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- Welcome To Hanoi
- Things To Do in Hanoi
- Trips from Hanoi: Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, Ha Giang Loop
- Hanoi For Digital Nomads
- Cafe Culture In Hanoi
- Meeting Others In Hanoi
- Where To Stay In Hanoi
- Practical Info: Visa & SIM Cards
- Safety & Travel Insurance
- And That's A Wrap!
- Frequently Asked Questions About Hanoi
- Other Vietnam Travel Guides
Welcome To Hanoi
Hanoi is the biggest city in Northern Vietnam with over 8 million people residing in this metropolis. The city is a popular destination as part of a larger South East Asia trip for travellers of all kinds. Hanoi is particularly popular among solo travellers, digital nomads, young couples, and backpackers in their 20s and 30s.
Hanoi is a bustling city with tons to do, however, it’s less intense than its southern counterpart, Ho Chi Minh City. I’d say 4 days would be enough to cover the main attractions and what Hanoi has to offer. However, I decided to take the slow route and explore all the gems of Hanoi.
In addition to everything the city of Hanoi has to offer, it’s an ideal base to explore the rest of northern Vietnam which is famous for its natural beauty. Hanoi is the perfect starting point for trips to the blue waters of Ha Long Bay, the green hills of Ninh Binh, and the mountainous drive of Ha Giang Loop.
Here’s a travel guide which will help you navigate the ins and outs of Hanoi if this is your first time visiting, especially if you’re a solo traveller or a digital nomad.
Things To Do in Hanoi
Explore The Old Quarter
The Old Quarter, known locally as Hoan Kiem, is the heart and soul of Hanoi. The Old Quarter of Hanoi is filled with trendy cafes and street restaurants around every corner. This neighbourhood is as lively and charming as it gets with its traditional Vietnamese architecture, ancient streets, and constant movement.
Don't forget to have your camera at the ready, as this area presents numerous picturesque scenes, allowing you to capture the everyday life of the Hanoi locals.
Rest assured, you’ll be spending a majority of your time here during your time in Hanoi.
Take a Stroll by Hoan Kiem Lake
In the midst of the Old Quarter is the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s a chill place to take a walk at any point of the day or the night. In the morning, you can find plenty of people running, playing badminton, dancing, and participating in group workouts. As the sun sets, you’ll see plenty of people coming here to enjoy the atmosphere of street vendors, food carts, and local musicians.
Write a Special Note for The World at The Note Coffee
The Note Coffee is a world-famous cafe whose insides are adorned with thousands of sticky notes from visitors from all corners of the globe. With 4 floors to explore, you’ll find yourself lost in a sea of life lessons, inspirational quotes, and thought-provoking conversations.
But this isn’t just any coffee shop – it’s a place where people come to leave their mark on the world, share their hopes and dreams, and connect with others in meaningful ways.
Whether you’re looking to write a message of love to a special someone, leave a note of encouragement for the world to see, or simply enjoy a delicious cup of coffee in a truly unique setting, The Note Coffee is the perfect place to start. So come on in, grab a pen, and start writing the life you always talked about. Who knows – your message could change someone’s life forever.
Shop at the Night Market
Hanoi's night market is a lively and bustling event that takes place every evening in the midst of The Old Quarter. Like most markets in South East Asia, you can find everything under the sun for extremely affordable prices here in Hanoi. Exploring Hanoi's night market is not only an opportunity to hunt for unique finds but also a chance to immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture. Just don’t forget to haggle here when the sellers quote you a price!
Watch A Train Pass By At Train Street
Hanoi’s Train Street is one of the most popular attractions in the city among tourists. Train Street is a tiny narrow railroad packed away in one of the backstreets of Hanoi surrounded by high narrow cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Timing is crucial when visiting this remarkable spot. If you’re there at the right time, you'll be treated to an extraordinary sight: a train passing by mere feet away from your balcony while enjoying some delicious Vietnamese cuisine and drinks. The train is supposed to pass only 2 to 3 times a day, so make sure you research the train schedule for the day before going.
It’s a little perplexing how Train Street works. I spoke to some travellers who said they had a hard time getting in because of the guards positioned at the entrance. To deal with the guards, simply go to the entrance barricade and wait for a restaurant host to approach you and invite you inside. It’s all smooth sailing from there — just order some good food and experience the railway magic.
Party on Hanoi’s Infamous Beer Street (or not)
If you like a wild night...
