Why I Won’t Be Visiting Hanoi Again

Add to Flipboard Magazine.
Pin It

For a long time I had dreamed of visiting Hanoi and Vietnam in general. In 2012, I even had my visa and plane tickets ready, but I had to cancel my trip at the last second. This is why I couldn’t skip it on my trip to Asia in 2014.

I only had a little bit more than a week in Vietnam, which was definitely not enough to see everything. This is why I chose to explore the northern part of the country only. My plan was to spend a few days in Hanoi, go to Halong Bay, and hike in Sapa.

As the trip was approaching, I started hearing and reading horrible things about Vietnam, especially the North. Other travel bloggers were either in love with the country, or listing it as one of their least favorite destinations.

I was prepared for the possibility of getting scammed. But it turned out that no matter how prepared you are, there will always be a way that you can get screwed over when visiting Hanoi.

The story about how I got completely scammed by people in Hanoi on our trip to Sapa, I’ll leave for another post. But scammers are not the only reason why I didn’t like the city.DSC00909


Food in Hanoi

I grew up on Vietnamese food for years. After the war in Vietnam, a lot of refugees went to Poland and opened small Vietnamese diners. The food was cheap and tasty so my family was going there at least once a week. When I finally went to Vietnam, I couldn’t have been more disappointed in the food. After living in underdeveloped countries like Zimbabwe, I learned to love street food and I understand what cooking conditions are like in less privileged countries – by that I mean I didn’t expect Michelin star dining in Hanoi.

Cooking on the street.

Cooking on the street.

I expected what I read about Vietnam: street food prepared on the spot and consumed while sitting on small blue plastic chairs in the street. But I didn’t expect to see my food being prepared next to a kid taking a shit into a plastic bag, or my plate being rinsed next to a pile of garbage!

I felt like if I stepped into a puddle, I wouldn’t be so sure if I didn’t step in somebody’s pee.

No matter what I ordered in Hanoi, it was super dirty and served on a dirty plate. I was constantly sick after eating anything. And trust me, apart from a horrible food poisoning in Sri Lanka I never get sick abroad. Every time I went out to eat I felt unwelcome by vendors trying to charge us double what they were charging the locals.

visiting Hanoi

Your plate is somewhere out there.

I asked some friends who have been to Hanoi for a recommendation and they pointed us to a place called Quán Bún Chả Hàng Mành where we went for dinner. There I ate “bun cha,” a cold Vietnamese soup with pork, served with vermicelli and crab rolls. Everything would have been fine if I didn’t feel sand in my teeth after eating some salad. After that I started doubting the quality of the rest of my food.

Almost clean

Almost clean

Pho served with some fried fat dough.

Pho served with some fried fat dough.

After 9pm almost every street vendor is closed, so one night I ended up going to a Western style restaurant instead. While my friend ordered a sandwich, I ordered a crepe with ham, cheese and mushrooms. Already a mistake, but it was a choice between this and a sandwich.

I asked the waiter (who spoke English surprisingly well), if it was a filled crepe and he assured me that it was filled with Western cheese, because Vietnamese people don’t eat milk products. ‘Fine’ I thought.

After 20 minutes I received my dish: ripped crepes with a pile of ham dipped in some sort of cream, everything cold, obviously. ‘Where are the cheese and mushrooms?’ I asked. ‘Inside, it’s inside’ said the chef, insisting that everything was fine.

When I showed him that they were clearly not there, he went back to the kitchen and brought me 2 raw mushrooms in a little bowl of milk decorated with a stripe of cheese. Really…?

Infamous crepe...

Infamous crepe…


Scams in Hanoi

As a white person in Hanoi you’re being scammed pretty much all the time, it’s just that sometimes you might not know it, or you don’t want to know it. The worst part of it is that when you actually do pay attention to the behavior of the locals, you’ll notice that after they charge you three times as much as the others, they’ll laugh about it in Vietnamese in front of you.

This corn would be great. If it wasn't 60,000 VND!

This corn would be great. If it wasn’t 60,000 VND!

A kid who wouldn't leave without a certain amount of money.

A kid who wouldn’t leave without a certain amount of money.

You can also never trust anyone even if they seem nice in the beginning. After an initially great experience at our hotel, I decided to book a tour to Sapa with them. In spite of their nice behavior before, they didn’t hesitate to scam us on this tour. I also heard horrible stories of foreigners being seduced by local women and then being robbed.


The city of Hanoi

In spite of my horrible culinary experiences, I wanted to give this city a try. I wanted to discover Hanoi and find something that I could enjoy. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy drinking my black coffee (tip: never order coffee with milk in Vietnam, because you’ll receive it with very sweet condensed milk) while watching the locals skillfully maneuver their scooters under the webs of electric cables.

Hanoi Nightmarket

Hanoi Nightmarket

Cables. Cables everywhere.

