Take one step onto the streets of Hanoi and you’re sure to experience sensory overload: endless streams of motorbikes, loud traffic, and delicious aromas coming from the nearby street food vendors. Welcome, my friends, to backpacking Hanoi.
Hanoi is a bustling, up-and-coming capital city with plenty of food to taste and sights to see, but it has lived through some dark times. The history of Vietnam’s capital city goes back over a thousand years to when Emperor Ly Thai To moved his capital here in 1010, naming it Thang Long (Rising Dragon).
The city has had many names since then, finally settling on Hanoi in 1831. (In case you were wondering, Hanoi means “City in the Bend of a River.”)
For many years, Hanoi was the capital of French Indochina, and although there are some beautiful remnants of this period – cathedrals and baguettes, mostly – colonialism destroyed much of the city and resulted in a bloody war against the French.
Speaking of wars, you’ve probably heard about one that happened in Vietnam a few decades ago. They call it the American War here, and repeated bombings ensued massive damage onto the city.
When the dust finally settled and an independent Vietnam was proclaimed in 1976, Hanoi was again chosen as the capital.
Despite its dark and turbulent past, Hanoi is now a city on the rise. Over 7 million people call Hanoi home, making it the second largest city in Vietnam.
It’s also a popular tourist destination, drawing visitors in from all over the globe to view its countless museums, pagodas, temples, and parks.
The best part about backpacking Hanoi, however, is meeting the Vietnamese people and soaking up their culture. People in Hanoi are incredibly welcoming and friendly, especially the younger generation who can speak a bit of English.
Of course, indulging in the delicious Vietnamese food is a major highlight as well.
If you’re ready to plan that epic backpacking trip to Hanoi, read on for a comprehensive Hanoi travel guide, including a typical daily budget, an awesome 3-day Hanoi itinerary, travel tips and plenty of great recommendations.
Great news for Broke Backpackers everywhere – Hanoi is a very budget-friendly destination. For a bustling capital city with plenty of amenities, you’ll be amazed at how far your money goes here.
If you’re really motivated, you can backpack Hanoi on a budget of just $20-25 a day. It’s not hard to find a dorm bed for less than $5 a night here.
Public transportation is also super cheap, as is local food like bahn mi sandwiches or a delicious bowl of pho. You’ll mostly stick to free activities at this budget, but you’ve still got money for a few draft beers since they only cost $0.25 each!
Upping your travel budget for Hanoi to around $40-45 a day means you can afford to do quite a bit of sightseeing around the attractions, enjoy some privacy and comfort in your own private room, and cover more ground by renting a motorbike for your stay.
This budget allows you to try some nicer restaurants and drink something other than bia hoi from time to time. Below is a breakdown of a daily Hanoi budget so you can see how far your money goes.
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Daily Costs for Backpacking Hanoi
Small basic room for two: $20-25
Airbnb in a private apartment: $30-40
Motorbike for a day: $5-6
Airport bus: $1.75
Street food snack (bahn mi sandwich): $1-1.50
Local restaurant for lunch: $2-3
Cup of Vietnamese coffee: $1
Local beer in a bar: $0.50-$1
Hanoi Budget Backpacking Tips
As you can see from my list above, Hanoi is already an excellent bargain. That being said, there are always ways you can travel cheaper and stretch your travel funds even further. Here are a few tips for backpacking Hanoi on a budget:
- Stay in the Old Quarter: I’m sure you’ll end up doing this anyway, as a majority of hostels are located here. Staying in the Old Quarter means you don’t have to spend much on transportation, and you have plenty of cheap places to eat and drink.
- Book a hostel with free breakfast and/or a kitchen: Cutting down on your food expenses is a great way to stretch your budget. There are plenty of hostels that have free breakfast or offer breakfast for cheap. If there’s a communal kitchen, you can buy groceries and cook a few meals for yourself.
