frequently asked questions
From China to Hanoi, you have some routes. Each of them has their own advantages:
1. Kunming - Hekou - Lao Cai - Hanoi:
Chinese side has no train in this route. From Kunming to Hekou border gate, if you travel by bus, it will take almost 10 hours, including lunch time. From Hekou to Lao Cai town, it lasts 10 minutes by motorbike/taxi. The next step is to go to Lao Cai railway station and find a train ticket to Hanoi (overnight train). So, it is about 790 km (490km by bus and 300km by train) from Kunming to Hanoi.
2. Nanning - PingXiang - Lang Son - Hanoi:
By bus: Huu Nghi Quan (Friendship Pass) is about 17km from Lang Son town. It is wise to arrive at Friendship Pass (customs and immigration) before 4:30 PM, because they do not stamp foreign passports after that time. After that you can take a minibus tour to Hanoi. It costs VND 60,000 ($3) for this trip and it takes 3,5-4 hours.
By train: Beijing - Nanning – Hanoi trip takes you about 40 hours. You will need to change the train at Dong Dang border town, since the rail width in China is 1,4m, while in Vietnam it is only 1m.
3. Nanning - DongXing - MongCai - Ha Long - Hanoi:
There are direct buses from Nanning to Halong Bay, which start 8:00 am in the morning, from River South Bus Centre (Jiang Nan Ke Yun Zhong Xing). The bus passes the border at DongXing border town instead of Gate of Friendship. Total bus travel time from Nanning to Halong bay is 9 hours and it costs VND 3,000,000 ($150). You can also go by express boat from MongCai to Halong Bay then by bus to Hanoi, but it takes longer.
You have two options to obtain your visa to Vietnam from Hong Kong:
Option 1. Apply for a visa at the Vietnamese consulate in Hong Kong:
Address: 15/F, Great Smart Tower, 230 Van Chai Road, Wan Chai
Tel: (852) 2591 4517 or (852) 2591 4510.
Visa forms may be obtained by sending a self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope or faxing to the Number: (852) 2591 4524.
Fee and Duration: Tourist visas cost between $30-80, depending on the length and number of entry.
Option 2: Apply for a visa-on-arrival. Note that this type of visa applies to air travel only, and it costs $45 - 85, depending on the duration of stay ad number of entries. The process of applying online at a travel agency is very fast and you do not have to show up at the embassy to submit the application.
Hanoi is not the best bet for some pedestrians, but if you really want to go for a walk, there are still some choices.
The Old quarter is supposed to be on your top list with many local shops and street vendors. Old houses with French colonial architectural style dotted along streets are all worth sightseeing. A walk in “night streets” (at weekend’s night markets) is even better with wonderful light and very local feel atmosphere. You would certainly feel the lively nightlife of Hanoi by visiting the Old Quarter at night.
Areas around Hoan Kiem Lake, Thanh Nien Road or Ly Thai To Park are better choices for people who want to contemplate the tranquility of Hanoi, or want to take photos. Another suitable place is Truc Bach Lakeside with wind blowing and the road lined with trees. The trail that curves around the lake has trees and water on the one side and many street vendors on the other. You can always stop for some ice cream or sweet treats along the way. So just off your taxi or tour bus for a while and enjoy a walk for a better health!
The long plan trip across the ocean can be a nightmare for many travellers, including those experienced ones. A plane trip to Vietnam, unless departing from Hong Kong or Southeast Asia, will be a great pain for some. For example, from Toronto or New York to Hanoi, it takes 17 hours onboard, excluding the transiting time. Here is what you can do to alleviate the long trip pain:
1. Read your travel guide book: Sections in the Lonely Planet such as History and Geography are often scantily skimmed when you arrive. The time on the plane, however, can be an ideal period to know more about Vietnam. Imagine when you talk to the locals, you can be proud to think of yourself as "just-not-another-tourist".
2. Start your travel dairy: the boring landscape inside an airplane, with neither internet nor your favourite baseball match, can be an ideal environment for reflection. Think about where you are now, what you have prepared for the trip and what you are expecting. You will have fun revisiting these pages upon returning to your home country.
3. Make your to-do list: what food do you want to try, where do you want to visit, what do you want to learn, whom will you be telling your story along the way. Making to-do list can be a great way to make yourself satisfied after the trip to Vietnam.
4. Talk to your seat-mate: you never know whom you are sitting next to, until you TRY. Break the ice and make a new friend. Why not? You are going to Vietnam, a most-likely-totally-foreign place anyway.
5. Sleep: Sleeping is the best way to kill time and to help you avoid jetlag later when you land. Avoid caffeinated drinks whenever possible.
Please visit our page on visa exemption for Vietnamese American where we explain in details the process of obtaining a visa exemption for Vietnamese overseas. You can follow the link next to the Application form to fill out an e-form and make a hard copy of the completed form. The rest of the process is also fully explained on the page.
I am intolerant of gluten products and therefore not able to eat foods containing wheat. I would appreciate your advice on whether gluten free meals are available in major cities Vietnam?
Thank you for writing to us. Gluten-free travellers will not have a hard time in Vietnam, because the main meal in Vietnam involves rice instead of wheat (see how rice is used in Vietnam). Major dishes such as "Pho" (beef noodle), "Nem" (spring rolls) are made purely from rice.
