Ultimate Guide for Budget Traveler and Adventure Seeker

With incredible natural scenery and stunning temples, Hanoi is one of the most exciting cities in Vietnam. It's a bustling historic city...

Hanoi Travel Guide : Top Things to Do, Budget Itinerary

With incredible natural scenery and stunning temples, Hanoi is one of the most exciting cities in Vietnam. It's a bustling historic city full of things to see and do — none of which won't break the bank. No wonder foreign tourists, especially backpackers and DIY budget travelers, fall in love with Hanoi. 

If you are planning to travel to Hanoi, it's essential to research your destination before traveling. Let me share my Hanoi Trip experience featuring the best places to visit, top things to do, a DIY itinerary with a breakdown of expenses, travel tips, and more. 

How to get to Hanoi from Manila

To save on the cost of your flight from the Philippines to Vietnam, booking at least 60 days before your planned departure is recommended. Cebu Pacific offers several flights from Manila to Hanoi, which may be reached via key hubs such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Dubai, Seoul, and Singapore. It flies four (4) times weekly from Manila to Hanoi and vice versa. I took the earliest flight that left at 5:15 a.m. The travel time is over 3 hours. It's recommended to book the red-eye flight. That way, you will arrive early at your destination and enjoy one full day at the beginning of the trip.

Here are the reasons why I always book on Cebu Pacific: 

1. Cebu Pacific is known for its low-cost airfare. They are always offering cheap flights to local and international destinations. 

2.   It offers flexible options and alternatives to ease passengers' worries, especially those whose flights had to be canceled due to various reasons, such as congestion at the airport and bad weather. 

3. Flights can be easily managed online via the "Manage Booking" portal on the Cebu Pacific website: http://bit.ly/CEBmanageflight

4. CEB SuperPass - This is my favorite Cebu Pacific deal. It's a "buy all you can and fly only" offer where you will get a travel voucher for only P99 (one-way base fare). 

For booking and inquiries, you may visit Cebu Pacific's official website or call their reservation hotline at (02) 87020-888 (Manila) or (032) 230-8888 (Cebu). You may also visit their Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest news, promos, and seat sale. 

Travel Requirements 

Visitors from the Philippines can travel to Vietnam for tourism or business for 21 days or less without obtaining a visa.

  • Filipino Passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the arrival date.
  • Roundtrip tickets/return air tickets
  • Fully Vaccinated

How to get from Hanoi Airport to City Center

There are many ways to reach Hanoi from the Noi Bai International Airport. You can take a bus, grab the car, and taxi. If you plan to take a taxi, you should take Mai Linh or G7. Please remember to ask for the price before getting in the car. The cost should be from 100.000VND to 200.000VND ( Php250 - Php500), depending on the location of your chosen accommodation. The fare of the grab car is the most expensive option to reach Hanoi ( especially during rush hours). The taxi fare cost will be around 300.000VND to 500.000VND (Php800-Php1000)

If you are planning to take a bus, please ask the Hotel for the bus number you should ride. The bus stop is just on the right side of the terminal exit. Hanoi city buses 7, and 17 connect Noi Bai Airport with Hanoi city center. Buses run every 15-20 minutes from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

The Hanoi Airport Bus 86 is the best public transportation option for tourists traveling from Hanoi Airport to the city center. The bus can accommodate 60 passengers, and the fare is around 30,000 VND (Php70).

It's recommended to reserve an airport pick-up through the Hotel or agency. Make sure to send your flight number and arrival time so the driver will wait to take you to your booked Hotel. Airport transfer is around 300,000 VND (Php700) / car/way. The fare will remain the same whether you are alone or have a total of four (4). It costs 4-5 seats per private car, not per person.

Going Around Hanoi

If you are planning to go around Hanoi, there are taxis, buses, grab cars, and rickshaws that will bring you to your preferred destinations. Most of the time, I walk since I booked a room in the Old Quarter, located at the city's heart. Some famous Hanoi tourist destinations are a few steps from my Hostel. 

For your convenience, you may get a Private Car Service in Hanoi via Klook. It is available in half and full-day options. Visit the city's most popular destinations in the comfort and privacy of your vehicle as your driver takes you from one point to another, following your personal itinerary and taking the quickest routes between each destination. The cost is 768420.74VND ( P1798). Reserve Here

Vietnamese Currency and Exchanging Money in Hanoi

The official currency in Hanoi, Vietnam, is Dong (VND), which comes in the following banknotes: 1,000. 2,000. 5,000. 10,000. 20,000. 50,000. Most payments are made in Vietnamese Dong, but U.S. dollars can be directly used for some hotels, restaurants, tours, or other services.

