Why I Won’t Be Visiting Hanoi Again

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 Vietnam 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 only the northern part of the country. I spent a few days in Hanoi, cruised around Halong Bay, and hiked in Sapa. While I obviously can’t speak for the entire country, since I haven’t been to Saigon or Da Nang, this is what I experienced in Hanoi.

Why I Won’t Be Visiting Hanoi Again

This post refers to my experience in Hanoi and only Hanoi. Before commenting, please keep in mind that nowhere have I said this refers to an entire country – I haven’t visited enough places in Vietnam to say that.

As the trip was approaching, I started hearing and reading horrible things about Vietnam, especially the northern parts. Other travel bloggers were either in love with the country (That Backpacker, Legal Nomads), or listing it as definitely not their favorite destinations (Nomadic Matt, Chasing the Unknown, Alex in Wanderland).

I was prepared for the possibility of getting scammed. Scams happen everywhere and this alone wouldn’t destroy my opinion about the entire place. After all, the ratio could be one bad person to ten good people.  But, it turned out that no matter how prepared I was, there will always be a way that you can get screwed over when visiting Hanoi by many, many locals.DSC00909

Food in Hanoi

I grew up on Vietnamese food. 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 with the food. After living in underdeveloped countries, I learned to love street food and I understand what cooking conditions might be. I often eat food cooked in strange conditions in the middle of nowhere in Mexico and love it, I definitely 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 is prepared on the spot and consumed while sitting on small blue plastic chairs usually outside. 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. Did I get unlucky? Maybe…

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 got sick abroad. Never.

Every time I went out to eat I felt unwelcome by vendors trying to charge me double what they were charging the locals. They asked me to give them 50, but right in front of me, they asked a local man for 5. I know that everyone wants to make money off tourists, but why not humor the tourists and do it discretely?

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 I went for dinner.

I got a bun cha, a cold Vietnamese soup with pork served with vermicelli and crab rolls. Everything would have been fine if I didn’t feel the sand or dirt in my teeth after eating the salad.

Almost clean
Almost clean salad
Pho served with some fried fat dough.
Pho served with some fried fat dough.

After 9 PM almost every street vendor was 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.

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 very cold, obviously. ‘Where is 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 thin stripe of cheese. Interesting.

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 admit that you know it.

The worst part of it is that when you actually do pay attention to the behavior of the locals, you’ll notice they laugh about scamming you in Vietnamese right in front of you. Scam me, but humor me and laugh about it later.

The problem with scams in Hanoi isn’t just scamming tourists. I’ll pay more and get mad, but I’ll go back home and make up for the money I lost. However, Hanoi locals are scamming fellow Vietnamese people which I described in a separate post.

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.

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 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.DSC00973

War Museum in Hanoi.
Museum in Hanoi.
visiting Hanoi
Poor frogger 🙁

Vietnam has only a 5% return rate. In comparison, other Southeast Asian destinations like Thailand, have over 55% (Source: The Economist). Hanoi 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, especially since I know there are many beautiful spots around the country. 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.

P.S. Keep in mind that if you want to send me an angry email saying that Hanoi was awesome, save us both some time. One person might like the destination, other will not. Also, since 2014 some things have changed in Hanoi and quite frankly the city became cleaner for sure.

156 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Be Visiting Hanoi Again”

  1. 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 🙂 🙂

        • 🙂 every country have their own problem if you go Thailand yes they will take you with friendly, because they do tourist for a long time and Vietnam people don’t even have a basic experiment of tourist we are industry and farming country we just know how tourist bring up from 2007 when foreign people come more

      • I currently live and work near Saigon…
        I love it here but theres definitely things I dislike too, primarily the noise and the food (but luckily theres enough international fare here to ensure I don’t starve!)

        I agree about Hanoi. I enjoyed visiting but wouldn’t dream of moving there. It felt like going into a time machine and not in a good way. Luckily I haven’t dealt with as many scams from locals nor as much xenophobia as I did in Thailand but maybe I’m lucky. For me, honestly the worst thing here has been the other expats!

  2. 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.

    • 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 🙂

      • This is correct they will RIP you offf in Broad daylight robbery. You think it only a 2 dollars or so but the reality is that it usually half the price. And if you decided to lease a property , that is where the major rip of comes in to play when you are foreigner. They ARE people paying 1000 usd for a studio, and then the viet landlord comes up with some excuse that it is in a nice distrait. Vietnam is the home of scam artist and cheaters because the govt are int to it too

    • I have been in Vietnam for ten days now, coming from Thailand I’m in chock!
      I must say that the feeling is not the same. People are angry, rude and pushy. I have to watch my back everywhere I go after a bad experience with a Grab driver in HCM… Trying to find any beauty here but in vain.

      • We just recently returned from a bucket list trip – two 71 year old Canadians. Loved our former travels in Thailand 15-20 years ago, planning our trip and making our own arrangements, but this time opted for a two week tour of Vietnam and Cambodia as well, never having visited there before.
        I feel ripped off and really disappointed that we wasted so much of our holiday in Vietnam. Even with a guided tour arranged from home but with a Hanoi based travel agency we felt scammed and misled. Wouldn’t have touched the street food there after seeing such unsanitary conditions, although we have travelled quite a bit and normally that is what we head for in other countries.
        Our guide would point out particular vendors as he took us to some historical sites to say they were trustworthy. I bought two silk scarves at his recommendation, only to find out when home the label said 100% polyester. I would have known if , after feeling the display ones I had not been handed my purchases sealed in cellophane wrapper.
        Traffic was a nightmare, two days in Hanoi and it took forever to get over the constant clamor of non stop honking horns! Even in our hotel we couldn’t get a decent sleep as the government had workers just below our window ripping up concrete slabs all night to work on something underground. The weather was cold and drizzly in February and our hotel’s included breakfast was in a lower floor eating area with no food to keep the outdoor low temperatures out. So we huddled in coats and scarves trying to eat.
        These were the first days of our tour, and other than the water puppet show, I can’t think of anything enjoyable in Hanoi.
        Happily, our overnight cruise in Halong Bay was lovely with a great guide and crew.
        Also, loved Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
        So another couple of places checked off on our list, but we have absolutely no desire at all to return.
        By the way, Thailand continues to hold a special spot in our hearts.

      • You can not found the friendly in the major city where people work like crazy right ? try other urban it or Danang Major but it is Major tourist or HaiPhong Heaven of food in Vietnam

  3. 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!

      • Pho is 1.50$ for Westerners. You will always pay more then locals unless the price is posted. You will also get a smaller portion. It wears you down after a while.

        • No man. As a Vietnamese but living overseas, I’m telling you, 1 bowl of pho in a local market is already 35000 dong, which is about CAD$2. If you’re just as cheap, don’t expect you get a big portion 🙂 You get what you pay for.

