Hanoi for Newbies

Since I often see questions on Twitter asking where to go and what to do in Hanoi, I’ve decided to collect all of the most useful resources in one place, so that you newbies know exactly where to look for yourselves. (Updated in November 2016)

Let’s start with the airport. Noi Bai airport in Hanoi is more than 30 km away from the city center, and there is no direct train like in Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. The website you should know is Hanoi Airport Online, where you can find your flight status, a location map, and means of transportation (such as taxi, public bus, or mini bus).

(i) Public bus:
– Local Bus 7: Noi Bai Airport – Cau Giay District (the local residential part of the city): 8,000 VND (0.3 USD) running from 5 am to 9 pm.
– Local Bus 17: Noi Bai – Long Bien Bridge (city center): 9,000 VND (0.4 USD) running from 5 am to 8 pm.
– High-quality Bus 86 (recommended): Noi Bai Airport – Hoan Kiem Lake (city center) – Hanoi Central Train Station (Le Duan street, the station for North-South rail transportation, NOT the station for Northern service to Sapa): 30,000 VND (1.4 USD), running time: opening hours: 5 am from Hanoi Train Staion; 6.20 am from Noi Bai Airport; closing hours: 9.40 pm from Hanoi Train Station; 10.50 pm from Noi Bai Airport.
(ii) Mini bus: Noi Bai airport to Vietnam Airlines Office (Quang Trung street, city center): 40,000 VND (1.9 USD), leaving whenever full.
(iii) Taxi: various taxi companies are available in front of the terminals, cost from 350,000 – 400,000 VND (16.5 – 19 USD). For the opposite trip (downtown to airport), Taxi Noi Bai is often the best choice, with comfortable cars and a fixed price.

So now, you’re in downtown Hanoi. What next?

cathedralhanoi1

Of course you already know Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor, so I would like to suggest some more frequently updated local sites.  Here are all the sites you will need, whether you are here as a tourist or in it for the long haul as a resident:

1. If you’re “fresh off boat”, meaning you seriously have no clue what Hanoi has to offer, then you should spend some time reading the intro about the city on Travelfish or on our National Administration of Tourism’s website.

2. You also want details on what to see, where to eat and how to get around,  basically you can find all the necessary info on Travelfish, too.

Another website called Citypassguide is also very useful with lots of insights and beautiful photos. However, it focuses more on high-end travelers, so beware of the possibly expensive choices they make for restaurants, hotels, cafes and such.

One more recommendation is Rustycompass written by Mark Bowyer, an Australian who has been living in Vietnam for more than 20 years.

A good tip for tourists: If you feel like engaging with the locals, I suggest you book a tour with Hanoikids, this is a non-profit organization run totally by students. They lead free tours for tourists coming into town with the sole purpose of improving their English language skills and social knowledge. They are nice, friendly, honest and willing to learn from you as much as you want to know about our city.

3. When you think Hanoi is interesting enough to consider moving here for a while, then it’s time to take a look at the every-Hanoi-expat’s website TNHVietnamThere you can find all the necessary info for starting a new life in Hanoi: jobs, housing, restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, spas, etc. And you can add new spots in, as well as rate and review everything listed there.  A very interactive site!

Regarding job searching, you also should take a look at Vietnamworks, the biggest job listing website in Vietnam. However, it’s a bit local. On another site, NGO Resource Centre, you can find all the job opportunities with NGOs and UN agencies in Vietnam.

Furthermore, in this booming era of social media you can find this Facebook group called Hanoi Massive useful. The things posted on the group can be a bit non-sense sometimes (well, I mean, most of the time) but if you feel lazy googling stuff by yourself, just ask here. Beware of all the cynical Facebook personalities.

4. Now that you’ve got a job, a flat and friends, it’s time to explore the city. What’s happening in town? The best source for local events is Hanoi Grapevine, a wonderful site that I’m proud to be part of.  Here you can find out what’s happening in art, culture, charity, theater, music, and film. We also feature reviews and opinion pieces. Follow us on TwitterFacebook and check our calendar frequently for all updates!

Now, once the sun goes down, where can you party animals go for late night hangouts? Check out Link Hanoi for the latest info on all parties, clubs, and bars in town.

And because you need to read news too, The Word is the magazine for you. It’s run, written and edited by foreigners living in Vietnam.

