Vietnam is one of our favorite countries in Southeast Asia. It’s quite difficult to describe and can only be understood by those that have been there. Watching the content hustle and bustle of traffic in the city is enough entertainment to keep you busy for hours. If you have to choose between the North (Hanoi) and South (Ho Chi Minh), I’d go with the North, although the entire country is amazing and has SO much to offer.
Visa For Vietnam:
Sadly, the Visa for Americans to enter Vietnam has gone up almost 50% in the last two years, as they are only permitting one-year visas to US citizens (as of my writing this-please check for updated info). There are a million websites you can find online that will help you ‘process your visa,’ but I really didn’t trust them. It’s best to let your accommodation handle it for you, so you can ensure its legitimacy.
There are two fees associated with the Visa On Arrival process. The Stamping Fee Prior To Arrival of $135USDpp and then the Vietnam Arrival Processing Fee of $25USDpp. Be SURE to have USD cash when you arrive in Vietnam to pay the fee, as they only except cash.
If you’re going to Halong Bay, the boat cruise that you booked with will be happy to process the stamping fee for you. After arriving at the airport in Vietnam, take the required paperwork with you to the Visa On Arrival counter (plan to wait an hour+) and pay the processing fee. Alternatively, if you have ample time before leaving for your trip, you can mail/drop your passports at a nearby Vietnam Embassy in your city.
How To Get To Hanoi:
It’s a 40-minute drive from Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport to the center of town. Transport can be easily arrange with your accommodation, for less than $10USD.
Where To Stay In Hanoi:
Oriental Suites Hotel:
There’s a reason Oriental Suites Hotel has 1,500 reviews on TripAdvisor and they are all 5 star…it’s FANTASTIC! The service, rooms and location are phenomenal, and breakfast is included, all for $50USD/night!
Hilton Opera Hanoi:
If you’re looking for a more upscale hotel, then the Hilton Hanoi Opera has it all, still at an affordable price. It’s a 15 minute walk from the Old Quarter. We enjoyed sipping cocktails in the lounge downstairs and enjoying the atmosphere. $76USD/night
Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa:
The Hanoi La Siesta Hotel is another EXCELLENT hotel with outstanding service and location. They also have great himalayan salt massages, but are a bit overpriced as far as Vietnam goes. Be sure to get a passion fruit martini there, it’s delicious! $85USD/night
What To Do In Hanoi:
A MUST see while in Hanoi, the Old Quarter is made up of nearly 40 streets of shops selling various items. Stroll around by day and night.
Hoan Kiem Lake:
Hoan Kiem Lake literally translates to ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’ and is considered the center of Hanoi. It’s perfect for a nice morning walk/run or an evening stroll while people watching.
The Night Market is another MUST do while visiting Hanoi. You can people watch for HOURS here, purchase souvenirs, North Face Gear, etc. There seems to be an endless amounts of streets and goodies. Open 6pm-10pm+ and located in the Old Quarter. Tip: Watch for pickpockets and don’t forget to BARGAIN!
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre:
For a unique Vietnamese experience, reserve tickets for the Thang Long Water Puppet Show. You’ll be entertained for 45-minutes with traditional Vietnamese music while puppets are playing about in the water. It’s a fun, affordable show for the whole family. Tip: Book tickets early for this, as they sell out.
Vietnamese Street Food Tour:
If it’s your first time to Vietnam, or if you’re new to Vietnamese cuisines/you’d like to learn more about it, then there is NO better way than a food tour! Viet Mind Tours is fabulous and only allows 6 max people per group, to keep it personal. They even provide recipes to take home. Tip: Ask for BOB and Don’t forget to tip your guide!
The cost is $25USD/pp and the tours last approximately 3 hours, stopping at 8 different restaurants. Tours depart 11:30am and 6:00pm (the night one is more fun, in my opinion because the city is alive).
Notes About Hanoi:
The Vietnamese currency in the Dong.
When crossing the street, just GO! Don’t stop and try to wind through the cars and scooters, as they will go around you.
While you’re in the Old Quarter, get up to a rooftop bar and watch all of the crazy traffic go by!
Watch your pockets in the markets.
Enjoy every minute!
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XOXO The Traveling Blondie
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