This is a comprehensive Hanoi + Halong Bay travel guide featuring the tourist attractions in Hanoi, things to do, must-try food, and Hanoi itinerary + expenses.
I visited Vietnam in 2009 but I had limited time so I only explored Ho Chi Minh City in the south. I never had a chance to see the beauty of the north. In celebration of my 10 years of traveling the world, I decided to go back to the countries I have visited a decade ago. I chose to fly to Hanoi, Vietnam to celebrate a milestone in my life as a traveler. This is our Hanoi + Ha Long Bay Travel Guide to help you plan your future visit to this wonderful city. It includes Hanoi itinerary, budget, top tourist attractions in Hanoi, things to do, where to stay, and some travel tips.
Visa Requirements to Hanoi, Vietnam
Philippine passport holders can visit Vietnam without applying for a visa as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) for a period of not more than 21 days. For other nationalities, you can check out the official Vietnam Immigration website to apply for an e-visa.
How to get to Hanoi from Manila?
Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have direct flights to Hanoi, Vietnam from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport. You can check for cheap flights here or search below.
When is the best time to visit Hanoi?
Hanoi has four seasons and the best time to visit this lovely city is during autumn from October to November and during spring from February to April. The temperature during these months is perfect to go outside and explore its natural and historical attractions.
How to get to the city center from Hanoi Airport
Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport is quite far from the city center. It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to reach the city from the airport. There are a number of options to get to the city especially when you arrive before 10:00 PM and after 5:00 AM as you can catch a public bus and a shuttle to the city. If you arrive late, you can take a taxi or Grab to your hotel.
Noi Bai Airport to Hanoi City Center by Bus
If you are traveling on a budget and would like to take a public bus to the city, you can catch bus #7 or #17 just outside the airport terminal exit (right side). The fare is VND10,000 (USD0.50) and the travel time is around 1.5 hours. The bus only operates from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM and runs every 20-30 minutes. The Hanoi bus #17 goes to Long Bien bus station while bus #7 travels to Kim Ma bus station.
There is also an express bus #86 that goes to Long Bien bus station from the airport. The fare is slightly higher at VND35,000 (USD1.5). The travel time is around 45 minutes.
From the bus terminal, you can take a short taxi or Grab ride to your hotel. Hanoi’s Old Quarter is around 20 minutes away.
Noi Bai Airport to Hanoi City Center by Shuttle
Again, if you arrive during the day or early in the evening, you can get out of the airport to the city by shuttle. This is one of the best options especially if you are staying in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The fare is VND40,000 (USD1.75) and the travel time is a little over an hour. It really doesn’t matter what airline you flew with, you can take the VietJet or Vietnam Airlines shuttle.
Noi Bai Airport to Hanoi City Center by Grab or Taxi
I arrived past midnight so this was my only option. I took a Grab from the airport and paid VND345,000 (USD15). The travel time is less than an hour to the Old Quarter. I realized after that it is cheaper to book a private transfer in advance than take a grab or taxi at the airport. It only costs around VND270,000 (USD11.61). You can book now online.
Connecting to the internet in Hanoi
Since I arrived late, I did not want to get lost in the streets of Hanoi. So, I opted to get a sim at the airport for VND300,000 (USD13). I got a Viettel SIM since I heard it’s one of the best network providers in Vietnam. Please note that it is much cheaper to buy a sim online and just pick it up at the airport. You can buy here.
Where to exchange local currency in Hanoi?
It is always a good idea to exchange some currencies at the airport so you will have local currency in case you need it while en route to your hotel. There are a number of exchange centers just before you get out of the terminal. You can also withdraw cash from the ATM which is located near the exchange centers.
How to get around Hanoi?
Well, there are public buses that you can take but I haven’t tried them during my stay in Hanoi. I opted to go around the city via Grab Bike. It’s pretty much easy, cheap, and convenient. If you are traveling with a group, you can hire a Grab Car or take a taxi.
Where to stay in Hanoi, Vietnam?
The best place to stay in Hanoi is in the Hoan Kiem District or the Old Quarter – the city’s main business hub and a popular destination for tourists.
Budget Hotel: Hanoi is a popular place for backpackers so you can easily find a hostel if you are traveling on a budget and is comfortable staying in a shared room. Our top picks for hostels in Hanoi are Hay Hostel, Hanoi City Backpackers Hostel, and Luxury Backpackers Hostel.