5. After your boring hours at work, you feel like doing something a bit artistic or athletic in your free time?

Musicians go to Synergy Music Production to connect with other musicians in town and gather members for your new band!
Performers and theater lovers check out Hanoi International Theatre Society.
Rock climbers click on VietClimb.

Above are roughly all the info sources you may find interesting when visiting or living in Hanoi. If you know of any others that should be listed in here, please don’t hesitate to contact me! I would be thankful!

So, welcome you all to my city Hanoi, the city of beautiful lakes and busy traffic:


Bonus: A lovely video by The New York Times in their “36-hours” travel series that I proudly helped out  😉

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19 thoughts on “Hanoi for Newbies

    Georgia Myriah Dobbyn said:
    August 28, 2013 at 3:28 AM

    Hello,

    As an (expat) local, could you be so kind as to help me source a place where I can hire or buy a reliable touring bicycle? My boyfriend and I are hoping to cycle from Hanoi to HCMC!

    It would be so appreciated!
    Thanks

    Charles said:
    October 27, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Hi, I’m going to Hanoi in a week. Could I ask if the 50% discount for Mai Linh is still valid? Thanks so much

      Pham Hoang Mien responded:
      October 27, 2013 at 10:42 PM

      Hi Charles, sorry haven’t updated the page for a while (will need to soon..) but I’m afraid that is no more. The airport securities now are working hard on preventing other taxi companies to pick up passengers from the upper floor. If you arrive in day time, just take the mini bus

    halongbaycastawaytour said:
    February 27, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    Flight arrival delayed and finished with baggage and customs around 11pm….

    Guy wearing green jacket approached and said official airport taxi and showed ID. Appeared very friendly, asked where we are from, welcome to Hanoi, etc. Showed the way to the money exchange and ATM. Even chatted in Vietnamese with the teller of the money exchange. He said 800 dong to Old Quarter, very far away, around 1 to 1.5hrs, lots of other people waiting outside for taxi, late at night, etc. Teller hears the amount he said and did not comment about the price. I asked again if the price was ok, teller did not say anything contrary so we thought it was the norm. Green sweater guy then called someone to bring over the taxi.

    He carried one of our backpacks and ran to the taxi, so we had to chase him. He got inside and asked for payment immediately. Said don’t worry I know your hotel, I will give you receipt and I will sign the receipt… Thinking about ‘meter accelerators’ and night differential (not followed in Vietnam btw, unlike in Malaysia and Singapore), feeling very tired and sleepy, we agreed…

    Since he knew we were not used to the currency, he grabs the money from our hands and says, I will show you (this btw often happens in Vietnam, they would even pull out the bills themselves from your wallet, saying I show you)…..He then attempts to pocket 500,000 dong while he confused us by returning the smaller denominations rapidly…and gets 800,000 dong (around 40USD for what we found out was only a 300-350,000 dong ride)…

    After getting the money, he steps out of the cab quickly without a word…here comes another guy…Green sweater guy says need not to pay anything, gives receipt, says new guy will take you to the hotel – all from outside the car and runs away…

    Taxi speeds out…so no time to chase green sweater guy or ask, new guy barely speaks English…
    Once out of the highway, takes us to poorly lit area, minimal cars passing, what appears to be a toll gate a few meters ahead….stops the taxi, says pay 900,000 dong for toll for another highway…says in broken English can not pass unless pay…shows a ticket showing 900,000 dong (entirely in Vietnamese)…. says if you not pay can not pass, 800,000 only for taxi, you pay me, pay me, shows empty wallet, yells and finger points to toll gate, yells some more in Vietnamese..

    We said ok we will pay, just pass thru the toll gate and we will pay the toll fee directly to the teller if there is…he screams some more…some other cars arrive…he finally moves the taxi and we pass the gate but man at the gate did not collect anything from us nor from the other cars following our cab…

    He then takes us to a road more poorly lit than the previous one, below a bridge with one long wall covering the other lane, no houses ahead, only one side open but that is the one open to the river…got really afraid, I think this would have been the worst part – he would have pointed a gun or a knife…luckily, a group of students in bicycles and motorbikes came and when he tried to slow down and let the students pass us, other cars came and by that time, we were already at a well-lit area…

    once we reached the hotel, we said we would ask the concierge about the toll fee and the taxi fare…later, we found out there was no toll fee, we took the long way, and they charged us more than twice the amount… Even if the hotel guards intervened, taxi guy says it was another person who took our money, his pockets are empty, and he was not asking for any additional money…

