The traffic in Hanoi is amazing but also very scaring. Cars and motorcycles everywhere and it looks like there are no rules, but somehow it works and the traffic seems to flow.
Scary the first few times you need to cross a road in Hanoi, but just walk across in a slow and steady tempo. The best way to cross a road is to follow the lead of a local crossing… But, be very careful…
We visited Hanoi recently on December 30, 2012. Generally, we enjoyed our trip in Hanoi and Halong Bay, as we were served by a very good tour operator there. During our free time, on January 02, 2013, we strolled along the old quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake area. We intend to visit a shopping mall, and with the recommendation of one of the shop owner in Old Quarter, we decided to visit the new Supermarket "BigC". We stopped a taxi (7 seater) In front of KFC Restaurant at Hoan Kiem Lake area, we told the driver to "BigC" Supermarket, and he agreed. He drove taxi with a meter showing 12,000VND at the beginning, the driver knew we are not local but tourist, suddenly the fare meter jumps rapidly without stopping, and showed the value of 348,000VND at the half road (it is somewhere at the highway), Upon arriving, he intended to stop the taxi and ask us to alight at some dark place, but we insisted him to drive us to the shopping mall, finally he dropped us somewhere nearby, but asking for the fare of 500,000VND, which is really unbelievable, and he blamed us with their local language that we didn't understand. We know we were cheated by the taxi driver. This is a very bad image for tourist visiting Hanoi, because the driver not only blamed us but was starting a fight, we avoided by paying him the 500,000VND to let him drove away. On the way back to hotel in old quarter, we took another taxi, which has a tag of "Taxi Group" and it took only 100,000VND by fare meter. Our hotel staff informed us that there are lots of "Black Taxi" operating in Hanoi city to cheat, some ever rob the passenger. We hope the government will take note of such kind of things and put punishment on those taxi drivers. For tourists, please be warned of the danger of taking taxis in Hanoi. Be careful.
We were noted with these people by the hotel staff and we were not surprise when those lady paid attention to us when we were coming on the same way to them. Without saying anything, they just put the yoke on our shoulder and kept saying " photo photo free free ". Then we decided to walk away and my wife tried to give them few chance to avoid any further annoyance they told us exactly that " 500.000 dong, 500.000 dong , very cheap very cheap". Luckily with the hotel staff help , we got away smoothly. NEVER buy anything from them neither buy their fruits.
. Whenever travelling anywhere here south or north in Vietnam ALWAYS carry sufficient fresh bottled water. Due to the extreme humidity and heat beware of dehydration and make sure that you are replacing lost fluids constantly. I buy my bottled water at the supermarket and keep it in my hotel refrigerator until needed..it is quite amazing how much water you drink here in the tropics.
When buying bottled water in smaller stores make sure to check the caps to make sure that the "cap seal" is not broken and the bottle has been refilled with tap water..This is a common scam here...DO NOT drink the tap water as it can make you really sick. I use bottled water to clean my teeth also.When heading out for the day Dont forget your water!!!..
When travelling in and around Hanoi ALWAYS use a strong Mosquito repellant..Like all places here in the tropics of South East Asia with the constant high temperatures and humidity the wetness seems to always linger..The mosquito problem is everywhere here and not only are they are a constant nuisance , the viruses of Malaria and Dengue Fever from mosquito bite are extremely dangerous and can have really bad outcomes. Wear loose fitting clothing especially in the evenings with a long sleeved shirt and long pants/trousers. Make sure that ALL bare skin areas are covered with a strong Mosquito Insect Repellant. When organising your holiday check with your doctor if you choose to have a course of malaria medication...You can't be too careful regarding these problems.
When changing money in Cambodia or Vietnam watch the Banks and make sure you count it all before leaving. I had this in Cambodia and change 100 US Dollar note into 1 dollar bills but a few days later I relised they had done me out by 50 Dollars. All because I had a huge wad of 1 dollar notes and thought that is a lot and didn't bother to count it but it was only half.
Sometimes you just have to learn the hardway.
I had such a great day until I got mugged just outside of Hanoi by a guy who spent the previous 6 hours warming up to me.
He spoke english pretty well and was convincing in his desire to learn more, shared an interest in food, different cultures. He related he was attempting to be a tour guide and wanted to brush up on his English so he could get a job.
I was suprised he invested that much time and effort into the process. We went out to a food spot and chatted, walked around Hoan Kiem Lake and the turtle temple, he took me to a great place for a hair cut. He showed me slowly how to ride a motorbike, then we went together to a small town where pottery is made.
After stopping for snacks and a beer, (I paid for both) we were 12 miles south of Hanoi as I checked my googlephone to make sure we were getting back on track. Then, he pulls alongside another motorbiker, we both veer off the side of the road onto a quiet, peaceful road and he stops the bike, asks to see my phone and the other biker swiftly draws a machete to my neck, I am in a headlock, and my new tour guide friend pulls a small pistol and points it at me. I surrender completely as they took off with my camera and phone and about $100. Luckily I left my passport and wallet in my room.
I was left there with the smell of blood on my neck, echoes of thrilled laughter, and nothing in my pockets aside from my room key, miles away from town and it was getting dark.
I walk for 20 minutes and am able to show a family what happened by using sherades and their kids as actors, and I turn from a crazy white guy to someone who needs help. They luckily knew someone with a car and 3 friends of theirs packed in the car with me and took me back to Hanoi. I was treated for a minor slash in the back of my neck at the French Hospital when I returned to where I was staying.
