Hanoi Budget Travel Guide: Eat, Sleep, Shop, Do

I arrived in Hanoi and due to my open schedule decided to take the public from Nai Ban International Airport to the center of Hanoi.  Take bus number 17 for 5000 Dong, get off after crossing a big bridge about 1 hour later at the terminal station called Long Bien.  From there you are quite close to the Dong Xuan Market at the Northern side of the Old Quarter.

Everything that is “*” is my personal recommendation if you travel to Hanoi.

You might also want to check out Hanoi in a Collage of Dimensions (my photo journey) or the Hanoi Gallery to see a collection of pictures.

hanoi street Hanoi Budget Travel Guide: Eat, Sleep, Shop, Do

Where to Stay

Hanoi, and especially the Old Quarter, is loaded with places to stay.  While I was there, I hopped around to a number of places.

Tien Thuy Hotel

Address: 9 Hang Thung Str., Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam, paid $15 per night
A quiet hotel, about 5 minutes walk from Hoan Kiem Lake,  When I was there it wasn’t overly busy.  Run by a friendly family, the daughter can speak English and is quite happy to give you advice.

Hanoi Municipal Hotel

Address: 13 Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hanoi, Vietnam, paid $15 per night
It looks nice from the outside, but not the nicest on the inside.  The hotel had a little bit of a weird creepy feeling to it.

Royal Hotel 3 (Hanoi Silver Hotel)*

Address: 88 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam
www.hanoiroyalhotel.com, $18 – $23 per night
The Royal Hotel 3 also known as the Silver Hotel, was the nicest hotel of all. I would recommend it if you are not on too much of a budget.  It is clean, well maintained, and the staff speak English and are helpful.  It is located in a superb location in the center of everything in the Old Quarter.

Hotels will almost always ask for US dollars so try to get a good exchange if you are paying with Dong.  Always try to haggle a couple bucks discount.

Where to Eat

In Hanoi you can easily walk around and sample anything that looks good, but here are a few suggestions.

hanoi eat Hanoi Budget Travel Guide: Eat, Sleep, Shop, Do

Bun Cha Dac Kim*

Address: So 1 Hang Manh Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnamn
Eat: Bun Cha (Hanoi barbecue meat soup) and Nem Cua Be (crab spring rolls)

Dong Xuan Lunch Buffet*

Be there at noon and expect to pay about 40,000 for a heaping plate of everything
Eat: A spread of Vietnamese dishes with rice

Read about my buffet fighting experience at the Dong Xuan lunch buffet!

Cafe 39*

Address: Hang Hanh St, Old Quarter, across from Win Hotel
Eat: Xoi Ga (Hanoi style sticky rice)
Price: About 20,000 – 30,000 per person

Xoi Yen*

Address: 35b Nguyen Huu Huan St, Old Quarter, Hanoi
Eat: Amazing bowls of Xoi Xeo (sticky rice and various items)
Price: About 20,000 for a bowl

Recommended by a great Hanoi food blogger, Stickyrice.

Quan An Ngon

Address: 18 Phan Boi Chau, Quan Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam
Not far from the intersection of Phan Boi Chau and Pho Hai Ba Trung streets.  A short walk from the center of Old Quarter.
Eat: All Vietnamese street food set up in an upscale food court.  Sample all kinds of specialities…
Price: Around 100,000 per person for a huge meal

Kem Trang Tien*

Address: At the intersection of H. Khay Trang Tien and Ngo Quyen
Hanoi’s most incredible ice cream eating experience
Eat: I think the best was the coconut ice cream cone
Price: Ice creams range from 5000-8000

Hanoi’s ice cream motorbike drive-in

Quan Goc Da

Address: 52 Ly Quoc Su Street
Down the street from St. Josephs Cathedral
Eat: Banh Goi (deep fried dumplings)
Price: I had a few dumplings for 12,000

Right around the top of Hoan Kiem lake on some of the tiny streets amidst the sandal and shoe stores get an incredible Nom Chim Quay (pigeon papaya salad) and Nom Bo (beef papaya salad)

Pho 24 – Vietnamese restaurant chain

Expensive and not very good, beef noodles were nothing exceptional in my opinion
Price: About 50,000 per bowl

Luna d’Autunno – Traditional Italian restaurant

Address: 78 Tho Nhuon, Hanoi, Vietnam
Amazing pizza, I had the capricciosa costing 150,000, be careful though they add a VAT to the bill.