    • I spent three weeks in danang , February and March 2018. The people were so nice to me. I was in the war back in 1970 and 1971. I thought the people would hate me, but they didn’t hold that against me. I want to go back for a month and travel from Saigon to Hanoi on motorscooter , my friend and me rented scooters when we were there. It was crazy but we truly enjoyed it. Don’t eat the street food. Vietnam can be a wonderful experience!!!!

    • you might not want to go to any restaurant that looks fancy because it always taste really bad. I prefer to go a street restaurant at Nguyen Du street, it could be a abit expensive the food tastes great.

  4. 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 🙁

    • 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… 🙁

      • Well and theres the point where I see that you actually had no interest in learning or approaching vietnams culture or try to understand vietnamese at all. For a westener its very weird seeing vietnamese laugh everytime you approach at first but its their way of life. Often laughing and joking even when they are angry while being angry and shouting at others is considered as “loosing your face” and being very rude.
        If you behave like a supreme colonialist because you earn more money then most of Vietnam then you are definitely in the wrong place looking for a good treatment in an “untamed and wild” place like Vietnam. So you better go to “touristically, unauthentic, tamed” Thailand then. But if you show respect, act friendly, calm and think before you do then Vietnam is paradise on earth.

  5. 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!

      • Hanoi is s wonderful place, friendly people, great food, winging about 50cents ????? foreigners pay a little extra, what did you expect as a tourist, same the world over, maybe you are a little paranoid thinking people are laughing at you or talking about you, they really couldnt care less, have lived here for 8 years and never given a small portion of food because i am a foriegner

        • Yes Terry, as far as my experience goes, these folk are magnificent (unless you piss them off). Anna, it seems, came to Vietnam & like the US forces so long ago, just didn’t prepare.
          In my 10 years of visiting for one month each year, I’ve only had joy and hospitality. Hanoi will not miss Anna or her ardent followers. Vietnamese are family loyal, too busy looking after their own, to be tolerant of spoiled western kids with a sense of some debt owed.
          Sounds like she and her kind should be imposing themselves on Singapore, more their style. I’ve been almost everywhere & choose Vietnam as my 2nd home.
          Anyway, Lech Walesa is about the only modern day Pole I admire.
          Good that you call this girl to order. I have plenty more to say but, I’ll settle for “go suffer somewhere else Anna, leave these wonderful folk alone”
          One follower said the VN are lazy? 3rd largest exporter of rice, Apple have moved their iPhone manufacture there & when Dubai wants to build something serious they get VN construction companies to send in their team of 20,000 or so to get the job done.
          I’ve never had a bad moment with these people.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  8. 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.

    • 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 🙁

      • You use statements like “I realized it happens to the majority” that are based on a few or many (subjective) people you’ve met. Please be careful with that, it may get you to very misleading or nor real conclusion. Your reality and your experience are only yours, not all Vietnamese are lazy (like I read someone wrote in another comment) and not everything is disgusting.

        • Experience justifies our assumptions. I f I got scammed by locals in Vietnam, and met other people who also got scammed, who are you to say our experience isn’t valid!

      • How can you say this happens to the majority? Traveling through Asia all I ever here is people raving about Vietnam and Hanoi. I would say its the minority that dislike Hanoi or Vietnam.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

      • 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,

        • Just for your head up, S Korea was not much different from Hanoi eons ago. That’s why I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Finally visited again after decades, it’s been changed a lot.

  12. 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!

    • Hanoi is absolutely lovely. I found the food delicious and the city beautiful, in a chaotic, jungley way. The architecture, the colors, the vegetation, the cafes, the lakes. It was all wonderful. The condensed milk coffee takes getting used to but after a few tries, I started liking it that way as the coffee itself is rather bitter. Don’t let one person’s negative experience turn you off so easily!

  13. 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!

  14. 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?

    • 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.

      • 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 .

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

      • There is a lot of resentment in America between the North and the South because of the Civil War in which the North forcibly made the South stay in the country. The Vietnamese in the South were often bought by American money and hundreds of thousands of them fought the US invasion with a heroism never seen in history. It is no joke to be hit with eight and a half million tons of bombs and Agent Orange defoliation that destroyed vast areas of the country and produces hundreds of thousands of deformed babies. Several million Vietnamese civilians were killed by the Americans in that war. The rudeness with which Westerners are treated in Vietnam today may have something to do with that unbelievably horrific history.

      • Vietnam’s civil war was none of America’s business. America had no more reason to dump four times the tonnage of bombs there than in the whole world in the Second World War and defoliate the country with Agent Orange and kill millions of civilians there than Vietnam would have the right to do the same in America. Go figure. Ho Chi Minh’s regime was a matter for the Vietnamese, not Americans. America has supported plenty of regimes around the world far more brutal than Ho’s. For instance, the government of the Pakistani military dictator Yahya Khan which butchered 3 million Bengalis in 1971. If you want to tally atrocity for atrocity America will not be the winner.

    • 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 !

      • You still seem botherd that the Vietnamese did not submit to American aggression no matter how powerful the USA was.

    • The name Saigon was used by the Republic of South Vietnam before the fall of Saigon in 1975,it has nothing to do with attackers or aggressors. After the communist took over, they renamed it Ho Chi Minh City(just like Leningrade).Most Vietnamese still use the name “Saigon”.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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 🙂

    • 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!

      • I think you can give it another try with the help of a local friend. Because of the uncontrol from the government, a lot of uneducated ones can freely open their own vendors or approach foreign tourists to just rip them off. And I think it was your case. I would have whole different experience with helps from friends in Hanoi. But you know, if you want the same experience as you have in developed countries while travelling, I think Hanoi just doesn’t suit you. I met many friends who who shared with me that you can only enjoy here in Hanoi if you can accept things and get on with it in a proper way. For example, bargaining is one of the things that is very common in Vietnam so just have fun with it.
        However, the things related to pet food are the ones making me ashamed. But I think the middle class now just avoid doing it

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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: https://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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

    • A Chiang Mai local stumbled upon your comment. I would not say anything about the topic of the post since it’s my personal rule not to mention anything bad with sth which is out of my business. Just want to say thanks for your comment regarding CM. Glad and welcome you to call our small city home as some point in your lives as you said. Anyway please don’t expect too much. Sometimes when things do not go according to our level of expectation we are disappointed. TH (and CM) is not different from every places. We are just a small country which have good and bad things, also good and bad people. Hope you see the first ones wherever you go, not just in our city or our country but everywhere in the world.

      Be our guest again any time. You are always welcome.

  26. 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

  27. As a Vietnamese, I attest that what you said about Ha Noi is pretty much accurate. Even for Vietnamese people, Ha Noi is not considered an ideal destination, that explains why most tourists in Ha Noi are foreigners. People in Ha Noi are countrywide known for being not very friendly, disagreeable, rude and region-ist (if that’s even a thing). I know not all of them are like that but still. My friend went to Ha Noi several times and each time, her family (who all come from Ha Noi) told her not to speak to vendors because if they ever heard her accent (she’s from the South), she would definitely got scammed.