It seems very likely this guy has done this before, and I was in a bit of shock the entire rest of the day (still am a bit this morning). I feel like I encountered a human virus, collecting more data about english so he can better strike next time.
I met him after ignoring a request from some other woman on the street in the old quarter that I donate some money to help against city corruption. Then this guy comes up telling me I shouldn't trust her. And wow, shouldn't trust him! What a wake up call!
I was caught by this, hopefully, if you are reading this, you won't be.
Beware, that Museum's in Hanoi are often CLOSED ON MONDAYS.
Also, some are closed because of restoration.
If you can, perhaps do a tour on a Monday, or ask you Hotel before heading to a Museum if it is open, this way, you will save your time and money!
When you see all Motorbikes, you may be overwhelmed!
QUESTION....How do you cross the road?
It really is quite easy, and after the 1st time, you realise that they are not going to run you over.
Stand on the edge, and when it is a little less busy, walk across the street, at a reasonably steady pace, the Motorbikes will weave their way around you!
DO NOT STOP! ..... KEEP ON WALKING!
If you do stop, or speed up or slow down with walking......
THEN YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE HIT!!
IF YOU ARE STILL AFRAID, CROSS WITH OTHER VIETNAMESE PEOPLE.
Have courage, you will be alright!
TAXI'S DO HAVE A METER
It doesn't seem to work properly!!!
I was charged 670,000 dong (about $45au) for about half hour taxi ride.
A motorbike taxi cost $4.
Watch the Driver constantly, because he is watching you, waiting for a chance to push a little button that makes the meter jump heaps.
This is what I was told by the staff of my Hotel on returning.
You can also threaten to call the Tourist Police, this may help.
Even when you are on an organized tour, there is NO GETTING AWAY FROM THE TOUTS!
In Halong Bay, they came rowing to our Junk, laden with fruit to sell, then while we were trying to eat, more pressure, this time jewellery!
Even on the Tam Coc tour, small rowboats pulled alongside and tried to get you to buy.
Then one row boat, off loaded embroidered items onto our rowboat for the oarsman to sell to us!
What a shame this happens, we were trying to sightsee, and enjoy the scenery, serenity & quietness, only to have it shattered!!!
There are plenty of Travel Agents in Hanoi to choose from.
There is no need to book before you come, and you also save money by booking on arrival.
WORD OF WARNING......................
Get prices from 2 or 3 agencies, prices do vary.
I learnt this the hard way, But at least I didn't pay anywhere near as much as another couple I met on the Tour though!.............
They paid $40 more each for the same tour that I did.................
as you can imagine, they were not happy one little bit!!!
Also, just because you book with a certain Travel agent, doesn't mean that you will go with that company.
It seems like if they haven't many people booked for the Tour, then you get combined with another company, and end up on a FULL BUS.
One tour I did, was over full, we were packed in like sardines!
I should think in "High Season", it would be a different matter.
The Water Puppet show is very popular with Tourists.
I was going to visit, but when I went to buy my ticket, the show was completely booked out for the following 2 days.
As I was leaving Hanoi before seats became available, I never got to see the show.
So, what I suggest, is..................
If you want to see it, make sure that you book your seats 1st,
THEN............go sightseeing, that way, you will not miss out!
Located opposite Hoan Kiem Lake
When in Hanoi do take taxis labelled HANOI TOURIST TAXI
They are properly metered and do not take you for a ride coz they are lisenced
Other taxis may be metered too but tampered or the driver may take you for a ride!
Best if you get the cabs thru hotel concierge
I just returned from a trip to Hanoi and it couldn't have started out much worse than this: The man listed in my title (Mr. To Vu) approached me upon arrival stating that he was sent by my hotel to take me to my hotel (which turned out to be a lie, of course). However, he did not have a placard with my name on it, nor did he know the address of my hotel (he said there were two locations and he didn't know which one it was - another lie!), and his answer as to how he knew I was the person he was supposed to pick up was shady and inaccurate as well. All of these should have alerted me to the scam but I went with him anyway (I'm still not sure why, but I'm blaming fatigue). He actually ended up being the passenger, as he had a driver - Lai Xe - who was silent during much of this short trip. On our way to the airport exit, To Vu informed me that he needed my passport for some tourist ticket so he wouldn't have to pay an exit toll or something (that part is still not clear to me). That was the final straw for me and when I refused to give him my passport, he said he was taking me back to the airport. He then asked for his business card back and when I refused, he became irate (his face turned red and he was spitting as he talked and everything!) and verbally abusive, using the "F" word several times, saying, "Don't F with me!" and pointing his finger in my face and telling me not to talk. It was all I could do to stay calm and ask him to stop yelling at me and take me back to the airport. He attempted to drop me off at a taxi gathering point outside of the actual airport grounds but I insisted that I be dropped off at the terminal, which he grudgingly did. I didn't have to pay (monetarily) for this little ride but it definitely took an emotional toll! My attempts to lodge a complaint while in Hanoi were unproductive due to the language barrier and I am still trying to see if I can do so via the internet. However, I know how many people use these travel sites, so if I can get the word out there about this person in particular (if he even works for Vietnam Airlines Airport Taxi - that could have been a lie as well, since the car we were in was a black Toyota Camry with no decals on it), then I've done my duty. So beware!! I'm a pretty savvy traveler (most of the time), so if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody!! Travel safely!!