Jumping on an electric car for an hour-long tour is a fun and, if you're in a group, affordable way to get the lay of the land in Hanoi. A trip on these golf cart-like cars will help you to orientate yourself at the start of a trip and give you a taste of the city.
These environmentally friendly, open-air cars (with roofs) fit up to seven adults (officially) and will zip you around town along one of three routes. They'll let you have a peek around without having to worry about whether you’re going to get run over by a motorbike or trip over a pot of hot stock. Yes, walking around Old Quarter is great, but it can get tiresome and Hanoi can get repressively hot. They're a particularly good way to explore a little if you have kids in tow.
The Old Quarter route takes you around the best known of the Old Quarter's 36 streets, such as Hang Buom, Hang Bac and Ma May, and around Hoan Kiem lake. Route 2 zips you around the lake and places like Hanoi Railway Station, Hoa Lo Prison and the Opera House, while Route 3's stops include the Hanoi Pharmacy University, the Government Guesthouse, Quan Su Pagoda and the lake. We quite like Route 2's route, but all of them will give you a flavour of the city. There used to be recorded commentary to explain what you see, but it seems this has stopped. We haven't taken a ride recently, but it seems now the drivers will point out places, but without too much "guiding". Take a map, and try to follow along yourself to get the most out of the trip and be sure you don't miss anything.
If you want to book onto a tour independently, head to the north of Hoan Kiem, where you'll see a cluster of buggies lakeside and a ticket booth. Prices are per buggy: 200,000 dong for 35 minutes and 300,000 dong for an hour. Seven adults is a bit of a squeeze, so we'd count on six for a comfortable trip, or more if there are some kids involved. Per person, it's not a bad way to get introduced to Hanoi.
If you’re on your own or in a couple and don’t want to pay for a full cart, you can wait to join another group, but this could take some time. If you've got your own group, they may offer a pick-up service to your hotel—ask at the hotel. Operating hours at 08:30-22:00.
Samantha Brown is a reformed news reporter. She now edits most of the stuff you read on Travelfish.org, except for when you find a typo, and then that's something she wasn't allowed to look at.