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Submission: 15 August 2020. Acceptance Notification: 1 October 2020. Camera-Ready: 5 November 2020

Hanoi Travel Guide

Backpackers and travelers alike visit Hanoi, Vietnam’s vibrant capital. It’s either the starting or finishing point for travelers in the country (as most people go north to south or south to north).

I absolutely love the charm of the Old French Quarter and the bustle of the modern city. Hanoi countless museums all offering visitors a chance to better understand Vietnam’s history of the revolution, war, and art. There is the tangled busy web of streets in the historic Old Quarter to wander around.

Hanoi is also one of the best places to visit in Vietnam to eat endless bowls of pho, bun cha, or cheap bahn mi from a food vendor on just about every street corner.

It’s a perfect launching pad for trips to Sapa and Halong Bay.

In short, there’s a lot to do in Hanoi. It’s a fascinating city that can keep you busy for days and, thanks to its cheap prices, is great for budget travelers and backpackers.

This Hanoi travel guide will give you the best places to visit, tell you how to save money, get around, give you costs, and help you plan the best travel experience in Hanoi!

Things to See and Do in Hanoi

  1. See Quan Su Pagoda
    As the headquarters for the Vietnam Central Buddhist Congregation, Quan Su is one of the most important temples in the country. If you’re going to visit any of Vietnam’s pagodas, this 15th-century one is the one you should see. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.

  2. Visit One Pillar Pagoda
    Built in 1049, One-Pillar Pagoda sits on stilts over a lake and is a miniature reproduction of the original temple built by the Ly Dynasty. A prayer at this little wooden pagoda is said to bring fertility and good health.

  3. Watch a water puppet show
    Water Puppetry as an art form that dates back over a millennium. Puppets are carved from wood, and the shows are performed in a waist-deep pool, which makes the puppets look like they’re walking in water. Near the lake, you can see a show at the Water Puppet Theatre. Admission is from 100,000 VND ($4.30 USD) for adults (depending on the seat) and 60,000 VND ($2.60 USD) for children.

  4. Tour Hoa Lo Prison
    U.S. POWs named Hao Lo “the Hanoi Hilton” and this is where many U.S. soldiers were tortured (former Sen. John McCain from Arizona is its most famous prisoner). What remains of the building is a small museum, complete with the guillotine used to execute detainees. It’s super morbid but a good look at how the Vietnamese whitewash their history. The entrance fee is 30,000 VND ($1.30 USD) per person.

  5. Shop at Dong Xuan Market
    Hanoi’s oldest market is located in the Old Quarter. The market is a bit of a Hanoi institution and probably the best place for low-cost shopping in the city.

  6. Go to the Army Museum
    The museum has an excellent collection of planes, tanks, and guns supplied by the Chinese and Soviet armies, alongside dozens of captured French and US made war machinery. Admission is 40,000 VND per person ($1.40 USD) plus an extra 20,000 VND ($0.85 USD) for photography.

  7. Visit the Vietnam Women’s Museum
    The Vietnam Women’s Museum offers some insight into the contribution of Vietnamese women to the country’s culture and society, including their roles during wartime. It’s a fairly small museum but it includes an interesting collection interviews and historical memorabilia. Admission is 30,000 VND ($1.30 USD).

  8. Explore the Museum of Ethnology
    The Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology is contains exhibits on the different ethnic groups that reside in the country and will give you a much better understanding of Vietnamese history. Admission is 40,000 VND ($1.70 USD) for adults with discounts available for children and students.

  9. National Museum of Vietnamese History
    This museum has a collection of antiques (and some replicas) dating from around 1000CE all the way to 1945. Here you’ll find bronzes from the Dong Son culture, jewelry from Vietnam’s imperial times, sculptures from the Khmer and Champa kingdoms, and more. Admission is 40,000 VND ($1.70 USD) for adults, with discounts available for students and children.

How to Get Around Hanoi

Hanoi is a very large city, and you will not always be able to rely on your own two feet to get around. The city’s transportation options are limited there’s a lot of road congestion, and although a metro system is supposed to be in place by 2020, the project is already far behind. Don’t expect to get around quickly.

Bus – Hanoi’s public bus system is recognized by its white, red, and yellow colors. These buses take you anywhere you need to go in the city with tickets costing between 5,000-10,000 VND ($0.22-$0.43 USD), depending on the distance. Be sure to have small bills.

Hanoi also has an electric trolleybus system too. There are 14 stops in the Old Quarter and around Kiem Lake, with the main departure point at the north end of the lake. The Quarter is best explored on foot anyway, but the bus is a good option for anyone with mobility issues. There’s even English commentary as you go. It’s 300,000 VND ($13 USD) per trolley for up to six passengers (50,185 VND/$2.16 USD per person).

Cyclo – The cyclo is Hanoi’s version of a tuk-tuk. They’re easier to find beyond the Old Quarter (those narrow streets are not easy to navigate), but they’re still pretty prevalent. Make sure you negotiate the price ahead of time, for the whole group. It’s about 50,000 VND ($2.15 USD) for a short ride and prices increase at night.

Taxi – Metered taxis in Hanoi all charge about the same rates. The base charge is 20,000 VND ($0.85 USD) per 1-2 kilometers, and then each kilometer after that is 15,000 VND ($0.65 USD).

Motorbike taxis are also everywhere, and an average journey should cost no more than 20,000 VND 20,000 VND ($0.85 USD). If you’re going further out to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, expect to pay around 40,000 VND ($1.70 USD).

Keep in mind that taxi drivers here are notorious for rigging their meters. I would avoid taxis if you can. They aren’t great here. I don’t like taking them.

Ride-Share – Grab is available in Hanoi. It works just like Uber: you ride in a private car with a private driver. You can pay via the app, and you’ll get a price estimate for your journey before you even get in the car. For example, a trip from your hostel/hotel in the Old Quarter to the Temple of Literature is a two-mile (3-kilometer) journey and costs about 40,975 VND ($1.75 USD).