Accommodation and Housing
How do I move to Hanoi?
In recent years, it has become easier to move into and out of Vietnam. However, there are some basic rules and guidelines you should follow to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.
First of all, you should make it a priority to obtain information from your embassy in Vietnam (please see your embassy’s website) about local visa entry requirements, residence and work permits and customs regulations. These can change quite rapidly. If you are using an international relocation company, they should also be able to advise you on some of these requirements, including all the necessary paperwork, and this should be included in the quotation you receive.
Always use the services of an experienced international mover if you are moving your home e.g. furniture, household goods, from overseas.
The following international companies can assist you in moving to Vietnam and provides services aimed at helping you settle in including following up with customs clearances, arranging visas and work permits, finding a suitable school or home, and recruiting household help:
Asian Tigers Mobility
Crown Worldwide Group
Santa Fe Relocation Services
Air freight will be faster but more expensive while sea freight make take up to 6 weeks to reach your new home in Hanoi, depending on the country of departure. Given high humidity levels in Hanoi, try to limit transit and storage time as much as possible and ask for storage facilities with air-conditioning.
If you prefer to travel lighter, another option is to contact airlines flying to Vietnam directly and enquire about their cargo services. This is a more affordable option if you are only moving a few boxes.
A few more tips:
- Avoid sending/moving anything to Vietnam that will require customs clearance the two weeks preceding and following the Tet Lunar New Year holiday (usually the last week of January or first week of February).
- Make sure to retain the Vietnam Immigration Card you are given on arrival and to tick the “unaccompanied luggage” box. This is stamped at Customs and you will need it to get customs clearance for your goods.
If you are moving within Vietnam, you might also ask for estimates from local removal companies. We hear they offer a reliable and very affordable service.
Finally, companies such as Resident Vietnam provide services aimed at helping new expatriates settle in including following up on customs clearances, arranging visas and work permits, finding a suitable school or home, and recruiting household help.
Where do expatriates live?
Personal preference will affect this, as well as preferred lifestyle. If you have children, you may prefer to live closer to the school that you choose for them, especially if they are very young. However most international schools provide a bus service.
Tay Ho (“West Lake”) is one of the more common areas for expatriates of different nationalities, favoured by families, couples and singles alike because there is a range of accommodation including quiet houses with pools and small yards, modern apartments with lake views and plenty of restaurants, bars and mini-markets.
Ciputra, a housing development north-west of the West Lake area, is also popular for families, particularly those with children at the nearby UN International School. The roads are also much quieter than Tay Ho and parents say that they feel it is much safer for children to play outside. The downside is fewer facilities and shops. Other similar housing developments include Vinhomes Riverside around the British International School (Long Bien district) and Ecopark where the British University Vietnam is building its new campus (Hung Yen), both to the east of the Red River, or Splendora hosting the St Paul American School west of Hanoi). A few expatriates have started to move out to these areas.
There are also some attractive modern apartments in the Lotte Tower in the so-called Midtown area ( Kim Ma area), often favoured by Japanese and Korean expatriates. Korean expatriates also favour the Cay Giay and My Dinh districts west of the city.
A few expatriates also live in the downtown or old town area of Hoan Kiem, south of Hoan Kiem lake. Most Vietnamese administrations, embassies and bank operation centres are found in Hoan Kiem district, as well as the Hanoi Opera House. Real estate prices for villas and serviced apartments are highest in Hoan Kiem District.
How do I find an apartment or house?
Finding a suitable place to live takes time and patience. Be prepared for a few disappointments initially and keep a sense of humour. You may have to view quite a few properties before you find the one that is right for you. We have heard that some agents first take you to unsuitable properties that have been on their books for quite a while. Have a clear list of your requirements and hold out for what you want as new property becomes available all the time. Don’t let your letting agent or company bounce you!
There are a growing number of real estate agents in Hanoi serving the expatriate community. Reputable companies will be able to understand and communicate your contractual requirements to a landlord, including after you move in. Ask friends or colleagues to recommend an agent who has offered them a professional service.
Well-established and English-speaking real estate companies include:
FAIR Real Estate
Agents in Hanoi are in general non-exclusive, which means you are free to work with as many agents as you like. The system works on the basis that the first agent to take a tenant to a house will be paid a fee by the landlord if a lease is signed. For your own records and to avoid arguments later, it is a good idea to ask for a written list of properties viewed with any one agent. Also try to be sure that the agent is acting on your behalf.
What is best, an apartment or a house?
The first thing you should consider is whether you want to rent a single-family house or an apartment, and whether you prefer furnished or unfurnished accommodation. Modern apartments in Hanoi are generally more expensive to rent than houses. High-quality apartments can be very convenient with good service and offer facilities such as a pool, a gym and a 24-hour security. Furnished serviced apartments with daily maid service and other facilities are available on both short and long term leases and might be suitable while you find a place to live. Houses that are let to foreigners in the Tay Ho area tend to have three or more floors and no lifts, so may not be suitable if you have mobility requirements.
A few “Top Tips” when looking for housing:
Some locations can become very noisy at certain times of the day especially if nearby a school, a market, a busy road, or a karaoke club. If you like somewhere, it’s a good idea to visit it at different times of day.
Prefer reversible air-conditioning system: a cooling option for the summer, a heating option for the winter (you will need it!), and a dehumidifying option for fall and spring.
It is almost impossible to move to a property in Hanoi that will not have some construction work close by in the future. However, it is still advisable to avoid renting a property that has an obvious vacant lot nearby. If a house appears to be a “bargain”, there may be reasons why!
Having a good relationship with a landlord is very important. If you don’t feel comfortable with him/her, it is better to walk away.
Is there a written lease?
Leases for houses are normally negotiable. It can be difficult to rent a house for less than a period of 12 months, although this is still negotiable if your circumstances demand it. Leases on serviced apartments can be for variable lengths of time and are generally more flexible. On signing the lease, a deposit equal to one month’s rent must be paid to secure the property. Paying the rent depends on your landlord’s requirements and the advance payment requested can vary considerably. For a good property, a payment of six months’ rent in advance is not unusual. For a large new house, a minimum of a year’s rent in advance is usually required. However, please note that you may lose your advance payment should you leave Hanoi before the rent is up. We hear that deposits aren’t always refunded as well, with landlords claiming damage or delaying the payment until “later.”
The lease must be in both English and Vietnamese. If you are in any doubt as to the terms in the contract, you should consult a lawyer or your company’s legal department before signing. A reputable estate agent should be able to provide you with a simple but comprehensive lease document, in well-written English, that is fair to both landlord and tenant, stating clearly all your requirements. You might want to negotiative for the inclusion of a “Diplomatic Break Clause” in case unforeseen circumstances require you to cut short your stay in Vietnam, or changes in your neighbourhood mean you no longer wish to live there. The inclusion of this clause would enable you to leave your tenancy early without honouring a notice period.
Make sure that only you have the right to terminate the contract. The landlord should only be able to terminate the contract if you fail to make the rent payments on time.
Landlords of private houses will ask you to sign double contracts, one quoting a lower rent so as to avoid tax. This is not legal but a fairly widespread practice. You can try to avoid it but this may increase the rent or if another tenant is prepared to sign a double contract, the house may be let to them.
If your company is paying and requires a “Red Invoice,” you need to let the landlord know as soon as possible as s/he will want to factor this into the price.
Finally, beware of currency exchange clauses. Savills’ advice is to ensure the agreed rent is quoted in Vietnamese Dong and not adjusted monthly (this is the point of having a lease). US$ figures should be just for discussion. Collecting rents in a foreign currency is actually illegal in Vietnam. If your landlord insists on being paid in USD or EUR, it may not make a difference if your income is paid to you in a foreign currency, but it may become a point of negotiation to your advantage.
What should I know before negotiating a lease?
Landlords rarely carry out any repairs or renovations before they have a tenant, so inspect the houses/apartments you like personally and carefully and make a list of the things you wanted repaired/replaced/repainted before you move in.
Make sure all the agreements you reach are reflected in writing in your contract, and bear in mind how long the repairs and replacements you want might take when agreeing your moving-in date.
Generators are no longer usually supplied by landlords because the supply of electricity in Hanoi has substantially improved and there are few major power cuts. Water supply is not a problem. Most properties have three-phase electricity (220-volt outlets only) so you can utilise all your appliances at the same time. Since the electricity supply in many older houses is not grounded, you should have at least the points in the kitchen and bathrooms checked for safety reasons. You should also check also that the water pressure is adequate and that the water heaters are large enough to fill a bath.