My Hai Restaurant*

Address: 63 Lo Su, located at the intersection of Ngugen Huu Huan and Lo Su
Eat: Pho Xao Bo (stir fried beef noodles) and Mien Xao Luon (stir fried cassava noodles with eels)
Price: About 20,000 – 30,000 per dish

Doner Kebab*

In the evening of night have a stroll to the corner of Hang Bac and Hang Dao for an incredible Hanoi style doner kebab in a baguette.
Price: 15,000

Pho Ga

Address: 172 Ton Duc Thang St.  a little ways down the road from the Temple of Literature, took the advice of stickyrice and had a great bowl of Pho Ga, chicken noodle soup.  Very good soup with no skin on chicken.
Eat: Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) – 25,000

Fanny Ice Cream

Address: 48 Le Thai To St, Old Quarter, Hanoi
Price: Around 100,000 for an ice cream that I thought was mediocre.

Coffee Shops

hanoi coffee Hanoi Budget Travel Guide: Eat, Sleep, Shop, Do

Cafe Hanh*

Address: 51 Nguyen Huu Huan, Old Quarter, Hanoi
I kept coming back to Cafe Hanh and I think it has the best Caphe Sua Da (iced coffee with sweet milk)  in Hanoi.

Cafe Mai*

Address: 52 Nguyen Du St. Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi
Close to the intersection of Nguyen Du and Quang Trung Streets, very walkable from central Old Quarter.
Great coffee and a nice quiet ambiance

Trieu Viet Vuong St.

Also known as coffee street is a street loaded with cafe’s on both sides of the road.  The area is a quiet and has awesome shade trees hanging over the sidewalk and road.  I’m sure all the cafe’s serve pretty similar amazing coffee.

Trung Nguyen

There is a Trung Nguyen company coffee complex located on the busy Pho Hai Ba Trung road
Weird place, felt a little like a dark dungeon, I was a little spooked out, drank a coffee and left.

Highlands Coffee*

Located near St. Joseph’s Cathedral, extremely good Tiramisu
If you are hot, tired, and annoyed by motorcycles, breath a breath of fresh air at Highlands coffee shop

Great quiet cafe, I am not sure of the name
Address: Corner of H. Giay and Gach
Go to the second floor and enjoy a cool breeze in the treetops and an ice cold passion juice

Mediocre but refreshing lemon tea at shops all around St. Josephs Cathedral

Shopping

I’m not much of a shopper, but when I realized I had exchanged too much Dong, I decided to buy some gifts for friends and family so I didn’t have to exchange any back to Thai Baht.  There are really nice, boutique, souvenir, and arty stores just North of St. Joseph’s Cathedral.  Have a stroll through Ly Quoc, Hang Bong, Hang Hom, and Hang Manh street, to what you can find!

I do however love coffee and I am willing to go out of my way for it.

Cafe Mai*

On the business card it reads:
“We roast and grind coffee beans by a know-how handed down through the family with French taste and technique.”
Address: 52 Nguyen Du St. Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi
Close to the intersection of Nguyen Du and Quang Trung Streets, very walkable from central Old Quarter.  It’s a huge coffee shop serving all the normal brews and a side store that offers bags and beans of coffee with reasonable prices.

I bought a few more bags of coffee at

Huong Mai Coffee

Address: 15 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
They have all kinds of coffee, including weasel, highlands, traditional, arabica, robusta, moka and culi.  There is a huge range of prices depending on the bean.  I got a kilo of weasel coffee for 500,000, originally 600,000.  Try to do a little friendly haggling.

Village Silk

Address: 6 Nha Chung St, Old Quarter, Hanoi

I bought a couple of women’s silk shirts and a women’s Vietnamese long shirt for 400,000 each.  Very nice quality and hopefully will fit my relatives.

I am a big fan of food souvenirs over anything else.  There are a couple of grocery stores in Old Quarter that I visited, buying baskets of products.  Great things to buy that are cheap: all kinds of chocolate, coffee, tea, beef jerky, dried fish, dried fruit, and weird snacks.

There are 2 supermarket that I went to in Hanoi.  The first called Fivi Supermarket is on Le Thai To road on the NW corner of Hoan Kiem Lake.  The 2nd is on the opposite side of Hoan Kiem Lake close to the intersection of Pho Ly and Tran Nguyen Han.

Things To Do

hanoi shop Hanoi Budget Travel Guide: Eat, Sleep, Shop, Do

There are loads of tourist attractions in Hanoi and I didn’t comprehensively cover all of them.  When I travel I usual try to focus more on food, culture, and aimless wandering, with the “official” tourist activities coming in second.  That being said, here are some of the things I did:

Temple of Literature – Entrance 10,000

An ancient temple with very interesting artifacts.

