Getting there and away
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. Carriers like Jetstar fly domestic routes and tend to be cheaper than Vietnam Airlines.
Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport is located 45km from central Hanoi. Getting there is easy, with options to suit all budgets.
By public bus
Public buses 7 and 17 pick up along Tran Quang Khai at the eastern edge of the Old Quarter and cost 5,000 dong. It's the cheapest but slowest option: allow two hours' bus time before check in.
By airport shuttle
Next cheapest and by far the best option is one of the airport shuttles, which usually cost around 30,000 dong. The one that picks up from the Thang Long Opera Hotel is reliable and easy to get to:
Thang Long Opera Hotel
1C Tong Dan, Hoan Kiem
T: (04) 3824 4775, F: (04) 3824 4784
Or you can check in at any Vietnam Airlines office for a schedule of their shuttle. They generally start at 04:30 and knock 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.
Taxis should cost around 250,000 dong per trip for up to four people if you can fit all your stuff in the cab with you. A 7-passenger car should be about $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 sound-alike 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) Don't take a taxi. Do 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 250,000 dong 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, but ultimately, it's they who must back down, not you.
(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!
Have an update or correction?
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 St. 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.
Tickets for trains from Station B can be bought at Station A up to 24 hours in advance, and at Station B itself up to 3 hours before departure.
Tourists mostly head to Station B for trains to Sapa, which has no station, but trains stop at the nearby town of Lao Cai, 40km away. Regular shuttles from Lao Cai station to Sapa cost $2. Jeeps and moto-taxis are also available. Lao Cai is just under 300km from Hanoi, and the trip usually takes 9 or 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 216,000 to 260,000 dong and soft sleeper bunks with air-con from 313,000 dong.
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 5:55, 12:25, 10:05, 19:00 and 23:00. Sample fair and trip times include:
Hue Hard sleeper with air-con: 318,000–540,000 dong, soft sleeper with air-con: 495,000–548,000 dong, 13 hours
Da Nang Hard sleeper with air-con: 470,000–597,000 dong, soft sleeper with air-con: 548,000–607,000 dong, 15.5 hours
Nha Trang Hard sleeper with air-con: 850,000–1,078,000 dong, soft sleeper with air-con: 990,000–1,097,000 dong, 25.5 hours
Ho Chi Minh City Hard sleeper with air-con: 950,000–1,117,000 dong, soft sleeper with air-con: 1,073,000–1,190,000 dong, 33 hours.
There are departures from the central Hanoi station to Hai Phong, but some originate from Long Bien, on the west side of the Red River, only about 2km 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 38,000 dong or less from 05:00 to 21:00.
The Hai Phong trains starting from Long Bien ONLY 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 in advance before you board. Take note that in Vietnamese, Beijing is Bac Kinh, and Nanning is Nam Ninh. Prices are denominated in Swiss Francs! But, don't worry, you can pay in dong. In May 2010 the rate was about 17,500 dong to the CHF, but go to www.xe.com for the current exchange rate.
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. The price is 204.13 CHF for a hard, 299.03 CHF for a soft sleeper. These are the only two classes available.
These same trains stop at Nanning, 396km away, at 06:30 the next morning (12 hours) so you could break up the trip if you like. Hard sleepers go for 52.60, and soft ones for 76.09 CHF.
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 20.29 CHF for a hard and 31.53 CHF for a soft sleeper. They depart at 21:40 and arrive in Nanning at 09:12 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. Try:
40 Luong Ngoc Quyen
T: (04) 3926 1568, F: (04) 3926 1621
One note: 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.
Have an update or correction?
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 do better 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 5548–9, ticketing open 06:00 to 18:00
My Dinh is a 7km 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 until it becomes Kim Ma. Continue straight, following a roundabout to Cua Giay, continuing until the road crosses under an overpass. Take a left on to Pham Hung.
