Vietnam is one of our favorite countries in Southeast Asia. It’s quite difficult to describe and can only be understood by those that have been there. Watching the content hustle and bustle of traffic in the city is enough entertainment to keep you busy for hours. If you have to choose between the North (Hanoi) and South (Ho Chi Minh), I’d go with the North, although the entire country is amazing and has SO much to offer.
Sadly, the Visa for Americans has gone up almost 50% in the last two years, as they are only permitting one year visas to US citizens.
There are two fees associated with the process.
Stamping Fee Prior To Arrival: $135USDpp
Vietnam Arrival Processing Fee: $25USDpp
If you’re going to Halong Bay, the boat cruise that you booked with will be happy to process the stamping fee for you, or alternatively, if you have ample time before leaving for your trip, you can mail/drop your passports at the Vietnam Embassy. After arriving at the airport in Vietnam, take the required paperwork with you to the Visa On Arrival counter (plan to wait an hour+) and pay the processing fee.
How To Get There…
It’s a 40 minute drive from Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport to the center of town. Transport can be easily arrange with your accommodation, for less than $10USD.
Where To Stay…
Oriental Suites Hotel:
There’s a reason this hotel has 1,500 reviews on TripAdvisor and they are all 5 star…it’s FANTASTIC! The service, rooms and location are phenomenal, and breakfast is included, all for $50USD/night!
Hilton Opera Hanoi:
If you’re looking for a more upscale hotel, then this hotel has it all, still at an affordable price. It’s a 15 minute walk from the Old Quarter. $76USD/night
Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa:
Another EXCELLENT hotel with outstanding service and location. They also have great himalayan salt massages, but are a bit overpriced as far as Vietnam goes. Be sure to get a passion fruit martini there, it’s delicious! $85USD/night
What To Do…
A MUST see while in Hanoi, the Old Quarter is made up of nearly 40 streets of shops selling various items.
Hoan Kiem Lake:
Hoan Kiem lake literally translates to ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’ and is considered the center of Hanoi. It’s perfect for a nice morning walk/run or an evening stroll while people watching.
This is another MUST do while visiting Hanoi. You can people watch for HOURS here, purchase souvenirs, North Face Gear, etc. There seems to be an endless amounts of streets and goodies. Open 6pm-10pm+ and located in the Old Quarter.
Tip: Watch for pickpockets and don’t forget to BARGAIN!
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre:
Cost: Adult $100,000VND ($5USD), Children $60,000VND ($2.64USD)
Hours: Daily shows, times vary by seasons. Summer: 4:10pm, 5:20pm, 6:30pm, 8:00pm. Winter: 3:00pm, 4:10pm, 5:20pm, 6:30pm, 8:00pm, 9:15pm. Sunday Morning 9:30am
Time At Attraction: 45 minutes
Tip: Book tickets early for this, as they sell out. To Reserve a Ticket, you’ll need to email them email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Traditional Vietnamese music while puppets are playing about in the water make for a unique show of entertainment for the whole family.
Vietnamese Street Food Tour:
Company: Viet Mind Tours (Ask for BOB!)
Hours: Tours depart 11:30am and 6:00pm
Length of Attraction: 3 hours, 8 different restaurants
If it’s your first time to Vietnam, or if you’re new to Vietnamese cuisines/you’d like to learn more about it, then there is NO better way than a food tour! This company is fabulous and only allows 6 max people per group, to keep it personal. They even provide recipes to take home.
Tip: Don’t forget to tip your guide!
The Vietnamese currency in the Dong.
When crossing the street, just GO! Don’t stop and try to wind through the cars and scooters, as they will go around you.
While you’re in the Old Quarter, get up to a rooftop bar and watch all of the crazy traffic go by!
Watch your pockets in the markets.
Enjoy every minute!