Should you retire in Hanoi Vietnam?

–>Hanoi Vietnam Livability Factors
–>Hanoi Vietnam Cost of Living
–>Hanoi Best Area to Stay, Cheapest Flights
–>Hanoi Ancient City Walking Tour
–>Evening Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake
–>Hanoi Favorite Markets 
–>Hanoi Vietnam Nightlife
–>Digital Nomads: Hanoi Life and Food
–>Hanoi Facts and History
Best Retire Cheap in Paradise Locations in the World


This is Dan from Vagabond Buddha. Should you retire in Hanoi Vietnam?  Probably not.  

Although I love Hanoi and absolutely recommend that you visit here while in Vietnam, I do not recommend it for retirement.  The air pollution is too high for your retirement years.   Instead, think of Hanoi as a great place to visit as you slow travel around Vietnam.  

You absolutely must see Vietnam and you must see Hanoi while you are here.  

I like to slow travel as I move around the planet, finding the best retire cheap destinations.  As I slow travel, I write about the places I love.    

I assume you will want to travel at least part of the year even after you find your perfect international retirement destination.  

Hopefully, this guide will teach you how to save a little money when you visit Hanoi as you slow-travel through Vietnam.  

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Today, we are talking about exciting and culturally rich Hanoi Vietnam.

Hanoi Livability Factors

Hanoi is a large, nosey, crowded city.  But couldn’t we also say that about New York?  Since I also love New York, I am also a big fan of Hanoi.  But I don’t believe you should retire in Hanoi or New York.  Why? New York is just too expensive for most people. Hanoi is not too expensive for most westerners, but the air pollution in Hanoi is likely to turn off most of the people that love being in large vibrant cities.  If Hanoi figures out how to deal with their air pollution problem, big city lovers on tight budgets will seriously have to consider Hanoi for retirement.  

Walkability: High.  When I visit Hanoi, I stay near this lake.  This visit, we were here for 2 weeks and walked everywhere.  There are grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, book stores, pharmacies, specialty stores, and everything we needed within walking distance.  

Internet: High. No problem at all.  I have been on video calls, uploaded Youtube videos, and streamed Netflix movies.  

Food:  High. The food in Hanoi is cheap and delicious.  We were spending around 50k Dong ($1.80 USD) per meal per person in restaurants.  You can easily spend five times as much if you want, but I usually opt for a more local experience.  Carry a bottle of water with you everywhere. You will stay hydrated plus avoid paying restaurants for drinks.  A local beer in a restaurant is about 25k Dong ($1.25 USD). That same beer in a convenience store is about 15k Dong ($0.75 USD). 

Weather: Medium. Average highs range seasonally from 68F/20C in January to 92F/33C in July. Average lows (at night) range seasonally from 58F/14C in January to 79F/26C in July. The rainy season is March through August when at least some rain falls in 15 or more days of the month, but the rain is only heavy from June through September. 

Things to Do:  One of my favorite things to do in Hanoi is people watching.  When it cools down in the evening, head for a walk in the Hoan Kiem Lake area of Hanoi.  You will find people of all ages socializing on park benches, dancing to Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing, practicing Tai Chi in large groups, meditating, exercising, listening to street musicians (classical music eastern and western, modern music, and Asian folk music).  There are tea and coffee houses in all directions, book stores, and pop-up street food vendors selling family recipes. You can ride bikes, go on cultural tours, and try the local foods. You can study Vietnamese cooking and language or teach English classes.  There are food markets, clothing markets, and toy markets.  

Social Considerations: The Vietnamese are very social and very helpful people.  People will just stop and offer to translate if you are trying to order food or find directions.  You definitely will want to buy a local SIM card for your smartphone when you arrive in Vietnam. You can use Google translate when are trying to communicate and you have no common language.  Google Maps is also great for getting around the city. If you decide to live part of the year in Vietnam, you will want to study the Vietnamese language. Many vendors are able to speak tourist English but that will not form the basis for deeper long term friendships.  You may just get lucky and find a few Vietnamese that speak perfect English, but you need more than one friend, yes? 