- Keep it local: If you eat and drink as locals do here, you’ll spend very little on food. Vietnamese street food only costs a buck or two for a good meal and drinking bia hoi on draft costs pennies. Seriously, you can have a few of them for a dollar. Once you go out to Western food or start ordering imports, your costs shoot way up.
- Take advantage of free activities: There is plenty to do in Hanoi that costs absolutely nothing. Walk around the lake and enjoy the lively scenes, wander around the Old Quarter, and pay a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, all for free-ninety-nine!
- Pack a travel water bottle and save money every day!
The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you'll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.
Hanoi is a sprawling and chaotic mess of grime and magic: truly, it’s somewhere you can get lost. Each distinct neighborhood of Hanoi twists into the next with each offering something different to travelers who stay there.
- Tour Desk
Most backpackers flock to the area of Hanoi known as the Old Quarter. There are tons of excellent hostels and budget hotels to choose from here. It’s a bustling area with plenty to see and do, so you’ll never get bored staying in this part of the city.
If you want a slightly quieter place, you may want to check out the Ba Dinh area. This neighborhood isn’t too far from the Old Quarter and it’s close to many of Hanoi’s best museums. Another good choice is Tay Ho, which is an expat enclave with some great options for dining and nightlife.
To save you time on finding a cheap place to stay in Hanoi, I’ve gone ahead and narrowed down the top hostels in Hanoi below, including the best overall hostel, the best party hostel, and the best hostel for solo travelers in Hanoi. Barring that, the parks are nice!
Overall Best Hostel in Hanoi – The Signature Inn
There are tons of excellent hostels in Hanoi, but our vote for the best overall goes to The Signature Inn. They’ve really got it all and then some: a great location, comfy beds, and plenty of amenities.
This place has a rooftop terrace, chill area with a pool table, and PlayStation. They even provide “daily free beer.” Sounds good to me!
Best Party Hostel in Hanoi – Vietnam Backpackers Hostels – Downtown
If you’ve come to Hanoi for the parties, you’ll definitely want to stay at the Vietnam Backpackers Hostel. This place is known for its legendary bar, which hosts regular events like quiz night, beer pong, and an epic pub crawl.
They also have free beer nightly – why isn’t this a thing in every city? – and are close to some of the best nightlife spots in Hanoi.
Best Hostel for Solo Travelers in Hanoi – Central Backpackers Hostel
For those flying solo and hoping to make friends, you’ll want to crash at the Central Backpackers Hostel. This place is a traveller’s hostel in every sense of the word.
You’ll have plenty of chances to meet people on their free walking tours and at their daily happy hours. There is also a nice outdoor terrace and an inside common area to hang out with your fellow backpackers.
Best Airbnb in Hanoi – Central space with a great atmosphere
This beautiful flat combines a modern western vibe with an old school Vietnamese class, just like Ba Dinh itself. The place is a stone’s throw from a number of museums, and the Imperial Palace. Getting too and from the city center will be a breeze from this place, and it’s only a short walk to the old quarter
Hanoi is stacked with crazy cool things to do! Here are just ten of my faves – go find some more yourself!
1. Walk around the lake
First up, take a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake. This picturesque lake is located in the Old Quarter. It is a popular meeting point for tourists and locals alike.
There’s an interesting legend behind the name of the lake, which means “returned sword.” I won’t spoil it for you, though – you’ll just have to get to Hanoi to hear it for yourself!
2. Go on a free walking tour
Going on a walking tour is a great way to see Hanoi while learning about its history and culture. The tours are run by local students who do an excellent job of introducing their city. They have a variety of free walking tours available exploring different sides of Hanoi, so be sure to check them out and sign up for at least one.
3. Visit Uncle Ho
Ho Chi Minh City may have the name, but Hanoi has the man. That’s right, Vietnam’s capital city is home to the preserved body of none other than Uncle Ho himself.
If seeing a dead body in a case isn’t your thing, you should still go check it out to see the mausoleum from outside and the crowds that gather there. Plus, you can still visit the Ho Chi Minh Museum. It’s full of interesting exhibits and well worth a look.
