Hanoi Travel Guide
48 Hours in Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi local Hien Nguyen brings us this great new episode in the 48 Hours in travel guide series. After spending 48 Hours in New York City and after Bangkok in Pictures Hien’s Hanoi travel guide is the secong article to cover a non-European travel destination that is great for Men. Let’s get right into it.
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam in South East Asia, acts as the second largest city of a country that is famous for defeating France and the United States in two long-lasting wars of independence. 20 years after a third liberation, namely that from communism, Vietnam is rising from an old-fashioned, ultimately poor country to a country in rapid development with the support from Europe and other Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea.
If the last war never happened, shaping the view of Vietnam for so many Europeans, Vietnam could be much more famous for its food, coffee, and beautiful women. Although Vietnam is still a communist country by paper, the way people live and act business-wise is totally capitalist.
Nowadays, Vietnam has become a travel destination for many a European youths who have just finished university and desire an experience of adventure, independence and exotic life. As for them, it is not difficult to find a good job here. Anyone who speaks English well can become an English teacher for the salary of 16€ to 22€ per hour. The price for a room in a shared apartment is at around 130€ to 275€ per month and a daily meal is from 1,50€ at streetvendors to 15€ in regular and slighty upper-class venues.
If you are young and wish to spend some time living in another country then the insights given in this 48 hours Hanoi Travel Guide will aid you in making your decision.
How to get there
Hanoi currently ranks in the top destinations worldwide to visit in 2015 according to travel website Tripadvisor. where Vietnam is listed as a Traveler’s Choice Destination.
Before deciding to go to Hanoi you should check if you need a visa for Vietnam. In case you do, it is recommended to get the visa on arrival instead of going to the Vietnamese embassy in your country, as it will take up a lot of your time and may cost even more than getting the visa on arrival. The Vietnamese embassy in Thailand lists those countries whose passportholders do not need a visa upon arrival.
Booking a flight to Hanoi from Europe comes with several options. You can get direct a flight with Vietnam Airlines that flies to Hanoi dail from Paris and Frankfurt as well as other European cities. All major European airlines such as Air France, British Airways, KLM, Aeroflot, Finnair, Polish Airlines serve Hanoi, but face some heavy competition from Asian and Middle-Eastern carriers: Korean Airs, Thai Airways, Singapore Airways, Malasia Airlines, Eva Airlines and South China Air, too, are in for the business.
As for me, I highly recommend using the Middle Eastern airlines of Qatar Airways, Ethiad or Emirates Airlines which are world-reknowned for their good service and reasonable prices. Here are some sample prices for round-trip flights from European cities that do not differ too much depending on what city you will depart from:
- Vietnam Airlines: direct flights Paris-Hanoi and Frankfurt-Hanoi for 1.075€
- Qatar Airways: includes transit at Quatar’s capital Doha and a 1,30 hours stop-over in Bangkok for 895€
- China Southern Airlines: from London-Heathrow with two lay-overs (12 hours total), but can be had for as little as 680€
From Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and many other South East Asian cities you can get cheap flights with the local low-cost carriers of Air Asia, Vietjet Air, Tiger Airways, Jetstar or Cebu Pacific.
- Air Asia: offers flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi for the price of 90€ to 180€
- Vietjet Air: offers flight from Bangkok to Hanoi for around 135€
Where to stay
Accommodation in Hanoi is not a headache issue; you will have various choices from dorm rooms to luxurious hotels. Considering to your time in Hanoi, I recommend you to stay in Old Street area, where you enjoy time in discovering the daily life that hasn’t been affected by tourists and convenient to move around the attracting places as well as wandering for a night life.
If you want to be secured, you can book a room from www.agoda.com or www.booking.com and obviously the hotels in Hanoi is never shortage, if you think you can carry a bag on your own back and walk around the old streets to find a reasonable and decent one for you, and keep in mind that you will have a chance to show off your bargaining skill (more on that later).