When you move into a house, there should be a comprehensive “handover” document. All meters should be read at handover time to make sure that you are paying only for your own electricity (and not your predecessor’s or your neighbour’s).
Hanoi is a very safe city but some people choose to have security guards. Although the majority of expatriates do not to have guards, this is a personal choice and easily arranged. Some of the larger houses with gardens and pools often have their night guard double up as a gardener/pool attendant/dog walker. We suggest keeping your front gate locked at all times as a precaution against petty crime and crimes of opportunity. Thieves are known to watch people moving in and out of houses and there have been a number of cases of e.g. bike theft from front yards, when owners have been in their houses but front access has not been secured.
How do I pay my utility bills?
Electricity and telephone/internet usage is metered and monthly bills will be delivered to your home. Different rates apply to your electricity consumption, the more you use electricity the more you are charged per unit! Your monthly electricity bill can range anywhere from US$100 to US$500 depending on the size of your home and how often you use air conditioning. Electricity can also be paid online at EVNHanoi Website.
Garbage collection, TV/cable, and water bills are also usually delivered to your home. These latter charges are usually very small.
How do I get an internet connection set up?
Internet access is readily available and generally reliable. You can ask your landlord and/or letting agent for help. If you are in a house, the bill will be brought to you and you pay directly.
Serviced apartment buildings provide internet services and usually bill you directly. Costs range from $20-$40 a month, depending on the package you require (speed).
Many cafes across Hanoi offer free Wi Fi to patrons, so this is a good back-up option while your home connection is set up.
What about large electrical appliances such as fridges and airconditioners?
The basic equipment provided by the landlord should include a range (with oven), cooker hood/extractor fan, a refrigerator (negotiate for a bigger one if you need it), a washing machine, satellite and decoder, two-way split-air conditioners in bedrooms and major living areas, voltage stabilizers and ceiling fans, if they can be fitted in. You could also try to negotiate for a separate clothes dryer and dishwasher. Make sure that everything in the house or flat is in working order and any repairs are carried out before you move in. Pay particular attention to airconditioners. Make sure they are cleaned and working, and the landlord agrees to an annual service.
You are likely to have to buy your own dehumidifiers (essential for Hanoi’s humid conditions) and air filters (see Health and Medical Care below). There is reasonable range of electrical household goods (usually made in China or Korea) available from shops on Hai Ba Trung and electrical and household goods stores such as Nguyen Kim, HC Home Center, Pico and Media Mart.
Kitchens and bathrooms are generally of acceptable international standards, although kitchens in houses are often small relative to the size of the house/other rooms. You can negotiate with the landlord for any renovations prior to beginning of the lease. Landlords usually agree to reasonable requests, such as providing and fitting curtains or blinds, but this might mean a small increase in the rent. An unfurnished property can be completely furnished, with your choice of new furniture, albeit it at an additional cost.
Where can I buy furniture?
UMA is an expat owned furniture store similar in style to IKEA. JYSK is a Danish furniture franchise in Aeon mall, offering furniture and soft furnishings including bedding. For good quality heavy wooden furniture, you could try Grand Bois and Dome. Module 7 and Y-Not offer custom made furniture, as does the cheaper alternative Maroon Driftwood.
How do I find household help and how much should I pay?
Most people find help through word of mouth, asking around friends or asking friends’ housekeepers. Hanoi Family Google group is one of the best ways to find a good housekeeper, especially during the summer when many families leave.
Whether you are looking for a nanny, maid, housekeeper or cook, it’s best to get references. Check with your employer for referrals, check on Facebook through the Facebook groups, The New Hanoian classifieds or look at a website like Maid in Vietnam
Between US$350-450 (paid in Vietnamese Dong) a month is about the going rate for a full-time housekeeper and US$250 a month for part-time. Whether your housekeeper is full-time or part-time, you will be expected to pay a TET (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) bonus, a thirteenth month and a yearly increase of 5-10%. A fourteenth month is discretionary and normally only paid to long-serving employees. Part-time pay is about $250 a month and sometimes housekeepers prefer this so they can accept other work. You are not usually required to take out health insurance for your housekeeper/helper, but if you decide to do so, it is best to pay this directly into a scheme to ensure that cover is taken out.
Working hours for full time are 8-9 hours a day (40-45 hours a week) including a minimum of 30 minutes for lunch/break. Your helper is entitled to 12 paid-for vacation days per year after completing 12 month of consecutive work in addition to the following official holidays:
New Year Day / 1 January (1 day)
Têt (4 days)
Reunification Day / 30 April (1 day)
International Labour Day / 1 May (1 day)
National Day / 2 September (1 day).
Some housekeepers require contracts, others do not. If you need to provide a contract, ask around for advice.
Schools and Kindergarten
British International School (BIS)
Selective international school offering a British style education in English from preschool to Year 13. Follows the national curriculum for England i.e International GCSEs and Advanced “A” Level. International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma being offered from August 2016. The majority or teachers have British qualifications and recent experience of teaching in the UK. The schools offer as English as an Additional Language (EAL) programme for students who initially need support.
Contact: via website: www.bishanoi.com
British Vietnamese International School (BVIS)
A bilingual (English and Vietnamese) international school taking children from aged 2 upwards. Follows the national curriculum for England from Early Years and Key Stages 1 and 2 through to International GCSEs and A Levels. Overseas staff have two year minimum experience of teaching English curriculum
Hanoi International School (HIS)
Kindergarten to Grade 12. Follows the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme from Kindergarten to Grade 5, Middle Years Programme and Australian National Curriculum for Grade 6 to 8, International GCSEs for Grades 9 and 10 and Grades 11 and 12 take the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. Three main racial groups are Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese but 36 other nationalities. Mostly western expatriate teaching staff. Offers help with special educational needs.
Contact: via website
Lycee Francais Alexandre Yersin
A French curriculum non-profit school operating under the auspices of the French AEFE which manages all state schools outside of France. All teachers are certified by the French Ministry of Education. Kindergarten classes are for children aged three years and above, and the school accepts children until age 18.
Contact: via website.
Singapore International School (SIS)
SIS schools in Vietnam affiliated under the Kinderworld Education Group. Kindergarten through to age 18. International (Kindergarten to Year 8) and Integrated programmes (Kindergarten to Year 9) including Singapore International Primary Schools Examination. International GCSEs and then either to British Advanced Level or PIU Certificate/Diploma or Global Assessment Certificate (including US college test) depending on university pathway. Three campuses in Hanoi – Ciputra, Cau Giay and Gamuda Gardens.
Contact: via website
St Paul American School
American curriculum and English language. Pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. School certified by Vietnamese Department of Education and St Paul Preparatory School in the US. High School students graduate with a diploma certified by the school and St Paul Preparatory School in the US. Offers an Advanced Placement programme enabling High School students to pursue college-level studies. The majority of the pupils are currently South Korean.
United Nations International School (UNIS)
Follows the International Baccalaureate Programme from Discovery (aged 3 to 5 years old) through Early Years (Grades 1-5) , Middle Years (6-10) and Diploma for the last two years of High School (Grades 11-12). EAL Programme and Learning Support. Excellent on campus facilities, extra curricular activities, service learning and community programme. Admissions policy gives priority to children of diplomats and UN staff, siblings and returning students. No one nationality may exceed 25%.
How do I choose a school in Hanoi?
Apart from the fees, you might want to take into account the following:
- Academic curriculum and continuity of education. You may wish your child/ren to stay with International Baccalaureate programme or on the British/Australian/other curriculum, as you move from place to place.
- The mix of national and international pupils. It can be hard for older children, in particular, to be in a grade or class with few or no other children from their own country or culture.
- Location. How far will your children have to travel to and from school each day and how much time will it take? Is there a school bus available?
- The leadership of the school and quality of academic staff.
- Sporting and other facilities, and extra curricular activities.
Are there other kindergarten and nurseries?
Systems Little House is an international kindergarten run by expatriates, with qualified expatriate and Vietnamese teachers. It provides full and half day sessions for children aged between 18 months and 7 years. The 5-7 year olds follow the British curriculum. Based in Tay Ho.
Starfish International Kindergarten. Educational programmes for children from 10 months through to 6 years old. Based in Tay Ho. Summer programme.
