I arrived in Saigon and traveled by train to Hanoi stopping in Hoi An .
Saigon didn't offer many interesting things and if I knew better I would have spend 0 days here so I had more time in Hoi An. The air quality in Saigon is terrible, if you come here have dinner at Monsoon Restaurant (very good). I went to the Ben Thanh Market, the sellers mostly woman will harass you until you just want to run out the door which it took me about 3 minutes.
The train to Hoi An from Saigon was delayed and I arrived in Hoi An 23 hours late, because of the delay I ended up traveling by train during the day which made it worthwhile, otherwise I would not recommend. Hoi An was an amazing little town and I highly recommend. I stayed at the Hoi Au Hotel and it was fantastic, I highly recommend.
In Hanoi I stayed at the Splendid Star Grand Hotel and I liked it very much and would recommend as well. Hanoi was OK in my opinion, I had a lot of bad experiences with taxi cabs from taking the long way to giving me counterfeit money. I am actually going to write a separate post on the details because the taxi scams were rampant considering I only stayed in Hanoi for 3 days.
Hanoi was better than Saigon but not great, the air is also very dirty with all the scooters, most people don't speak English and are not very friendly, maybe I was spoiled in Thailand.
Ha Long Bay was well worth it, I took the 1 night 2 day cruise BUT in reality I only spent about 24 hours in Ha Long Bay.
You leave Hanoi and arrive in Ha Long around noon. By the time you are on the boat and the cruise officially starts it is 1PM. An hour long until you arrive at your spot and it is about 2PM. The boat leaves Ha Long Bay on the next day by 11AM, total time is less than 24 hours.
My suggestions are:
-more days in Hoi An
-3 days max in Hanoi
-take the 3 day cruise instead of 2 in Ha Long Bay
-avoid the train unless you are traveling during the day
- lastly in case you are pondering Vietnam or Thailand, it is Thailand hands down.
If you want more details just post your question.
#1 xan310 has been a member since 10/1/2012. Posts: 14
Good report! Taxi scams very popular in Vietnam. We often asked for the prices before we get in. Most of the times were called by our hotel receptionist so I think it's better than doing it ourselves.
We also advised to take 3 days in Halong Bay and it was a wonderful time, the highlight of our trip and we also would recommend that!
Hoian is nice but a little bit small. Try Sapa next time if you can! It is a wonderful place too!
#2 susannna has been a member since 6/4/2012. Posts: 22
I took a cab from the train station to my hotel and when I got to the front desk I asked them how much it should be, they told me maximum 80k, I got charged by their meter 200k. That was on my first day so after that I was alert. I took another cab to the tour company to get to ha long bay and it was 25k, on the way back I took a cab back to the hotel and after driving for 3 blocks the meter was showing 48k. I noticed the price in the meter was jumping a lot faster than normal like every 20 seconds instead of every minute, I quickly told him to pull over and we had a heated argument. Now what pissed me off the most is that one of the cabs passed me a fake 200k bill. It is very easy to get tricked because when you get your change you quickly count it and get out.
The bill looks very much like the original and if you getting it along with other bills it is almost impossible to tell. The bill had 2 punch holes in it, I was told that the bank punches 2 holes on them when someone tries to deposit it. Apparently they return the fake bills to the person trying to deposit instead of destroying it.
#3 xan310 has been a member since 10/1/2012. Posts: 14
We had the same experience with the cabs from the train station but we had our hotel negotiate the price for us when we arrived at the hotel. We were then advised that the cabs will charge more for that route as it was in the early morning. One more things is that the price is various among taxi brands so should check their price before you decide which taxi to take!
#4 susannna has been a member since 6/4/2012. Posts: 22
Sorry to hear about the taxi problems. As advised in other posts, do try to take Mai Linh taxis where possible - at the train station there are usually lots of Mai Linh parked right by the train tracks. They're not 100% foolproof but better than most. The Taxi Group taxis are usually OK too but they are expensive. ABC is another OK one. Small taxis I use regularly and without problem are Thanh Nga and Phu Dong.
And cabs don't charge more because it's early morning - they charge more because they think they can get away with it.
Yes, one more votes for Mai Linh. Ask for a card or note down their numbers so you can use. I heard that Mai Linh operates in all parts of Vietnam.
#6 susannna has been a member since 6/4/2012. Posts: 22
Yeah, the taxi situation can sometimes be tricky
I always, always try to use Mai Linh - White & Green
We have been over charged twice by taxis, once by a Mai Linh* and once by a taxi driver who insisted we traveled with our backpacks on the front seat (covering the meter)
*when getting in a Mai Linh taxi, make sure the drivers box is covered with a see through box and tied with plastic ties!