Where to live in Hanoi
Choosing a place to live in Hanoi can be hard when you have never visited and have no idea of what the city is like. Even when you have lived here for a short while you may still not really know what each district or area is like and you might unwittingly be living in an area that is not really suited to you.
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Every area of the city seems to have rabbit warren like networks of alleys that are very easy to get lost it but can also be fun to explore. In these areas you can find tiny houses that are less than 20 or 30m2 and very dingy with no natural light. They are a bit like caves. But, you can also find small gateways that lead to large villas with courtyards and sometimes even swimming pools. These can be great for a family or for a group of single people who are willing to share.
Table of Contents
Map of Districts and New Urban Areas
This map shows the districts and new urban areas that you might choose to live in. The borders are rough, not exact but it will help you to visualize where places are and give you a general idea of what the place is like. This will help a lot when you search listings on housing agents websites.
What factors may affect where you live in Hanoi?
First of all, where you finally choose to live will depend greatly on your family and work situation and, of course, your personality. Commute times to work and schools will be a factor as will the kinds of facilities that you need.
Whether you are single, young, without children or married with small kids or teenage ones could influence your choice. Generally, the centre of the city is better for single people as there is little for kids to do and schools are generally located further out of the city.
Your work location might be important as you will have to commute to and from this place. If you have to drop kids to school or you have a driver and you all leave together in the morning then this is also an added consideration.
Well you, yourself, know what you like. Do you prefer the busy urban environment in the centre of the city? Do you like to have more green space to walk the dog?
Hopefully, the descriptions below can give you an idea of what each area looks like and help you to cut down the number of options that you feel you need to check out.
A note on commuting
Generally speaking, Hanoi is a small city and quite easy to get across. It isn’t as large as many other places such as London, New York, or Bangkok. Because of this you might be lulled into the false idea that a 10 or 15km commute is not a problem but traffic is increasing at a rate of knots and public transport in the city is not that great. Add to this the increasing adoption of private cars (they are a status symbol of success and wealth) and you’ll find your commute to be quite a pain. It is worth living as close as possible to work.
In older areas of the city, generally the more central areas, many of the roads are small and narrow. Therefore, they seem to be permanently jammed by cars. The larger roads seem to clog up at rush hour only. If you venture a little further out of the city you can find areas that have more large roads and so commuting can be a little easier.
The Districts of Hanoi
There are 4 central districts: Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, Dong Da and Hai Ba Trung, where the majority of people choose to live. There are also 8 outer districts: Tay Ho, Bac Tu Liem, Nam Tu Liem, Cau Giay, Thanh Xuan, Long Bien, Gia Lam and Hoang Mai where slightly less people live and that have enclaves of foreigners within them.
Every area of the city seems to have rabbit warren like networks of alleys that are very easy to get lost in but can also be fun to explore. In these areas you can find tiny houses that are less than 20 or 30m2 and very dingy with no natural light. They are a bit like caves. But, you can also find small gateways that lead to large villas with courtyards and sometimes even swimming pools. These can be great for a family or for a group of single people who are willing to share.
Hoan Kiem (the Old Quarter)
The beating heart of Hanoi, home to the iconic Lake of the Restored Sword (Ho Hoan Kiem) and the famous 36 commercial streets. It’s the first stop for most tourists coming to Vietnam, and home to the majority of the city’s backpacker hostels and hotels. It’s a great, if hectic, introduction to the city but you probably don’t want to live there long term.
Good for first time visits and tourists. Great if you have a few weeks to settle in before you start work. Also good for a place to stay whilst you are checking out other areas and rental accommodation and if you are looking for work. Once you know where you will be working or the kids will be studying then you can decide to stay in Hoan Kiem or not.
This is for young people and those without children as there are not many school or kindergarten options so you will have to travel to those but more importantly there is not much space for kids to play, the traffic is heavy and most places have bars and cafes that open until quite late. Karaoke is a real pain for those who are not used to it.
You have the choice of the Old Quarter and the French Quarter with the latter being slightly less touristic and quieter. The French quarter is a better choice for any long-term living due to the above, however, there are still few school options and you would have to travel. There are many international companies that have offices in the Hoan Kiem area and some language centres are in the area or close by, so a good apartment, with double glazed windows to keep out the noise, would be a good choice for anyone working in the area. Rents are quite high due to the central location.
Truc Bach Area (not a district)
This is a sneaky little area that is tucked between Tay Ho to the North and the Old Quarter to the South. It is part of old Hanoi and is gradually becoming gentrified. You can see many beautiful old buildings here that are decaying. Life is lived on the streets which are narrow and crowded. It is not easy to walk around in this area due to the narrow streets, bad paving, parked bikes and dense traffic at most times of the day. However, almost everything is on your doorstep. You do not need to go far to find breakfast, lunch, or dinner and there are convenience shops on every corner.