Morning Star International School. Full and half day programmes for 18 months to six years. Vietnamese and expatriate staff. Campuses in Tay Ho and Van Phuc. Summer programme.
Are there any playgroups?
HIWC runs playgroups during the week in Tay Ho. Please email email@example.com for more information and consult our Facebook page,
What are the other child care options?
It is possible to find good (unqualified but experienced) domestic staff to look after children. Average monthly salary is US$400. Household staff will also usually be available to baby-sit in the evening and weekends and the cost is roughly VND 100,000 or US$5 per hour.
Please also refer to “How do I find Household Help and how much should I pay?” in Accommodation and Housing above.
What about language schools?
For the Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Korean and Japanese language schools, we recommend that you first contact your embassy as these schools are often held under embassy and community auspices for the nationals of these countries only.
My child has special needs?
At present, there is only limited support available for children with special needs. Some schools, including HIS and UNIS, do have learning and support and counselling services. If your child/ren has special needs, it is best to begin a dialogue with your preferred school as soon as possible to establish whether they can offer the support you and your child/ren might need.
Any advice on summer schools?
A number of the international school and kindergarten mentioned above run a summer programme. Please refer to their websites for further information.
Health and Medical Care
For some organisations, Hanoi is an “informed choice” posting which means you can bring your children as long as you understand the limitations of the health care. Some people chose to have their babies in Hanoi, although the majority chose to return to their home countries where they can speak the same language and have family support.
Do I need health insurance?
Most international health insurance companies offer insurance policies that cover Vietnam. We recommended you contact your insurance company for information on extent of your cover and costs e.g. not all policies cover dental treatment. It is vital that you are covered for evacuation in the event of a serious accident or illness. While it is likely that in the case of an emergency you would first contact your medical practitioner in Hanoi, we advise you to test and make a note of the 24 hour emergency number given by your insurance company. We have heard people calling in an emergency only to find that the number has changed or that no one speaks English.
What medical providers and facilities are there?
Family Medical Practice (FMP) at 297 I Kim Ma offers an international standard of medical care with expatriate and Vietnamese doctors and specialists. Services include Paediatricians, Gynaecologists, Physiotherapists, Psychologists and General Practitioners. FMP operates in English, Vietnamese, Korean, French and Japanese offering 24 hour service including emergency ambulances, house visits and medical evacuation. There is a 24-hour Pharmacy.
Please note that while FMP can offer X-Rays, bone setting and plaster casts need to be done elsewhere e.g. at the French Hospital.
T:+84 4 3843 0748
International SOS Vietnam at 51 Xuan Dieu in Tay Ho (just behind Fraser Suites/Syrena Centre) offers family medicine, travel medicine, urgent care, paediatrics, cardiology, ENT, dermatology, ophthalmology, optometry, physiotherapy, psychology, endocrinology and rheumatology. The clinic also provides international pharmacy services, on site laboratory and imaging and a full suite of work permit, health check packages. The clinic is staffed with local and foreign physicians, as well as professionals who can provide multi-lingual support to foreigners, expatriates and local residents. This includes a dedicated Japanese service and language support for Korean, French and Mandarin speakers.
Business hours: Monday – Sunday, 8am-8pm.
Telephone: +84 4 3934 0666
L’Hopital Francais de Hanoi (aka “The French Hospital”) at 1 Phuong Mai , Dong Da, Hanoi is a private hospital offering a wide range of inpatient and outpatient services including maternity, neonatal and paediatrics. The hospital has a 24 hour accident and emergency and ambulance service.
The hospital also has a Health Care Centre H Clinic Trung Hoa situated in the 24T1 Building in Trung Hoa in the west of the city. For further information:
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
An alternative is the newer Vinmec International Hospital but at this point, we haven’t heard any customer reviews. For further information, call the hotline on 04 3974 3558 or for emergencies 04 3974 4333. Vinmec International Hospital at 458 Minh Khai Street, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi.
The American Chiropractic Clinic specialises in the treatment of Acute and Chronic back and neck pain, Sports Injuries, and Childhood Spinal problems such as Scoliosis and Flat Feet.
Physio Active offers general physiotherapy for adults and paediatric physiotherapy.
What immunisations do I need?
We advise that you contact your medical practitioner for up to date advice on vaccinations. The Hanoi Family Medical Practice, the Hanoi French Hospital and the International SOS Clinic can give you appropriate advice and service if you haven’t already arranged vaccinations prior to arriving in Hanoi.
What about dental care?
Good dental care, including orthodontics, is available from expatriate-run Dental Surgeries Peace Dental in the Truc Bac Lake area (Tel: +84 (0)4 3715 2286), One Dental on Quan An
and West Coast Dental in the Syrena Centre on Xuan Dieu
(both in the Tay Ho area). FMP, International SOS and the French Hospital also offer dentistry.
Are there any alternative health options?
Can I drink the tap water?
No. The water in Vietnam is not safe for consumption and Vietnamese people are quite used to drinking bottled water. Bottled water is easily available and can be ordered for delivery in 19L bottles. You can use the tap water to wash your teeth but you should avoid drinking it. If you are concerned use boiled water. Purifying water with pills can be efficient on bacteria and some viruses, but not on parasites (mostly worms). Filtered water can stop bacteria and parasites but not viruses. The most reputable brands are Aquafina, La Vie and Dasani
What about pollution?
Air pollution in Hanoi is largely caused by traffic fumes, building dust and emissions from factories just outside Hanoi. It can pose an environmental health problem, especially if you or members of your family are predisposed to asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory conditions or problems with the nose/throat/eyes. We suggest you seek medical advice from your doctor before travelling.
The US embassy in Hanoi has an Air Quality Monitors and publishes hourly air quality index readings according to an easy to understand colour-coded system. This warns when the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups (quite often) or unhealthy or hazardous for everybody.
Availability of Goods
What is food and drink is available locally?
A wide variety of tasty fruit and vegetables is readily available (with seasonal fluctuations). Very good bread, pastries and cakes are available from French-style bakeries and from the bakeries of higher class hotels. There are plenty of places to buy good quality imported wine and spirits including at Red Apron Fine Wines and Spirits. A variety of imported cheese and salami/chorizo is available from a gourmet supermarket and delicatessens on Xuan Dieu in Tay Ho, and the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi in Hoan Kiem District, although prices are expensive. Japanese and Korean food and other goods can be bought in supermarkets in Syrena Centre in Tay Ho and in the Lotte Tower, and in shops in the Cau Giay and My Dinh areas.
Hanoi Small Goods are popular for their high quality cuts of meat and delivery service.
What about special dietary requirements?
While you should bring what you need from home for now (e.g. gluten free flour), it is beginning to be possible to find food for special diets in supermarkets including gluten free and dairy free goods e.g. soya milk, gluten free cereal and biscuits. There is also a growing number of restaurants and shops selling vegetarian and vegan food e.g. Homefood. The growing middle class in Vietnam are increasingly concerned with healthy food and food hygiene and this is having a positive effect.
What about electrical goods?
Electrical appliances from fridge freezers, flat screen TVs, microwaves and toasters to dehumidifiers and air filters are all available locally at reasonable prices. Serviced apartments should have the appliances you need, and if you are moving into a house, you can negotiate with landlords for cookers and white goods.
What should I bring from my home country?
We suggest you consider bringing the following from home:
- Medicines. Many branded pharmaceuticals can be bought (once you have a prescription) from FMP and ISOS (please see Health and Medical Care page). But counterfeit drugs are a problem and hard to detect, so you may want to bring a stock of over-the-counter medicines that you and your family use regularly e.g. Calpol for children, cold and cough remedies, contact lenses. A Home First Aid Kit is also useful, with good quality plasters/band aids.
- Mobile Phone handsets. Hanoi has authorised Apple re-sellers, for example, but no Apple shops. Locally-bought handsets can therefore be sub-standard with guarantees and repairs unreliable. SIMS on different networks are available locally on PAYG or contract at reasonable cost.
- Food products e.g. spices, grains, flours, that you might need to prepare food from your home country.
- Food for special diets e.g. gluten free flour.
- Toiletries and cosmetics, particularly if you have a preferred brand. It can be hard to find non-perfumed, chemical free or hypoallergenic products, and facial moisturisers and creams often contain whitening products. Otherwise toothpaste, shower gel, deodorant, shaving cream and shampoo, including children’s products are easily available in recognisable brands e.g. Colgate, Palmolive, Head and Shoulders.
