Hanoi, unlike its southern neighbor of Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), has an annual change in the seasons. So, if the weather isn't your cup of tea at first, just wait a while — it will eventually change!
The summer can be sticky and hot — it ranges in the high 30°s C (85°F- 95°F). Loose fitting cotton clothing is recommended for this time of year. The month of August will usually see some short but heavy afternoon downpours, so shoes that are able to get wet are recommended if traveling on foot.
September brings a definite drop in temperature but can still boast some hot weeks. October–November are considered the most beautiful time to be in Hanoi and most community events, weddings, and outdoor activities occur in these two months.
Hanoi winters are often a surprise to new expat residents who may be used to "cold" weather already and who are expecting to still wear shorts in the middle of winter. In reality, the humidity in the city can make for some chilly days. The cold weather can be accentuated if you choose to travel by motorbike, the Hanoians’ preferred method of commuting, so a warm windbreaker jacket and gloves would be recommended. The end of January and most of February tend to be overcast months where the humidity can actually be seen in the air. A constant drizzle can leave you slightly wet on your walk to work so make sure to bring a jacket that is waterproof.
Spring is a time of high humidity. Dehumidifier purchases rise during the spring months to help combat the humidity indoors. Most residents find that during the Spring months their homes may actually be more humid than the weather outside.
Hanoi mostly operates on a cash-only basis and very few businesses, mostly hotels and high-end shops, will accept credit cards. Most people have found that using a debit or ATM card to withdraw cash is the easiest way to go. Hanoi is littered with ATMS from various local banks and most money withdrawals can be made this way.
Contact your current bank to ask about overseas ATM fees and if there are any additional charges for withdrawing cash overseas. If the fees are high, you may consider opening a local bank account. Some international banks in Hanoi are HSBC and ANZ Bank.
There are plenty of great books, blogs, and articles to read on the history and culture of Vietnam but if your time is limited between packing and getting ready to relocate to Hanoi, we’ve chosen two. “Do’s and Don’ts in Vietnam” will help in getting you plugged into Vietnamese etiquette and culture on just about any topic. For a great background on Vietnamese history and what it means to those living in present day Vietnam, the book “Sacred Willow” can give a concise history that dates back four generations into one Vietnamese family.
The New Hanoian: The most up to date listing of restaurants and places to go in Hanoi, also has an online forum for asking questions, especially if you have specific questions about what is available in Hanoi.
Infoshare Hanoi: Great general information for expats living in Hanoi, including an up to date listing of events around the city.
Hanoi International Women’s Club (HIWC): This website was created especially for women looking to relocate themselves and/or their family to Hanoi. There is some great information on relocation companies, items you can't get in Vietnam, and medical care in Hanoi.