    Getting scammed is not uncommon in Vietnam, especially for foreigners. But getting scammed inevitably as even a Vietnamese is something Ha Noi almost best known for. The best and safest way (though not always doable) to explore the city of Ha Noi is to have a local friend to show you around.

  28. Wow! Anna, I am not surprised that you didn’t like Hanoi. I visited Hanoi at the end of our long motorbike journey starting from Saigon and all the way to Hanoi, and so by that time I was already familiar and getting used to the infamous Vietnamese scams. I developed a thick skin by then hehe. I won’t say that I didn’t have a good time, in fact, it was one of the most memorable motorbike trips I ever! But oh boy, I agree with you on each & everything, Vietnamese in general can very cold and insensitive, they do not have the capacity to think rationally, their acts are overridden by emotions, their dishonesty is glaring and they have anything to do with you except to think of you as a potential prey.

    We (my partner and I ) were scammed when we bought a second 2nd hand bike in Saigon ( the battery was gone after 1 hr of driving and millions of repairs along the way, which cost us dearly), we were charged exorbitant prices for fruits (and then the fruit sellers, mostly women, would laugh at us ), we were treated very coldly in most tourist places, even repairing the bike was a nightmare, once my partner, went to repair his bike and since it was a ‘spoilt to rotten’- tourist area the owner of the repair centre tried to scam us by quoting a ridiculous price for fixing the bike (he didn’t fix anything), when my partner refused to agree on that price and started to take out the bike from the garage, this man, owner of the centre, not even the mechanic ( he will take commission from the mechanic) rushed inside the house to get a metal club to hit my partner! Just imagine? and people were merely watching instead of stopping him ???? What kind of act is this!? Also, later that day our Guest House owner and her friends inquired about the incident, when I told them what happened they started laughing? I couldn’t fathom what was wrong with these people? And these days I have been hearing a lot of incidents on how foreigners are a victim of road rage in Vietnam, getting beaten and punched left & right. Vietnamese men are also women beaters, the have no respect for women. The food only at times I found palatable. I didn’t like most things, I don’t want to talk about the hygiene level of the food as after 3 years in SEAsia my immune system is impeccably strong 🙂 haha. Anyways, I am not here to spread hate, but just saying, we had much better experiences with Indonesians, Burmese or say Malaysians. Oh if I didn’t tell you, I love how down to earth person you are <3 xx Keep travelling

    • Do not generalize from your own experience plz. We, vietnamese wonmen, are so offended at your defamatory remark

      • What did you expect? Americans feel bitter about being defeated by your people. They will never forgive you.

      • lmfao! viet women aren’t whores? why am i constantly approached by them on the street, in shops, etc. on a daily basis?

        most are. in fact, i could screw 95% of the women in this country, just based on my wealth/passports alone.

        you must be having a laugh.

        • You’re approached because you’re a walking and living wallet to them. Think about how much 10 usd is in Vietnamese dong.. that’s a hella lot of money. And no, Vietnamese women aren’t whores, they’re just really really materialistic.

  29. I went here because of work not tourism so I’m coming at it from a different angle. I wasn’t looking for an “authentic cultural experience”; I just wanted to do my job and leave. I didn’t have a problem with scammers as I never shopped or ate anywhere without a printed price list. I took Grab everywhere. No one ever tried to threaten or intimidate me, but I didn’t go out much. The weather was awful and everything was filthy, just like most SEA cities. Occasionally I would see western travelers with their giant backpacks and hippie elephant pants wandering around, holding maps and broiling to death in the awful humidity while being ripped off quite obviously. For the life of me, I have no idea why people willingly subject themselves to such things.

  30. Hi we have only just got back. Hanoi absolutely terrible and rude people !!! They are only nice if they are getting something from you or making a sale !! We felt the same with Hoi an and Hue. We will never go back . We were in a restaurant and 9 times we were interupted whilst eating with selling nuts cards and even wanting to do threading to remove facial hair from my husband !!! Beware if you go felt like you were always looking over your shoulder for he next scammer

  31. Hanoi is not a beautiful city, but it has its own climate. People in Hanoi and Vietnam were very nice to me and I would gladly come back there.

  32. I will be in Hanoi in two weeks. My major concern is food poisoning. Looking at the food stall on the street, I don’t think I’ll get out of Hanoi alive, even though I didn’t get shot to death during the conflict. Because my immune isn’t strong enough to go to even Chinese restaurant in US. I hope there are alternatives to have a meal.

  33. I have read your post and all of the comments written below. I’m currently in Hanoi (first night here)… the streets are definitely chaotic and I’m not surprised about the comment the Texan man wrote about being nicked by a motorbike. It’s quite a challenge crossing the streets here and they are very narrow in the Old Quarter. Honking is per usual in Vietnam (we spent a few days in HCMC/Sai Gon so we know what it is already). We are trying not to judge based on anyone elses experiences but ours but so far I could say that for the most part this article is correct. We have yet to experience the scamming but in all honesty bargaining is a way of life here… we’ve even had to bargain water because we knew we were being charged more lol… that was in Hoi An. The people definitely play a role in your well-being but if you can get past the cold-hearted people and focus on the nice people then you shouldn’t have a problem. My boyfriend and I live by one rule when traveling — never let yourself be persuaded into anything, if you need something or some help ALWAYS be the one to approach instead of letting yourself get approached. Less chances of being scammed. I do have to make one last note, if not a pretty disturbing one, about what we’ve seen in this city 5 hours in… there was a woman with a missing hand, missing fingers, missing/deformed toes, crawling on all fours in the filthy streets pulling a baby in a cart. This was a very hard sight to see and we just wanted to warn everyone so that you are aware of what you might see here.

  34. We had a similar experience in Hanoi. Dirty, chaotically busy. Every street we were harrassed by rikshaw drivers. The nicest park in the city was gated off for government use only. The Garden City… Ha! Terrible coffee, the same cookie cutter bar designed to lure in foreigners. We were sold food in a restaurant that was delivered take-away from another restaurant. Constantly overcast, ugly tourist traps. By comparison, Halong Bay cruise was beautiful and Nha Trang was lovely. HCMC was tolerable mostly because we had friends there. Accommodation was another good part of our trip, lovely open rooms and accomodating staff. Excellent massage and cheap cocktails. We are yet to visit Sa Pa but our expectations are reasonably high thanks to beautiful images online. Really hoping this last leg of our trip is not a disappointment!

