Are you planning to travel to Hanoi or northern Vietnam in the near future? Or maybe you’re considering about moving to Hanoi? Either way, I have some useful things and information for you to know before you travel or move to Hanoi.
I have been living in Hanoi over a year now and I feel fortunate and happy to live here. Hanoi as well as Vietnam in general are absolutely wonderful places to travel and / or live. From my personal experiences and observations, I’ve made list of 10 useful things and information to help you better expect and plan your trip in this beautiful city!
10 Useful Things to Know before You Travel to Hanoi
Weather in Hanoi and North Vietnam
Hanoi and northern Vietnam have four seasons. Summer is the longest of all four seasons from around May to October. Then there are spring and autumn seasons – spring around March-April and autumn around October-November. Lastly, winter starts in December till February.
Summer days here in Hanoi are extremely hot with average temperature above 30 degrees celsius. Thus, it is recommended to be prepared to sweat a lot and beyond your imagination! I love spring and autumn seasons here because these shoulder seasons give great breaks before and after the harsh summer heat. Then finally, the winter is something I want to elaborate a little more.
My first advice is not to underestimate the winter in the north of Vietnam. I know that when you see the weather forecast saying it’s around 10 – 15 degrees, you might think it is fairly cool or even warm. You might also think it can’t be anywhere near cold. Just like I thought!
I used to think it’s super absurd when I heard some Vietnamese people saying that it is freezing cold in the winter. Obviously, 10-15 degrees did not sound anywhere near being “freezing” to me because I’m from Korea, where winter goes down to -10 to -15 degrees. But oh, I was wrong, very wrong to think that way.
After having experienced winter days in Hanoi, I realised it CAN feel freezing. The temperature here might not be as low as many other countries with colder winter, but it is very humid here during this time. So the actual feels like temperature can be much colder than it is.
But, I’m mostly referring to when I’m driving a motorbike. If I walk on streets, it can be bearable with a decently warm jacket. However, when I’m on a motorbike going against the wind, it can feel freezing, quite literally.
One more thing I want to mention is that I can be slightly biased because I think I’ve adapted to Hanoi’s weather to feel this way too. I see lots of travellers completely okay with just a thin windbreaker jacket. Even some people wear shorts and shirts during the winter. So you might also be alright with it.
Still, I think it’s always best to be prepared by bringing a good thick jacket. Otherwise, you can always buy some decent jackets here in Hanoi at an affordable price to keep you warm while you travel in Hanoi or north Vietnam.
Is Vietnam really cheap?
Oh yes, Vietnam is certainly so cheap compared to many countries especially compared to Western countries. A simple and good bowl of pho for breakfast or bun cha for lunch can be as cheap as 25,000-30,000VND (1-1.5 USD). Also, I love going to cafes for work and reading books, and one cup of amazing coffee is only about 25,000VND in local coffee shops.
So you can really travel Hanoi or Vietnam with a low budget. Hence, it’s no wonder why Vietnam is a heaven for budget travellers and a lot of expats love moving here for the low cost of living.
Nonetheless, just like anywhere else, I believe the cost of living or travelling really depends on how you spend and what you spend on. While above mentioned prices are average prices for a delicious local meal, there are also places with much higher prices. For instance, I mostly enjoy these cheap, but delectable dishes. However, I also love dining in bia hoi (local restaurants for draught beer) and going to different rooftop or wine bars, where bills are much more expensive than pho or bun cha.
I must say these higher end places are still not as expensive as you might expect in London, for example. But the bills do add up to quite a sum after a while. Having said that, the cost can be as high as any other higher priced cities or countries. In other words, Vietnam is super cheap and affordable if you make it so. But it can also be much more pricey if you choose it to be. Hence if you want to visit some nicer places here, spare some extra money for that.
Driving a Motorbike
I know there are a lot of adventurous travellers who choose motorbike as the main mode of transportation. Most people travel through Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh or vice versa. I have travelled Vietnam from south to north for a month, mostly with sleeping buses and ferries to islands. So I have not done the motorbike trip myself. But I know it can be a once-in-a-life-time adventure!
Before deciding to do the motorbike trip, I believe many people might be concerned about safety and risks involved with it. I know it can be scary especially if you have never driven a motorbike before. When I first moved to Hanoi, I was also very scared to drive.
If you do feel tempted to give it a try, it doesn’t have to be the entire trip along this massively long country. You can rent a motorbike in one city for the experience. Before I bought my own motorbike in Hanoi, I had rented motorbikes in other cities and countries few times. Those times were mostly in islands like Cat Ba island in Vietnam or Phuket in Thailand. So I’d say it was relatively easier without much traffic.
Yet, I was so scared to drive in the chaotic traffic in Hanoi. To me it seemed as there is no order whatsoever here. But I was determined to learn to drive and the first few rides were so hectic. Then after few rounds around the city, I started to feel and notice some sort of order. Like an order within disorder. Once I got the hang of it, I finally feel at ease to drive anywhere.
You’ll only feel the fun adventure if you give it a go. Therefore, if you feel like venturing yourself to drive a motorbike to travel in Hanoi or throughout Vietnam, I do recommend trying it! It can be an amazing experience.
