Our guide to backpacking in Hanoi is a great resource about travelling in the city. Discover the must visit sites, travelling safely in Hanoi, great places to eat, getting around on a budget, best time to visit Hanoi and more. Written by fellow travellers, our Hanoi backpacking guide will help you make the most out of your time in this vibrant city.
Environment and Vibe
Hanoi, translating as ‘inside the river’, is the capital of Vietnam and certainly has a very different vibe compared to Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Existing for nearly 1200 years, it’s been ruled by the Chinese, Japanese and French. Its personality is more traditional, with endless lanes one can find themselves disorientated in. In the old quarter especially, with every street dedicated to its own craft; the sights, sounds and banging of tools is quite a sight! Yet, with modernisation booming, Hanoi is also beginning to share its skyline with towering skyscrapers and a modern lifestyle. Many backpackers pass through Hanoi swiftly, to move on to the infamous Halong Bay area or Sapa mountains, but it is worth spending some time here to discover its delights.
Reasons to visit Hanoi
Hanoi has plenty of temples to explore and gawp at, its fair share of historical war museums and art galleries, chaotic markets selling all manner of goods, and architecture which is mighty fine. One of the simplest pleasures is sipping a Vietnamese coffee on the street and watching the hustle and bustle pass by. There’s the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ here but not as one knows it: it was one of the largest prisons built by the French in Indochina and a prisoner of war camp that held many Americans.
With communism in the air, the exhilarating street scenes of locals and tourists enjoying their time in the evening, very quickly winds down and disappears altogether as the city sticks to its strict laws. Police walk the streets pronouncing the fun officially over. There are places to go after shutdown, but one might need to strike up a good rapport with the locals to unravel the locations.