A day in the life: How cheap is a day out in Hanoi?

How cheap is a day out in Hanoi? Violet investigates...

Last week we explored the low cost of eating out in Vietnam, revealing that it really is possible to dine like an emperor for next to nothing. Today, I’m looking more generally at the cost of an average sightseeing day in the capital city – helping you to plan your holiday expenditure and (hopefully) persuading you that a trip to Vietnam doesn’t need to break the bank. So, without further ado: just how cheap is a day out in Hanoi?

N.B. Just as last week, remember that the prices mentioned are a guideline only. You may well be able to barter down – and you might equally find yourself paying more. That uncertainty is all part of the chaotic fun of being in Vietnam! Exchange rates are accurate as of 2 August 2016.

Good morning Vietnam!

If you’re an early riser (or jet-lag is playing havoc with your body clock), leave your hotel early this morning and walk through the old town to Hoan Kiem Lake. You’ll find Hanoi buzzing with life in the cool of the early morning, with locals busy drinking iced coffee, practicing t’ai chi, and even disco dancing round the edges of the lake.

Wander around Hoan Kiem Lake in the early morning for the quintessential Vietnamese experience
Wander around Hoan Kiem Lake in the early morning for the quintessential Vietnamese experience

If you’re staying at a hotel, you’ll almost certainly have breakfast included in your room price. If not, join the locals for a bowl of pho and a café sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee) on the streetside!

Breakfast at a streetside café: 45,000-67,000 VND ($2-3 / £1.50-£2.30)

Ho Chi Minh's imposing Stalinist Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh’s imposing Stalinist Mausoleum

Hail a taxi and ask to be taken to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, in Hanoi’s central square. The mausoleum is free to enter (though there’s often a long queue!) and displays the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s beloved wartime leader. Even if you don’t choose to go inside, the mausoleum is impressive – and if you’re lucky you might catch the changing of the guards.

Entry to mausoleum: Free

Half-day taxi hire: 350,000 ($16 / £12) Top tip: Jump on a xe om, or motorbike taxi, and you’ll pay much less than in a standard car.

Near the mausoleum is Ho Chi Minh’s former residence, set beside a small lake in pleasant gardens. Take wander through the buildings, observe Uncle Ho’s modest stilt house and see where he met with important figures – but be sure to brush up on your war-era history before you go, as you won’t find the provided leaflet particularly informative!

Entry to Uncle Ho’s residence: 25,000 VND ($1.12 / £0.85)

Hop in your taxi again and make your way to yet another lake, Ho Tay: West Lake. With a 17 kilometre circumference, this is Hanoi’s greatest lake, and makes an excellent place to rent a bike and go for a cycle – if you feel so inclined. Even on foot, there is plenty to see and do: you can visit Vietnam’s oldest pagoda, which sits on an island in the lake, or simply wander the upmarket boutiques and artisan shops that have sprung up around the lake in the past decade.

Optional half-day bike hire: 50,000 VND ($2.25 / £1.70)

Lunchtime…

By this time you’re probably ravenous (especially if you opted for cycling), so stop in at any busy-looking streetside restaurant for a delicious lunch. Check out last week’s blog post for some mouth-watering ideas…

Lunch at a local restaurant: 45,000-67,000 VND ($2-3 / £1.50-£2.30)

Delicious banh xeo - shrimp fritters
Delicious banh tom – shrimp fritters

After lunch, jump in your taxi once more and head to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s oldest university, to admire this rare example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. The university was founded in 1070, and is dedicated to Confucius.

Entrance to Temple of Literature: 30,000 VND ($1.35 / £1.70)

Temple of Literature
Temple of Literature

If you’ve followed our recommended day out this far, you’re probably feeling pretty tired by now! Head back to the Old Quarter for a well-earned rest and an iced coffee – essential drinking for any Vietnamese. You can find glasses of the stuff for 10-15,000 dong from street carts, but this isn’t always the proper robusta stuff. Stop for a while at a coffee shop and you’ll pay a little more (25-35,000 VND), but you can be sure it’s the real deal.

Vietnamese coffee: 10-35,000 VND ($0.44-1.60 / £0.33-1.21)

A visit to Hanoi wouldn't be complete without a Vietnamese iced coffee
A visit to Hanoi wouldn’t be complete without a Vietnamese iced coffee

Hanoi by night

For the rest of the afternoon, wander the “36 Streets” of the Old Quarter – Hanoi’s bustling, noisy, wire-entangled maze of ancient streets, and the heart of this amazing city. As the evening wears on and the lights dim, the atmosphere becomes more and more electric – with Hanoians and foreigners alike spilling out onto the streets with beers and food. You can pull up a little plastic stool on the street and enjoy a delicious dinner for $2-3, or you could splash out on a proper restaurant and spend around $10 per head for a shared meal of various dishes. Either way, you’re unlikely to be out of pocket!

Diners spill out onto the streets in the Old Quarter, Hanoi's beating heart
Diners spill out onto the streets in the Old Quarter, the perfect end to a day out in Hanoi

Dinner: $2-3 (streetside); $10 (restaurant)

Bia hoi (freshly brewed beer): 8-10,000 VND ($0.35-45 / £0.30-35)

Bottled beer: 10-15,000 ($0.45-70 / £0.35-50)

So what was the total cost of your day out in Hanoi? Around 500-600,000 VND, or $22.50-27 / £17-20.00. Not bad for three meals, transport, sightseeing, and a few coffees and beers thrown in! So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with one of our travel consultants immediately to begin planning your trip to Vietnam now, or check out our Fully Tailored Journeys for inspiration.

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