Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City: What to Pick When Travelling to Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the most popular countries to visit in Southeast Asia, being a rewarding and fascinating destination. A raging debate when travelling to Vietnam is North vs. South. Owing to a subtle yet obvious difference between the two parts of the country, it is integral to compare between the Northern and Southern sections of the country before you decide to visit either region of the country. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and a major northern city whereas Ho Chi Minh City is a major southern city and the former capital of Vietnam. So the ultimate question becomes: Where does the trip start, Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City?

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City
(Source)

Here are 9 factors you should consider when deciding between the two:

1) Food

The Vietnamese cuisine is absolutely mouth-watering - a medley of meat, seafood, vegetables and spices artfully combined. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City each have their distinct tastes.

Hanoi
Hanoi opts for a slightly more traditional outlook, creating the perfect array of traditional Vietnamese cuisine. The major attraction of the food culture in Hanoi is the street food, which is probably the best selection of Vietnamese street food in the country. Home to many street food joints through narrow lanes and family-owned restaurants, Hanoi is also popular as the place to get the best 'pho' in Vietnam.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Food in Hanoi
Street Food in Hanoi (Source)

Ho Chi Minh City
Known as the food capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City has a more diverse set of options to choose from. With thousands of restaurants across the city, you can enjoy cuisines ranging from French, Japanese, Mediterranean, Chinese and obviously, Vietnamese. From street food joints to pizza bistros and fine dining restaurants, Ho Chi Minh City has it all.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Japanese Food
Japanese Food in Ho Chi Minh City (Source)

2) Sightseeing

Hanoi
Hanoi is a more traditional city. You can practically feel the history flowing through the entirety of the city, with tourist destinations like the Old Quarter, Temple of Literature and Hoan Kiem Lake. Most of the tourist spots in Hanoi reflect the rich culture and history associated with Vietnam. Scenic spots like Halong Bay and Ninh Binh are day trips from Hanoi.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi Opera House
The Hanoi Opera House, a reflection of French Colonial Rule in Vietnam (Source)

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is more cosmopolitan, and its attractions reflect that as well. Popular attractions include the Water Puppet Theatre, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the War Remnants Museum. The Cu Chi tunnels are a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City. You can also go on a boat ride through the Mekong Delta from here.

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon City Hall
City Hall in Ho Chi Minh City (Source)

3) Nightlife

Hanoi
Hanoi is known for its backpacker-style nightlife, with the Old Quarter transforming into a Bia Hoi junction as soon as the sun sets. Hanoi has a relaxed nightlife with chilled out vibes and cheap booze. Beers are as inexpensive as VND 5,000. Bia Hoi junction is just a bunch of people sitting around tables on plastic stools. Hanoi also has dance clubs, but breweries are aplenty and the chief attraction among those looking to let loose with a cold one.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Bia Hoi Junction
Bia Hoi Junction in Old Quarter, Hanoi (Source)

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, being the cosmopolitan city that it is, caters to a more upmarket clientele with swanky nightclubs and fancy rooftop bars. It is more on the expensive side. However, Ho Chi Minh City has its own set of comparatively smaller nightclubs, karaoke bars and pubs for those on a shoestring budget.

Ho Chi Minh City Skline at Night(Source)

4) Shopping

Hanoi
Hanoi offers a more traditional shopping experience, with markets and colonial style family run shopping houses selling handicrafts, silverware and fresh produce. The Old Quarter has small shops that specialize in a vast variety of products, ranging from shoes to silks. Hanoi Night Market is one of the best places to shop in the city, offering an authentic experience of shopping in Vietnam.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Shopping at Hanoi Night Market
The Hanoi Night Market in Old Quarter (Source)

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam's shopping hub. Filled up with a number of shopping malls, fashion boutiques and shopping streets, Ho Chi Minh City offers a unique shopping experience. You can even buy authentic art from art galleries and get a dress designed for yourself at one of the numerous fashion boutiques.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Shopping at Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market, a famous market in Ho Chi Minh City (Source)

5) Weather

Despite being part of the same country, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have marked differences in their weather conditions.

Hanoi

Hanoi is located up north in the Red River Delta region. Hanoi experiences hot, wet summers and cool, dry winters. It can get quite cold in winters. The best time to visit Hanoi is either from September to November or from March to May.

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is located in the southern part of Vietnam, in the Mekong Delta region. It experiences a tropical climate and hence has only two seasons - wet season and dry season. It is comparatively hotter here than in Hanoi. The best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is during the dry season, from December to April.

6) Cost

Vietnam in general is a very cheap place to travel in. Prices maybe slightly inflated in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City but in general, it is very inexpensive. Ho Chi Minh City is highly modernized, owing to which it has both highly expensive and very cheap food joints, restaurants, etc. Hanoi on the other hand houses medium range prices. If you are travelling on a shoestring budget, Ho Chi Minh City is the place for you.

