Before you start salivating over the cuisine you're set to consume on your Hanoi holiday, it's important to get to know a bit about the city (and its best dishes) before you go. Here, we run through some basic information to help you on your way.
Australian passport holders must obtain a visa or a visa on arrival approval letter prior to entering Vietnam, which can only be obtained from your nearest Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam. All foreigners are required to register their place of residence with local police within 24 hours of arrival, although if you are staying in hotel accommodation, this will normally be arranged for you. Please be aware this information is only a guideline. For up-to-the-minute visa information, contact your local Embassy or Consulate of Vietnam.
The currency used in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and Vietnamese Dong can change regularly, so in order to get the best exchange rate, aim to monitor the rate in the lead up to your trip.
As Vietnam's capital city, you'd be wise to bring your fat pants to Hanoi. This is after all, the meeting place of Southeast Asian and French flavours. While the days of the French have long but disappeared (bar a few buildings) from Hanoi, influences from the European country's delicious cuisine and traditional bakeries still remain, best savoured with a banh mi or pork roll baguette and a glass of strong dark iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk (ca phe). And then there is the simple street food where dishes of fresh fish are served with spices and noodles, the most popular juice is derived from sugar cane, and just about everything is drenched in sweet-salty-sour and pungent sauces. Try bun cha, a noodle soup of meatballs and vegetables, banh cuon - rice crepes filled with minced pork and mushrooms, and head to the Old Quarter to get your buzz on with cheap and fresh Czech-style beer known as bia hoa enjoyed on sidewalk seating.
While Hanoi isn't the vivacious nightlife city that Ho Chi Minh City is, it's not completely without things to do when the sun goes down. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater offers the typical tourist entertainment at night, along with night markets where shopping after too many beers can prove troublesome. For bars and clubs, the Old Quarter is where most of the action happens, with a venue for all music tastes, styles and budgets. Mix with locals and backpackers for some rowdy fun at a ramshackle bia hoa bar, or find yourself whisked away to a tropical resort at the stylish Sunset Bar, built on a manmade island in West Lake, close to the Old Quarter.