Currency exchange shops and airport kiosks are not the best places to exchange money. Try a local bank or a bank ATM to make your currency exchanges for the best rates. I recommend exchanging your money before traveling. Why? As of writing, the current exchange rate of the Philippines Peso to the Vietnamese dong is 427.38 VND. When I exchanged my money at Hanoi airport, the exchange rate was just 320.VND 

Internet Connection in Hanoi

There is no fear of slow internet access if you are in Hanoi. The speed is decent. You can buy a local sim or portable WIFI pocket to stay connected. I recommend purchasing the local sim in the city center, not the airport. You can get the sim with a data bundle for as low as 250.000VND (Php600). The best SIM card in Vietnam is Viettel. They are the Vietnamese mobile carrier with the most extensive network and the best coverage.

When is the Best Time to Visit Hanoi?

The Autumn season (around September to November) and spring (March and April) are the two best seasons to visit Hanoi when the weather is pleasant with milder temperatures. For cooler weather but during peak tourist season, travel between November and February. 

Where to stay in Hanoi?

When finding the best place to stay in Hanoi for travelers, I recommended staying as close as possible to Hanoi's city center. I stayed in Buffalo Hostel, one of the best hostels in Hanoi. Strategically located in Hoan Kiem, this Hostel is close to main tourist attractions, charming colonial architecture, art galleries, boutique shops, street markets, and more. The room rates start at 150.000 VND (Php350). It has a complimentary buffet breakfast and unlimited beer (7 p.m. -8 p.m.). Booking a room in a hostel is perfect for solo travelers and backpackers.

For couples or traveling a buddy or bestie, you may check out Hanoi de Maison Grand Hotel, Golden Sun Hotel, Hanoi H.M. Boutique Hotel, Maya Boutique Hotel & Spa, Marina Hotel, Lakeside Palace Hotel, and Golden Sun Villa Hotel. The room rates start at 640,000.00 VND (Php1500)/per night. 

If you are looking for high-end hotels, try Sheraton Hanoi Hotel, Peridot Grand Luxury Boutique Hotel, Hilton Hanoi, Opera, JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi, and Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. Room rates start at 3205000.000VND (Php7500)/ night.

Top tourist attractions in Hanoi

For first-timers in Hanoi, here's a list of famous top attractions that should be included in your itinerary. These are the places included on the Hanoi City Tour packages, or you may visit these places by walking or commuting. 

1. Hanoi  Old Quarter ( Hoan Kiem District) 

The Old Quarter is the busiest place in the city, where you can find the famous Hoan Kiem lake, also known as "Sword Lake. You will find many cafes, bars, nightclubs, street food vendors, coffee stores, guesthouses, and hotels. Expect a lot of motorbikes, tourists, and local vendors in their busy and narrow streets. 

2. Hoan Kiem Lake

One of the famous attractions in the city, Hoan Kiem Lake, is a must-visit. It is a freshwater lake in the center of Hanoi. There are so many activities around Hoan Kiem lake, making it crowded and busy all day, especially during the weekends. The Ngoc Son Temple, The Huc Bridge, and Turtle Tower will be found here. Walking around is free, but if you wish to enter the Ngoc Son Temple and The Huc Bridge, you must pay 30.000VND (P70). 

3. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is one of the iconic attractions in Hanoi. It serves as the resting place of Vietnamese Revolutionary leader and President Ho Chi Minh, protected by a military honor guard. All Vietnamese people give him love and respect. So when visiting Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, you must dress conservatively to be allowed to enter. Don't wear sando / sleeveless and super short. It is generally open to the public at no cost.

4. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Watching Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is one the best things you must do in Hanoi. It's a unique show that offers the most authentic experience, with a Vietnamese orchestra playing live with traditional music and artists playing puppets in a pool of water. It's over 60-minute puppet show that recounts Vietnamese folktales and legends. The ticket price starts at 100.000VND (Php250)

5. Temple of Literature

Built-in 1070 at the time of Emperor Lý Thánh Tông, the Temple of Literature is a temple dedicated to Confucius and Vietnam's first national university. Today, the temple honors Vietnam's finest scholars and signifies the beginning of a uniform educational system in Vietnam. It is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese đồng banknote. The entrance fee is 30000VND (Php70). 

6. Hỏa Lò Prison

The Hỏa Lò Prison (later known as Hanoi Hilton) is a prison in Hanoi initially used by the French colonists in Indochina for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for U.S. prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. 'Hoa Lo' means' 'stove' or 'furnace.' Here, you will find photos, videos, sculptures, installations, and other things displaying the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France. The entrance fee is 30000VND (Php70).

7. Trấn Quốc Pagoda

The Trấn Quốc Pagoda in Hanoi is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi in Hanoi constructed initially in the sixth century during the reign of Emperor Lý Nam Đế. It is one of the main parts of the Trấn Quốc Temple, for it holds the vital monk's ashes. It is located on a small island near the southeastern shore of Hanoi's West Lake, Vietnam, and it's free to enter for everyone.

