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North Or South Vietnam? 1 Week In Vietnam Travel Advice

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I have lived in Vietnam for many years. When people tell me they only have one week to visit Vietnam, they ask if they should go to the north or the south.

If someone only had one week to visit Vietnam, I would tell them to travel to North Vietnam. Hanoi is a lovely city, and there are plenty of beautiful sites to see in Hanoi. You can take two exciting side trips outside Hanoi to give you a great flavor of Vietnam and all that Vietnam has to offer its visitors.

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Insiders Guide To One Week in North Vietnam

I have lived in Vietnam for over ten years, so if someone asked me if they had only one week to visit Vietnam and if they would go to the south or north Vietnam, I would tell them to come to north Vietnam to get the authentic flavor for all Vietnam has to offer.

As a word of caution, the winters can be cold here, and the summers can be sweltering. Both spring and fall are great times to visit, so the best time to visit is February to April and Late September to November. During this time, the rainfall is minimal, the days are warm, and the nights are more relaxed. Temperatures are usually temperate.

Day 1 And 2 – Hanoi Vietnam Travel

I would fly directly into Hanoi. Many flights go through other major Asian cities or directly into Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Hanoi airport is quite close to the center of the city. Getting to your hotel should not take more than 30 or 40 minutes. Getting taxis outside the airport and the international arrivals area is quite easy.

The approximate fare is posted for the taxis, and it should not cost you any more than 25 USD, depending on where your hotel is or where the cab needs to go. If you have a question, clearly ask the taxi driver the approximate fare before getting into the taxi. Just be aware that sometimes, when I arrive late at night, they want to charge more than if I arrive during the daytime.

Here are some of my favorite things to do in Hanoi. These are not the only things you can do, but they are just some of my favorite places to visit or ways to show my visitors the city.

Cyclo Ride Or Golf Cart Around the Old Quarters

At the heart of Hanoi is the old quarters. The Hanoi Old Quarters is a lovely area that is filled with old colonial French-style buildings.

To learn more about the Hanoi Old Quarters, you can read Hanoi’s Old Quarters History and Streets – Touring By Electric Cart by clicking here. One of our favorite things to do is take a cyclo or a golf cart ride around the old quarters. You can rent golf carts near Hoan Kiem Lake in downtown Hanoi.

Here is a video that shows what you can expect to see on a typical golf cart ride around Hanoi.

Insiders Guide to Riding the Golf Carts Through Downtown Hanoi, Vietnam

See The Water Puppets Show

The water puppet show is an integral part of traditional Vietnamese culture. It is quite amazing how the puppets can work together with the water.

This is an essential part of Vietnamese culture. The show is about one hour long. In Hanoi, you can buy tickets at the theatre near Hoan Kiem Lake, near where you rent the golf carts.

To learn more about the water puppets, read our blog: Is the Vietnamese Water Puppet Show Worth Seeing? by clicking here.

Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake is one of the major lakes in Hanoi. It is effortless to walk around the lake. And while you are there, check out some Vietnamese ice cream around the lake area.

Also, walk into the temple on that lake that many call the turtle temple.

Go To The Old Church Area

The Old Church Area is also known as Nha Tho or Church Street because of the large French Catholic church at the end of the road.

If you happen to be in the area on a Sunday morning, you may see a worship service in session. You will be surprised how the service may have overflowed to the outside area.

The Nha Tho Area is also an excellent area to shop, grab a coconut coffee or drink at Cong Coffee, or have lunch at one of the many restaurants.

Bike Around West Lake

If you are courageous or not afraid of the traffic, cycling around West Lake is trendy. Cycling is a great way for you to see the West Lake area.

You can cycle or even motorbike around West Lake. While riding there, get some ice cream, go to a coffee shop on the lake, visit a French bakery for lunch, and visit many temples and pagodas around the lake.

Many places around the lake will rent bicycles for you, but one of our favorite bike shops is a small bike shop across the street from the Hanoi Club. You can find the Hanoi Bicycle Rental shop on Pho Yen Hoa and Ngo 76 Yen Phu Street.

Ride Over Long Bien Bridge

The Long Bien Bridge is the old French bridge built by Gustav Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel tower in Paris. Going over the bridge and seeing the Red River below is fascinating. If you are lucky, you will see a train coming through the middle of the bridge.

You can find out more about the Long Bien Bridge by reading Who Built the Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi, Vietnam? by clicking here.

You can come along with us on a ride along Long Bien Bridge by clicking the video below:

The Bridge the Eiffel Built – Long Bien Bridge Vietnam.

Visit the Flower Market

If you love flowers, you must get up early to see all the activities at Hanoi’s famous flower market. The flower market will start a lot of activity at 4 or 5 am.

If you go to the flower market, you will not only see a lot of exciting and beautiful flowers but also see how active the mornings can be here in Hanoi.

Watch our video about some flower markets that spring up around Hanoi during the annual TET holiday.

Flower Market During TET (Lunar New Year) – Hanoi Vietnam – An Insiders Guide

Check Out Early Morning Exercises

Hanoi is also an early city where activity starts early in the morning. One of my favorite things to see is the variety of morning exercises in almost all parks and public spaces.

In the mornings, you will find people out jogging, tai chi classes, biking, weight lifting, flag dancing, and even ballroom dancing. This is a fun way to see the city and experience this vibrant city’s life in the mornings.

You can check out our video to discover more about early morning exercising in Hanoi.

