Hanoi is an attack on the senses, a truly global city which retains its individualism and sense of identity more than any other in the region. Heady, intoxicating and infuriating in equal measure, these handy tips will help you get the most of this brilliant city.
RENT A SCOOTER
If you can pluck up the courage, we highly recommend renting a scooter. The city, as compared to many Asian juggernauts, is extremely manageable, and there is no greater pleasure than being in the hustle and bustle of the traffic, taking in every changing sight and smell. Always wear a helmet, never look back when in motion and don’t drive too tentatively. Renting a scooter is so rewarding and truly the best way to experience the city. Be wary of scams and research reliable places to rent prior to arrival.
VENTURE FURTHER AFIELD
The old quarter is amazing fun, and nine out of ten travellers will be based there, but there’s more to Hanoi than the centre. Often, the best of Hanoi is further afoot. Try West Lake, a short ride from the OQ, where a lake you could mistake for an ocean offers a clean breeze even in summer’s height, some great drinking and dining options, and an altogether slower pace to life. The French Quarter is where the sophisticated Hanoian socialises, and seeing as Vietnam’s population is so young, this area has a vibrancy and energy rarely matched in this continent.
Hanoi’s food is rightly revered worldwide. It’s fresh, replenishing, delicious and everywhere. There are a handful of dishes that you must try – pho, bun cha, cha ca and beyond. We love the cuisine so much, it’s impossible to summarise in a paragraph. For more information on this city’s great food, click here for our roundup of must try dishes.
LEARN HOW TO DOWN A BEER
Business meetings. Introductions to your partner’s family. Birthdays. Weddings. Every occasion is lubricated with a familar call to arms. An instruction to ‘Tram phan tram’ or 100% your beer, in other words down it, should not be ignored or laughed off. You will gain social gravitas and respect from the locals for being a ‘strong’ drinker. Fortunately, the beer is light and the weather hot – not much of a burden is it?
This amazing country has been through so much hardship and has a history unlike any other in the world. The locals are embracing the tourist influx with open arms despite the past, and are warm, and equally as inquisitive. Before you go, engross yourself in the country’s rich history and be aware of it. Be respectful, be humble and don’t take yourself too seriously, this great people will welcome you accordingly.