8. One Pillar Pagoda

The One Pillar Pagoda is the most unique in Asia, meaning Extend Bless pagoda. The architecture of this pagoda is awe-inspiring. It looks like a lotus flower which happens to be the national flower of Vietnam. This attraction is part of the Hanoi city tour

9. St. Joseph's Cathedral 

St. Joseph's Cathedral is a late 19th-century Gothic Revival (Neo-Gothic style) church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hanoi. The cathedral is named after Joseph, the patron saint of Vietnam.

All the places I mentioned above are very accessible. You can totally do it on your own, but I still recommend having a local guide to get information and avoid getting lost. 

If you are planning to do Hanoi City Tour, it's recommended to book it online ahead of time. It's cheaper compared to the local agencies in Hanoi. You can book the Hanoi City Day Tour via Klook. The tour is 7500000VND (Php 1750). Check Rates and Reserve Here.

Where to eat in Hanoi? 

Many of the famous Vietnamese dishes originated in Hanoi. Namely, the famous Vietnamese noodle soup pho is a Hanoi food known as one of the most iconic Vietnamese foods. One of my favorite places to eat in Hanoi is Cafe Giang. It has one of the best Vietnamese Egg coffees. 

Other famous spots to eat include Hanoi Favorite Pho 10,  Banh Mi 25, Phở Lâm, Bun Cha Hang Quat, Bun Bo Nam Bo, and Hạnh Ngan Dé.

Ninh Binh Day Tour  ( Hoa Lu, Trang An, and Hang Mua Cave Day Tour from Hanoi)


On my second day in Vietnam, I booked Ninh Binh Day Tour via Klook. I only got this tour for less than P2000 or 845,506.65 VND. If you want to do it DIY ( DO IT Yourself) way, you can rent a motorbike or take a bus and go directly to Ninh Binh. I still recommend booking the tour online since it's hassle-free. You can book a private/exclusive tour or joiners tour package. Yes, even if you are a solo traveler, you can still save more money by joining a joiner tour. 

The tour package includes shared-ride door-to-door transportation, an entrance fee, a Vietnamese tour guide, and a buffet lunch. Check Rates and Reserve Here.  

Hang Mua viewpoint and cave

Our first stop was in Mua Cave. You can find the impressive Lying Dragon Mountain with a breathtaking view of the massive rock formations, rice fields, and the famous Ngo Dong River. Due to the limited time, you can head straight up the mountain to the Hang Mua viewpoint. The hike only takes 15 minutes, depending on your endurance and stamina. Around 500 stairs in total ascend very steeply up the mountainside.

Apart from the Hang Mua viewpoint and cave, you can enjoy some amenities and facilities. If you want to stay here overnight, you can stay at Mua Caves Ecolodge (Hang Múa). It's an Insta-worthy accommodation that sits nearby the Lying Dragon Mountain area.

Trang An Boat Tour 

The Trang An boat tour is included in the package tour that I booked from Klook. It is one of the most famous things to do in Ninh Binh. Declared a UNESCO site in 2014, you will find the beautiful river nestled between the stunning limestone mountains here. 

You can visit Trang An and get a ticket at the pier if you want to do it yourself. The ticket is around P600 or 250.000 VND. For no hassle, it's recommended to join an organized tour that should handle all the logistics and take you to other exciting places in Ninh Binh.

There are three different boat tour routes in Trang An. You can choose Route 1 (9 caves & 3 temples), Route 2 (4 caves & 3 temples), and Route 3 (3 caves & 3 temples). Since we only have limited time, Klook only offers Route 2, the shortest boat ride. We are just in the boat for over 2 hours. The boat ride allows you to completely immerse yourself in Trang An's landscape. The scenery is fantastic!

Hoa Lu Ancient Capital

Our last destination was to visit Hoa Lu, Vietnam's capital in the 10th and 11th centuries. It's a significant architectural and historical complex of Vietnam and was recognized as one of the 4 cores forming the UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will find beautiful temples like King Dinh temple (worship the King Dinh Tien Hoang)and King Le temple.

The Ninh Binh Tour is definitely a try to do while in Vietnam. The tour was fun, educational, and entertaining. Our local guide was very patient in sharing information on every destination. Imagine, his guests were of different nationalities. He needs to speak Vietnamese at some points since there're also Vietnamese on the bus.

Halong Bay tour [Route 2] Halong Bay, Surprising Cave, and Titop Island Tour

Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Vietnam's most popular travel destination. The name Hạ Long means "descending dragon." It features thousands of limestone karsts and isles scattered around the Bay in various shapes and sizes. As a first-timer in Hanoi, I enjoyed the Halong Bay tour. The towering limestone is breathtaking. Exploring the paths of Surprising Cave, the biggest cave in the Bay, is also a must-do activity. Lastly, swimming on Titop Island is a great activity to end cap the Halong Bay tour. 

