Peter and I both loved Hanoi (this was Peter’s 5th visit!). We skipped some of the more popular tourist sites- Ha Long Bay, the water puppet show…but still visited a few in between our delicious meals and coffee stops. There’s much to see and do in and out of the city so after going through my quick travel guide to Hanoi feel free to contact me before you plan your visit!
How to Get There
- Direct flights from Hong Kong to Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport
- If you’re already in Vietnam you can hop along the Reunification Express which runs all the way from Ho Chi Minh City
Where to Stay
- Oriental Central Hotel –
- Location: Perfectly located in the heart of the Old Quarter
- Service: Exceptional. The staff learned our names quickly and were very helpful and friendly throughout our stay. We had a late evening train out from Hanoi at the end of our visit, but after we checked out the staff kept our bags for the day and then let us use an available room in the hotel to shower and rest before our train departure.
- Rooms: Very clean and quiet. Free fruit, snacks, and bottled water provided
- Motorbike is the way to go! Hanoi’s streets are very hectic so I wouldn’t recommend for less experienced or confident drivers to drive on their own, but there are motorcycle taxis available. Aside from being the quickest way to get around town, it is a unique experience being on the back of the bike, weaving in and out of traffic, and clinging for your life.
- For those renting their own scooter/motorcycle– don’t pay more than 7 USD per day for your rental and preferably have your hotel arrange for the rental on your behalf so that you don’t have to leave your passport with the rental shop
- Banh Mi 25 –25 Hang Ca Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi – delicious and cheap banh mis (Vietnamese sandwich) served by friendly local owners
- The best pho in town – Unfortunately Peter won’t let me disclose this restaurant’s exact name and location, but it is well known for being the best pho in town. Located in the Old Quarter, it’s hard to miss it when you see a line down the sidewalk for breakfast and dinner
- Cộng cà phê – several locations in Hanoi – the coffee with milk and coconut is amazing– we came back for it multiple times and we never found the drink at any other coffee shops
Top 3 to See
- Hoa Lo Prison – Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm – Now housing a museum, this prison once held Vietnamese political prisoners under the French and later American prisoners of war under the Vietnamese. This is the location of the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” as parts came to be known by POWs.
- Have a beer above the 5 points intersection – 01 – 03 – 05 Dinh Tien Hoang – There is an intersection in Hanoi where 5 streets merge with no traffic lights and seemingly no sense of traffic rules whatsoever– cars, pedestrians, motorbikes, bicycles, tricycles all converge into madness. Grab a beer and watch for close calls (although we never saw a single accident!)
- Train tracks through Old Quarter – While waiting for the above pho restaurant to open for dinner, we stumbled upon a fascinating community set along Hanoi’s train tracks. Locals were cooking and washing clothes and relaxing while children hopped and played all along the tracks. It was amazing to see homes and business built along active train tracks. Yes in the middle of our exploration a train came zooming past the homes.