Transportation in general, Hanoi
There are many small travel agencies in the old quarter of hanoi offering U tours and trips to Halong Bay, SaPa mountain tribes...
I guess anyone may offer the same. There are some famous ones, but here is my experience:
1.- Kangaroo Travel. I tried first here, as I had read they were good in the LP guide. They were fool for the next day, when I wanted to start. Then I asked them if I could leave my rucksack (was heavy) there while I looked for something else, as I didn't have hotel yet and didn't want to carry it around. They simply said NO, they weren't very polite :-(((
2.- Sihn Travel. Then I went to a local agent of this all Vietnam company. They have many local little branches. I found the worst of all. The guy didn't speak any english and seemed to me a little dumb, so after 30 minutes trying to explain him what I wanted, I left.
3.- Then my motorbike driver advised me to go to ODC Travel, a new local company. They were kind, helpful, and convinced me with many photos, exhaustive details, and even comments left by other foreign travellers... I finally chose this and I must say it was a good choice. I had what I paid for, the service was OK, the boat wonderful and was highly satisfied.
This reminded me that AVIS ad of the 50s: "We try harder" (than Hertz, no.1). Sometimes small companies offer a more exquisite service because "they try harder"...
Address: 43 Hang Bo St. / 142 Hang Bac St.
Tel (84.4) 828 87 29. Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Bike - a good way to get around, but also one of the more stressful ones... Imagine being the only biker among thousands of motorbikes! Bikes can be rented in many places in the Old Quarter (try Hang Bac street), as well as in some of the hotels. By the way: Don't expect anyone to show consideration for you. You'll be the weakest part of the food chain.
4. By foot - definitely one of the best ways to get around in Hanoi. It makes it possible for you to truly discover the city and its more hidden parts. When walking around, be curious. Check out the narrow lanes and hidden entries. You'll be surprised what can be found there.
5. By taxi - taxis are comparably expensive, but this will quickly pay out when there are more than two persons. Expect to pay about VND 30,000-100,000 for a ride in Hanoi. Make sure that your taxi has an officially registered meter. The prices are fixed, bargaining is not necessary.
6. By cyclo - cyclos (i.e. rickshaw or in Vietnamese xich lo) are almost exclusively used by tourists. In the Old Quarter, you'll here the ringing of their bells everywhere, but I would recommend not to use them. Prices are too high (most drivers can easily recognise a naive tourist who is overwhelmed by all the exotic scenes of his first day in Hanoi). Cyclos are too slow for going to some place quickly, but too fast for taking pictures of the exciting street life around them. Furthermore, you'll sit on the height of all the exhaust fumes.
7. Drive your own motorbike - this is certainly the best way to get around, if...
...you know the city.
...you're not afraid of millions of other motorbikes coming towards you from every direction without any traffic rules
...you like adventures!
Motorbikes can be rented at almost every hotel and in some shops in the Old Quarter, especially in Hang Bac street. Compare the prices and you'll be able to save some bucks. Most people choose a 110ccm Honda or Yamaha, but if you want to do longer trips, try to get a Minsk. This is a Belorussian motorbike that is nearly impossible to break down. It's good for tours in the countryside. Motorbikes can also be bought in Hanoi
Visitors of Hanoi have plenty of possibilities to get around in the city. Most of them have some advantages, but be careful with some!
1. Bus - Hanoi has a pretty good bus system that gets you almost everywhere for an incredibly cheap price (VND 2500, i.e. $0,15) per ride. However, there are several drawbacks. First, buses are literally always overcrowded. When I'm talking about overcrowded, I don't mean the European or American way of overcrowdedness. I mean the Asian way, and believe me, that's not the most convenient thing... Second, there is no timetable - buses run frequently, but sometimes you have to wait quite long (just to find that your bus is completely overcrowded and it's almost impossible to get in!). Third, if you don't know Hanoi well, it is rather hard to find out where and when to get out of the bus. Bus stops don't have a name and are hardly visible in the hustling and bustling on the sidewalks. For those with a lot of time and some sense for adventure, going by bus is a good idea.
