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Hanoi Useful Local Tips

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Hanoi City, the capital of Vietnam, is the sophisticated combination of ancient streets, colonial legacy, modern outlook and colorful culture. Let's explore the enchanting Hanoi through the experience of local people.

  1. Best time to visit

Hanoi has four seasons, and as the city is in the northern hemisphere, which means the chilly winter starts in December and steaming summer hovers around July and August. It is impossible to give exact predictions of the Hanoi weather each month, or even each season, as temperatures, rainfall and sunshine can change from day to day – and often do. But we can offer some general suggestions.

Dry Season

Monsoons sweep through northern Vietnam from April to October, adding heavy rains to the hot weather. The torrential downpour can cause flooding, cancel trips to Halong Bay and drive up the humidity. For those who want to stay dry, the best time to visit Hanoi is between October and March. Travelers planning to visit other parts of Vietnam might want to wait until December, as typhoons can hit the central coast as late as November.

Cool Weather

Hanoi is extremely hot during the summer, from June to August, which is another reason to avoid coming during the rainy season. If it reaches 100oF in the summer, the fall and spring months are generally in the 70s and low 80s. While travelers can still experience rains in September and April, the temperatures are cooler, and visits are still enjoyable. Frommer's recommends visiting Hanoi from November to late April, but the Word Travels guide suggests an earlier range, from September to December. This means the two overlapping months, November and December, are probably a traveler's best bet.

Tet New Year

Held in late January or early February, the Tet New Year is one of the best cultural events in the country. The festival officially lasts three days, but most people celebrate for the entire week. Locals typically close shop so this is not a good time for shopping. However, Tet is the time of many colorful parades, festivities on streets and temple celebrations. Interestingly, all Vietnamese citizens become a year older during Tet, not on their actual birth dates, making this a birthday and New Year's party all wrapped into one.

Vietnam New Year

Tet (New Year) Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival

This popular tradition also known as the Moon or Lantern Festival happens each year on the 15th day of the Chinese calendar's eighth month, which is in September or early October for Westerners. During a bright full moon, children carry lanterns through the streets singing traditional folk songs. Dragon dancing and mooncake eating are also traditional activities, and unlike people in other Asian countries that celebrate the festival, the Vietnamese focus their event on the children.

Generally, there really is no bad time to visit Hanoi. Be warned that the cold months can be a bit depressing, and if you hate the heat, do not come in June through to August. Other than that, pack and plan appropriately and do not let the weather spoils your visit.

  1. Banks & Money

ATM in Hanoi

ATMs in Vietnam

Money exchange:

Usually airports and train stations offer better exchange rates than in town due to the local competition, but this is not always the case, especially when there is limited competition.

Most banks will exchange foreign currency, either U.S. dollars or euros, during normal banking hours. You'll also find a few money-changing storefronts along Hang Bac Street in the Old Quarter and around the edge of HoanKiem Lake. Hanoi Sacombank, 88 Ly ThuongKiet (tel. 04/3942-8095), is one to try.

ATMs - Most major banks in Hanoi and even countrywide now offer ATM service. Look for Vietcombank and Vietin Bank branch locations throughout the city. New ATMs are popping up all over. Ask any hotel concierge where to find one. Consult with your bank office at home to inquire about international ATM usage fees. Most ATMs enables you to get cash from VISA, MASTER CARD, Cirrus, Maestro, Plus and JCB networks, and can be used to get cash advances through your credit card.

Under Vietnamese law, ATM may only dispense cash in Vietnamese Dong (VND). ATMs dispense dong in VND 50,000 and VND 100,000 denominations, with a limit of VND 2,000,000 for each withdrawal and a daily limit of VND 20,000,000. ATMs will charge a fee of VND 50,000 per transaction.

Credit cards. Many shops, hotels, and restaurants centered in tourist areas honor Visa, MasterCard and JCB cards. Credit card usage is uncommon among local Vietnamese (banks require a cash deposit on hold), so penetration is comparatively low. Expect to be charged an additional 3-4% on every transaction. If you need cash in a hurry, Vietcombank offers cash advances against your Visa or MasterCard credit card.

The Art of Bargaining

There is one golden rule to shopping in Vietnam: bargain, and bargain hard. “Fixed prices” at most tourist shops are not really fixed at all – the listed prices are about 03 times higher than the last price you can pay if you dicker long enough. Bargaining is an exact discipline, and quite exasperating for the novice traveler who is not used to the grueling back and forth.