- Feminine hygiene products. Sanitary towels are available locally, tampons are beginning to be available in recognisable brands e.g. Tampax, but supply can be erratic. If you have a preferred brand bring a good stock with you while you work out where to buy what you need or whether local alternatives are acceptable to you.
- Lingerie and Nylons (aka “Tights”) for women.
- Adult clothing in Western sizes. It is beginning to be possible to find T shirts, smart shirts and some blouses and dresses in Western adult sizes. Emporium on Xuan Dieu stocks a good range of women’s clothing in western sizes. It is possible to have items tailored, including from fashion designers such as Bianco Levrin. Chula is a popular Spanish designer of women’s fashion. Hanoi can get relatively chilly in the winter and you should bring some warm clothing. If you are planning to travel in north Vietnam, it is cold in the winter months and you will certainly need pullovers/fleeces and a coat. Hiking and outdoor clothes such as rain proofs can be bought in the Old Quarter.
- Clothing for children. It is possible to find clothes for very young children e.g toddlers, but it can be more difficult to find clothes for children from aged 10 upwards. Bring cotton undergarments, and a few warm things for winter.
- Sports clothing for adults in western sizes and sports clothing for children (although you will be able to buy PE kits from the school your child goes to), including swimwear. Trainers are available from branded outlets and in the Old Quarter but if you want specialist shoes, or other sports wear e.g. for running, cycling, it is best you bring your kit with you. Kids’ football boots are hard to find in the right sizes so if your son or daughter plays football, best to bring these with you.
- Adults and children’s books. Children’s DVDs. DVD Box sets, if you have a favourite TV series. Films are available locally on DVD in English, but not in other languages.
- Shoes, sandals and boots (Size 39/UK 6) and above for women. Size 9 and above for men.
- A good supply of nappies (diapers) for babies and younger children. Availability is getting better all the time but prices are high and supply is sometimes erratic, and choice limited. You may also want to bring a stock of sterilising tablets, an electric steriliser for baby bottles and cups, heat rash cream and nappy rash cream, teething gel, head lice shampoo, feeding equipment, bottles and trainer cups.
- There is a limited range of lightweight pushchairs, high chairs, travel cots and car seats available from e.g. Soc and Brothers (Ly Thuong Kiet, Aeon Mall) from brands such as Graco and Aprica. Other brands may not meet international safety standards and you may want to bring something more robust from home. There is a limited choice of traditional wooden cots and children’s beds e.g. in Aeon Mall. Again, we suggest you consider bringing these items with you.
- Good quality toys for babies and younger children. Shops such as My Kingdom (Ly Thuong Kiet and third floor Aeon mall) and Joyland (third floor Aeon mall) sell Lego and Duplo. My Kingdom and Ong Mat bookstore (third floor Aeon Mall) are probably the best places for toys for children of Kindergarten and Primary School age. Imported Lego can also be bought from Lego House (Hai Ba Trung) but is expensive. Toy Store (third floor Aeon mall) and Sanrio sell playdough, a limited selection of Fisher Price toys, racing tracks and Barbies. There are few other educational toys currently available. There are many plastic toys available locally in the Old Quarter but these are unlikely to meet safety standards and wouldn’t be suitable for young children.
- If you have toddlers and young children, you might want to bring kids safe stuff to secure drawers and cupboards and cover sharp edges on furniture.
- High quality bicycle and motorbike helmets, for adults and children. There are many helmets available locally but few meet international safety standards.
What should I leave behind?
Please take advice from your relocation company on items that cannot be included in your consignment. You may not bring in foodstuffs or alcohol in large quantities, and you will need to seek advice on the necessary documentation if you are importing antiques.
What if I am looking for something in particular?
If you are looking for something in particular, joining the Facebook group “Wheretoget Hanoi” is a good place to start. Users post questions and provide each other with tips on where you might be able to find things.
Any other Top Tips?
The UN International School offers a SCO Shopping Tour usually around September. It can be a great way to meet people and learn where to buy things.
Money and Banking
What’s the currency in Vietnam and what is it worth?
The Vietnamese currency is the Vietnam Dong (VND) and currency denominations are 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 500,000. Some of the bank notes are similar colours (both the 20,000 and 500,000 are blue) so take care when paying for a taxi, especially in poor light! The VND is not a convertible currency and you won’t be able to change it into dollars.
At time of writing (Summer 2016):
US$1=approximately VND 22,000
GBP £1 = approximately VND 29,000
Euro 1 = approximately VND 25,000
How do I set up a bank account?
Setting up a bank account is a relatively straightforward process but banks offer different packages so look into which bank suits your needs best. It is usually possible to open both VND and US$ accounts if you need them (some people have their salaries paid in dollars and then transfer funds to their VND accounts). Be sure to ask questions about any restrictions on the operation and eventual closure of your account. HSBC, ANZ and Standard Chartered are the most popular western banks but local regulation can make banking with them a frustrating experience (even making routine payments and transferring funds tend to require extra documentation).
You can apply in person or online for TPBank and then present your documents in person at any branch. Good English is spoken at the Ly Thuong Kiet branch. In common with other banks, TPBank requires your passport and visa. Vietcombank is also a popular local choice with many branches throughout Vietnam.
Banks may also require you to produce a work contract or other evidence of employment and/or a letter from your landlord confirming you live in Vietnam or an address in Vietnam. You may also need a minimum deposit which will vary depending on which bank you choose.
You will want to make sure that at least some staff at the Bank you chose can speak English.
Can I withdraw money using an ATM?
There are numerous ATMS in Hanoi although you will need to check which ones you can use with a local ATM card as the banking system is not integrated. A number of ATMs will also accept Visa-linked ATM cards but this is an expensive way to withdraw money. The local bank will take a 1% fee and your own bank may charge you a currency transaction fee and/or an exchange rate fee. Foreign credit cards are accepted in the larger shops, restaurants and hotels and by travel agencies in Hanoi but may charge you a credit card fee of 3%.
What are the banking hours?
Bank opening hours will vary from bank to bank but most banks open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 11:30, and then again at 13:00 to 16:00. On Saturdays, banks are sometimes in the morning. All are closed on public holidays. Some banks in Hanoi now have online banking so you can manage your account without needing to go to a branch.
How can I obtain currency other than Vietnamese Dong?
There aren’t any official currency bureau but you can ask your bank to sell you dollars (if you don’t have a dollar account) and change this into whatever other currency you require.
Are there any alternatives to opening a bank account?
While waiting for a local bank card to be available, or if you are here short term, there are money-wise alternative options to using your home country card abroad. Prepaid travel cards are like travellers cheques. You load them online with money from your regular account, then use them as you would a debit card to spend or withdraw cash. You can also use them to lock in a rate and because they’re pre-loaded, you can keep control of your spending. They are a generally safe and convenient way to spend abroad, with no link to your regular bank account i.e. if your card is stolen, it can’t be used to withdraw money from your bank account. You can also load different currencies depending on where you are travelling. There are a variety of providers including Caxton FX, FairfX and Travelex so it’s worth shopping around. Many offer 0% commission and no overseas ATM fees.
Travel and Transport
How do I get around?
There are plenty of options. It’s possible to walk and this can be enjoyable especially when the weather is cooler and after the morning and evening rush hours. Pavements are often used for commerce and/or as motorbike and car parks, which means you can be forced to walk into the road and this can be an inconvenience!
Many people take taxis and there are well over a hundred taxi companies operating in Hanoi, including Uber. Taxi Group (red and blue livery), Mai Linh (84-4) _ 62512835 (green cars) , ABC taxis (pink livery) and Thanh Cong are among the most reliable. Shops and restaurants will often call a taxi for you if you ask. Except for when it is raining, it is almost always possible to hail one in the street. Taxis are convenient when you need to go to an unknown place for the first time. Make sure to write down the complete address of your destination and your taxi will be able to find his (or her) way around. Make sure the driver puts on the meter – and that it is not spinning too fast!
Members have said that Uber is reliable and that it’s cheaper than regular taxis. You will need to download the application on your mobile to use Uber taxis in Hanoi.
Please also note that many taxis do not have working seat belts. This safety consideration has led some people with small children to buy a private car and/or hire a driver.
