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Taxis are the best way to travel long distances, but the cyclos, or pedicabs, are a cheap way to make shorter trips. Taxi fares are not always consistent, and the rates for each taxi company have not been standardized. For lone travellers, rides on the back of motorbikes (actually low-powered scooters) are popular too (known as xe om, literally meaning motorbike-hug).
Some meter taxi owners in Hanoi will attempt to negotiate a flat fee in advance rather than use the meter. If you have a fair idea of how far you're going or how much you're willing to pay, this is probably a good idea. If the driver refuses, turning around and walking away will almost certainly change his mind. Don't sweat it, it's all part of the expected negotiation protocol. It has also become common for the drivers of some of the less reputable taxi companies to "fix" their meters to run faster hence running up a high bill very fast! The recommendation is to only use the reputable and reliable taxi companies. These are Hanoi Taxi, ☎ +84 4 3853 5353), Taxi CP, ☎ +84 4 3826 2626), Mai Linh Taxi , ☎ +84 4 3861 6161). Another common scam by taxis is that the driver takes you for a "sightseeing" - and extends the tour to make more money. This is very hard to discover unless you know the city well, but if you catch your driver doing this (e.g. going around Hoan Kiem Lake twice), demand that he stop the taxi and leave the taxi without paying.
Be very careful with meter taxis in Hanoi. Some have central locking, and are known to lock passengers in, and demand large amounts of US dollars before letting them go. The driver may threaten to have you beaten up or arrested should you not give in to his demands, but if you kick up enough of a fuss, they will let you go.
Most taxi drivers speak limited English, so it's a good practice to get your hotel to write the name and address of you destination in Vietnamese to show the taxi driver, and get your hotel's business card in case you get lost.
Be vigilant when taking a taxi - driver jumps out at destination and dumps most of your bags out of the trunk. While you're busy putting rucksack on he has taken off with your other bags.
Be vigilant also the meter which can run as far or even faster than a digital clock. Do keep an eye on the meter during the journey. Fare flag drops starting at 12,000 dong.
By motorbike driver
Motorbike drivers can be found on virtually every corner, especially in the Old Quarter. Expect to be offered a ride every half-block (or more). You should absolutely negotiate a fare in advance, and again, turn around and walk away if you don't like their offer. There are far more drivers than tourists, and they know it - your fare could be the only one they get all day. You should also write down the negotiated fare (with all zeros) to avoid confusion. Even if you do speak Vietnamese, a driver might pretend that you said 50,000 dong instead of 15,000, In case of argument over fares after the ride, keep calm and repeat the original agreement (remember, you have the leverage). A typical 10 min fare should cost no more than 15,000-20,000 dong. Many drivers will accept US dollars as well. At the end of a ride, some will offer to hang around to drive you to your next destination - either be clear that you don't want a return ride (and don't go near him when you leave), or get a price in advance. Otherwise, you might be surprised when the driver tacks on several million dong for having waited.
Keep your wallet out of arms reach of the drivers when you pay, less honest motorbike drivers are not adverse to grabbing your wallet and helping themselves to any notes they like the look of before jumping on their bike and speeding off.
Negotiate first or avoid using the cyclos services, they can demand 200,000 dong (US$12) for a short ride of less than 100 m (330 ft). At the end of the journey, a few men will come over to translate, and they will pretend to help and later insist that you pay the demanded amount.
Motorcycles can be rented for around US$5-6 a day, and can be arranged by most hotels. This is good for making lots of trips around the city for individuals or duos, but be careful: Hanoi traffic is very difficult place to sharpen motorbike skills. Park on the sidewalk with other bikes, and be sure to lock the front wheel. Locals will help arrange the bikes near their stores. Many shops that have bike attendants will give you a ticket in exchange for parking your bike. This may or may not come with a fee (typically ranging from 2,000-5,000 dong). The ticket will either have your license plate number written on it, or the ticket itself will be numbered, with that number subsequently chalked somewhere on your bike. In such cases (where you've been given a ticket), the attendants may ask that you NOT lock the steering column or front wheel of your bike so that they can rearrange the bikes as customers come and go.
Scam free, cheap but a bit difficult to comprehend at first, the buses in Hanoi are relatively fast and surprisingly comfortable. Pick up a map with printed bus lines at the Trang Tien street (the book street by the Opera house) and spend a few minutes to identify the over 60 bus lines, find your bus stop, wait for the bus, pay 3,000 dong and off you go. If you are unfamiliar with the city, make sure to inform the conductor where you want to get off.
List bus routes: English, Vietnamese
Bus maps: English, Vietnamese
Hanoi's traffic is chaotic, with seemingly perpetual traffic jams, and a large number of almost suicidal motorcyclists and pedestrians. As such, driving yourself around is not recommended, and you should leave your transportation needs in the hands of professionals.
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