  35. Hello Anna,
    It is painful to read this article since I am a Hanoi people.
    Frankly, your view is right. Not only foreigners but also locals need to be careful in Hanoi, especially in the Old quarter.
    However, truly to say, you just get the cursory view. You just rust the Hanoi in some days without care and then produce this conclusion which may not fair for all of Hanoi citizens. Not only foreigners visit Hanoi, me – a Hanoi people, really need to research about any destination before going and also be careful in strange places. To support to my idea, you can see many tourists still go back, even you can see in the comments, or you can read in some books good for tourists such as Hanoi stories by Pam Scott.
    Beside of scammers, many but very small rate in Hanoi people who often gather in Old quarter, all of Hanoi people are friendly with foreigners for sure. If you go out with open-minded, many young people want to talk to you, to guide you, old people will smile friendly to you. To be wiser, you can find easily the real life of locals who work hard for living, who respect themselves and others. Then, you can find the charm of local living.
    In conclusion, every thing has many views from different eyes, moods, attitudes, ways of seeing, etc. Painfully for all of Hanoi people, your view is true partly. Regretfully for you, waste your time in Hanoi and miss a good chance to explore the charm here.

    As a Hanoi people, I would recommend for someone before visiting Hanoi:
    – Be careful with any tourism services, especially with sellers in tourism areas such as Old quarter who earn money from tourist for living.
    – Have local friends is the best, if not, find on Google for young clubs which have plenty of volunteers who are not good at English but really nice, enthusiastic and helpful for tourists (many of them will help you freely to exchange your conversation by English). If you cannot find, contact me by [email protected] for truly help.

  36. Hi Anna,

    Thank you for your honest post. I just wanted to add my two cents to visiting Vietnam in general for any future readers.

    I’ve met a handful of wonderful people and seen beautiful scenery along with eating great food while here in Vietnam, but I also won’t be returning, not because of the scams or anything like that. I can recognize a scam from a mile away, but it’s a comparison of cultures. Had I never experienced Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, even Malaysia (which I also don’t care for), I may not have had any issues with Vietnam, but when I compare my experiences, I just feel a constant general unease being in Vietnam. That is, I feel constantly on guard. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in Hanoi, Hoi An, Danang, HCMC, it’s the same sense of unease. The closest I could say is Bangkok. But there’s something so much more innocent about the scams there, I find. It’s hard to put one’s finger on. But it all adds up to a kind of stress.

    I would place Bali as the spiritual opposite of Vietnam. I find the people of Bali the most generous in spirit and heart (as a whole). Whatever is the opposite of that, I would reserve for Vietnam. Naturally, there are many many many exceptions (in both places). I’m only speaking in generalities, or in terms of an overall vibe.

  37. I’ve lived in Vietnam for 9 years; with about half of that time being spent in Hanoi. I’ve been sick a handful of times; certainly no more than if I had been living in ‘Murica.

    I’ve been in about 6 single vehicle accidents on my motorbike; with speed and driver error always playing a large part.

    I’ve been scammed more times than I’m willing to admit.

    With that being said:

    Explore – You’re free to take a look around to see if the establishment meets the lofty expectations you’ve brought along with you.

    Plan accordingly – If you can’t hang with the rules of the road (or lack thereof), take a taxi, cyclo or walk.

    Don’t sweat the small stuff – Who gives a fuck what the locals are paying! Ask yourself how much you’re willing to pay, or find out the typical price range beforehand and make an informed buying decision. Getting bent out of shape over a 1000 VND discrepancy is fucking ridiculous and a clear sign that you’re in the process of sabotaging your little Asian adventure and are probably just as miserable in your home country.

    Newsflash – Vietnam is a developing country that’s seen nothing but the type of pain and misery that several thousand years of war( brought on by foreigners that were hell-bent on controlling Vietnam and it’s people). The time that has passed since the American War (and the embargoes that brought on conditions that none of us can even begin to relate with) has been but the blink of an eye in the annals of time. What you’re seeing is the after-effects of those wars (and sore-loser embargoes), but if you can get beyond that you’ll also see something quite special – a phoenix rising from the ashes.

  38. P.S. Americans should take into consideration the fact that our country fucked these people over to the extent that we should hang our heads in shame if asked our nationality.

    Are we vilified and abhorred to the degree that would be seen if the tables were reversed and the Vietnamese had invaded and laid waste from sea to shining sea? No! To the contrary! They love us and for the life of me I will never understand why; especially with the walking, talking and perpetually whining imbeciles that have managed to escape the land of make believe for a moment and roam the planet for a brief period, only to serve as proof-positive that we’re nothing more than a bunch of spoiled babies that don’t deserve the luck and good fortune that we’ve been granted!

    • A little hard on your fellow love children of my fellow baby boomer conscripts . True what you say while policing the world it has turned into an open invitation to despise and demote democracy with 20 countries turning into horror police states . To list them would be boring in the race to the bottom — Vietnam is looking much less Orwellian than two of it’s neighbors — as the majority of today’s young are impressed by Hollywood rather than public libraries it’s just as difficult to educate as it was in a bookless schoolhouse on the prarie .

  39. I got back from Vietnam last week and I didn’t like it at all. I thought it was because I got sick and that can sometimes make you dislike the country. But after reading your post, I had similar things happen to me. Our tour guide told us to only use certain cab companies in Hanoi but they weren’t always available. We were told a price for a cab and then charged another price once we arrived at the hotel. the driver pretended that his English wasn’t so good but that was a total scam! Another cab had the meter running so fast they charged us triple! I also got sick to my stomach as did 6 other people in my tour group. And it was so disgustingly dirty. I saw people washing dishes in dirty water in a plastic bin on the street!!!! No wonder so many people get sick but I do wonder how on earth the locals don’t.

    I will never return to Vietnam again. It turned me off to Southeast Asia entirely but I hear that Thailand is much cleaner and treats tourists much better so any stories anyone wants to share would be great.

  40. I’ve lived in HCMC and Hanoi and while both very different I prefer Hanoi on most days. The food is better, the people are so warm and genuine and while know doubt Ive been ripped off now and then, it amounts to 50 cents more for a bowl of bun cha or pho….if thats really whats spinning you out about a country then head to a Maccas or Starbucks where the food will be shit, the atmosphere crap, the prices a joke and the whole experience like you get in any fast food joint in the world…lame !! Hanoians have treated me and my wife and kids and friends very well and I can’t speak highly enough of them. Its a beautiful city full of interesting things to see and do and after 4 years of eating everything on the street and in normal cafes etc we have not been sick. If it was as bad as you say there would be no street vendors operating as all the customers would be at home/hotels with gastro..its not true and sorry you had a bad time but this city is awesome, you missed a great stay and trip…sounds like you needed help to experience it 🙁

  41. I just came across this post and was rather surprised by your experience in Hanoi. My bf and I spent more than a month in Vietnam last year, half in Saigon, half in Hanoi. Saigon was not so good as there is really nothing to see there, nowhere to walk, and on some days I saw more foreigners than locals. When we arrived in Hanoi, it was very nice, maybe because we had a not-so-great experience in Saigon. We were lucky to get a room in a perfect little hotel with the kindest people working there, right next to a cheap and nice food place. We also visited Ha Long and Sapa, and Sapa was disappointing in the sense that I was horrified by what they were selling to people, and how everything was being developed, to the point of losing any charm or cultural beauty.

