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Hanoi

Getting there and away

Air

Domestic and international air tickets can be purchased around Hoan Kiem and online. Don't bother going to the airport to buy tickets, as the prices will be higher there.

Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport is located 45 kilometres from central Hanoi. Getting there is easy, with options to suit all budgets.

By public bus
Public bus is the cheapest but slowest option: allow two hours' bus time before check in. No. 7 picks up at Kim Ma bus station and 17 picks up along Tran Quang Khai at the eastern edge of the Old Quarter. Fare is 4,000 / 5,000 VND.

By airport shuttle
Next cheapest and by far the best option is one of the airport shuttles.

The Vietnam Airlines shuttle generally starts at 04:30 and knocks off at around 19:00. But be careful, as if they don't have enough people at the scheduled time they sometimes wait another hour. Make sure you have money for a cab as an emergency back up to make your flight on time. Buses depart from 1 Quang Trung just south of Trang Thi, to the southwest of the lake and you can buy your ticket there, about $2.

Jetstar picks up 206 Tran Quang Khai Street, to the east of Old Quarter. It’s a big, more comfortable bus than the Vietnam Airlines option, and costs just 35,000 VND. They advise you arrive at the office two hours, 30 minutes before flight time and you can check in at the office.

By taxi
Taxis should cost around $12 per trip for up to four people if you can fit all your stuff in the cab with you. A seven-passenger car should be about $15-$20 and works out well if you have a lot of stuff or are in a big group.

Getting from the airport to town is notoriously tricky due to the various taxi scams. Tourists are routinely overcharged, steered to the wrong hotel, or taken to a soundalike hotel that's a complete rip-off. It's too bad that this is so many travellers' first taste of Vietnam.

Tips to avoid getting ripped off
(a) Book a taxi in advance with an operator like Hanoi Airport Transfers or Noi Bai Taxis (04 3886 5615) or through your hotel. Take the shuttle or public bus. Once you get into town, taxis and xe oms are much more likely to take you where you want to go without any nonsense.
(b) If you take a taxi, buy a ticket at the stand for the posted price and wait in the line. This price should include the toll, so don't pay extra for it.
(c) Write down the address, exact name and phone number of your hotel before you get into the cab. If the driver tells you it's closed or full, insist on confirming that for yourself, and be sure to check the address when checking the hotel. Be assertive.
(d) In any case, a taxi from the airport to town should not be more than 380,000 VND per car (not per person).
(e) If you suspect you're being given a bum steer, don't get angry. Just keep insisting on being taken where you want to go, and simply refuse to pay more than the agreed-upon price. The scammers rely on tourists being too polite, and too exhausted to put up a fight.
(f) Finally, almost everyone gets ripped off a little bit when they first arrive in Hanoi. Budget for it, and don't take it personally if it happens to you!

Train

Hanoi's main train station is located not far from the centre of Hoan Kiem, on the border of Ba Dinh district on Le Duan Street. The easiest way to get here is to head west on Ly Thuong Kiet, which ends right at the station.

It's actually two stations: Station A for departures to the south, and Station B for the north. Although they're just across the tracks from each other, you can't walk between them -- you'll have to go via streets that take you around the block. This may come up, as trains scheduled to depart at one station are sometimes rerouted to the other for logistical reasons. Even if you're told exactly which station to go to, arrive early enough to switch stations. It only takes a few minutes, but the whole thing can be confusing.

Tourists mostly head to Station B for trains to Sapa, which has no station, but trains stop at the nearby town of Lao Cai, 40 kilometres away. Regular shuttles from Lao Cai station to Sapa cost about $2. Jeeps and moto-taxis are also available. Lao Cai is just under 300 kilometres from Hanoi, and the trip usually takes nine to 10 hours. Trains leave nightly at 20:35, 21:10 and 21:50 (the SP trains 7, 1 and 3) and arrive in Lao Cai at 4:55, 5:25 and 6:15 respectively. You'll be travelling in the dark so don't expect to see anything outside your window. But the great thing is you simply hop on board, tuck into your bunk, and when you wake up, you're there. The so-called 'hard sleepers' sound worse than they are; there's a thin mattress with a thick blanket and most travellers we've met have slept just fine using these. Prices for a hard sleeper bunk with air-con range from 355,000 to 450,000 VND and soft sleeper bunks with air-con from 515,000 VND.

