TIPS TO DO ON YOUR FIRST TRIP TO HANOI
WALK AROUND HOAN KIEM LAKE
Meaning Lake of the Restored Sword, Hoan Kiem Lake is at the center of Hanoi city life, at least figuratively anyway. Located in the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake is where people gather in Hanoi to rest, eat lunch, play, or simply take a walk around the perimeter of the lake. Ngoc Son Temple, an 18th century Buddhist temple, sits on a tiny island in the lake reachable via the bright red bridge connecting the island to the northern shore of the lake.
After visiting the lake twice while we were in Hanoi, we realized this is where young Vietnamese students have learned to come to practice their English with tourists. Any time we sat down, we were approached by people for a chat. For me it was exciting, even when the conversations were painfully slow and repetitive, because I’m always thrilled to talk to people when we travel, but if you came to the lake to rest, it could be a little exhausting. In that case, just pretend you don’t speak English
SHOP HANOI’S NIGHT MARKET
The night market in Hanoi is only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. It’s all the same stuff you’ll find during the day, though, so don’t despair if you’re not in Hanoi over a weekend. If there’s nothing there you can’t buy in the daytime, why go to the night market at all? Because the atmosphere is better. The streets are quieter. There’s less insistence from shopkeepers that you look through their wares. And, in my experience, you can often get better deals. It’s just a more pleasant shopping experience in general. Plus, there’s food – loads of choices cooked fresh right in front of you while you shop
Ah, the most important point on the list, and pretty much my favorite thing about visiting anywhere – food. Eating may be one of life’s necessities, but in Vietnam it’s one of its greatest pleasures, too. There are so many foods to try here, and like everything else, it’s all incredibly cheap. A few things you must try – bun cha (BBQ pork and noodles), pho xao (stir fried noodles with beef), bun nem (spring rolls), banh mi (Vietnam’s version of a sandwich), and of course, everyone’s favorite – pho (beef noodle soup).
A note on food safety: If you get sick from eating in Hanoi (or anywhere for that matter), it’s more likely to be due to eating foods you’re not accustomed to rather than a case of food poisoning or parasites. Regardless, there are obvious steps you can take to prevent the latter including avoiding tap water or uncooked things that have been washed in tap water, such as salad, and never eating anything that looks like it’s been sitting out for awhile. Generally, if you eat from busy places and order a hot meal, you should be good to go
MAKE A PIT STOP AT BIA HOI CORNER
Beer drinkers, you’re going to want to pay attention to this one. There is literally a place where beer costs less than a gumball from a machine (wait, do those things even still exist?) and it’s right here at the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen. Known as Bia Hoi Corner, the “pubs” around this intersection in the Old Quarter serve freshly-made local beer, without preservatives, for just 20 cents (5,000 VND) a pop
But what if you don’t drink beer, should you still stop by? YES! I don’t drink beer either, but loved the atmosphere at Bia Hoi Corner. This is one of the best places to come if you want to meet other travelers, expats, and locals. Everyone sits on little plastic stools on the edges of the streets (that eventually become impassable for cars as the night goes on) and it’s easy to strike up conversations and meet people. I can’t speak for the late night hours, but before 9pm, the environment is kid-friendly and all sorts of non-alcoholic drinks and street food are available in addition to cheap beer.
Attend a Cooking Class
Vietnamese food is amazing but trust me, learning how to cook it is even better. Joining a cooking class in Hanoi is something I definitely recommend doing and is one of our best. Most classes also incorporate market tours, allowing you a glimpse into the local life and culture.
If you’re interested to do this, you can check Viland.com, a website that has cooking classes which you can easily book online. Personally, whenever I miss Vietnam, I find myself trying to recreate those mouthwatering spring rolls and a bowl of Pho!
HOW TO GET AROUND
From the airport, if you haven’t booked a transfer through your hotel, you’ll need to take a taxi to get to the Old Quarter. Metered taxis in Hanoi are notorious for trying to rip tourists off, so make sure you agree on a price before getting in and don’t budge on it when you get to your destination. Alternatively, you can book transportation to your hotel online through various companies
Once in the Old Quarter, unless you have mobility issues, you’ll have no problem walking everywhere mentioned on this list. If walking isn’t an option, you can hop on one of the cyclos (three-wheel bicycle taxis) for shorter journeys, and motorbike or metered taxis for longer journeys. Just be aware of dodgy taxi meters if you go that route.
HOW TO CROSS THE STREETS IN HA NOI
1.Follow the groups crossing the streets.
This is the best way to crossing the streets – you just follow the crowds at the same time crossing the roads.In this case, you are much more likely to be seen by a motorist when walking with a group than venturing across the street solo.
2. Walking slowly in even paces and crossing the streets firmly so that oncoming drivers can anticipate your position and adjust their drive path accordingly.
3.Remember that do not run across busy streets.When you do it suddenly, traffic participants could be unlooked- for, then they can not do proper reactions and they may hit you down.
4 Never go back or hesitate while crossing the roads, the motorcyclists may misunderstand you and hit you suddenly.For example, you are crossing, they think that you keep going ahead, then they move behide you.But you are scaring on the way, you step back again, then they may hit you while your stepping back due to their wrong anticipation.
5.Raise your hands to signal the traffic participants
In this case, surely that your gestures tell oncoming drivers that you are firmly to cross, they will avoid the spaces or decrease speed limit so that you can reach the other side safely and easier.
6.Look on the right and left of you before and while crossing the streets.
It is quite common thing that many locals try to do short-cuts by driving against one-way streets.Make sure to look around for safe crossings.
Explore Ha Noi city with us via our Vietnam package tour below: