Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam. Most of the travellers think of Hanoi as a gate to Northen Vietnam (Sapa, Halong Bay or Ninh Binh), but you should really take the time to stay 2 days (or more) in this lively and authentic city. What we like most about this city is not its many temples or museums but it’s the atmosphere you feel in the streets. We could walk for days in the Old Quarter. Yes, it’s busy but it’s definitely worth a visit. Full of life, history and culture. And the food is to die for. There is a certain art de vivre in Hanoi with little cafes, shops.
If you ask us to choose between Ho Chi Minh City (the biggest city in Vietnam) and Hanoi, we would recommend Hanoi as we find the city more interesting.
How accessible is it from Singapore?
Hanoi is an easy getaway destination for on 2 and a half day weekend (flights timing are not great from Singapore and you won’t find a flight on Friday evening).
Note that the tourist visa is expensive for non ASEAN countries nationals and that you will need to get an invitation letter before you go (online process, see the “about Vietnam tab for details”)
If you fly direct from Singapore to Hanoi, the total door-to-door journey from (your home/office in) Singapore to your hotel in Hanoi will take you about 6 hours. The trip includes a flight and taxi transfers.
How much is this going to cost us?
Vietnam is a very cheap destination in terms of food, accommodation and activities. It’s actually great value in most places. It’s also true in Hanoi.
However, the visa if you do not hold an ASEAN passport is a rip-off (45 USD for the visa itself and another 15 to 25 USD for the invitation letter).
How remote and risky is it?
It’s a safe destination. Medical infrastructure is not exceptional but you will be able to go to a decent hospital in Hanoi in case of serious problems.
What about the kids?
Hanoi is a busy city and traffic is chaotic. There are motorbikes everywhere. It is still manageable with kids if they are old enough not to run everywhere in the busy streets or if they are still willing to be in a baby carrier / or have a piggyback ride. Because of the traffic, the air quality is not so great. There are some kids friendly activities such as the water puppet show or bus tours around the city.
When should we go?
Connections from Hanoi
From Hanoi, you can easily head South to Tam Coc – Ninh Binh or Halong Bay, North to Sapa, or fly to Hoi An or Ho Chi Minh City.
Did you know?
Hanoi is home to a legen-(wait for it )-dary giant turtle who gave a sword to a Viet King to help defeat the Chinese after 1000 years of occupation. Will you spot it in the Hoan Kiem Lake? Diving is not recommended!
Getting from Singapore to Hanoi
From Singapore fly directly to Hanoi (HAN). Singapore Airlines / Tiger / Vietnam Airlines offer direct flights to Hanoi.
The best option at the moment is to take 2.5 days and fly on Friday afternoon and come back on Sunday evening.
Getting there: Singapore Airlines – Singapore to Hanoi – 3.35 PM – 17.55 PM (3h 30 flight)
Coming back: Singapore Airlines – Hanoi to Singapore – 6.45 PM – 11 PM
Return ticket from SGD255
Get your ticket NOW to enjoy the best fares.
Getting from Hanoi airport to the city centre
Taxis are available at the airport. You will need about 45 minutes to reach the Old Quarter (city centre) and it will cost about VND 345,000. The cost will be the same if it is with taxi meters or pre-paid taxis.
The international airport is quite new and clean. Food and money changers are available before and after check-in.
Where to stay in Hanoi
There are many hotels in Hanoi. Personally, we stayed at La Beaute de Hanoi Hotel, which is a very (very) central hotel in the Old Quarter. It’s clean and quiet. The staff was very nice and helpful. The hotel is located in a small little street (so no need to worry about the noisy motorbikes).
There are many options so if you prefer something different, take a look at Agoda or Booking.com. Not far from La Beaute de Hanoi Hotel, there’s nice higher-end hotel called Calypso Grand Hotel which belongs to the same hotel group.
We highly recommend that you stay in the Old Quarter area as this is where most of the interesting sites are. On top of that, there is a great atmosphere.
or, if you prefer, you can book with
To see & to do in Hanoi
A few ideas of things to do and see.
Hanoi Old Quarter
You can either discover the Old Quarter wandering in the small streets or taking an electric car tour. These electric cars (open air cars) offer a pleasant way to visit the Old Quarter – starting point at the North of the Hoan Kiem Lake. You can get your own car and driver for 1h at VND 2500,00 with few stops at the main points of interests or for 35 min at VND 150,000 for a non-stop tour.