7) Accommodation

Hanoi
Hanoi tends to offer mostly medium range accommodation, with a number of boutique styled hotels and expensive hotels as well. Backpackers will definitely find the occasional economic accommodation, but Hanoi generally caters to the wealthy traveller.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Hotels in Hanoi
Hotel Metropole in Hanoi (Source)

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is known as Vietnam's financial and expat hub, owing to which it has a variety of accommodation, ranging from sprawling five star hotels catering to the rich and elite to the small inexpensive rooms that comfortably accommodates backpackers, Ho Chi Minh City has got it all.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Hotels in Saigon
Hotel Continental in Ho Chi Minh City (Source)

8) Safety

Vietnamese people are not aggressive or violent, but scams, pickpocketing and petty thievery is not uncommon.

Hanoi
Hanoi is known for its scams. You might be tricked into buying expensive and overpriced tour packages to Sapa or Halong Bay. People might offer to pose with you in photographs and then demand money.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City
Streets of Hanoi (Source)

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is known for its elaborate pickpocketing schemes. Bag snatching and people stealing your belongings from motorbikes are not uncommon. Try to protect all your belongings as well as you can, whether you are in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City
Streets of Ho Chi Minh City (Source)

9) Lifestyle

Hanoi
Hanoi has still maintained a slightly traditional outlook owing to which people may seem slightly blunt and rough around the edges. Hanoi is home to a thriving Buddhist community and has maintained its conventional charm with narrow lanes, tiny family-run coffee shops, local markets and the elderly practising Tai Chi.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Lifestyle in Hanoi
Life in Hanoi (Source)

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, on the other hand, has been subjected to rapid modernization owing to the enormous influence of the French and American cultures. Ho Chi Minh city is filled with swanky skyscrapers, sleek hotels, fancy rooftop bars and trendy shopping malls.

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon City Life
Life in Ho Chi Minh City (Source)

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City might have some subtle differences, but by large they are very similar and are reflections of the rich Vietnamese Culture. Both cities are worthy tourist destinations, each with its own uniqe essence. So figure out what it is you are looking for from your trip to Vietnam, and the question Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City will answer itself!

This post was published by Sitara Kumbale

Share this post on social media
Google +

Related Articles

Travel Tips

Renting a Car in Hanoi - 5 Best Car Rentals in Hanoi For A Smooth Trip

Nightlife

Nightlife in Hanoi - 18 Things to Do in Hanoi at Night

Experiences

Free Things to do in Hanoi: Priceless Experiences in Vietnam's Capital

Food & Drink

Treat Your Palate to these 10 Delightful Street Food in Hanoi!

Free Things to Do in Hanoi: A Priceless Experience

Walking Tours of Hanoi: Experience Vietnam's Capital by Foot

Shopping

Shopping in Vietnam: A Useful Guide for Every Shopaholic

Food & Drink

Vietnamese Food: The Pho-Nomenal World of Vietnamese Cuisine

Art & Culture

Architecture of Vietnam: From Wooden Stilts to Colonial French

Transport

Train Travel in Vietnam: What to Know When You Travel Vietnam By Train

Art & Culture

History of Vietnam: From 3rd BC to 21st Century

Fairs & Festivals

10 Festivals In Vietnam to Experience the Colour and Culture

Adventure

Scuba Diving in Vietnam: 8 Best Spots For Exploring The Underwater World

History of Vietnam

Food & Drink

Street Food in Vietnam: A Guide to a Delicious and Un(pho)gettable Trip

Travel Tips

Common Vietnamese Phrases - English To Vietnamese

Shopping

14 Shopping Malls in Hanoi for Perfect Retail Therapy in Vietnam

Travel Tips

Renting a Car in Hanoi - 5 Best Car Rentals in Hanoi For A Smooth Trip

Transport

Renting a Vehicle in Vietnam: How to Rent a Car or Bike in Vietnam

Art & Culture

7 War Museums in Vietnam To Witness the Turmoil of the Country

Art & Culture

Museums in Hanoi

Nightlife

Night Markets in Hanoi - Shop at Hanoi's Bustling Night Markets

Experiences

Visit These 3 Water Parks in Hanoi for a Refreshing Weekend

Religious

10 Temples in Vietnam to Showcase the Religious Diversity of the Country

Wildlife & Nature

6 Lakes in Hanoi For a Peaceful Escape From the City's Bustle

Transport

Airports in Hanoi: An overview of Hanoi International Airport

Nightlife

Casinos in Hanoi- List of Best Casinos in Vietnam’s Capital City

Experiences

What to Buy in Hanoi: 14 Souvenirs to Mark Your Vietnamese Tour

Experiences

Shopping in Hanoi - 17 Must Buy Items on Your Hanoi Tour

Art & Culture

13 Interesting Hanoi Facts You Probably Didn't Know!

Religious

Churches of Vietnam

Transport

Transportation in Vietnam - A Guide to Getting Around in Vietnam

Art & Culture

Walking Tours in Hanoi

Beaches & Islands

Beaches in Hanoi

Adventure

Day Trips From Hanoi

Adventure

Bikini Airline Vietjet Launching In India Soon

Comments on this post