Morning Exercise in Hanoi, Vietnam

Eat Bun Cha, A Vietnamese Treat

Bun Cha is one of the most popular dishes in North Vietnam. You will find signs all over the city that say Bun Cha and people eating this Vietnamese dish of Bun Cha at roadside cafes all over the city.

When U.S. President Barrack Obama came to Vietnam, he ate Bun Cha at a local restaurant in Hanoi. You can find out more about his visit and learn about Bun Cha by reading The Vietnamese Bun Cha Food Dish, All You Need To Know by clicking here.

If you want to try to make Bun Cha before you go or you want to know about this dish, you can watch our video:

Homemade Vietnamese Bun Cha – An Insiders Guide to Vietnam

Go To the Hanoi Opera House

In the center of Hanoi is the lovely Hanoi opera house. This Opera house is a replica of a French Opera house.

Check out and see if any performances are going on, so go on. My favorite versions are when they perform the Vietnamese Bamboo instruments.

You can read more about the Vietnamese Bamboo instruments at Vietnamese Bamboo Musical Instruments, What You Need to Know, by clicking here.

We also recorded a performance of some of the fantastic Bamboo instruments.

Bamboo Instruments – Insider's Guide Vietnam


Visit One Of Hanoi’s many museums –

Hanoi has many beautiful museums. There are museums of all sizes and showing all kinds of things. Here are some of our favorite museums:

  • Vietnam Museum of Ethnology – This museum is located in Cau Giay District, so you will need to get a taxi to go out there. But it is worth the trip as they have some very interesting hill tribe houses you can see that are located on their grounds. The museum itself also has some interesting displays. The museum is located at Đ. Nguyễn Văn Huyên, Quan Hoa, Cầu Giấy, Hà Nội
  • Vietnamese Women’s Museum – The Vietnamese Women’s Museum is in downtown Hanoi. Sometimes, we have rented a golf cart to take us there. They also have a lot of great displays and can give you a lot of insight into women and ethnic minorities in Vietnam. They also have a nice gift shop. You can find the musuem at 36 Lý Thường Kiệt, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội.
  • Hoa Lo Prison Museum – the Hoa Lo Prison Museum will give some insight into Vietnam’s past with the French and Americans. It is a very nicely preserved old French prison close to Hanoi’s downtown area. You can visit the museum at 36 Lý Thường Kiệt, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội.

Most of these museums are open daily until about 5:30 pm. If there is a special holiday or something has changed, the front desk of your hotel should help confirm this before you visit the museums.

Day 3 and 4 – Ha Long Bay

Ha, Long Bay is a 5-hour drive outside Hanoi. When you book a tour for Ha Long Bay, they will usually provide transportation for you to Ha Long Bay and back again.

You can go there for one day (back and forth the same day) or stay overnight for 1 or 2 nights. Most people will stay overnight on a boat on the bay for 1 night.

If your time is tight for your trip, you can easily see many Ha Long Bay on the day trip. To find a tour of Ha Long Bay, your hotel can help you or many small travel agents in Hanoi handle packages and trips to Ha Long Bay.

The cost can vary greatly according to your choice of boat and tour company. There are basically luxury to basic tours – so you can find a trip to fit your budget.

Ha, Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The name Ha Long means “descending dragon” in Vietnamese.

Ha, Long Bay is so special that the area features thousands of limestone karsts to small limestone mountains in various shapes and sizes. You can kayak under some of them, and others can go in to see the actual caves.

Day 5, 6, and 7 -Sapa Vietnam

Sapa Vietnam is also about a 5-hour drive from Hanoi. Though you may take an overnight train, most people will take the bus in the morning. Like most things, you can take some luxury buses or regular buses. We usually take the luxury bus because it has larger seats and offers Wi-Fi.

Sapa is a 3-days trip because if you want to do any trekking or spend the night at a hill tribe village, you will need to have at least this time.

We also recommend the travel company Ethos for all your Sapa travel needs. They will ensure you have an authentic trip there and an excellent company. They also offer a variety of tours, everything from biking to motorcycling around the area. t

You can find out more about Ethos-Spirit of the Community by clicking here. Phil and Hoa run Ethos, but they also do a lot of social work to help people in the community, so not only will you be able to see some amazing sites, but you will also be supporting them to ensure all their good work continues. You can contact Hoa or Phil by clicking here; tell them Anita sent you.

As you can see from this list, you can see many things in Hanoi over a 7-day period of time. One of the great things about traveling to North Vietnam is that it offers you a great variety to see some of the top tourist sites that Vietnam has to offer.

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Phat Diem Cathedral, Architectural Masterpiece Outside Hanoi, Vietnam

The Phat Diem Cathedral is located about 123 kilometers (76 miles) outside Hanoi, Vietnam. The Cathedral is a unique architectural structure designed and built in the mid-1800s by Father Six, a Vietnamese Catholic Priest. The Cathedral complex has a bell tower, a Cathedral, and also smaller chapels and grottoes.

You can find out more by reading Phat Diem Cathedral, Architectural Masterpiece Outside Hanoi, Vietnam by clicking here.

Is Vietnam Safe For Tourists? Tips To Stay Safe In Vietnam

Vietnam is a safe place for tourists to travel. But like any country in the world, there are precautions that you need to take to ensure your safety. Most of the Vietnam crimes are considered crimes of opportunity; someone may see your backpack is not secure, so that they will grab it. To stay safe in Vietnam, remain vigilant and use your common sense.

You can find out more by reading Is Vietnam Safe For Tourists? Tips To Stay Safe In Vietnam by clicking here.

Anita L Hummel
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One response to “North Or South Vietnam? 1 Week In Vietnam Travel Advice”

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