Cost Breakdown: 9 days, 9 nights in Hanoi, Vietnam(?)
One way flight ticket DAD to HAN – $55.72/person
Accommodation – $197.79 total for 9 nights
Transportation – $30 total (Ubers to and from Airport/Airbnb, various around the city)
Food/Drinks for 9 days – $140.25/person
Attractions/Activities – $1.75/person (Admissions for Women’s Museum and Heritage House)
Our last stop in Vietnam was its capital, Hanoi, which was a great balance of Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An. In my early research, I embarrassingly kept mixing up Hanoi and Hoi An because, to the uninitiated, their names look similar. In fact, the cities are quite different from each other!
People may compare being in Ho Chi Minh City to being in New York, and Hanoi to being in Washington, D.C. I definitely prefer Hanoi to HCMC. Hanoi is still pretty crazy and crossing the street is still an ordeal, but I didn’t feel as anxious or “on-guard” all the time like I did in HCMC.
Many other people prefer HCMC over Hanoi because they say more people speak English there. Thus, they claim it’s a little easier to navigate through the city as a foreigner. Truthfully, Uber is so cheap it was easy for us to go anywhere we wanted! Personally, I prefer cities where the people are more stand-offish and ignore me, haha. I feel it’s easier to feel a city’s essence and “live like a local”. I mean, when you’re a local, no one bothers you! Anyway, if I had to choose one over the other, I would recommend Hanoi over HCMC. But since many people think the opposite, it’s worth visiting both if you’re planning a trip!
Our Airbnb was located in the French Quarter, but most days we would walk over to Hoàn Kiếm Lake and Old Quarter. The area of the city where we were staying felt very walkable to me, and we were able to find grocery stores close by to make our own banh-mi sandwiches! If you want to go farther distances, though, Uber is the best option. You can ride from one side of the city to the other side for under $5 USD!
Will and I have become very fond of free walking tour organizations, of which there are several in the area. We went on the street food tour, recommended by many others who have visited. It was only Will, me, and our tour guide…and our tour guide didn’t eat. Awkward much? I would’ve preferred more people joining us, but I enjoyed the tour because we got to try a lot of hole-in-the-wall eateries! Will and I actually returned to all the same places on our food tour the day after to try other things on the menus.
Hanoi has many attractions, but we spent most of our stay chilling out. We observed many from the outside and spent most of our time walking around the lake and enjoying the scenery. The Hanoi Opera House was just a few blocks from our apartment. There’s the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton”, where POW’s were incarcerated, including Senator John McCain. If you want to see Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body, head over to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. One of the days we stumbled across St. John’s Cathedral, where I think you can attend mass on Sunday’s. The National Museum of Vietnam, the Temple of Literature, and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology are also supposed to be really great.
That’s not to say we bummed around the whole time, though! We saw the Police Museum (free admission), the Heritage House, and our new favorite museum, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum. This museum is a great tribute to the women of Vietnam, demonstrating the roles of women in Vietnamese society and celebrating their part in Vietnamese culture. There’s also a whole section on how women contributed toward the war, honoring and showcasing many heroic individuals. The admission was really cheap and we ended up buying some really cool postcards with war-time propaganda prints.
Lastly, how can I make my last post about Vietnam without mentioning the coffee? We went to a lot of coffee shops, with our favorite being Cong Caphé right outside our apartment. Their coconut coffee frappe is to die for. Also, Hanoi had the best egg coffee compared to HCMC and Hoi An! When I first tried egg coffee, I was like, “Aight, it’s like coffee topped with meringue – interesting, but good.” Meringue is good because it’s sweet, but it can sometimes leave a weird film in your mouth and make your drink foamy and difficult to drink.
So after a couple of egg coffees from a few different establishments, I was starting to think it wasn’t really my thing. But then we went to Giang Cafe, which allowed me to order iced egg coffee. This was something had never been an option anywhere else. And it was great! The meringue had flavor and mixed well into the coffee, rather than made everything weird and foamy like others. I also tried to give egg coffee one more chance at L’etage Cafe, and that was the best hot version that also mixed well and had flavor. So if you’re looking for egg coffee, those are the two places that are worth trying.