Cables. Cables everywhere.

However, the city itself didn’t have anything that would make me want to go back. The famous lake in the center doesn’t look nice at all, not because it’s green, but because it looks abandoned. I went to every museum in the city in only a day. And during the rest of my time there I felt like I was just wandering around. It was just not my type of city.DSC00973

War Museum in Hanoi.

Museum in Hanoi.

visiting Hanoi

Poor frogger 🙁

*

I’m not surprised that Vietnam has only a 5% return rate.  In comparison, other Southeast Asian destinations like Thailand, have over 70%. Vietnamese people simply fail to understand that by scamming the visitors left and right, and laughing about it in their faces, their tourism won’t increase.

During my time in Asia I met a lot of travelers who shared my views on Vietnam and in the end i left earlier than expected.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit Vietnam, I would just skip Hanoi. I loved Halong Bay and as long you don’t book your tour with a company in downtown Hanoi, you’ll have a great time. I also didn’t go to Saigon which I heard has a much more friendly atmosphere.

Pin It

55 Comments

  1. Feb 23, 2015 / 3:30 pm

    I found hanoi the same ! As soon as i stepped off the overnight bus from Hue i was yelled at and taxis were trying to relentless and agressively trying to scam everyone ! I was sworn at becuase i chose to walk to a cafe and not get a taxi .. Hanoi is dirty compared to the rest of vietnam, and saigon is so friendly with much nicer helpful locals and i wasnt approached for money or scammers once in saigon 🙂 🙂

    • Feb 23, 2015 / 4:05 pm

      I should check out Saigon probably 🙂

      • Mar 25, 2017 / 8:48 am

        Saigon can be the same … if you google Saigon horror or why I hated Saigon, you find similar stories!

  2. john obrien
    Feb 23, 2015 / 3:43 pm

    hello, that was completely not our experience especially Hanoi.Sapa was the only negative place we would never return to for sure.we never felt we were scammed or ripped off at all.we never do tours.we go it alone it seems to work for us.we ate street food all the time it was excellent and so cheap.3 times the local price? really? Saigon was great. how come many travel bloggers choose to live in Vietnam and write glowing weekly reports.? we travelled on buses,planes and trains and stayed in budget accommodation never felt screwed once.we’ve been travelling around Asia for 40 years, we are both 68 years old.

    • Feb 23, 2015 / 4:04 pm

      I felt the same about Sapa actually, but in my case it wasn’t actually the fault of Sapa but again – I blame people from Hanoi for that. It’ll be explained in another post 🙁 I think you probably were ripped off in Hanoi, but it seemed cheap to you, so you didn’t bother checking what the normal price actually was – this is how my boyfriend felt about it. I should probably visit Saigon… heard it’s way better 🙂

  3. Feb 23, 2015 / 8:11 pm

    I haven’t been to Vietnam yet. It seems too overwhelming, plus it seems like everyone ends up in the hospital with scooter related injuries during their trip! I do want to go though, but it might be a place I’d consider doing through a tour since I want to see Vietnam War stuff. The 25 cent pho does tempt me!

    • Feb 23, 2015 / 10:03 pm

      Scooter accident happened to me, but in Bali haha!

  4. Feb 23, 2015 / 8:55 pm

    Sometimes I think it is really difficult for white people to determine whether they (you) are being scammed or not. I mean, the normal prices for food here would probably cost like 5 or 10 times cheaper than what you pay in Europe or California, so you might not notice it if the street vendor charges you 3 times of what they charge the locals. So for you to realize that you have been scammed that often, I suppose it must have been really bad 🙁

    • Feb 23, 2015 / 10:01 pm

      Yep, that’s completely right. I’d say I wouldn’t mind being scammed as much if they weren’t laughing in my face about what they just did… and I read that it happens to everyone… 🙁

  5. Feb 24, 2015 / 12:16 am

    I hope you give Hanoi another chance! It is a fascinating city and it is best, I think, to approach a visit as the adventure it is! Eat the street food (but stay away from those vendors who’s food is in the proximity of dog or any other animal’s feces). Eat as much pho as possible. Have your photo taken wearing the cross-shoulder fruit hangers. Wear a conical hat. Marvel at all the outdoor pre-wedding photo shoots. Take a cyclo drive. Learn the proper technique for crossing the street (go slow and don’t stop). Do take a city tour. Visit the American Prison (the Hanoi Hotel to us). Go say hello to Ho Chi Minh but remember to take off your hat, no hands in your pockets and look respectful. See a water puppet show. Walk around Lake Hoah Kiehm. Learn about the relationship between the French and the Vietnamese. Buy fresh fruit from one of the women selling on the street but know the exchange rate and walk away if the price seems to steep to you. Smile. Learn. Grow. All of this is yours on a visit to Hanoi!