Visa Requirements:  Low.  Vietnam has been making changes to its visa programs over the last few years, and it is not as friendly to Americans and other preferred nations as it used to be.  Currently, many passport holders are only being issued 30-day single-entry visas which must be obtained before entry to Vietnam.  So, unless the rules become more favorable to foreigners, it might not be the best choice for long stays or retirement.  But it is still one of my favorite countries in the world.   Additionally, more changes are likely to be coming soon as the Tourism sector in Vietnam is still struggling in these post-pandemic times.  At the time you read this, I suggest you view one of the websites that update the entry requirements every 30 days or so, or visit the Vietnam Embassy Webpage in your home country.   I am usually already in SE Asia when I am going to Vietnam.  The travel agents around SE Asia know how to get tourist visas with very little trouble.  But if you decide you want to stay longer than a month or two, you should talk to a visa agent.  I suggest using a visa agent recommended to you by ex-pats that are members of various Facebook Expat Groups.  

Expats: The last data shows 80,000 expats living in Vietnam.  They are mainly concentrated in the larger cities such as Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Da Nang, Da Lat, and Nha Trang.  There are 20,000 members in the largest Hanoi expat Facebook web page.  This is a great place to ask questions about life in Hanoi.  But be careful of associating only with expats. People that only spend time with other people from their home country have a more difficult time adjusting.  Many seem to focus on what was at home that they can’t get ‘here’ instead of learning exciting new things here that are not at home. Immersion can be a zen-like experience.  

Real Estate: Apartments start at around 50 million Dong per square meter in Hanoi.  So a 700 square foot apartment (65 square meters) would cost about $140k USD.  See Numbeo.  Rents for a 1 bedroom apartment in Hanoi start at around 8 million Dong per month ($350 USD) per month.  I never recommend buying until you have lived somewhere for a year or two. You may decide to move somewhere else and you need that flexibility when you first start living internationally.  

Medical: Historically, wealthier Vietnamese would often travel to Bangkok, Kuala  Lumpur, or Singapore for significant healthcare challenges. Source.  But over the last decade, Vietnam has slowly been raising their game medically.  Source.  If you get sick while visiting Hanoi, here are some recommended hospitals and clinics.  Source.  

Pollution: There are many parts of Vietnam that have acceptable levels of air pollution.  Hanoi has beautiful days for sure, but there are enough poor quality air pollution days that I do not recommend it for retirement.   

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Hanoi Cost of Living

Expense Cost Low Medium High
Airbnb/per month rate $21.00 0 14 30
1 Br Apt w/lease $14.00 0 12 0
Hostel/per day $9.00 30 3 0
High-End Restaurant $10.00 1 4 8
Neighborhood Restaurant $2.50 30 44 48
Food Cart $1.80 30 12 4
Subway/Train/Metro $0.00 20 26 8
Bus $0.80 20 10 0
Taxi/Grab $3.00 6 10 20
Total Per Month $443.00 $710.60 $897.20
Total Per Day $14.77 $23.69 $29.91

This estimated cost of living for one month, for one person as a temporary visitor. It only includes rent, 2 meals per day, and local transportation. I usually have oatmeal for breakfast in my room, so I don’t count that. For a full understanding of what it would cost you to live here, visit Hanoi and add any items you spend money on.

If you retire in Hanoi for Cheap you will have an amazing life compared to the life you would have in the expensive world.

Never move anywhere until you have visited first personally to verify the living costs for your lifestyle and needs. 

I am not guaranteeing these prices. These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post. Your costs will likely be drastically different depending on lifestyle and the time since this post.

The above numbers are for one person and do not include alcohol, tours, or extras. Here is a free report explaining, “How The Cost of Living Table Works.”

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Best Area to Stay in Hanoi

Here are a few suggestions:

High-End Pricey and Amazing Hotel
Mid-range Still Stellar
Value and Character with Location too
Top Rated Bargain Hostel

Where we stayed: 

Airbnb: We stayed in this apartment for 2 weeks for about $21 USD per night.  For a video of the inside, watch our below life and food video. It isn’t as nice as the pictures but we were fine.  If you are new to Airbnb use this code at checkout to get a big discount.

