Hanoi is a city bursting at the seams and at times can appear very chaotic. Hiring a private car and driver might seem a little over the top, but it's actually very affordable and a fabulously relaxing way to see the top sites in comfort. Your driver has local knowledge and acts as your guide, taking you to the hotspots and best restaurants.
When in Hanoi, do what the locals do. Explore at your own pace, don't waste time haggling and get a true taste of local life. Be warned though, the traffic can feel like an aggressive assault on all your senses. You must be skilled and confident to take on the madness. There are shops across the city offering mopeds for rent per day, week or month.
Hanoi's roads are awash with motorcycles whizzing around pedestrians with up to four people on board. You'll spot them everywhere, and with plenty of competition you can easily barter a cheaper price, which you should agree upon before your journey. A slower option would be a cyclo, which is a bicycle with a seat attached on the front.
Taxis are best for longer distances and are inexpensive, clean and modern. Try to negotiate a fixed rate rather than use the dubious metres. If you use an official fleet like Hanoi Taxi or Taxi CP you should get a fair deal, and when you see the mania on the roads you'll be pleased you left the journey in the hands of experts.
Vietnam is a developing country, so be aware of associated health risks like unclean tap water, unruly traffic and cholera. If you do fall ill, the Family Medical Practice is a clean, international medical centre with reasonable prices. There is a 24-hour hotline and the practice is located in the Ba Dinh District. For emergencies after 10pm visit the Vietnam Cuba Hospital in the Old Quarter.
There are plenty of 24-hour international cash machines dotted around these bustling, ancient streets. They dispense the local currency, Vietnamese Dong (VDN), with a daily limit and your bank may charge per transaction. Major restaurants and shops accept payment by card and in some cases they accept US dollars. Keep your notes neat and tidy if you do withdraw cash, some places won't accept torn money.
Hanoi has warm, dry winters and hot, wet summers. In summer, experience high temperatures, rainfall, humidity and peak tourist traffic. It's particularly advisable to avoid April, Hanoi's rainiest month. In winter from November to February the temperatures are perfectly mild for roaming the city's top attractions. Travel in January and you'll also get to experience the colourful street celebrations of Vietnam New Year!
Vietnamese is difficult to master, but you'll charm the locals if you can demonstrate you know a few phrases. Hello is Chào, pronounced 'jow'. How are you is Kh?e không, pronounced 'kweah kohng'. To respond, say Kho?, c?m on, pronounced 'kweah, gam uhhn'. This means, I am fine. Please is Làm on, pronounced 'lam uhhn' and thank you is C?m on, pronounced 'gam uhhn'.
Get to the Vietnam capital in just over 13 hours. Take one of Vietnam Airlines' daily flights and stopover in Ho Chi Minh City.
Fly out of Perth with Singapore Airlines or Vietnam Airlines and arrive in 11 hours, 30 minutes via Singapore.
Fly with Emirates and Malaysia Airlines and get there in 12 hours, 30 minutes. This includes a one-hour stop in Kuala Lumpur.
Different taxi fleets line up outside Noi Bai Airport offering rides into downtown or central Hanoi, which takes 30 minutes. There are different operators, so use your negotiating skills and agree a fixed price before setting off. Metres are unreliable and it's not unheard of for tourists fresh off the plane to get scammed. The fare should cost you less than AUD$25.
The red and yellow public buses are your cheapest route into Hanoi city centre at just AUD$0.50 per person and operating between 5am and 10pm. Take bus route 7 to get to Kim Ma station or 17 to get to Long Bien. If the temperatures are high, this option isn't recommended. The buses are often very crowded so prepare for a sticky and possibly uncomfortable ride!
Share an Airport Minibus with a group of five or more and the fare plummets to just AUD$2 per person for a one-way trip into the city centre. Airport Minibuses line up outside the main airport terminal and only leave once the bus is full. Some airlines, such as Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar, offer their own minibus services.
Book a private car and you'll travel to your hotel in air-conditioned style in around 45 minutes. The price isn't much more than a cab and the comfort levels are incomparable to other options. Avoid the stress of explaining your destination, haggling for prices or being squeezed into a seat. Private cars can be booked in advance and are available 24/7.
Spend an unforgettable day cruising the jade waters of Vietnam's most scenic destination. Your boat will meander through magnificent limestone karsts and explore hidden corners of the area's 2000 islands. Enjoy a seafood lunch, discover coral reefs and learn about local customs on a village tour. This is Vietnam at its best. Small group tours run from 8am – 8pm and cost around AUD$80.
The Old Quarter is an ancient maze of narrow, noisy streets and home to a wealth of stores that sell anything from silks to smartphones. Hone your bartering skills and prepare to be amazed by the chaos! Using a private guide will help you navigate the streets and find the best bargains. The tour lasts three hours and departs mornings and afternoons.
