I just read a post from AnnaEverywhere blog in which she documented her horrible experience while visiting Hanoi. It was painful to read those words from a foreigner because not only my hometown was described as the worst city on this planet, but also (most of) what she said was true. So first off, I want to say sorry to Anna and to everyone who has been to Hanoi and had a nightmare here.
For those who want to read her post, here it is. Then if you decide that Hanoi is not for you, I’ll understand. In case you still think that Hanoi deserves a chance after reading that post, please, come back to read this post. In this article, I’m not going to justify my opinion. Instead, I’ll give you some insights & tips from me, a local, for your better trips in Hanoi. I do hope you have a good time here.
I will start with a list of all the awful things in Hanoi that I found in Anna’s post and the comment section. Let’s give it a name, ‘Hanoi’s Awful Things.’
Hanoi’s Awful Things
- Food. The food is disappointing.
- Scams are everywhere. Foreigners have to pay the double price or more, Vietnamese people laugh in visitors’ faces, kids trying to get you buy everything, for example.
- The city is boring and has no charm with insane traffic, air & noise pollution. Also, it is dangerous for pedestrians.
- The people are arrogant, disrespectful, and impolite.
So those are some of the main things foreigners hate about Hanoi. Now I will go into details and give you some tips & insights for each of these problems.
My first tip
I really to put this first.
Vietnam is a developing country. That means we have all the problems that a developing country supposed to have. From transportation to education, urban planning to tourism services, and so on, all need huge improvements.
And our culture is different. The way people act, think, and behave might not be what you usually see in your country every day. Something considered usual here can be disrespectful in your eyes.
So my best advice is: Forget where you are from, how modern your country is, how good your people are when visiting Vietnam/Hanoi. Accept Hanoi as it is, approach your visit as an adventure. Try to think, eat, live, spend money like a local. Learn our culture, learn the proper technique for crossing streets, learn to bargain, join early morning exercise sessions with local people, have fun with everything.
Then you will see the charm of Hanoi for sure.
As seen on Anna’s blog, people complain that the food they ate was not as good as their expectation. It was also poisonous and sold to them for double price.
While I agree with them that the majority of street food vendors in Hanoi need improvements, these problems do not apply to all.
There are thousands upon thousands of street food vendors here in Hanoi. Thus the quality, the taste, and the hygiene level vary greatly. Unfortunately, the number of bad vendors always surpasses that of the good ones. So Vietnamese people with years of consuming street food like me always have blacklists of vendors who do not care about the quality and safety of the food they produce. I will be more than happy to share the lists with you… if you know Vietnamese.
So my advice is, trying to eat as much as possible. You will either discover some of the best dishes in the world if you are lucky or suffer serious illness (j/k). Having locals to guide you is always the best as we know where has the tastiest foods in this city.
If you can’t get help from any local, do some research. List out what you want to try, read reviews about them before going. Also on this blog, I regularly post & update food recommendations, so remember to check me out!
About the price, we are charged the same as foreigners if we eat in those restaurants. You should know that everything in The Old Quarter/Hoan Kiem District is way more expensive compared to similar things in other districts. For example, we eat Pho every morning as breakfast in our residential areas; each bowl costs about $1-1.3 (VND 25.000-30.000). However, if you eat Pho in some stalls in the center, one bowl can be as much as $2 (VND 50.000) or more. So avoid the center if you want to taste food with regular price.
Also, don’t hesitate to ask for the price in advance if you feel being overcharged. It’s important! We always do that, and it’s not something impolite here.
Hanoi is the second largest city in Vietnam. Hence, people from all other provinces come here for a living. Some are from the poorest ones. I don’t look down on my people, but many of them are uneducated due to the lack of education in their hometowns. They sometimes misbehave without even knowing it is bad. And they don’t care if their behaviors have any effect on Vietnam tourism at all.
So don’t be surprised or feel offended if someone keeps looking at you or laughing in front of you. It might just because you are… foreigner, which is still a strange concept to them.
Imagine you walk into a stall, pay for a bowl of Pho. The owner and others laughing. Don’t mistake it for being overcharged. Their actual thinking might be ‘Oh a foreigner is trying Pho right here.’ It’s hard to explain, but kind of like that.
Also, scams frequently happen in the center as these people mostly do their businesses here. People outside of the central touristy of Hanoi are far less likely to scam you. They are super friendly and helpful as well.
Again, my tip is get used to bargain and ask for the price before purchasing.
For transportation, use Uber & Grab for convenience. They have both motorbike and car transportation services, and you know the price before going. Same to booking accommodation, use Airbnb. If you prefer hotels, use Booking.com and remember to read the reviews.
The last thing is if you notice someone trying to scam you, call 113 (that’s the police number and tell them your situation). Seeking help from others is also a good idea, especially young people & students. They will gladly help you.
(End of part 1)