Cheapest Flights to Hanoi

We almost always get our cheapest flights on this Skyscanner. They have a web crawler that is constantly looking for the cheapest prices all over the world. As usual, we found the cheapest flight to Hanoi on Skyscanner.

Hanoi Ancient City Walking Tour

If the above video looks fun, click ==>this link<== or the below Google Map and start walking.  

Bach Ma Temple: This is the oldest temple in Hanoi.  It was built in the 9th century by Emperor Ly Thai. It was moved to its present location in the 18th century to protect the east side of Hanoi.  The stories vary from there. The name Bach Ma means “White Horse.” One story is that the temple honors the white horse that the Emperor rode into town when he founded Hanoi.  The other story is that a white horse helped the Emperor find the most stable ground for the temple walls.  

Hoan Kiem Lake;  In 1428, Emperor Le Loi was boating on the Lake when a Golden Turtle God asked for his sword.  The Emperor had received the sword from a dragon to fight the Chinese Ming Dynasty. After Emperor Le Loi finished expelling the Chinese, he gave the sword to the Golden Turtle God.  The Emperor reamed the lake Hoan Kiem and built the Turtle Tower in the middle of the lake to commemorate the return of the victorious sword. 

Ngoc Son (Jade Mountain) Temple:  The Jade Mountain Temple was built in the 13th century to commemorate Tran Hung Dao, a military leader, for his bravery three times in defeating the Mongol invasions of Vietnam.   

Saint Joseph Cathedral:  This Roman Catholic Cathedral was built in 1886 for the 4 million Catholics in Vietnam.  It was one of the first buildings built by the French during their occupation of Indochina.  It is the oldest church in Hanoi.    

Break:  If you were going to break this walking tour into two sessions, this would be the natural end of the first session.  

Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton):  Where the Vietnamese kept war prisoners.  This is where John McCain was a prisoner during his time in Vietnam.  

Thang Long Imperial Citadel:  The Hanoi Citadel was first built by the founder of the Ly Dynasty in the 11th century by Emperor Tran Le.  It was later expanded by the Nguyen Dynasty. The citadel fell into ruins when the Nguyen moved the capital to Hue in 1810.  Many of the structures were not excavated and restored until the 21st century. In 1945, the citadel was used by the Japanese to imprison French soldiers.  

Ba Dinh Square:  Ba Dinh Square is where the father of modern Vietnam read the Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945.  Ba Binh was named after an anti-French uprising that occurred in 1886. The Mausoleum was built to house the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh.   

One Pillar Pagoda:  This Buddhist temple was built by Emperor Ly Thai Tong in 1048.   The childless Emperor dreamt that the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara handed him a baby boy as he sat on a lotus flower in a beautiful pond.  The Emperor then asked a monk named Thien Tue to build this beautiful lotus pond from his dream. The Emperor then married a beautiful peasant girl and she bore him a son.  During the Ly Dynasty, the birth of Buddha was celebrated here annually at this temple. The French destroyed the original temple before fleeing Vietnam in 1954. It was rebuilt afterward.   

Evening Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake

Hanoi Vietnam has an ancient culturally rich society that is as sophisticated and nuanced as any in the world.  Nowhere is this more apparent than an evening walk around Hoan Kiem Lake in the evening. I will let my videos speak for themselves.  But to really begin to appreciate the life and times of this great nation, you will need to walk around this beautiful lake in the evenings.  

If the above video looks fun, click ==>this link<== or the below map to take the self-guided tour on your smartphone.  

Hanoi Favorite Markets

This video is my favorite markets in Hanoi.  There is a Google Map for this walking tour.  

Here is the Google Map for my favorite markets.

Big Market (Wet and Dry) (Dong Xuan Market):  This is the largest local buyer-focused market in my favorite neighborhood in Hanoi.  It has household goods, clothing, and kitchen electronics. This is not a tourist market. It also has both wet and dry food products like grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and meats.  The wet market is on the street behind the three-story market.  