You can book and catch trains south to Hue, Da Nang, Nha Trang, HCMC and other destinations in between from Station A. Southbound trains depart daily at 6:15, 15:45, 19:00, 21:55 and 23:00. Sample fair and trip times include:

Hue: Hard sleeper with air-con: 654,000–804,000 VND, soft sleeper with air-con: 840,000–850,000 VND, 13 hours
Da Nang: Hard sleeper with air-con: 724,000–890,000 VND, soft sleeper with air-con: 930,000–940,000 VND, 15.5 hours
Nha Trang: Hard sleeper with air-con: 1,250,000–1,536,000 VND, soft sleeper with air-con: 1,604,000–1,624,000 VND, 25.5 hours
Ho Chi Minh City: Hard sleeper with air-con: 1,355,000–1,666,000 VND, soft sleeper with air-con: 1,740,000–1,760,000 VND, 33 hours.

There is a departure from the central Hanoi station to Hai Phong at 06:00, but more originate from Long Bien, on the west side of the Red River, only about two kilometres from Hoan Kiem. You can buy tickets at the central station in Hanoi for these departures, but you'll need to be at Long Bien to catch your train, so make sure to double check. Or you can buy tickets at the Long Bien station itself for 65,000 VND or less from 05:00 to 21:00.

The Hai Phong trains from Long Bien are:
LP3 at 09:30 arriving 12:10
LP5 at 15:35 arriving 18:00
LP7 at 18:10 arriving 20:35

The Vietnamese government celebrates Tet (Lunar New Year) by raising the prices of all train tickets. It's different for each line, but the jump is about 10%, generally occurs two weeks before Tet and continues for a week or so afterwards. Book as far in advance as possible when travelling on or around Tet.

Trains to China
International trains between Beijing, China and Hanoi, Vietnam started up in 2008. Obviously, have your visa sorted out before you board. Take note that in Vietnamese, Beijing is Bac Kinh, and Nanning is Nam Ninh.

The Beijing trains run on Tuesdays and Fridays only and depart at 18:30 from the Hanoi Train Station A, arriving in Beijing two days (43 hours) later at about 12:00. It costs about $350.

These same trains stop at Nanning, 396 kilometres away, at 06:30 the next morning (12 hours) so you could break up the trip if you like. The fare is 1.5m VND.

But if you're going to Nanning, the daily trains out of Gia Lam station are much cheaper. The station is to the west on the other side of the Red River from Hoan Kiem district, a kilometre past the Chuong Duong bridge. Tickets cost 800,000 VND and the train departs at 21:40, arriving in Nanning at just after 09:00 the next morning.

All of these tickets can be booked at the station or at a travel agent, who will, of course, charge a small mark up.

When booking train tickets with a travel agent, you're generally not issued a ticket, but a voucher that will need to be exchanged with a tour company agent at the train station for an actual ticket. These agents hang out at the steps outside the staion. Show any one of them your voucher and they'll direct you to the person who will have your tickets. It's chaotic and confusing, but it works. Make sure to allow plenty of time prior to your departure to sort it all out.

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Bus

Hanoi is a massive transportation hub, with four bus stations and three train stations of use to foreigners. Sorting out where to go to get where you want to go can be time consuming, so often you will be better off paying for the convenience of booking through a hotel or travel agency. The prices below should give a general idea of how much extra you're paying. Those who like to do it on their own may want to factor in transport to the station when calculating the overall price. You won't always do better than booking a ticket through a hotel and getting picked up in town. Luong Yen and Gia Lam stations are the most convenient to the Old Quarter, so depart from there if you have a choice.

My Dinh Bus Station
Ben Xe My Dinh T: (04) 3768 5549; ticketing open 04:30-23:00.
My Dinh is a seven kilometre trek to the west of town. There are departures to dozens of northern cities, and a number of destinations to the south and east. Only the major destinations are listed below. To get here, take Tran Phu west from the Old Quarter, turn left at the end onto Son Tay and continue until it becomes Kim Ma. Keep going straight, following a roundabout to Cua Giay, continuing until the road crosses under an overpass. Take a left on to Pham Hung.