Museum of Fine Art – Entrance 20,000

Some interesting pieces but set up in a super boring environment

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Str., Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

www.thanglongwaterpuppet.com

Price: 60,000 for the VIP seating in the front*
Well worth the money for an entertaining show, including great live traditional music.

Long Bien Market*

Massive wholesale food distribution market towards the North of the Old Quarter.
Open: 1 am to 6 am
I arrived at 4 am to a frantic display of action and movement

Hang Be Market*

Located just North of the Hoan Kiem lake this market is full of cool things to see and people to observe.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh Museum

One Pillar Pagoda

Not overly impressed

Tran Quoc Pagoda (Tay Ho Lake Temple)

Halong Bay Cruise*

$50 each person for the Deluxe cruise (2 days, 1 night), not sure what exactly the difference is between standard and deluxe.  Very nice boat with Dragonpearl Cruises which my first hotel arranged.

Budget Tips

  • If you are traveling with a friend, you can live very comfortably in Hanoi for 15 – 20 USD per day. You can also live cheaper ($10 per day) if you try.
  • To save money in Hanoi try to take the local bus (3000) instead of dealing with dishonest cabs, cheaper and less hassle.
  • In Hanoi you can attempt to get a little discount everywhere you go.  Everyone wants to make a sale, and there is loads of competition, use this to your advantage.

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow, fantastic run-down of suggestions for Hanoi. I can taste the iced coffee right now, mmmmmm. Don’t forget to drink some Bia Hoi while you’re there. Can’t beat a glass of homemade beer for about $0.25US.

    Great recap and great advice!!

  2. Don says

    I would agree that going to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is worth checking out. I also would recommend going to the “Hanoi Hilton”. I agree that taking the local bus is the way to go. The guys in the cabs and motorcycles see a tourist and ask for way too much money. If you have to take a cab or motorcycle, always agree on the price first.

  3. says

    @Adam: Good point Adam, Bia Hoi is everywhere…and cheap!

    @Don: I didn’t make it to the Hanoi Hilton, thanks for suggesting it! Next time I will be sure to check it out.

  4. says

    Oh yes, I remember Hanoi very well. We were there November 2002 – during the outbreak of avian flu! One day (before sunrise), as we were walking towards a meeting point, we saw this old Vietnamese lady slit a chicken’s throat right on the street. She proceeded to drain the blood out on the street…That’s real fresh food!!

    • says

      Sound like it would have even been a more hectic time to be there! That’s the craziest thing about Vietnam, there’s always something interesting going on!

  5. says

    I’ve never been to Vietnam, but everything I see or read about the country makes me want to go there. It must be exhilarating to ride a scooter down the busy streets and stop to eat wherever your nose takes you. Thanks for the suggestions on Hanoi.

  6. says

    Hey, just stumbled across your blog. This is a really excellent guide! I am adding Vietnam to my trip next year, unexpectedly, so I’ll definitely be using this to eat some delicious food and find delicious coffee. Thanks!

  7. says

    Thank you for posting this.
    It’s so amazing how you got most of the best places in Hanoi !
    I’m from Hanoi and been living oversea for a while. And I think I have to look at your list every now and then before I go back home :)

  8. says

    Heading to Vietnam tonight via sleeper bus from Kunming China! Very excited for a new country and new cuisine! Going to Sapa first and then Hanoi — definitely going to check out the foodie places you mentioned here! SOUNDS delicious!

  9. charlotte says

    Hi Mark! I’ve been to Bangkok (and the rest of Thailand) a couple of times and really loved it. I’m returning this summer for 6 weeks, and although I want to explore Bangkok and South-Thailand some more, I still have about 3/4 weeks to fill. I’m finding it very difficult to decide between backpacking through Vietnam or Cambodia? I’ve read good AND bad things about both countries (especially about scams in Vietnam). I like beautiful beaches and nature, but I’m a citygirl. So, I’d like to know which city you prefer: Hanoi or Phom Phen? And why?

    Thank you!
    Charlotte

    • says

      Hi Charlotte, great to hear from you and that you are going to be traveling in Asia for a while. That’s a tough question, and I really like both cities, but overall I’d pick Hanoi – mostly because it’s bigger, there’s more food, and it has more to do / see. Phnom Penh is more quiet and relaxing, but Hanoi is, in my opinion more exciting. Hope you have a wonderful time, wherever you choose!

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