Study Abroad in Hanoi

Back to Programs

Studying Abroad in Hanoi

In 2010, Hanoi celebrated its one thousandth anniversary since the city was established back in the early 11th century. When walking around Vietnam’s capital and second biggest city, the mix of outside influences is clearly evident in the various neighbourhoods that make up the city. This shouldn’t be surprising considering Hanoi has lived through eras of Chinese and French colonialism, as well as one of the most brutal wars of the 20th century. Stone-slabbed cathedrals mix with colourful pagodas and intricate temples, whilst locals make and eat ancient Vietnamese street food in dingy cafes, next to food stalls offering cheese sticks, the latest Western craze to hit the streets of Hanoi. All of this makes Hanoi a city strangely at odds with its own culture and yet somehow distinctly Vietnamese all at the same time.

Geography & Demographics

Some of Vietnam’s brightest minds and princes have studied in Hanoi and passed through the courtyards at the country’s oldest university, the Temple of Literature, so what better than to follow in their footsteps and study in Hanoi yourself? The city has moved with the times and yet retained the different cultural and historical elements it’s seen during its lifetime that makes the city what it is today - an eclectic and vibrant city in which to live. Hanoi is a city full of surprises just waiting to be discovered. Who knows what awaits the next 1000 years of the city’s lifetime?

Hanoi is located in the North of the country, around a three hour drive from the coast where the South China sea lies in wait to the east.  Another, much smaller, body of water, Hoan Kiem lake, is the centerpiece of the city, where life and the constant hum of never ending motorbikes revolves around its still waters.  

In terms of demographics, Hanoi and its 6.5 million inhabitants are, if the 2009 Vietnamese census is to be believed, a non-religions bunch. The country’s latest survey had over 80 percent of the country down as having no religious belief at all. Other studies, however, suggest that the government’s figures have grossly overestimated these figures. Whilst religion’s importance is perhaps not as obvious as it is in other countries in Southeast Asia, religion still maintains an important part in the lives of many Vietnamese. Although there are conflicting figures, indigenous religions are popular amongst many Vietnamese, as well as official religions such as Buddhism and Catholicism. Despite the difference in religious beliefs, Hanoi’s ethnic population is dominantly Kinh, or Viet, making up 98 percent of the population of Vietnam’s second city. 

Like many countries in Southeast Asia, Hanoi has a warm humid subtropical climate. After the driest, hottest months of the year, March to May, the clouds start to roll in more frequently and the wet season takes place from around June to September. However, unlike the central and southern regions of the country, Hanoi can get relatively cold during the colder, drier months of November to February. Temperatures even occasionally drop down into single figures during this time of year.

Food & Culture

Directly north of Hoan Kiem lake lies The Old Quarter of the city. This area of the city is Hanoi’s most popular tourist area; many can be seen wandering through the 1000-year-old neighbourhood, interspersed with Vietnamese traders and merchants wearing their famous conical hats, carrying silks, jewellery, food, and whatever other goods they might be selling from market to market.

However, it’s the food available in this area of the city that defines the Old Quarter and food stalls are visible at almost every street corner. Low tables and even lower plastic chairs sit nestled on the pavement and even in the road for customers to perch on whilst they eat. Whilst they don’t make for the most comfortable eateries in the city, they provide some of the best and cheapest food that Hanoi has to offer. Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) is the most famous dish, whilst the other must try foods include Bun Cha (grilled pork with thin vermicelli noodles) and Cha Ca (small fish fillets marinated in fresh herbs). There’s also pho mai que (cheese sticks) available for the less adventurous, perfect with a complimentary bottle of Hanoi Beer to wash them down.

Hanoi is also home to some of the world’s best coffee. Ironically, coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the late 19th century. The second most important ingredient in Vietnamese coffee, condensed milk, was originally added as an alternative to fresh milk as there was a lack of fresh milk available in the country at the time.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the city, examples of Hanoi’s more recent colonial past can be seen in The French Quarter. Vietnam made up part of French Indochina from the mid-19th century until as recently as 1954. The influence can be seen in this part of the city especially, hence the area’s rather ept name. Ornate grand mansions and villas make up some of the fine examples of architecture whilst the French Quarter’s wide roads and open spaces completely contrast with the narrow streets and more traditional examples of Vietnamese architecture in nearby neighbourhoods.

Reminders of Vietnam’s turbulent history after Indochina, most obviously the Vietnam War, remain. One such infamous landmark is Hoa Lo prison, which was dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by its’ inmates, made up almost exclusively by American POWs during the war. The leader of North Vietnam throughout the majority of the war, Ho Chi Minh, is still a dominant figure in Vietnamese culture decades after his death. His face is visible on posters plastered throughout the country and also on money, featured on all of the rather colourful Vietnamese Dong notes. This means scrunching up or stepping on money to stop it from blowing away is a big faux pas.

