limestone structures and islands in this body of water that make a gorgeous landscape. Depending on which tour you take, you can kayak around them, snorkel in the water, or hike to the top of one of this islands. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and was one of my favorite places in Vietnam. I recommend doing an overnight tour so you can really experience the area.
8. Munch on the Local Food
A lot of travelers in Vietnam are afraid to try the local street food. Whether it’s for fear of the unknown, fear of getting sick, or something else, it’s understandable. But in avoiding these dishes, you’re completely missing out on Vietnam’s food backbone. Most locals sit in the tiny chairs and eat street food everyday. Some of my favorite dishes include pho, sticky rice, vermicelli noodles, and bun cha. There’s so many options, just try something you walk by that smells delicious.
9. View the Hanoi Street Train
Do you like cramming in a small alley way and narrowly escaping the impact of a large train? Then this is the place for you. The street train in Hanoi goes through an extremely narrow alley way twice a day, and it’s a great place to take pictures.
10. Dance in the Tay Ho District
Tay Ho is the expat neighborhood in Hanoi. Most of the foreigners that live in Hanoi, tend to gravitate towards this area. So you’ll find a lot of international restaurants (the only area I could find a decent taco), and bars with live music. The music is prevalent in this area, so make sure to check it out for a good night out.
11. Find some Bia Hoi
Beer is a very common beverage in Vietnam. And with it’s already cheap prices, bia hoi is the absolute cheapest. It converts to about 20 cents a glass, you can’t beat that. It’s not the best beer in the world, for this price, it’s exactly what your wallet ordered. A night out on this beer will only set you back a few dollars. You can find it anywhere, just look for the “Bia Hoi” signs.
12. Try an Old Fashioned Toilet
You can’t earn your Vietnam badge until you’ve tried it. Drop your trousers and SQUAT.
Hanoi is a fabulous place to visit. If you ever find yourself in Vietnam, it should most definitely be added to your itinerary. What’s your favorite thing to do in Hanoi? Let us know in the comments below! Make sure to contact us for help planning your next trip to Vietnam!