Other Helpful Money Tips

  • Budget travelers in Vietnam can expect to spend up to $25 per day on food and lodging. Middle-budget spenders can enjoy good restaurant, hire cabs, and stay comfortably in good hotels for about $65 a day.
  • Do not change your currencies in the black market. The legal exchange rate beats black market rates any time; claims of better rates are probably just the lead-up to a scam. Today, travelers often find themselves left with a few counterfeit or out-of-circulation notes in the mix – it is not worth the trouble.
  • When visiting a pagoda, leave a small donation just before you leave.
  • Bring a small calculator to calculate currency conversions.
  • Travelers’ checks are nearly impossible to exchange outside Vietnam’s major cities and tourist areas. Bring cash when leaving the beaten path.
  • Store cash, credit cards, and other valuables in a safe place, like the in-room safe in your hotel.
  1. Transportation

Cyclo in Hanoi Old Quarter

Cyclo around old streets

Taxi

Some reliable Taxi companies are listed below with their own phone numbers.

  • Mai Linh Taxi: 024.38.222.666
  • ThanhNga Taxi: 024.38.215.215 (only 4 seats car)
  • ABC Taxi: 024.37.19.19.19
  • NoiBai Taxi: 0243.886.8888 (Specialize in Airport transportation)
  • Viet Thanh Taxi: 0243.563.6666 (Specialize in Airport transportation)
  • In terms of transportation around the city, the price is around 11.000 – 15.000VND/km. (updated in 2018)
  • In terms of airport transportation (update in 2017):
  • The average price for Hanoi-NoiBai Airport or NoiBai Airport- Hanoi is around 180.000 – 550.000 VND/trip for 5 seats, 8 seats and 16 seats taxi (1 way)
  • The average price for Hanoi-NoiBai Airport or NoiBai Airport- Hanoi is around 480.000 – 800.000 VND/trip for 5 seats, 8 seats and 16 seats taxi (round trip)

Motorbike:

The average price for short-term motorbike rental is about US$7/day and US$50/week for the most popular motorbike like Honda Wave Alpha.

  • The address in Hanoi Old Quarter location: 6B Tam Thuong St, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • The address in Tay Ho (West Lake) location: No.27, Alley 52, To Ngoc Van St, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Some other suggestions:
    • Phung Motorbike, No. 13 Ngo Huyen Street, HoanKiem Dist. (rent fee: 5-10 USD/day)
    • Flamingo Travel, no. 66 Dao DuyTu Street, Hanoi, Vietnam (rent fee: 6-12 USD/day)

Note: Helmet and driving license are required by law and make sure to check your travel insurance’s policy accordingly if you intend to rent motorbikes anyway

Bicycle:

Rental shop: Quan's Motorbike & Bicycle Rentals

Address: 70 Hang Bac St, HoanKiem, Hanoi, Vietnam

Phone: 0904244941 (Call to ask for the price)

Cyclo (Three- wheeled pedicab):

  • Normally, cyclo is suitable for exploring around Hanoi Old Quarter area.
  • Asking the hotel receptionist for hiring a cyclo and negotiating the price for you. The price is around $7- $8/hour/cyclo.

Xe-om (Motorbike taxi):

  • In every street in Vietnam, you can easily find this service with the driver hanging a sign reads “XE OM” in front of the motorcycle.
  • Ask the price clearly to reach an agreement before sitting down on the pillion. Generally, the price depends on the distance, the quality of the road, or even the weather. 10,000VND-15,000VND per kilometer is reasonable.
  1. Shopping

Hanoi Silk

Vietnamese silk

Shopping in Hanoi is famous for its bustling markets and narrow shophouses but there are a growing number of flash boutiques and shopping malls on the rise. The best thing about shopping in Hanoi is that you can do it all on foot, with many streets dedicated to specific trades. Throughout the Hoan Kiem (Sword) Lake and Old Quarter area, you will find stores selling standard Vietnamese handicrafts such as cushions, lacquerware, and linen. Whether you are looking for gimmicky souvenirs such as Vietnamese farming hats or a hand-made silk evening gown, Hanoi can provide.