Cao Bang: Departs from 06:15 to 17:00 (15 departures), costs 117,000 dong, 10 hours
Dien Bien: Sleeper buses depart at at16:00, 16:30, 17:30, 18:00 and 20:00, costs 300,000 dong, 8 hours
Ha Giang: Departs from 04:10 to 06:00 (6 departures), costs 120,000 dong, 6 hours
Hoa Binh: Departs from 05:15 to 17:45 (30 departures), costs 30,000 dong, 1 hour
Lai Chau: Departs at 06:00, costs 188,000 dong, 3 hours
Mai Chau: Departs at 06:00, 14:00 and 14:30, costs 50,000 dong, 2 hours
Mong Cai: Departs at 07:30 onwards (30 departures), 110,000 dong, 10 hours
Nho Quan (for Cuc Phuong Nat'l Park): Departs at 06:15, 08:00, 13:00 and 16:20, costs 50,000 dong, 3 hours
Ninh Binh: Departs regularly from 09:40 to 17:00, costs 45,000 dong, 3 hours
Son La: Departs at 07:00 and 08:00, costs 120,000 dong, 7 hours
Thanh Hoa: Departs at 12:35 and 13:00, costs 75,000 dong, 4 hours
Vinh: Departs from 05:30 to 17:00 (11 departures), costs 110,000 dong, 5.5 hours
Bai Chay (Halong Bay): 37 departures from 06:00 to 18:00, costs 60,000 dong, 3 hours
Bac Kan (for Ba Be Nat'l Park): Departs 06:20, 11:30, 12:30, 12:45 and 13:00, costs 50,000 dong, 3.5 hours
Buon Me Thuot: Departs 12:30 and 13:20, costs 370,000 dong, 45 hours
Southern Bus Terminal
Ben Xe Phia Nam T: (04) 3864 1467, ticketing 05:00 to 18:00
Located 5 km south of the Old Quarter on Duong Giai.
Departures are available to the north and east as well as the south. Sleeper buses to Saigon leave from Luong Yen station, but the sleeper to Hue/Da Nang only departs from here. Saigon buses here can be cheaper, but only if you can do without a bed, food and a toilet on the bus. Otherwise, spring for the sleeper. Buses to towns in the Central Highlands are available here, but may take as long as two days to reach their destination.
Cao Bang: Departs at 06:30, 07:30 and 17:00, costs 105,000 dong, 10 hours
Hue/Da Nang: First class sleeper with food departs at 16:00, 17:00 and 18:00, costs 245,000 dong. First class with food departs at 14:00 and 15:00, costs 190,000 dong, 14 to 16 hours
Lang Son: Departs hourly from 06:00 to 15:00, costs 60,000 dong, takes 3.5 hours
Ninh Binh: Departs frequently from 6:00 to 16:55, costs 45,000 dong, 3 hours
Saigon: First class bus, food service, departs at 11:00 and 13:00, costs 510,000 dong. Second class bus, food service, departs at 18:00 and costs 425,000 dong. Normal bus, no food departs at 10:00 and 15:00, costs 355,000 dong, 35 to 40 hours.
Thanh Hoa: Departs every 10 minutes from 05:00 to 19:40, 60,000 dong, 3 hours
Buon Me Thuot: Departs 06:00, 07:00, 08:00, 09:00, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 12:00 and 15:00, costs 370,000 dong with food, 45 hours
Da Lat: Departs 09:00, 11:00 and 16:00, costs 330,000 dong with food, takes 2 days.
Gia Lai (Pleiku): Departs 08:00, 09:00, 11:00, 12:00 and 14:30, 330 to 390,000 dong, takes nearly 2 days
Kon Tum: Departs 09:00, costs 380,000 with food, takes nearly 2 days
Mong Cai: Departs 19:00 and 20:00, costs 150,000 dong, 10 hours
Dien Bien: 7 departures from 06:00 to 18:00, 200 to 265,000 dong with food, 8 hours
Lai Chau: Departs 16:30, 18:00 and 19:00, costs 230,000 with food, 3 hours
Gia Lam Bus Station
Ben Xe Gia Lam T: (04) 3827 1529, ticketing 06:00 to 17:30
This station is located east of the Red River on Ngo Gia Kham, 2km 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 2km later there's a sign indicating a right turn for the bus station and a left turn for the train station.
Hai Phong: Departs from 06:50 to 17:30 every 20 minutes. Costs 48,000 dong, takes 2 hours
Hon Gai (Halong City): Departs at 05:10 to 18:30, every 20 minutes, costs 60,000 dong, takes 4 hours
Lao Cai: Departs at 19:00, costs 150,000 dong
Lang Son: Departs every 30 minutes from 05:30 to 17:00, costs 60,000 dong and takes 5 hours
Mong Cai: 12 departures from 06:00 to 19:00, costs 150,000 dong and takes 9 hours
Thai Binh: Departs at 10:30 and 14:30, costs 55,000 dong.
Luong Yen Bus Station
Ben Xe Luong Yen T: (04) 3942 0477, 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 2km south. It's good for departures to Hai Phong and other points north, east and south.