Explore the labyrinth of ancient streets. It’s noisy, busy and motorbike-clogged, but it’s quintessential Hanoi.
- Take a break on low-slung plastic stools at a tea stall watching the daily life. Try the singular Vietnamese coffee (and try to drink it without burning your fingers).
- Wander around St Joseph’s Cathedral
- Step in temples to enjoy few minutes out of the busy city. Temples in Hanoi are usually very nice and well maintained. A great oasis.
- We found Dong Xuan market so so only. You will mainly see plastic products and toys. There is a small spices section.
- Enjoy the Vietnamese delicious cuisine (certainly our favorite in Asia thanks to its fresh herbs and great flavors)
Hoan Kiem Lake
Located just South of the Old quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake or the Lake of the Restored Sword offers a nice walk, watching Vietnamese doing Tai Chi exercises on the shore and the giant Golden turtle. You can visit the Ngoc Son Temple (the temple itself is not very impressive but it’s a nice walk to the small island on the lake).
Water puppetry, an ancient Vietnamese art, is staged on the water platform with live traditional music. You can find Water Puppets theatres around the lake which perform from mid-afternoon until 9pm. VND 100, 000 per person / 45 min show
H?a Lò prison
H?a Lò Prison sometimes nicknamed as the “Hanoi Hilton” in reference to the American Prisoners of War who were captive there. You can visit the museum and learn about how it was used by the French and then the Vietnamese. VND 30,000. The site is quite small so don’t expect too much from your visit.
Temple of Literature
With its five courtyards and lotus ponds, the 11th-century Temple of Literature is an interesting site to visit and a great way to rest away from the heavy traffic. VND 20,000
Pay your respect to Uncle Ho
Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum is in Hanoi (yes, I know… confusing, right?). Well, it’s there. You can go see Uncle Ho’s body (but ask around if the body is there. It is sent for 2 months in Russia for “maintenance” every year). Free admission (as you would expect from a Communist leader).
There are many museums in Hanoi. Pick one based on your mood. Most of them show an interesting perspective about history… Quite different from what you would read in a Western school book to say the least.
More info to prepare your trip
Wifi is available in most restaurants and hotels.
What to pack for Hanoi
Your main bag
That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.
- Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
- Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
- Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
- Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
- Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
- Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
- Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
- Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
- Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
- Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
- Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
- Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
- Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
- Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.
Your small bag
That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.
- Your passport, cash, credit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
- Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
- Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
- Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
- Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
- Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
- Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
- Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
- Camera and its protection.
- Language: Vietnamese (ti?ng Vi?t)
- Time zone: Bangkok time zone across the country (Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi) GMT +7 hours. 1h behind Singapore
- Currency: Dong (VND) & US Dollars (for large amounts)
- Phone: + 84
- Electricity: 220V 60 Hz
Immigration and airport taxes on arrival
Depending on your nationality you may need to get a Tourist Visa to enter Vietnam. ASEAN passport holders and nationals from a few European countries (including France) are exempt of Visa.Getting a visa to Vietnam is quite simple and easy now. There are 2 options:
- On Arrival Visa at the airport immigration checkpoint. You’ll need an Approval letter BEFORE you travel; you can either ask a Travel agent or apply online on Vietnamvisa. There will be fees for processing to the Approval letter and then for the visa itself check the rates here. The “on arrival visa” is only possible at International Airports (Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi), Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City) and Danang Airport (Danang)). If you are travelling by land the Approval letter will not be accepted, then you need to contact the Embassy. At the airport immigration counter you need to pay cash 45 USD for single entry (95 USD for multiple-entry) and bring along 2 photos + your passport + the Approval letter. To save time, you can print the form that you will need to fill in and give to the counter when you arrive. You can download it here
- Or, Before flying to Vietnam. You can contact the Vietnamese Embassy and apply for a visa. In Singapore, 10 Leedon Park 10, 267887. Visa Hours: Mon-Fri (9AM – 12PM noon)
National Public Holidays in Vietnam
|January 1||New Year’s Day|
|February 17-22||Tet Nguyen Dan (Chinese New Year)|
|April 28||Hung Kings Commemoration|
|April 30||Victory/Independence Day|
|May 1||Labour Day|
|September 2||National Day|
* check the exact date on this website as it varies from one year to another.