When traveling to Vietnam, Hanoi cannot be overlooked. Vietnam's capital is especially fantastic for the budget traveler as it is cheap to get there from anywhere in Asia (great for a weekend swing for those traveling through Asia), cheap to stay there, cheap to eat, and generally just really damn inexpensive.
A trip to Hanoi and Vietnam isn't going to be like visiting a MASH field hospital. Nor should travelers be shocked by the fact that, gasp, the Vietnamese people don't hate on Americans. Get over it quickly, forget about the Vietnam War and view Hanoi with fresh eyes.
That said, there are relics of the war to be found which could be interesting to American travelers, as well worth a visit for those wanting to witness some of the tumultuous history of the two countries. But those relics are definitely not the only reason to go, nor should travelers be deterred by the fact Vietnam is a communist country.
The only real deterrent should be traveling during the summer months when temperatures reach excess of 44 degrees Celsius, with high humidity. That's face-meltingly hot. Its doable, but isn't ideal for wandering around the city.
Best of all, Hanoi and Vietnam are dirt-cheap. One US Dollar is worth 20,530 Vietnamese Dollars. Travelers can drop one million VND Dollars on a dinner, but that's only US$48.
The shopping is fantastic (and cheap), the food delicious (and really cheap), the people hospitable (careful, the pickpockets aren't so cheap), and the tourist visa easy to get (also cheap.)
Getting there: Round trip tickets from the East Coast (JFK) can average about $1,400, and can go as low as $930 from the West Coast (SFO) Cathay, American Airlines, China Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Korean Air all offer flights usually routing through Hong Kong or Taipei. Three to four days is probably enough to see a good chunk of the city, then move on to other South East Asia destinations.
Where to stay: There are a multitude of choices for budget travelers. Hostels are the cheapest bet, but for those looking for a bit more privacy there's mid range options like Golden Lotus ($50 a night) which do the job and don't cost a fortune. For those nervous about booking a cheaper hotel, just book something for the first night and if its horrible, ditch it and find another for the rest of the stay.
Photo: Chris C. Anderson/HuffPost Travel