Getting from Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport into town gets bad press but if you know what’s what and don’t let a random taxi driver persuade you to pay them $20, you should be fine. Here are your options.
First up a 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 as 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. We’ve heard reports of unhelpful staff at the information desk refusing to explain where the buses go from. Ignore them and walk outside — taxis and private minibuses are usually straight ahead or to the left and airline buses are to the right.
Confirm the price first -- we 30,000 VND on our last trip -- and expect it to leave as soon as it is full, which usually doesn't take long. This option is popular with locals and the bus will stop off a few times to drop people off along the way. We can't guarantee where exactly you'll be dropped off, but it should 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
Jetstar also runs a transfer service for 30,000 VND in large, comfortable, bright orange coaches. When we tried them, they 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 from here, but most will prefer to take a short taxi ride. Just be careful — we’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 20,000 VND.
Unfortunately plenty of unscrupulous taxi drivers still prowl at the airport, waiting to pounce and over-charge, so if you are approached by an individual driver, politely say no and make your way outside to the official taxi ranks. A few different companies operate and they have a board up listing prices — it should cost 315,000 VND for a standard four-seater car. Don’t pay any more.
Alternatively try calling in advance. The best-rated operator at the moment is Hanoi Airport Transfer Service, which you can call (+84 912 881 885) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) in advance, or book through their website.
Most hotels will arrange 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 as this is Hanoi, do still be sure to check you’ve been taken to the correct address upon arrival.
We’ve not taken a public bus from the airport into town but this is the cheapest way to do it. The Numbers 7 and 17 both pick up at Arrivals and cost 5,000 VND — the price should be printed on the outside of the bus, by the door. Be warned the driver may not have any change if you only have large notes.
The Number 7 terminates at Kim Ma bus station. Then 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.