Top things to know before visiting Hanoi

Traffic lights are just a suggestion

Hanoi is such a busy city, full of motorbikes and cars, passing by from early morning till late at night. However, despite a huge traffic Vietnamese don’t really watch the traffic lights. Ok… they kinda follow on the main road but still, there are some motorbikes or cars will decide to go on a red light.

The funny thing is that I’ve seen police passing by and seeing motorbikes not stopping on the red light…and no one cared.

That is why when you are in Hanoi for the first time…you have to be very focused when crossing the street. I have a few small tips:

  • look at least 3 times each direction before deciding to enter the road
  • don’t be shy – just walk…even if between motorbikes crossing
  • look at the drivers so you know if they see you
  • don’t hesitate

Are you a street food fan? – you won’t get hungry

Whether you feel like a hot Pho soup or a nice refreshing juice, Old Quarter is pumping with tiny street food spots with home meals prepared by the lovely old ladies. Their “restaurants” are located just on the sidewalk with small plastic tables and stalls that they bring every day with them in the morning and fold after they finish.

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I want to say I tried their food…but I am not as courageous…usually, it’s very meaty and you can see the whole meat laying outside without any fridge…and its 31 degrees… I’m sure it might be good… but I’ll stick with the restaurants with a kitchen.

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And if you want to cook yourself?

When you decide to cook yourself, you can definitely visit one of the street markets in Hanoi they are found in small narrow streets. You can buy anything you want from seafood, meat, vegetables, and fruit to sandwiches.

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You can also get a haircut done (in the same shop that sells meat!). And you don’t even need to park your scooter – easy drive through…just like in McDonald’s.

 

Local life on the streets

Walking through the Old Quarter streets is a bit challenging. Not only because of the traffic but because of the total freedom of Vietnamese locals regarding food stalls and parking.

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A narrow sidewalk is being used by Hanoians as a place to put your food stand, park your motorbike, walk or even sit and talk with your friend on the little stool.

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Walking is a hard one… most of the times you have to walk on the road risking being hit by a car or drivers on their crazy Vespas 🙂

And the Vespas?…they can transport literally ANYTHING – from children (sometimes 4 of them + 1 driver) to bricks, tens of cases of coca-cola or beer… you name it – they can transport it!

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Honking is a must!

European drivers use honking when someone makes a mistake, or they want to let someone know “what are you doing -who gave your driver’s license?” etc. However, here in Vietnam honking means more: “hey, be careful is behind you”.

No one is really upset with any other driver. Everybody drives like they are the only ones on the road. “I’m driving here…honk honk…be careful – and off we go…red light, any light, someone crossing the road? So what… I can always go around them”.

I have no idea how in this craziness I haven’t seen anyone upset and there are no accidents. Maybe that works better than our European system?!

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