Hanoi Expat Housing Guide

Moving to, and living in, Hanoi is relatively easy. Different people have widely varying needs, but here are some resources that I found useful when I first moved to Hanoi.

Housing: Finding a place to live in Hanoi depends largely on your budget. You can rent a room from a family or a local living quarter housing starting at about $200 a month. There are also fully serviced apartments that can run upwards of $3,000 a month, and everything in between. You can also negotiate with most hotels, ranging from the backpacker to the five star, for reduced rates on long-term stays. I was looking for a furnished apartment, with plenty of hot water, air conditioning (necessary if you’ll be there between min-April to mid-October), and a backup generator (required if you want regular electricity), and prices tended to start at about $700. After deciding on your price range, the next step will be deciding where in Hanoi to live. The two primary areas foreigners tend to live are either in the central area (in the Hoan Kiem or Hai Ba Trung districts) or in the Tay Ho (West Lake) suburb (about 15 min. from the central area). I wanted to live within walking distance of where I worked and close to restaurants and food stalls, so I had a strong preference for the central area. Another important consideration is noise– Hanoi can be very noisy, so think about the location and the thickness of windows.

Transportation: A taxi from the airport to Hanoi costs $10-$12 and can be paid in either dollars or dong. Within the city, taxi’s are relatively cheap (insist on the meter), but even cheaper are Xe Oms (hugging motorcycles) or motorcycle taxis; be sure to negotiate the fare beforehand. Cyclos are also cheap, and a fun way to sightsee, but are slow for everyday use.

I wasn’t ready for a motorbike when I first moved to Hanoi, so I opted for a bicycle instead. Although the traffic looks (and is) daunting, a bicycle is a great way to get around the city– Hanoi is small and flat. The ancient quarter has several places to rent bicycles, but they are not in the best shape. There are several bicycle shops on Ba Trieu, prices start at about $28 for a Chinese-made bike, but be careful that you are buying a new one rather than an old one that has been cleaned and repainted. I bought my new joint-venture Vietnam/Japan model with basket, lock, and two year warrantee for $48 (12 Trang Thi). Bring a helmet with you, because they are virtually impossible to find in Hanoi.