When planning a trip to Vietnam, it can be overwhelming to decide what to pack and what to do. However, it’s also important to know what not to do in Hanoi, as many first-time travelers make common mistakes. Here are some mistakes to avoid in Hanoi, including places to skip and local attractions to avoid.
→ Read more: Hanoi French Quarter – 21 Best Things to Do
Staying inside Hanoi Old Quarter (and not leaving the city limits)
Most tourists just spend a few days in Hanoi and explore the Old Quarter and French Quarter. Most people just watch the water puppet show, then try some Pho, Egg coffee, and Banh mi, walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake. This is great but there’s a whole world in Hanoi outside of its center just as there are plenty of day trips to be taken from the city well worth taking. One of the most unique areas is the Cho Gioi – a not-to-go-alone area that has lots of second-hand stuff with so many interesting stories from the Vietnam War.
Sticking to well-known eateries only (and in the touristic areas)!
This is one of the most common mistakes made while visiting Hanoi. Many people flock to Bun Cha Obama (where Obama and Anthony Bourdain dined), Banh Mi 25, and Giang Cafe for their famous egg coffee. While these places are good, there are numerous local hidden food shops in Hanoi, even for vegans and vegetarians. Finding these hidden gems takes time and patience, but it gives you a true sense of being a local rather than just a tourist.
→ Read more: A Free & Self-guided Hanoi French Quarter Tour 2023
Visiting Hanoi at the wrong time of the year
The best time to visit Hanoi is not in the summer. Among all the possible mistakes you could make while visiting Hanoi, booking your vacation for the summertime would be one of them. The weather can be extremely hot and humid, sometimes reaching 42 degrees Celsius. Even the local Vietnamese struggle with the heat.
Besides, try to avoid the New Year named Tet in Vietnam, as most businesses are closed, and you should also avoid local holidays. During these periods, many local tourists are moving around, causing tickets to be fully booked and prices to become very expensive.
Overpacking and not wearing comfortable shoes
Hanoi can be hot and humid, so pack light and bring comfortable shoes for walking.
Planning on visiting Vietnam this year? Well, chances are you’ll be spending a fair amount of your time on your own two feet, exploring what the city has to offer. As such, I highly recommend wearing a comfortable pair of shoes to walk in; trainers, easy-to-wear sandals, etc.
When shopping in Hanoi’s markets, bargaining is expected, so don’t be afraid to negotiate. Start by offering a lower price than what is initially quoted and be prepared to walk away if the seller is not willing to lower their price. Remember to be respectful and polite during the bargaining process, as it is an important part of the local culture.
Not learning basic Vietnamese
It’s always great to learn some Vietnamese words so that locals can welcome you. Additionally, not everyone may be able to communicate with you in Vietnamese, especially outside of tourist areas. Therefore, it’s helpful to check out our Vietnamese language guide.
→ Read more: Basic Vietnamese for travelers
Drinking tap water
When it comes to drinking water safety in Vietnam, it’s important to know that tap water isn’t safe to drink. While it’s fine for washing and cooking, it’s not recommended to drink directly as it may contain harmful bacteria or contaminants. To stay healthy, it’s best to buy drinking water from supermarkets or convenience stores. This is a safer and more convenient way to get clean and safe drinking water while in Vietnam. To protect your health, take necessary precautions and make sure the water you drink is safe.
Falling for tourist scams
Scams in tourist areas in Hanoi are still quite common, but these guidelines can help you avoid them. From taxi fares to shoe cleaners on the street, you need to be cautious.
If you’re traveling from the airport to the city center, check with the driver about the fare. It’s also safer to use a Grab taxi as you can see the price of the ride beforehand.
Another common scam is being offered something seemingly for free. Don’t accept “local doughnuts” on the street from someone you don’t know. Despite their insistence that they’re giving you a gift, they’ll often aggressively demand monetary compensation for it.
While not a scam as such, be aware of your belongings at all times, especially in crowded or busy places like the metro. Use a bag with a proper zip and never leave valuables in outer pockets. Avoid wearing backpacks in crowded areas. Instead, carry backpacks at your side with the zip at the front, where you can see it.
→ Read more: [Infographics] Hanoi Scams and How to Avoid Them
Last month, in August 2023, a tourist called us for help as his wife’s phone got stolen when the family was sitting near Hoan Kiem Lake. If something similar happens to you, report the case to the police station, but be aware that it may take a long time to do so.
If you’re planning a trip to Hanoi, be sure to keep these tips in mind to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable vacation. Don’t forget to join our local experiences to learn more about the city and gain more knowledge about the country from a local perspective.
This is a list of things to avoid in Hanoi. To save time and gain more knowledge about the country from a local perspective, consider joining our local experiences.
If you’re a food lover visiting Hanoi for the first time, we recommend taking the Hanoi food walking tour and The Hidden Hanoi Old Quarter Experience. For vegans and vegetarians, the Vegetarian Street Food & Stories of Hanoi is an excellent choice. If you’re a history buff or looking for a unique experience in Hanoi, consider the Stories from Vietnam War at not-to-go-alone areas tour. Note that 20% of the proceeds go to charity organizations.
For those who love coffee and history, the Coffee, History, and Architecture of the French Quarter tour is a must. Lastly, if you’re visiting Hanoi on a hot or rainy day, the Escape the Heat of Hanoi – Museum Experience is a great option.