A guide around Hanoi
Have you ever been to Vietnam? How does the real Vietnam look like? Let me tell you a little story about my trip to Vietnam.
I recently decided to travel to a place where I haven’t been before to experience a different culture and see how people live in Vietnam. I have read a few articles about Vietnam before but I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, how safe is it and what should I be aware of.
You can find various opinions about Vietnam – some people say how this country is incredible whilst other people write about scammers and people who want to rip you off. However, overall Vietnam is considered a very safe country.
Let me tell you about Hanoi and Da Nang. This article will be focused on Hanoi.
My first impression of the Hanoi Airport was a bit like – it is a very noisy place, a bit confusing, many taxi drivers shouts around to get you to your hotel. Even the kiosks looked somehow suspicious to trust them.
I have heard about taxi drivers that can take you to a different place and charge you a double price. If you walk outside the airport hall, you will notice taxi drivers who try to get you in. I wouldn’t trust them, follow your intuition to avoid being overcharged.
If you want to know the price, ask the taxi driver in advance to not be surprised later.
I have read about two major taxi driver companies that should be ok which are Mai Linh (green taxi) and Vinasun (white with green and red logo). Unfortunately, there were non of them at the airport which made me a bit anxious!
Finally, I decided to use Grab – an app that is similar to Uber and it is considered as a safe option. However, the driver didn’t speak English at all which was a bit frustrating but I ended up in the correct hotel.
If you want to use Grab, you would need to purchase a sim card at the airport with a data or you can join some fellow traveller to share your taxi.
Walking around Hanoi
When you walk in the street in Hanoi, especially around the Old Quarter it might seem like a crazy place. A lot of mopeds around tooting the horn and it is very crowded. Cross the street is challenging as well! The drivers drive constantly without stopping (mostly only slowing down).
You can’t be afraid to cross the street otherwise you will get stuck in one place!
Don’t worry about the mopeds though– they will slow down and let you go if you don’t hesitate. Be mindful that even green colour doesn’t mean that you can safely cross the street. Always watch and don’t be scared.
To walk on the side walk is not always as smooth as you can be used from Western countries. People are usually sitting outside the stores, there are mini tables with chairs for street food. You will notice many cables hanging around, sometimes it is easier to walk on the road.
The street food is very cheap. It starts at $1,5 but depends on where do you eat. In restaurants, you might pay around 60000 Dong which is approximately $3. For Bun cha, you might pay more as it is a huge meal– usually rice noodles, a bunch of herbs, spring rolls, meat.
You might have heard that eating meat on the street is not much safe (because of the hygiene) as they usually have it in the heat. However, you can find places where they have fridges. I would say if there are many people eating, you don’t need to worry that much. Always use your common sense.
Be mindful with water – always buy bottled water and don’t drink tap water.
Famous food in Vietnam
It can be very challenging to check the menu when you decide to try street food. The visuals of the menu usually doesn’t display the exact photos so you might be difficult to find out what exactly it is.
You will see signs with names and sometimes basic photos. Locals will just want to know what do you want and not give you much advice. One of the most famous food in Vietnam is definitely Pho Bo soup which is made from beef and rice noodles with herbs. You can add some garlic and chilli as well.
Other very popular vietnamese meal is Bun Cha which is pork with a lot of herbs and rice noodles. Rice paper rolls are made differently than for example in Australia. They are filled with a bunch of fresh herbs.
You can feel the strong taste of mint or coriander in the rice paper rolls. For a dip, they use a peanut sauce which is made from real crunched peanuts. If you are not used to eating herbs, it might be overwhelming for you. I personally love herbs, so I really enjoyed having these fresh herbs every day.
Going to a restaurant is definitely a great idea too as you can enjoy very fancy and delicious Vietnamese cuisine for a bargain price. For this price and amount of food, you wouldn’t eat in any fancy restaurant in Western countries.
You can have a luxury experience for a reasonable budget. In addition, they have an incredible smoothies from fresh fruit.
Other vitnamese specialty is an egg coffee – one of the famous places is Giang – In this place, you will find a lot of fellow travellers, mostly from Europe, so you can feel more like a home (if you are European).
The place is a little bit hidden. It took me a while to find it. However, it is not the only Café where can you get this delicious coffee– I tried a café near Old train station – Ga Gond Duong.
The coffee was incredibly delicious with a pleasant sitting outside.
Even though egg coffee is served with raw yolk if you chose a safe place you shouldn’t be worried about that. I think if you have a warm version, it should be fine as the hot water can somehow kill the bacteria I guess. 🙂
If you are a foodie traveller, you will definitely have no worries about starving as the food is literally anywhere. Restaurants and places are open until late (10-11 pm but some places can close earlier).
- Consider taking enough cash to avoid fees from ATM. Hanoi people mostly accept only cash
- If you pay by credit card at hotel you might be charged 3% more
- Tours are very cheap and it is an easy way how to explore places smoothly
- If you take a taxi be mindful. Ask about the price before and be sure you know the address (otherwise they might take advantage of you and take you somewhere else)
- Tips are not required but people usually appreciate it
10000 Vietnamese Dong = approximately 0.61 AUD
10000 Vietnamese Dong = 10 CZK
It is very cheap to stay in a Backpacker hostel, many people do that to safe money. Prices start as low as $3 per night.
This means that if you don’t have much money and love travelling – go to Vietnam! No kidding – cheap food and accommodation and friendly people around. For example Hanoi Lotus hostel for $5 per night.
If you prefer a bit of comfort, I would recommend you to choose a nice hotel that might seem expensive for Vietnam but you will get a luxury feel for a price that you will never get anywhere in Europe, the USA or Australia.
So if you want to experience comfort, fancy feeling and don’t have money to go to Europe or Australia to stay in a nice place, go to Vietnam.
When to go?
I would recommend you to travel from late February to June as the weather is pleasant, dry. If you go from December to February it might be too cold (10-20 Celsius) so you definitely need a jacket.
Don’t go around July to September as it is very hot and humid there that time so if you don’t like being sweaty and sticky, avoid this time. Another recommended time is from October to November when the weather is pleasant and the sky is clear.