Taking on Hanoi’s Extremely Strange Nightlife

I got off my bus from Vientiane at 11 PM. Much, much, much later than planned. Despite every part of my body just wanting to lay in an actual bed and go to sleep, there’s nothing I hate more than a healthy dose of FOMO. My friends were already out, so after checking into my hostel, I skedaddled to Old Quarter’s beer street. Little did I know that everything would be “closing” by midnight.

Technically, all the bars and clubs in Hanoi do close at midnight. Technically. You can easily party well into the early morning if you know the spots, or are simply dedicated enough. Once midnight hits, the big metal doors begin to cover the bar entrances. Sometimes all the way, sometimes just enough for someone on the streets to see that the night is still going strong behind shut doors.

We were walking down beer street past midnight when we got practically pushed into a bar. Not one to go against the flow of a night out, we found ourselves in a pretty empty bar where the customers got to choose what music was played. There was literally a laptop out where you could just play whatever you wanted. I’d play my trap music and my oddball friend would play something like Earth Wind and Fire. Don’t get me wrong, I love Earth Wind and Fire, but sandwiched in between some Lil Uzi Vert and Rae Sremmurd, it’s a bit odd.

That first night gave me a weird taste of the tourist nightlife in Hanoi: clueless travelers shoveled into random bars chugging brews and huffing balloons.

I had a number of nights out in Hanoi, and each one seemed to make even less sense than the last, but also more fun. I also couldn’t tell you any of the bar or clubs’ names that I went to. They all look the same from the outside once midnight hits. Just one big giant metal door.

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re probably looking for bar or club recommendations, so I apologize. Just understand this, Hanoi isn’t somewhere that you get to decide what a night out is like. You go with the flow or you don’t have fun. I’ve found that the bars I accidentally ended up at were always much more fun than the ones I chose to go to.

Find yourself a place to pregame, somewhere like beer street is a popular spot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has the cheapest beer or is the best spot. After a few nights in Hanoi, you might want to switch it up anyway. Word of mouth is key among backpackers, so just ask around where the cheapest beer is. My friend told me of a legendary place where beer was only 5,000 dong, but I have yet to see it for myself. Typically, you should be able to get beer at a bar for 30,000 dong, and around 15-20,000 dong from less reputable vendors on the street.

Beer is beer.

If you’re looking to go with a group of people, some hostels organize bar crawls which can be really helpful in getting your bearings when it comes to nightlife in Hanoi. I stayed at Central Backpackers Old Quarter, and was stubborn about going along with a bar crawl that left at 11:30 PM. The first night I did it was the best night out I had in Hanoi. The second time I did it was the best night out I had in Hanoi. Let’s find out if that trend will hold true for the third time I do it tonight.

Oh yeah, if you don’t have a Banh My or one of Hanoi’s makeshift Doner Kebabs at some point in your night, you’re doing Hanoi nightlife wrong.

This post was all over the place, but so is nightlife in Hanoi. Even if I tried to make this helpful and organized, it probably wouldn’t help because you would likely still be so confused once you actually braved the streets at night. It is chaos out there, and for me to map everything out for you would be taking away half of the fun of a night out in Hanoi.

Một hai ba, vô!

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