Vacationing In Hanoi: Here’s What Every Veteran and Newbie Travelers Should Know Before Visiting Vietnam
Travel guides have featured a lot about vacationing in Hanoi. The experience is for the books, but only if you’re prepared enough to step on a different land with a different culture, diet, climate, and people. Some tourists get in trouble for not knowing the basics, so to make that tropical getaway hassle-free, here are simple yet important things you should know first.
Vietnam’s currency is dong and doesn’t be shocked if your taxi bill will cost around 15,000 VND (~$0.8). The denomination of their currency is large so they also don’t have coins. If you’re confused with exchange rates, many establishments will also accept dollar payments.
If you need to withdraw cash, there are ATM kiosks everywhere but the likes of HSBC and ANZ have a maximum withdrawal amount of US$ 50 only. For larger amounts, you should go to the ANZ ATM at the Hoan Kiem Lake where withdrawals can be to a maximum of US$500. Also, be mindful of your withdrawals to avoid pickpockets and snatchers. I suggest that you only withdraw the amount you need for a day.
Not all Vietnamese can speak English, and if ever that they do, sometimes they can only muster a few phrases. A language booklet can help you but since Vietnamese is really far from English, you’ll lose your wits figuring out how to pronounce words.
You can hire a local guide for a certain fee, but if you’re traveling on a tight budget, you’ll have to rely on your wild body gestures and trying-hard American tongue. If you get frustrated with a merchant, don’t lose your temper just because he can’t understand you. Anyway, there are free tours that you can join so you can get around with a local doing the talking for you.
If you would like to challenge yourself, check this video out and maybe you’ll pick up some useful words for your next trip to Vietnam:
You have to remember that Hanoi is a tropical city so you should expect excruciating heat during the summer months of June to August. If you happen to visit from March to May and September to November, you can enjoy the nice weather of spring and fall. This is a preferable time to visit if you give a big deal about the weather.
But if you want cold weather for your vacationing in Hanoi, you should visit during the month of December. Temperature is quite chilly at 12 degrees Celsius, which is tolerable for Americans like us.
Part of Hanoi is the conservative folks. You should understand that there are cultural differences here and you should follow it as well. Things, like not showing affection in public, not flaunting your expensive belongings, dressing accordingly, and not talking about Vietnam War, are some of it.
You should also have an idea of their religious beliefs so you’ll not violate or disrespect any. Most Hanoians are Buddhists so doing research about that will do you a great favor. Nevertheless, since you’re in a different country, you should behave well and avoid stirring tension with the locals.
Student-run tours are preferred since you can save from their free service and tourists mostly have positive experiences. Hanoi Kids is one of the most popular and the idea is to give tourists the taste of the city.
Meanwhile, large-scale tours are typically arranged through your hotel or agents. With this, you can experience tours outside the Hanoi streets like Halong Bay Cruise, Perfume Pagoda, or trekking to Sapa. This comes, of course, on higher prices so to make the most out of your money, look for company reviews first.
6. Food and Drinks
Getting hungry is an ironic thing when you’re vacationing in Hanoi. There are countless stores and restaurants selling local and foreign flavors at cheap prices. Aside from the usual Pho and Banh Mi, exotic foods like hot dogs and snack are also known locally. Locals avoid this and I advise that you do the same.
Every tourist’s “baptism” is sitting on a colorful stool in one of the drinking junctions in the city. A Hanoi trip isn’t complete without gulping a tall glass of Bia Hoi or any local cocktail. You should find one spot at 5 pm because beer stores here run out of supply in a matter of hours.
From luxury hotels to cheap inns, you can find your choice in the capital. For mid-range budget, you can try Joseph’s Hotel or Hanoi Elegance Emerald both at Hoan Kiem. Luxury accommodations like Melia, Metropole, Intercontinental, and Marriott aren’t hard to find.
Just an additional tip: Before you check-in, inspect the unit first for damages so the staff will know that it isn’t your fault. If the staff seems rude and suspicious, I suggest that you transfer to another hotel for your safety. It’s better to book in person than online because you can bargain the price with the budget- or mid-range types of places.
8. Internet Connection
Internet connection isn’t a problem in Hanoi. Almost every hotel, café, restaurants, and even streets are covered. Internet speed is decent. You can ask the staff about it if it isn’t included on their site or no signs are in place.
9. Taking photos
Taking selfies or photos in Hanoi is free but you shouldn’t take photos of the other people without their consent. The older folks here are quite sensitive about it so be polite enough to approach them first. Also, you shouldn’t, in any circumstance, take a snapshot of any military installation. You’ll be in trouble with the law and you’ll ruin your vacationing in Hanoi if you do so
But if you just want to take selfies, you can do unlimitedly while respecting others’ space.
It isn’t really that harmful in Hanoi, but just to be sure, you have to take vaccines especially if you’re visiting remote areas. Typically, tourists get vaccines for Hepa-B, malaria, typhoid fever, and tetanus-diphtheria.
Most of the city’s establishment closes at 11 pm, but nightlife is still alive and you just have to confirm curfew rules on your hostel. Usually, lights will be off at this time and the guard will be the one to let you in. The receptionist will be out and the internet is off. For bigger hotels, this may not be the case.
Hanoi streets’ life is motorbikes. Due to heavy traffic, locals prefer using scooters or bikes to transport goods and merely everything on it. They can carry half a dozen tires, three kids, a basketful of food, and a lot more that can cause apprehension here in America. If you’re planning to rent a car while vacationing in Hanoi, it may not be a good choice.
In crossing the street, don’t rely on traffic lights or the kindness of drivers to stop for you. You have to walk through the street straight and trust me, you’re not going to get hit. Don’t get angry if they honk too much, it’s defensive driving and that’s how they survive the streets here in the city.
It’s not that vacationing in Hanoi is plagued with crimes, but the occasional mugging and robbery reports should be your warning in protecting your valuables. The basic rule is you shouldn’t wear a lot of jewelry or flaunt cash in public because if you do, you’re attracting the attention of criminals.
It’s also best to know the nearest police station in the area where you’re going so you’d have a plan whenever anything goes wrong. Stay alert and if you feel that something is suspicious, you should back off right away.
14. Secure your visa
Some tourists had some trouble with their visa just because they fail to double check the information on it. Before leaving triple check if you got everything right in the document. Also, don’t forget to print it before you go to the airport.
Be polite to immigration officers and don’t hesitate to ask questions if you have queries in mind. That will save from a lot of hassle, you can count on me with that.
You can take a taxi from the airport but I suggest that you use Uber or Grab than hailing those that roam around. Aside from these, you can take buses and trains if you’re traveling around Hanoi. Don’t forget to book in advance since tickets may sell out easily.
Vacationing in Hanoi can be more worthwhile if you remember some points about traveling. But you don’t have to be scared too much about interacting with people, making friends with locals, and trying new things. Some things may be different, but Hanoians are hospitable enough to make you feel at home.
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