4. Check out the Temple of Literature
One of the must-see places in Hanoi is the Temple of Literature. This Confucian temple was built way back in 1070. It’s also home to the Imperial Academy, which was Vietnam’s first national university. You’ll also see the temple on a daily basis thanks to its image on the back of the 100,000 Dong note.
5. Go museum hopping
There are several excellent museums around the city that cover a wide range of topics and. A day or two of museum hopping around Hanoi should definitely be high on your list of things to do here.
In addition to the one dedicated to Ho Chi Minh, you can visit the fantastic Women’s Museum, the Museum of Ethnology, and the Museum of Vietnamese History.
6. Take a cooking class
One of the best things about backpacking Vietnam is sampling the country’s amazing cuisine. You’re sure to miss Vietnamese food when you go home, so why not learn how to make it yourself?
Hanoi has tons of cooking classes where you can shop in local markets and learn how to cook up classic Vietnamese dishes.
7. Visit the “Hanoi Hilton”
Another interesting museum you can visit is the Hoa Lo Prison, which was referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs in the war.
Former US presidential nominee and Senator John McCain was one of the notable inmates who spent time here, and you can even see the suit he was wearing when his plane was shot down.
Before it was the Hanoi Hilton, the prison was used by the French colonists to hold political prisoners. Most of the exhibits revolve around this time period, and they gloss over what happened during the war with the US.
8. Street food and bia hoi
Everywhere you go, there is some tasty food being cooked up in the street. Whether it’s a banh mi sandwich or a yummy bowl of bun cha, Vietnamese street food always hits the spot. It doesn’t hit the wallet though, as you can usually eat well for $1-2.
At night, it’s time to pull up a plastic stool, order some snacks, and start throwing back a few cold ones. Local draft beer is known as bia hoi and can be found all over the city. The best part about these refreshing suds? A small glass only costs about $0.25. Go ahead and have a few…
9. Party in the Old Quarter
After a nice pre-game with street food and bia hoi, you can keep the party going in the Old Quarter. As the backpacker hub of the city, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of bars here.
You’ll have to start early, though as places close down at midnight. It’s possible to find some low-key after-hours bars if you really want to keep partying.
Check out the “Streets, Beats & Eats” of Hanoi in this video.
10. Watch a water puppet show
A really fun thing to do in Hanoi is to watch the water puppet show. This traditional Vietnamese art form goes back to the 11th century. You can catch a performance at the Thang Long Theatre. Tickets only cost about $3, and it’s a fun thing to do in Hanoi before going out for the evening.
Now that you’ve learned a bit about the city, it’s time to plan an epic 3-day itinerary uncovering Hanoi to make the most of your visit.
Day One in Hanoi: Exploring the Old Quarter
The best thing to do on your first day in Hanoi is to explore the Old Quarter. Chances are you’ll be staying in this district anyway, so after you check into your hostel you can jump right into an afternoon free walking tour. These tours are run by local college students who are very passionate about showing you around Hanoi.
You’ll get a nice introduction to the city, make new friends, and get recommendations on where to go and what to eat. Just be sure to leave a decent tip for your guide if you enjoy the tour.
After walking around for a few hours, it’s time to dig into some local food. The Old Quarter is full of countless street food vendors and hole-in-the-wall restaurants where you can enjoy Vietnamese classics like pho or bun cha.
There’s so much good, cheap food in Hanoi, so go ahead and indulge!
Even though you probably saw a bit of it on the free walking tour, it’s worth walking a lap around Hoan Kiem Lake on your own. It’s always bustling with activity, as locals come here to practice tai chi, play cards, or boogie down. It’s probably the best place for people watching in Hanoi.
You never know what you’re going to see walking around the lake. On our visit, we ended up checking out a local band filming their music video. How cool is that? Stick around until it gets dark to watch the tower on the lake light up and then head out into Hanoi for the night.