You can also take a motorbike taxi or “Xe Om”. Make sure you agree the price in advance, and that you wear a helmet (the xe om driver should have an additional one for his customers). Recently “metered” xe oms have become available in the busy areas of Kim Ma and My Dinh. They usually wear a bright-yellow or orange vest and a meter keeps track of your journey. Expect to be charged about VND 5,000/km.
The application GrabBike is the Uber equivalent for motorbikes.
Some people take local buses. They are cheap and the routes can be convenient, but they tend to be crowded at peak hours. A one-way bus ticket will cost you between VND 7,000 and VND 9,000 depending on the bus. Phone applications such as Google Maps can provide reliable bus itineraries.
There are many bicycle shops selling adult and children’s bicycles. Bicycles can also be rented from The Hanoi Bicycle Collective and VIP Bikes. Many people enjoy a cycle round West Lake at the weekend at quiet times.
Similarly, you can buy or rent a motorbike and this remains one of the most popular ways to get around, Vietnamese-style. You will not need a licence for a motorbike 49cc or under, and you don’t have to wear a helmet either. We suggest you do so nevertheless. You should also make sure your health insurance covers you in an accident.
Traffic conditions can make cycling and biking somewhat challenging. You will need to keep alert on Hanoi roads, wear clothing that ensures you are visible, and wear a helmet and other protective gear.
How do I cross the road?
This is one of the first challenges for newcomers to Hanoi. First of all, do not expect cars, buses or motorbikes to stop for pedestrians. Look both ways even on a one-way street. Make eye contact with the motorbike coming towards you, to make sure s/he has seen you. Try not to vary your pace so that motorbikes and cars can judge your pace and work out how to go round you. Please take care on the pavements – motorbikes drive on the pavements too. Look out for electric bikes, usually favoured by high school children – you cannot hear them and they are often driven recklessly.
I am thinking about driving myself. What are traffic conditions like in Hanoi?
Driving is on the right – in theory! Road conditions in Vietnam are chaotic and undisciplined and somewhat hazardous. The number of cars and motorbikes is increasing rapidly and traffic jams are becoming more frequent. Motorbikes often don’t stop for red lights and do not signal before changing direction. Vehicles turn left and right across pedestrian crossings even when a “green man” is showing. Car and motorbike drivers are often speaking on their mobile phones or texting. If you decide to drive a car or motorbike, you will need to keep alert, maintain a Zen-like calm – and expect anything. We strongly advise you to make sure you have a valid drivers licence and that you are fully insured. The general “rule” in a traffic accident is that the larger vehicle is to blame. Moreover, the police rarely find in favour of foreigners, whatever the circumstances. For these reasons, some people decide to hire drivers.
You can drive in Vietnam with an international driving license. If you do not have one, or if you are a long-term resident, you can use your home-country driving license to obtain a Vietnamese one. There is a process to follow and it’s best negotiated with the help of a Vietnamese native speaker. You will need to:
- Obtain a form at the Transport Department (6, Cao Ba Quat, Ba Dinh; tel. 04 374 700 24)
- Translate your original driving license and have the translation notarized
- Submit all documents plus passport pictures at the Center For Automotive Training and Mechanism (1, Quoc Tu Giam, Dong Da). A fee of VND 80,000 to VND 100,000 is required.
Should I buy a car?
Importing a car is likely to be expensive, as is buying a second hand car locally. Taxes are very high. You may be able to buy a car locally from someone who is leaving. Japanese vehicles are seen as more reliable and parts and servicing are available locally. Some expatriates own 4WD models such as Toyota Prado or RAV 4 and Nissan X-Trail. Only left hand drive vehicles can be imported and it is not possible to register right hand drive vehicles. You will also want to consider parking where you live. Apartments often have parking but this is not always so for houses. You may also consider renting a car, although some rental companies require that their cars be driven by a company driver.
How do I find a driver?
Word of mouth is often the best option. People who are leaving may recommend their drivers or you can ask your housekeeper or your friends’ housekeepers. Try also the Hanoi families Google group.
Some drivers will have their own car, although this can be expensive. A trial period of a month is a good idea.
What about a motorbike?
Many people use motorbikes and you can rent a motorbike short or long-term from motorbike rental places in Ba Dinh or Tay Ho. Make sure you know how to drive one and that you have a valid licence and insurance – third party for the vehicle and health insurance that covers you in the event of an accident. We can’t stress enough just how important this is. It is illegal not to wear a helmet and we recommend you bring a helmet from elsewhere: many locally available do not meet international safety standards.
What about travel outside of Hanoi?
It is increasingly possible to travel longer distances by road as new highways and toll roads are built. Road signs are poor however and there are often impromptu diversions without clear directions. Make sure you have a satnav or google maps. Driving can be quite dangerous with no lane discipline, reckless overtaking (and reckless undertaking) and cars sitting on each other’s bumpers. It is best not to drive after nightfall as roads are often poorly lit. Take care going through villages as the roads are busy with children, livestock, piles of bricks and building sand – and other unpredictable road-users!
What about air travel?
Travel by air within Vietnam is generally convenient. Vietnam Airlines offers a good choice of domestic and international destinations and fairly frequent schedules at reasonable prices. Flight delays from places like Hue and Danang are not uncommon: the later the flight, the more chance of a delay (and no explanation is usually given). For some beach destinations in southern Vietnam, you may need to change flights in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam Airlines also has numerous flights to countries in the region e.g. Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, although some destinations are reached via Ho Chi Minh City e.g. Vientiane. There are also direct flights to some European capitals e.g. London or Paris although not on all days of the week. Otherwise China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Air and Qatar Airlines, among others, also fly to Hanoi.
Can you suggest any Travel Agencies?
There are numerous travel agencies in Hanoi so we mention here only those who sponsored our Annual Charity Bazaar 2016 in the Silver to Bronze categories: EXO, Topas Ecolodge/Topas Travel, Journeys to the East, Paradise Group, Secret Halong/Tam Coc Garden.
Things to do with Children
Here is a selection of HIWC members’ favourite things to do with children.
Babies and Toddlers
PhysioActive offers baby massage
There is a kids soft play area – Tiniland – in the Syrena Centre on Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho and an even bigger – TiniWorld – in the Aeon mall, Hanoi’s newest mall. The Kids Garden on the ground floor of Aeon Mall often has entertainments including soft play and electronic rides for toddlers, please refer to the Aeon Mall website for more information. Note there is free parking and regular shuttle buses to and from the mall.
PlayCafe has four floors and special activities throughout the week for children aged up to 8 years old. HIWC now have a drop-in parent and and baby/toddler group here on Fridays. Please email email@example.com for more information
There is also a music class for little ones which meets from time to time at The Kitchen on To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho. Email Louise at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swimming and water parks
There are plenty of swimming pools in Hanoi open in the summer months. Sao Mai on Quan Anh in Tay Ho has a toddler pool, as does the salt-water Army Guest House on Pham Ngu Lao in Hoan Kiem District. Pools can get very crowded from around 3.30pm onwards.
The West Lake (Tay Ho) Water Park can be a fun place to take the kids for a full or half day and snacks and drinks are available. The park has several rides, pools, slides and water games. Conditions are perhaps not up to western standards and some parents are concerned about the water quality. At peak times, in particular, the behaviour of some older local kids can be a bit reckless and the lifeguards a bit lax, so keep an extra eye on the kids when they are on the slides with large inflatables. The Park is only open in the hotter months from April to November with operating hours of 9am to 9pm. Avoid the first day of opening in April. Entry is free but it’s notorious for being overcrowded.
The indoor Vinpearl Water Park at Royal City, Nguyen Trai, Thanh Xuan is currently closed. If it reopens (watch this space!), it much larger, cleaner and often empty outside of local public holidays. There is a wide variety of rides and slides for thrill seekers, a wave pool, a surf pool and a large shallow play area for toddlers. There’s also a 50m pool if you want to swim lengths, although avoid peak times as lane swimming is not well understood in public pools. There are also snacks and drinks, and the Royal City shopping mall also includes a multiplex cinema, ten pin bowling and ice skating (all year round) close to the water park.
Baby swimming is offered by PhysioActive Hanoi and SwimHanoi offer swimming classes for children and adults. Please see their websites for details.
In school term time, the UN International School offers community swimming classes after school for children aged 6 and over. Please check the community programme offerings on the school’s website.
The Vinpearl Aquarium in the megamall in Times City gets generally good reviews, has a variety of tanks, a large Octopus for kids to play on and a woman dressed as a mermaid swimming through the main tank!
