We arrived at Noi Bai, Hanoi’s airport, late. Our flight with Jetstar was delayed 5 hours. Lucky for us, in the morning they sent us a text message to tell us, so we weren’t sitting around the airport all day. When you exit the airport, you’ll see a lineup of taxis. There are many different companies. Some people say Mai Linh or Vinasun are the only ones they’ll take. I haven’t had any problems with other companies, and sometimes their rates are cheaper. If you take a close look, you’ll see their rates posted on the side of their car. If you shop around it could be possible to save a couple dollars. In hindsight, I would have probably used this company. Simply send them an email with your flight information and they’ll be waiting for you with your name on a sign. They charge $15 to get downtown (you might want to ask them specifically about your hotel to make sure it’s not more). We ended up paying 370,000 VND ($17) for a taxi off the street. It took us to Hanoi Crystal Hotel, where we stayed for 3 nights. Did we book ahead? Yes. How long ahead? A few hours. At the airport, before boarding our flight, we went on the app HotelQuickly and did a search for Hanoi. Thanks to the app’s great incentive program, and the last minute deals that the app secures, we were able to book 3 nights for only $25. If you’re unfamiliar with HotelQuickly, check out our HotelQuickly review and be sure to put in our invite code to save yourself some money (after you download it go to credits, then redeem, then put in promo code RNEMU — I believe you get $15-$20 in credits if you use it). So anyways, the hotel was a great deal. The room was nothing special, but the location was good. Down the street, there was a really good bia hoi place where we ate our first meal in Hanoi.
Bia hoi is one of my favourite things about Hanoi. They’re basically restaurants, or sometimes just sidewalks, where you can get cheap glasses of draft beer. Cheap as in, 3000-10,000 VND ($0.15-$0.50). Hanoi Bia Hoi is a great website that maps the beer hoi places. We used it a lot while in Hanoi. “What do you want to do now?” “Hmm… I know!” *pulls out phone and searches for closest beer hoi place.
The next day, we woke up really early and did Frommer’s Hanoi walking tour. We usually avoid the popular travel books, but the self-guided walking tours that Frommers have on their website are a good way to see some of the city’s highlights. Without it, we would probably just walk around anyways, exploring the old town aimlessly. At least this way we get to read some info about some of the sights.
So what’s a person to do in Hanoi if they’re not peeping dead peeps, and looking through glass cases at old bowls? Well, the majority of our free time was spent shoving things into our mouths. There are a ton of food opportunities in Hanoi. Some dishes you’ll struggle to find in the rest of Vietnam, let alone in another country.
Some must-try dishes while in Hanoi are:
- Pho Cuon (Pho rolls) – Vietnam’s popular soup in roll form. Try it around Truc Bach lake, where they are said to have been invented.
- Bun Bo Nam Bo (Beef noodle mix) – I’ve had many different versions of beef and noodles in Vietnam, but this one is truly unique and very tasty. The most popular place to get it is 67 Hang Dieu (see map below).
- Bun Thang (chicken and pork noodle soup) – A really amazing bowl that is packed with delicious and filling toppings like chicken, pork, egg, sometimes shrimp. We randomly walked into a packed-with-locals place on the north-side of Hang Thung close to Hang Be. It might have been the best soup I had in Hanoi.
- Bun ca Ha Noi (Hanoi fish noodle soup) – Fish soup in Vietnam is different, depending where you are. Hanoi’s version uses mullet and dill.
- Bun Cha (grilled pork and vermicelli) – One of the more popular Hanoi dishes. Grilled meatballs are dipped in a sweet broth-like sauce and eaten with vermicelli noodles. You should be able to find this dish all over.
- Banh tom Ho Tay (sweet potato shrimp fritters) – A sweet potato fritter topped with a whole shrimp (originally the shrimp came from Ho Tay, the large lake). The shrimp’s head isn’t removed and the skin is left on. Why? Because that’s how the Vietnamese roll. If you can get over that fact, it’s pretty tasty and crunchy.
- Ca Phe Trung (Egg Coffee) – Sweet and oh so good. A heavily beaten egg is mixed with delicious Vietnamese coffee. Apparently, the drink was invented by Giang Cafe, so I suggest trying it there (39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân).
- Deep fried deliciousness – Quan Goc Da, a popular eatery at 52 Ly Quoc Su, just north of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, serves up a plethora of deep fried goodies. We tried the banh goi (dumpling stuffed with glass noodles, mushrooms, and ground pork), nem cua be (crab spring roll), and the banh bao thit (deep-fried pork dumpling).
We happened to be in Hanoi during New Year’s Eve, a holiday that’s not that popular in Vietnam, but there were a few celebrations going on around the city. We decided to do an all day microbrewery tour. With some help from BeerVN.com we planned out a route, sprinkled in some bia hoi places as filler, and drank/walked our way into 2015. It was a great day with the highlight being the glass of Hoa Vien beer from Pilsner Urquell Restaurant at 10 Nguyen Bieu, and the low-light being the pink champagne we popped as the clock struck midnight.
the bowls of food,
the sips of coffee.
Cost Breakdown (for 2)
Accommodations: $24.66 USD (3 nights) + $1.61 (1 night) + $68.40 (3 nights) = $94.67/2,022,000 dong (7 nights) *We got some major discounts thanks to this blog and HotelQuickly. You can expect to pay about $20/night for a private double.
Meals: 3,550,000 (5 breakfasts, 5 lunch, 7 dinner)
Attraction admissions: 60,000 (we went into an ancient house and the temple on the island)
Transportation: 370,000 (taxi from airport) + 50,000 (taxi to bus station) + 50,000 (taxi old quarters to Truch Bach Lake) + 370,000 (taxi to airport) = 840,000
Total: 7,613,000 ($356)