Hanoi was not an expensive city to visit. In fact, even though we stayed there for more than a week, we spent well beneath our budget and was even able to squeeze in an expensive and indulgent (but truly enjoyable) afternoon at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel and some shopping. This is my budget guide for Hanoi and this post accompanies my Weekend in Hanoi post.
Total Expenses: P28,265.00
Airfare + Excess Baggage + Travel Tax + Visa
Our travel plan is to stay in Vietnam for a month, with Hanoi as our entry point and Ho Chi Minh as our exit point. We paid P9,400 for our Cebu-Manila-Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh-Manila-Cebu the Philippines-Vietnam air fare, which was P9,400. We booked our tickets on April 13 at the Cebu Pacific office in Robinsons Fuente. There are five Cebu Pacific flights from Manila to Hanoi every week — Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. The plane in Manila departs at 9:55 P.M. and arrives in Hanoi at 12:30 A.M. the next day. There are also five Cebu Pacific flights from Hanoi to Manila — Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday — and the plane departs Hanoi at 1:15A.M. and arrives in Manila at 5:25 A.M. I don’t wait for promo fares not because I don’t want to save on a few pesos but because we schedule our travel on the month where we have the least work load of the year. If you can snag a piso fare in CebuPac, grab it!
To avoid the hassle and to relieve our shoulders of heavy bags, Joel and I prepaid excess baggage for Cebu-Hanoi (15 kilos shared between the two of us) and Ho Chi Minh-Cebu flights (30 kilos shared between the two of us). We paid P1,020 each for excess baggage. We also, of course, paid P1,620 for travel tax. We were not charged any terminal fees from both the Mactan International Airport for our domestic flight to Manila and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for our international flight to Hanoi.
Because we were staying in Vietnam for more than the 21-day visa free allowance, we applied for a visa prior to departure. Here is my post on how to get a Vietnamese visa from the Philippines. We paid a total of $33 (P1,749.00) ($8 service charge for the pre-approval letter + $25 for the visa itself).
Lowdown: If you reside in Metro Manila, your fare to Vietnam would be cheaper than the fare we people from the provinces would have to pay. Also, you can opt not to buy excess baggage but make sure to buy ahead if you’re planning to go big on shopping. This way, you will avoid having to pay airport prices. Moreover, you can skip the visa fee if you’re staying 21 days or less in Vietnam.
Transportation and How to Get Around Hanoi
Our transportation expenses in Hanoi totaled only P922 and this already included the airport pickup and the transportation we used from our apartment to the Mactan airport (taxi to South bus terminal and Sugbu Airport bus).
Cebu Pacific flights from Manila to Hanoi arrive at midnight (or early morning in our case when our flight was delayed for an hour). I suggest you make arrangements for an airport pickup. The Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi is about 40 minutes from the Old Quarter without stops and there were very few taxis available — you would also be competing with other newly-arrived visitors. Also, to avoid getting lost (because Vietnamese addresses are quite tricky), it’s best to arrange the airport pickup with your host or hotel so that they would be the one to instruct the driver in their own language. We made arrangements for airport pickup for $15 but we added a $5 tip because we got out of the airport past 2:00 A.M. and we saw our driver almost on the verge of sleep.
Malinh Taxi will cost you P1,000-P1,300, while Grab may be P500 less. Speaking of Grab, Grab was a cheaper way to get around Hanoi compared to a taxi, and it was also easier, especially for non-Vietnamese speaking tourists like us because we can pin the location ahead through the Grab map.
However, the cheapest alternative to getting around Hanoi is the bus. A cheaper alternative to an airport pickup would be to wait in the airport until 5:00 A.M. because that is the first trip of the airport bus. There are two local buses — No. 7 and No. 17 — and they run from 5:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. and costs only 5,000VND (P11). There is also another bus, the Express Bus 86, that connects Noi Bai airport to the Hanoi train station (Ga Hanoi). The first Express Bus 86 trip departs Noi Bai at 6:25 and departs Ga Hanoi at 8:00 P.M. There are only eight trips per day though. But it still costs way cheaper than Grab at 30,000VND (P69).