    My takeaway from the country was, the country is beautiful, in regards to the nature, but the people make it shit! So, best option, rent a bike, and just drive around, explore, there are beautiful roads and views.

    • You’re right, I wish I rented a bike. Maybe I’ll give Vietnam another try at some point…
      I wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts on Sapa! Plus, I was also mad how much people from Hanoi are exploiting local communities. They arrange tours and everything because many people prefer to book their treks in Hanoi instead of just showing up. They used to charge about $100 per person for the trek and night at the “local” (since it was a tourist barrack, not local homestay) and there were about 10 people in the group. I started chatting with the girls and ask about how they find customers etc and guess how much the dude from Hanoi paid the 2 local girls for 1,5 day? $4 (for the whole group, not per person! I found out a lot about the horrible treatment of H’mong people by the Vietnamese 🙁

  42. I am so Glad to hear that I am not the only person on this world to have a horrible experience in Vietnam. I haven’t been in Hanoi because after visiting Saigon and Hoi An, I decided to come home earlier. Saigon is cleaner? Southern people is more friendly? Where!?!? Saigon felt like hell on earth. Dirty, noisy, horribly poor, unfriendly and scamy locals, full of prostitutes, messy and sad, devastating sadness everywhere. Everything is for sale, from someone’s Daughter to a “luxury tour to Mekong Delta”, the trashiest river I’ve ever seen in my life. And people love it!!! They seem to love seeing people live literally on the trash. Devastating! Then I head up to Hoi An, thinking everything will be great…what a foolish! I should have left earlier. This is much worst because there are more tourists than locals. Same unfriendly scamy people, dirty, messy, noisy. Here you have the opportunity to see the rice fields full of plastic bags! What an Beautiful experience! Again everything is for sale. People would love how cheap everything is! And they will buy and buy and shop and shop ANYTHING even if every single of the 2000 stores sale the same shit probably made in China. So authentic!! After Travelling for five years, this is the first time I feel happy that the trip is over. What an awful trip!

  43. When I read some comments about Vietnam I feel how poor attitude we have toward a different culture and tradition. I have been in Vietnam five times last year spending over four months. Do you know what? I love it!!!
    Every single time I had a delightful time. When you travel abroad it is common sense to be knowledgeable about habits, currency, food, higiene, pharmacy availability etc.
    Have I been scammed? Of course!!!! But so what?? Why am I going to get angry over a $1!!!! Learn how to bargain. Ask for the price before and check the product. You have to be street smart when traveling abroad. Trust no one and be vigilant. I spent four months mainly at HCMC. It is a great town, lots of energy around!!! Lots of smiles, kindness. You would be surprise to find out that a lot of locals communicate rather well in English . I can’t understand how can someone draws a conclusion by staying a week or two. Vietnam is a delightful place to visit. The locals IQ is not that high probably due to the amount of Agent Orange we dropped. You have to be opened to new experiences. I have been scammed in Lille and Bordeaux, France, big time. Also in Spain I paid $3 for a Coke several years ago. I also lost $3000 in London and found it three days later at the Found and Lost at the subway. Imagine how cheap is to make someone happier for a $1. Eating on the streets is inviting trouble but it is part of traveling. The culinary experience is second to none. If the travel time were shorter I would travel to Vietnam more often,

    • “The locals IQ is not that high.” For scamming too many tourists and winning Vietnam war not so low IQ
      “Kindness” (by women and men having a secret agenda of taking advantage)
      Vietnam has been my worst trip in my life and agree with all bad accounts. It is true everything and everybody is on sale for profit. I am a gay and never met before so easy women as Vietnamese women offering for sex freely that I rejected and some assaulting me sexually in a very unclassy manner. I have travelled to many developing countries and Vietnam made me puke in all aspects. No moral and no sense of dignity. As other people wrote Vietnam is the opposite of Bali and Northern Thailand. I will never go back again.

  44. To be fair with some comments, I heard several Vietnamese from Saigon saying to avoid Hanoi. They had been scammed too. They were angry saying that Vietnamese from Hanoi were scamming Vietnamese from HCMC. I heard this comment to often, but have no personal experience. Also make sure you carry a small silicone ear plugs and a couple eye shades in case you land unexpectedly in a noise hotel

  45. I admit that your experience in Vietnam (Hanoi specifically) is not the only one I’ve heard for years. Due to urbanization, such cities like Hanoi, HCM city are facing to overcrowded problems, so you can see traffic for example is a nightmare, and it probably needs time to improve at least 5-10 years. However, Vietnam has a lot of attractions that could give it a try such as Phu Quoc island, Nha Trang, Da Nang, where you can wander off the beaten track and get away from it all for a while. Going to the secluded beaches are better than crowded, messy, noisy cities.

  46. Hi ANNA,

    This is one side story about Hanoi and some provinces in northern. If you return again, you will change your opnion. Hanoin has changed for a long time. There are good jobs for foreigners. All of them feel happy with thier jobs and income (English teacher).

      • In my view, If we give some comments about a city or a country, we need to have a lot of experience in it. and when we are not sure, we should find out more!

        • Nope. I mentioned that I spent a few days there and that this is MY experience, NOT a definite statement. Everyone has a right to an opinion.

  47. F*ck Hanoi!
    I definitely recommend you visit Da Nang, it’s beautiful and spacious city with lots of friendly people.
    Also, Hai Van Pass, especially this place https://goo.gl/maps/ZrbuHSmxVWr
    And if you not afraid of heights, climb up on TV towel!
    Thank you for the post, so agree with you.

  48. A five star meal for three costs around $60 aud including drinks. If you want cheap you’ll get cheap. It’s our second trip to Vietnam. Even markets have pretty fresh food. This country unlike places like Bali and Thailand, I have never ever been sick. The old adage, you get what you pay for?

  49. Oh my gosh! I am so sorry that you had a bad experience. I was there this past February and absolutely loved everything about it. That being said, I was with 6 other friends in a small tour group of us alone. But there was so much that we loved about Vietnam. Halong Bay is probably the most magical place for misty, sunrise tai chi. And Hoi An is just beautiful with the lanterns lighting up every street. We were there during Tet and being a florist I loved seeing the blocks and blocks of mandarin and cherry trees, flowers and orchids for sale. And it was so easy to get around on bicycle. Of course crossing any street is taking your life in your hands. At some point you just take a deep breath and keep on walking. Fortunately we never ended up in a hospital. Whew!
    We so enjoyed Ho Chi Minh city. Some fabulous restaurants and much more cosmopolitan than Hanoi. One of our highlights, though, was staying in a guest house down the Mekong River and spending time discussing the war with an old soldier. I know everyone has different experiences and i’m sorry yours was not stellar.
    Stumbled on your blog researching Morocco so I’ve found your articles to be really helpful. Bon Voyage wherever you’re off to next.