Bac Ha: Departs at 07:15, 08:15 and 09:35, costs 180,000 VND.
Bac Kan (for Ba Be Nat'l Park): 05.50, 06.20, 13.30 and 15.30, costs 100,000–180,000 VND, 3.5 hours
Bai Chay (Halong Bay): Departures every 15 minutes from 05:30 to 18:00, costs 90,000 VND, 3 hours
Cao Bang: Departs 05:00-20:00 (15 departures), costs 117,000 VND, 10 hours
Dien Bien: Departures 04:30-19:00, costs 350,000 VND, 8 hours
Ha Giang: Departs 03:40-06:00, costs 200,000 VND, 8 hours
Hoa Binh: Departs 05:00-17:00 (30 departures), costs 40,000 VND, 2 hours
Lai Chau: Departures every 30 minutes 17:00-20:00, costs 300,000 VND, 10 hours
Lao Cai: Departs at 07:30, costs 200,000 VND, 10 hours
Mai Chau: Departs at 06:00, 07:30, 14:00 and 14:30, costs 70,000 VND, 4 hours
Mong Cai: Departs from 07:30 onwards (30 departures), 230,000 VND, 10 hours
Nho Quan (for Cuc Phuong Nat'l Park): Departs 06:00-16:00 (every 15 minutes), costs 80,000 to 100,000 VND, 3 hours
Ninh Binh: Departs 06:00, 09:00, 14:00 and 17:00, costs 60,000 VND, 3 hours
Son La: Departures 07:00-20:00, costs 190,000 VND, 7 hours
Thanh Hoa: Departs at 08:30, 10:05, 10:15, 14:30 and 19:30, costs 75,000 VND, 4 hours
Vinh: Departs 05:00-20:00 (every 10 minutes), costs 150,000 VND, 5.5 hours

Southern Bus Terminal
Ben Xe Phia Nam T: (04) 3864 1467, ticketing 05:00 to 18:00
The Southern Bus terminal is located 5 kilometres south of the Old Quarter on Duong Giai and is dominated by private operators running comfortable buses on long distance routes, including to Vientiane. Departures are available to the north and east as well as the south. Buses to the Central Highlands run via Ho Chi Minh City.

Ha Tinh: Departs 07:40, 15:30, 21:15 and 21:40. 130,000 to 160,000 VND. Various operators.
Ho Chi Minh City: First class sleeper bus, food service, departs at 09:30, 11:15, 12:00, 16:00 and 17:30, costs 875,000 / 920,000 VND. Operators: MaiLinh, (04) 3633 6699, http://www.mailinhexpress.vn/ and Hoang Long Asia, (0313) 920 920, http://www.hoanglongasia.com.
Hue/Da Nang: First class sleeper with food departs at 16:00, costs 340,000 VND. First class seated with food departs at 17:00, costs 260,000 VND, 14 to 16 hours. Operator: Kim Chi, 0913 422 687
Quang Ngai: Departs 13:30 and 14:00, 370,000 VND. Operator: Chin Nghia, (0913) 422 687.
Quanh Binh: Departs 18:20, 170,000 VND. Operator: Xuat Ben, (0167) 828 2333.
Vientiene: Departs Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 19:00 and 19:30, 550,000 VND.
Vinh: Departs 08:20, 09:20, 15:00, 19:30, 21:00, 170,000 VND.

Gia Lam Bus Station
Ben Xe Gia Lam T: (04) 3827 1529, ticketing 05:00 to 18:00
This station is located east of the Red River on Ngo Gia Kham, two kilometres from the far side of the Chuong Duong or Long Bien Bridges. To get here, take either bridge then find Pho Ngoc Lam which runs east-west between the two bridges. Less than two kilometres later a sign indicates a right turn for the bus station and a left turn for the train station.

Hai Phong: Departs from 07:00 to 18:00 every hour except at 12:00. Costs 70,000 VND, takes 2 hours
Hon Gai (Halong City): Departs 06:00-16:00, every 20 minutes, costs 115,000 VND, takes 4 hours
Lao Cai: Departs at 18:00, costs 300,000 VND
Lang Son: Departs every 30 minutes from 06:00 to 12:00, costs 90,000 VND and takes 5 hours
Mong Cai: 12 departures from 06:00 to 19:00, costs 230,000 VND and takes 9 hours
Thai Binh: Departs at 10:30 and 14:30, costs 65,000 VND.

Luong Yen Bus Station
Ben Xe Luong Yen T: (04) 3987 4885, ticketing 06:00 to 23:00
For most travellers, this is the only bus station you'll ever need to visit, if any. It's the most convenient station to the Old Quarter. Just head to Tran Quang Khai on the east side of Hoan Kiem district and head two kilometres south. It's good for departures to Hai Phong and other points north, east and south.

Also, sleeper buses to Ho Chi Minh City depart from here, cost 920,000 VND, with 9 departures, every 2 hours from 07:00 to 23:00. These buses make stops along the way, approximate costs (based on Hoang Long bus company (http://www.hoanglongasia.com) and travel times are as follows (running down the coast):

Dong Ha (Quang Tri): 370,000, 12 hours
Hue: 360,000, 13 hours
Da Nang: 480,000, 15 hours
Quang Ngai: 550,000, 18 hours
Nha Trang: 750,000, 26 hours
Phan Thiet (Mui Ne): 860,000 VND, 35 hours
Ho Chi Minh City: 920,000 VND, 38 hours

Other departures include:

Cao Bang: 9 departures 07:30-20:30, costs 150,000–220,000 VND, 8 hours
Hai Phong: Departs every 10 minutes 04:50-21:00, costs 70,000 VND, 2 hours
Lang Son: Departs every 15 minutes 05:30-18:00, costs 60,000-80,000 VND, 4 hours
Ninh Binh: Departs at 12:00, costs 140,000 VND, 2 hours 15 mins
Thanh Hoa: Departs every 2 hours 05:00-23:00, costs 180,000 VND, 4 hours
Nam Dinh: 7 departures 07:00-16:30, costs 60,000 VND

Buses to Laos
Nightly buses depart at 18:30 for Vientiane and you may be able to arrange hotel pickup. Tickets can be booked at most hotels and travel agencies, cost $35 for the 22-hour trip, and you'll have to have your Laos visa in advance. You’ll save about $7 by buying direct (buses depart from the Southern Bus Terminal).

The roads are fine until you reach Laos proper, at which point things slow down considerably, and accidents have happened. There used to be through-buses, but our understanding is that at this point, you'll probably have to change buses at the border, and might even have to pay more money at that point, since if you don't, you'll be stranded in the middle of nowhere. So fly if you possibly can, and if going by land, any route you pick beside the one straight from Hanoi (or Dong Ha or Vinh) directly to Vientiane is a better choice. There are currently no through buses to Luang Prabang.

Buses to China
Through buses to China depart across the street from the Hong Ha Tourism office, at the hotel of the same name, on the west side of the Red River, along Tran Quang Khai. The buses have air-con and make frequent bathroom and food stops. Tickets cost $30. Purchase a day in advance and have your Chinese visa ready. Buses depart at 07:30 and 09:30, arriving in Nanning at 15:00 and 17:00 respectively the same day.

Hong Ha Tourism 204 Tran Quang Khai T: (04) 3824 7339

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Getting Around

Short trips within Hanoi on a xe om (motorcycle taxi) run 10,000 VND at a minimum. Metered taxis are also widely available, and often come out cheaper than a xe om for short trips, though they are slower and can't dodge traffic as well. For two or more people, a taxi is always cheaper than multiple xe oms.

It's pretty much understood that foreigners renting cyclos aren't really headed anywhere, they're just joyriding, and 100,000 VND per hour is quite sufficient compensation for your hard-working pedaller. You can bargain them down lower, but then you have to live with yourself. If you want to call a cab to pick you up, try Mai Linh at (04) 3861 6161 or Hanoi Taxi at (04) 3253 5353.

The following fares are approximate, priced from Hanoi's old quarter:

By xe om
My Dinh Bus Station: 50,000 VND
Long Bien Train Station: 20,000 VND
Luong Yen Bus Station: 30,000 VND
Hanoi Train Station: 30,000 VND
Southern Bus Station: 50,000 VND
Gia Lam Bus/Train Station: 40,000 VND

By taxi
My Dinh Bus Station: 120,000 VND
Long Bien Train Station: 30,000 VND
Luong Yen Bus Station: 50,000 VND
Hanoi Train Station: 40,000 VND
Southern Bus Station: 70,000 VND
Gia Lam Bus/Train Station: 70,000 VND

Motorbike rentals
Motorbike rentals are affordable and easy to find -- just look for the signs in English on Dinh Liet or Hang Bac. The standard rate is $5 a day, or $50 a month for a 100 CC Honda wave or something like it. They'll usually keep your passport in lieu of a deposit. If your hotel is holding on to yours, have the rental agent call the hotel and sort it out.

If you're thinking of heading out of town on a motorbike trek, and you've been dreaming of riding a Minsk, we recommend you head to Hanoi Minsk Motorcycles on Luong Ngoc Quyen right next to the Irish Wolfhound. You can rent or buy bikes here, and what you see in the small shop is just the tip of the iceberg -- they have access to dozens more off site. If you're headed on a long trip, they’ll want a deposit, which is fair enough, but if you're just tooling around town a passport is acceptable collateral. English is spoken and they really seem to love what they do. You'll find other shops scattered along Dinh Liet, Hang Bac and associated side streets. Currently, you don't need any kind of licence to rent if you're a foreigner, but keep an eye out as that may change, and if you cause an accident, it becomes an expensive issue to resolve.

Hanoi Minsk
4 Luong Ngoc Quyen. T: (04) 3926 4214. ngqhop@yahoo.com Hours: 08:00-18:00

Public buses
Hanoi Bus runs a comprehensive and very affordable public bus system throughout the city (and out to the airport). The buses are all numbered and ply some very handy routes. If you pick up a tourist map in Hanoi, make sure it is one that marks the bus routes on it. You can check out their website for detailed bus route information.
http://www.tramoc.com.vn/index.php

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