Thu Le Park, Hanoi Zoo and the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre
The Hanoi Zoo is in Thu Le Park, north west of the city centre. The zoo has a range of monkeys, big cats, birds and reptiles. Animal cages are dotted throughout the park so you can wander around looking at different animals while enjoying the park at the same time.The kids can enjoy the pedal boats around the lake as well as the nearby fun park. While there remain concerns about animal welfare, recent visitors suggest this is improving. The Park and Zoo are open daily until about 10pm.
The Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre at Tam Dao, about two hour’s drive from Hanoi, provides a home to Vietnamese Sun and Moon Bears rescued from the bile trade. You need to book a visit via their website and priority is given to people who donate to the charity.
There are several cinemas in Hanoi, located in shopping malls.
Platinum Cineplex are at Royal City, Times City, The Garden and Vincom Long Bien.
Both CGV and Platinum are modern setups showing the latest local and international films. International films are shown in English with Vietnamese subtitles. There is the option of 2D, 3D and even 4D viewing for some films and also plenty of drinks and snacks to choose from. The Platinum cinemas at Royal City and Times City also have VIP “luxury lounges” with 40 large seats, pillows, blankets and drinks (more of an indulgence for adults but anyway….).
There is also a cinema in the Lotte Tower.
Ten Pin Bowling
You can find Ten Pin Bowling at the Hanoi Star Bowl in Dong Da, at Dream Games Bowling on the fourth floor of the Aeon mall and at Royal Bowling at Royal City. Regular free buses run to the Aeon mall, please refer to the website for routes and times.
All year round at Royal City. It’s rarely busy and you can hire skates and lockers.
On a rainy day, the arcade games at Vincom Towers on Ba Trieu can be fun for kids – if you can bear the noise. The Little Gym of Hanoi is also here, for the younger ones. There is also a games zone at Royal City and “Super Amusement Dream Games” on the third floor of the Aeon mall at the CGV cinema end of the mall which includes karaoke booths, a dance-off game, space hockey, some fair ground-type rides, a “mirror maze” and a “ghost house”.
Water Puppet Theatre
The shows are popular with tourists so it is usually best to book in advance. The best Water Puppet show in town is at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, 57B Ding Tien Hoang Street on the North-east side of Hoan Kiem Lake.
The Military Museum on Dien Bien Phu Street can be engaging for children, chiefly for its display of military hardware and the chance to climb up the tower. The Museum of Ethnology in Cau Giay has interesting displays and kids can explore the traditional ethnic houses. The Vietnamese Women’s Museum is one of the best in Hanoi, modern and with good visual displays. It has a “Discovery” room (playroom) for younger kids. You can leave your children there under staff supervision while you take a look around the museum. Just ask at the desk when you arrive. The Museum also has a summer programme. Please check out: Vietnamese Women’s Museum
Hanoi Central Circus
The circus (on Tran Nhan Tong) runs Tuesday to Sunday (8-10pm) in a large tent on the northern side of Lenin Park. On Sunday morning at 9am there is a special performance for children.
Indoor Climbing and Bouldering
Vietclimb in An Duong has an unsupervised indoor bouldering wall (and high ropes if you ask and can manage them yourself). The premises are well-used, but there is a new outdoor climbing wall which you may see at events around town. Vietclimb run courses in their gym as well as bouldering and climbing trips.
There is also a climbing wall in the Aeon mall.
Swan Pedal Boats
As well as Thu Le Park the swan pedal boats can also be found on the southern side of Ho Tay Lake and Truc Bach Lake.
Trampolining and Sumo Wrestling
Trampolining and play Sumo wrestling (complete with Sumo suits!) are available in the “Jump Zone” on the second floor of the Aeon mall at the CGV cinema end of the mall.
Are there any child-friendly places to hang out with a coffee or have a meal?
Happily, yes! The Kitchen on To Ngoc Van in Tay Ho is very child and family friendly and regularly shows films for children. A mother and baby support group meets there every Tuesday. The Moose & Roo Smokehouse aka American Club on Hai Ba Trung in Hoan Kiem district has plenty of outdoor space for children to run around safely, swings and slides and food that children appreciate e.g. burgers, pizza. Joma on To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho has a soft play area for babies and toddlers on its top floor. St Honore on Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho is child-friendly at weekends.
Hobbies, Activities and Interests
HIWC Circle Groups
These are non-profit member-led activities and they currently include Lunchtime English Book Club, Cooking Circle, Non-native English Book Clubs, Playgroup, Poetry Lovers Circle, Self-Help Healing and Mahjong. In the past, members have also led activities including Arts and Culture, Tennis, Bridge, Film Appreciation and Ten Pin Bowling. We also have a paid activity called English for Beginners, to help non speakers gain more confidence to take part in the life of the Club. Please email email@example.com, see our Facebook page or refer to Our Club page for more information.
UN International School Community Programme
The school makes its facilities available to the community outside the school and you can sign up for a variety of classes from Lotus Painting to Vietnamese language and Adult Beginners, Intermediate and Masters Swimming. There are also community swimming classes for non-UNIS children.
Hanoi International Theatre Society: not for profit amateur dramatics group for budding actors, creatives and theatre. For auditions and more information please see: http://www.hitshanoi.com/
Art and Culture
Friends of Vietnam Heritage: a non-formal group of mainly Hanoi residents from many countries, including Vietnam. Its purpose is to enjoy as well as enhance the understanding of Vietnam’s culture and history – past and present. Lectures on topics ranging from Vietnam’s biodiversity to the French influence on Vietnamese culture, monthly film events, city walks, excursions. For further information e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Manzi Art Cafe exhibits contemporary art and hosts affordable art fairs once or twice a year. WorkRoom 4 also holds exhibitions and art workshops. Please refer to their websites.
Sophie’s Art Tour . History of Vietnam told through art. http://sophiesarttour.com/
Thanh Chuong Viet Palace: Home and studio of one of Vietnam’s most famous artists, this is also a private museum showcasing traditional architecture and culture. For more information email: email@example.com
Art Appreciation: If you want to buy art (and have a healthy bank balance!), check out the Apricot Gallery on Hang Bong and Green Palm Gallery on Hang Gai, Art Vietnam on Ly Quoc Su or go for a browse on Trang Tien.
Hanoi International Choir: Gives several performances a year. No auditions, but you should be able to read music and sing in tune. Rehearsals Mondays from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm. For more information please contact Susanne Halfmann-Hess at firstname.lastname@example.org or 012 232 78 123
For cinemas, please refer to Things to do with Kids.
Hanoi Opera House often has classical music performances from the Vietnam Symphony Orchestra, visiting performers of classical music, opera and Vietnamese popular music. Grand Concert Hall of the Vietnam National Academy of Music is a modern concert hall which attracts high class performers of international re-known. For tickets for both venues try: http://www.ticketvn.com
The Hanoi Cooking Centre on Chau Long is one of the best places to start. Hidden Hanoi also offers cooking classes. Journeys to the East offers upmarket classes with top chefs. Join HIWC and you will be able to join our Cooking Circle which relaunched in March 2017.
The German Goethe Institut, French L’espace and Japan Cultural Foundation all have a variety of musical and artistic activities. Please refer to their websites and/orHanoi Grapevine for more information.
There is usually an annual Craft Beer Festival, an ASEAN pride event and musical concerts held at ecopark, among other venues. Hanoi Grapevine and The Word Online usually have details.
Popular and Alternative Music
Gyms and Leisure Centres: there are a number of western standard gyms such as Elite and California in different locations, although few have pools. There are also cheaper alternatives in smaller leisure centres and you can use the fitness facilities of some residential apartment blocks even if you don’t live there e.g. Elegant Suites on Dang Thai Mai has a gym and 20m pool. You can pay a monthly fee. It’s a good idea to shop around.
Otherwise, if you like outdoor sports take your pick from:
Red River Runners
Hanoi Hash House Harriers
Vietnam Swans Aussie Rules Football Club
Hanoi Dragons Rugby Union & Touch Football
Crossfit Tay Ho
You can sign up for classes in the UNIS Community Programme (see above). If your children go to the school, you can join the Energise programme and use the gym and (at weekends) the pool. Otherwise, there are many swimming pools in Hanoi. Sao Mai on Quang An in Tay Ho has a 50m pool and is open April-November. The Army Guest House on Pham Ngu Lao in Hoan Kiem district has a salinated 20m pool, open air and open all year round. There are also indoor 50m pools run by Olympia on To Ngoc Van and Tang Bat Ho (but only the latter has lanes). There is a 50m pool with lanes in the Vinpearl Water Park in Royal City.
