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Adoration 4 Adventure’s best things to do in Hanoi on a budget A4A guest writer, Mikki Thompson.

Hanoi is Vietnam’s bustling capital city, located in the north of the country. It’s loud. It’s chaotic. It’s overwhelming. You’re gonna love it!

This South-East Asian city is still quite traditional, making it a great place to visit for culture and history. Its narrow streets are bursting with motorbikes and you will find something unique round each corner; an aging temple, a street vendor with their pots bubbling away precariously on the side of the road, a quaint coffee shop or a crowded market.

Here are the best things to do in Hanoi on a budget including:

  • Top 5 places to visit in Hanoi
  • Where to stay in Hanoi
  • What to eat in Hanoi (cheap food and drinks)
  • Getting around Hanoi.
Planning a trip to Vietnam? Check out this backpacking Vietnam budget and route (from $15 per day) and my expat guide to moving to Vietnam.

Hoan Kiem Lake top places to visit in Hanoi. Photo credit: A4A Guest writer, Mikki Thompson

Top 5 places to visit in Hanoi

5. Explore the old quarter

Hanoi’s old quarter is a maze of narrow streets that completely transform from day to night. By day, wander the streets and check out all the little shops, food stalls, and coffee shops. By night, the area comes alive with locals and tourists alike, sitting on tiny plastic stools in the road, drinking Bia Hoi (the cheapest beer in the world at around $0.25 a glass!), and watching the world go by. You will also find many popular restaurants and bars here, and a weekend market which opens in the evening.

Streets of the Old Quarter. Top places to visit in Hanoi. Photo credit: A4A Guest writer, Mikki Thompson

4. Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc son Temple

A stone’s throw from the Old Quarter is Hoan Kiem Lake, located in the heart of Hanoi. Take a leisurely stroll around the lake at sunrise or sunset, when the place comes alive with locals jogging or taking part in dancing and Tai chi classes.

Ngoc Son Temple is beautifully set on a small island on the lake, connected to the city by the iconic red bridge. Visit the temple during the day (charge of 20,000vnd/person) to find some tranquility within the city. At night the temple and bridge are stunningly lit up which makes for a great photo.

Red Bridge at night. Top places to visit in Hanoi. Photo credit: A4A Guest writer,

3. Water Puppet Show

The water puppet theatre can be found next to Hoan Kiem lake at 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang Street. For 100,000vnd, you can see a traditional Vietnamese art form, using wooden puppets set in water, accompanied by a full orchestra. A really lovely show to see. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance.

2. Hoa Lo prison

To learn more about Vietnam’s history, and in particular, its 100-year French occupation, go to Hoa Lu prison for a harrowing but informative visit. The museum is set within the actual prison, so some of the old features and cell blocks are still there for you to walk through. The French built the prison to hold Vietnamese political prisoners, and it was then also used to hold American POWs during the Vietnam War. Tickets cost 40,000vnd.

1. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

You can gain an idea of how important a figure Ho Chi Minh is to Vietnam by going to visit the preserved body, which is resting at the Mausoleum. This is not a tourist attraction, and many Vietnamese come to pay their respects. This is a significant mark of Vietnam’s history and society. It is free to enter.

Looking for more fun things to do? Check out these other places to visit in Hanoi, Vietnam or see how you can spend 3 days in Saigon from $20 per day.

Where to stay in Hanoi on a budget

Hanoi has a great range of accommodation options for people on a budget. A lot of travelers will decide to stay in the Old Quarter or Hoan Kiem district, close to all the bars and restaurants, and there are many cheap and cheerful hostels in this area. Expect to pay around $5-8/night. Some, but not all, offer a free breakfast, and others also offer free beer in the afternoon and free activities such as a bar crawl or walking tours.

If you are looking for a private room, hotels are not too expensive to come by. You can find a decent room which includes breakfast from around $17+.

If you are traveling in a larger group, make sure you check out AirBnB for cheap deals on apartments/houses in the city.

What to eat in Hanoi (cheap food and drinks)

Hanoi has a good selection of Vietnamese and international cuisines, but anyone on a budget should stick to the local food. The old quarter is a great place to find street food and cheap restaurants. A ‘Banh mi’ sandwich can be picked up for around $1. These crusty baguettes come with a variety of fillings, including egg, meats, and salads, and are delicious.

No trip to Hanoi is complete without trying a steamy bowl of Pho, a true staple dish of the north. This chicken or beef noodle soup comes in at around $1-$2.

Chicken Pho. Eating and drinking in Hanoi Vietnam. Photo credit: A4A Guest writer, Mikki Thompson

Vietnam is famous for its strong, syrupy coffee, and Hanoi is brimming with coffee shops. Unique to Hanoi is ‘Caphe Trung’ or Egg coffee, which is a shot of coffee mixed with whipped egg whites and condensed milk. The result is a thick, creamy, almost pudding-like treat! It comes served hot or cold.

Transport in Hanoi

Hanoi’s transport system could hardly be described as world class. There is a cheap bus network around the city, and although it isn’t tourist friendly, a quick internet search should get you the information you need.

A cheap and easier option is to use Grab, which allows you to order a taxi or a motorbike. You can pay for it on card and it will be cheaper than regular taxies.

If you do just jump in a regular taxi, they are still very cheap, a short journey should be a couple of dollars and you can get right across the city for around $6-7. Unfortunately using these does increase the risk you will get ripped off. Try to go for the green ‘Mai Linh’ or white ‘Taxi Group’ taxis, these are generally more honest.

Transport in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo credit: A4A Guest writer, Mikki Thompson

Planning a trip to Asia? See my real costs for backpacking Southeast Asia (from $17 per day).

A4A guest writer – Mikki ThompsonA4A guest writer – Mikki Thompson

Mikki is a travelling English teacher and travel blogger. She has been living and working in Vietnam for the past 2 years, and will shortly be off to explore Europe in a converted campervan. Her passions include snowsports and food!

Follow Mikki at http://mikkithompson.com/, on Facebook.

All photos in this article are the property of A4A guest writer, Mikki Thompson, except the feature and vertical image which were sourced on Pixabay.


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Adoration 4 adventure's local guide for visitors to Hanoi, Vietnam including top places to eat, drink, stay, and how to get around on a budget.

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