Once the sun goes down, locals and tourists alike come out to enjoy snacks and the ubiquitous bia hoi, which flows like water. When a small drink is only $0.25, you can have dinner and a few beers for just a couple bucks. These beer joints are a great place to pre-game and share a drink with locals, who are always excited to toss back a few with backpackers.
You could just spend your night bouncing around from different places, having cheap beers and snacks here and there. If you need a change of pace, there are tons of backpacker bars in Hanoi as well.
Whether you want to find a cocktail lounge to chat with friends or a club to cut a rug in, you can find it in Hanoi.
As a super popular backpacker destination, it’s not hard to find fun nightlife in Hanoi. It’s just too bad that it shuts down early. Places close down at midnight, so you’ll have to find some underground venue after hours and hope the authorities don’t shut it down.
Day Two in Hanoi: Vietnamese Icons
For day two in Hanoi, you should definitely start off with some Vietnamese coffee. There are tons of cafes in the Old Quarter, and it’s not hard to find a nice place to sit down for breakfast and a nice dose of caffeine, Vietnam style.
Next up, it’s time to go visit Uncle Ho. Head to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, which is the final resting place of the former Vietnamese leader. His preserved body is on display, despite his wishes against it. Even if you opt to not go in, as I did, it is still worth seeing the outside of the mausoleum and the crowds who line up to pay their respects.
While you’re over here, you might as well head into the Ho Chi Minh Museum. There are some pretty “out there” exhibits, including one that’s supposed to represent the inside of Uncle Ho’s brain. It’s an interesting museum, to say the least.
From the museum, you can walk over to the One Pillar Pagoda. This Buddhist temple was built to resemble a lotus, and it’s one of the most iconic temples in the country. (Just be warned: you might be overwhelmed by tour groups, and do not expect a very peaceful outing. Snap a picture of the temple and move on to the next stop.)
After grabbing some lunch from a street food vendor or a local restaurant, you can head to the nearby Temple of Literature. This ancient Confucian temple is home to the first national university in Vietnam and is one of the top sights to visit in Hanoi.
It’s been a busy day so far, so feel free to take some time to chill out. I recommend checking out a Vietnamese water puppet performance in the evening. You won’t understand anything at the show, but it only costs a few bucks and it’s a fun way to start the night.
Take a break from the bia hoi and treat yourself to some craft beer at Standing Bar. Grab a pint and head to their rooftop terrace for views of Truc Bach Lake. There are comedy shows here from time to time as well.
You’ve got one more busy day in Hanoi, so you may want to take it relatively easy tonight. (Or you may want to go out and rage until the taser-wielding police officers clear out the bars. That’s totally up to you. I won’t judge.)
Day Three in Hanoi: Museum Hopping
How late you stayed out on night two will affect what you end up doing on day three. There are tons of excellent museums in Hanoi, so you should try to hit at least one on your last day in town. If you were a good backpacker the night before, you might even be able to check out three!
Those who get up early should head out to the Museum of Ethnology first. It’s a bit far from the Old Quarter but it’s well worth the trip. There are 54 ethnic groups that call Vietnam home, and you can learn about all of them on a visit to this museum.
While there is a lot to see at the museum, the replica houses from all over the country are the best part. For those not travelling to rural parts of Vietnam, these houses provide a glimpse into other parts of the country.
Next up on our museum hopping adventure is a trip to the Women’s Museum. This museum features four floors, each with a different theme. One of my favorite exhibits details the female street vendors who come to big cities like Hanoi to make a better living.
One of the most popular museums to visit in Hanoi is the Hoa Lo Prison, which many know of as the “Hanoi Hilton.” If the prison looks more French than Vietnamese, that’s because it is. French colonists built it to hold political prisoners, and most of the exhibits detail the tragedies of colonialism.
The prison was also used to house American POWs during the war, which is known as the American War here.
They have received criticism for the way they depict the treatment of POWs, especially when compared to testimonials of the actual prisoners, so take what you learn here with a grain of salt. Either way, it’s an interesting and historical place to visit in Hanoi.