  50. I’m so sorry that you had awful experience in Hanoi. But have you ever thought about finding a Vietnamese tourguide? Me and many Vietnamese who still in college are eager to help you to have better experience in Hanoi. Cause we also sick of scams and dirty food and we want tourists to see Hanoi in the good side. And in reality, most of us quite bad at communicating with foreigners so that we really want to improve our speaking skills. For me, I’m always eager to help you guys and I think many Vietnamese are the same. So whenener you’re back in Vietnam, think about a tourguide, I believe you’ll have a good trip.
    Sorry if you don’t really get what I mean. I’m not so good at English.

    • Yeah, I actually did have a Vietnamese tour guide at some point and got scammed even more. I know there are good people out there, like yourself, but sadly I didn’t find them when I visited. Your English is fine, don’t worry about it 🙂

  51. I’m Vietnamese and so sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy in VietNam. Please don’t judge a country if you just stay for short time. There are many foreiger who love to live in here, I hope that if you have a chance coming again you will see helpful and kind people.

  52. I am conflicted and bothered by so many of the comments here. I have lived in Chiang Mai Thailand for three years and just finished my third trip to Vietnam. I have been in the north and the south and have the middle to go. I have traveled around Asia and each place is unique and it is simply wrong to compare one to another. There are beautiful things about Thais and Thailand but there are also things I don’t like. My experiences in Vietnam have been beautiful and sometimes frustrating but that is what travel is about. It is about learning and absorbing. Foreigners are often charged more in Thailand and while I don’t like it, I accept it. That is the price for being here. Sometimes I am furiously bargaining and I think does a dollar really make a difference in my life? It sure does to them. Sapa is amazingly beautiful. The hill tribe women are amazingly annoying. But you know what? It is their country, it is not mine. If tolerating them is the price of admission than I will pay that price and stomach it. They are also beautiful in their own way. It is all a story and that is why we chose to experience. Hanoi is a chaotic capital city and sometimes people might not be friendly but do you think they are warm and lovely in NY or Paris? Much is how you present yourself. Be humble and be respectful. Sure I had an experience with a scamming donut lady in Hanoi but again it is now a memory and a story. Think where you eat and maybe there are times when you pay a couple extra bucks to eat in a restaurant. There are 85 million Vietnamese. Some might not be nice. Many more will be. I have met a number that I keep in contact with and now call friends.

  53. I’ve read all the comments and I think the majority have a tone that relates to common experiences that I have experienced in almost every place I’ve visited. Poverty is a real and basic factor that brings the worst of the worst to do things they may not like or want to be part of which usually relates to scammers, the homeless and those caught up in their own private hell of drug dependency.
    I have talked with many types of people who explained how they arrived at where they are and some of those stories are really hard to bring your mind to accept or even relate to but life doesn’t always provide the basics like normal or average parents much less an education or respectable employment.
    It took a few years of traveling to these places but reading these posts brings visions of places i have already been although Vietnam is not one of them. North East Thailand has some of the poorest people but everywhere has their own areas including many cities in the United States, Canada and if you missed any of them, there are more than enough cities all over South America. I see some differences when it comes to Laos as there is a quiet, reserved, stay on your toes and be alert as it reminds me of some of the comments that relate to Hanoi. Not a fun place to be and the sooner you leave, the sooner your feeling of apprehension subsides. There are some very dangerous and hostile cities everywhere and I don’t think Communism or Democracy places any limits on either. Poor people who reach the bottom and have nothing, have nothing to care about are the most dangerous when food, stress, drug related dependencies force them to do whatever it takes to get whatever they need. Most never really stop to talk or even see these people simply because they are in too much of a hurry to avoid them. I once ventured into a red light area of Paris where sidewalk hustlers use whatever tactics to get you into their bar. One such tactic was a scam that offered a glass of champayne for a hundred francs a glass. Curiousity got the better of me as I knew there was a catch so I buckled up and went on in. After sitting down, two French ladies came and sat down, one on each side of me. A waiter brought a bottle of champayne and then another when it was empty. When the second bottle was consumed, he brought the bill and politely asked me to pay the bill before he brought anything more. I looked at the bill and realized it came to about 340 dollars which I wasn’t drunk enough to pay. The waiter left and came back and asked me to please speak with the manager. I went to the front where the cashier was and he asked me if I was short of money, if I was, he would send his door man, ( polite term for a bouncer), with me to my hotel and he could collect the money for the bill. I responded in a direct but serious manner that if he sent his doorman with me, he would not return. He looked at his door man and his door man looked at him and shook his head. The manager asked me what I would do if he came to my country and did the same to me in my bar. I said, first of all, in my country, I wouldn’t tell you that it was a hundred francs a glass and then hand you a bill for many more times than that. He then asked me what I would be willing to pay and I said I had about 10 glasses but I would pay more since he was going to be reasonable. He then said ok, how much and I brought out my wallet and told him 1500 francs whiich was 500 more than I had to pay. He wasn’t happy but said ok but don’t come back. I left wondering why I ever went in because I knew it was something but curiosity comes with a price.
    Apply the last sentence to wherever you decide to go and whatever you decide to do.

  54. I have to completely disagree. I have traveled all over Southeast Asia and I have to say Vietnam is probably my favorite country. Hanoi being one of my favorite cities. I love it so much I actually moved here five months ago. Some of the most friendly people I have ever met. Incredible cheap street food. I have never been sick here. Not once have I been scammed. You should ask for the price of things before you pay. Not really sure why you had such a bad experience but I would definitely not be discouraging people from coming here. That would be a huge disservice to people who are thinking about coming to explore one of the most amazing places in Asia.

  55. Ok, I have been to quite a few places in Vietnam. I have travelled with the locals.
    I have to say-yeah it is worth ONE visit. I have been 4 times to try different areas and see if it improved like Vung Tau, Can Tho, HCM, Nha Trang , DaLat. It did not.
    Yeah, not worth it. Ho Chi Minh is a nightmare. DaLat is nothing. Nha Trang is decent beach with nothing else March till Sept. Same for Vung Tau. If you think something is good and come back in a year: you will forget what you liked because it will be gone and replaced by a place to screw you over. Yeah the whole country should be called
    Place to Screw Over Foreigners because that is what we do best. After screwing over each other which is the second most popular sport. For goodness sakes I found Hong Kong better. And that is strange.

