TAXI IN HANOI
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.
- Road Trip
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BUY! BUY! NO GETTING AWAY FROM HARD SELL!
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!!!
- Sailing and Boating
TRAVEL AGENTS & TOURS
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.
- Road Trip
WATER PUPPET SHOW
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
- Arts and Culture
- Theater Travel
Hanoi Taxi tampered meters!
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
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Beware of Mr. To Vu of Vietnam Air Airport Taxi!!
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!!
Chinese Embassy, Hanoi.
For a Chinese visa: The opening time is 8.30, not the stated 8.00. You need photocopies of your Vietnam visa as well as the photo page of your passport. If you don't have them, it's not obvious where to get them and there are lowlifes outside that will rip you off just to show you the alley where the shop with the Xerox is; get it done first.
Visas take 4 days. If you want the express service of one or two days, it's only given with 'supporting documents', which turns out to be a confirmed ticket into China.
Remember, second visa extensions aren't given out here, so get your timing right.
Becareful when crossing the street
The common street scene in Hanoi is utter chaos with motorcyles and other vehicles travelling in haphazard way unknown to the rest of the world. Therefore, be careful when crossing streets. You may feel overwhelmed at first but if you wait for the traffic to clear, you may never make it across the street.
Just take cautious and careful steps. The motorcyles will simply navigate around you - accidents are not so common and generally not serious in any way. However, do not make abrupt change in your direction or pace. Don't make sudden retreats as they would be caught off guard.
Culture Shock: When You Leave Hanoi
Amazingly, i experienced culture shock when I left Hanoi. Here's a verbatim copy of an e-mail I sent right after arriving in Bangkok:
"Aloha all -
I'm back in the world today, having just gotten out of Nam.
As anachronistic as that introductory sentence sounds today, it still has a ring of truth. Arriving at Bangkok airport this afternoon was a bit of a culture shock. Wow! The people are beautiful here! Not just the women, whose attention to personal beauty ran from hair to skin to stylish clothes and jewelry, but also the men who wore fine suits, golden watches and fresh visages. People were clean! They had teeth! The cars, buildings and airport concessions sparkled and vibrated with life! The contrast was amazing, startling and unexpected. A week in Vietnam and I had forgotten what I used to take for granted (and this is Bangkok, not San Francisco, D.C. or Paris).
Maybe if I had spent more time in Saigon, I wouldn't have been so startled. But Hanoi's small storefronts hawking the same small set of wares, its narrow, dust-covered streets, it's worn-off paint and its beat-up cars had become my new standard. The Vietnamese people smiled and were friendly, but dressed drabbly compared to their first-world (and that's a stretch for Thailand) counterparts. My Vietnamese hosts wore the same knock-off clothes the entire trip outside of Hanoi. They had bedhead and greasy hair on most mornings. Except for Mr. Choi, they lacked a worldliness that most of us come to expect as normal.
The Thais don't give me a second look, but in Vietnam we were a curiosity -- especially in provincial Qui Nhon. There, a guy in the elevator actually grabbed Mike's arm and started stroking it -- it was white, hairy, big and attached to a 300-pound man, so I guess it needed to be felt! When we walked through a park full of cruising 20-sometings resting their scooters, we got lots of stares and hellos from the people we passed. And then there was the guy in the country who blatantly stared at us from his bike with a look we would reserve for a UFO sighting.
That being said, the Vietnamese are proud, aware of the distance they need to travel in order to be "developed", as the locals would often say. They desperately are trying to integrate the world's best practices into their country, though they seem to look for governmental best practices in te Russian and Chinese models rather than ours. In 20 years, I expect Vietnam to be ahead of Thailand and the Philippines on the development list. They are the next South Korea or Taiwan. Already, they are starting to lose U.N. family planning grants as their per capita GNP threatens to surpass $1000 a year. The culture shock phenomenon won't last for long, so enjoy it!"
- Arts and Culture
The Dong: SE Asia's Least Convertable Currency
The Vietnamese unit of currency is the Dong, and when I was in Hanoi it traded for about 13000 to the US dollar. Since food and merchandise were generally very cheap, I didn't worry too much about the rate, and even if I did, inflation was undermining it at about a 20% annual clip. The lack of confidence in the dong was manifest the menus at high-end restaurants -- prices were quoted in dollars.
All of this leads to the most important fact about the dong -- it's hard to trade it back into your home currency once you leave Vietnam. So try to spend most or all of your cash before you leave -- you may be stuck with it. I have about 80000 dong in my wallet which is pretty useless in Hawaii. Well, accept it's always a great conversation opener: "Would you like to see my dong?"