You can find a small house tucked down an alley way or an apartment in either a converted house or large multi-storey block. You will be close to Truc Bach Lake which is quite pleasant and it is fairly easy to get out of the area to other places over the city.
The most charming and sought after place in this area is Ngu Xa, which is a kind of peninsula in Truc Bach Lake. There are plenty of, pricey, accommodation options along with small cafes, bars and restaurants.
In contrast, it is also home to Chau Long market, which is a traditional ‘wet’ market.
Hai Ba Trung
Quite similar to Dong Da in terms of it being quite congested with traffic and densely populated. This area is south of the city and it does not take long to commute in even when traffic is heavy. It is just a pain if you have to move in peak time and if it is raining as traffic really grinds to a halt then.
Most of the accommodation in this area is quite run down and, as such, will be cheaper. It is quite easy to commute to the centre of the city and to most other districts or even to take a trip South to Ninh Binh (see our blog) or Cuc Phuong National Park. The one redeeming feature of the district would be Re-unification Park (Cong Vien Thong Nhat), formerly Lenin Park, which is a large green space with a lake that is by many locals to relax and to exercise in.
Times city is possibly the nicest area to live in and is a gated community with a large shopping mall. It also has Vinschool and VinMec Hospital, which is very useful. Near this, there are also other urban areas and apartment blocks that will be cheaper, so it is worth taking a look.
Again, like Truc Bach, this is not really a district of Hanoi. It is an area that you will find reference to online but not that any Hanoian would really tell you about. However, foreigners tend to use this term. It is in parts of both Hoan Kiem and Ha Ba Trung Districts.
The reason it is termed ‘French Quarter’ is that there is still a wealth of French style architecture evident. You can see large villas that were built during the colonial rule. The roads are quite wide and the pavements are generally quite wide too. There are also many streets that are tree lined and this all makes it a good place to walk around.
It is close to the centre of town and is just south of Hoan Kiem lake so you are very close to lots of tourist attractions and events that are often held in the centre such as concerts, running races and the weekend walking street.
Even though there are quite a lot of old villas in this area, you will be hard pressed to find one for rent at a reasonable cost. Therefore, most people tend to rent apartments or rather small houses tucked away down alleys. Rents are quite high as it is a sought after area.
Tay Ho (West Lake)
Arguably the most beautiful part of the city, West Lake is where most expats choose to live. It’s home to the biggest lake in the city, as well as the best selection of Western style bars, clubs, shops and restaurants. Fantastic for these reasons, but it’s also a bit pricier and there are better areas if you are look for a more ‘local’ experience. For those who like exercise, Tay Ho is a good choice as there are plenty of gyms and open spaces to work out in. if you are an early bird you will see a lot of cyclists, runners and people doing aerobics here early in the morning.
You’ll notice on the map that this district encompasses both sides of the lake. The western side is a bit more local in terms of the bars, cafes and the narrower roads and it also gives easier access to the Ba Dinh, Dong Da and Cau Giay areas. The eastern side is a little more airy and westernized. For this reason, you’ll find the western side to be a little cheaper and it can be harder to find a larger house.
The lake itself is quite large, 17km around, and choosing to live on one side means that you will rarely visit the other. This is something to bear in mind if you know your work or school location in advance as commuting around the lake every day is quite a chore.
This area, both sides, also gives good access to the airport across Nhat Tan Bridge, so if you travel frequently or are a pilot, this is probably the choice for you.
This is the administrative area where you will find a lot of large government office buildings and villas turned into offices. The roads are generally quite large and easy to navigate and it is very close to the city centre and Hoan Kiem. There are some good schools here and plenty of kindergartens a well as a good mix of apartments and houses at a range of price points. In keeping with the general style of the area there are some park areas.
Most of the roads in this district are quite large and allow good traffic flow. It is quite easy to move around. Also, area is quite safe and there are slightly less tourists wandering around and more green spaces than the centre, so overall, it is a more pleasant area to live in.
There are some large shopping malls such as: Lotte, Daewoo and Vincom (Nguyen Chi Thanh), which are great places to hang out. There are also a lot of other facilities like swimming pools, tennis courts (Van Phuc) and international schools like: Singapore International School and Morning Star Kindergarten.
You might think that the Hanoi Zoo would be an attraction but it is, in fact, quite a miserable place. You are more likely to want to visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature and Bach Thao Park.
