Everyone’s dream is to travel and see the world. For a budget traveler looking for epic urban adventures, look no further than Vietnam for your next backpacking trip. Hanoi is the iconic capital, rich in activities, sightseeing, and historical heritages – so overwhelmingly amazing that the city might give you a bit of a culture shock!
This backpacker-friendly guide will provide you with some essentials to make the best of your experience in this exciting, bustling city.
Getting to Hanoi
Whether you’re departing from another Asian city or your hometown, there are plenty of options to reach Hanoi. You can travel from a neighboring country such as Laos, Cambodia, or Thailand with a long bus ride to reach the Vietnamese capital; it’ll save you a lot on airfare. Otherwise, choose the cheapest flight as a quicker and safer travel option (which can be found during off-peak tourist season). By all means, avoid hitchhiking as it’s not a common practice there.
Weather Conditions in Hanoi
Hanoi’s climate is very different from cities in southern Vietnam (namely Ho Chi Minh City). The optimal time to visit the capital is October or November when temperatures are cooler, and the weather is more stable. Avoid going during spring or summer as you might be caught amidst humid heat, typhoons, and violent rains, which is typical of that time of year.
Accommodation and Packing Essentials for Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi
A standard guideline for backpackers is to limit their stays in hotels. Fortunately, Hanoi is very cost-friendly; you can find an affordable hostel dorm room for $5 a night in Hoan Kiem District. As far as packing musts, it’s a good idea to consult sleeping pad reviews and select one that’ll keep you comfortable and warm.
Discovering the City Attractions
Get ready to soak in the exotic culture and experience world-famous Asian hospitality. Hanoi is a vibrant metropolis that has experienced many influences across the centuries; a walk on foot through the narrow streets of the historic center (Old Quarter) will get you acquainted with the capital’s charming colonial past and cosmopolitan architecture. With regards to transportation, you’ll find it relatively easy to explore the city, despite the congestion and traffic – there are plenty of cheap options to get around, including buses and bicycle rickshaws. If you’re a biker, you can spend a little on renting a motorcycle for better mobility across the city.
Sightseeing in Hanoi
Hanoi is a popular destination among tourists who like to visit its temples, museums, pagodas, and markets and immerse themselves in the captivating local scenery. A must-see monument is Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, who was a political figure and founder of modern Vietnam. It’s a good idea to purchase a tourist map of the city and ask around for which places are worth visiting. Let the locals guide you through your urban exploration journey!
Taking photos on the staple Long Bien Bridge
Asian Flavors in Hanoi
Bun Oc – sea snail vermicelli soup
Foodies will find Hanoi to be culinary heaven on earth, thanks to the various influences that have made up its unique identity over time. And no need to spend a fortune; you can sample a variety of dishes and get a full stomach for barely a few dollars. Some local delicacies include cha ca (seasoned fish will dill) and tasty rolled cakes known as banh cuon. Prepare for a flavorful, spicy experience! The capital also has plenty of bars and pubs where you can mingle and try their local beer.
The fermented shrimp paste might put you off at first, but it goes surprisingly well with the fish
Stop by a local eatery to taste the local cuisine (In picture: beef jerky salad shops in the Old Quarter area)
Nightlife in Hanoi
Speaking of, if you like beer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that there is an actual “Beer Street” in the Old Quarter. It’s an awesome, lively place for partying, socializing, and bar hopping. Even if you don’t drink, chances are you’ll get tipsy from the sheer energy alone.
Bonus: Common Vietnamese Phrases
It’s always a great idea to pick up some useful phrases before heading to a foreign destination. You can greet people with chào, ‘please’ is xin vui lòng, and ‘thank you’ is cảm ơn.
Ultimately, Hanoi is a superb destination for backpackers and solo travelers. With these useful travel tips, you’ll be able to explore and discover the Vietnamese capital in all its beauty and richness with a daily budget of no more than $25.