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How This Expat Copes With Air Pollution in Hanoi

I love so many things about Hanoi. The beautiful lakes, amazing cafes, and yes, the cheap cost of living.

But the main thing that holds me back from living here long term is the pollution. I hate the feeling that living here means slowly killing myself. And I hate that I have to check to the air pollution levels before I decide whether or not to go on a run or bicycle around West Lake.

But living in Hanoi doesn’t mean you’re helpless against pollution. I’ve taken a few steps to mitigate the issue and have seen a noticeable improvement in my lungs.

How Bad is the Pollution in Hanoi?

It’s not China yet, but pollution in Hanoi is bad…and getting worse. Even in the two years that I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed a marked decline in air quality here. Lately, most days have been in the 150+ range according to AQICN’s Hanoi Tracker.

According to the chart, that’s Unhealthy. Which means:

Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects

Not good! While China is certainly still worse, Hanoi’s pollution levels have a noticeable effect on my respiratory system.

Hanoi on an especially hazy day.

How to Handle Air Pollution in Hanoi

These are the life changes/purchases I’ve made to better cope with the air pollution in Hanoi.

Get an Air Purifier – I use Xiaomi

Buy an air purifier for your home. This is doubly important for me because I work from home. So all day I’m sitting in the same air. An air purifier, therefore, keeps me safe for most of the day.

After researching, I settled on the Xiaomi Air Purifier 2. It was well-reviewed by My Health Beijing, an excellent blog covering handling pollution while living abroad (though it’s obviously focused on China).

My Xiamoi Air Purifier 2 chugging away to keep me healthy

Most air purifiers in Vietnam are more expensive. But so far, I’ve been happy with the Xiaomi Air Purifier. I run it on Auto all the time. It seems to work because if I open the window the rate at which it filters the air noticeably increases. I don’t have a separate air monitor to double check its effectiveness, though.

If you’re in Vietnam, you can buy it from Xiaomi Viet for ~3 million VND (~$130). They give a 6-month warranty. But I’ve had mine for more than 6 months without any issue. Hopping on Lazada is always an option, though you’ll likely end up paying a bit more.

Wear a Mask…That Actually Works

You know those cloth masks you see people wearing everywhere in Vietnam? Yeah, they do nothing.

I got myself some 3M N95 masks. While not perfect, as long as you make sure the seal is tight, they should limit your exposure outdoors. Again, My Health Beijing did some excellent testing on the best pollution mask.

Personally, I use the 3M 9001 mask because they’re cheap and well-rated.

To be honest, I don’t wear my mask nearly as much as I should. But on especially bad days, it’s an absolute must for driving around on a scooter.

Limit Outdoor Exposure on Bad Days

This tactic is the one I enjoy the least…

But sometimes, the pollution is just bad enough you need to stay inside. I love running outside, but unless the AQI is under ~120, I just skip running. Even 120 is probably unhealthy, but my lungs feel fine at that level.

On 150+ days, your lungs will burn if you try to run outside.

None of these things are fixes. But they do lessen the negative effects of Hanoi’s air pollution and make that part of living here a little more bearable.

About the Author Colin Newcomer

Howdy, I’m Colin. I’m the guy behind Nonstop Newcomer. Since 2014, I’ve been living and working abroad. Currently, I’m living in Hanoi, Vietnam and paying my bills with freelance writing. Stick around for my thoughts on travel, location-independence, and the best gear to make those things happen.

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