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Hanoi Pride (Photo credit: Hanoipride.vn Facebook page)

Vietnam is one of the most LGBT friendly countries in Asia. It has seen a more optimistic upturn in attitudes in recent years. The Vietnamese government also has a long way to go in terms of its LGBTQ laws, with no anti-discrimination or recognition of LGBTQ individuals.

Hanoi

Hanoi is a city of living history, renowned for its combining French and Western Chinese influences. Both cultures have made their mark on this city, blessed with colonial architecture, ancient buildings, historical and cultural sites. However, this capital city of Vietnam is not living in the past. Hanoi leaves a deep impression of a vibrant, fast-growing city with its people who are often described as very friendly, enthusiastic, and hospitable. 

Travel

The Hanoi climate is typical for a tropical monsoon climate of the northern climate. The changes in the weather among the 4 seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter) make Hanoi has its own beauty. It is an ideal location for Hanoi to enjoy moderate weather all year round: hot and rainy from May to September, cold and dry from November to the next March. The best time to visit Hanoi is in the transition periods from spring to summer (April) and in autumn every year (September). To better prepare for your trip to Hanoi with proper clothes, we recommend you to quickly check the weather forecast prior to your arrival. Occasionally there are a few tourist attractions that require below-knee pants and a shawl or scarf to cover your shoulder.

One of the outstanding features of Hanoi that makes tourists feel comical, or even nervous is the streets in Hanoi. That a huge number of streets connect with each other like a spider’s web makes many foreign visitors confused. However, each street has its own beauty and features. The variety of popular transports to get around Hanoi are named such as motorbikes, buses, taxies, and cars. It would be more interesting if you are able to drive a rental motorbike by yourself and visit any places that you wish to admire the natural sceneries or discover the cultural and daily lifestyle of local people. The public bus system in Hanoi also provides a large number of routes that can get you anywhere in Hanoi, with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) designated for special lane and Hop On Hop Off Bus in the touristy Old Quarter area. Grab-motorbike and Grab-car are becoming the better option and replacing taxis due to its transparency in cost calculation and wide popularity. Or you can have other options such as hiring a cyclo (xich lo), or riding a bicycle, and even walking to discover Hanoi in your own ways.   

While visiting Hanoi, beware of scams and hustlers posing as gays. Like in most major cities, use your common sense and caution when you’ve come in contact with strangers. Public humiliation and discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people also pose major challenges across Vietnamese society. According to a 2016 publication by iSEE, an organization that works for the rights of minority groups in Vietnam for a more tolerant society, approximately one-third of the community suffers direct abuse, anywhere from shopping malls or restaurants to schools and workplaces.

Stay

The most likely is that when you come to Hanoi, you will stay around the Old Quarter in Hoan Kiem District. Gay-friendly accommodations are becoming more popular in Vietnam. Most quality hotels in Hanoi can be considered gay-friendly, so you will not likely experience any issues – after all, being gay-friendly is not all about upscale luxury, but about providing friendly service and welcoming everyone with open arms.

Photo credit: Peach Hanoi

Entertainment

Although there are a great number of people in the LGBTQ+ community, there is currently no definite conclusion on LGBTQ+ culture in this city as people still prefer to maintain a low profile.  Public attitudes towards LGBTQ+ have improved in leaps and bounds in recent years – thanks to active LGBTQ+ community leaders on their effort in organizing occasional events such as VietPride, Hanoi International Queer Film Week, etc.

There are very few gay venues in Hanoi, but plenty of places that are gay friendly while bars and clubs are mostly mixed. QueerZone is a project which building a map of places where they commit to create a friendly and supportive atmosphere for LGBTQ community in Hanoi. Hanoi Social Club has owned its reputation as the first LGBTQ-friendly cafe in Hanoi and also a hosting place of many artistic LGBT events.  GC Bar (Golden Cock) located right in the Old Quater Center is the only well-known gay venue in town for both local and expat, while there are not venues that are lesbian exclusive. Savage, Sidewalk Hanoi and BirdCage are mixed clubs with gay owners are venues where oftenly host LGBTQ parties and monthly dragshows such as “Peach” or “Hanoi Queer Takeover”. Frequently go on their Facebook pages to get update about any coming LGBTQ events.

Health

Healthcare service for LGBTQ community in Hanoi just started to formed in recent years. Lighthouse and GLink are two popular clinics which provide HIV testing, infection prevention, and treatment for LGBTQ members. CSAGA is an NGO provides free consultation on LGBTQ violence, especially for woman love woman group. It’s still difficult for transgender group to get access to hormone therapy in Hanoi but they often have to go to Ho Chi Minh City where there are plenty of places provide this service.