Must-try Food in Hanoi
Going to Hanoi is not complete without trying the best Vietnamese dishes in the city. From the world-famous Vietnamese Pho to the popular egg coffee, Hanoi has something interesting to satisfy your palate. Here’s our list of must-try food in Hanoi and where to find them.
One of the best places to get a bowl of Pho in Hanoi is at Pho 10 in Lý Quốc Sư Street, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hà Nội. The restaurant is close to Luxury Backpackers Hostel. It gets crowded most of the time so you might have to wait to get served. Don’t worry it’s worth it!
Have you heard about egg coffee? This is a popular drink in Vietnam and if you want to try it, the best place to go is at Cafe Giảng. It has been serving coffee since 1946, situated at Nguyen Huu Huan Street in the city’s old quarter.
Bún Chả Hương Liên used to be just an ordinary hole-in-the-wall restaurant in 2015. And then, US President Barrack Obama and the late Anthony Bourdain dined here and everything has changed. The restaurant is now one of the popular places to eat in Hanoi.
Bún Chả Hương Liên serves bún chà, a pork barbecue soup paired with rice noodles and a selection of fresh veggies and herbs.
Nem Cua Bê or fried crab roll is also another must-try in this resto.
If you want something different, you can try an egg beer. The best place to have this not so popular combo drink is also at Cafe Giảng.
Top Tourist Attractions in Hanoi
If this is your first time to visit this city, or perhaps you want to have the best experience in Vietnam, here are the top tourist attractions in Hanoi.
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
Perfectly located in Ba Dinh District, this UNESCO World Heritage Site served as the political center of Vietnam for 13 years. You can find bronze coins, artifacts from 6th until 20th centuries, and the Hanoi Flag Tower which stands as high as 40 meters that offers the panoramic views of the city center and Ba Dinh Square to every traveler.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
One of the most visited top tourist attractions in Hanoi, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was inspired by Lenin’s Mausoleum in Russia. All travelers are advised to dress properly when visiting Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum which means shorts, miniskirts and sleeveless are not allowed. The remains of the popular leader of Vietnam “Uncle Ho” is placed inside the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Lotus-shaped pagoda and over 250 different types of plants and flowers surround the Mausoleum.
The Perfume Pagoda
If you are fond of Buddhist shrines, there’s no other place to feast your eyes with it but to include Perfume Pagoda in your itinerary. The Perfume Pagoda is a religious site you can visit in Vietnam where it is believed that the place can purify your soul, and grant your wishes if you are in dire to have kids. There are two caves in Perfume Pagoda, the first cave Dun Tien is where travelers pray for good luck and prosperity, while tourists can wish for a chance of childbirth in Nui Co cave.
Hanoi Opera House
The construction of Hanoi Opera House took 10 years just to be completed is a historical one, not to mention that this beautiful opera house is strategically located at Downtown’s intersection, whereas five main city roads lead to. This is the perfect place to watch classical and operatic performances, Hanoi Opera House has the capacity to accommodate 600 audiences. Poetic Vietnamese village life, and bamboo circus are just some of the amazing shows you can witness in Hanoi Opera House that will leave you in awe.
Hoan Kiem Lake
For peace and to find balance in your life, it’s best to visit Hoan Kiem Lake every 6 in the morning, you can find and join the locals do t’aichi at the shore. Once you’re at the lake’s bridge, you can see the tiny Turtle Tower from afar which commemorates the victory claimed by a Vietnamese warrior.
Temple of Literature
Ancient trees and stone statues will welcome you, as soon as you arrive at the main entrance of this temple, travelers cannot definitely fathom any word! Temple of Literature is the country’s first national university, where the traditional-Vietnamese architecture style can be seen.
The best highlights to check at the Temple of Literature are as follows:
- 5 spacious courtyards
- Two refreshing landscape gardens
- Well of Heavenly Clarity
Dong Xuan Market
This is the city’s biggest indoor market that every tourist must not forget! There is a wide range of electronics, household appliances, souvenirs and accessories you can buy and bring home for your relatives and friends at home!
In addition to that, Dong Xuan Market also boasts of several dining options to satisfy your cravings. If you are looking for a perfect remembrance of your Hanoi trip, find Bat Trang ceramics, embroideries, and Dong Ho drawings here in Dong Xuan Market.
These top tourist attractions in Hanoi are the concrete evidence that it is one of the best cities you can visit in Southeast Asia.