Elite, California and others offer regular yoga classes.
Zenith Yoga offers yoga and pilates and a vegan cafe.
There are also some good private teachers – best to ask around.
There are regular classes at Fitness Village on Nghi Tam.
Can I bring a pet to Hanoi?
Yes. There is no quarantine but plenty of paperwork. Among other things, your pet will need a recent rabies vaccination and a Vietnam International Health Certificate. For the most up-to-date advice please take advice from your relocation company and airline. Asian Tigers Relocation, Santa Fe Relocations and Asvelis Veterinary Hospital can all provide advice and assistance, although the relocation companies will only usually do so if you are using their relocation services. A number of online websites such as Pet Travel provide useful advice and tips.
Note that park space is very limited in Hanoi and there are not many places to walk a dog. This can be challenging if you have a large dog who needs a lot of exercise. Incidences of dog-knapping have taken place with the dog-knappers trying to ransom the dog back to its owner, so you will want to keep your pet secure. Most people who keep a cat, keep it inside. Cats can be stolen and eaten including for believed medicinal purposes.
Can I find a pet locally?
Yes, there are often opportunities to adopt pets from people who are leaving. Keep an eye on school noticeboards, Facebook forums and Hanoi Families Google group, and ask around.
Hanoi Pet Rescue also has a constant supply of abandoned (and often previously ill-treated) animals (usually dogs and cats) needing good homes, and people seeking homes for formerly adopted pets. Bear in mind that adopting animals can be hard to keep healthy – expect to pay fairly frequent visits to the vet. You can also buy pets from pet shops. This can be very expensive and you might want to take a few photos and consult your vet to ensure the animal is healthy before you buy.
Birds are popular in Hanoi and if you want to keep a bird as a pet, one of the best places is Tang Bat Ho Street, Hoan Kiem District. The shops there also sell bird cages and perches, and bird seed.
Where can I buy pet food, cat litter and animal beds and other accessories?
Fivimart, L’s Place and other supermarkets, pet shops and veterinary clinics sell wet and dry cat and dog food. Vets often sell cat and dog carriers, leads and bowls and pet clothes. J&Pet on Xuan Dieu in Tay Ho sells cat and dog beds, toys and very large scratching posts for cats. The stores on Tang Bat Ho also sell cat and dog food, pet litter and some other accessories. Pet shops and grooming salons are beginning to spring up all over the city.
What about Pet hotels?
Avelis Veterinary Hospital, Gala Pet Clinic and J&Pet have pet hotels that have been used by members.
Equality and Diversity
Is Hanoi a safe place for women?
Hanoi is a generally safe place for women. Women can travel around alone without the need for more than common sense e.g. avoiding quiet streets after dark. People may stare but this is usually out of curiosity at seeing a foreigner.
Some areas of government and business are male-dominated, with drinking used to seal agreements. There are occasions when women can find it harder to be heard, whether dealing with workmen or in a professional setting, but patience and persistence usually pays off.
What about gender equality?
The Vietnamese government has made strides in gender equality passing laws on this and on domestic violence, for example. Women’s participation in the workforce is one of the highest in the region. However, Vietnamese women are expected to work as well as the do the majority of childcare and domestic work. However, women are increasingly well represented in the commercial world if, like many other countries, they are somewhat underrepresented in political life. For more information about women in Vietnam please see: http://asiapacific.unwomen.org/en/countries/vietnam
I have a disability. What challenges will I face in moving to Vietnam?
Living in Vietnam with a disability poses some challenges including:
- Crossing the roads. Traffic is unruly, motorbikes often don’t stop at red lights and vehicles use horns to warn pedestrians of their presence.
- Lack of pavements/sidewalks (or space on them) and uneven surfaces.
- Few ramps leading into buildings, lack of wheelchair accessible toilets and absence of lifts in smaller buildings.
- No induction loops in public or private buildings.
- No Braille or other tactile signage.
- Inaccessible public transport
However, disabled access is improving all the time. The National Action Plan to Support with Disabilities (2012-2020) is working on issues such as improving access to public buildings and transportation. Cheap taxis are plentiful and easily arranged (people often get to know and a like a particular taxi driver and then call directly to hire him/her on a regular basis). Larger hotels and new shopping centres and business buildings increasingly have ramps, large lifts, audio floor recognition and hand rails. The new airport is more accessible than its predecessor with ramps and lifts.
For a useful overview of disability issues in Vietnam, please see:
What is Hanoi like for LGBTQ people?
Homosexuality is traditionally considered taboo and while acceptance is growing, it is by no means universal. Some sections of Vietnamese society are not yet ready to accept LGBTQ people openly in the same way as heterosexuals. Same-sex intimacy remains taboo. This said, societal attitudes have changed in recent years, particularly in urban areas. More people have felt able to be open about their sexuality and the number of campaign and support groups have increased. Gay expatriates living and working in Hanoi do not appear to encounter prejudice. The arrival of US Ambassador Ted Osius and his husband Clayton Bond who are openly gay and have young children has begun to open minds about different types of families.
In 2015 Vietnam was hailed a leader on gay rights within South East Asia after the country lifted its ban on same sex marriage. In 2012 Hanoi held its first Gay Pride “Viet Pride” event, and its successor ASEAN Pride is now an annual event. For more information please see: https://www.facebook.com/ASEANpride/
However, while the Vietnamese are fairly relaxed about same sex relationships between foreigners, they are rather less so when one partner is Vietnamese. Some western embassies are authorised to register same sex marriages and civil partnership between their own nationals or between one of their own nationals and one non-Vietnamese national.
Do I need to learn Vietnamese?
The Vietnamese language is part of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austroasiatic language family, with extensive borrowings from Chinese (though with “naturalised” pronunciation). It is the native language of the Kinh (ethnic majority) Vietnamese. It is tonal and monosyllabic, which means that every syllable represents an independent word. Every syllable is inflected by a tone, which determines the meaning of the word. There are six tones in the northern Vietnam and five in the south, indicated by diacritical marks. Thus, the word “ba” can have different meanings – three, madame, waste, embrace, bait and any – depending on the tone.
There are also three accents which can be used to modify the sound of a vowel. Vietnamese differentiates between certain consonantal sounds in a way for which there is no western equivalent. It is as this as much as the tones that can make Vietnamese difficult for foreigners. For example many westerners might pronounce cước and cuốc the same way whereas to native speakers, they sound completely different.
Vietnamese has a wide range of personal pronouns depending on the sex, family relationship, age or seniority of the speaker/listener e.g. Anh, Chi, Em. Most foreigners find this a bit of a minefield so ask Vietnamese friends and colleagues what might be most appropriate in a given situation.
You will be pleased to learn that Vietnamese grammar is more straightfoward!
Our advice to aspiring speakers is Pronunciation, Pronunciation, Pronunciation. Get a teacher who will work with you properly on the tones and teach you that bang, băng and banh are NOT all pronounced “bang”.
Most businesses and shops have enough English to communicate. But you will get a better experience of the country if you can speak a little Vietnamese – and it is often appreciated. HIWC has a Survival Vietnamese Circle every other week (please see Our Club page) aimed at helping you learn the basics for everyday life e.g. buying vegetables, directing a taxi.
Is body language different in Vietnam?
The Vietnamese believe that it is important to maintain harmony and a pleasant atmosphere around you. Observing the Confucian reverence for authority, older people or high-ranking officials are treated with great respect. When arriving or departing, you should always greet the most senior person first.
The Vietnamese often clasp your hand with both of theirs, a very friendly gesture. Younger people who you know well may give you a hug. It is very common for persons of the same sex to hold hands, but do not give anyone a friendly slap on the back unless you know the person well. You may touch a child’s head, as this is believed to bring luck. In general, the Vietnamese are quite physical with their friends.
When gesturing for someone to come to you, hold your palm down, cupping your hand slightly and wiggling your fingers. The Western style of holding the palm upright and wiggling one finger is very rude, as this is used for summoning animals.
The Vietnamese smile is almost always friendly although on occasion, it may indicate fear or embarrassment or sometimes even anger or disagreement. The words for “Yes”, “Vang” and the more colloquial “U”, may indicate agreement or simply “Yes, I have heard you.”
