The unit of currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). The best places to exchange foreign currency are at banks and gold/jewelry shops.
We’ve exchanged currency at gold shops and a bank, and rates at both were excellent. I’ve read you can exchange currency at hotels and some restaurants too, but the rates generally aren’t as good. Same goes for the airport. If you’ll be arriving by plane and need to exchange currency, then change a small amount at the airport, just enough to get you to your hotel, and change the rest in the city.
Thanks to traveler recommendations, I’ve exchanged currency at two gold shops in Hanoi – Vàng Bạc Kim Linh and Quốc Trinh. Both are in the Old Quarter and both gave excellent rates. You can refer to this article for a list of recommended money changers and banks in Hanoi.
If you’d rather not bring too much foreign currency with you, then an alternative would be to withdraw VND from an ATM. It’s more convenient and the rates are comparable. Just be sure to let your local bank know that you intend to use your ATM card overseas so you don’t run into any issues. In my experience, my ATM card works in some machines but not in others.
NOTE: Some ATMs may ask if you’d like to proceed “with or without conversion”. Always choose WITHOUT conversion so your local bank does the conversion. Proceeding with conversion authorizes the foreign bank operating the ATM to do the conversion, usually at terrible rates. According to this article, the difference in rates can be as high as 10%.
If it’s your first trip to Hanoi, then I think the Old Quarter in Hoan Kiem is the best place to stay. It’s at the heart of the tourist area and puts you closest to many of the city’s top attractions.
Listed below are some of the most convenient areas to stay in Hanoi, along with a color-coded map to help you better understand where each of these areas are. Click on the link for an interactive version of the map. (Please note that marked areas are approximations only)
RED – Hoan Kiem
GREEN – Ba Dinh
BLUE – Tay Ho
I’ll provide targeted links under each description but you can book accommodations in Hanoi through Booking.com or Agoda.
HOAN KIEM: Hanoi Little Town Hotel
Hoan Kiem is the district that surrounds the lake of the same name. It’s the most popular tourist area in the city and where you’ll find the Old Quarter. Home to plenty of hotels, cafes, shops, and restaurants, you can realistically spend all your time in Hanoi without ever leaving Hoan Kiem.
We stayed at Hanoi Little Town Hotel on our first trip to Hanoi. It isn’t the most modern hotel but rooms are big and the location is ideal. It’s situated at the northern end of the Old Quarter, around halfway between Hoan Kiem and Truc Bach Lakes. You can book a room at Hanoi Little Town Hotel through Booking.com or Agoda.
If you’d like to stay in Hoan Kiem but don’t feel this is the right hotel for you, then you can search for alternate listings on Booking.com or Agoda. You can narrow your search to just the Old Quarter (Booking.com | Agoda) or Backpacker Quarter as well. Both are smaller popular areas within Hoan Kiem district.
Approximate Room Rate: USD 27 per night (as of November 2019)
BA DINH: AirBnB Homestay
Ba Dinh is the district west of Hoan Kiem and south of Tay Ho. It’s home to historical attractions like Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature, and Thang Long Citadel. On my most recent trip, I stayed right on the cusp of Ba Dinh and Hoan Kiem, one street away from Hanoi’s train street. After Hoan Kiem, I think the eastern half of Ba Dinh is the next best place to stay in Hanoi.
My AirBnB was massive and one of the best rooms I’ve stayed at in Vietnam. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I stayed there twice on two separate legs. You can book the same room on AirBnB or look for alternate listings in Ba Dinh on Booking.com or Agoda.
Approximate Room Rate: USD 13 per night (as of November 2019)
This is the area around West Lake, the biggest freshwater lake in Hanoi. It’s a quiet and pleasant area with beautiful hotels, but it’s a bit far from Hoan Kiem. Unless you’re staying at the southern end of the lake, then you’ll need to take Grab to get to the city’s main commercial areas. You can search for hotels in Tay Ho on Booking.com or Agoda.