Those who suffer from museum burnout may want to replace one museum with another activity. I suggest signing up for a Vietnamese cooking class. What better souvenir to take home than the ability to cook delicious Vietnamese food for friends and family?
A great cooking school is one of the Highway 4 restaurants, which serve up innovative Vietnamese cuisine and ethnic specialties. Even if you don’t sign up for their cooking class, you should still eat a good meal here for your last night in the city.
Hanoi off the Beaten Track
It’s not that difficult to get off the beaten track in Hanoi. Most travelers spend the majority of their time in the Old Quarter, so as soon as you step out of this area you’ll immerse in the local scene.
If you really want to get out there, rent a motorbike and explore the city. It can be a bit intense at first and is not recommended for total beginners, but once you get the hang of it, riding a scooter around the city is a ton of fun.
You’ll quickly notice people in Hanoi are extremely welcoming and friendly. When locals strike up a conversation, they’re genuinely trying to get to know you and not just trying to sell you something.
We met plenty of Vietnamese people after spending a few days in the city. Some college kids even invited us out to dinner and then took us to visit their campus. If you are open to meeting the locals, you’ll get to see Hanoi’s local side.
Best Walks in Hanoi
With thousands of motorbikes constantly whizzing by, Hanoi might not seem like a great city to see on foot. While the traffic can indeed be intense, there are plenty of good walks in Hanoi.
- Hoan Kiem Lake: Taking a lap around Hoan Kiem Lake is a great walk. It’s scenic, free of the traffic, and constantly buzzing. This is an awesome walk for people watching and soaking up local Hanoi culture.
- Old Quarter: At least once during your trip, you should just hit the pavement and aimlessly wander around the Old Quarter. Check out the architecture, try some street food, and soak up the vibrant and bustling vibes.
- West Lake: This is another great place for a stroll. Along the way, you can check out the oldest temple and oldest pagoda in Hanoi. When you’re done exploring the area, hit up Standing Bar for delicious craft beers.
Best Time of Year to Visit Hanoi
You might assume that Hanoi is warm year-round it’s a part of Southeast Asia, but before you stuff your packing for Vietnam full of nothing but singlets and footie shorts, you should know that Hanoi has all four seasons.
Since Hanoi is in the northern hemisphere, winter can get downright chilly. Hanoi’s winters last from around December to February.
During summer from June to August, Hanoi becomes stifling hot, and as soon as you step outside, you’ll be drenched in sweat. Summer is also the wettest season with frequent downpours. This will seriously limit what you can do and your overall enjoyment of the city.
As you might expect by now, spring and fall are the best times of year to visit Hanoi. April-May and October-November have reasonable temperatures and little rain. If you can, try to time your visit to Hanoi during one of these months.
Getting in and out of Hanoi
Most travellers who aren’t border-hopping will first arrive for their backpacking Vietnam adventure via Hanoi at the Noi Bai International Airport. Because of the opening of the new international terminal, the immigration process has sped up substantially. It actually won the “World’s Most Improved Airport” award thanks to this new terminal.
There are direct flights to several destinations from the Hanoi airport. Most of them are other Asian cities though, so you’ll probably need to make at least one connection if coming from Europe, the Americas, or Down Under.
If you’re backpacking Hanoi on a budget, you’ll be happy to hear about the express bus from the airport to the city. It’s cheap, convenient, and saves you the headache of haggling with taxi drivers. If you’re feeling lazy, there are legit taxi stands where you can get a ride for about $20-25.
When you’re ready to travel to Hanoi, forgo buying tickets at the station and book them online instead! You can now book transport in advance for most of Asia using Bookaway and doing so can really save you some stress (and maybe money, too).
How to get around Hanoi
There are plenty of options for getting around Hanoi. Most backpackers choose a mixture of public transportation and walking.
The Old Quarter is compact enough to get around on foot. When you want to venture around the city, you can catch a local bus, hitch a ride on the back of a motorbike, or call a taxi.