The Vietnamese can be very direct, especially in the North and are likely to let you know if they don’t agree with something. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the receiving end of some direct personal remarks about your size, weight, age, marital status.
What kind of clothing is appropriate?
Men tend to dress formally for business meetings – a suit and tie, often a dark suit at high-level meetings. During the hot months, a shirt and tie is often acceptable. Business women usually wear suits or dresses with skirts at knee level or below. Jeans and short skirts and dresses often accompany high heels and tight t-shirts on many young city women, but bare midriffs and visible underpants are still not appropriate.
The conical hat is traditional female attire although largely worn now only by the poorest workers. Male workers wear green tropical helmets. In the city and in rural areas, many women cover their heads, faces and arms to protect them from the sun whether working in the rice paddies or riding a motorbike.
The traditional and formal wear for Vietnamese women is the ao dai (pronounced “ow zai”) a long straight tunic worn over trousers. Mature women wear ao dai in rich colours with elaborate patterns or embroidery. Younger women celebrating their graduation will wear white ao dai. Western dress is more common among women of all ages in Hanoi however.
What name is her first name?
The Vietnamese name often contains two or three given names as well as a surname. The whole name is written in the opposite way from the Western manner, with the surname first. There is not a wide variety of surnames and Nguyen and Le are common.
As parents often believe the first given name will affect the life of their child, the name is carefully chosen. Girls are often named after beautiful flowers or trees, such as Lien (lotus) or Huong (perfume), while boys are given names such as Minh (bright) and Duc (virtuous). Traditionally, Thi (for a girl) and Van (for a boy) are used as middle names. Many names can also be used for both sexes e.g. Ha, Hang, Phuong, so it is not always possible to tell someone’s gender from their name. Vietnamese parents also often give their children nicknames.
The given name is often used to address a person when communicating in English (e.g. Ms Lien or Mr Minh). Over email it is much harder as women often sign all three or four of their names and they may use any of the given names. You can either ask what name they use or use the full name when you reply. If it’s any consolation, Vietnamese people can find foreign names just as baffling!
A woman does not normally take her husband’s surname when she marries, but the children are given their father’s surname.
Why did she give me a gift?
Gift-giving plays an important part in Vietnamese social life. In the past, the giver regarded himself as indebted to the receiver for having made the successful deal possible. Today, this may no longer be the case, but expect to receive flowers and gifts on many occasions, especially when you have signed a contract or are leaving on a long trip. Gifts are always given at Tet and the Mid-Autumn Festival. The polite time to open a present is after the giver has left.
When a baby is born, you give gifts at the one-month anniversary of the birth. The period immediately after the birth is seen as a very delicate time by Vietnamese and new mothers might be uncomfortable receiving gifts then.
You should also keep a good supply of gifts, although the most common wedding gift is money. Simply stuffing money into an envelope may seem slightly non-festive to Westerners, but it is the most treasured gift. The envelope can either be deposited in boxes that are placed outside the reception hall or given directly to the bride and groom as they go around and greet their guests.
When a person dies, you visit their house and put an envelope on the altar.
What is that wood shelf or altar with old photographs and food and drink on it?
The Vietnamese have a tradition of ancestor worship. Nearly every house, office, and business in Vietnam has a small altar which is used to commune with ancestors. Incense sticks are burned frequently. Offerings are made –fruit, cakes, beer, paper replicas of dollar notes. After worship, the paper gifts are burnt so that the spirits of the gifts can ascend to heaven for the ancestors to use.
Ancestor worship is not related to ghosts, spiritualism or the supernatural. The Vietnamese accept as a fact that their ancestors continue to live in another realm and that it is the duty of the living to meet their needs. In return, the ancestors give advice and bring good fortune.
Traditionally, the eldest son will have the family’s ancestral altar in his home. A woman whose husband dies will have an altar for her husband, but will worship her own ancestors at her eldest brother’s altar. Therefore, without a son, it would be impossible to continue to worship the family ancestors. However, the situation is more flexible these days, and some women take the altar from their parents’ home to the house of their husband.
Do the Vietnamese use Feng Shui?
Phong Thuy, better known by its Chinese name, Feng Shui, plays an important part in Vietnamese lives. People will consult a fortune teller to determine the proper orientation of their house. Depending on the astrological reading of the owner, the fortune teller will decide if the house should be built facing south or southeast. The doors of houses should not face each other. If they do, mirrors must be hung above them to fend off evil spirits. The location of the stove is connected to wealth and a bad location can mean that one’s wealth will be drained away. Similarly, the location of the bed is linked to feelings, emotions and health.
What about traditions concerning food?
The Vietnamese seem to think about food all the time! People rise early and eat breakfast around 5am, take a “second breakfast” a few hours later, lunch at 11.30am and fresh fruit and snacks during the afternoon. Dinner is usually around 6.30pm.
The Vietnamese are very generous hosts, often provide more food than you can eat and expect you to eat heartily. When you are full, it is best to leave something on your plate as a clean plate suggests you are still hungry.
For a useful overview of Vietnamese food please see:
Other useful information
Living in Vietnam
Lonely Planet Vietnam
The New Hanoian
Hanoi for Newbies
Map of Hanoi
Nancy Chandler’s Map of Hanoi is a lively hand drawn printed map and essential resource when you first arrive. You can buy it at various places around town including at BookWorm in the Hanoi Cooking Centre on Chau Long.
Where to shop for household goods and groceries?
There are no large western standard supermarkets at this point but mini marts are opening up all over the place and there are a few large super markets. Here is a selection:
Annam Gourmet Market (ground floor of Syrena Centre on Xuan Dieu). Imported foods including cheese, wine, beer and cereal, a bakery. Pricey but reliable stocks.
Big C: large out of town supermarket. http://tnhvietnam.xemzi.com/en/venue/search?q=big+C
Citimart (in Hanoi Towers on Hai Ba Trung). Mostly imported foodstuffs, a small grocery and dairy section, toiletries, pet food etc.
Hanoi Small Goods are popular for their high quality cuts of meat and delivery service.
Hung Long Minimart (located in Ciputra on 544 Lạc Long Quân 0437192838 and 71B Xuan Dieu, Tây Hồ 0437196220) offers a wide range of products and free delivery.
Fivimart (in Serena Centre on Xuan Dieu) the closest thing to a supermarket in Tay Ho.
Fresh Market (on Au Co in Tay Ho) behind flower market for fresh meat, fish and vegetables, get there early because it is a morning market.
L’s Place: Mini marts at several locations including Xuan Dieu in Tay Ho and Ly Thuong Kiet in Hoan Kiem district. Imported food and wine, toiletries, household cleaning items, pet food.
Metro : A large diversified retail and wholesale store with everything from housewares (bed sheets, towels, tableware) cleaning and laundry supplies, dried goods, meats, dairy. Good place to go if you just moved and need to stock up for the first time. http://tnhvietnam.xemzi.com/en/spot/4135/metro-thang-long-hanoi.
Oasis Deli (24 Xuan Dieu) for cold cuts, cheese and a variety of imported goods.
Organic Saturday Market ( Number 4, Alley 67, Lane 67/12, To Ngoc Van Street, Tây Hồ) starts at 9am on Saturday morning.
Royal City: Southeast Asia’s largest underground mall. Just opened, great restaurant selection, good range of shops (shoes, housewares, clothes), an indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, movie theatre and ice skating rink. Also Times City, Vincom Mall and Aeon Mall.
Other Women’s and Partners/Spouses Groups
Hanoi Japanese Women’s Club (HJWC) Formal Japanese only women’s group under the auspices by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce.
Diplomatic Partners Association Hanoi. An association for the spouses and partners of heads of embassies and international organisations, women ambassadors and women heads of mission.
Click Space Coworking Villa and Space Bar Café on To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho. A friendly atmosphere with open plan and bookable rooms and reasonably priced café.
Toong Co-working Space. Two locations on Trang Thi, Hoan Kiem and To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho. Open plan and bookable rooms and business-like environment and shared kitchenette.
Hair and beauty
There are hair salons, barber shops, massage places and nail parlours everywhere. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. Our members say they like the following places:
For Hair and Nails:
- Hair Workshop in Hanoi Towers, Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem District
- Lan Salon, Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho District
For waxing, nails and spa treatments: