Most new arrivals in Hanoi touch down at Noi Bai Airport, located about 35kms north of the city. The modern terminal has all the facilities you might expect such as left-luggage office, currency exchange desks and hotel booking desks. But Hanoi is also well connected by open tour bus and train with services travelling south to Ho Chi Minh City and north towards China.
Getting to Hanoi
Arriving by Air: The journey into town takes around an hour and costs around US$15-$20 by metered taxi, though many taxi drivers prefer to negotiate a (higher) fare and forget about the meter.
It’s important to be on the alert for scams here as many visitors fall victim to a clever ploy that spoils their holiday, and their attitude to the country changes irrevocably. If you have already booked your hotel, try to arrange a pick-up by staff from the hotel, which will keep you away from the tricksters.
If you take a taxi, make sure the driver switches on the meter and takes you to the exact address, as many of the city’s best hotels have commission-paying inferior copycats in nearby streets which operate with the same name in order to dupe unsuspecting tourists to stay with them instead.
Arriving by Train: Hanoi’s railway station is located on Le Duan just a kilometre west of the city centre. Trains arrive here not only from Ho Chi Minh City and all points south, but also from the Chinese border to the north near Lang Son and to the northwest near Lao Cai. Taxis, motorbikes and cyclo are on hand to run you to your hotel.
Arriving by Bus: There are four long-distance bus stations in Hanoi, and which one you arrive at depends where you are travelling from. If you’re coming from the south, your bus will terminate at Giap Bat bus station on Giai Phong to the south of the centre.
Travellers arriving from Ha Long Bay and other destinations to the northeast will pull into Gia Lam bus station in the city’s southeast, while also in the southeast is Luong Yen bus station, which serves a variety of northern destinations such as Ha Giang and Cat Ba Island. The last is My Dinh bus station, which serves most other destinations in the north.
Getting Around Hanoi
Visitors to Hanoi are fortunate in that many of the city’s sights are clustered together in a small area which is easy to negotiate on foot, though for getting from one part of the city to another you’ll need to take a taxi, motorbike taxi or cyclo.
Areas where walking is better are the Old Quarter, where the narrow streets make it a nightmare for car drivers, around Hoan Kiem Lake and around Ba Dinh Square. This is a great way to discover the city as you are free to stop where you like or change your plans on a whim.
When you need to call a taxi, you can expect to pay about 20,000-30,000D for a short ride, though try to avoid taking one in the rush hour, when you may spend hours sitting in one of the city’s famed gridlocks. At such times you’d be better off on a motorbike taxi, since they can squeeze through the lanes of traffic, though you’ll need to cling on tight.
Finally, don’t leave the country without taking a ride in a cyclo – Vietnam’s unique form or three-wheeled pedal taxi. Since passengers sit in the front of a cyclo they get a great view, so it’s a handy way to go sightseeing, but enlist the help of someone at your hotel to negotiate an hourly rate or you’ll end up paying over the odds.