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Most people arrive at the Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), 35 km (45-60 minutes) north of the city. The airport might seem relatively small considering Hanoi's importance to the country, but this might benefit travelers by making the airport easy to navigate and no need to arrive hours in advance (the limited waiting space is one reason why non-travelers are discouraged from entering the airport) to make sure there is plenty of room for those actually using and working in the airport. Several airlines run flights from Noi Bai, including:
AirAsia ☎+60 3 2171 9222) - Many good offers from Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
Asiana Airlines (Seoul-Incheon)
Cebu Pacific (Manila)
China Airlines (Taipei)
China Southern Airlines (Beijing, Guangzhou)
Dragon Air (Hong Kong)
EVA Air (Taipei)
Hong Kong Airlines (Hong Kong)
Indochina Airlines 63 Ly Thuong Kiet St. – Tran Hung Đao Ward – Hoan Kiem District. ☎ +84 4 3941 1411,
Japan Airlines (Kansai, Tokyo-Narita)
JetStar Asia/Pacific Airlines ☎ +84 4 9550550  - Discount Vietnamese carrier (formerly Pacific Air) for domestic flights and low-cost flights to/from Singapore.
Korean Air (Busan, Seoul-Incheon)
Lao Airlines - Small airline with 4 flights a week to/from Luang Prabang, Vientiane, and Phnom Penh.
Lot Polish Airlines (Warsaw)
Malaysia Airlines ☎ +60 3 7843 3000) - Daily flights from Kuala Lumpur.
PMTair (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap)
Qatar Airways (Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Doha)
Shanghai Airlines (Shanghai)
Singapore Airlines ☎ +84 4 3826 8888)- Full-service airline with daily flights to/from Singapore.
Thai Airways International - Two flights daily to/from Bangkok.
Tiger Airways (Singapore) ☎ +84 4 94 54565)
Uni Air (Kaohsiung)
Vietnam Airlines - 25 Tràng Thi (corner of Quang Trung) ☎ +84 4 934 9660 fax: +84 4 934 9620, - The primary national carrier.
Vladivostok Air (Vladivostok)
If departing from Noi Bai airport via Vietnam Airlines with no checked luggage, walk to the last airline check-in counter and to the right of it, there's a sign showing check-in for passengers without checked luggage. Using this counter is a great time saver if it applies to your journey.
From the airport
Taxis to central Hanoi can be hired at Noi Bai . There is a fixed price taxi stand right outside the exit, offering fares between US$10-16 into the city. It is slightly more expensive than the tout taxis, but you pre-pay for the trip, so no hassles about the fare. Other drivers may try to take you to a hotel of their choice to collect a commission, but if you are specific about your destination, they usually give in. As you leave the airport all sorts of US$ prices will be quoted by taxi agents, ranging from around US$15-$30. Be sure you have a clear price agreement with the driver before getting into the car as the price quoted by the agent may not be what the driver is expecting. If you have changed money into dong at the airport you can, of course, pay in local currency. The prevailing rate at the end of 2010 seemed to be around 350,000 dong. If you fly in late and don't want the taxi haggling hassles consider pre-arranging a private transfer with your hotel or book online at [YourLocalBooking.com]
If you already have a hotel booked, you might ask the hotel to dispatch a driver. The nicer hotels will do this and put the fare on your room bill.
