Immersing yourself in this stunning South-East Asian city does not have to break the bank.
Planning a visit to Hanoi? Vietnam’s capital is sure to take you on a sensory journey filled with tasty pho, creamy egg coffee, bright pagodas, and bustling street life.
But the best news is this: You don’t have to spend much money to experience the best of Hanoi’s food and culture.
Vietnam is a cheap country to travel to start with, but if you’re a backpacker like me, there are easy ways to make sure you’re saving every penny even after you've arrived.
Here are seven ways to maximise your budget and still enjoy the best Hanoi has to offer.
7 ways to experience the best of Hanoi on a budget:
#1. Tour the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
One of the top sights in Hanoi is the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. The citadel was built in the 11th century, and was a seat of power in Vietnam for 13 centuries.
The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is the best preserved part of the citadel complex and can easily be reached on foot from Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
You can easily spend a couple of hours exploring the buildings and gardens within the citadel complex and learning more about Vietnam’s history, for a entry cost of around $2 AUD.
#2. Taste the delicious local coffee
When in Vietnam, you have to try egg coffee.
Yes, you read right: Hanoi is home to a special kind of coffee - egg coffee!
Egg coffee is coffee blended with egg yolk and condensed milk and it can be served hot or cold. It’s delicious and I bet once you try it, you’ll have more than one.
If you’re on the hunt for egg coffee, your best bet is to try it at cafes renowned for the speciality.
The first is Giang Café, and the second is Café Pho Co. Both are located near Hoan Kiem Lake and you should visit both.
Giang Café dates back to 1946 and is a no-frills coffee shop hidden down a long corridor off Nguyen Huu Huan Street. It’s said that the original owners of this café created the delicious egg coffee. Most people are here to try the egg coffee and it’s served in a bowl of hot water to keep it warm.
You have to know where Café Pho Co is to find it. First, find the sign on Hang Gai Street, then go past a couple of textile shops, wind down a corridor and into an open space filled with bird cages, mirrors and lights, then head up the stairs. Make sure you head up the three flights of steep stairs to the rooftop to get a great view of the lake.
You should also try the country’s namesake Vietnamese coffee, which is also served hot or cold with condensed milk. Vietnamese coffee can be found in most cafes across Hanoi for about $2 AUD to $4AUD per cup.
#3. Eat at hole-in-the-wall cafes and restaurants
My third budget tip in Hanoi is don’t just dine at the chain or fancy restaurants. You can get filling, delicious, and cheap meals at small restaurants scattered across Hanoi.
Some of the best meals I had were at the little hole in the wall cafes and restaurants across the Old Quarter. They didn’t look like much from the outset but the food was always cheap and delicious.
You can get very cheap food at the many cafes and restaurants across the Old Quarter. A favourite of mine was Noodle and Roll. They serve up huge but cheap meals and I could not finish any of my meals.
You can also get street food from the Night Market, held Friday to Sunday in the Old Quarter. I had banh mi at least once a day from street food operators or little hole-in-the-wall cafes during my week in Hanoi. You can find it across most cities in Vietnam, and it can come as cheap as 50 cents!
#4. Browse the Night Market stalls
The Night Market is a great place to pick up cheap clothing, accessories or souvenirs. The Night Market offers up everything you would expect such as jewellery, greeting cards, and sunglasses. You don’t even have to spend any money to enjoy the Night Market – just browse the stalls and absorb the bustling vibe of Hanoi at night.
Make sure you stop by the lone street food stall among the clothing and knick-knack stands and grab one of their pineapple and coconut rolls, served warm. Delicious!
The Night Market is held Friday to Sunday from 6pm in the Old Quarter.
#5. Wander the streets of Hanoi
One of the best budget things to do in Hanoi is lose the map and wander the streets. Hanoi never stops and it’s an experience to explore Hanoi on foot and see the street food kitchens and shopkeepers at work.
During your wanderings you’ll come across railway tracks bordered by colourful houses, locals selling anything from flowers to frogs, and bustling laneways.
The Hoan Kiem Lake is nice to walk around – especially on a sunny day – and you can also visit the 18th-century Buddhist Temple of the Jade Mountain, which is easy to spot with the red Huc Bridge leading up to it.
#6. Stay in cheap accommodation
Hanoi offers up a surprising number of good-quality hostels throughout the Old Quarter. Most hostels offer up private rooms with shared bathrooms, or dorm rooms.
My pick of the bunch is the Hanoi Tomodachi House with its spacious ensuite dorm rooms and generous breakfast, but there’s a number of other good hostels spread across the Old Quarter.
Hostels in Hanoi are well-reviewed on online booking sites such as HostelWorld, Booking.com, or Agoda, so it’s easy to find a quality and cheap hostel.
#7. Get to Hanoi on a budget
Vietnam has a network of trains crisscrossing the country; however, you can find reasonably cheap domestic flights to travel between cities, especially if you only have carry-on luggage.
Check out Jetstar Pacific or VietJet for cheap domestic flights to and from Hanoi, from other Vietnamese cities such as Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City.
From Hanoi’s Noi Boi Airport, the budget way to get into the city is via local bus 86 or with the Vietnam Airlines shuttle. The local bus departs the airport about every hour. You’ll find an airport representative with a timetable outside arrivals near the shuttle minibuses.
You can also catch the Vietnam Airlines shuttle minibus to and from the airport. You don’t need to have flown with Vietnam Airlines to use the service. The shuttle usually leaves the airport when it’s full. The service runs to the airport from outside the Vietnam Airlines Office on Quang Trang Street hourly from 4am daily. The journey to the airport can take up to an hour because of traffic.
5 more things you should know about Hanoi before you go
- Be careful when booking tours in Hanoi – and make sure you go through reputable agencies. There are many scam agencies across Hanoi.
- I never experienced any pickpocketing or felt uncomfortable walking the streets of Hanoi after dark, but I was warned to be aware of pickpockets several times, so be on guard.
- The local currency is the Vietnamese Dong. You’ll feel like a millionaire every time you get money out with notes ranging up to 500,000 Dong. You’ll need small notes for convenience stores and street food, so you’ll find 10,000 and 20,000 notes will come in handy.
- Hanoi is a great city to walk around, see the street life, and also take a look at all the street food offerings but watch out for the bikes! Beware when crossing the street, though, as most motorbike and scooter drivers ignore red lights so you have to weave in and out of the bikes when crossing the street.
- It’s recommended that you don’t drink the water in Vietnam. Thankfully, bottled water is easy to find and very cheap.
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Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography,travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 80 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.