Be whisked away to enchanting Hoan Kiem Lake for sunrise, take part in a reviving Tai Chi session, and enjoy a traditional Pho breakfast in the Old Quarter. Next, a chef will guide you through colourful Hang Be market, picking fresh ingredients for your Chinese cookery course. The best bit? You'll get to enjoy your dishes afterwards! Tours last six hours and cost around AUD$50.
Take a two-hour drive through exquisite countryside to Vietnam’s ancient capital, Hoa Lu, and discover the glorious ruins of ancient temples and statues revering past kings from the 10th century. A boat tour along the winding Hoang Long River will take you to through stunning mountain scenery to Tam Coc, where you’ll uncover the mysteries of the region’s famous caves. Tours cost around AUD$120.
Feast like a true maharajah on lashings of exquisitely fresh, authentic flavours from all over India. A mouth-watering tapestry of chutneys, spicy salads and yoghurt sauces are spread across the table to complement the richness of the main dishes and make up for the bare basics of the decor. This isn't the cheapest restaurant in Hanoi but it's certainly the best Indian in town.
Some of Hanoi's tastiest local cuisine can be found at the street front cafes, and this popular noodle den is no exception. Don't expect anything fancy as this is the real deal. You'll join a line around the block to sample the rich, juicy clear broth overflowing with cured beef, fresh noodles and local vegetables for just over AUD$1.
Vine is one of Hanoi's better-known restaurants, serving a range of delicious, Western dishes from risotto balls to tuna tartare. Order a fine wine from their extensive list and relax amongst the fabulously eclectic décor, which blends East and West, heritage and new. Their signature lobster bisque is best sampled at their cosy wine cellar table, which should be reserved in advance.
High ceilings and enormous windows create a light, peaceful atmosphere at this modern Italian restaurant with fantastic views overlooking the bustling Old Quarter. For around AUD$7 per head you'll receive generous servings of fresh Italian produce, from crunchy dressed salads to hearty traditional Bolognese. A fabulous venue for fuelling a day splurging in the markets nearby.
This bohemian bar has a distinctly indie flavour, with dark wooden floors and eclectic pieces of antique paraphernalia adorning its surfaces. It's effortlessly stylish with a blend of leather armchairs, wooden beams and vintage furnishings and draws a trendy crowd who are more than happy to pay above average prices to hang out.
Located in the heart of Hanoi's throbbing nightclub district this is a trendy club with blaring house beats. Crowds of young locals mingle with expats and tourists, shifting shapes under strobe lights on the dance floor. It's one of the city's top nightspots if you're in the mood to party at full volume.
A magical resort-style setting, lakeside views and lavishly fitted with luxury furnishings. This stunning bar is part of the InterContinental Hanoi and screams sophisticated glamour. Hang out for the afternoon on the designer daybeds with a cocktail and feel totally relaxed in this five-star retreat, just 15 minutes from the city centre.
This is a chic space in the picturesque and historic French colonial building of the Sofitel Metropole. The Bamboo Bar is one of the hotel's three stylish venues. Lounge around the glistening pool deck on wicker chairs, sipping a signature Graham Greene Martini and imagining life in glamorous years gone by.
Take a private half-city tour for your first morning, starting at Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum. Next, uncover some of Hanoi's ancient history with a trip to the 11th century One Pillar Pagoda and the Confucian Temple. Hop on a cyclo to the Old Quarter, the city's cauldron of commerce dating back centuries, to visit the ancient house and experience life in the old days. That evening, head to gentle West Lake and the Sunset Bar where you can relax in style, watching the sun set over the water.
Watch the morning break with a stroll across Long Bien bridge amidst hundreds of hurrying vendors. Head to the Old Quarter by cyclo to soak up a hearty traditional Pho before indulging in a spree around the bustling market lanes. That afternoon, head for the peace of Hoan Kiem Lake and visit the Ngoc San Temple. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is next on your schedule, where you'll watch beautifully crafted puppets tell tales of old myths and legends.
Your day trip to Ha Long Bay begins early, with most tours picking you up at around 7am. Drive through lush green countryside before reaching the Bay, where a private cruise will take you on an unforgettable tour. Marvel at huge limestone karsts towering out of emerald waters and discover magical hidden caves. You could even take a dip and explore the coral reefs. Next, you'll be taken to a local fishing village to learn old customs and crafts before heading back to the city.
Take a day trip out of the city to the tranquil surrounding countryside, accessible by a private tour and just two hours drive away. Discover authentic rural life, which travels at a much gentler pace. Sit back and relax on a river cruise, winding through magnificent limestone mountains and green fields. You'll explore ancient caves and hidden waterways with sparkling blue pools. That evening head to the spectacular Rooftop bar, a cocktail bar with incredible panoramic views of the city.
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