2. Motorbike - The first experience in Hanoi is some Vietnamese man shouting "Motobai?" at you. Just shake your head if you don't want to drive with him. If you want to go with him, tell him the address (be sure about the correct pronunciation, or it will be impossible for him to find the place) and start bargaining. In any case, you'll pay much more than the average Vietnamese and you'll still think "How incredibly cheap this is!". A good price can be reached only through good bargaining skills - and these have to be developed! Try VND 5000 for a short ride and VND 10000 for a long ride. DON'T pay with dollars - you will definitely be ripped off! If the drivers don't agree with your price idea (and they certainly won't), just walk away - this will quickly change their minds... Pay with small money as most drivers don't have enough change for anything bigger than VND 10000. A motorbike taxi is officially called Xe Om (pronounce Say Ohm (as in Oh my God!)) and can be found everywhere. Late at night, it's more difficult and prices double.
One of the best way to explore Hanoi is by walking around the city, especially during the cooler months between November and February. This is because most of the main attractions are located within walking distance of the famous Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of Restored Sword). For example, the Old Quarter is the northern part of this lake and the French Quarter is the southern part of this lake. Walking also enable you to really feel the sights, sound and smell of Hanoi and lots of photography opportunities. The streets of Hanoi are also quite safe to walk around, you just need to be careful of the chaotic traffic (see the warnings section of this VT page). However, there are some attractions which you need to get a taxi to reach e.g. Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum & surroundings, Temple of Literature and Temple of Ethnology.
There are god and bad tour operators, some very cheap and some rather upmarket.
Very good but also very expensive is Buffalo Tours ( www.buffalotours.com ) , but I can also recommend a much cheaper one who organized us a tour for 2 of us only with a very good guide at resonable price: Handspan Travel
They are located in a retaurant, which is also good and well located.
I used the services of a Xe Om driver that I had seen daily that was parked and hustling business not too far from the front door of the Heart Hotel, our “home away from home” in Ha Noi.
The last full day that I was visiting Ha Noi I wanted to get to two different attractions that were pretty far apart from each other, one being Tran Quoc Pagoda that’s located on the shore of West Lake, the other was the Temple of Literature or Van Mieu located in Ba Dinh District.
Using the Xe Om was both affordable and kind of exciting…take a look at the videos attached to the Page here. I don’t know exactly what the costs were, Im not good at writing logs or diaries but I know this mode of transport is less than half the costs of using taxis in Ha Noi.
The fellow was friendly and waited for me at my first stop, the Tran Quoc Pagoda. When I was finished there he took me then to Van Mieu for another low cost transit, and that is where I left him.
All of the rides I had with this gentleman were quite fun and were not quite comparable to riding in Canada, or for that matter, any “Western” country. We dodged traffic on solid lines and at one point ignored the concrete boulevards at an intersection to make a left turn.
EVERYONE drives about the same speed throughout the parts of the city that I was driven in and it all seems to work even with minimal traffic lights to organize flow. It seems a little hair rising but in fact I saw not one accident so it all seems to work I guess.
On my return to my hotel at the end of another day of walking I found another Xe Om and had a ride through THICK traffic to get back to the Hoan Kiem Lake District.
Cost was minimal and though it seems a little crazy and dangerous…it all works quite well here. Both drivers and all that I saw looking for business have helmets for you to wear while you’re riding!
Both drivers were open to some haggling on price although its so cheap to begin with I didn’t push it too far. They are after all just trying to earn a living.
For SANITARY reasons…I would suggest that you were a ball cap or some type of hat between you and the helmet that they offer you…it just might help prevent picking up some unwanted friends along the way. :O)
Don’t assume that you can get this map at the airport. Stock don’t get replenish fast at the airport. Got mine at Tourist Information Centre @ 7 Dinh Tieng Hoang Street (see the pink icon with the letter “i” on north of the lake).
Old Quarter is where almost everything is, the hotels, the places of attraction, the bustling traffic, the street vendors and a lot more.
Wondering what does these white lines translate to in actual distance?
Walking from one end to the other of the Hoan Kiem Lake takes around 5 minutes.
If the distance is too far to go by walking, take cyclo or taxi. BUT, always settle on the price before hoping on.
Cyclo (rickshaw alike) – sits two small built people
Taxi - never go by the meter! A lot of drivers are out to cheat.