  6. Maria Lindberg
    Mar 2, 2015 / 12:36 pm

    I´m so sorry to hear that your Hanoi-experience was bad! For me and my boyfriend it was actually Saigon that got the worst review from us. Saigon felt so big, exhausting and caotic. With the typical split between “this is the western part with all the gucci-stores and shit, and this is the real part with cardboard, caos and weird shops that sell everything from laundry detergent to fake iphones”. Hanoi felt like it gave us some space to breathe. We found some really cozy cafees, a fantastic veggie restaurant, and a kind of european area with small streets with actual cafes and small bars and restaurants. But I guess we where lucky. Halong Bay was crowded – putting it mildly. All my pics from Halong Bay just makes me laugh, it´s so packed with tourist boats that you can hardly spot the ocean under them.

    Your blog is great by the way! I´m preparing for a trip to Ghana and Togo, and you provided me with some great tips!

    – Maria, Norway

    • Mar 10, 2015 / 9:50 pm

      I think I got lucky with Halong Bay because it wasn’t as crowded as I expected it to be 😀

  7. Jun 5, 2015 / 6:38 pm

    wow, the place looks very interesting, like out of this world. i loved the article but what i liked the most was the poor frog! what was that?! :O

  8. Jun 5, 2015 / 7:48 pm

    Hanoi must be wonderful. I dream about Asia for a long time.

    • Jun 5, 2015 / 8:23 pm

      Nooooo 🙁

    • Jun 7, 2015 / 12:00 am

      Yep, go to Saigon I’d say 🙂

  9. Jun 10, 2015 / 1:52 pm

    Well and that’s the very reason why I prefer Vietnam than Thailand. You can feel the Southeast Asia there with all the poverty, horrible history and local customs. The horrible western-tourist postcolonialism didn’t come there yet. I hope that despite your opinion more and more people would come there to help the country.

    • Em
      May 16, 2016 / 7:26 pm

      Philippines is poorer than Vietnam, but Filipinos are hardworking and have been trying to work their own way out of the poverty. Vietnamese people are just plain lazy.

      • Russell W. Behne Sr.
        Sep 30, 2016 / 9:32 am

        I’ve been living in the Philippines for about 10 years, and I disagree. What you’re saying about the Vietnamese applies to the Filipinos. Although there are some hardworking people, tge majority are incredibly lazy, shiftless, and scam foreigners exactly the same way as described in the article. In fact, the description of what’s happening in Hanoi from the above article I see happening everywhere here in the Philippines.

  10. CL
    Jun 24, 2015 / 5:09 am

    Hi Anna, thanks for your honest, down to earth write up, although I do beg to differ from your opinion about Hanoi. I visited the city, as well as Halong Bay, in the beginning of the year, and enjoyed the city loads!

    Sorry to hear about your bad experiences with scams. As for me, I didn’t experience getting major scams, just some inflated prices here and there which I walked away from. I went about the streets, eating and enjoying the local cuisine, while being cautious with what I was eating. That said, there is always some form of risk involved when consuming street food, but we choose to eat street food, for the experience. Not like we are forced to. In Hanoi, there are many eateries and cafes to go to, if one chooses to avoid food from the street.

    Like every developing country’s city, it has many things which need vast improvement, but considering what Vietnam had gone through, less than 40 years ago, I think they have done well in sprucing up the city and making it livable for their own people, and for tourists.

    • Jun 24, 2015 / 1:34 pm

      I think I’d have had a way better experience in Saigon, but I wanted to visit Halong Bay and Sapa (the second oen was a disaster actually) and that’s why I chose to go up north. The thing is I’d say that maybe I had a bad luck, but I met so many people who share my thoughts on Hanoi that I realized it happens to the majority 🙁

  11. Mixal
    Aug 8, 2015 / 12:13 pm

    Yep, I’ve heard the same stories countless times by now. Vietnam is at the bottom of the places I want to travel to.

    • Aug 8, 2015 / 3:01 pm

      Yeah… I def wouldn’t want to go again :/

  12. Robert
    Aug 13, 2015 / 7:08 am

    I’ve lived in Hanoi for almost 2 years after travelling here and loving it! Every experience differs and although overcharging is common in the Old Quarter, people outside are far less likely to scam you. I would recommend all travellers considering visiting Northern Vietnam to rent or buy a motorbike and explore the natural beauty of Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Ninh Binh etc.. These places are far less touristy, you are very unlikely to get scammed or even be spoken to in English. You can find good guide maps and itineraries online and even go with locals. Sapa is massively overrated.

