Hanoi is a must-see city on many travelers’ lists. It’s the capital of Vietnam and a cultural hub, though it isn’t the city with Vietnam’s largest population—Ho Chi Minh City takes that title.
Unfortunately, wheelchair accessibility is challenging in Hanoi. Of the three Vietnamese cities I visited, it was the least accessible (you can read my guides on accessibility in Ho Chi Minh and Hoi An for more details).
Nevertheless, with some preparations, it’s possible to explore Hanoi by wheelchair. I’ll share some insight to help you get started with your travel plans.
Note: The information here is based on my observation as a non-wheelchair user. If you have firsthand experience as a wheelchair user in Hanoi, I’d love to hear about your time there in the comments section. I appreciate it, and I’m sure our future readers will too.
An Overview of Accessibility in Hanoi
Manual wheelchair users will have an easier time getting around Hanoi than power chair users. It’s common for curbs not to drop down all the way, and many businesses have at least one step to enter.
Newer districts outside Hanoi’s old quarter are typically more accessible than the city’s historic center. I stayed in the Tay Ho district north of the old town, and while it was far from accessible according to ADA standards, the sidewalks were wider and less cluttered.
Unfortunately, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks are difficult to come by in Hanoi’s old quarter.
Motorcycles use the sidewalks for parking, and vendors set up their shops in most areas left over, leaving pedestrians to have to walk on the road.
As a silver lining, the touristy areas of Hanoi are quite flat, so manual wheelchairs will have an easy time getting around in the accessible areas that I’ll be covering in the “things to do” section.
Visiting Shops and Restaurants in Hanoi
The majority of shops and restaurants in Hanoi’s old town aren’t wheelchair accessible. Many of them have steps to enter as well as tight spaces once you’re inside.
For this reason, your best bet for finding more accessible dining areas in Hanoi’s old town is to head to the lake. There, you’ll have better access to street vendors.
These vendors are typically on sidewalks that are wide enough for your wheelchair to pass through without having to veer into the street.
Many restaurants by the lake also have streetside seating, allowing you to enjoy a meal at their otherwise inaccessible business.
Accessibility at shops and restaurants improves in the newer, more modern parts of Hanoi. Malls and large apartment complexes with shops and restaurants often have barrier-free entrances, elevators, and accessible restrooms.
Wheelchair Transportation in Hanoi
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to track down a wheelchair accessible van in Hanoi. Please let me know in the comments if you have better luck.
So, as far as I can tell, you’ll need to be able to transfer from your chair to a vehicle to get around Hanoi.
Accessible Restrooms in Hanoi
Frustratingly, wheelchair accessible restrooms are few and far between in Hanoi. I didn’t encounter any in the old town.
That’s not to say the historic quarter doesn’t have accessible restrooms—please let me know in the comments if you encounter any so that future readers can benefit from them.
So, you’ll need to rely on your hotel for accessible bathrooms and the public restrooms at malls and upscale apartment complexes, which often have mini-malls on their lower floors.
Where to Stay
Below are some wheelchair accessible hotels in Hanoi:
- Splendid Star Hotel
- Mercure Hanoi La Gare Hotel
- Sheraton Hanoi
- Skylark Hotel
Accessible Things to Do in Hanoi
Despite Hanoi not being an ideal place for wheelchair accessibility, it offers a number of accessible attractions. You’ll want to rely on a vehicle to get between the areas below, given the unreliable nature of Hanoi’s sidewalks.
1. Hoan Kiem lake
Hoan Kiem Lake marks the center of Hanoi’s old quarter. The lake itself is nothing to write home about—algae abounds. But it has a wide sidewalk that wraps around its entire 30-acre perimeter.
It’s common to spot some coy fish and smaller goldfish in Hoan Kiem Lake.
And if you get really lucky, you might spot a giant turtle. While giant turtles do (or did) grace Hoan Kiem Lake’s water, people now mostly know of them through local legends.
2. Ta Hien Corner
Ta Hien Corner is one of the top sightseeing areas in downtown Hanoi.
By day, Ta Hien Corner sits by a road that pedestrians share with scooters. I’m not sure if the people or scooters are breaking the rules, but one thing is for sure—you can wander down this street in your wheelchair without fearing (too much) for your life with oncoming traffic.
At night, pedestrians and restaurant tables fully claim the street as theirs.
Since Ta Hien Corner and the main tourist street leading through it become so packed at night, I recommend visiting during the day.
This is also a great place to dine. Just be aware that Vietnam uses super short tables for outdoor dining.
You should have a vehicle drop you off and pick you up at Ta Hien Corner, as the streets around this area are an accident waiting to happen with so much scooter traffic.
3. Tran Quoc Pagoda
The Tran Quoc Pagoda is a famous landmark located north of Hanoi’s old quarter. It offers a mostly accessible experience, with a barrier-free entrance and an accessible path that leads around the complex.
Unfortunately, the indoor portion of the temple isn’t accessible. However, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of it when looking at it from the outside.
Other than that, Tran Quoc has wide, flat surfaces for exploring.
4. Huc Bridge & Ngoc Son Temple
The Huc Bridge, which leads to the Buddhist Ngoc Son Temple, is among the most iconic sights in Hanoi. The bridge arches over Hoan Kiem Lake, ending on a little island where the temple sits.
There’s a small entrance fee to access the bridge and temple, both of which are accessible.
A large step is located to the right as you approach the temple. So, you’ll need to backtrack the way you came when leaving the temple grounds.
As with Tran Quoc Pagoda, the indoor temple isn’t accessible due to stairs. There’s also an inaccessible indoor area that talks about the legend of the giant turtles and has these turtles on display (in their deceased, stuffed state).
However, if you can pop over some steps, you may be able to enter these areas, especially the turtle area, as there are fewer stairs.
5. Weekend Walking Street
What’s better than exploring Hoan Kiem Lake by day?
Exploring it by night on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
During these evenings, the police shut down the streets surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake, allowing for an extra great accessible experience, given that you can use the road as your sidewalk.
Furthermore, vendors come out in droves, giving you easy access to delicious—and cheap—Vietnamese snacks and sweets that are often only sold in the inaccessible streets of Hanoi’s old quarter.
The weekend walking street around Hoan Kiem Lake takes place from Friday to Sunday, 7:00 pm to 2:00 am during the summer and 6:00 pm to 2:00 am in the winter.
I highly recommend planning your trip so that your travel dates in Hanoi fall during the walking street days.
Ready to Visit Hanoi?
Unless you’re traveling to Hanoi for business or other pressing reasons, the city offers such limited wheelchair accessibility that it likely isn’t worth the trip to Vietnam. But if you plan on exploring other Vietnamese cities, particularly Hoi An, then Hanoi could be worth the add-on.
Of the three Vietnamese cities I visited, Hoi An was the most accessible. You can read the article I wrote on accessibility in Hoi An for details.
Ho Chi Minh was less accessible, and from my observation, it’s closer to Hanoi than Hoi An accessibility-wise.
But Ho Chi Minh is still more wheelchair accessible than Hanoi. I’ve written a post on accessibility in Ho Chi Minh City that you can check out.
If you have questions about visiting Hanoi, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.
I’d also appreciate it if you return here after your time in Hanoi and Vietnam as a whole to share your experience in the comments. Your insight will surely be valuable to future readers.
P.S.—Are you contemplating where to base yourself in Vietnam? If so, check out my comparison of Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City. Also, my guide on Is Hanoi Safe? will help you understand what to expect safety-wise during your time there.