We used the local bus many times in Hanoi. Each bus ride costs 7,000VND (P16). You have to take note though that the bus drivers and conductor we interacted with did not speak any English at all so there is no use in asking them in English if the bus will take you to your desired destination. We downloaded the Xe Buyt app, and learned to laugh at our mistakes.
Lowdown: You can save more on transportation expenses if you travel by four. That is because a taxi/cab can transport only four passengers.
We paid a total of $160.26 for 11 nights for 2 people, which meant we paid only $7.28 (P386) per person per night. That’s a steal, right? Don’t get too excited. For accommodation, I look for a compromise between comfort, location, and price, but price always wins for me, and we always sacrifice location, but never comfort. This is because we are traveling for a month so our accommodation will surely add up, and there is no way we can skip on accommodation in comparison to other expenses (e.g. we can skip sightseeing but we can’t skip sleeping). For long-term travel (which I define as five days and more of traveling), I always budget our accommodation to P1,000 per night for my husband and me. For big groups, I will increase the budget as long as each person pays P500 or less per night. We stayed outside of the Old Quarter (read here about our AirBnB accommodation).
I also suggest you book an extra day of accommodation for the night you will be arriving in Hanoi. A budget traveler’s question would always be this: do I save on accommodation until the next day’s check-in or do I book for a extra day so I would be able to immediately sleep when I arrive? I always go for the latter. Please save another P1,000 so you could have a good night sleep (preferably after a good shower and toilet time) after arrival. I find that lack of sleep deters me from enjoying any activity. Lack of sleep trumps down any excitement I have for a new city to discover.
We spent P5,896 for sightseeing while in Hanoi. This included the following:
|Activity||Amount||Amount in Peso|
|Ha Long Bay tour||1,650.000VND||P3,802|
|87 Ma May house||10.000VND||P23|
|Thang Long water puppet theatre||100.000VND||P230|
|Thang Long Citadel||35.000VND||P80|
|Vietnam National Museum of History||55.000VND||P126|
|Metropole chocolate library||680.000VND||P1,566|
|Temple of Literature||30.000VND||P69|
Hanoi was truly an interesting city that we were out all the days we were there. I believe we did most of the touristy things to do and saw the touristy places to see, but I think we still have not covered (or uncovered) all the interesting things about this city (a reason to come back, for sure). In another post, I’ll recreate the same itinerary we did, compressed in three days for those of you who won’t have the luxury of time to stay in Hanoi for more than a week. Also, I’ll be sharing with you how we were able to combine working + traveling in Hanoi in another post.
We spent P2,627 for food in Hanoi, including the bowl of noodles I bought at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and P716 for coffee, for a total of P3,343, which if divided by the number of days we spent in Hanoi + the traveling day (11 days) would average to P304 per day. I think the number is way, way cheap but that is because for most meals in Hanoi, we decided to cook and eat in our apartment.
Why? Because, truth be told, Hanoi is great and all, but most of the places in the Old Quarter we saw selling local food, the surrounding area was dirty. Joel had stomach problems in Chiang Mai when we frequented the Chang Puak night market for our daily dose of local street food and that stomach problem did not go away until two months after, so we were just extra, extra cautious. Stomach problem is a VERY BIG problem when you are traveling. We did not risk it. We did eat out 50% of our lunches and dinners, but we also made our own food, which we actually enjoy because that is how we do it in our “normal life.” Cooking our own food also allowed us to interact with the local vendors and explore Vietnamese food.
Our other expenses included souvenirs (I gave tips here on shopping in Hanoi) and laundry of P69. Did we buy a local sim card? No, because we thought it was not necessary (and I will talk more about it in my working in Vietnam post). But my brother bought a local tourist sim for about P500 and his data connection was superb.
Featured image by Joel Lopez.