    • Aug 13, 2015 / 3:47 pm

      At least I’m not the only one who thoguht that about Sapa! 🙂

  13. KJ
    Sep 22, 2015 / 2:35 pm

    I’m on an all expenses paid business trip and staying at a very fancy 5* hotel and was driven from the airport in a nice car with wifi. Yet, I don’t understand what people see about Hanoi. I have walked around twice and both times I hated it. Insane traffic, no charm, and dangerously unhealthy air even with a mask. The food has been great though but that wouldn’t be enough of a reason for me to come here again. I am no snob having lived in a hut in Africa for 2 years and traveled for work to many developing world countries.

    • Sep 22, 2015 / 9:04 pm

      I completely agree with you 🙂

      • Kim Clark
        Jan 6, 2017 / 8:17 am

        Hi Anna,

        First thing first, I appreciate for some of contents what you’ve posted on this articles.
        I’m South Korean, and I’ve been staying in Hanoi Vietnam for a little more than 3 months.
        I got married and came here to work for our head office in South Korea and I’ve experienced the same thing; we always get masks to put on so that we do not take bad air here, we need to be awared of crazy traffic (Vietnamese people don’t seem to take care of pedestrians (Cars and bikes were so close so we’d have got a car crash just as I and my wife were trying to cross the road) and we sometimes get scammed by Vietnamese vendors of course ( it’s a general sense for foreigners in Hanoi, instead we ask for the price of products in advance).
        So, I am so disappointed with the local’s attitude on foreigners, even for not only Asian, also for other foreigners.
        i am envious by the fact that you were just visited here for traveling.
        Anyways, I and my wife are now trying hard to understand and trying not to let Viet people feel uncomfy because we don’t want any trouble during stay.
        But i’ve once heard the atmosphere in Ho Chi Minh City is a quite different in a positive way.
        There’ve been under U.S during the Viet War or .. whatever the reason is …
        I still hope the bad feedbacks of Hanoi is just a part of Vietnam.
        As Mr. Kj mentioned on the comments,

  14. Chi
    Sep 23, 2015 / 11:32 am

    Thank you for this post. I was about to book a ticket to Hanoi this weekend, good thing I read this first. My boyfriend and I are planning to go somewhere between Cambodia and Vietnam and we selected Hanoi. Internet advertisements are very tempting but then I read some blogs and a huge percentage of the ones I read are all thumbs down about Hanoi. Sad but I guess we have to skip this place and head to Cambodia instead. 🙁 Anyway, thanks!

    • Sep 23, 2015 / 6:11 pm

      Definitely spend more time in Cambodia! Especially down south there are so many beautiful beaches with barely any tourists 🙂

  15. Nov 8, 2015 / 6:22 pm

    I’ve been to Vietnam twice: to the south (Saigon, Da Lat, Mui Ne, and Nha Trang) in 2011 and the north (Hanoi and Ha Long Bay) in 2015.
    I would say it’s a very interesting country to visit, but it’s a horrible place to live for foreigners, due to its traffic and scams.
    If you ever wanna give Vietnam another chance, just go to Da Lat.
    That place is simply beautiful!

  16. Ivan Johnson
    Dec 8, 2015 / 11:01 pm

    Isn’t the name “Saigon” that you insist on using the old colonial name
    ?

    for many years the name has been Ho Chi Minh City, I believe.

    Could you be more culturally insensitive, or insist on using the name the US attackers, aggressors used?

    • Jake Smith
      Sep 5, 2016 / 3:01 pm

      You are ridiculous, Ivan. TLDR: the name Saigon predates the French and the South isn’t eager to adopt for their city the name of the leader that killed so many Southerners in a tragic civil war, whose triumph led to both the decline of Saigon as a world city and terrible famines for the country as a whole.

      The people in the North call Saigon Ho Chi Minh City, but people in the South still call it Saigon. Don’t forget that the Vietnam was largely a civil war, one in which far more South Vietnamese soldiers died fighting for freedom from the Communist North than Americans did. Also don’t forget the part where 100s of thousands Southern Vietnamese non-combatants were massacred by Northern forces as punishment for “treason”. Also don’t forget the part where large numbers of wealthy South Vietnamese were dispossessed by Northern Communists and the country plunged into 20+ years of intermittent famine thanks to a failed command economy.

      I live here, and there is still a good bit of resentment between South and North because the South had a prosperous economy before being ruined by Northern aggression. For that reason, Saigoners are not eager to accept the name bestowed on the city by the conquerors that also fucked up everything else. The name Saigon, itself, predates the French colonization, and even predates Vietnamese possession of the city. It goes back to a time when the Khmer king was top dog. Go figure.

