What You Need To Know

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam. It was eclipsed by Huế, the imperial capital of Vietnam during the Nguyễn Dynasty (1802–1945), but Hanoi served as the capital of French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. From 1954 to 1976, it was the capital of North Vietnam, and it became the capital of a reunified Vietnam in 1976, after the North’s victory in the Vietnam War. The city lies on the right bank of the Red River. Hanoi is 1,760 km (1,090 mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City and 120 km (75 mi) west of Hai Phong city.

Hanoi is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade. There are many little temples, including Bach Ma, honoring a legendary horse, plus Đồng Xuân Market, selling household goods and street food.

Population: 7.588 million(2015)
Area: 1,285 mi²

Currency

  • The currency in Hanoi is the Vietnamese dong, which is issued in banknotes only. Denominations available include: 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 dong notes.
  • US dollars are also widely accepted. Visitors may tender dollars as payment but receive change in dong. The import and export of local currency is strictly forbidden, but there are no restrictions on foreign currency.

Climate

Hanoi features a warm humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa) with plentiful precipitation. The city experiences the typical climate of northern Vietnam, with 4 distinct seasons. Summer, from May until August, is characterized by hot and humid weather with abundant rainfall. September to October is fall, characterized by a decrease in temperature and precipitation. Winter, from November to January, is dry and cool by national standards. The city is usually cloudy and foggy in winter, averaging only 1.5 hours of sunshine per day in February.

Hanoi averages 1,680 millimetres (66.1 in) of rainfall per year, the majority falling from May to September. There are an average of 114 days with rain. The average annual temperature is 23.6 °C (74 °F) with a mean relative humidity of 79%. The highest recorded temperature was 42.8 °C (109 °F) on May 1926 while the lowest recorded temperature was 2.7 °C (37 °F) on January 1955.

Language

A distinct local dialect of Vietnamese is spoken by Hanoi locals, although the primary form of the language used by the media and government is understood by the majority of the city’s residents. English is normally spoken only by those working in the tourist industry and by some students.

Economy

Hanoi has the highest Human Development Index among the cities in Vietnam. According to a recent ranking by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Hanoi will be the fastest growing city in the world in terms of GDP growth from 2008 to 2025. In the year 2013, Hanoi contributed 12.6% to GDP, exported 7.5% of total exports, contributed 17% to the national budget and attracted 22% investment capital of Vietnam. The city’s nominal GDP at current prices reached 451,213 billion VND (21.48 billion USD) in 2013, which made per capita GDP stand at 63.3 million VND (3,000 USD). Industrial production in the city has experienced a rapid boom since the 1990s, with average annual growth of 19.1 percent from 1991–95, 15.9 percent from 1996–2000, and 20.9 percent during 2001–2003. In addition to eight existing industrial parks, Hanoi is building five new large-scale industrial parks and 16 small- and medium-sized industrial clusters. The non-state economic sector is expanding fast, with more than 48,000 businesses currently operating under the Enterprise Law (as of 3/2007).

Getting Around

Taxis are the best way to travel long distances, but the cyclos, or pedicabs, are a cheap way to make shorter trips. Taxi fares are not always consistent, and the rates for each taxi company have not been standardized. For lone travellers, rides on the back of motorbikes (actually low-powered scooters) are popular too (known as xe om, literally meaning motorbike-hug). Uber has also launched in Hanoi, and while they has a few districts they operate on, they do offer more consistent pricing than taxis.

Some meter taxi owners in Hanoi will attempt to negotiate a flat fee in advance rather than use the meter. If you have a fair idea of how far you’re going or how much you’re willing to pay, this is probably a good idea. If the driver refuses, turning around and walking away will almost certainly change his mind. Don’t sweat it, it’s all part of the expected negotiation protocol. It has also become common for the drivers of some of the less reputable taxi companies to “fix” their meters to run faster hence running up a high bill very fast! The recommendation is to only use the reputable and reliable taxi companies. Be very careful with meter taxis in Hanoi. Meters have been known to operate “normally” initially, but after you’ve let your guard down, it jumps to astronomical amounts just before the destination. Some have central locking, and are known to lock passengers in, and demand large amounts of US dollars before letting them go. The driver may threaten to have you beaten up or arrested should you not give in to his demands, but if you kick up enough of a fuss, they will let you go.

As of April 2015 Uber can be used in Hanoi. Simply download the app. Expect responsible fares. A 15 minute ride costs about 60,000 dong. However you can also use the app’s fare estimate feature.

Motorbike drivers can be found on virtually every corner, especially in the Old Quarter. Expect to be offered a ride every half-block (or more). You should absolutely negotiate a fare in advance.

Negotiate first or avoid using the cyclos services. At the end of the journey, a few men will come over to translate, and they will pretend to help and later insist that you pay the demanded amount.  Be aware that it is common for cyclo drivers to agree to a price, then take you to a different place, pretend to be confused and hit you up for more money when you reach your destination.

Scam free, cheap but a bit difficult to comprehend at first, the buses in Hanoi are relatively fast and surprisingly comfortable. Pick up a map with printed bus lines at the Trang Tien street (the book street by the Opera house) and spend a few minutes to identify the more than 60 bus lines, find your bus stop, wait for the bus, get on and off you go. If you are unfamiliar with the city, make sure to tell the mostly helpful conductor where you want to get off. Stops are often unannounced and do not have signs with their names on them, although there are now some newer buses with LED displays and lilting voices announcing the next stop. It’s best to ask the driver or conductor when to get off.