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THINGS TO DO IN HANOI VIETNAM: A STORY ABOUT THE CITY OF LAKES, BIKES AND A BEAUTIFUL CHAOS

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Are you looking for suggestions for things to do in Hanoi, tips for saving money, food suggestions and useful information about the city and the people? You are in the right place! 

Hanoi and bikes, always a better love story than Twilight 

Before visiting Hanoi, I heard that the city had 8 million people and 8 million bicycles. After my visit, I’m sure there are even more. This is the first thing I learned about this city since the first day in Vietnam. Everyone drives bikes here, including taxi drivers. And my first interaction with a local was the one with the taxi driver. I did not know that the taxi Grab (Uber type local application) I booked would prove to be a motorcycle.  

LOCATION 

The city is geographically located in northern Vietnam and has been the capital for most of Vietnamese history. But this is not the case today either. Its geographical position makes Hanoi the first or last point of a trip for most travelers visiting Vietnam. For me. that was the first point, and I think I made the right choice because I learned so much about Vietnam here. 

Historically, North and South Vietnam had their differences even before the Cold War. And I have the impression that the north has managed to keep its authentic culture intact, while the south has been subjected to a strong Western influence. 

HANOI TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITORS FOR THE FIRST TIME 

Hanoi is famous in the region for its lakes that give a special charm to the city. And the translation of the name Ha Noi is a “city inside rivers”. This city is the face of the obstinacy and stubbornness of the Vietnamese over the years. 

It is very difficult to move around the city. I relied mainly on Google Maps, but my phone dropped me the first day and I lost myself. Getting lost in Hanoi can happen to anyone. Being stuck in traffic or making your way through pedestrian areas is one thing, but something that caught my attention was the street. I know it sounds strange, but I could swear I did not see two streets meet at 90 degrees, not once. And there are many one-way streets that also hurt your back. So yes, I sincerely recommend getting a local SIM card (for only $ 3) and using Google Maps or getting lost. 

I know that I made these chaotic streets scary, but that’s part of the authenticity of Vietnam. But, this can be a very different and breathtaking experience for you. If you are one of those travelers who can always find beauty in chaos, Hanoi and Vietnam, in general, is the right place for your next trip. Hanoi gives the impression that Phnom Penh and Vientiane look like a quiet suburb.  

AVERAGE COSTS OF TRAVELING TO HANOI 

Dorms – 80,000 dong or more (3 USD and more) 

Hotel Rooms – 250,000 to 450,000 dongs ($ 10 to $ 20 USD) 

Street Food – 30,000 to 80,000 for a meal ($ 1 to $ 3) 

Street food is safe enough and not very spicy. Personally, I can say that I enjoyed street food even more than the food in the restaurants. Discover which are the best places to sample street food in Hanoi. 

Bus transportation: $ 1,000 each way (less than 10 cents) 

Take-out bikes: around 2,000 dongs per km, but they are very fast and escape more easily from traffic 

Taxi: around 10,000 dongs per km, but it’s not advisable because they are stuck in traffic and take a lot longer than bikes. 

HOW DO VIETNAMESE LIKE TOURISTS? 

Vietnam is a poor country and prices for everything are pretty cheap. A 500,000-dong ticket worth 25 US dollars. However, some people will openly try to rip you off. As I traveled through Vietnam, I met a French woman who taught English. She said she lived in Vietnam for 5 years. And during these 5 years, she shared with me a very interesting observation: 

Vietnamese are taught that Western countries are responsible for all their problems and that we “owe” them. They expect us to spend money on your visits and when you try to negotiate, they get angry and treat you badly. 

Fortunately, I did not encounter any of these problems, but I heard people complaining. The people were generally friendly and helpful, besides the language barrier. Here is normal if a local guy or a girl approaches you to converse in English. Very few people in Vietnam speak English. And those who do, do not have the chance to practice their conversation skills. 

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