The concept of gluten allergy and gluten free meal are not popular in Vietnam at all. You may find these niche products, however, in the expat area of Hanoi (Xuan Dieu road) and Ho Chi Minh City (Pham Ngu Lao street).
The advice we have for you is to check with the hotel and restaurants to verify that the ingredients do not contain wheat (bot my in Vietnamese). If you stay at upper-scale hotels in Hanoi or in Ho Chi Minh City, check with the hotel chef or restaurant head to ensure a gluten free meal.
A few popular food that will contain gluten for sure that you should avoid (this may help with the Vietnamese vocabulary):
- Any food with a "banh" (including baguette, baked goods, ..)
- Any food with a "my" (including egg noogle, instant noodle)
- Any food with a "quay" (fried fritter dough)
- Any food with a "tam bot" (Vietnamese term for fried fish or meat with a flour coating)
We hope this is helpful to you and your family. Bon Voyage!
There are a number of good coffee shops in Hanoi though music is a frequent offer like those in Ho Chi Minh City. You can browse through our listing page of coffee shops in Hanoi and try them out one by one.
Align Café (1B Ma May and 10A Khuc Hao), for example, is an ideal place to relax. Align has drawn customers ‘attention by its luxurious appearance of a wooden house with windows looking out on to old streets. Coming to Align, consumers are able to enjoy the cozy atmosphere offered by yellow light, old style furniture and trees with changing colour leaves. The music here is nice and soft, with classic rock, blues, souls and sometimes country/funk. It will easily take away your stresses and brings you relaxing moments. Drinks here vary from regular ones like tea, coffee, fruit juice to special drinks like cocktails, mocktails and alcohols. You can order sandwiches, French fries, salad or soup if you want some snack and the most famous food here is the unique takoyaki (octopus meat balls) of Japan.
You need a place to hang out with friends, you yearn for somewhere to rest, or you just want some privacy with your favourite books? The Bookworm cafe at 44 Chau Long street can fulfill all of your demands. This cafe also functions as a bookshop with the largest collection of English books in Hanoi.
Near Westlake area- the expats district of Hanoi, there are also many options: the Donkey Bakery (8 Nguyen Hoang Ton), Joma Bakery and Cafe (54 To Ngoc Van), Le Pub (9 Xuan Dieu) are all worth not one but many visits.
There are several methods to get from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City such as travelling by motors, cars or airplane, but the most interesting way should be travel by train. Thanks to the significant investment of the government, the Unification Trains (also called North-South Express Train) now connect Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in one integrated route, with the direct travel time often less than 40 hours. The magnificent scenery outside of the train windows is also the attractive point of travelling by trains. Along the road from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, there are a considerable number of beautiful attractions such as mountains, valleys, oceans and forests for you to witness and enjoy. The only worth considering point of travelling by train is that the safety of the train is not totally ensured with sometimes serious accidents occurred on the route, but It is still in the acceptable level, especially in the modern trains. More information about the train from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City can be found at the North – South Express Train of this site.
Vietnamese New Year, or Tet, is the biggest festival and holiday of a year in the country. In 2012, Vietnamese New Year will fall on Monday - January 23rd. Most public offices will be closed from Saturday (January 21st) and will be reopen on Monday (January 29th). The main Tet days are January 23rd, 24th and 25th.
Many attractions will be closed, while those like Hue citadel will be open during the three days of Tet with free admission. Cu Chi Tunnel, for your information, remains open during Tet holiday from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm.
For more information about Tet and Tet travel advice, read visit our Vietnamese Tet page or take a look at the following articles:
Motor rental service is available in Hanoi and you can easily find the shops which offer this service on main streets like Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung, Tran Hung Dao, and especially small streets in Hanoi Old Quarter like Hang Be, Ta Hien, Luong Ngoc Quyen, Dinh Liet.
There are many kinds of motorbikes from the most popular ones in Vietnam like Wave, Dream, Viva… to favorite transportation means of backpackers like Simson, Minsk. The cost ranges from $6 to $50 per day depending on motor type.
Foreign tourists just has to leave one hard copy of his/her passport and one kind of identity papers like driving license or passport in the shop, then take the motor and begin a joyful trip. These rented motor taxi is usually empty of gas so you will need to find a gas station to fill it up (see How much fuel costs in Vietnam).
Monthly motorcycle rent is also available with Rentabike (www.rentabikehanoi.com/) starting from $50 a month. If you plan to stay long term in Hanoi, you may purchase a used motorbike from a fellow expat - such as visiting New Hanoian classifieds section.
I am planning to go to Hanoi in December, can you please let me know whether the weather will be ok for sightseeing and walking outside at that time? I am from Washington D.C.
Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam. December is in the winter in Hanoi. Therefore, it is cold but is still ok for travellers, especially those from temperate zone like you will not have a difficult time at all. The temperature is about 16 Celcius degree on average, with light rain and windy weather. You can go out for sightseeing comfortably, but make sure that you bring some warm clothes because Vietnam does not have central heating system like North America so it might be colder than it sounds.
Many Hanoians talk about having ice-cream and walking around the tree-lined Hoan Kiem Lake as a leisure activity during the winter days. Winter food in Vietnam is not about apple cider and fresh-from-the-oven brownies, but there are sure things to enjoy: sweet potatoes grilled on charcoal or toasted corn on the cob; chicken skewer and a hot bowl of pho will definitely give your stomach a satisfying feeling like you never feel before.