Jan 07 2011
What better way to start a travel blog about Hanoi than by helping you get here in the first place! Getting from the airport into town gets bad press but I’ve travelled back from there three times so far and arranged pick-ups for friends and it’s always worked out OK. If you know what’s what and don’t let a random taxi driver persuade you to pay him $20, you should be fine.
However, just one word of caution — if you arrive on a late evening flight you’d be advised to book a taxi or hotel pick-up in advance: the buses stop running before the last flights and taxis get very cheeky, refusing to stick to the stated price.
The main rule is — don’t panic! Hanoi airport is actually very small and all of the transport options leave from directly outside the terminal. I’ve heard reports of very unhelpful staff at the information desk, refusing to give information about where the buses go from. Ignore them and walk outside — taxis and private minibuses are usually straight ahead / to the left and airline buses are to the right.
The first time I travelled into town from the airport I took a private minibus. I confirmed the price first — I paid 30,000VND (maybe the locals pay a bit less but let’s not get hung-up on that) — and it left as soon as it was full, which didn’t take long. It was crowded with locals, and stopped off a few times to drop people off, but was altogether fine. I can’t 100% guarantee where it’ll drop you off, but it’ll be central enough to walk or take a short taxi ride to where you do want to go. Just be prepared to be flexible and don’t expect any English to be spoken.
Airline transfer service
The next time I arrived back on a Jetstar flight and was accosted as soon as we left baggage reclaim by a Jetstar representative selling tickets for their bus for 30,000VND. We went with it and were led to a large comfortable, bright orange coach. It dropped us off at the Sofitel Plaza near Truc Bach Lake upon request, but it continues on to their office on Tran Quang Khai to the east of Hoan Kiem lake. For the energetic it’s possible to walk into town but most will prefer to take a short taxi ride. Just be careful — I’ve heard the taxis that pick up from here can be a bit dodgy so keep an eye on the meter.
Vietnam Airlines also runs a transfer service for the same price. The disadvantage is that it’s on a crowded minibus, but it has a convenient drop off on Quang Trung Street, just to the southwest of Hoan Kiem Lake and opposite their main office. With heavy bags you’ll probably want to jump in a taxi from there to your hotel but if you’re staying near St Joseph’s Cathedral it’s walkable. A taxi up to the centre of Old Quarter should only cost about 20,000VND.
Feeling a bit more flush, the next time we took a taxi. Unfortunately there are still plenty of unscrupulous taxi drivers at the airport, waiting to pounce and over-charge, so if you are approached politely say no and make your way outside to the official taxi ranks. We didn’t get any of this last time and went straight out to the taxi ranks where a few different companies were operating. They all have a board up listing prices — it should cost 315,000 VND* for a standard 4-seater car. Don’t pay any more.
* Price amended as at 28 March 2011.
Alternatively try calling in advance. The best-rated operator at the moment is Hanoi Airport Transfer Service, which you can call (+84 (0) 912 881 885) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) in advance, or book through their website.
When my parents came to visit I asked their hotel to arrange a pick-up. Most hotels will do this for you if you’ve pre-booked a room. They may charge a bit more than the taxis at the airport but the benefit is that there will be someone waiting for you at the airport and you’re almost guaranteed to get taken to the right hotel, but be sure to check you’ve been taken to the correct address upon arrival.
I’ve never taken a public bus but this is the cheapest way into town. The Numbers 7 and 17 both pick up at Arrivals and cost 5,000VND — the price should be printed on the outside of the bus, by the door. The problem you might have, if you’ve just arrived in Vietnam, is getting any change out of the bus driver if you’ve only got big notes.
The Number 7 terminates at Kim Ma bus station. It’ll cost around 35,000 for a taxi, depending upon size of taxi and where you are heading, or take a motorbike taxi — aim for 20,000 but be prepared to pay 30,000.
The Number 17 terminates at Long Bien bus station. This is to the north of Old Quarter and about a 20-minute walk to the hotels on that side of town, or a short taxi ride.
Travelfish’s Hanoi Transport section gives some information about getting back to the airport as well as tips on how to avoid being ripped off.
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