From Old Quarter to Ethnology museum – 100,000VND
From Old Quarter to Westlake – 40,000VND
Within old quarter – depending on distance, shouldn’t exceed 50,000VND.
Eg. From Hang Bac to Women Museum cost 30,000VND
If you are tired to go about the "maze" in the Old Quarters, you can hire a trishaw to bring you around the Quarters. There are a lot of trishaws plying the streets of Hanoi and they will "call on" to you in the streets to ask if you need a ride.
Each trishaw takes a maximum of 2 adults. They are usually charged by the hour or by destination.
If you want to see Hanoi and you have a time constraint, suggest that you join a tour which will have a bus and tour guide that will take you to specific destinations of your tour package. Tour packages are reasonable in Hanoi but just ensure that the intineraries of your tour packages are explained to you clearly as to what is covered and what is not so as to avoid argument later between yourself and your tour agent.
The tour coaches/buses we have travelled in so are clean, with AC and comfortable. The buses/coaches are pretty new.
Renting a van in Hanoi was one of the smartest things we did. It only cost us $40 for the entire day ($8 each) and it came with a full tank of gas and a super friendly and efficient driver.
Hiring a car w/driver in Hanoi makes getting around faster, because all you have to do is point to the map and show the driver where you want to go next and hop off and back on again. No need to hail a taxi cab and paying the driver with each cab ride. With the van you can leave all your shopping bags as you continue your sightseeing or more shopping!
We hired ours at the Sinh Cafe on Hang Bac st.
On arrival in Hanoi, hundreds of taxi touts offering lifts into the city will greet the newcomer. Although they ask for US$25 they should be bargained down to US$10 or US $12. It is advisable to go for metered taxis only. From Hanoi airport, most fares do not exceed US$35. They generally range from US$20 to US$35 one way.
From the airport, minibuses represent another convenient option: Vietnam Airlines, for instance, offers transfers for US$4 one way. Minibus that will drop you off in town for US$4, or for an extra US$2 will take you anywhere you want to go in Hanoi. You buy your ticket at the little booth in the domestic arrivals area, where the price is clearly posted. You can also buy a taxi fare there for $20 USD. A taxi may be worth it, since the bus drops you at the Vietnam Airlines office in Hanoi at 1A Quang Trung,
As usual, everyone associated with the tourist trade (and some who are not) are running tours to the surrounding hotspots: Halong Bay (for the scenery; $23-40), Sapa (for the hill tribe weekend market; $40-45), and the Perfume Pagoda (part jungle cruise, part mountain hike; $15-17).
Cheap way to get in the city is to take the Vietnam Airlines airport shuttle that goes from the airport and takes you in front of the Vietnam airlines office in Hoan Kiem district (and vice versa). Price is around VDN30,000 or USD2. Don't give in when the shuttle driver tells you that you have to pay USD3-4. It's a scam. You'll have to stand firm and tell them that you know it's only USD2. If you do decide to take a cab, go for the Mai Linh cabs (green coloured) as they are reputed for being the "honest" cabs by the locals.
Unlike Ho Chi Minh City, walking is a viable alternative to the motorcycles in Hanoi. Many of the sights are in relatively compact areas, and you will see a lot that you would have missed zooming through the streets hanging on for dear life. Some areas, like the Old Quarter, walking is the only way to enjoy the scenery.
Motorbike ride around Hanoi city is always VND10,000 to VND15,000 not more.
Make sure which Pho=Street you wanted to go.
Hanoi Bus is around VND3,000
Further trip to outer of Hanoi city, with mini bus may go up to VND40,000
The best part about Hanoi is almost all the tourist attractions are in Old Quarters. If you are staying in the vicinity, you can go about everywhere by feet. If you plan to travel out of Old Quarter, my best pick will be taxi. Get a taxi through the hotel concierge if you can. A 6km taxi ride cost around VND60,000 (~USD4). Anything more than that can be considered a rip-off. It will be advisable to plan the trip with a two-way taxi. It may cost slightly more but you can at least be sure that you don't get cheated.
Another mode of transportation is the cyclo. This is definitely a must-try for any tourist and the experience on the cycle is definitely unforgettable. However, be prepared to pay a hefty price for it. My family took 2 cyclos for a 3km ride and we ended up paying USD6 for the short ride!