It has been a while since I blogged – but we went back to South Africa to visit family and, of course, to be at our eldest daughter’s wedding, and what a magnificent day that was – congrats to Caitlin and Ashley and here’s to your wonderful future together.
They have now also moved to Hanoi and before they left I was putting together a “how to and where to” guide for them so I thought I would share this as some others may find it helpful.
Please note that this site is not monetized and therefore all of the recommendations and/or suggestions are purely my own opinion.
The first thing to be aware of is that although the visa is referred to as Visa on Arrival – you will need an invitation letter – this is available from various agents – we use True Colors in Tay Ho, Hanoi ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) – Lai and her team are amazing – super helpful and efficient. Once you have received your letter you will also need to complete the application for visa form and make sure you have 2 photos and the completed application and approval letter to present at the visa counter at the airport. You will need to pay for both the letter and the actual visa (the prices are quoted in US$ so it is useful to get some before travel (you can pay in Vietnamese Dong which you can draw near the visa counter – but just as easy to carry US$). Certain countries do qualify for 15 days visa free – so check on the requirements for your country.
Once though arrivals you can get a sim card at any of the numerous kiosks for that purpose – we use Mobifone and pay VND 90 000 for 5.5GB of data.
I would suggest that you download the Grab app for transport purposes – you can easily get a Grab or even a metered taxi form the airport – they are well controlled and should be about VND 150 000 to VND 200 000 from the airport to Tay Ho.
If you are planning a short stay, it may be an idea to stay in or near Old Quarter where there are untold number of pubs, restaurants, night market etc. If you are planning a longer stay – it may be better to initially stay in Tay Ho area where there are a large number of expats.
Some of our favourite places to go are:
Home 38 (full English with all the trimmings) Quang Ba Street
Healthwich (great baguettes and salads) or O’Douciers (lovely baguettes and pastries)– both on To Ngoc Van Road;
2 Sisters in Hanoi (172 Au Co Road) – has delicious homemade pies, the best pastry of any pie I have ever eaten (they also do brekkies)
Saturday lunch and sport – Republic (on Quang An Street) is a great place to grab a burger (or any of the other amazing meals on offer) and a few beers and settle in to watch the sport of the numerous TV’s – which often have different events on, so you can watch Football and Rugby side by side.
For a quick cost effective local meal (not just dinner) – any Bia Hoi (like a local tavern with really good cheap food and beer) – they are all over but our favourite one is next to Syrena Shopping Centre on Xuan Dieu Street;
For a fancier night out, our favourite is Cousins (also on Quang Ba) is a great little French restaurant with amazing food, great service and a really good vibe.
Bun Cha – the best one we had had is the small bun cha lady about 3 doors away from Syrena Shopping centre – past Nan and Kebab (to the right of the exit)
Pho – Spicy Pho on Xuan Dieu – although in the last 12 months they have moved 3 times
For the ladies:
88 Lounge – 88 Xuan Dieu – happy hour from 5 – 7pm 2 for the price of 1 (including some bottles of wine)
Camelia Lounge – Wednesday nights – ladies drink for free!! Always a good treat and reason to get dressed up!
We are truly spoilt for choice in terms of eating places and almost all of them offer take-aways – another useful app to download is Vietnammm – all the take outs are listed on this app and it works fantastically.
There is also no shortage of coffee shops – literally every 20 metres you will see another one – our favourites chains are Starbucks (Xuan Dieu) for cappuccinos and lattes and Cong Caphe (various locations but we most often go to the one on Xuan Dieu overlooking the lake) for iced coconut coffee and frozen lemonade.
It is fantastic to be able to ride around the lake and be able to just stop at any one of the coffee shops or pubs to have a coffee or beer overlooking the water.
In terms of shopping there are numerous small mini market type of shops both Vietnamese chains and independent little shops that serve the expat community, so you will soon realise that virtually all of your home comforts are available here. We tend to go to Hung Long and Oasis (both on Xuan Dieu). For fresh fruit and veg (although we do buy pork and chicken there as well), I suggest you locate your local “wet” market – these operate 7 days a week and you will not get fresher goods. Although we have moved out of the main hub of Tay Ho we still visit the market behind the flower market on Au Co (238).
If you are needing to buy crockery for your home – I highly recommend a trip out to Bat Trung Ceramic Village, about 15km out of Hanoi. Not only is the crockery really cheap, but it is a great drive out there and you can also (at a cost) make some of your own.
For other household items it is worth visiting either Big C or Mega Mart – you will find branches of these in various locations around Hanoi.
In general – if it is available you will find it in Old Quarter – as a matter of interest the streets in Old Quarter were originally named according to what they sold and are still referred to as such and still largely adhere to this tradition – e.g. shoe street predominantly sells shoes and gold street – jewellery, etc, so if you are looking for something – just ask if there is a street for it.
Medical services – you generally won’t find a stand-alone GP and it is best to just visit a hospital and see a doctor there. Most of the hospitals do offer translators – we use Thu Cuc Hospital in Thuy Khue (one road back from the lake in Tay Ho) and you will be accompanied by a translator throughout your visit. They are very thorough and extremely reasonable in comparison to prices at home! The best dental clinic in my opinion is The Australian Dental Clinic in Ha Ba Trung District – also very reasonable and Dr Cong speaks English.
There are plenty of Facebook groups that you should join that will help you with all matters Hanoi related from finding accommodation to getting advice on the best hairdressers or dentists, as well as helping you find a job (please only do this if you have the correct paperwork) or fellow expats!
Some extra tips for South Africa Expats – look out for Mike Till on Facebook (Mike’s Beefy Biltong) – he makes incredible boerewors and biltong – we actually think his plain boerewors is even better than a lot we have tasted at home. As good South Africans we love a braai and we found our actual braai at Mega Mart (used to be Metro), they also sell firelighters and charcoal, if you are only looking for the charcoal, most bun cha shops will sell it to you.
It is an idea to register with your home Embassy so that should something happen requiring their assistance they are aware of your presence in Hanoi.
And lastly as I have said before take time to learn a few words be courteous, be kind and obey the law – we are, after all, visitors !
Some useful words:
Hello – xin chào
Good bye – tạm biệt
Thank you – cảm ơn
One – một
Two – hai
Three – ba
Four – bốn
Five – năm
How much does this cost – bao nhiêu tiền