Moving to a new city, let alone a new country can leave you in a bit of a head spin. The hunt begins with finding the right to suit your needs with access to amenities, then searching for an apartment within your budget and on top of that an acceptable commute to your work all in all is a pretty tough challenge.
Moving to Hanoi naturally presented my boyfriend and I with this very dilemma. After hours of researching, frustrating house viewings and a lack of comprehensive real estate websites, I thought it only fair to part with some of the knowledge I gained from the experience. Starting with which district to live in in Hanoi.
Tu Liem lies outside of the main motorway which encompasses Hanoi city. There appears to be plenty of residential areas to choose from, but you are a considerable drive away from the city centre. While there are some ‘wealthier’ areas (by Vietnamese standards) I would say that Tu Liem is mainly occupied by Vietnamese people who work in the agriculture and labouring industries rather than retail, business etc. There’s a large complex of modern apartments in a sort of village called ‘Splendora’ which can be found to the South West of Hanoi (still in the Tu Liem district) which may appeal to families or those officially emigrating to Vietnam.
Cau Giay offers its residents plenty of choices when it comes to dining out, shopping and access to the city centre. There are plenty of modern high-rises springing out of nowhere as the district becomes increasingly recognised as a desirable area to live in. You will find that this is a predominantly Vietnamese area, so mugging up on your Vietnamese prior to moving here is advised. There are a few of large supermarkets to the South West of the city (Big C, Coop, Metro) which are easily accessible via the major motorway which runs through Cau Giay. In addition, plenty of English centres and schools can be found here, which means less of a commute to work.
Dong Da & Hai Ba Trung
Both Dong Da and Hai Ba Trung are very similar in what they offer their residents. These two distracts are densely populated by modern, glass skyscrapers, wide roads and a myriad of shops, restaurants and bars. On the border between Hoan Kiem and Hai Ba Trung you’ll find the likes of the Hanoi Stocks and Shares offices as well as Chanel, Dior and Prada. I would go as far as to say that these are the highly desirable locations for those in the finance or business industries. However, like all districts there are really authentic Vietnamese streets alongside glamorous, metropolitan architectural masterpieces – it’s these juxtapositions you come to really appreciate, as they’re reminders you’re not residing in Singapore or Vietnam’s other chic, Asian cousins. Eating out around here is a little more expensive, and you’ll spot a few rare Western chains like Starbucks, Popeys and Dunkin’ Donuts. Dong Da is the home to the brand new Royal City shopping mall which has an ice rink, water theme park and floors of shops to peruse. To the south of Da Dong is Me Tri which is an especially affluent area and in terms of design is incredibly reminiscent of parts of America.
Hoan Kiem, or otherwise known as ‘The Old Quarter’ is very much the tourist area. You certainly won’t be bored living in Hoan Kiem as there is an abundance of places to eat out, night clubs the famous 5K (15p/25 cent) ‘Bia Hoi’ stands and the weekend night markets. One thing you will probably become addicted to is paracetamol in order to soothe the headaches caused by the incessant honking – the streets here are incredibly busy and disorganised which personally I find a nightmare to visit let alone living there, so probably worth noting. I would advise not living in Hoan Kiem, but you may find it a good idea if you are looking to live alone. While it’s regarded as the city centre, the charm of the Old Quarter is best to enjoy in small doses, which is made possible by its decent transport connections. Apartments in Hoan Kiem are usually quite expensive and quite small, so you’re better off in a neighbouring district.
Ba Dinh is a very desirable place to live for both Westerners and the Vietnamese, although is incredibly exclusive. Large, golden, colonial buildings home the aristocracy of Vietnam, diplomats, embassies, government officials and anyone else whose important. The beautiful tree-lined boulevards make easy transport links to almost any part of the city, while also being in close proximity to Lenin Park, Hoan Kiem and West Lake. Ba Dinh really is the Chelsea or Greenwich Village of Hanoi, therefore house prices here are naturally higher. If you can afford it I would certainly recommend living here, although I think you would find yourself going to Cau Giay, Tay Ho or Hoan Kiem for restaurants and bars.
Tay Ho has the reputation of being the expat area of Hanoi. Hugging the spectacular West Lake, Tay Ho offers some peace and quiet from the hectic south of the city. You certainly have a more of a neighbourhood feel in Tay Ho, and much grander properties. This comes with a price as eating out and rent is comparatively more expensive, drinking is pretty pricey and local mini-marts aren’t cheap. There is quite a large community of mid-twenty year old English teachers which makes for a lively social scene, but this is at the cost that you are quite far away from most teaching premises which are usually located in Cau Giay, Dong Da and sometimes Ha Dong (even further south!) I would highly recommend living in Tay Ho, as while you may spend a bit more on living you certainly meet a lot of like-minded individuals – I know people who’ve lived further out to be closer to work, but found themselves commuting to Tay Ho to meet friends most evenings.
So there we have it, an official low down of all of Hanoi’s residential districts! If you are currently in the process of moving to Hanoi then feel free to contact me for further advice. Here are two useful websites which advertise decent properties around Hanoi:
…or alternatively, if you’re looking for a room to rent in a house share then try the Hanoi Massive Facebook page.