One thing you will notice the very first day in Hanoi is people do not pay any attention to pedestrians. So, you have to follow some very simple rules if you even hope to cross a street. First, be aggressive. There is always someone on a motorcycle in front of you and you just have to get out in the street and stake your claim. Second, do not stop. This only confuses the drivers. They are quite adept at weaving around pedestrians if you keep walking at an even pace. I rarely saw any accidents so don’t sweat it too much.
Traffic here is chaotic ! There are traffic lights, of course, but not in many streets / roads.
As I was more or less based around the Old Quarter area, the streets are really narrow and filled with motorcycles most of the time. One has to be confident, look for a little opening between masses of moving vehicles and gingerly walk across the road.
Have ya ever met a pirate? Never, matey? Ya'll be meetin' those darn bandits in Hanoi the moment ya flag a cab. Aye! 1 out 5 cabs you hail in hanoi will be a pirate. Those blasted land lubbers in cabs are more crooked than Long John Silver and Polly put together. Ya know ya got a cutlass pointin' at ya when..
1)Your cab stops a distance from the hotel lobby and refuses to go near it..
2)The cab meters runs like speedy gonzales instead of clicking dutifully with the distance
3)You get charged about US$5 for a short ride within the city
4) The cab meter starts at 20,000D or more
(Starting fare is 14,000)
Hubby and I were charged about USD5 or USD6 for a short 1km ride many times. On top of that, we got colourful piratey swear words when we insisted on the correct amount. Damm those blasted, barnacle-headed cabbies! Same goes for Xe Om drivers and cyclo drivers. They've got lots to learn from their more honest HCMC mates.
I've been living in Hanoi for a few years, and I speak Vietnamese. I don't live an insular lifestyle by any stretch. I know how to relate to my neighbors, and I know what things cost. Even so, things go wrong.
Today my (Vietnamese) fiancee and I took a xe om (motorbike taxi) driven by a 50-something disabled man with facial hair and disheveled hair. His unusual motorbike had 3 wheels, and a seat in the back. He took us a couple of km on an errand around Hoan Kiem Lake visiting art supply stores. He seemed friendly enough, and we chatted in Vietnamese. After our 15 minute journey (half of which was waiting for us at stores), we got out.
Normally I never ask how much to pay, I know how much a ride like that costs. A nice air-conditioned taxi would be 50-70K dong, or around $4 (with tip for waiting). I always pay a xe om about half or a third that rate, so 20-25K dong would have been ok (about $1.50). My fiancee normally pays less, about 1K dong per km.
Other points of comparison:
--cyclo for one hour, 30K-40K
--nice taxi from the airport (45 min), 120K ($8)
--modern bus from Hanoi to Halong (3 hr), $10
Imagine my surprise when the man, told me I owed him $10 (about what I make in a full day of occasional consulting for a friend’s company, and 2x more than what most of my friends make in a day).
I thought I misheard him, and he repeated $10. I politely told him no, explaining I what I would pay less than half that for a taxi. I politely gave him 50K dong, and he sneered, rejecting the money, and began yelling, trying to get me to pay him to behave nicely. I replied softly, asking him to calm down. To no avail. He threatened to kill me. Sad, but true.
Better to avoid doing business with Mr. Tran Hung. He often parks his 3-wheel xe om at the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake.
There are plenty of other good xe om and taxi drivers. There are no tourist police in Hanoi like there are in Bangkok, so you have no recourse. The police won’t help.
Know what things cost, and always negotiate the price up front.
Food can be quite dangerous in Vietnam. As you probably all have heard, many birds suffer from a dangerous illness which is also infectious for humans. Eating chicken or ducks may be risky. The same is true for fruits - be sure to peel them and remove any parts that may be bad for your health. Drinking may be risky, too: Often the ice cubes used are made of water that has not been boiled. I was terribly sick after drinking a lemon juice with bad ice.
A different kind of "danger" is the fact that when eating in non-touristy restaurants you won't find an English menu. In case you don't like dog meat, for instance, avoid Thit Cho. Vietnamese people eat many animals that are not common in the Western cuisine, so be prepared!
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!
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!
The danger in Hanoi is not to make bad photographs like the one above; it has been taken just when a guy tried to open my back pack and I turned back. . . . .
I was walking in the market area and noticed a young lady two or three times not far from me when turning left, right, stopping, going in shops. . . I knew something would happen, and when I was concentrated making a photograph, all senses alert, I felt somebody opening the pack on my back; the guy was on ground few milliseconds later, gesturing (Like hands up!) “I did nothing.!” My foot on his chest, I checked my back pack, he had no time to open it in fact, and looked around and glimpsed the girl disappearing in the crowd. . . .I let the guy go.
Well, happy end, but I am rather tall, the guy was quite short and had a very stupid idea trying to open my pack which I wear high on my back, very high for him.
No real danger, I had this experience only on my first day here, and there are very few pick pockets apparently in Hanoi, but do not facilitate their “job”. Wear your belongings under the shirt or inside pants , and if you wear a back pack, I may suggest to do following: tie the zippers together with a metallic wire, tightly turned; I did this after, when going in crowded places, it may be a bit unpractical if you need to open it every 5 mn, but . . . . well, look where your priorities are! And as usual, no “provocation”! Wearing watches or jewellery worth a year local individual income can easily attract the swift hands of the pick pockets.
Traffic throughout Vietnam is chaotic and traffic laws and traffic lights seem to be mere suggestions there. In the old city of Hanoi, crossing the streets is exceptionally difficult because there is a constant stream of cars and motorbikes and they do not stop for anything. At intersections, traffic from different directions merely try to weave around each other with no order.
As a foreigner from a country where traffic laws are both strict and obeyed, this was mind-blowing. And how in the world is a pedestrian supposed to cross these streets, because the traffic certainly won't stop for you.
The trick is to walk into the traffic and across the street very calmly and slowly. Don't be frightened of the approaching traffic, as they will swerve around you on both sides but never actually hit you. But do not attempt to run across the street or make other sudden moves, as then the traffic will not have time to react to your movements and consequently hit you. This may sound like suicide, but trust me... it works! (see photo for an example of how its done)
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!
Luckily my wife and I did not encounter pickpockets and photo touts while at Hanoi, perhaps because both of us somewhat look like Vietnamese (some locals spoke to us in Vietnamese language). Although Hanoi is relatively safe as compared to Ho Chi Minh City in the south, it is important to take precautions, especially in the busy Old Quarter area which is really crowded. Always put precious items in front of you and somewhere safe. If you are in a group, always keep a lookout for each other and things will be OK. Another problem which I saw happening (luckily not to us) was photo touts which ask you to wear their hats, hold some of their items to take photos and then ask for money. This usually happened to Westerners so do take note.
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!!!
Before I went to Hanoi, I have read from other VT members about the chaotic traffic and many many motorcycles on the roads. All these are really true but there is still a way to cross the roads. As pointed out by other VT members, the trick is to look for a suitable time with slightly less traffic (you will never encounter no traffic, so forget about this), then start walking slowly across the road and the motorcycles will avoid you by going around. Try not to be unpredictable e.g. suddenly stopping, turn and walk back, sudden change of pace etc. If you are not sure, watch how other people do it and follow. It will be difficult at first but you will soon become an expert. This experience gets harder at night as due to lower visibility. However, not all roads in Hanoi are without traffic lights. The above problem is mainly in the Old Quarter area and the northern portion of Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of Restored Sword). Once you are at the French Quarter area south of this lake, there are traffic lights on the road and the motorcycles do stop at these traffic lights.
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