Buzzfeed recently released a roundup article featuring the responses of Reddit users from the subreddit r/travel of the best and worst destinations for solo travelers. And Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, made it to the list of ‘best.’
"I would say Hanoi is one of the best cities for solo travel, and it's the best option in Southeast Asia,” Reddit user /dubz12 said. “The city has charm, culture, hospitality, and affordable prices, whereas other urban hubs like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are very heavily modernized.” According to the user, there are many vibrant hostels filled with backpackers near the French Quarter and its beautiful architecture in the city. And that it's really easy to meet fellow travelers there to travel to the northern reaches of Vietnam (Sapa, Ha Giang) or head down to Saigon.
Growing up in Hanoi, I’ve seen tourists along Hoan Kiem Lake embracing the peaceful vibe with a cup of ca phe sua da, some are driving their motorbikes around the city. But more often than not, I notice people coming here are traveling in groups or in pairs. So when I’ve read the Buzzfeed article, I was quite surprised to see Hanoi appear on this list. But nevertheless, I knew what I had to do to encourage more solo travelers to visit my beloved city.
Since Vietnam has already reopened for international travelers, I listed five reasons why you should visit Hanoi when traveling alone.
When considering traveling alone, safety is definitely the first thing to keep in mind. As you are by yourself, you become an easy target.
For me, the city is generally safe. Most of the time, I feel comfortable going out, even when it is late at night. However, it is recommended that you should be extra careful when in crowded areas as there are risks of pickpocketing. Other than that, you do not have to worry about crimes as they rarely take place in the area or relate to foreigners.
The central part of Hanoi is relatively small so it is not difficult to find spots to take advantage of the experience. For transportation, there are many options for you to choose from. It’s pretty convenient to book your trip via Grab, Gojek, and Be or call traditional taxis.
If you want to experience the city like a true local, you can rent a motorbike. However, I do not recommend this option unless you are an experienced driver, the city's traffic is quite messy with various law-breaking drivers and it can be extremely risky.
The safer option would be using public transportation like buses. It is cheap (7.000 VND - 8.000 VND, less than $.50) and helps you move around the city quickly. Recently, Hanoi just launched its first electric train, but this isn’t the best option to get around the city because of its limited access considering it just started its operations.
In Vietnam, people highly value the sense of community. The locals here would not hesitate to go to any lengths just to make the visitors feel at home, especially if it’s foreign. Despite limited English, if you are seeking help, I am certain that they will try their best to support you.
One time, while traveling by bus, I saw a couple of foreigners asking for directions to go to Chua Mot Cot from the ticket collector. At first, he could not understand due to their pronunciation of the name, but still made gestures to show him the place on the map and used some simple numbers to tell the couple which bus they should take. If you can’t speak Vietnamese, which we don’t expect for travelers visiting our country, feel free to ask for help, we would gladly help anytime.
Money can be a problem while traveling solo, but not in Hanoi. Unlike in Western countries, the best food in this city is available on the streets, not in fancy restaurants. Depending on what dishes you like, you will not likely spend over $5 per meal. Not only that, there’s an endless option for quality accommodation and they come at reasonable prices, ranging from $9 dollars to over $20 for one night. In total, for a week-long stay in Hanoi, excluding plane tickets and shopping, $400 is a lot of money.
Compared to Ho Chi Minh City's dynamic lifestyle, life in Hanoi is more relaxing and has that quaint vibe. Amidst the rush, the capital hides places that are best experienced when you are by yourself. Whenever I am looking for a break after a busy week, visiting a cafe around West Lake is my go-to getaway. You can enjoy the wonderful view with deep blue water and clear sky while sipping traditional Vietnamese coffee.
In addition, being the political and cultural center of the country, Hanoi offers a wide range of museums and historical attractions. On the journey of exploring Vietnam's history, being alone allows you to have more time to reflect and understand the deeper value of our culture. Besides, there’s always an open art gallery somewhere in the city, where you can venture into the creative side of Hanoi.