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Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi best place to travel ?

Hallo, just signed up and was hoping for some fast responses as I'm keen to get this sorted in the next 24 hours.
I'm looking to head to Vietnam in March and want to say 3 months. I'll be working online over there and want to get setup somewhere quiet and peaceful and cultural. No great travel experience so keen to be based somewhere and able to do short trips from there when desired.
I like the look of Hanoi, I'm not a hectic city life person. Am I right to think that it would be the best place for me to at least fly into, get settled and chill out for a week or two then take things from there?
Having looked at a few comparisons between the two HCMC looks like somewhere I wouldn't like to stay longer than a week.
Ultimately, I'd like to end up somewhere nice and coasta/beachy, if such a place exists.


Posted by
6855 posts

I guess I am dense because I had no idea what you meant by HCMC. You might want to spell out Ho Chi Minh City so people know what you are referring to. I suppose anyone familiar with Vietnam will probably know but, just saying.

Posted by
3943 posts

Saigon/HCMC has nine million people in its metropolitan area and Hanoi has seven million, and every single one of them wants a motor scooter to get around -- both literally and symbolically a means to upward mobility. Peace and quiet depends on finding a calm neighbourhood. Vietnamese culture, aside from the bikes, is eloquently expressed by its cuisine. Public eating places, from fancy restaurants to tiny stools squatting on a street curb, are where the citizens meet and mingle. You will have time to attend cooking schools which are a great value. I prefer Hanoi because it has more large brewpubs and gory war museums.

Posted by
14 posts

I loved Hanoi, but I wouldn't call it quiet or peaceful. For that, I'd recommend Hoi An. It's near to Da Nang, which is a much smaller city than Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City (the population of Da Nang is a little more than 1.2 million, from a Google search). I haven't actually been to Da Nang so I won't try to sing its praises, but I loved the central area of Vietnam that both these cities are in. While traveling through Vietnam, I met many people who ended up staying in Hoi An for a long time to relax or to work. It is on the coast and has some nice beaches in the area. It's really a very relaxed place, albeit pretty touristy (but because it's so touristy, it's also one of the more 'polished' places I'd been in Vietnam - whether that makes it appealing is up to you). For another smaller city, I loved Da Lat. It's in a really beautiful mountainous area. It's north of HCMC but because of the altitude, it stays nice and cool.

If you really want to choose just between Hanoi and HCMC, I'd really recommend Hanoi over the two. While HCMC grew on me by the time I needed to fly out, it was really overwhelming when I first arrived. It's an interesting place but Hanoi has a lot of pros, in my opinion, that make it a better choice than HCMC. The weather is a little bit more tolerable, the old center of the city is pretty charming, and it's not terribly confusing to navigate once you've spent enough time there. It also makes an excellent home base for trips to two of my favorite places in Vietnam: Cat Ba Island (within Ha Long Bay - a less touristy way to see the bay) and Sapa, one of the most beautiful places I've ever traveled to.

Enjoy wherever you end up. Vietnam is a truly beautiful country.

Posted by
92 posts

I agree with Evelyn's comments. Both Hanoi and HCMC can be hectic with the millions of people and most of them seemingly bearing down on you on scooters and motorcycles when you are crossing a street!

However as a starting point I would fly into Hanoi and use it as a starting base. Several places to visit in all directions that allow more interaction with the people of VIetnam. Of course Hanoi has it's historical sites like the Temple of Literature and the Hoa Lo Prison Museum. Walking the streets of the Old Quarter was interesting.

Also agree with spending time in the region between Hue to Danang and then on to Hoi An. We spent 2 nights in Hue and 3 in Hoi An and would have liked to stay longer if not part of a tour at the time. Would probably spend the majority of your time in that region for "quiet and peaceful and cultural."

HCMC is the business center for the country and seemed to be more 'big city" than Hanoi. Still, it has a few historical sites as well. If expenses allow, there are direct flights from HCMC to Siem Reap and I would not pass up an opportunity to spend at least 3 or 4 days seeing Angkor Wat and surrounding areas.

My wife and I only had 2 weeks in Vietnam but thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Posted by
3 posts

Hoi An or Da Nang for something relaxing. Hanoi and HCMC are big cities, it's hard to relax in such areas.