Hanoi Travel Guide

Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital and second largest city by population (behind Ho Chi Minh City). It’s located in the northern part of the country, on the banks of the Red River, and is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. You can find well-preserved colonial buildings, ancient pagodas, and unique museums within the city center.

How to Get to Hanoi

Noi Bai International Airport (IATA: HAN), the biggest airport in northern Vietnam, serves the capital city of Hanoi. The airport is located 45 kilometers from the city center.

As it is the capital of the country, most airlines from several countries fly to Hanoi directly, so it is possibly one of the first cities you’ll visit when traveling to Vietnam. While Hanoi is often just a jumping-off point to other popular destinations in Northern Vietnam like Bai Tu Long Bay, Sapa and Ninh Binh, it has its own attraction and character to flaunt.

Best Time to Visit

Although the weather is divided into two main seasons: rainy season (from January to September), and dry season (from October to April), thanks to transition months, Hanoi still experiences all four seasons. Here’s what it’s like to visit Hanoi during the different seasons:

  • Spring – Lasting from February to April, Hanoi’s spring is humid and wet with drizzling rains. The average temperature normally ranges from 15 to 20 degrees Celsius.
  • Summer – Hanoi’s summer is very hot with the average temperature of 32 degrees Celsius, and has risen in recent years, lasting from May to August (July is the hottest month).
  • Autumn – This season is quite short, typically from the middle of September to the end of November. The average temperature is 25 degrees Celsius, and Hanoi’s autumn is charming with warm sunlight, cool breezes and dry atmosphere.
  • Winter – The cold weather of Hanoi will start from December and may last until late February, with the average temperature of 17.2 degrees Celsius. However, sometimes it may drop to below 10 degrees Celsius, with the high humidity lending a hand in making the weather bitterly cold.

April and May are generally great months to be in Hanoi weather wise. We visited Hanoi in the middle of May, and the temperatures were consistently above 20 degrees Celsius, but it had not yet reached the roasting temperatures of full-on summer.

How Long to Stay

Hanoi is often just a jumping-off point to other popular destinations in Northern Vietnam like Bai Tu Long Bay, Sapa and Ninh Binh. However, Hanoi has its own attraction and character to flaunt. We stayed 6 days in Hanoi which included 3 days, 2 nights on cruise in Bai Tu Long Bay. That gave us about 3 full days to see the best of Hanoi which was just right.

Hanoi Airport to the Old Quarter

  • By private transfer: We used private transfers going in to Hanoi as this is the easiest way to get to our hotel from the airport, though they won’t be the cheapest.
  • By Grab/Uber: We didn’t use any ride-sharing apps in Vietnam, but Grab and Uber are reliable taxi services, with cheaper prices and safer standards than regular taxis.
  • By taxi: We would avoid taxis at all costs because I’ve read that taxi scammers are the one and only thing many travelers complain about in Hanoi. To avoid being victimized by scams, arrange for a private transfer or use a ride-sharing app instead.
  • By private shuttle bus: Jetstar and Vietnam Airlines run private minibuses that shuttle people from the airport to designated stops in Hanoi. It may not take you exactly where you want to go, but you’ll be close enough to either walk to your hotel or hop into an Uber or Grab
  • By bus: BUS #86 – This is a new bus operating from Hanoi Airport to Hanoi City center including the bus stops in Hanoi Old Quarter and Long Bien bus station.  Buses run every 30 minutes from 6:30 am to 11:30 pm.,  and travel time is roughly 1 hour. if you are staying at Hanoi Old Quarter, you can alight at the bus stop in front of the Post Office near Hoan Kiem Lake. From there you can walk to your hotel or take a taxi. Another option is you can take Hanoi city buses number 7 and 17 also connect the airport with the city center. The bus stop is just on the right side of the terminal exit. Buses run every 15-20 minutes from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm

How to Get Around Hanoi

There are a few ways to get around once you’re in Hanoi. Walking is a great way to explore the Old Quarter, with many attractions within walking distance, thanks to its manageable size. If the Hanoi heat starts getting to you, cyclos (three-wheel bicycle taxi) are an option to get around and tour Hanoi, but it only covers limited distances and places. Another option for getting around Hanoi is via motorcycle taxi (Xe Om). These can be found almost everywhere in the city.

You will most likely find yourself in a taxi at some stage. Taxis are cheap and usually reliable but avoid scams by always making sure the meter is switched on.

Where to Exchange Currency

The best places to exchange currency in Vietnam are at banks and gold/jewelry shops. Almost every single jewelry store in Hanoi will exchange your money. Jewelry stores in Hanoi are known to give you the best rates.

I’ve read that you can exchange currency at some hotels as well, but the rates generally aren’t good and they charge you an additional fee for the service. If you just arrived at the airport, there are rows of money changers after the custom check where they scan your luggage. These money changers do not have the best rate but it is essential to change some money for the taxi to the city.

Where to Stay in Hanoi

We preferred staying in the Old Quarter because it is near the restaurants, shops and some attractions around the Hoan Kiem Lake.

Finding a good, inexpensive place to stay in the Old Quarter won’t be difficult, but two places we would recommend based on our experience are: 

  • Hanoi La Siesta Diamond Hotel – It is centrally located in the Old Quarter. The rooms are very comfortable and clean, fitted with a refrigerator, free Wi-Fi access, air-conditioned, an electric kettle and a private bathroom with bathrobes and free toiletries. The staff were incredible, I can’t say enough nice things about the them. The food was great and we always looked forward to their breakfast buffet in the morning.
  • Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa – Attractive and stylish, the rooms have fresh and modern designs. Our room was comfortable and had a private bathroom with free toiletries and a hairdryer, air-conditioning, a mini fridge and kettle, TV and free Wi-Fi throughout property. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, and massage services can be booked for a surcharge.

What to Pack

When packing for Vietnam, less is more. You will be thankful you packed light when walking around with your bag in the tropical heat. Casual, beachy clothing and athletic ware will be your favorite clothing in this humid country.

Here are some Vietnam-specific items we’d recommend packing:

  • Bug repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Insulated water bottle
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Loose, lightweight clothes & layers
  • Swim suit
  • KEEN sandal (we’d recommend these instead of hiking boots as they are less bulky and are good for walking through water)

We hope that you find this guide useful.

Safe Travels!

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