You can also visit his Mausoleum, the memorial named after the country’s most famous son and leader, where Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body rests in a central hall where visitors can pay their respects. The Mausoleum is usually open every day, apart from September to December when Ho Chi Minh’s body, rather bizarrely, gets transported to Russia every year for restoration work.

Things to Do

Outside of Hanoi, some of Vietnam’s most famous landmarks are not too far away and demand to be visited. To the east, arguably the country’s most famous landmark, the stunning archipelago of limestone rocks that make up Ha Long Bay lies in wait for many eager visitors waiting to spend a day or two within the UNESCO world heritage site.

Northwest of the city lies the mountainous frontier town of Sapa, famous for its many hill tribes, rice terraces, and stunning scenery. To the south, Cuc Phoung National Park the country’s largest nature reserve and first national park, which was established by Ho Chi Minh in the 1960s, is a must visit for animal and nature lovers interested in Vietnam’s flora and fauna; the park is home to thousands of species of plants and animals.

With so much to do, friendly and hospitable people, delicious food around every corner, and a city that stands as one of the cheapest in the world in terms of cost of living, Hanoi might just be the perfect place to live and study.

Read More

written by:

A Guide To

Studying Abroad in Hanoi


 Find Study Abroad Programs in Hanoi Now


This listing has been saved 11 times

Join us on an overland experiential journey through the diverse and friendly Buddhist countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Southeast Asia is a fascinating melting pot of history, peoples, diverse cultures and dramatic landscapes. Get involved in service learning projects, have opportunities for meaningful connections with local people, gain knowledge of Southeast Asia's history, s...


This listing has been saved 4 times

Join the Asia Summer Abroad Program (ASAP), a full-semester study abroad experience that caters to business minors/majors who are interested in international business. Students gain opportunities to experience invaluable company visits that will allow them to gain insight into local cultures and business, and create a professional network. Through this traveling program, students can earn 1...


Facilitated by TEAN, the South East Asia Comparative Studies Semester in Thailand and Vietnam allows students the unique opportunity to experience studying and living in both Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. While studying at Chiang Mai University and Hoa Sen University, participants take courses in Thai and Vietnamese language, as well other Southeast Asian-related subjects,...


This listing has been saved 2 times

SE Vietnam has been working closely with foreign universities from different countries to organize short-term study abroad programs in Vietnam for their students. That does not only help internationalize their campuses but also create and nurture future leaders with cultural understanding and a more global mindset. With a large network of partner institutions and service providers across Vietna...


This listing has been saved 3 times

Explore how geography, politics, economics, and culture shape social relations and the built environment — and with what consequences — in cities across the globe. This program combines an innovative urban studies curriculum with fieldwork involving key actors and stakeholders — public agencies, planners, elected officials, NGOs, and grassroots organizations. Students spend time in four ci...


This listing has been saved 1 time

Spend a semester in Hanoi through an IPSL program that combines study abroad and service-learning. Program participants study Vietnamese language, culture, society, and several other courses at the Hanoi University. They will live in a student housing at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS), IPSL's NGO partner. They will engage in volunteer service for 12-15 hours weekly. These...


This listing has been saved 6 times

Sign up for the ultimate study abroad program around the world! (R)evolve gives you the chance to explore 4 different countries each semester (Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia: or Hungary, Morocco, Spain, and Italy: or Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia) without taking a break from your studies. It’s like a gap year, but without the “gap”. We will take you, along with other students, ...


This George Mason University residency program in Hanoi, Vietnam, takes students to the capital of Asia's newest tiger. The start of the 21st century has witnessed a historic rebalancing of the world economy in favor of the world's most populated region, Asia. At its core is the rise of China, which is now the world's second largest economy. Today, one quarter of the world's total manufactu...


This listing has been saved 1 time

Participants in Youth Employment and Society Development summer challenge in Vietnam will be equipped with necessary skills and knowledge to develop a community-based project. At the end of the challenge, participants will understand Project Cycle Management with phases to develop a project, understand necessary tools to collect information for writing a project, such as how to facilitate gr...


This is an intensive two-week program that provides a thorough understanding and inside look at various aspects of IT and Business in Vietnam. The rich curriculum is delivered in specific topics and designed in appropriate levels to be in line with professional requirements, conducted in flexible learning models and student-centric methodology. Relevant management skills in IT or Business proje...