    MODUS/TOTAL SCAM ATTEMPTS:

    1. OVERCHARGING

    2. MONEY GRABBING and POCKETING

    3. BOGUS TOLL FEES

    4. LONG ROUTE

    5. possible meter accelerator

    6. GUN or KNIFE THREATS

    7. INNOCENT PLEA, other guy not working with me

    LESSONS: Book the hotel taxi, go only for metered taxi monitored by the government (Mei linh-green and white, Hanoi, and Hanoi tourist), pay in smaller bills, know the currency and conversions, ask usual fare, ask usual route, bring a map, insist on the change, ask to be brought to the hotel and pay there, know the phone numbers of the police, hotel, etc., ask a buddy to take note of the taxi plate number or better yet take pictures of the cab and driver…

    Hope this does not happen to anyone else…Thank you and travel safe.

    Tara said:
    May 14, 2014 at 10:44 PM

    Hey there, you’ve got a great blog !!
    I will be visiting Hanoi for official work soon and then I’m extending my trip by 1 and a half days. Can you suggest a nice budget accommodation for me close to the airport and the shopping areas please 🙂 it would be awesome if you could suggest where I could shop as well 🙂

      Pham Hoang Mien responded:
      May 15, 2014 at 9:10 AM

      Hey Tara, thanks for the comment. I can’t help you with this since I’m not familiar with the area surrounding the airport. But I’m sure you can try posting your question to the Hanoi Massive Facebook group, maybe you’ll find your answers there 🙂

    Nadim said:
    December 10, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    Hi,

    Any nice hotels near the Old Quarter? Mid priced Hotels say 50-70 usd/night?

      Pham Hoang Mien responded:
      December 13, 2014 at 5:45 PM

      Hi Nadim, I’m not really sure about it, but I’m sure you can check it on hotelworld, agoda or travelfish.

    Nam Cilva said:
    May 27, 2015 at 7:02 PM

    Hi
    There are alot of things Hanoi has to offer, if you are there for the 1st time ask your taxi driver the good hotels in town. They normally cost $70-$100 per night then from the hotel call down to the reception and request a tour guide, the hotel will arrange one for you, don’t worry most things in Hanoi are cheap.

    hanoi weather said:
    September 2, 2015 at 8:24 PM

    Mình xin phép đăng lại bài viết này của Miên trên blog này được không: http://www.hanoiweather.info/

      Pham Hoang Mien responded:
      September 3, 2015 at 1:22 PM

      Được bạn ạ. Chỉ cần có trích nguồn là được :-). Mỗi cái là page này lâu ngày rồi mình chưa update, có thể có 1 số thông tin ko còn chính xác nữa..

    cool travel blog said:
    September 17, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    Great Timelapse video at the end! I wonder how many photos and hours it took every clip?

    Minette said:
    April 2, 2016 at 1:44 AM

    This helped a lot. Bookmarked this on my phone for my trip on August.

    RB said:
    August 23, 2016 at 9:41 PM

    great tips Pham 🙂
    The street food. So good, so cheap!
    Here are two posts I hope you enjoy about Vietnam/ Hanoi Who Wants to be a Millionaire – Vietnam Style and … Sharks, Pollution, and Communists in Hanoi
    will continue to look through your blog!

    Tom said:
    July 29, 2017 at 11:17 AM

    Hi 🙂
    Thank you for this inspiratinal article. We’ll head towards Hanoi in some weeks and i can use some of your tipps really well. As a food/travel blogger i’m especially looking foreward for the food 😀

    Jerome said:
    August 10, 2017 at 12:10 PM

    Thanks for your blog. This helped me see a glimpse of what we will be expecting when we get to Hanoi on September.

    foodiozblog said:
    August 11, 2017 at 7:24 AM

    Hi there, i will be visiting hanoi next week. I am sure get a nice information from here. Are you in Hanoi at the moment? Would love to catch up if you around.

      Pham Hoang Mien responded:
      August 12, 2017 at 6:25 PM

      Thanks for passing by. Unfortunately, I’m not in Hanoi at the moment. Hope you’ll have a great time! 🙂

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