Night Market:  This is fun at night to walk around and people watch.  

Grocery Stores:  Vinamart 1, Vinmart 2.  We bought fruits, vegetables, nonperishable and canned goods

Hanoi Nightlife

If the above video looks fun, just click ==>this link<== or the below map and get started on this walking tour.  Then stop here for cheap beer or drinks. 

Prague Pub 7 Tạ Hiện:  25 Dong Beers ($1.15 USD).

Digital Nomads in Hanoi–Food and Life  

Part 1

Part 2

My Pho:  $ We are happy to find that our favorite cheap restaurant is still open for business.  Order the Pho dish here that consists of vermicelli noodles, peanuts, mint, cucumber, and shallots for 40k Dong ($1.75 USD).  

Bun Cha Ta Hanoi: $$ We loved this place.  It was a little more expensive but totally worth it.  140k dong ($6 USD) for both of us.  

Huyen Vy Cafe:  $ This was Qiang Hui’s favorite Dessert in Hanoi.  There is usually a line. Just watch other people order.  Then point at whatever looks good to you.  

Bún ốc Giang phố cổ:  $ Snails in Noodle Soup.  40 Dong, $1.70 USD.  

Bánh Xèo Zòn Pancake:  $ Vietnamese Pancakes   

Noodle and Roll:  $ Great prices and food.  

Minh Chay Vegan Restaurant: $$  Really nice both food and atmosphere.  The prices on the first few pages of the menu may give you a heart attack … keep flipping pages for the cheap seats towards the back pages.  

Vagabond Buddha’s Kitchen: It was so cheap to eat out in Hanoi we only cooked 4 or 5 meals at home during our 2-week stay.   We bought nonperishables at this grocery store and fresh fruits and vegetables at this wet market (around back). 

Running Meditation:  I like to run around this lake when am in Hanoi.  

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Hanoi Facts and History

Here are some interesting facts about Hanoi Vietnam according to Wikipedia.

Hanoi is the second-largest city in Vietnam with about 8 million people.  Plus, there are 16 million people if you include the surrounding metropolitan area.  

Hanoi (then called Thang Long) was founded as the capital of Imperial Vietnam in 1010 AD by the monarch Ly Thai To.  

It remained the capital for 800 years until the Nguyen Dynasty moved the capital of Vietnam to Hue in 1802.   We will visit Hue next week.  

The French conquered Hanoi in 1873.  Hanoi then became the capital of the French Indochina from 1883 to 1940.   You can still see the French influence on architecture and food in Hanoi.   

The Japanese occupied Hanoi during WW2 from 1940 to 1945.  

In 1946, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam designated Hanoi as the capital of independent Vietnam.  

Hanoi remained under local control throughout the First Indochina War with France from 1946 to 1954, and during the Vietnam War (with the USA) from 1955 to 1975.  After WW2, foreigners never controlled Hanoi again.  

The Vietnamese defeated and expelled the USA from Vietnam in 1975.   

Death estimates from the Vietnam war with the USA are estimated to be 1 million Vietnamese, 300,000 Cambodians, 60,000 Laotians, both civilians and soldiers, and 58,200 American soldiers.  

At the end of the war, 1 million south Vietnamese (friendly to the Americans) jumped into boats of all sizes to flee communist Vietnam.    

250,000 of those people died at sea.  It is often the weakest among us that suffer the consequences of war and the ‘benefits’ are received by the few.  

Today, Hanoi is a thriving economic hub and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam.  

The Hanoi area has been inhabited by people for 5000 years.  

The Chinese domination of this area started 200 BC and lasted about one thousand years.  

In the 8th century AD, the Tang Dynasty (the local arm of China), built Luocheng, a citadel.  

This citadel was built to put down local uprisings.  I was unable to find any buildings from that period.  

The oldest citadel I found in Hanoi was also built by the Chinese about 200 years later, called the Thang Long Imperial Citadel.

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This is Dan of Vagabond Buddha. Thank you for reading our retire in Hanoi for cheap guide. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?