The tour package includes shared-ride door-to-door transportation, entrance fees, a Vietnamese tour guide, and a buffet lunch. The rate is 8500000VND  (₱ 1,950). Reserve Here.

Sample 5 days and 4 nights Itinerary ( Total Expenses)

Day 1 - Arrival + City Tour

Arrival in Hanoi at 8:45 a.m.

Bought a sim card- P800

Took a bus from Hanoi Intl. Airport ( Travel time is 45 minutes)- P100

Dropped off at Long Bien Station Hanoi and walked a few steps to take an egg coffee- P70

Took a Grab Car from Cafe Triung to Buffalo Hostel (Travel time is 15 minutes)- P90

Checked-in Buffalo Hanoi Hostel- P1500

Explored Hanoi Old Quarter ( Waking Distance from the Hostel) at 10 a.m.

Lunch at 12NN

Pho Noodles- P130

Water- P35

I Visited Hoan Kiem Lake at 2 p.m.

Ngoc Son Temple and The Huc Bridge Entrance Fee- P70

Coffee- P70

Dinner at 6 p.m.

Dried Beef Salad- P130

Spring Rolls- P60

Water- P35

Souvenirs- P1000

Go Back to the Hotel at 7 p.m.

Unli Beer courtesy by Hostel (7 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

Total Expenses- P4090

Day 2 - Ninh Binh Day Tour 

Complimentary Buffet Breakfast at the Hostel at 7 a.m.

Picked up at the Hostel at 7:30 a.m.

Ninh Binh Day Tour via Klook- P1868

Complimentary Buffet Lunch and Bottled Water

Coke- P50

The tour ended at 7 p.m.


Beef Rice- P130

Water- P35

Unli Beer courtesy by the Hostel (7 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

Total Expenses- P= 2083

Day 3 - Halong Bay Tour

Complimentary Buffet Breakfast at the Hostel at 7 a.m.

Picked up at the Hostel at 8 a.m.

Halong Bay Tour via Klook- P1950

Free Buffet Lunch

1 can of coke- P70

Snacks- P60

The tour ended at 9 p.m.

Dinner- 130

Water- 35

Total Expenses- P2325

Day 4- DIY City Tour

Breakfast at 7 a.m.

Roasted Chicken Pan- P110

Water- P35

Grab Bike to Trấn Quốc Pagoda- P50

Trấn Quốc Pagoda- Free Entrance

Grab a bike from Trấn Quốc Pagoda to Ho Chi Minhs' Mausoleum- P45

Chi Minhs' Mausoleum- Free Entrance

One Pillar Pagoda- Free Entrance

Grab a bike from Ho Chi Minhs' Mausoleum to the Temple of Literature - P40

Temple of Literature Entrance fee- P70

Grab a bike from the Temple of Literature  to Hanoi Train Street-P35

Lunch at 12NN

Banh Mi ( Bread) - P105

Egg Noodle- P85


Grab a bike from Hanoi Train Street to Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre- P47. The show starts at 4 p.m.

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre Ticket - P250

Milk tea- P160

Dinner at 6 p.m.

Claypot Rice with BBQ Chicken- P110

Coke- P45

Fruits- P70

Foot Massage- P530

Grab a bike to Buffalo Hostel- P50

Total Expenses- P1837

Day 5 -  Flying Back to Manila, Philippines

Budget for Pasalubong, Souvenirs, and Shopping Expenses- P1500

Booked an airport transfer- P700

Took a grab car from NAIA  to Quezon City ( Home)- P800

Total Expenses- P3000

Grand Total- P12, 265 per person

Not included in these computations are the following: 

1. Round trip airfare Manila - Hanoi- Manila
2. NAIA Terminal FEE and Travel Tax
3. Tips or gratuities for Vietnam Guides / Drivers/ Boatmen
4. Travel Insurance

Essential travel safety tips

Do your research- Make sure to get a lot of information about the destination before traveling. Read traveler reviews and consult with locals for information about where to stay, where to eat and drink, and dos and don'ts. 

Have an itinerary- Travel itineraries ensure that you can manage your time. You'll be able to track where you're staying and what you're doing.

Make copies of essential documents- Getting a copy of your passport, driver's license or another form of identification is recommended. Scan these documents to save online and print out several hard copies. I usually keep it on my personal F.B. messenger or email. 

Exchange your money before traveling- There are many best places to exchange cash in Metro Manila that offer competitive rates for numerous foreign currencies. 

Use Hotel's FREE WiFi- To save your cellular data, turn off the data while in the Hotel ( or before sleeping) and use its complimentary WIFI.

Get travel medical insurance- By having travel insurance, you are essentially covering yourself against travel risks such as lost or stolen luggage, cancellation cover (should you not be able to travel due to unexpected medical reasons), and, most importantly, unexpected medical costs abroad.