Some of the hotels that are located right in the city center are (All prices through www.agoda.com)
- Golden Sun Moment hotel – brandnew 3-star hotel right in the city center – 32€/night
- Angel Palace hotel – excellent middle-class hotel in the heart of the city – 33€/night
- Skyline hotel – friendly budget hotel. Book a deluxe room as not all superior rooms have windows – 41€/night
- Melia hotel – The Melia hotel chain is on-par with the Hilton company – 156€/night
- Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi – 5-star hotel of the Sofitel chain – 237€/night
The streets that I recommend you to stay in and that all feature a series of good hotels are Hang Trong, Bao Khanh, Hang Be, Hang Bac, Ta Hien, Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hang Bong, Dinh Liet. These streets are close to the Hoan Kiem Lake which is considered the heart of Hanoi. Located in the same area is an abundance of restaurants ranging from average to luxurious as well as many well-known street food eateries.
Here is a special travel tip for you:
If you plan to stay in the hotels in Old street, I advise you not to book through the internet before your arrival. As there are so many hotels competing for guests you can actually make a bargain right at the check-in counter. It is not uncommon to just walk in to a hotel and negotiate for a lower rate. That way you may just undercut the prices you get from sites like booking.com or agoda.com – and if it does not work out then you can always book for the regular price.
The City of Hanoi, Vietnam
In the following chapters I will take you by the hand give you an in-depth guide on how to spend 48 hours in Hanoi. Step-by-step I will introduce you to basically everything from arriving to the city to the best places to eat, the markets where locals buy and sell everything they need, the city’s hidden spots as well as the thriving nightlife. Ready? Let’s start.
You are arriving at Nội Bài, Hanoi’s International Airport. From here you can take a taxi to the center of Hanoi that will take around 40 minutes depending on traffic. The taxi will cost you about 350.000 Vietnamee Dong (VND) which is roughly 13€ to 15€. Trustable taxi companies are: Mai Linh and Hanoi CP Taxi.
Going by the shuttle bus is cheaper, you just leave the arrival terminal and a shuttle bus will be waiting outside. There are two shuttle bus companies operated by Vietnam Airlines and by Vietjet Air. Both come with a price of about 1,50€ (~45.000 VND) per person. The shuttle bus will stop at No.1 Quang Trung street which is located in eyesight of the Hoan Kiem lake and from where you can easily start your hotel negotation-hunt.
After check-in, it’s time to discover the city.
In the morning, walk around the street and visit the Temple of Literature, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Ancient Citadel which has been a residence of the Ly Dynasty dating back to the year 1010 and finally the Museum of Military History that is teeming with exhibits from the Vietnam War.
Vietnamese food is one of the best food in the world and you have a chance to discover it yourself here in Hanoi. Lunch prices may vary deeply depending on where you choose to eat, but the good and famous food is sold always in the streets. A concentration of street vendors can be found in Tong Duy Tan street .
Some Vietnamese and Occidental restaurants I can recommend are these:
- Quan Ngon – Address: 15 Phan Boi Chau, Ha Noi
- Madame Hien – Address: 15 Chan Cam, Ha Noi
- La Badiane – Address: 10 Nam Ngu, Ha Noi
- Koto – Address: 59 Van Mieu, Ha Noi
Hanoi is famous for its lakes so in the afternoon you should go for the West Lake, Truc Bach Lake, Quan Thanh Temple, Tran Quoc Pagoda, and, of course, Hoan Kiem lake, the most touristic spot in Hanoi. At the other end of Hoan Kiem lake you can find one of Hanoi’s special attraction: with a history of over 1000 years water puppet shows are a cultural landmark of Hanoi and Vietnam as a whole.
Don’t forget to buy your water puppet show ticket in advance for evening show that takes 45 minutes each. The ticket costs around 4€ to 5€.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theater
Address: 57b Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Tel : +84 4 3936 4335.
From the Theater you can find Hang Ngang street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi where there are many shops that cater to the large amounts of tourists passing by here.
Why not buy a brandname watch that would cost you a fortune back home for just 10€ in Hanoi’s Old Quarter? If buying merchandise of literally all kind, ranging from carpets over electronics to clothing is what you are looking for then Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the place for that. Here is a video that will give you a vivid impression of what Hanoi’s Old Quarter is like:
If you go Hang Ngang street up straight you will find a night market that runs from 6.00 in the morning to 22.00 at night every weekend from Friday to Sunday. During this time Hang Ngang street turns into the Far East version of Barcelona’s Las Ramblas with uncountable street vendors, shoppers and tourists all out on the streets.