  56. I’m in Hanoi now and leaving first thing in the morning…..imo anna has got it right, if you have experience of thailand for example and dont mind going a fair bit rougher then it might be ok for some but i suspect most would not enjoy here.

    The old quarter is disgustingly dirty and even my $35 a night hotel leaves a lot to be desired, the room is barely passable but its like being stuck in the middle of a dump and the hotel restuarant and food…..well, lets just say its not put together with emphasis on hygeine or quality.

    It’s almost impossible to walk anywhere if you are not prepared to walk in the traffic…amazingly the paths are quite good but they are filled with motorbikes and the locals eating on them or washing their dirty dishes etc, you can only walk 10 yards then you have to go onto the road and the traffic is horrendous and crossing the road a bit dodgy lets say.

    Today i seen 2 accidents with motorbikes, one just a bump but the other quite serious and guess what…the injured girl was not wearing a helmet, hoping she is ok????.

    That happened about 5 yards from me and i was very lucky not to be involved. Only been here 4 days and think the place is disgusting and not for me but i hear what others are saying. However, that accident was the last straw for me, straight back to hotel, cancelled rest of stay and flight booked within a couple of hours…get me outta here and i promise i will never come back????.

  57. Great article,

    I have been living in Ho Chi Minh because of my work for 6 months now. Whilst I love Ho Chi Minh as a city, lots of cool jazz clubs, up dirty dark alleys, through murder doors and up dodgy stairs, then you walk into a magical wonderland of genius interior design to sip cocktails and listen to great jazz, listen to speakers about architecture etc. Ho Chi Minh is an amazing city if you love food from all corners of the world. It really is foodies paradise.

    However, I struggle with one thing as a western woman. Transactional relationships. It will be the reason I will be insisting I go back to Australia next year and work from home. The women here earn about 200 bucks a month, live with their parents and grandparents and have no chance of getting their own place to live. Ex pats come here and the men earn 5000 bucks a month and upward. That’s like a millionaire by comparison, so like us meeting some famous actor or football star, only they are getting out of a poverty situation. The girls here in Vietnam are raised to believe the great white knight is what they should aim for, to take care of them and their families. They effectively pimp their daughters out to fat, older white guys who then delude themselves she is actually his girlfriend or wife out of anything but duty to her family (and a better life for herself). I find it horrific any man can sleep at night knowing the woman he shares his bed with is only doing so for financial gain and not as she finds him attractive, interesting, doesn’t love him and is effectively lying back and thinking of Vietnam. I find it repulsive and really disturbing and has me often losing faith in human beings at all.

    Thing is you will find though, while the white males will call me racist for saying this, the Vietnamese women agree with me entirely that is how it is. They are raised to think it is okay, they are doing their best for their family and to improve their standard of life. Vietnamese women married to white guys here I chat to in bucketloads and they all say the same, they are with them for financial gain only, they don’t hide it…….the only person in denial seems to be the white guys who come here for Vietnamese women. I don’t blame the women, I blame the white guys who take advantage out of that.

    Vietnam is very hedonistic, the women are raised to be effectively this way to get a western man……..you watch a 26 year old girl with a 55 year old guy and you would be convinced yourself she finds him so attractive, they are masters at seduction. I watched a guy about 65 with his 25 year old girlfriend in Phu Quoc one weekend, talking to her like a toddler, playing table tennis like he would with a child……………you wonder what kind of guy that was, probably not let near a school in his own country.

    There is much ugliness in Vietnam around certain things, but one thing I have found, they have an amazing sense of humour. If you laugh, they will laugh with you, if you are uptight, they will shut down on you instantly.

  58. In Vietnam now,
    It’s an amazing place.
    The Vietnamese are cunning and opportunistic at the best of times, no worse than the Thai and better then the Indonesians.
    Come to think of it – I still feel safer and less likely to be ripped off than the Vegas strip.
    Maybe you just looked like a target or maybe just another stuck up American?

      • I’m American, and just back from Saigon/Hoy An. Which I also hated. I was ripped off a bit. Not as much as you, I think. But also avoided the markets without a local, which really helped.

        But hated it because, like, felt there was nothing to do. I hit all of the landmarks in a day. And spent the rest of the time wandering around. The coffee was great. The beer was cold and cheap. But that’s all I can say.

        Don’t plan on returning.

  59. how about the white couple hung up in front of the entire city of Siagon and no one did anything about it? And INC Research and them dismembering her body and wearing the skin out in public?

    • So John Company Murder, this you actually saw in Vietnam? When, during the height of the American War there?

  60. Dear Anna,
    Well, I have been following your posts and the responses, experiences and views of your followers.
    On behalf of the people of Hanoi, I, an Australian, am driven to respond at some length, principally as a defender of that city.
    It’s almost as if we’re are traveling in parallel universes.
    Your “Red-Carpet” backpackers it seems, are most occupied with Scams.
    In Australia a pack of cigarettes will cost $25, in Vietnam $2, whilst a delightful cold draught beer 20 cents, here in Australia up to $9 over the bar. A taxi from district 1 to the Saigon International Airport is around $20 ($1.50 by bus) whilst from my home to the Melbourne airport, around the same distance, $85.
    I can enjoy a cold beer in an immaculate cab, with charming drivers there in Vietnam.
    I really feel that some fault must lie with those western folk who contribute negatively to your sorry tale of Hanoi.
    There was one reference to “transactional …….???”referring to the hookers of Saigon I’m guessing. Now whilst I’ve not taken advantage of their service, I do find they are lovely, beautiful women, who entertain me with their charm and wit, are great to sit around with, sharing a laugh and a beer. (well more than one beer actually). I occasionally, bring one or two of them a small bottle of duty free perfume, they never forget that.
    In most western countries, we refer to paved areas on either side of the streets as “footpaths”, in Vietnam they are motorbike parking areas, well ordered in fact, by parking attendants.
    In Kuala Lumpur, I was poisoned by an egg sandwich from a modern, western style food outlet in a Food Court there. I don’t hold Malaysia to ransom over that. In 10 years of visiting Vietnam, eating street food, I’ve never once had an episode like that, or at all in fact.
    The street food, particularly the fruit is both safe and delicious, fresh picked every morning around 3am and for sale by 5am. A huge bunch of beautiful flowers can be as little as $4, I love that.
    Bargaining is, in Vietnam, a national pastime or “sport”. They enter it with vigour and good humour, while I personally find it quite stressful. My Vietnamese friends however, see it as part of life, no matter where they are in their country.
    My longtime friend tells me she can achieve friendly haggling by saying to a vendor or shopkeeper that the guy up the street is cheaper, but she would prefer to develop a relationship with him, so if they can arrive at a mutually agreeable price, that would be a good outcome. In that sense, life is no different there, to a bazaar in Istanbul.
    One couple, from Canada maybe, complained about Hanoi’s weather while they were visiting during winter. It does get cold in maybe December through to February. So; you just go out, buy a North Face fleece $20, an umbrella $2 and a beanie $1.50, then get on with enjoying the city. In passing, you say you did the Museums of Hanoi in one day. Did you, by chance, miss the Women’s Museum of Hanoi? I spent a day in there, edified by what I saw and read of the extraordinary women of Vietnam, perhaps you could talk about that in a future post. If you seek, you find.
    I have a dear friend in HoiAn, she does laundry, immaculately, for 50 cents per kilogram and rents bikes. This way, she funds her two kids through school and university. On my last visit in September, two western backpackers stole, or at least failed to return her bikes. Do you have any idea how many kilo’s of laundry you need to wash by hand, in order to replace those bikes?
    Fueled by some of your postings, based on little experience Anna, you are complicit in justifying this kind of disrespect of your hosts.
    On my last visit, I stayed in a wonderful small hotel in Hanoi for $18 per night, breakfast included. It was immaculately clean, serviced everyday, had free wi-fi, air-conditioning, tv etc and quiet. This is available to all tourists if they care to ask around.
    In 10 years, for one month each year, I have never feared for my life, except in the early visits crossing crazy, chaotic streets in both Hanoi and Saigon. Even in HaiPhong the port town and so, crime capital of Vietnam I felt personally quite safe, more so than in New Orleans and certain parts of Los Angeles.
    HaiPhong is the Vietnamese equivalent of Marseilles-France; Naples-Italy or Tangiers-Morocco, so be aware, but not afraid.
    If you want danger then I can suggest anywhere in the Congo, or Johannesburg. Rape and Murder are commonplace there, I’m told.
    Unlike some of its’ SE Asian neighbours, because of their great love of family, Vietnam will never become a “Paedophile Mecca”.
    Anna, your judgement of the people of Hanoi, is both hasty and flawed. It damages a country and its people, as if they need further suffering. I ask that you withdraw this post and put it down to just being in a bad mood.
    Richard Thomas