Dong Da and Cau Giay
These two districts are far newer, and have loads of universities and high rise apartments. being newer, they have a bit less charm that the other districts listed. And, since the area is home to the main road out of the city, the traffic is insane. Some westerners like the new style apartments, though, and both areas are popular with Japanese and Korean expats. This is partly due to the style of homes and also the fact that the Korean and Japanese schools are close by.
Located in the southwest of the city, this area is quite densely populated and has very busy streets and a lot of small alleyways that come off from these. You will find there are a lot of choices of accommodation here and that rents are not too high. However, there is a generally cramped feel to the place and it is very hard to escape from traffic noise. There really is not very much of any attractions here even though there are a few nice lakes where you can enjoy a summer evening bia hoi.
This district is very similar to Dong Da which is next door but has the slight difference that there has been a lot more building and expansion over recent years. The
roads are larger and wider than those of Dong Da and so easier to navigate. Most of the accommodation that has been built is apartment blocks and they are quite nice and well priced. Along with this, a lot of green areas have been built and
it is home to the Ethnology Museum, which is possibly the best museum in Hanoi.
To the southern side of the district there is the Trung Hoa and Yen Hoa areas, which have a lot of tower blocks as does the area off Xuan Thuy. These places are, like Dong Da, densely populated (there are several large universities in the area and, therefore, a lot of students living nearby) and traffic is high at all times of the day or night. Due to this there are a lot of bars, cafes and restaurants so it can be viewed as a lively place for evening revelers.
Bac Tu Liem
This is a new area that is located to the west of Tay Ho and north of cau Giay. There are a lot of wide streets and large apartment buildings in these newly built areas but there are smaller older areas interspersed where you will find more small houses. The rents here are lower as you are cut off from the centre of the city and it takes quite a while to get there. However, it is also close to the main road to the airport and to the newly expanding areas of the west of Hanoi such as: My Dinh, and Cau Giay. The district is large and you are only likely to consider living in the eastern between Pham Van Dong and Vo Chi Cong roads. This area is also home to Ciputra, the first of the new urban areas built in Hanoi.
The traffic is light apart from on the airport road, which is generally busy most of the time. This is due to the number of trucks that use this route to avoid central Hanoi and obviously the amount of traffic heading to the airport.
Nam Tu Liem
This area is quite far out from Hanoi and you are only likely to live here if you work in the area or your kids go to school here. It is on the western side of the city with road routes to the Ba Vi and Hoa Binh areas.
If you do live here, it is also likely that you will choose to stay in the eastern area which is closer to the city. My Dinh I and My Dinh II are quite built up with some high-rise apartment blocks (Keangnam) and some new urban areas (The Manor). There is a large Korean community here and the shops and restaurants reflect this.
The roads are generally very large and interspersed between these are living areas that have space and play areas for children. It is a very self-contained area and you might find once you enter you do not venture out very often.
This district is to the south of the city and also quite far (about 6km) out along some busy roads. It is becoming more and more developed as the population of Hanoi expands. Most people living here would choose to live in the Royal City Urban Area which is a great place for families and single people alike.
The commute to other districts is a bit of a pain as there always seems to be quite a lot of traffic at most times of the day. There are also plenty of houses for rent but they tend to be older and not to the standard of Royal City. However, they are cheaper. There are also a few universities in this area, which means there are cheaper living options but also a high population density.
Remember to stay away from the stinky To Lich River that ‘flows’ through this district as well as Cau Giay as it is not a pleasant place to be near on a warm summer day.
Long Bien is attracting more and more expats all the time. It’s on the east side of the city, over the famous Long Bien Bridge across the Red River, and offers easy access to all other parts of the city while at the same time being far less congested and having good roads. Rents are slightly lower so you could find that you either pay less or get more for the same money. It’s got a couple of big modern malls and some nice new build apartment blocks such as Mipec.
there are more and more restaurants and bars and other facilities opening all the time as more people move over the river to seek refuge from the crowded city centre. Aeon Mall is not far away and schools such as: Wellspring, French School and VinSchool are located in the district.
There has always been a fairly dense population in the district, so there are many cafes, bars, bia hois and shopping facilities. However, with the influx of foreigners and the gentrification of the area, lots more western style places are opening.
This district is the southern gateway to Hanoi and is therefore very busy with a lot of commercial traffic. There are several main roads here, including the Hanoi ring road and they are usually full or jammed with vehicles. Commuting into town or across is not pleasant at the best of times but is worse in rain or heavy traffic.
There are a range of small houses and apartments here but most of them are of low quality and this, combined with the traffic makes it not a very pleasant place to live. Away from the main roads, the alleys are small and often congested. There are not many foreigners living here and so there are few western style amenities. In many ways, it is a good place to experience local life.
