Exploring a city with somebody who knows it like the back of their hand is the best way to see it.

Hanoi has many interesting destinations and hidden cultural sites which are worth a visit.

Hanoi Free Tour Guides offers to take tourists around the city with free service and warm hearts. 

The guides are genuine ambassadors for Hanoi tourism.

Kang Shin-jung from South Korea said he made an appointment with a friend to visit him in Hà Nội but his friend unexpectedly had to return to South Korea.

It turned out that he was alone in the city.

"If it was just me going around Hà Nội, I wouldn’t know which historical attractions to visit or where to go to," he said.

He found Hanoi Free Tour Guides in a travel review by another South Korean, and also looked through websites and knew about travel tours.

''Thanks to the guides, namely Soo Jin, Lilly and Tiến, they helped me so I could visit lots of places," he said. "I also have the chance to get to know and learn more about what young Vietnamese people think."

Italian couple Marco Massone and Giulia Botta said they chose the service based on the recommendations of many Italians in a blog.

Khuất Thị Cúc (first left) and her Italian guests. VNS Photo Lê Hương

They confirmed that the tour is free, they didn’t have to pay any fee at all.

"We are very happy to go with her [the guide]," Massone said. "We understand more about local culture. Our curiosity has been satisfied."

"It was a very interesting tour," he said. "We nicknamed her Margherita. She speaks Italian so well that we can understand every detail."

Botta said she was also very good at responding to their questions and telling them things not usually found in guides.

"It was very interesting and she is very nice," she said.

The guides themselves also get a great kick out of showing off Hà Nội.

Plus it inspires them to learn more about the capital and brush up on their language skills.

"Depending on the destinations I guide visitors to, I introduce the site’s history and Vietnamese culture, especially Hanoi’s culture," student Khuất Thị Cúc, who has been guiding for one year, said.

"I have learned a lot about culture, history and language. I have to practice Italian, again and again, to speak fluently.

"I have not found any difficulties in guiding the tours. Italian people are nice and easy-going. I like this job a lot.

"I know that my Italian language capability is still limited. I should learn more about history and culture."

Cúc said they, the students, have little demand for money, although sometimes customers offer tips to them.

Nguyễn Việt Tiến shares his knowledge with South Korean tourist Kang Shin Jung. VNS Photo Lê Hương

"I guide the tour mainly to gain experience and learn more," she said. "It’s like lessons for me. I feel proud to be able to introduce Vietnamese culture to foreign countries, especially to faraway Italy. I can learn more about Italian culture through my conversations with Italian tourists."

Student Nguyễn Việt Tiến, whose major is travel management, said he wanted to start first as a tour guide to gain experience.

"Besides the destinations that the organisation has provided me with information, some guests may ask to go to other destinations," he said. "I have to learn about them."

He remembers a guest from Taiwan saying that their organisation was introduced on a TV channel in Taiwan, which made him proud.

"This is my desire, to engage longer with the job," he said. "My start is touring inside Hanoi. After I graduate, I will take longer journeys throughout Việt Nam."

Tiến admitted he felt proud that Việt Nam has a hero named Hồ Chí Minh as he told tourists about Uncle Hồ’s life and career. 

Kang Shin Jung enjoys his trip in Hà Nội with a guide from the organisation. VNS Photo Lê Hương

Young ambassadors

Founded in 2010, the non-profit organisation has served thousands of tourists from all over the world.

The service is now available in nine languages with 100 volunteer tour guides.

"Our volunteers often seek an environment to learn languages and exchange cultures," said Tạ Thị Vân Chung, Vice Chair of the organisation. "They do not have much desire for a fixed income from the job."

In return,  they are also willing to work in the organisation’s departments on administrative work like in any other club, volunteer organisation or small company, Chung said.

Chung said they had received much love from tourists, after the tours many of them donated some money for their activities.

"Each Hanoi Free Tour Guides is like an ambassador of Hà Nội, who is willing to introduce a Việt Nam developing every day while still preserving traditional cultural features," she confirmed.

If you want to know more about Hà Nội, book such a tour to be inspired by these young ‘ambassadors’. VNS