Ta Hien Street, also known as Beer Street, is a thin 250-meter walking street in Hanoi with the wildest party scene in Hanoi. As the name suggests, Beer Street is a place where alcohol flows till the late hours of the night. It is the main place in Hanoi to party if you’re visiting! The nightlife here flows from the inside of clubs and pubs out to the streets, all blending into one beautiful messy night.
Take note that Beer Street is really touristy and noisy, so it may not be your scene.
If a rowdy night is not for you… cocktails!
Hanoi boasts an amazing collection of upscale cocktail bars such as Polite & Co, Haflington, and Nê if you’re looking for something a lil fancy.
Nê was particularly my favourite bar, thanks to its captivating Vietnamese cuisine-inspired cocktails. Nê skillfully crafted a selection of cocktails that drew inspiration from iconic Vietnamese dishes like Pho and Omai.
For more bars, check out Lifestyle Asia’s blog post on top cocktail bars in Hanoi 👇
Trips from Hanoi
Hanoi is a fun city, but the main draw of Hanoi is the wealth of trips you can take from Hanoi to explore the rest of the north. Don’t come to Hanoi solely to see the city — you must use Hanoi as your base to explore the stunning nature that’s all around the area.
Ha Long Bay: Explore The Blue Waters and Limestone Islands
Undoubtedly, Ha Long Bay stands as one of the premier tourist attractions for most travellers embarking on a journey through Vietnam. Make sure this one is high up on your list. When you’re at Ha Long Bay, you’ll see a thousand mini-islands untouched by humans while cruising through rippling aquamarine waters.
Look up and you’ll see timeless majestic limestone karsts. Look down and you’ll see calm ripples, perfectly tinted in shades of aquamarine.
“Ha Long Bay is a surreal landscape of limestone karsts erupting from the ocean like tidal waves made solid by magic and time.” - Visit Vietnam
Whether you choose to cruise leisurely or engage in exciting activities like kayaking or swimming, the experience promises to be unforgettable.
I took a day trip to Ha Long Bay through Get Your Guide and it was an uber chill experience. Here’s the tour in case you’re interested:
Fun Fact: Ha Long Bay literally translates to “Where The Dragon Descends To The Sea” which I thought made it the coolest possible name!
Ninh Binh: Cycle, Boat, and Hike in The Green Hills
Ninh Binh is a picturesque province in Vietnam that is colloquially known as Ha Long Bay on Land.
I went with a tour group to Ninh Binh and experienced its natural beauty through a trio of activities: cycling, boating, and hiking. As an adventure junkie, this was totally up my alley.
To kickstart our day, we hopped on bikes and rode through the green hilly landscape of Ninh Binh — taking all the greenery in while riding down the empty streets was such a treat!
Next, we headed to Trang An, a stunning eco-tourism haven known for its network of waterways and aquatic caves that cut through the hills. There, we took off on a 2-3 hour boat journey, rowing between the hills and through the enchanting caves.
To wrap up the day, we undertook a gruelling sweaty 20-minute climb to Hang Mua. Hang Mua is a vantage point on top of Mua Cave that takes approximately 500 steps to ascend. From this vantage point, you can catch a stunning panorama of Ninh Binh’s landscape.
To wrap up the day, we embarked on a 20-minute climb to reach the vantage point of Hang Mua. You’ll need to climb approximately 500 steep steps to get to this vantage point. Though it’s a gruelling and sweaty hike, the breathtaking panorama of Ninh Binh's landscape makes it all worthwhile.
A day at Ninh Binh is an absolute battery drainer, but oh it’s so worth it 👌
I took a one-day trip through Get Your Guide and enjoyed every bit of it. I highly recommend this tour if you’re considering a day trip from Hanoi:
Ha Giang Loop: Cycle, Boat, and Hike in The Green Hills
The Ha Giang Loop holds a coveted position on the travel bucket lists of many, drawing in travellers from around the world. The Ha Giang Loop is a 4-day motorcycle trip that starts in Hanoi and goes all the way up to the northern mountain. You can choose to do this trip alone or you can go as part of a tour. If you’re not an experienced motorcycle rider, there are many tours that provide you with a rider.
Throughout the trip, you will have the opportunity to make frequent stops at various scenic spots, immersing yourself in the awe-inspiring landscapes. Each night is spent in charming guest houses, allowing for meaningful interactions with locals from the different villages encountered along the way.