The buses are cheap and efficient, but the system can be tricky to figure out, and many taxi drivers will try to negotiate a flat fee rather than simply use the meter, which can be frustrating.
If you have an unlocked phone with a local SIM, you can try to use rideshare services like Uber or Grab.
One fun way to get around Hanoi is on a cyclo (pedicab). Just be clear about your destination and the fee, and be ready to walk away if your driver tries to pull any monkey business.
Many backpackers rent a motorbike since they are cheap, only costing around $5-6 a day and about $1 to fill up. Hanoi’s traffic can be insane, to say the least, so I don’t recommend getting a bike unless you know what you’re doing. This is not a great place for your first ride! If you do rent a bike, be sure to get a helmet and lock it up or pay for attended parking.
Note: While the city doesn’t have a metro system yet, it’s been in the works for years and a few of the lines are due to open soon.
Onwards Travel from Hanoi
If you’re planning on heading south from Hanoi, Ninh Binh might be the next logical step. Nestled among enormous karst formations (those weird, steep hills), Ninh Binh is just a little more than a 2-hour train ride away. This is a great destination to stay for a paddle up the Trang An before traveling further south to other beautiful areas of Vietnam.
If you’re looking for a more extensive water adventure, Ha Long, also just a short jump from Hanoi, harbors loads of “junk boats,” which aren’t all that trashy. You can even purchase a Halong Bay cruise that arranges transportation from Hanoi to your onboard cabin. Be sure you research your options first, as cost and comfort can vary greatly between tours.
Sa Pa is another great destination to immerse in the beautiful landscapes that brought you to Vietnam in the first place! We don’t have much to say about the city itself except that it’s well set up to accommodate backpackers. The real draw is its scenic position among pristine rice paddies and terraces. The 8-hour train commitment (overnight, as it so often is) is worth it.
Long-distance trains from Hanoi
You can get to or from Hanoi by train via other points in Vietnam or China. Heading south, you can jump on a train from Hanoi and travel to Ho Chi Minh City. There are several spots along the way to stop, including Hue and Nha Trang.
There are a variety of options on the train – soft seat, hard sleeper, and soft sleeper. Obviously, the latter is the most comfortable and thus the most expensive. It does save you a hotel bill for the night, so it’s a great way to travel in Vietnam.
For more on train travel in Vietnam, I highly recommend checking out the detailed post on Seat 61. They have timetables, prices, and pictures to show you what it’s like riding the rails.
Although onwards travel to China had been disrupted for several years due to landslides, the train is up and running again too. Most people end up connecting in Nanning and then hopping on another train. There is a direct train to Beijing now, but it only leaves twice a week and takes two nights.
Safety in Hanoi
Hanoi is a very safe place in Vietnam to visit, and honestly, the biggest danger you'll face on a daily basis is simply crossing the street.
Violent crime is very uncommon here, although petty theft occurs when the opportunity arises. Just be mindful of your surroundings and keep your valuables safe and in sight.
If you're going to ride a motorbike around Hanoi, don't be an idiot. Wear a helmet, drive with caution, and definitely don't jump on that bike after pounding a bunch of quarter beers. Also, be sure to lock up your bike or pay to park it with an attendant. Dealing with a stolen motorbike is a really shitty thing to have to do on vacation.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you - pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it's perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Travel Insurance for Hanoi
A wise man once said that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t really afford to travel – so do consider backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Traveling without insurance would be risky. I highly recommend World Nomads.
I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They're easy to use, offer the widest coverage, and are affordable. Also, this is the only company I know of that lets you buy travel insurance after leaving on a trip.
If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads. Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple - just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you're on your way!
Hanoi Accommodation Travel Hacks
Hostels in Vietnam are already super cheap, and it's not hard to find a dorm bed in a decent place for as little as $4-5 a night. Other types of accommodation in Hanoi are comparatively cheap too. That being said, there are still a few ways to stretch your money.
First of all, find a hostel that has free breakfast and/or a communal kitchen. Even if it’s just toast, bananas, and coffee, it saves you a trip out and a few bucks in the morning.