      • Nov 1, 2016 / 11:24 pm

        While your recent potted history lesson would travel well on Fox News the same can’t be said of your reference to ‘ Saigon’ being used by the Khmer in times of former rule — ‘Prey Nokor’ is still used on modern Cambodian political maps of the region and not the names parvenues from the 17th century onwards have chosen . You might do well to tamp down your critique of our hosts , as not only is it bad manners it is seasoned with appalling ignorance to the facts . Almost 65 million people have transitioned out of abject poverty in the last 25 yrs and you glibly opine “Saigoners are not eager to accept the name bestowed on the city by the conquerors that also fucked up everything else ” Why is it some folks can’t resist poking their noses into other nations’ civil wars and even when the results are ‘in’ demand either a re-run or claim the count to be ‘rigged’ ~~ go figure indeed . As for your spurious claim that 100s of thousands of civilians were massacred by the victors for ‘treason’ — I think I’ll stick to the first hand accounts of the numbing hardship recounted me by former officers of the Saigon Regime enduring the 4 yrs of ‘ Re-education Camps’ ~~ ‘could do with a wee spell of that yourself Jake .

        • Nov 1, 2016 / 11:30 pm

          Anna , sorry for veering so ‘off topic’ ~~ love your hatchet jobs , passive aggressive yet so refined like a Bronte heroine !

    • Nov 1, 2016 / 10:11 pm

      I’ve lived in viet nam for 15 yrs and my family from the north and south both talk about sai gon — not this neo-correct clunky bs handle imposed by the geriatrics in ha noi . Funny , most of the ‘oh so earnest’ N G O s that are freshly arrived prickle with the same pompousity . And you’re dead on right , Anna , Hanoi is shameless with entitlement to shake down the accidental tourist, And don’t nobody forgit it !

  17. Hans
    Dec 21, 2015 / 5:13 pm

    We are going to leave for hanoi tomorrow after 4 days hcmc.
    Well, food in hcmc can be very good and inspiring if you to find a well recommended restaurant.
    The street food in hcmc looks very mostly very poor (pictures on the internet are so misleading); the cook having her bare feed on the meat that lies in the sun takes the appetite away for me. Sure, if you feel like it, go for it. But i stay well clear.

  18. Em
    May 16, 2016 / 7:34 pm

    I visited Vietnam couple of months ago and. I was quite surprised by the behavior of the locals. They are arrogant, disrespectful, and impolite, especially the people in Hanoi. I was also scammed by the hostel that I’ve stayed in Hoi An. I enjoyed Hanoi’s weather, though.

    • May 18, 2016 / 3:29 pm

      Yeah, same experience as mine 🙁

  19. Si Truong
    Jun 12, 2016 / 3:40 am

    Hi Anna,

    I am so sorry for your bad feeling about Hanoi.
    I’m from HCMc (Sai Gon), Vietnam. Just looking around for some Mexico famous things just for my English group.
    (You know, I have been learning English and we would talk about Mexico this week).

    In fact, I haven’t traveled to Hanoi yet. But I believe I would be in same situation with you if I were there. I mean charged for food 2 – 3 times than the locals. They do that with all other part people, not only foreigners.

    I actually don’t like them, but I think not everyone there do the same thing.
    I feel ashamed when I read your bad feeling (and others here) about us Vietnamese.
    And I am really sorry about that.

    But I ensure you almost people here is very friendly (at least the southerner), especially to the foreigner.
    Maybe our government should have some better policy to help foreigner have a better experiences here and understand more about Vietnamese.

    Anyway, thank you so much for your information here so that I can understand more how foreigner think about us.
    Hope to have chance to see you again here in Vietnam.
    Very nice weekend, Anna 🙂

    • Jun 16, 2016 / 4:16 pm

      That’s what I heard about people from Hanoi from the lovely people I met in Sapa. I still need to get to HCMc, I heard it’s incredible!

  20. katrina
    Jun 23, 2016 / 2:02 am

    I can’t believe you guys have all had bad experiences in Vietnam.
    We visited in 2012, arriving in HCMC then travelling to Hoi An. We had a excellent time. The food was excellent, even the most ugly fish I have ever seen which we had on our trip to the Mekong (I went back for 2nd’s and 3rd’s and I don’t eat fish as a rule). We never felt like we paid more of the food than the locals, I guess after all it was still way cheaper than what we would pay back home.
    We were never spoken to rudely or distrustful way. All the service we got was a lot better than we get back here at home to be honest.
    Guess that’s why in 6 weeks we are heading back over doing Hoi An to Ha Long Bay this time.

  21. Kim
    Dec 22, 2016 / 4:40 pm

    I am vietnameE American traveling to Vietnam for the first time. We started out in SAigon and loved it. Yes they will probably charge you a bit more as foreigners in the south maybe 1-2 bucks more but heck it doesn’t make much difference to us does it? Most of the time I found the Vietnamese were very honest and super friendly. I tried to tip them and they didn’t want to take more money even when we received get service. Also when to Phu quoc which had super friendly people. I didn’t like the whole trash and plastic problem they had on the island.

