Very educational experience to first-timer, like me. Cyklodriver with understandable english is worth of gold: he knows everything about everything - and more. Only problem is to find the common language, because most of them speaks as fluet english as I speak vietnamese! Other only problem is money: agree the price always before trip. Otherwise they can demand enermous amount of money! Its cheaper to rent driver to all day than only one hour.
Just as in all other cities in Asia, cyclos (also called trishaws) are widely available in Hanoi to give tourists rides around the city. There is no doubt that they are a nice relaxed way to see a city. The thing that I generally don't like about them is that invariably the guys pedeling them are quite elderly, making me feel guilty, as if my grandfather were pedeling me around town. Also, as in the case of the guy shown in the photo, often they speak very poor English, making them not particularly effective tour guides. Definitely much safer than hopping on the back of some random guy's motorcycle though (amazingly tourists do this all the time).
Cyclos in Hanoi are now mainly for tourists, although many locals do still use them from time to time. The riders ring their bells constatly trying to attract attention, especially near tourist attractions.
Hanoi cyclos are apparently known to be wider than those in other parts of Vietnam so can accommodate 2 people but we took pity on the riders and took one each on the couple of times we used them: after all we are big women and it is very hot!
It is important to negotiate the price before setting out and to have the correct money as they often don't seem to have change.
It is also a good idea to place your life in the hands of a higher power as the ride can be nerve wracking: you are out there in front just inches away from the traffic: bikes, motor bikes, cars and trucks.
That said, it is a wonderful way to see things in style, and at a human pace rather than whizzing past in taxis.
Prepeare yourself. You must know how much is a fair price, and you must be confident. NEVER ask them how much it will cost. You will tell them. There is an oversupply of cyclo drivers, so you're in the driver's seat, so to speak. Pay by the hour: $2 (30K dong, it should be 15K, but that's another story). Be prepared to walk away if they don't accept this price. Feel free to walk to another cyclo driver. Carry exact change, otherwise the cyclo ride will cost exectly 50,000 dong, the minimum size bill you typically have in your pocket. They never have change after the ride. Also, any time you have to renegotiate, you will lose. They will use that to their advantage. Avoid problems by paying up front, and withholding the tip until the end.
Tell them in advance how long you want to travel, and structure the deal to your benefit. Let's say it's 1PM, you could say something like "I want a tour of the Old Quarter, and I want to be be back here in 2 hours. Here's 30,000 dong now (show it to them), and I'll give you a 10,000 dong tip IF I like the tour AND you have me back here by 3PM, not one minute late. Do you understand? Here's a map, can you show me where we will go? I want to make sure we see everything I want to see." Make it clear they've already been paid, and that you only pay the tip if you're VERY happy.
Near the end of your ride, remind the driver of when you have to be back, and how his tip is tied to him returning you on time. 9 times out of 10 you'll probably be quite happy and everything went according to schedule. In that case, you promised them a 10,000 dong tip, give them 15,000 dong and everything will end on a great note. Just don't let them turn the tables and tell you how much it is. If you're going to pay a lot for a cyclo ride, make sure you feel good about doing so, and make sure you get a good ride (and not taken for one).
Good luck. I don't take cyclos anymore, I prefer to walk, it's less of a hassle. Or buy a bicycle, you can get 1 for 15 hours of cyclo time ;-)
A very good way to tour around the city if you are too lazy to walk. I didn't try it but someone offered me a 1 hour ride for about USD 2 before.
Riding Cyclos to short distances are okay for experience sake. Expect to pay about 10,000 dong to nearby destinations but make sure to agree on a price first before boarding.
If you can believe it TWO of us fir our big butts in here -- it was a SLOW trip to One PIllar Pagoda I can assure you:)
This is as older postcard of a Hanoi street scene. The transportation vehicle is called a "cyclo" and works by leg power.