Hanoi: how to visit the city whilst sticking to a budget

Not everyone who embarks on a big international adventure has a shedload of money to throw about. In fact, most young people who embark on a year of travelling around don’t have much to go on. The good news, though, is that there are many places in the world where your money will go reasonably far. One of which is Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, where you can visit many places at little cost. Here are just a few things to do.

Hoan Kiem Lake

When the lake you’re visiting translate as ‘Lake of the Returned Sword’, you know this isn’t your usual middle-of-the-road waterhole.

As the story goes, an emperor Lê Lợi was having a good time, boating around on the water but was then greeted by a golden turtle god and took away his magic sword who Lợi assumed was returning it to its rightful owner: a dragon king.

A serene environment, the lake is a good place to eat lunch or meditate, and you can always sit there trying to figure out how the Thap Rua (turtle tower) was built in the middle of its waters.


Street food tour

Like its beautiful architecture, Hanoi’s food is also hugely distinctive, and the Old Quarter is where you want to be to get the real deal.

At around 160 minutes in length, the tour covers in-depth a wide range of the city’s street food options. Highlights include the duck tongue, barbecued meat, pork crepes and dishes consisting of flavours you will have likely never tried before.

Of course, if you want to waiver the small talk fee (less than £20), you can always just dive in head first into the marketplace and eat whatever you like the look or smell of.


Temple of Literature

It’s not common you’ll see a 944-year-old building, let alone that is open to the viewing public, but the Temple of Literature, situated a little over a mile west of Hoan Kiem Lake, was built to celebrate the country’s brightest citizens.

The temple stretches out over 54,000 square metres and includes five beautiful courtyards, the first two being areas of solace and are surrounded by well-kept lawns and ancient trees—perfect for unwinding.

Other highlights include the third courtyard where the ‘Well of Heavenly Clarity and the red Constellation of Literature pavilion’ reside and the Turtle Steles which exhibit the names of those who were successful when carrying out the royal exams.


Hỏa Lò Prison

A prison is a facility that not many people get the chance to visit. Of course, most people will think of Alcatraz with reference to this subject, but in Hanoi Hỏa Lò Prison is arguably just as historically important.

Exhibited within the now-museum are the housing blocks of the political prisoners of both men and women inhabitants, as well as grisly sights such as the still-working guillotine room and an interrogation room where Americans were taken in the Vietnam War—a place of debate due to the various accounts of how they were treated.


Beer Clubs

If there’s one beverage that will unite the local residents of Hanoi and the gap year thrill seeker is beer, and Vietnam is considered by many as the cheapest place to buy a glass in the world.

Around the city you will be able to find nice little bars that usually feature groups of middle-aged gentlemen, enjoying a drink with friends. At less than 20p for a beer on average, it’s little wonder why so many people stop off after work or during lunch.

Vuvuzela is a beer club that has a good selection of beers and foods, and is definitely a good place to spend an evening. Just don’t let the name of the place put you off.

Do you know of any must-visit destinations in Hanoi? Let us know in the comments below.

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