In a city this big, there are plenty of people signed up for Couchsurfing. It certainly doesn’t hurt to send out a few requests to local hosts before you go booking a hostel. Not only will you pay nothing for accommodation, but you’ll also get valuable tips from someone who lives in the city.
Eating and Drinking in Hanoi
One of the best things about backpacking Hanoi is indulging in mouth-watering Vietnamese food. Street food is everywhere in Hanoi and it's some of the best in the world: it's delicious and it's super cheap.
Most days in Hanoi, I'd have a bahn mi sandwich or a bowl of pho for lunch and only spend $1-2!
If you'd prefer to sit inside, there are plenty of excellent budget restaurants cooking up Vietnamese classics as well. You may pay a little more, but at least you'll be a little more comfortable while you eat.
There are a few great night markets in the city where you can find a wide variety of food. Visiting these places encourages you to try a few different things from a few different vendors and spread your business around.
Sometimes you need Western comfort food, and there's plenty of that here as well. Hanoi is used to having backpackers around, so it's not hard to find a good burger or pizza.
When it comes to drinking in Hanoi, it's all about coffee and beer! Start your day off with a small but powerful cup of Vietnamese coffee, which is sweetened with condensed milk. There are cafes of all shapes and sizes in Hanoi where you can find a good cup of joe.
As far as beer goes, most people stick to the light and cheap bia hoi. Small draft beers only cost $0.25. Pull up a plastic stool and join the crowd for a fun night of beer drinking.
Nightlife in Hanoi
In addition to the ubiquitous bia hoi joints, you've got several options for nightlife when you are backpacking Hanoi. Here you can find craft beer joints, fancy cocktail lounges, speakeasies, pulsating nightclubs, and everything in between. Where you go out at night depends on your budget and what kind of scene you're looking for.
Keep in mind that nightlife in Hanoi shuts down early. Bars are not allowed to stay open past midnight, and the local authorities take this pretty seriously. Every night in the Old Quarter, you'll see armed police officers brandishing their tasers to let you know it's time to go home.
If you want to be a rebel and keep the party going, there are some underground parties that stay open past curfew.
Books to Read on Hanoi
Reading about a place you're planning to visit is always fun. It gets you more excited for your trip and you learn something new in the process. Below are 5 books and guides to add to your Hanoi reading list:
The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here.
Lonely Planet Vietnam Travel Guide - Plan your trip to Hanoi and the rest of Vietnam with the most recent Lonely Planet guide.
Moon Hanoi: If you're looking for a jam-packed guide to the city, grab this copy of Moon Hanoi. It also includes Halong Bay, a place you're sure to visit from here.
Vietnam Hanoi Old Quarter City Walks: This guidebook features seven great walking tours for discovering a bunch of cool stuff in Hanoi.
Hanoi of a Thousand Years: Those interested in the long history of Hanoi will want to pick up this excellent book.
Volunteering in Hanoi
Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in Hanoi whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than Worldpackers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.
In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.
Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in Vietnam in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project.
Worldpackers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs, and eco-projects around the world. We’ve tried and approved them ourselves - check out our Worldpackers in-depth review.
If you’re ready to create a life-changing travel experience and give back to the community, join the Worldpacker community now. As a Broke Backpacker reader, you’ll get a special discount of $20. Just use the discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and your membership is discounted from $49 a year to only $29.
If you'd like more info, then check out our dedicated writeup by one of our adventures experts on his experience volunteering in a Vietnamese community through WorldPackers.
Make money whilst Backpacking Hanoi
Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection.
Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read our in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in Vietnam, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Being a responsible backpacker in Hanoi
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.
Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.
Don’t pick up single-use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.
Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.
Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single-use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick.
Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible for FREE!
“Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”
Need More Inspiration?
- Coolest Neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh
- Epic Ho Chi Minh Itinerary
- Hoi An Area and Accommodation Guide
- Plan a Trip to Hoi An
- Ultimate Ha Giang Loop Road Trip
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