Crossing the Street: A Rush!!
Why do I cross the road in Hanoi? Can it be the adrenaleine rush? I actually got pretty good at this fear-inducing endeavor and, by the end of my vist, found it to be intoxicating, as if I were Moses getting multiple chances to part the Red Sea! In Hanoi, there is no greater adventure than crossing the road! But watch out! People do get injured!
Traffic in Hanoi is a chaotic multi-dimensional experience, with buses, scooters, cars and bicycles all weaving in and out of each other on the pavement. Often, strands of the oncoming lanes traffic ends up in coming at you and, not in frequently, our cab drivers would choose the wrong side of the road as the best path. Mostly, this seems to work, much in the way water meanders around rocks in a stream bed. If our driver wants to turn left, he just slowly noses into the oncoming traffic and it magically bends around him like poetry. In all the times he did this today, only once was there contact -- the driver stopped in a surprisingly sudden manner and I looked behind us to see a dazed scooter driver, eyes lowered, back away from our bumper after a loud thud -- and life went on.
Of course, it's one thing to be driven through this and another to be risking your life crossing two lanes of chaos. The rule is to walk in a straight line at a constant speed and make no sudden movements. Face down the scooter drivers but keep moving -- they'll buzz around you as long as they can predict where you'll be. This requires a level of trust in your fellow Vietnamese humans, but it does work. Cars will also try to avoid you but I never advanced to the cross-in-front-of-the-bus stage -- that might take a few mionths in Hanoi to manage.
Of course, there are stories of visitors who have been hit by traffic. So do be careful!
- Casino and Gambling
- Hiking and Walking
Avoid APT guesthouse and APT travel, The arrangement was to pick me up from my current hotel, go for a day trip and then get dropped off at APT guesthouse.
Upon completion of the trip at 1830hrs, I was informed that the room i had earlier booked was not available. So I had to walk around with all my luggage to look for alternate accommodations. Fortunately I had a plan B but walking the streets of old quarter with a big rucksack is definitely a magnet for hotel touts. not recommended.
Watch out for those mopeds!!!
Mopeds are everywhere in Vietnam, especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. We saw several accidents while we were there and sometimes one moped can be carrying the whole family on it!!! To cross the road, you just have to be brave and cross confidently. DO NOT STOP while crossing as this is more likely to cause an accident - believe me, the bikes will avoid you, although it is daunting the first few times you do it!!!
One of the biggest dangers around Hanoi comes in the form of two wheels. It doesn't matter whether they are bicycles, scooters or mopeds, there's thousands of them! The roads in Hanoi can be anything from wide to narrow but they always seem to manage to get a least 2 lanes of traffic on each side.
There are very, very few traffic lights or pedestrian crossings so to get anywhere you simply have to grin, bear it and walk like a local - I'm walking here, this is my road and I own it.
Step out with logic and confidence (not directly in front of a moving vehicle) and simply walk! Two-wheeled vehicles will work their way around you or simply slow up so long as you walk with confidence!
- Budget Travel
BEWARE OF SINH CAFE IN HANOI!!!
I would like to warn Hanoi travellers about SINH CAFE located at 100 Ma May Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. This tour agency is managed by Hang or Nang and Oanh, two very cunning and scheming vietnamese women who will con you and make all kinds of promises which they cannot deliver! I booked a 2-nite hotel stay with them at HUE SPORTS HOTEL in Hue and paid US$38 up front. I was promised and continuously reassured that I will have a room available at 8:00 in the morning, upon arrival in Hue Airport. When I tried to check into the hotel, I was told by the hotel staff that check in time is 2 PM. I was so tired from the trip since I took the 6 AM flight from Hanoi to Hue and went to the airport at 6 AM, to arrive in Hue at 7 AM. When I insisted with the HUE SPORTS HOTEL staff that I was assured of the room, they told me NO, i have to wait till 2 PM. THey told me to join their city tour first which they wanted me to pay US$10 for when the same actually costs only US$8. I told them I wanted to rest first and demanded a room. WHen they didnt want to give me a room, I told them I want to cancel the booking and asked for a refund. THey REFUSED to give me a refund and I ended up staying at a guesthouse which had a room for US$8. When i got back to Hanoi, I went back to SInh Cafe, told them what happened and asked for a refund. THEY REFUSED! I had to go to the Hanoi Police to report the crime and the police were of no help. THey said it was not their duty to help. I was assisted by a Vietnamese friend in reporting to the police.
SO, PLEASE BEWARE of this SINH CAFE travel agency. They are no good and make travelling in Hanoi a truly terrible experience!
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