Regrettably, I was unable to experience the Ha Giang Loop during my trip. However, I’m confident I will come back to Vietnam to check this one off my bucket list.
Here are some tours from Get Your Guide you could consider:
Hanoi for Digital Nomads
Hanoi offers a relaxed atmosphere for digital nomads, allowing you to take your time exploring the city. As a digital nomad, I spent 11 days in Hanoi, slowly taking in the culture while trying different trendy cafes to work from every day of my stay.
Hanoi’s wifi infrastructure is consistently fast and reliable. Moreover, the cost of living is very low in comparison to other major international digital nomad hubs. If you’re on the go, Hanoi has really affordable SIM card plans giving you multiple gigabytes of data per day.
Hanoi has a thriving community of digital nomads. You'll come across numerous fellow nomads scattered across cafes throughout the city. It's a common sight to see them working, creating a vibrant community of remote workers.
In terms of amenities, Hanoi is well-equipped with convenience stores and pharmacies that operate 24 hours, making it easy to find necessary supplies and services throughout the city.
Hanoi has no shortage of coworking spaces and it has a growing startup scene. For a list of coworking spaces in Hanoi, I suggest you check out XYZ Labs’ article 👇
All in all, Hanoi definitely gets the green light as a great city for digital nomads.
Cafe Culture in Hanoi
It’s no secret that Vietnam is famous for its coffee — this, in turn, translates to a strong cafe culture prevalent throughout all big cities in Vietnam. Without a doubt, you’ll be to find a trendy cafe within a 2 min walk from wherever you are in Hanoi.
Here is a list of awesome, trendy cafes I visited from throughout my stay in Hanoi. All these cafes had a respectful crowd and good wifi and I recommend them as hangout spots as well as remote working spots:
☕️ Salt Mate
☕️ Nosan Coffee
While you’re at these cafes, remember to try all the delicious local Vietnamese coffees available. Vietnam has an amazingly creative coffee culture with must-try caffeinated beverages such as coconut cream coffee, salted cream coffee, and my favourite, their traditional egg coffee.
Meeting Others In Hanoi
In Hanoi, you'll encounter travellers from all corners of the globe, creating a truly multicultural atmosphere. The locals in Hanoi are super friendly and welcoming, adding to the warmth of the city. The opportunities to meet new people here are boundless.
Signing up for group tours and pub crawls proved to be fantastic ways to connect with fellow adventurers and explore the city together. Additionally, travel apps such as Couchsurfing, along with other social apps such as Instagram were great ways to meet other travellers in the area.
I can’t stress how important the Couchsurfing app has been to meet other people while travelling. Although I must confess that I haven't used the Couchsurfing app for its original purpose of couch surfing, I religiously use it for its social features to meet other travel-obsessed globetrotters.
Hanoi has a thriving social scene, so if you make an effort, you’ll be able to make a handful of new friends.
Where To Stay in Hanoi
I can’t stress the importance of staying in or near the Old Quarter in Hanoi. All the main attractions of Hanoi are in the Old Quarter, and all trips and tours mostly only do pickups and drop-offs in the Old Quarter.
You can feel free to stay a little outside the Old Quarter as well if you want a quieter neighbourhood. But location is key!
Practical Info: Before You Get To Hanoi
Apply for Vietnam’s e-Visa beforehand
Obtaining an e-visa for Vietnam is an essential step for citizens of most countries. The processing time for an e-visa typically takes up to 10 business days. It's important to note that entry into the country without a valid e-visa is not permitted, so it's crucial to complete this process well in advance of your travel dates.
When applying for an e-visa, it is necessary to specify your designated port of entry. You must enter Vietnam through the port that you indicate during the application process.
You can apply for your e-visa here online 👇
Note: As immigration rules can vary from country to country and may undergo changes over time, I suggest you double-check the visa requirements for Vietnam from an official source when you plan your trip.
Download Grab to Get Around In Hanoi
When you land in Hanoi, I strongly recommended downloading the Grab app. Grab is your local rideshare alternative in Vietnam, and it’s arguably better than Uber. Rides here are not costly at all in comparison to global standards. Whether you need to travel short distances within the city or cover longer routes, Grab will be your go-to transportation solution.
In South East Asia, Grab tends to offer a GrabBike option in which a rider on a scooter comes to pick you and it’s such a thrilling local experience!