Also, sleeper buses to Mien Dong Station in Ho Chi Minh City depart from here, cost 590,000 dong, with 10 departures, every 2 hours from 07:00 to 23:00. These buses make stops along the way, costs and travel times are as follows (running down the coast):
Dong Ha (Quang Tri): 220,000 dong, 12 hours
Hue: 230,000 dong.13 hours
Da Nang: 250,000 dong, 15 hours
Quang Ngai: 370,000 dong, 18 hours
Nha Trang: 510,000 dong, 26 hours
Phan Thiet (Mue Ne): 580,000 dong, 35 hours
Ho Chi Minh City: 590, dong, 36 hours
Other departures include:
Cao Bang: 7 departures from 07:30 to 20:30, costs 120,000 dong, 8 hours
Cat Ba Town: Departs at 05:20, 07:20, 11:20 and 13:20, costs 180,000 dong (including ferry transfer), 4 hours
Dong Ha: Departs at 17:30 and 16:30, costs 120,000 dong
Hai Phong: Departs every 10 minutes from 04:50 to 21:00, costs 50,000 dong, 2 hours
Lang Son: Departs every 15 minutes from 05:15 to 18:30, costs 60,000 dong, 4 hours
Mong Cai: 12 departures from 04:30 to 21:00, costs 120,000 dong, 8 hours
Ninh Binh: Departs at 12:00, costs 50,000 dong, 2 hours 15 mins
Thanh Hoa: Departs at 10:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 16:00, costs 50,000 dong, 4 hours
Vinh: Departs at 11:00, costs 90,000 dong
Ha Giang: Departs at 03:00, costs 125,000 dong, 6 hours
It's true that the international buses out of Hanoi are still pretty sketchy. Operators have had trouble sustaining profitable routes and cost-cutting has lead to scams, rip-offs and even some fatal accidents. But we reckon they are no worse than a lot of the buses in Thailand -- or India for that matter -- just unusually poor for Vietnam.
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 250,000 dong for the 22-hour trip, and you'll have to have your Laos visa in advance. There is no toilet on the bus, but it stops regularly for breaks.
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, in 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 $20. 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
Buses to Cambodia
We don't know anyone that's tried it, but there are three daily departures to Phnom Penh at 06:30, 08:00 and 09:00 arriving at 12:30, 14:00 and 15:00 the next day. They cost 910,000 dong and Cambodia visas can be purchased at the border. Check Sinh Tourist for more info.
40 Luong Ngoc Quyen
T: (04) 3926 1568, F: (04) 3926 1621
Updates from Travelfish readers
Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu sleeper bus takes 12:30 hours, not 8. Tickets are 370.000d (update April 2013)
Update by 8fra0 (1)
Written on 11th May, 2013
Have an update or correction?
Short trips within Hanoi on a xe om (motorcycle taxi) run 10,000 dong 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 dong 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: 40,000 dong
Long Bien Train Station: 20,000 dong
Luong Yen Bus Station: 30,000 dong
Hanoi Train Station: 20,000 dong
Southern Bus Station: 40,000 dong
Gia Lam Bus/Train Station: 30,000 dong
My Dinh Bus Station: 100,000 dong
Long Bien Train Station: 30,000 dong
Luong Yen Bus Station: 50,000 dong
Hanoi Train Station: 40,000 dong
Southern Bus Station: 70,000 dong
Gia Lam Bus/Train Station: 60,000 dong
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. Honda Dreams with a 125 cc engine are $10 a day, Minsks are $10, and newer Honda Waves with 250 cc engines and other more powerful bikes range from $25 to 35 per day. If you're headed on a long trip, they want a $300 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 sidestreets. 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.
4 Luong Ngoc Quyen
Phone: (04) 3926 4214
Service: (0904) 226 885
Hours: 08:00 to 18:00
Motorbikes and Bicycles
5E Dinh Liet
T: (04) 3926 1589
Home: (04) 3828 0164
Mobile: (0912) 265 334
Hours: 7:00 to 19:00
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, but on our last visit, the English version wasn't working:
Updates from Travelfish readers
I don't think you should be writing that you don't need a Motor bike licence in Vietnam to rent a motor bike. This is telling people that they can do something illegal. It is illegal to ride a motor bike in Vietnam without a licence. You can only obtain one in Vietnam and it will take 5-6 day to get. If you are in an accident then you will be held responsible whether you were in the right or wrong because you are illegally riding a motorbike. You will also not get any travel insurance that will cover injury.
I understand that people do this all the time and there are plenty of people to rent bikes to you and the police will not do anything accept ask for some money, but it is the problems you will face if there is an accident.
Update by JanH (1)
Written on 27th February, 2013
Have an update or correction?
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From the blogs
4:52 am, 26 Jan 2013
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