Shopping centers:

  • Trang Tien Plaza: 27 Trang Tien Street, HoanKiem District
  • Vincom Tower: 191 Ba Trieu Street, Hai Ba Trung District
  • Royal City: 72 Nguyen Trai Street, ThanhXuan, Hanoi
  • Vincom Mega Mall Times City: 458 Minh Khai Street, Hai Ba Trung District
  • Lotte Center Hanoi: 54 Lieu Giai Street, Ba Dinh District
  • AEON MALL Long Bien: 27 Co Linh Road, Long Bien Dstrict
  • Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower  (or Keangnam Landmark 72): Pham Hung Street

Markets:

  • Dong Xuan Market:  Dong Xuan Street, HoanKiem District
  • Hanoi Weekend Night Market: Hang Dao Street, HoanKiem District
  • Hang Da Market: 1 Hang Da Street, HoanKiem District
  • Hom Market: 293 Tran Nhan Tong, Hai Ba Trung District
  • Quang Ba Flower Market: Au Co Street, Tay Ho District

Local shops

  • Silk products: Hang Gai Street (which unofficially called Silk Street)
  • Shoes, sandal, flip-flop, etc: Hang Dau
  • Souvenirs: Hang Be Street, Dong Xuan Night Market (on Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
  • Silver products: Hang Bac Street
  • Accessories, scarf: DinhLiet Street
  • Decorative items, kids’ toys: Luong Van Can Street, Hang Ma Street
  • Clothes: Ly Quoc Su Street, Made in Vietnam shops (58 Ba Trieu Street, 55c Ly ThuogKiet Street, 139 Thai Ha Street, etc)
  1. Must-try local foods

No matter what time in day or night, a steaming bowl of “Pho” noodle soup is never hard to enjoy. Pho consists of flat rice noodles in a light, meat-based broth. The dish is usually accompanied by basil, lime, chili, and other extras on the side so that eaters can season the soup to their own taste. The balanced taste of sweet, salty, spicy, and citrus are highly contagious; pho usually becomes an instant favourite for anyone. The most two common varieties of Pho are Pho Bo (Beef) and Pho Ga (Chicken).

Where to eat?

  • Pho Thin: 61 Alley, Dinh Tien Hoang Street/ or 13 Lo Duc Street
  • Pho Gia Truyen: 49 Bat Dan Street
  • Pho Cuong: 23 Hang Muoi

      *Average price: 40,000 - 85,000 VND/bowl

Pho Hanoi

Beef Pho

Banh Cuon (rice-flour rolls wrapped around minced mushrooms and pork). It is a warm, wonderful way to start the day. Banh Cuon is a popular local breakfast item and is similar to Singapore’s Chee Cheong Fun. Banh Cuon is typically served with bean sprouts and Vietnamese pork sausage (Cha Lua). The rice flour skin is very thin and smooth. The fillings consisted of minced pork, black fungus & shallots.

Where to eat?

  • Banh cuon gia truyen - Thanh Van: 14 Hang Ga Street, Hoan Kiem District
  • Banh cuon Gia An: 25 Thai Phien Street, Hai Ba Trung District

      *Average price: 40,000VND/ portion

 

Cha Ca: Hanoians consider “Cha Ca” to be so exceptional that there is a street in the capital dedicated to these fried morsels of fish. This namesake alley is home to Cha Ca La Vong, which serves sizzling chunks of fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric, then sizzled with heaps of dill and served with rice noodles

Where to eat?

  • Cha ca La Vong: 14 Cha Ca Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
  • Cha ca Anh Vu: 116 K1 Giang Vo Street, Dong Da District...

    *Average price: 350,000 – 600,000VND/portion (for 2 people)

Cha Ca Hanoi

Cha ca

Bun Cha (Grilled Pork Meatball with Vermicelli): Recipes for dish of bun cha Hanoi is very simple. It is made from square pork meat grilled on dry charcoal, and then you will eat it with the rice noodles. If you love to eat barbecue, the Hanoi bun cha is a great choice for you. However, bun cha Hanoi is a very good food, always fascinating everyone because Hanoi people use a very typical sauce which is just made in Vietnam.

Where to eat?

  • Dac Kim Bun Cha: 1 Hang Manh Street, HoanKiem District
  • Bun Cha Hang Than: 34, Hang Than Street, Ba Dinh District
  • Dong Xuan Market
  • Bun cha SinhTu: 8 Ta Quang Buu Street, Hai Ba Trung District
  • Bun cha Nguyen Bieu: 23 Nguyen Bieu Street, Ba Dinh District

      *Average price: 50,000 – 100,000 VND/ portion

 

Are your ready to explore Hanoi with us? Let's take a look at some interesting Hanoi tours to enjoy fully fabulous tastes and sights of Hanoi!

Xuyen

Image sources: Internet

 

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