    • Excellent post totally agree. We are in Hanoi right now and are enjoying it very much, we are aware of the scams so just politely say no. Have fun haggling if price not to your liking just walk away. Food is great. Off to Sa pa tomorrow hope it is better than we have read in the posts.

  61. I agree, I had a terrible experience in Hanoi back in 2014. Speaking as a Southeast Asian woman, I don’t believe that you have to be a Westerner to taken advantaged of. Hanoi men were rude and pushy to me, I had a horrible experience with a taxi driver wherein he won’t let me out of his cab, kept driving me around and kept wanting to bring me to a “love motel”. That’s what he called it. It was such a horror story. I kept saying no. And that he should drive me to my hotel. After what seemed like ages he finally drove me to my destination. And when I paid for my fare he wouldn’t even give me change. It was horrible. I didn’t want to even fight with him, I just wanted to escape that car. I had better luck with my stay in Ho Chi Minh, friendlier people and definitely more helpful to a solo traveler like me. Travel with caution if you want to go to Hanoi, but I’m never going back there.

  62. Hanoi is a tough place to visit but it certainly is not the hardest place I’ve ever travelled to, that would be India over 30 years ago in terms of the poverty and having to deal with aggressive, unfriendly people. They used to say that it took 6 weeks to get used to India. I reckon it would take about 6 days to get used to Hanoi.

    Getting scammed and having other unpleasant experiences is part of travel. You will look back on such experiences fondly in a few decades time.

    There are more important things to worry about than being ripped off for a few dollars by people living just above the poverty line.

  63. Unfortunately not much has changed. Hanoi still sucks , old quarter still has abysmal hygene in regard to foods ( don’t get surprised if you get a disease if you eat on the streets like the locals) , they handle the raw meat with their bare hands , they scam people ( barter or not) , they honk their horns like crazy in traffic and drive like mad men and most stuff for sale in the old quarter is just fake chinesse crap. Why would you want to visit Hanoi? Nightlife? What nightlife? Everything closes after 24:00
    Thailand is just better hands down. I wasn’t too impressed by Halong Bay either. Touristy and given the foggy allround weather you can’t clearly see much. Also every tourist thing is overpriced to extreme. 40 dollars for a 7 hour tour in a country where the average sallary is 200 $per month?? Like wtf. North Vietnam is desperately praying on the naive tourist. Most disappointing location I have ever been.

  64. I feel disappointed reading this. I have been living in Hanoi for the past three years and it a beautiful city. If you’re a tourist, you probably stocked close to the Old Quarter and Ba Dinh… Obviously you would have been scammed… Vietnamese food is amazing… You just need to find the right places.. That are not in the busy tourist areas. If you were a real tourist, you should have explored more. P.s. Bun Cha is not supposed to be Cold… It’s a hot broth not soup. Also 50k vnd is not expensive… That is the normal price for everyone, nobody eats for 5k… How are they supposed to make a living. This is why I hate tourists.

  65. correct. ha noi is a colossal shithole (along with the rest of the country).

    i’ve spent a year here running a business, quite an experience! constant fraud, lies, theft, corruption, bribes, extortion, etc. i’ve never experienced anything remotely close to this anywhere on the planet, and this is with a trusted local business partner. she needs to constantly fight off government and private individuals alike. we’re actually quite successful, 100% foreign owned companies have it FAR worse. you wouldn’t believe the nightmare stories.

    westerner = automatic target to get screwed. most viet people think extremely short-term, live in the moment, and don’t care about consequences. just fuck over anyone to get a dong, NOW! you could be a loyal customer, buy from someone every week, but they’ll still sell you worthless/broken goods, refuse a refund, then chew YOU out! happens all the time, these are not isolated incidents. any surprise this place is tremendously underdeveloped, and severely impoverished?

    there’s nothing interesting to see here, that’s not available elsewhere. viet nam’s a filthy dump, a tremendous headache, and general shitshow. save your time/money, and avoid frustration by travelling elsewhere in se asia.

  66. Everything you so is correct and it’s still the same. They’ve destroyed their culture to build a crowded metropolis. It’s a shame.

    • Uh no, thanks to someone bombing us for straight up 25 years, we replace ruined building with metropolis. And we still have culture building

    • If “they” have destroyed their culture I’d be darn sure “they” could cobble together the correct words in a sentence to make some sense . Get your syntax in order before bloviating about anybody’s “culture” — there’s the real shame .

  67. Hi guys,

    Thanks for visiting our Vietnam countries and thanks for your coments too.

    I’m a Vietnamese and myself also travelled around the world over 40 countries. The whole world, each place got the bad and the good, when you travel: I think you should just try to explore the culture, the history, the people of that country, see and feel the beauty of the destination. Each place always got its own beauty.

    Have a type of people always keep complaining for everything which is really worse.

  68. I understand you completely, been living here more than a year. Hate it but would never live anywhere else in Vietnam because I love it too


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