    Anyhoo- don’t go to Hanoi. My family warned me that they are very rude even to the southerners. If you speak a different dialect they are rude to you. They don’t like anyone besides Bac Ky. That’s the term we use. I never understood why until finally experiencing it myself. Such difficult and mean people. I am not bias bc my dad’s side of the family is from Hanoi. I can understand why many foreigners would not want to come back.

  22. Marina
    Jan 13, 2017 / 11:20 am

    I was unlucky enough to move to Hanoi for a year, and this was a real nightmare . I had travelled a lot before, and this was the worst city i’ve ever been to! Dirty, unwelcome and mean, it discouraged me to explore Vietnam any further and leave it asap. I thought I was probably too demanding, since so many expats love it and even call it their favourite place in the world (are they crazy?), but after reading your post I’m relieved to know I am not alone in my feelings about the city 🙂

    • Jan 13, 2017 / 12:49 pm

      I don’t think we’re the only ones actually… Before writing this post I read a lot of articles stating the same thing 😉

  23. Lesley
    Jan 15, 2017 / 1:23 pm

    My partner and I have just returned from a 17 day trip to Vietnam and Cambodia.We went with open minds but after saving for a bit to do this trip feel pretty flat (not to mention still being ill) about most of our time in Vietnam. We went to Saigon, Hoi An, Hanoi and Halong Bay. Of these Halong Bay was the nicest by far but certainly not breathtaking (more spectacular places in Europe and the Med that are much cheaper to visit from the UK). We were however lucky to be on a small junk boat with a nice bunch of people and our tour boat guide was lovely as were the boat crew. In general we did find the people fairly friendly and helpful in both the North and South although don’t really understand what other tourists think is beautiful about any of the cities or the surrounding countryside of Vietnam nor the food which we thought was just pretty bland and boring. Perhaps Vietnam is just not our kind of place but the dirt and rubbish on the streets and at the sides of rivers is overwhelming. Can’t really say that any of the countryside we saw on our 16hr train ride from Siagon to Da Nang was anything to write home about either – just lots of rice fields. We did get a bit tired of being constantly asked to purchase things particulalrly in Hoi An and it didn’t leave a good taste in our mouths when we realised that we had been ripped off on arrival at Saigon airport by both the currency exchange people and the taxis to the tune of $150. We did try to make the most of our time there however and did a few really good tours in Saigon including a motorbike street food tour and the Chu Chi tunnels and a water buffalo cart trip in Hoi an. By contrast our short time in Siem Reap in Cambodia was fab. The people were really lovely and the food very tasty. All in all Vietnam was an ‘experience’ but not one that I would like to repeat.

  24. Wayne
    Mar 19, 2017 / 7:09 am

    Hi, Anna. I’ve been to Hanoi and I concur. There were moments of happiness there, but they were outnumbered about ten to one by blatant racism (treating you like a dog because you are white/farang), attempted scams, attempted overcharging at restaurants etc.

    I’m an Aussie and we don’t take crap from anyone. When you make an agreement, you should stick to it. Not the Vietnamese.

    Agreed 50 000 Dong for a quick motorbike taxi to take me back to my hotel (wrote 50 000 on paper, showed him the place on a map, shook on it).

    This weasel guy drops me in a lane 200 m short (near his mate’s house) and they are both trying to pressure me to pay 200 000. I threw 60 000 at him and told him to stick it up his clacker. Then walked back to my hotel in the old city, fuming. There are some truly horrible locals in that dirty place.

    I’ve been to over thirty countries: Vietnam is the worst. I will never go there again.

    Go to Thailand or Fiji and you’ll have a much better time without the hassles.

  25. Mar 25, 2017 / 9:04 am

    I feel so bad that you had such a bad experience.

    We decided to spend 91 Days in Saigon, after we decided and booked our apartment and flights everyone was telling us that Hanoi is so much better and it would be a mistake! So I started reading about horror stories from Saigon (there are plenty) and thought we just made a huge mistake and we’re going to hate it.

    2 month passed and we’re loving Saigon and South Vietnam, actually so much that we decided to add 3 month to explore the North. So reading your article about Hanoi makes me giggle and I’m thinking to myself, we’re probably going to love it! But only because every experience / mind set is different.

    Everything you write about applies to Saigon as well and you can have the very same experience here. I think it helps to stay away from the main touristy areas and be vary of super friendly people approaching you. But at the same time when you’re in a residential area people are genuinely nice like that. One of the most friendly and helpful people we encountered in our 7 years of traveling.

    Also it hurts me heart that you had such bad food experiences because it’s amazing: http://saigon.for91days.com/saigon-street-food-journal-1/ And most places are in our neighborhood without following any recommendation. If a place looks popular we go and eat there. We eat in the streets exclusively 2 or 3 times a day and only very rarely the food wasn’t good. It’s more risky to get sick in a western style restaurant.

    So for everyone reading this, it’s good to do your research but at the same time your experience is yours to make.

