Saturday, May 18, 2013

Getting Around Hanoi

Hanoi local people are friendly, helpful, but English is not widely used. Most people could understand very basic English. We experienced difficulty in communicating with some of the locals, struggling to find the best word, or to be more accurate, the best way to express ourselves. Lucky for us, HanoiKids had offered invaluable help during our trip around Hanoi. Our sharing about HanoiKids is available here.

Just a little bit more about HanoiKids, they are a group of local universities' students volunteered to be tour guides in Hanoi. They are very helpful and dedicated ambassadors. HanoiKids offer their service totally free of charge.

The information about HanoiKids is available on their official website at Please take note that there are several other websites providing misleading information about Hanoikids, e.g. and [This paragraph is added as requested by HanoiKids' member]

We found this fruit hawker using a very traditional scale to weight the plums for us (upper left). People in Hanoi are less sensitive to the camera, and have no issue posing for a total stranger (upper right). We saw a group of creative youth taking their group photo with their traditional costume in front of Royal Citadel (lower right). Have a sit at the road side and enjoy the nice food is a part of their live.

Place to Stay
Thirty-six streets all together. Highly crowded. pedestrians, motorbikes, bicycles, and cars are flooding the narrow streets. That's the Old Quarter area in Hanoi, that is a great place for the tourists like us to stay.

Different types of shops operate to cater the needs of locals, and support the tourism. Hotels are many. We stayed in Hanoi Old Centre Hotel at Hang Hanh Street. It is located in the heart of Old Quarter, about 50 meters away from Hoam Kiem Lake. We found other six hotels down the street of 50 meters. More were sighted further away.

Be noted that many of these small hotels are actually a part of the shop lots, due to the lack of space for the standalone building. Finding a place to stay in Old Quarter area should not be a big problem, while staying somewhere near Hoan Kiem Lake might be a good idea. Switching from one hotel to another is possible, as the choices are many. We were lucky to stay in Hanoi Old Centre Hotel. The hotel offered good service with remarkable low rate.

Hanoi Old Centre Hotel from the outside (upper left), the lobby (upper right), and the room for two (lower right). Free snacks and drinks were complementary.

At least six other small hotels are available down this street.

Be noted that the weekend night market (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night) is held from Dong Xuan Road to Hang Dao Road. It is located 50 meters away from our hotel, north of Hoan Kiem Lake. Shops around Old Quarter are categorized based on the location. Coincidence or not, shops located on the same street tend to sell same types of items, e.g. shoes at Lo Su and clothes at Hang Gai. Shops and hawkers selling food are scattered all around Old Quarter.

Based on our experience, the price of the items could be haggled, but not too much. We tried to press for 50% discount on a pair of sandals and 90% on a wallet, ended with disagreements. But we got 20% of discount on the souvenirs (fridge magnets and hand painted bookmarks) at the night market, much lower than the offer from the shops at Hang Trong Road. We bought 5 pairs of sport socks with 60k Dong (RM8.5), good quality with cheap price. Kelly and Livien bought a few clothes with good bargained price as well. Well, we would say that haggling within 20% is possible. To go beyond that, you might need to haggle more vigorously than us.

By the way, the night market at Old Quarter is lack in variety, dominated by clothes made by neighbouring countries. Some low quality fake items bearing well-known brands are available as well. Food was the greatest attraction to us there.

Night market at Old Quarter. Do expect a big crowd at the market.

Shoes on sale. The whole street is full of shoes.

Searching for something to bring back home at a souvenir shop.

Traffic and Transportation
The traffic is in total anarchy, but we adapted to it well, as we had experienced that before in several other places. Motorbikes are the king of the road. They are everywhere, driving in all direction without following the signage, and above all, many with no helmets on their head.

Be careful that not all the drivers are following the traffic lights. Many of them charge on green and never stop on red. The pedestrian crossing area is no different than any other places on the road. In case it is your first time experiencing this type of traffic condition, we would advise that a few demonstration from the others (the locals) might be necessary before you move on with you first crossing. What amused us was seeing a dog following the flock in crossing the road, twice. Too bad we didn't manage to capture the amusing moment.

We travel by foot for the places nearby our hotel, while taking taxi to access further places. Taxi is the most convenient mean to go around Hanoi, aplenty, cheap, and many of them are run by meter (Taxi Group and Mai Linh Group). A trip by trishaw or rent a bike can be a good idea too. During our visit, Hanoi was covered by haze, which effectively blocked much of the sunlight. We lost a clear blue sky, but earned more cooling and comfortable temperature to walk around by foot.

Motorbikes are everywhere. Bike rental is widely available. We saw trishaws roaming around Old Quarter area. However, we didn't really go for a ride.

Crossing this street here is the final exam for road crossing in Hanoi. Of course, not in the middle of the day, but during the opening hours of the night market.

Currency and Exchange
Believe it or not, get US Dollar from Malaysia and exchange the money to Vietnamese Dong at Old Hanoi Centre Hotel gave us the best rate, better than exchanging MY Ringgit to Dong directly in our country. Well, why not contact our hotel in Hanoi today for the currency exchange rate?

Most of the pricing are listed in Vietnamese Dong. We will be on the losing side if we insist to use US Dollar. Taking the taxi for example, from Women's Museum to St. Joseph Cathedral. The fare was around 18,000 Dong, or about USD 0.85. If we pay with US Dollar, the minimum payment is USD 1.

As far as we had explored, the streets around Old Quarter are safe, day and night. We didn't feel threatened nor uncomfortable on the street. In fact, the streets were quite clean during our visit. Surprisingly, we didn't see any beggar in our entire trip. That's rare for a big city like Hanoi.

We saw many interesting things on the street- tangling cables, motorbikes with all sorts of crazy loads (dogs, piglets, chicken, huge number of eggs, fruits etc.), and hawkers with formal attires are a few of them. Many travel agencies are available just a few steps away from hotels.

A small lane during the day time.

This is a scene of another street at night.

Food and Drink
Nobody will get starved in Hanoi. Food are everywhere. Well, it will be more fun if you are comfortable with the street food. Beef noodle, Vietnam coffee, and spring roll are highly recommended. Read our post about Hanoi's food here.

Please follow the links below for more about our experience in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. Our next destination, Yangon and Bagan in Myanmar.

Note: We would like to thank HanoiKids's member to check on the information provided on this post.  


  1. It's a nice informative blog about Hanoi.I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.Again Thanks for your nice information about Luxury Hanoi Hotel..

    1. Dear Xuan Nugyen, your blog is informative. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for sharing your travel guide.