November to March is peak season as this is when the weather is at its best for visitors to take flights to Hanoi. If you’re booking a flight to arrive during this time, try to avoid the Tet holiday (January/February), as this is when all of Vietnam, or so it seems, is on the move, visiting family and friends. If you are looking to avoid the crowds then you will find cheap flights to Hanoi in the weeks following the Tet holiday – mid-February through March – these are quieter. In addition, if you don’t mind the rain then travelling during the rainy season – between May and September – will allow you to see the city when it isn’t so packed.
Whatever time of year you’ve booked your flight to Hanoi, you won’t be disappointed. There are numerous festivals which take place, all giving a snippet of traditional customs and cultural aspects of this colourful city. The Co Loa Festival, which usually takes place in February (exact date depends on the lunar calendar), honours King An Duong Vuong. There is a procession, as well as a number of interesting and some unusual activities, including, human chess, wrestling, rope climbing and card playing. Hanoi is a great place to be during the Mid-Autumn Festival, as the streets and lakes are lined with glowing lanterns, the smell of incense wafts through the air and traditional dancing takes place. During this popular harvest festival, it is a tradition to eat sweet round delicacies known as ‘mooncakes’.
Flights to Hanoi are a must for anyone planning a trip to Vietnam. This city of three million souls retains many landmarks from its 1,000-year history such as the Old Quarter, the One Pillar Pagoda, which dates from the 11th century, the Temple of Literature, founded in 1070, and Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, where the great man himself lies in state. It also boasts the broad, sweeping boulevards and architecture of the French rule.
There is also a French influence in Vietnamese food and the best place to sample this is on the street. Head for the busiest stalls and sample one of the local delicacies. Bun cha, a delicious meal of pork meatballs in fish sauce with vegetables, will cost just a couple of dollars but will be a memorable repast.
Hanoi’s climate is generally charcaterised by hot and humid summers and relatively cold and dry winters. During the dry season, October through April, Hanoi is cool, with temperatures on average between 16 and 25 degrees Celsius and the city is mostly dry. The rainy season runs from May to September and is hot, temperatures around the high 20s, with heavy rains.
Two feet are good; Hanoi is compact. And if you need to cross the street do so very slowly, making eye contact with the drivers. Two wheels are good too. The traffic might look scary, but get into it and wheel around like the Vietnamese do. If you want to be driven around, there are lots of options. Motorcycle taxi rides – Xe om – are offered almost everywhere. Air-conditioned taxis are more comfortable, and still cheap.
For the tourist experience take a xich lo, the red-covered rickshaws. And tip the driver…
There are a couple of options for getting downtown from the Noi Bai International Airport (HAN). Public bus journeys to downtown take about an hour. Minibuses leave the airport when they are full. Taxi is the most comfortable and most expensive option. The journey takes about 30 minutes.