  26. CRAIG JUNG
    Apr 17, 2017 / 12:18 pm

    So bad I’m reading this at my hotel in Hanoi. I’m traveling around South East Asia for the first time and I have to agree with every single word you said. I just came to Hanoi this afternoon and I’m ready to get the hell outta here tonight.

  27. Apr 22, 2017 / 5:27 am

    Hello Anna, and thank you for your thoughtful and honest post about Hanoi. I’m glad to know (like many other commenters) that my wife and I are not alone!

    We are travel junkies, and vacation time or PTO is what we live for. As Texans, unlike so many of our brethren, we choose to broaden our horizons instead of living in a bubble of familiarity. We’ve done Europe (7 countries) over 15 times, and we expanded our repertoire to Southeast Asia beginning in 2013. Having utterly fallen in love with Thailand and all things Thai, our formula these last 4 trips is to arrive from the US to Bangkok for 2-3 days to shake the jet lag. Then we do a side trip for 4-5 days to an unfamiliar destination (I will call this the Middle Trip). After, we end with 5-7 days in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand where we plan to call home at some point in our lives.

    Last year, the Middle Trip was Krabi — not to be missed, but I will not convert this Hanoi post into a Thailand advertisement — you will catch my drift throughout, but a visit to Hanoi is the best advertisement any Thai destination needs.

    As I type, we are on our 4th trip to Thailand as I type, and I am also typing less than 12 hours after having completed our visit to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. You can sum it up our conclusion as follows — a 5 day scheduled trip to Hanoi (with 1 of those in Ha Long Bay) was converted to a 3 day trip (including Ha Long Bay) and a $200 travel budget bust to get us back to Bangkok as quickly as possible. Well worth the money!

    I hesitate to criticize any country that has opened its borders to me, so for any readers, please understand that our experiences were just that — experiences. Our perspective, our opinion, and our feelings. We are not assigning our opinion to people or an entire country — just what we saw and experienced first hand in Hanoi. We are not your obnoxious American traveler-type either. We don’t show up in our pro/college sports team tees and caps, wearing our Beats and Bose headphones, talking loudly and demanding every local dish be modified to our western palates. Those travelers annoy and are despised by us far more than anything else on a vacation. We are open minded folks who love culture, immersing ourselves as much as possible, and trying to live like locals. That is why it is hard to be negative about any of our destinations.

    I will sum things up regarding Hanoi into 5 topics – noise, safety, people, accommodations, and cost/value. On the whole, the food was actually very underwhelming. We had better Vietnamese food in Texas, the U.K., and even the French Riviera than what we ate in Hanoi.

    1. Noise — nothing can prepare you for the noise. Close your eyes and imagine jackhammers, motorcycles, yelling angry adults, crying babies, cell phone rings and chimes, and honking horns as far as the ear can hear. Imagine that is all happening in a 100 square foot room. Then, convert that to most of a 1,200 square mile city with 7.5 million population. The city is busy, noisy, and overstimulating to every one of your 5 senses — I think there may be a special sense called “Hanoi” that is a combination of the overstimulated 5 senses. I still have ringing in my ears 12 hours after having flown from Hanoi to Bangkok. We cannot figure out why car horns and scooter horns are utilized so frequently in the Vietnam capital — Is it a warning to pedestrians and others on the road? Is it a “get out of my way” signal? Or is it simply a “I have this device on my vehicle that makes noise, and I must use it every 30 seconds”? Perhaps it is a combination of all 3.

    2. Safety — safety should be a major concern for all who travel to Hanoi. The stats warn about air quality with all of the scooters and cars used by so many people. More so, however, there are 30 — yes, 30 — deaths caused by vehicle accidents each day. What most consider to be traffic laws and customs are simply options in Hanoi. The “walk” traffic signal does not mean a thing. The round-a-bout was makeshift and the arrows were ignored. It was terrifying but then humorous (from afar) to watch as people darted and sped and honked and cut and passed — without incident in most cases. Traffic lanes, stop signs, stop lights, etc are pointless except for the folks that got paid to manufacture and install them. Yielding a right of way or anything resembling roadway courtesy seems to be dissuaded and something taught to do the opposite of in Hanoi.

    Walking around the city can also be dangerous and requires complete vigilance and a level of confidence and trust you never knew rested within you. Sidewalks are for parking scooters, washing dishes, and cooking — not for walking. Therefore, you have to walk in the street with non-stop traffic — sometimes creeping up behind you, and sometimes clipping you with their cargo being held on the back of a scooter with a shoestring (yes, that happened with a birdhouse tied to the back of a scooter that blew past me. I still have the bruise to prove it, and I’m a lucky one). Crossing a street was more daunting than what I envision jumping out of a plane might feel like. Once you go and start to cross, cross with a purpose and do not, under any circumstances stop or change your mind mid-way. When possible, you should try to make eye contact with drivers so they see you and they know you see them.

