Food & Drink
1. Eat the street food!
This is a no brainer.
Hanoi’s street food scene is world famous. Start by taking a stroll around the Old Quarter and following your nose. Take a look at what others are eating and sit down.
Staples like the classic bowl of Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) for breakfast should sustain you until well into the afternoon, and should set you back no more than $1.50 (VND35,000) per bowl. Iced tea (tra da) comes with it and is usually free or close to it (VND2,000) while Bun Cha is only slightly more expensive at around (VND45,000) per serving.In the afternoon get yourself some Banh Khot (Vietnamese pancakes) or Pho Cuon (Noodle rolls) to tide you over until dinner, when a world of opportunity awaits. Snacks like these shouldn’t cost more that VND20,000 ($1) per plate.For more ideas, check out our list of 5 foods you must try in Hanoi here.
2. Shop at the markets.
Cut down even more on your food costs by doing as the locals do: shopping at any one of Hanoi’s fantastic street markets.
ProTip: Rise and Shine! The ‘get up early to avoid the herd’ rule applies to all but one of these. Set your alarm and resist the temptation to sleep in. Early is when the full complement of food vendors are in operation, and in our opinion, when the weather is at its kindest.
Here’s a list of 5 of Hanoi’s best:.Hang Da Market
1 Pho Hang Da, Hanoi
Open: 5am-5pm daily
A popular market also good for cheap fabric, clothes and imported wine!
Dong Xuan Market
Dong Xuan Street, Hoan Kiem
Open: 6am-7pm daily
This is Hanoi’s largest and most authentic indoor market, spread across four stories of an old Soviet style building. Worth the visit.
Hanoi Weekend Night Market
Hang Dao Street, Hoan Kiem
Open: Fri-Sun 8pm-11pm
This is the place in Hanoi to satisfy your every street food desire, and because competition is high, prices stay low.
Quang Ba Flower Market
Au Co Street, Tay Ho
Open: 2am-12pm daily
This is where the best and brightest flowers in Vietnam come to be sold, making it a photographers dream. Well worth missing some sleep for.
Cho Hom Market
293 Tran Nhan Tong, Hai Ba Trung
Open: 6am-5pm daily
A huge wholesale market where prices are negotiable; so polish up your lingo! Start with Mac Qua! (so expensive!) and go from there.
3. Drink Bia Hoi
We cover this off in more detail here, but it’s still worth mentioning on this list, as a fresh glass of Bia Hoi (fresh beer) should set you back no more than the princely sum of around VND8,000 (around 40 cents).
Accommodation and Getting Around
4. Be prepared to share a room
This is another piece of simple budget economics.
Anything less than $25 a night in the city isn’t going to get you far, so you might need to lower your expectations, but be aware that the time of the $2 a night hostel is all but gone.
During peak periods and national holidays especially, you need to be prepared to ‘bunk up’ with some fellow low budget travelers.
5. Try a Home stay
If you don’t mind taking a room in a house lived in by the owners or by other budget travelers, consider booking a home stay.
The benefit of these are that they’ll put you in touch with locals immediately, all of whom will be happy to share their knowledge of the city and most likely invite you for a home-cooked dinner!
6. Catch a Bus
What better way to save money and immerse yourself in the country than by using the local bus service.
In recent years, the standard of the city’s fleet has improved, but remains a very cheap travel option. Just look out for the red-and-yellow-striped buses stopping all over the city.
Cost-wise any trip inside the city will cost around VND5000 (20 cents), while a trip to or from the airport will only set you back around VND 15000 (75 cents). This compares to the approximately VND 350,000 ($18) by taxi.
Routes to look out for are the #7 and #17 to and from Noi Bai airport and the #9 which will drop you off at Hoan Kiem Lake.
ProTip: If you use any of the private taxi companies or a xe om (motorcycle taxi) we recommend confirming the price before you get in, or on. A ten minute trip around the city shouldn’t be much more than VND 30,000 ($1.50).
Ride-hailing apps like Grab also operate in Hanoi.
Things to do
7. Explore the Old Quarter
With the smorgasbord of sights, sounds, smells and humans living and working in Hanoi’s famous Old Quarter, you can do a lot worse than simply stroll around this famous part of the city for a good few hours. Do we need to say more? Click here for more details on what not to miss.
8 Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake
If you do this right – by stopping to buy ice cream (kem) or a refreshing nuoc mia (sugar cane juice), both of which shouldn’t cost more than VND5,000 (20 cents) – this can take you hours.
We also suggest you take up the opportunity of some light English language conversation with any of the enthusiastic young students eager to practice with real foreigners. You’d be surprised what you can learn!
Pro Tip: The lake is particularly beautiful at night, when lights from the famous ‘Red Bridge’ (The Huc) create a romantic ambience. If you’re more of an early morning person, join the locals there for a 5 am aerobics or Tai Chi class. Just don’t be disrespectful, or still drunk from the previous night!
9 the National Museum of Vietnamese History
1 Trang Tien St and 216 Tran Quang Khai St, Hanoi
Open daily 08:00-12:00, 13:30-17:30. Closed on the first Monday of each month.
Spread across two sites, site one on Trang Tien Street is particularly stunning. Set in a colonial-era mansion, which once acted as the French consulate, it houses some beautiful and important historical exhibits.
10 Visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
8. Huong Vuong, Ba Dinh
Open Tuesday-Thursday 0730-1030, Saturday & Sunday 0730-1100
Free entry although donations are welcomed
You do need to pay attention to the opening hours, but this is one of the most visited attractions in Vietnam for a reason, and it’s free! Preserved in glass forever, Ho Chi Minh’s body is on kept on display here, making this museum a rite of passage for Vietnam’s young and old.
11. Visit the Temple of Literature
Quoc Tu Giang St, Hanoi
Open daily mid-April to mid-October 07:30-18:00
Entry: 30,000 dong
This is well covered o for good reason; it really is a step back in time.
If you go in spring (March-May) you’ll witness the vast array of colours in gardens that connect the five walled courtyards, and surround the famous Well of Heavenly Clarity.
12. Sing Karaoke!
In street-side bars everywhere
Nothing will enamour you to the locals more than singing in your funny Western accent! The Vietnamese love a good sing-a-long, and luckily in Hanoi, there are hundreds of karaoke bars to do it in.
In fact, you can find portable machines in streetside bia hoi’s everywhere, the owners of which will happily offer you the chance to massacre the Vietnamese language in front of your new adoring fans!
If you’re too shy, private rooms can be hired for around VND100,00 ($5) per hour, with drinks and snacks extra. Grab a group of friends together and go for it!