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A Guide to Your First Time in Hanoi

temple-of-literature-first-time-in-hanoi Temple of Literature in Hanoi

Getting to Hanoi after a long flight and you may feel confused at first, but don't worry as we will provide you with useful information upon your first time in Hanoi. Where to exchange money, how to get yourself some mobile data to use for the stay, or where are the most tourist-friendly hotels in the city, you will find the answers to those questions after reading this blog!

Information for Planning Your First Trip to Hanoi

Obtaining Your Vietnam Visa
When to Visit Hanoi
What to Pack for Hanoi
Where to Stay in Hanoi
Find a Trustworthy Travel Insurance

Some Quick Heads-ups for Your First Time in Hanoi

  • There is one international airport, which is the Noi Bai International Airport. Therefore, if you're traveling to Hanoi from overseas, you'll arrive at the T2 - the International Terminal at the airport.
  • Local food and drinks in Hanoi are quite cheap and tastes incredible.
  • Nightlife in Hanoi is particularly lively with nice and inexpensive beers.
  • Most touristy areas (Hoan Kiem, Hai Ba Trung, Ba Dinh districts) are pedestrian-friendly, but do look out for the heavy traffic and pickpockets.

Arriving at Noi Bai International Airport on Your First Time in Hanoi

- Currency exchange: The unit of currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). The currency exchange at Noi Bai airport does not offer attractive rates compared to other Money Exchange Spots in The City of Hanoi. This is a favorable option only if you need a small amount of cash for taxi fares.

first time in hanoi currency exchange

If possible, go to Ha Trung Street (Hoan Kiem District) for better currency exchange rate

Tips: Vietnamese banknotes are issued in VND 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000, and 500,000. Be careful not to mistake the VND 20,000 and VND 500,000 bills because they look quite similar.

First time in hanoi currency exchange 2 original picture 1

Be careful with these two! It can make a huge difference

- Mobile Data Plan in Hanoi: Getting a local Vietnamese SIM card when you first arrive in Hanoi is of significant importance. Viettel and Vinaphone SIM cards are the two reliable brands with extensive network coverage and sufficient data plan, all of which you can find in the arrival hall of Noi Bai Airport.

first time in hanoi mobile data plan

The kiosks with helpful staff 

Since November 2016, to purchase a SIM card, you have to show your ID or passport. The staff at the kiosks will assist you with the registration and SIM activation process within less than 10 minutes.

See our full guide for Arriving at Noi Bai Airport

Where to Stay for Your First Time in Hanoi

For first-time visitors, staying in the Old Quarter area can give you easy access to Hanoi's most famous attractions. However, note that this area may be a bit noisy at night, and some hotels may charge higher than normal.

If you prefer quieter places, hotels in Hai Ba Trung District or Tay Ho District are better options. These are also central areas, but with fewer tourists.

west lake flower valley first time in hanoi

Tay Ho District is adored by tourists and expats in Hanoi alike, thanks to the tranquil and charming neighborhoods

Hanoi offers a wide range of accommodation, from luxurious amenities to cost-conscious dorms and homestays. You can search in the form below to find the most suitable option for your needs.


Hanoi At a Glance for Your First Time in Hanoi

Nothing can be quite like the first time you do something; the same goes for your first time in Hanoi. Experience Hanoi to the fullest while walking along its many tree-lined boulevards in the Old Quarter, enjoying street-side coffee and beers, biking around the West Lake, or seeing a water puppet show. Day or night, the old city with delicate touches of modern technology will wake up something memorable in you.

Top Attractions in Hanoi

hanoi flag tower first time in hanoi

Be a professional photographer for a day with nostalgic views from the Hanoi Flag Tower

ethnology museum first time in hanoi

The outdoor exhibition at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi

hcm mausoleum first time in hanoi

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is heavily guarded with an open coffin display of Ho Chi Minh's body

one pillar pagoda first time in hanoi

Also belongs to the premise of the mausoleum is the sacred One Pillar Pagoda

hoan kiem lake first time in hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake is an icon of Hanoi

temple of literature first time in hanoi

The Temple of Literature is where you can learn about the feudal education system and the centuries-old history of Vietnam

Food and Drinks to Try in Hanoi

first time in hanoi bia hoi

Take a sip of fresh cold beer on the streets of Hanoi

first time in hanoi bun cha 1

Bun Cha is the one dish that captures every gastronomer's heart - namely the former US President Barack Obama

first time in hanoi bun dau 1

If you don't mind the somewhat pungent smell of the shrimp paste,  Bun Dau Mam Tom can be a great starter dish to Hanoi traditional cuisine

Where to Try Egg Coffee in Hanoi

egg coffee first time in hanoi

Do not miss the chance to try the authentic egg coffee

Fun Day Trips from Hanoi

first time in hanoi halong

Many tour companies (which can be easily found in the Old Quarter) organize day tours to Halong Bay

first time in hanoi ninh binh

Ninh Binh with its newly-found fame in recent years also attracts a host of tourists

Our Takes on Your First Time in Hanoi 

Hanoi definitely has a little bit of charm of the old and new for everyone. It is a relatively safe city to visit. No way anyone can be an expert on Hanoi the first time you here, but there is always something new about this city that makes you fall in love. If you have any questions or comments, then feel free to let us know in the comment section below.

Other helpful guides to help you navigate through Hanoi

How to Spend a Night in Hanoi
How to Travel to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh


© Written by My Pham and Kim Hoang for

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Saturday, 23 September 2023

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This Vietnam travel information page is written by a team of professional tour guides in Vietnam. More about us or visit home page

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