Don’t have a lot of time? Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Tran Quoc Pagoda, One Pillar Pagoda, Hoan Kiem Lake, the Temple of Literature, and the Museum of Ethnology in a day by joining a group tour. Book now.
Top Tours and Activities to Do from Hanoi
Ha Long Bay Tour from Hanoi
Ha Long Bay is one of the top tourist attractions in Vietnam, attracting hundreds of visitors every day. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its gorgeous landscape of limestone pillars, islets, and a navigable cave. You can choose to go to Ha Long Bay on a day tour or cruise for 2-3 days depending on your availability and budget. Most travelers and backpackers go on a day tour to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi. Below is the usual itinerary of the Ha Long Bay Day Tour. You can book here. If you want to do the kayaking, choose the deluxe tour. It’s a little bit expensive but it’s worth it.
Ha Long Bay Day Tour Itinerary
- 8:00am-8:30am pick up at hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter
- 8:45am depart from Hanoi
- 10:00am-10:30am stopover at any of the following places, depending on traffic and weather conditions: Chan Thien My (Que Vo, Bac Ninh), Hong Ngoc Sao Do (Hai Duong) or Ky Tam Anh (Chi Linh Sao Do) or Hoang Tan (Hoang Tan)
- 12:00pm arrive at Ha Long Pier then get on board the boat
- 12:30pm lunch while cruising the Ha Long Bay
- 2:00pm visit Thien Cung Cave
- 2:45pm enjoy kayaking at Ba Hang Fishing Village (30-40 minutes)
- 4:00pm back to Ha Noi City
- 6:00pm-6:30pm stopover at any of the following places, depending on traffic and weather conditions: Chan Thien My (Que Vo, Bac Ninh), Hong Ngoc Sao Do (Hai Duong) or Ky Tam Anh (Chi Linh Sao Do) or Hoang Tan (Hoang Tan)
- 8:00pm-8:30pm end of tour, drop off at hotel or original meeting point
Other Top Day Tours from Hanoi
Basic and Useful Phrases in Vietnamese
English is not widely spoken in Vietnam especially in the suburbs, here are some useful words and phrases in Vietnamese to help you communicate with the locals. Big thanks to my friend Hieu of Hieu on the Go for helping me out with the translation.
|Không có chi
|How are you?
|Bạn khoẻ không?
|What is your name?
|Tên bạn là gì?
|My name is Glen
|Tên tôi là Glen
|Nice to meet you
|Rất vui khi gặp bạn
|Do you speak English?
|Bạn có nói tiếng anh không?
|I don’t understand
|Tôi không hiểu
|How much is this?
|Cái này giá bao nhiêu?
|Can you reduce the price?
|Giảm giá được không
|Chào buổi sáng
|Chào buổi chiều
|Chào buổi tối
Hanoi + Halong Bay Itinerary & Expenses
Day 0 – Depart from Manila
10:00 PM: Depart from Manila via Cebu Pacific Php3,199 (with 20kg baggage allowance)
12:30 AM: Arrive in Hanoi (there is an hour time difference between Manila and Hanoi, Manila being ahead)
1:00 AM: Took a grab to the hostel VND345,000
*Bought a local sim card VND300,000
*Hostel for 4 nights VND853,000
Day 1 – Explore the Top Tourist Attractions in Hanoi
*Breakfast is free at the hostel
2:00 PM: Explored Hoan Kiem Lake and other nearby attractions (Grab bike VND15,000)
Day 2 – Halong Bay Day Tour
*Ha Long Bay Deluxe Tour USD45
*It’s a whole day activity. Please check the full itinerary above.
Day 3 – Food trip in Hanoi
*Breakfast is free at the hostel
10:00 AM – Went to Cafe Giang to try Egg Coffee (Egg coffee VND25,000) Grab bike VND15,000
11:00 AM – Went to another cafe to do some work and have lunch (Grab bike VND15,000)
4:00 PM – Early dinner at Bún Chả Hương Liên (Grab bike VND20,000)
4:30 PM – Dinner VND54,000
5:30 PM Grab bike to hostel VND15,000
6:00 PM Walk around Old quarter
Day 4 – Depart Hanoi to Da Nang
VIETNAM BLOG SERIES
Glen Nomad is a travel blogger and the founder of Escape Manila, one of the top travel blogs in the Philippines. He has visited all 82 provinces in the Philippines and has explored 53 countries across Asia, North & South America, East Africa, Europe, and Australia. Follow him on IG at @escapemanila