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Living in Hanoi: Pros and Cons

I was very worried when my husband and I first decided that we were going to move to Hanoi for a few months. I had read all the (mostly bad) things about it, but we decided to try it out anyway and I’m SO glad we did. Looking back on our time there, I know I probably couldn’t have stayed forever, but it was one of my favorite places in Asia and I can’t wait to go back. So here’s my list of the pros and cons of living in crazy, amazing Hanoi.

Living in Hanoi: The Pros

For the short term, I would definitely say that there are more pros than cons in my opinion. If you are planning to move to Hanoi on a more permanent basis, then you should pay much more attention to the cons list.

Incredible & Cheap Local Food

THE FOOD. I absolutely fell in love with the food in Hanoi. And it’s so cheap that you can eat it every day if you want to! Hanoi is famous for Bun Cha, a dish that Obama himself even tried when he visited Hanoi!

Bun Cha in Hanoi, Vietnam
Bun Cha in Hanoi, Vietnam

Plus, there are so many different Pho restaurants, you’ll probably never have two Phos that taste exactly the same! There are plenty of other Vietnamese dishes to try as well, but Jake and I got so addicted to these two that we usually just gravitated to these!

Pho in Hanoi, Vietnam
Pho in Hanoi, Vietnam

Cheap Food Delivery

Not feeling like going out into chaotic Hanoi to get your favorite Bun Cha or Pho? No need! For around 50-75 cents you can have it delivered straight to your apartment. Seriously, it’s that cheap!

Use the Grab App to order the food you want just like you would use UberEats! But like 10x cheaper!

Grab App Download to Order Food in Hanoi

Modern & Spacious Apartments for a Low Price

Hanoi has incredible value for the amount of space that you get in an apartment. I have to say, Hanoi has my favorite Airbnb ever. It only cost us about $420 per month to stay at this awesome 2 bedroom apartment with amazing internet!

We also stayed at the top of a skyscraper in Hanoi for a birthday trip and it only cost us about $80 for a night. That’s way more than we would normally spend, but it had incredible views of the city that would cost you hundreds anywhere else!

Western Food/ Groceries

Thanks to grocery stores like L’s Place, you don’t have to go without much when you live in Hanoi. We were able to buy tortilla chips, salsa, Macaroni & Cheese, Dr. Pepper, root beer, etc. All things that you wouldn’t be able to find in a normal grocery store.

Right now, we live in France and can’t find those things anywhere!

Of course, buying those things is going to cost a bit more than they would back at home, but sometimes you are just craving those familiar tastes from the USA and it’s worth a splurge.

Cheap scooter rental & repair

In Hanoi, you have to use a scooter to get around. Luckily, it is super affordable AND easy to repair if anything goes wrong. I wrote out a whole blog post about where to rent a cheap scooter in Hanoi.

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With this rental place, it only cost us $43 a month for our motorbike.

As far as repairs go, we even got a flat while driving around in Hanoi! We just walked our bike to the nearest repair shop (they have them everywhere so it was only 5 minutes!) and got it repaired for just a few bucks.

It’s Never boring

When people would ask me why I keep moving back to Vietnam, I would almost always tell them this reason. Every single day I would go outside and see something I had never EVER seen before in my whole life.

Sometimes they weren’t “great” things, like dogs on skewers with a line of people ready to eat or a group of men cutting open a full-sized cow on the sidewalk in the middle of the city. But I never looked at those things as “bad”, instead, they were crazy reminders that I was living in a place so different from home.

I would always have my phone ready to catch the craziest things that I would spot on motorbikes. Full crates of hundreds of baby ducks, 5-6 people on one motorbike, a man on a child’s plastic using his legs to peddle in the middle of a busy street…

I seriously should put together an album of all the insane things I captured during my time in Vietnam. But I LOVED it!

Being somewhere where all you need to do is step outside in order to have an adventure or to experience something new is such a thrill and I think about how much I miss Hanoi every day.

cheap gym membership

Kind of a random one, but we stayed in Hanoi for long enough that we actually got a gym membership! Of course, there are still tons of overpriced gyms in Hanoi just like anywhere else, but the one we found only cost us $11 per month per person!

We were there for 3 months, so paying for the full 3 months together was a bit cheaper.

hanoi is huge

In some cities, if you don’t live right in the center, you feel totally unconnected to the city. A city that comes to mind is Chiang Mai, Thailand where we lived only 20 minutes away from the center and felt like we were so far from everything.

Hanoi is not like that. We lived 20-30 away from the main center (or the downtown) and we were still in the bustling part of the city. We could walk outside and find great Pho restaurants, local markets, and just a lot of life!

outdoor food market in Hanoi, Vietnam

What does this mean for you? You can save quite a bit of money by just living a bit further from downtown. It won’t feel like you’re isolated from the action, but you can find a cheaper Airbnb or rent for a bigger space!

Close to a lot of beautiful places

Some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen were in Northern Vietnam, just a few hours from Hanoi. We didn’t even hit all of them in our 3 months there!

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We got to hike Bai Tho Mountain which has the best views of Ha Long Bay, we visited Cat Ba Island and saw the incredible rice paddies in Ninh Binh.

Bai Tho Mountain in Halong Bay
Bai Tho Mountain in Halong Bay

A few other things we are planning to go back to visit are Sapa Valley and the Ha Giang Loop.

Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Hanoi has an International Airport

Although we only used it to get to Hanoi and then leave after the three months were up, if we had wanted to stay longer this would have been a huge pro for living in Hanoi.

