Getting Around Hanoi As A Tourist
Hanoi is a big place with a plethora of districts, the most popular and visited being Hoan Kiem (downtown) which is home to most of the city’s attractions, including the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake, as well as Ba Dinh (west of town) and Hai Ba Trung (south).
The name of the district is usually included in the address so it’s quite easy to know exactly which district your heading too but traveling from one district to the next can be time-consuming depending which two districts your moving between, so make sure you plan ahead and have a rough idea which direction to take.
One thing in your favour though is the fact that Hanoi is so cheap to get around, so let’s take a look at the many options to choose from…
Taking The Bus Around Hanoi’s Many Districts
The city of Hanoi has a number of local buses that run on a regular basis but these old city’s smoke-belching vehicles are extremely congested and using them can be difficult if you don’t speak Vietnamese. As local motorbike taxis, metre taxis and Grab cars are readily available to tourists, very few tend to use local buses.
Using A Taxi / Grab Service To Get Around Hanoi
It’s possible to hail a taxi on the street or at a hotel or major tourist attraction. Starting at 10,000 VND to 15,000 VND (depending on the company and the size of the cab), you should pay between 4,000 VND to 6,500 for every kilometre (about half a mile) you travel after that.
Pickups can be scheduled in advance, either by you or the concierge and MAKE SURE the metre is running. Always make sure to get your change as well as drivers often claim they don’t have enough money to give it.
Do not feel pressured into giving any percentage of the bill, just round up to the nearest dong or pay with cash and you shouldn’t have any issues.
Taxi Meters May Be Tampered With — Taxi companies that have been verified by the Better Business Bureau or are affiliated with your hotel are the best options but it is common for smaller companies and individual operators to overcharge customers.
These shady characters will just point to the metre as proof if you protest so never pay the driver until you’ve gotten someone from the front desk of your hotel to verify the rate, just in case.
Hire Or Buy A Car
The convenience of renting a car outweighs the dangers of driving one yourself. From $40 per day, you can rent a car with a driver. Any of the tourist cafes or travel agencies on this list will be able to beat any quote you receive from a high-end hotel.
There are many options for renting a car or taking the shared taxi around town or further north, depending on your needs and budget. Although a large car may be slowed down by traffic in the city centre, it is possible to get around the city on a cheap and manoeuvrable motorbike taxi if your constitution is strong and you enjoy taking risks.
Get Around On A Motorcycle
A cheap and convenient mode of transportation, motorbike taxis are driven by maniacs. This is only for the brave, so proceed with caution. Do your best to bargain with them. If you haggle hard enough (you’ll have to walk away a few times), drivers will lower their prices to as low as 15,000 VND for short trips, regardless of distance.
Most expats and long-time Vietnam travellers, however, compromise and pay a little more, between 10,000 and 15,000 VND, to avoid a lengthy negotiation. You can also hire a motorbike taxi driver in Hanoi by the hour, and showing the driver the written address of where you want to go is a better alternative than attempting to communicate in Vietnamese.
To get around the city, i’ve even given one of my drivers a day’s worth of addresses and asked him to plan my route. To make a friend for life or at least to see if you need any further assistance, all you have to do is give them a tip.
Renting a motorcycle is an option if you’re feeling particularly daring. While navigating Hanoi’s chaotic streets can be challenging, most motorcyclists use their rented two-wheelers to leave the city rather than just get around. Some good storefront rental agencies can be found in most tourist cafes and budget hotels.
Motorcycles with a 100cc engine can be rented for as little as $6 for the day. The price of a one-month rental of a hair dryer-style model like a Honda Dream or Wave can be as low as $50. A well-enforced law now mandates that you wear a helmet when you’re on your bike and remember to slow down, honk your horn when passing and keep an eye out for other vehicles as they tend to appear from all directions.
In Hanoi’s chaotic traffic, inexperienced riders might want to reconsider their decision to learn to ride a motorcycle around the city as its not for the faint hearted.
Warning: Please read the following carefully: It’s a Catch-22 when it comes to riding a motorcycle, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. It’s the cheapest and fastest way to get around town but it’s also the most likely way to end up in the hospital or worse.
Try to keep as much steel between you and the madness of the roads as possible, by taking care and being cautious and if possible, just use public transport as at least if there’s an accident, you have some kind of protection.
By Two Seater Cyclo Bikes
Cyclos are two-seater carts propelled by a man pedalling behind you on a foot-pedal bike. Near hotels and tourist attractions, flagging them down is a surefire way to get their attention. If you want to see the narrow streets of the Old Quarter, a rickshaw ride is a good way to do it.
Before you leave, try to work out a deal with the driver as a short trip should cost as little as 20,000 VND, while a longer trip as much as 30,000 VND. If you prefer, you can also pay $2 for a half-hour as it’s not uncommon they allow you to take a short, recreational ride around the block or so.
A Trusty And Nimble Bicycle
The cost of renting a bicycle from a hotel or tourist attraction is about $1 per day but as daunting as the traffic may be, the brave quickly learn how to simply stay to the right and follow the flow, just make sure you’re wearing a strong helmet just in case as it’s better to safe than sorry.
At the time of writing this, Hanoi was putting the finishing touches to an overhead train system to get around the city with many stations currently being built and tracks being laid. So when it finally opens, that will give everyone a much easier option to get around town without risking their lives on the chaotic roads with the weaving scooters, so keep an eye out for the big opening as that will really be a game changer in this city.