There are two interesting features: Yen So Park and Linh Dam. Yen So is a huge green area (situated next a highway) that has a range of activities available. Linh Dam is a large housing area that is fairly new and that has some better housing options; both apartments and villas.
A huge district of Hanoi and it is most likely that you would consider living in the area closest to Long Bien Bridge as most other areas are quite far away. There are also less foreigners living in these further out areas and so life tends to be more Vietnamese in terms of the shops and services available. Again, like Long Bien house rents are lower over on this side of the river. You will find mostly small houses and many of those will have gardens front and back. Apartment blocks here are cheaper more budget type accommodation and are mainly inhabited by Vietnamese families.
New Urban Areas
These are places that have been constructed over the last ten to fifteen years that are huge complexes of apartment blocks with shopping malls, and entertainment centres beneath them. They are generally very safe and clean with more affluent Vietnamese inhabitants. They can be a good choice for those wishing to isolate themselves from the more traditional Vietnamese neighbourhood or those with families that do not wish to deal with the traffic and lack of facilities for children.
You will probably find that living in these places is a little more expensive. This is because these are very much seen as higher-class places and as such command a premium. The businesses that operate in these areas: cafes, restaurants, gyms etc… are also a little more expensive due to this.
Map of New Urban Areas
Around most of these areas you will see that there are other developments springing up. These are often a little cheaper and close enough that you can easily access the shopping malls and other facilities. Ask your agent, VietLong, about that.
This is the original gated community, built by an Indonesian investment firm. There are a range of housing options from apartments to large villas. There is a large gym and social area, and the roads are quiet, clean, and safe for children. Security guards patrol the area and man the entrance/exits to the apartment blocks and the area itself. Being to the north of West Lake is it a little cut off from the centre of town and shopping opportunities, but it is on the main road to the airport.
There are several international schools in the area and a few cafes and restaurants, however, entertainment options are limited. Unlike other areas such as Times City or Royal City, you would find it hard to spend days on end within the confines of Ciputra even though it is much larger in area. This is because these other areas have far more things to do and places to eat and drink. Luckily, Tay Ho is not far away and you will find all the entertainment you need there, along with plenty of non locals to chat to.
This is actually outside of Hanoi in Hung Yen Province. However, people working in Hanoi do choose to live here as it is right on the border. It is a huge complex of accommodation with several different areas and Each of these areas has a style or focus and you will find one has more apartment blocks and another has more townhouses or villas.
These different areas have been rolled out over time and are, therefore, in different stages of development. This means that you will find that some have more options for cafes, restaurants and other facilities such as language schools and gyms. You will find Edison School and British University Vietnam (BUV) in Ecopark.
Again, security is generally good as this is a gated community and a good place for kids to be riding bikes or playing on the street. However, it is a LONG way from anywhere let alone Hanoi so you may feel a little stranded. Having a car would be a very good idea if you chose to live here.
This area is also quite far away from Hanoi and has been purposely built for overspill from the city. Like more of the larger urban areas, every house seems to look the same and there is little character. Also, there are few services and small business set up as yet due to them being quite new areas. This is changing fast as the local population moves into these areas.
There are not many businesses located in the area and you will find that you have to commute quite far to work. However, security is good, the houses are large and generally well furnished by landlords and the streets are quite safe for kids to play in.
This new urban area is quite small relative to others above and is made up of more apartments than anything else. There is a good shopping area below these apartments as well as an aquarium, and the occupancy level is high due to the proximity of the city. This means that it feels a bit less lonely as there is a fair amount of traffic. There are also some park areas that children can play in and the security is good. The Vinmec Hospital and Vinschool are in this area, which could make it a convenient place to live.
Another rather small urban area that is relatively close to the city centre that also has a good shopping area below it. The star attraction here is the ice-skating rink. There is also the British Vietnamese International School.
The security is good in this area as there are guards and pass cards for the elevators but there is not much open space for kids to play around in.
Where to find Help?
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing where to live. You can find help from HR at your work but they might not have the same idea or considerations as you due to the generally being locals. Housing agents can also be a good place to get a feel for what each area is like and, obviously, prices and availability. We highly recommend VietLong Housing as they are very reliable and professional. One other source is FB and you will find several groups on Hanoi such as: Where to get Hanoi. However, be careful with these are you will be inundated with offers from housing agents and they really can be a pain in the rear.
Remember, You'll need a bike 🙂
Wherever you are going to live you will need a motorbike. This might be for commuting to and from work or it may just be for running to the shops. Either way, we have something for you. Take a look at our bikes here and reviews on our service here.
We are looking forward to helping you get on the road.