Hanoi is my favorite city in Vietnam. I wasn’t so sure after our first trip from two years ago, but a recent month-long stay made it clear.
Among the cities we’ve visited, we found Hoi An to be the most charming and Saigon to have the best food, but Hanoi is the most liveable. It’s a big city, much bigger than Hoi An so there’s more to do, but it doesn’t swallow you up like Saigon. It’s home to about the same population size as Ho Chi Minh City but it feels more intimate and inviting.
In fact, we plan on living from city to city in the near future and Hanoi will probably be our first stop. It’s one of our favorite cities so far and one we can really see ourselves living in.
Spend a few days exploring its tree-lined neighborhoods with crumbling but charming French colonial buildings, and you may understand why.
GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
How to Apply for an E-visa to Vietnam
Hanoi at a Glance
Best Time to Visit
Traveling to Hanoi
Where to Exchange Currency
Best Area to Stay
Things to Do
Side Trips from Hanoi
Vietnamese Food Guide
Where to Eat
Which Cafes to Visit
Points of Interest (Map)
How to Get Around
How Many Days to Stay / Sample Itinerary
Budget / Summary of Expenses
Because of the current global situation, travel guidelines change regularly. Our friends at SafetyWing created a website that lists detailed information on travel restrictions around the globe.
Things to Do in and Around Hanoi, Vietnam
Before planning a trip to Hanoi, be sure to check the Flatten the Curve website for information on travel restrictions to Vietnam.
HOW TO APPLY FOR AN E-VISA TO VIETNAM
Depending on your nationality, you may need an e-visa and medical declaration to visit Vietnam. I’m a Philippine passport holder so I can visit Vietnam visa-free for up to 21 days, but I wanted to stay for a whole month. I applied for an e-visa online through iVisa.com which allowed me a stay of up to 30 days. I paid USD 45 and the approval process took about 2-3 days.
Requirements and fees may vary depending on what passport you carry, so you can visit iVisa.com for more information and to apply. In my case, the process was quick and easy.
HANOI AT A GLANCE
Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital city. Located by the banks of the Red River in the northern half of the country, it’s the second largest city in Vietnam by population, behind only Saigon. It served as the capital of French Indochina from 1902-1954, before becoming the capital of a reunified Vietnam after the North’s victory in the Vietnam War.
Walk along its many tree-lined boulevards and you’ll see that Hanoi is an old city. It celebrated its millennial anniversary in 2010 though it’s said to be much older than that, having been inhabited since at least 3,000 BC. Vestiges of Chinese and French colonial influence are everywhere, particularly in the Old and French Quarters which are home to thousands of colonial-era buildings.
Known as the “City of Lakes”, Hanoi is home to over two dozen lakes and a climate that mimics the four seasons.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Technically, Hanoi has two main seasons – rainy (May-Sept) and dry (Oct-Apr) – though it does experience variances in weather that can simulate the four seasons.
FEB-APRIL: Spring is one of the best times to visit Hanoi. The weather is mild with temperatures ranging between 15-20°C (59-68°F). The skies are clear from February till March but it does start to drizzle more frequently come April. Please note that Spring may also coincide with Tet (late Jan or early Feb) which is the Vietnamese New Year. It’s the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture so expect many establishments to be closed during that time.
MAY-AUG: Like the rest of Southeast Asia, summers in Hanoi are hot and humid. The average temperature is about 32°C (90°F). On top of that, it’s officially the rainy season as well with July-August seeing the most rainfall.
SEPT-NOV: Like Spring, Fall is an ideal time to visit Hanoi. The weather is mild with average temperatures hovering around 25°C (77°F). Skies become clearer in November and leaves turn golden-yellow, making it the perfect time to explore the tree-lined boulevards around Hoan Kiem Lake. Fall is considered the most beautiful time to visit Hanoi.
DEC-JAN: For a Southeast Asian country, it’s said that winters in Hanoi can be surprisingly cold. The average temperature is around 17°C (63°F), but it has been known to drop down below 10°C (50°F). High humidity, wind chill, and a lack of building insulation make it seem even colder. Be sure to dress appropriately should you decide to visit Hanoi in winter.
I’ve been to Hanoi twice – the first time in mid-April and more recently in early September. It didn’t rain at all in April though I did experience periods of rain in September. April was a great time to visit though I think November and March would be even better.
Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Hanoi
For more on Hanoi’s weather, check out these climate graphs from holiday-weather.com. I’ve also created average temperature and annual rainfall graphs with the most ideal months to visit marked in orange.
Average Temperature in Hanoi, Vietnam
TRAVELING TO HANOI
Assuming Hanoi is your port of entry into Vietnam, then you’ll probably be arriving at Noi Bai International Airport which is about 45 minutes from Hoan Kiem District. There are several ways to get to your hotel from the airport.
BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: I’ve booked late night private transfers on both my trips to Hanoi. You can contact your hotel and inquire about their rates or you can book a private transfer through Bookaway.
BY GRAB: Grab is efficient and relatively cheap in Vietnam. I booked a Grab to go to the airport early in the morning and paid VND 268,000. At the time, that was less than USD 12.
BY TAXI: We didn’t ride any taxis, but taxi scams seem to be the one and only thing travelers complain about in Hanoi. Based on my research, it should cost you around USD 16-18 to get to the Old Quarter from the airport, so don’t fall for any scams telling you otherwise. Noi Bai has been called a hotbed for taxi scammers who either try to overcharge you or take you to the wrong hotel in the hopes of getting a commission. To avoid being victimized by scams, arrange for a private transfer or use Grab instead. They’re cheaper and more reliable.
BY PRIVATE BUS: Jetstar, Vietnam Airlines, and VietJet run private minibuses that shuttle people from the airport to designated stops in Hanoi (and back). I don’t know how much Jetstar or Vietnam Airlines charges but a one-way VietJet transfer costs VND 40,000 (less than USD 2). Follow this link for more information on airport minibuses in Hanoi.
We flew to Hanoi but there are other ways to get there depending on where you are. I suggest checking Bookaway to find route options available to you. You can click on the link or use the widget below.