Is it Safe to Travel Hanoi or Vietnam?
I understand that safety could be one of the top concerns for many travellers. For the country’s reputation being commonly perceived as a land of dangers such as snatching, rip offs and what not.
About a few years ago, I also lived in Bangkok, which I believe is also well-known for some dangerous incidents. However, I never felt at disease living there and luckily, I never experienced any unfortunate situations. I must say though I did see and hear some unlucky incidents from some travellers or even colleagues. Just like I did in many other countries I’ve lived and travelled to.
In Hanoi, I am aware of quite some accidents from travellers and even locals through media or friends. Yet, I do not perceive Hanoi as a more dangerous and scarier place to live or travel to.
I believe it’s safe to say that every city and every country has its own risks. The only thing I could say is to not consider the risks too much overtaking your opportunity to enjoy the place to the fullest. It is certainly possible to be unfortunate occasionally, but even when such bad things happen, there are still lots of beauty and warmth of a place we can cherish and enjoy.
Is Pho All There is To Eat in Hanoi?
For foodies, you might wonder if you’ll travel to Hanoi only to find out there’s only pho, the city’s most famous dish. But be rest assured because Hanoi and Vietnam in general, are a true heaven for foodies. I cannot stress enough on how amazing it is to live in Hanoi because there’s such a great variety of delicious food!
I can say that the list can go on and on. And I’m really enjoying my food journey here with my list expanding more and more. I have an article titled Complete Foodie Guide in Hanoi for those of you who want to know the best and must try dishes in town.
Which Areas in Hanoi Should You Stay? - For Travel or for Living
The most recommended and probably the most convenient area for travellers is Old Quarter in Hoan Kiem district of Hanoi. Most of the top tourist attractions and tons of restaurants, bars and cafes are concentrated in this area. I also love the Old Quarter so much and it is one of the areas in Hanoi I visit very often. A lot of my favourite restaurants and cafes are there as well.
However, I am a huge advocate for exploring local neighbourhoods because it is where the real local life is. Therefore, I would also recommend considering different areas especially if you want some local or even expat experiences. For more details on districts, check out this post about Hanoi Districts.
Top Tourist Attractions
We cannot miss out on the amazing tourist attractions in town. From pagodas to museums and many more, Hanoi is a city full of beautiful sights to visit. As I believe many travellers do not spend many days only in Hanoi, it is best to choose and plan your itinerary wisely.
One great thing about Hanoi is that most of the best and most visited sights are located not too far from one another. And most of them are in and around Old Quarter. To help you narrow down your list to make the best out of your time here, you can see the full list of Top Tourist Attractions in Hanoi.
On a side note, there are hop-on and hop-off double decker buses perfectly suited to skip the hassle of using Google map to locate or stress of walking in the midst of crazy traffic. In addition, mobile applications such as Grab, Be or GoViet are super well established here. These are apps you can use to call motorbike or car taxis and are very convenient.
Best Hidden Gem Cafes in Hanoi
Aside from being a foodie, I am also a huge coffee shop person. I really love exploring different cafes around town. Hanoi having a great cafe culture ticks one more box of my criteria. Just like the must try foods list, cafe list can be an extensive one.
Thus, having visited quite some number of cafes, I have few favourites. My personal favourites are those hidden gems with great vibe! I mean, frankly, who doesn’t love hidden gems? So if you’re curious to find out about these places, you can check out my Top 5 Hidden Gem Cafes.
Best Instagram Accounts for Travel Inspirations in Hanoi (and Vietnam)
I believe you’re doing a great amount of research before you travel to Hanoi and Vietnam. It is amazing to have a vast volume of useful information available on the Internet. From blogs to YouTube videos and more.
Personally, I love exploring on Instagram for travel inspirations. They’re visual and quite informative as well. It is also used by so many people these days. Hence, there’s an exhaustive number of accounts to explore. I’ve also spent a great deal of time and effort trying to find different accounts for the best posts.
Therefore, to save you some time, I have a list of the most visually appealing and useful Instagram accounts that can help you plan your trip in Hanoi. Here is the list of Top 5 Instagram Accounts for Travel Inspiration for both Hanoi and Vietnam.
Top Destinations in North Vietnam
Most travellers who choose to travel to Hanoi, also has some spare days to spend and explore different destinations in northern part of the country. I often see people asking for tips and advice on which cities or places they should visit outside of Hanoi.
And the great news is that the northern part of Vietnam alone has several options for you. What’s even better is that there is a good variety of activities in each destination that caters to different interests.
So if you’re looking to explore travel destinations outside of Hanoi, you can check out the Top 7 Destinations in North Vietnam.
I hope these 10 Useful Things and Information have been helpful and resourceful for you to plan your trip better.
Last, but not least, here are some other interesting and useful articles to prepare even better before you travel to Hanoi!
1. To make the best out of your Hanoi trip, I have an extensive Hanoi Bucket List full of awesome and fun things to do.
2. For ideas on how to best plan your time in Hanoi, here are 1 to 3-Day Itineraries in Hanoi.
3. Also, I read an awesome and helpful article by Kelsey from Milesofsmiles about 10 Things You Need To Know Before Moving to Vietnam.
Bon voyage, everyone!