On an honest note, nightlife in Hanoi is not that amazing, as it is Vietnam’s capital of culture and politics. There are not many people like partying and having fun at night, as the nightlife culture consists more of drinking draught beer (bia hoi) after working time than going out and partying. However, there definetely are nightlife options for those who want to dive into the night and engage in some more manly things to do. Here is my personal selection of favorable nightclubs in Hanoi:
- Mao’s Red Lounge: 7 Ta Hien, Hanoi (4 pm- 12:00 am)
Hanoi’s most famous dive bar ever. Bordering on sketchiness similar to Oslo’s Stargate Pub. Gin Tonic for just 45.000 Dong (2€)
- Rooftop bar: 83 Ly Thuong Kiet (11 am- 2 am)
Great venue that gets a lot of local media coverage. Restaurant, lounge and bar, the latter on a roftop.
- Cielo Bar: 13 Hai Ba Trung (11 am- 2 am)
Another rooftop bar inspired by the European SkyBar franchise. No dancefloor, but a great restaurant and splendid view over the city. Run by expats.
- Dragon Fly: 15 Hang Buom ( 6pm – 2 am)
Carrying a name that is popular from Bangkok to Jakarta the Hanoi Dragon Fly attracts a young crowd that consists to 99,98% of locals. Good times with moderate drink prices. Go here for the ultimate local’s expierience
- Hanoi Rock City: 27 To Ngoc Van (4 pm – 2 am)
Self-titled as “Hanoi’s premier multi-platform music & arts venue since 2010” Rock City features everything from art exhibitons to concerts and fashion shows. In a nutshell: 33% electronic music, 33% hipster art shows and 33% live music. Make your choice.
The hours given are the official ones. Hanoi has no strict “last order” policy as you might know it from the United States – or Eastern Germany. If you decide to step into Mao’s Red Lounge or Dragon Fly you can be sure to get to know the one or another local as your chance of being the only Westerner in the venue can be sealed deal. If you make some friends for the night then rest assured that they will take to where the afterparties are taking place.
After a big night out on your first day we should take it a bit more slow on the second one.
Have you ever woken up at 5 in the morning for some open-air exercise? I know I haven’t! Chances are that at 5 in the morning I will be leaving the club and walking the streets to find a kebab or going to the metro/bus so I can get home.
Well, well, here in Hanoi, especially in the area around the lakes, people, i.e. mostly middle-aged persons and the Elderly, enjoy doing all kinds of excersing in the midst of nature. Aerobic, jogging and, of course, Tai Chi are a national past-time and highly popular with anyone who seeks to rid himself of stress through this unique form of bodily meditation.
On day two you can go to some interesting places that you did not go the previous day. If you are brave enough then rent a Riksha from Sans Souci Cyclo and have yourself driven around the city. Rikshas are charged for by the hour and are available for just 3€ per hour.
Riksha or no Riksha – wandering around Old Town Hanoi and the French quarter is an attraction in itself. If you are still struggling a bit with the aftermath of yesterday’s nig night out then that’s fine. Why not go for a coffee in some of Hanoi’s best Coffeeshops?
Hapro Coffee is a popular Cafe located right by the Hoan Kiem lake which will allow you to enjoy the nice view on the lake will you sit down. Going for lunch may get you to Highlands Coffee also offers a rich lunch menu – if Costa Coffee is the Eastern European version of Starbucks then Highlands Coffee is the South East Asian version of the first. Only that snacks and deserts are also on the menu, with a special offer of a nice sandwich with a hot or iced coffee for just 39.000 VND (1,60€).
- Highland Coffee: 28 A Dien Bien Phu, right on the North side of Hoan Kiem lake
- Hapro Coffee: right on Hoan Kiem Lake, across the airport shuttle drop-off point
What is missing? That’s right, in order to fully regain your powers what could be better than taking a time-out and going for a traditional Vietnamese massage?
Hanoi has a good amount of massage salons and a 10 minute walk north of Hoan Kiem lake brings you to the Huon Sen Spa, the last location in our Hanoi travel guide. Here,e you can relax and get treated in a way that will get the last bit of hangover/jetlag out of your body:
- Spa & Massage Huong Sen – 15 Luong Ngoc Quyen – Hà Nội, Vietnam
Phone:+84 4 3825 7639
Hien Nguyen is a real Hanoian living with the passion of travel, she is working for travel company in Hanoi. Contact her: www.viajesdelbambu.com or visit her on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/visitingnam.