    3. People — the staff at our hotel, 90% of restaurants, and all car drivers were phenomenally friendly and helpful. Our hotel (Hotel Marvellous in the Old Quarter) staff could not have tried harder to make omus feel welcome, spoiled, and have no need unmet. Most drivers were arranged by a tour company (Ha Long Bay overnight) or our hotel, and they were friendly, patient, and careful with us!

    For 10% of the restaurants and the rickshaw drivers, prepare to feel like a hindrance and prepare to be scammed. I will share 2 instances:

    Our first night, we wanted the rickshaw experience. The driver told us 100K VND (approximately $5 USD). Probably overcharging, but reasonable by US taxi and Uber standards. When we agreed, he tried to have us take 2 rickshaws at 100K per. When we said no, we are traveling together, he reluctantly agreed. Then, once we got to our destination, he said “No no no, it is 100K per person!” Thankfully our hotel staff intervened and the scam was broken.

    At a restaurant that was relatively crowded, I asked if there was wifi by pointing to my phone. I was met with an expressionless face and a waving finger and a shaking head. On the way back from the toilet, I noticed a room set aside with what appeared to be locals — we were seated amongst other similar looking people — Americans, Europeans, Canadians, etc. On the wall in the locals-only room was the wifi network ID and password. Why lie to us? Just out of spite?

    To be sure, those were 2 of hundreds of interactions with people over the course of 3 days. Therefore, I consider these isolated but also something to be wary of in Hanoi. I will not generalize the entire population based only on those few occurrences.

    4. Accommodations — you get what you pay for, but also be cautious and very specific about what you want when making your bookings. A decent and clean hotel will run not less than $80 USD. If you spend less, you will get less. I backpacked in hostels in college, and I literally just needed a place to lay my head and have a shower. Now, married with a kid in college, that’s not how we travel. We are budget conscious and look for deals, but we also know when to call BS on something if it looks too good to be true.

    So, if you are traveling like us and might be a bit picky, just be specific with what you want. You can’t be satisfied if someone doesn’t know how to satisfy you. Hotels and tour companies want nothing less than for you to make other arrangements or cancel. If you ask for a quiet room, you need to ask if there are rooms above, a dining room above, or if the walls are thin. Explain exactly what your definition of “quiet” means as it can mean many different things to many different people. Things will get lost in translation and what we think of as a quiet room (a room where we can sleep at night), to them might be a room that is quiet during the day but maybe not at night. We weren’t as specific as we should have been, but the hoteliers and cruise companies were also not as forthcoming as they could have been. Such was the case for our overnight Ha Long Bay cruise. We got the room away from the anchor, engine, and pumping station. But we also got the room directly below the outdoor dining area. Apparently the staff likes to shuffle the tables on the wood deck until about midnight, and then I can only surmise that they like to do Zumba or jumping jacks on the same deck beginning at 5AM!! Not the wake up call we expected and certainly not the time we wanted to be wakened.

    5. Cost/Value — things are cheaper in Hanoi to be sure. A good local meal could cost less than $1 USD, and a fine dining experience (an up and coming trend in Hanoi) will run $20-50 USD per person. It is hard to know if you’re getting scammed, and it likely doesn’t matter all that much as it won’t be for more than a few bucks by US standards. The Ha Long Bay tour will get you though — $200-300 for one night on a nicer boat (includes room and 3 very tasty meals), but like any other cruise, they will push all the extras — spa treatments, booze, and add-ons like desserts and souvenirs. Aside from the noisy room, Ha Long Bay was beautiful. It’s the effort and time it takes to get there that is the challenge. For 3 days in Hanoi, I was a millionaire for a minute by pulling out 2 million VND out of the ATM — the equivalent of $100 USD. That was all I needed for the duration having used credit cards for the nicer meals and the cruise.

    So, to sum it all up for you. We wanted to visit Vietnam, and we have now done that. We left earlier than scheduled to return to the familiar and friendly surroundings of Thailand. More people, but more structure, more pollution, but less noise, and of course, many more smiles. While I’m sure many will beg to differ from our opinions and find critiques in our experiences, that is perfectly fine by us. As I noted, we can only speak for ourselves and we by no means think that our opinions are facts and the rules. We’ve checked Hanoi off our list, and we are glad to have it behind us.

  28. SHELLEE
    May 10, 2017 / 9:44 am

    We are in Hanoi at the moment and we are leaving a day early cause to put it politely we hate it. I don’t have a problem with any food we have eaten here and the hotel is good. But I have found the people rude and arrogant. You go into a shop and they just look at you like you shouldn’t be in there. We loved Hoi an, a really awesome place to visit. And we also really enjoyed Ho Chi Minh city as well

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *