When we lived in London, we loved our local area. We used to make sure we took our guests to our local pubs and restaurants to introduce them to the local way of life. After all, this is where the best of London life happens, locally.
While travelling, we try and do the same thing. We want to experience what it feels like living like a local in another country, city or town.
We are always interested in seeing where and what the locals eat and drink. So when we stayed in Hanoi for a few nights we tried our best to ‘live like the locals’.
Renting an apartment in the local area
In our opinion, it’s always good to go for a local area in the big city. Choosing an accommodation within a walking distance (approx 20 – 30 minutes) from the sightseeing attractions gives you a better idea of the ‘real city’. It’s quieter and you will almost always get a better deal on accommodation.
For the best experience and value for money, we searched airbnb until we found a cosy studio that we loved. At 515,000 VND ($23 USD) the apartment came complete with a furnished living room, equipped kitchen, bathroom with a separate shower (yay!), a roof terrace and a security guy! We felt extra safe in the building.
It was really great living in an apartment rather than just a hotel and since the apartment is in the residential block, we actually got to live with the ‘real people’, who live in Hanoi.
A big bonus was having a washing machine and a tumble dryer. Something we haven’t used for ages, since we left our flat in London actually. Through our travels in Thailand and Laos, to save money, we washed our clothes by hand. Yep, you’ve read it right.
So having a washing machine, let alone the tumble dryer made our stay in Hanoi even more enjoyable. We had a couple of happy beers on the roof terrace while waiting for our laundry to wash and dry.
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Location, location, location
The apartment is located on the Do Hanh street, around 20 minute walk from the Old Quarter, which was perfect for us. An easy walk into the town meant that we could have a stroll at any time and explore hidden passageways, Charlie’s speciality!
A couple of times, out of a sheer exhaustion from walking around the city, we took a taxi from the Old Quarter which cost us around 35,000 VND ($1.57 USD) off peak.
The apartment is also located very close to the Hanoi Railway Station, which is always handy as we prefer trains to busses. In fact it was so handy that we walked to the station to buy train tickets to Sapa a day before.
Exploring the local area
It’s always fun to observe how the street life changes throughout the day. Our street was especially buzzing during breakfast time. It seemed like a good place for the locals to have their morning soup and coffee.
During our explorations we learned to use fresh lime to disinfect our spoons and chopsticks (local trick) and sampled some of the best street food.
Staying in a very local area in Hanoi means lots of coffee shops right at the doorstep. Here we sampled some of the best and smoothest coffee in Hanoi right where we stayed.
If you love coffee as much as I do, you might appreciate this Guide to finding great coffee in Hanoi.
Friendly and curious local people
We found the local Vietnamese people very friendly and helpful, starting with our lovely security guy who, no mater how many times saw us per day, would come out and say xin chào (hello).
Also, I am pretty sure we were as big an attraction to the locals as they were to us. Every time we walked out of the apartment for breakfast, we’d get friendly stares from just about everyone on the street. I think we were the only westerners living in the neighbourhood.
While sipping coffee we befriended a Vietnamese girl who spoke perfect English and even helped us order our breakfast at the street stall next door.
She explained to us that it’s important to tell the stall holder which part of the chicken we want in the soup. And just like that, we were enjoying only the top quality meat with our noodles for breakfast. Bonus.
Google Map of our Airbnb apartment and local area:
What was your experience in Hanoi? Where did you stay? Did you like it? Let us know in the comments below…
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