Public buses to the city centre from Noi Bai airport take about 1,5 hour. Bus #07 crosses the Thang Long bridge and goes to the Daewoo Hotel on the western part of Hanoi (almost an hour on foot to the historical centre of Hanoi). Bus #17 crosses the Chuong Duong bridge and goes close to the old quarter, to Long Bien (just a few blocks from Hoan Kiem Lake - the destination of most tourists). Prices are 4,000 dong and 5,000 dong, respectively. To catch buses 7 or 17, go to the 2nd floor of the terminal, proceed outside, and walk along the ramp to your left. The ramp, like a highway overpass, will take you to the other side of the road than if you had just exited on the 1st floor arrivals section. Buses 7 and 17 depart from right at the end of the ramp. However, baggage is not permitted aboard the buses, so you may need to wait a few minutes to try your luck several times or give the conductor a small bribe, i.e. paying for the baggage as well. Don't listen to taxi drivers or shuttle bus operators that claim the stop for the public buses is a few kilometers away or that service has been terminated. Public buses operate from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Shuttle-buses from the airport to Hanoi stop at the Vietnam Airlines Office on 1 Quang Trung (a bit south of the old quarter but conveniently stocked with taxis and motorbike drivers, of course!). Tickets are sold in the building in front of which the minibuses park, or you can give the fare directly to the driver. The cost is US$2 or 40,000 dong for foreigners (insurance reason), and 35,000 dong for Vietnamese (which includes VN-Americans),which rate is indicated on the sticker fixed to the bus's body. The driver will potentially give you trouble if you have additional bags, but if you push, you will get the same US$2 rate. They also try the 'typhoon in Ha Long Bay' scam whereby they take you to a street where you cannot see the hotel name and tell you that the Ha Long Bay guests are still in the hotel and they will take you to their other hotel for the same price. This place is a complete dive facing the highway. You should also beware the drivers trying to offer you a ride to your hotel for US$5, claiming the Old Quarter is 5km from the office - it is much cheaper to go to the Vietnam Airlines office and switch to a taxi (or walk, it's 2km MAX to anywhere in the Old Quarter). The taxi will not cost more than the US$3 price differential and if it does, you should refuse to pay as the driver has cheated you somehow. The shuttle buses are also available to get to airport hourly.
Trains to Nanning, China depart from Gia Lam Station (GPS 21.05213,105.87939), about 5km north-east of Hanoi Station, although tickets can be purchased from Hanoi Station. A ticket for a soft sleeper compartment (4-berth compartment) costs 568,000 dong per person. Be cautious buying these tickets from hotels or travel agents in the Old Quarter, as they may quote prices substatially higher.
All other trains use the main Hanoi train station (Ga Hang Co, 120 Le Duan, ☎ +84 4 825 3949), for daily services from cities in the south including Hue and Nha Trang. The Reunification Express goes all the way to Ho Chi Minh City, although there is very little 'express' about it.
There are also train services to the north-west (including Lao Cai, from which you reach Sapa. To board trains bound for these destinations, you have to enter the railway station compound through the "backdoor" at Tran Quy Cap station. Just tell your driver which destination your train is heading to. Be mindful of any "helpful" stranger who offers to carry your luggage - he probably has a sum more than the cost of the ticket in mind for the help.
Tickets for all destinations are sold in the main station, though there are two counter halls, north and south, serving the respective destinations.
Technically, there is a queuing system in place to buy tickets at Hanoi Station which involves obtaining a numbered docket and waiting to be called up to one of the ticket counters. In practice, the process is chaotic and many locals disregard the system altogether, often pushing their way to the counters to be served. If travelling to Nanning, China, it is advisable to ask a staff member where to go, as not all counters can sell these tickets.
Buy your tickets as early as possible, especially since sleeper-tickets can be sold out several days in advance. If you can't get a ticket anymore, try a travel-agent who still might have stocks. You may also try your luck in the station just before boarding time, agents still holding tickets will be eager to sell as the departure draws near. Nevertheless, travel agencies in Hanoi are known for their bad business practices. Some of them will try to overcharge you up to 300%, so it is better go to the train station by yourself and find out about the prices before you agree on any deal.
Most of the "open-tour" bus itineraries either begin or end in Hanoi, with Hue the next (or previous) stop (12-14 hr, US$8-9), and from there to Hoi An, Nha Trang, Dalat, Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh City, and other cities in Vietnam, depending on the bus company. Most seem to stop at their office which could be right next to the old district / most backpacker hotels. Check when booking ticket.
Many of the same companies also sell tickets to Vientiane and Savannakhet in Laos (US$16-18). Do some research before you buy a ticket as rattle-trap scam buses abound on this route.
See Ho Chi Minh City to Shanghai overland if you're interested in crossing over to China by bus or train.
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