When we lived in Da Nang, we would have to either bus or fly to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi in order to get a cheaper flight out of the country.

In Hanoi, you wouldn’t have to worry about that. You can get cheap flights to all over the world from its airport. In fact, we flew straight to Japan from there! (You can find our 1-week Japan Itinerary here!)

Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto, Japan
Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto, Japan

Living in Hanoi: The cons

Although for me there aren’t too many cons for Hanoi, the ones I have listed are pretty big ones. For us, Hanoi probably could never be a “forever” home because of some of these reasons.

But I’m so glad we decided to live there despite the following problems.

The Craziest Driving/ Traffic in the World

If you have never ridden a motorbike/scooter before, I don’t recommend learning in Hanoi. Jake and I had already been riding scooters for over 1.5 years at that point and definitely felt like all of that experience had finally prepared us for the ultimate challenge of tackling Hanoi traffic.

Meme about driving in Hanoi, Vietnam

It’s actually super fun once you get the hang of the basic rules of the road! For example, just because the light is red doesn’t mean you can’t go! It’s so freeing lol.

Basically, if there are more of you (meaning more scooters next to you) and less of them (the ones with the actual green light) then you can go!

Hundreds of scooters driving in Hanoi, Vietnam

Too much traffic? Hop up on the sidewalk and you’ll get there way faster! Wondering if you can carry that much on a scooter? Just go ahead and try! Those things can handle more than you’d think!

Just stay with the main crowd and do what you see others doing and you’ll learn soon enough!

Strong Language Barrier

This is probably the hardest part about living in Vietnam in general. Normally I could use Google Translate and a bit of charades to ask a local for help, but time after time in Vietnam I realized that this just doesn’t work.

They never understand what I’m trying to say. So, unfortunately, we were limited to mostly just observing the Vietnamese people instead of interacting a lot with them.

At church, we were able to interact a bit more but it was still very difficult.

Of course, this gives you the opportunity to learn some Vietnamese! We only learned a little, but if we had decided to stay for longer we definitely would have learned. It uses letters so it’s a lot easier than Thai or Mandarin.

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Pollution

My husband is a runner. Like a serious runner, who loves to do races that are longer than a marathon. So for us, the pollution of Hanoi was something we could handle for a few months at a time, but not something we could live with forever.

When we lived in Chiang Mai, we were there during the start of the burning season (when they burn the rice fields to “reset” them for the next season of growing) and Jake ran outside a lot. He ended up getting a pretty bad cough which lasted months.

So when we moved to Hanoi, we knew that we would need to stay inside most of the time and work out inside in order to minimize the damage.

Normally, this could be difficult, but we had just finished trekking to Everest Base Camp and felt pretty ready to stay inside for a while.

By doing this, Jake avoided getting sick from the pollution of the city and at the same time avoiding getting hit by a scooter while on a run.

If you plan to live in Hanoi long-term, pollution is definitely something you should seriously consider. A few months might not be a big deal, but over time it could cause health problems.

Busy Streets / Hard to Go Outside

Hanoi isn’t really a place where you go out for a walk. You definitely could if you lived closer to the center where there’s a giant park and a walkway that goes all the way around a lake.

However, we lived about 20-30 minutes away from the center.

We definitely walked around our area to explore, but it wasn’t very relaxing! We were having a lot of fun, but also constantly dodging scooters and trying to be as small as possible so we didn’t get hit.

I wouldn’t say that Hanoi is a very walkable city if you choose to live outside of the center. However, getting around with a scooter is so easy and cheap that it never feels like a big deal to just ride somewhere.

Pros & Cons of Living in Hanoi

As you can probably tell by now, I think there are way more pros to living in Hanoi than cons. Especially if you are a digital nomad and are traveling long-term, I definitely recommend trying out Hanoi!

Also, Vietnam is an incredible place to live if you work online. For more info about living there, check out my post about why you should move to Vietnam and how to get a Vietnam Visa.

Let me know if you’ve lived in Hanoi and what you thought about it in the comments!

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living in Hanoi: pros and cons

Michelle

Monday 1st of November 2021

I am hoping to soon be offered a teaching position in Hanoi and I have to say I SO enjoyed reading your pros and cons on living in Hanoi. Parts of it made me laugh out loud! We have visited Hanoi before and relived so much of our experience in reading your stories. I definitely think the pros outweigh the cons for us. Fingers crossed that offer comes through!

admin

Tuesday 2nd of November 2021

Thank you so much, Michelle! This was such a sweet comment! Hanoi is one of my favorite cities in the world and it gets a lot of hate, but I think it's amazing. I really hope you get that job and get to live in Hanoi! It's one of the most interesting places in the world!

K. Reed

Wednesday 7th of April 2021

Considersing moving to Hanoi to teach at Vin University, so your pros/ cons are helpful. Travel safely. Travel well.

admin

Wednesday 7th of April 2021

Wow, that's so exciting! Also, we didn't live there year-round, but I have some friends who did and they said it gets quite cold in Hanoi in the winters! So that's something I need to add to this list. I hope you enjoy your time in Hanoi if you choose to go! (:

Andrew A

Thursday 4th of February 2021

Well explained and written in a way that was fun to read all the way till the end. I laughed out loud and found myself saying yep! I am trying to decide which city/area to live in for one year as a teacher. Thanks for the info!

admin

Friday 5th of February 2021

Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it! Hanoi is a great place. We're heading back to Southeast Asia as well and have been trying to find a good city to move back to. I hope you find the right one! Try using Nomadlist.com, it can help you narrow things down!