Get a SIM Card in Hanoi
When you land at the Hanoi airport, I strongly suggest you purchase a SIM card right there and then. It’s highly convenient and affordable — you’ll be spending up to $15 to get multiple gigabytes of 4G data per day (yes, per day!). In all likelihood, purchasing a local SIM on your travels is better than activating your existing provider’s roaming plan.
Popular mobile providers in Vietnam include Viettel, MobiFone, and Vinaphone. You can conveniently find kiosks at the arrival area of the airport offering SIM card packages.
For more details on purchasing SIM cards in Hanoi, check out Travel Tom Tom’s post 👇
Safety and Insurance
Safety in Hanoi
As a solo travelling guy, I found Hanoi to be a very tourist-friendly and safe city. During my time in the city, I felt completely secure and had no concerns regarding my personal safety. The locals are exceptionally friendly and approachable, always ready to lend a helping hand whenever needed. If you stick to the main tourist areas, you are unlikely to encounter any issues.
As I always recommend while travelling: just don’t do anything careless and you should be fine.
For solo travelling women, I recommend checking out this article to get a woman’s perspective on safety in Hanoi 👇
Overall, Hanoi offers a welcoming and secure environment for travellers, allowing you to explore the city with peace of mind.
Travel Insurance in Hanoi
Over the course of my 11 days in Hanoi, I was kayaking in Ha Long Bay and cycling in hilly Ninh Binh amongst other thrilling activities. While I'm always taking part in such adventurous experiences throughout my travels, these come with a certain degree of risk, particularly for solo travellers like myself.
To stay protected, I always make sure I’m covered by insurance. For my last couple of travels, I’ve been using Genki for my insurance. Genki is an insurance company that is literally dedicated to Backpackers and Digital Nomads. They’ll have you covered for every country with a flexible month-to-month plan and no long-term commitment.
Knowing that Genki has me covered makes life a little less stressful or me. If you’re interested, you can use my link and sign up for Genki here:
And That’s A Wrap!
Hanoi’s a great city for solo travellers, digital nomads, backpackers, budget travellers, young couples, and nature lovers. You’re bound to have a good time here! With this travel guide in hand, you can confidently navigate the ins and outs of Hanoi, making the most of your visit and creating new memories in this captivating city.
Frequently Asked Questions
Other Vietnam Travel Guides
If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, check out these guides I created on Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An.
Ho Chi Minh City
Explore Vietnam's vibrant Ho Chi Minh City with this travel guide, uncovering its rich history and lively street culture.
Discover the captivating charm of Hoi An, a Vietnamese small city gem that allures solo travellers, backpackers, and digital nomads.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hanoi
Is Hanoi good for solo travel?
Absolutely! Hanoi is a fantastic choice for solo travellers. With a vibrant atmosphere, friendly locals, and a wide range of activities, the city caters to diverse preferences. The Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, and unique spots like Train Street provide plenty of opportunities to immerse oneself in the city's charm. Whether exploring trendy cafes, joining group tours, or meeting fellow travelers, solo adventurers can make the most of Hanoi's rich cultural experience.
Is Hanoi good for digital nomads?
I had a wonderful time as a digital nomad in Hanoi doing some of my best work in the beautiful accommodations and cafes Hanoi has to offer. For digital nomads, Hanoi offers a relaxed atmosphere with fast and reliable wifi, affordable living costs, and a growing startup scene. The city boasts numerous trendy cafes and coworking spaces, creating a conducive environment for remote work. Hanoi's social scene and the presence of fellow nomads further enhance the experience for those working while exploring the city.
What to avoid in Hanoi?
While Hanoi is generally safe and welcoming, it's advisable to exercise caution in certain areas. Places like Beer Street, known for its touristy and noisy scene, might not appeal to everyone (though I loved the hustle & bustle!). When visiting popular spots like Train Street, be aware of guards, and follow any specific entry procedures to ensure a smooth experience.
Should I go to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi?
Personally, I recommend visiting both cities to truly experiences the cultural differences between the north and south of Vietnam. Though choosing between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi depends on personal preferences. Hanoi offers a more laid-back and cultural experience, with its historic Old Quarter and scenic locations. On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh City has a faster pace, a modern vibe, and a bustling urban atmosphere. Whether you prefer the charm of Hanoi or the dynamic energy of Ho Chi Minh City, it ultimately comes down to the type of atmosphere and experiences you seek in your Vietnam adventure.