Hanoi Transportation: Getting In, Getting Around Tips

GM Tran

February 2, 2024

Getting around Hanoi can seem intimidating at first glance. With hordes of scooters crowding the streets, crossing roads can feel like a death-defying act. The congested Old Quarter offers picturesque scenes but maneuvering its tiny streets is another challenge.However, don’t let the chaos scare you away. With some handy tips, getting in, around and out of Hanoi can be easy. This comprehensive guide covers all the transportation options for traveling to, from and within Vietnam's bustling capital.

1. Overview of Hanoi Transportation

Hanoi is home to around 8 million people and nearly as many motorbikes and scooters. Public buses serve key routes but can get crowded. For most tourists, taxis offer the best combination of affordability and convenience. Ride-hailing apps like Grab are popular. And walking remains a viable option to soak in the vibrant street life.

Bicycles can be rented but cycling in the dense traffic isn't for the faint of heart. Hanoi's transportation network is continuing to grow. An urban railway system currently has one operational metro line. More routes are planned for the future.

Getting into Hanoi is easy with an international airport located just 30 km away. Travelers can take buses, taxis or private transfers to reach the city center. Getting out of Hanoi typically involves a flight or train journey. Domestic flights connect Hanoi with other cities in Vietnam. Trains run to destinations within Vietnam and across the border to China.

A green and white taxi with passengers driving down a street.
Hanoi Old Quater (Source: Collected)

2. Getting Around Hanoi

2.1 Overview

Getting around Hanoi can be chaotic yet fascinating. Watching the synchronized flow of traffic is like viewing an elegant, noisy ballet. Locals have mastered the organized bedlam. For visitors, crossing the road takes courage. But various transportation options make navigating the city fairly easy.

Walking is only practical for short distances and older parts of Hanoi. Bicycles are cheap but require skill to dodge cars, buses and motorbikes. Motorbike taxis offer speed and agility. Metered taxis are best for longer trips. And ride-hailing services like Grab provide added convenience. Public buses serve major routes and cost less than 2,000 VND (8 US cents).

A man riding a rickshaw in front of a gate, showcasing traditional transportation and architecture.
Hanoi "Xich Lô" (Source: Collected)

2.2 Walking

  • Ideal for Hanoi's Old Quarter and around Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Watch out for vehicles coming from all directions
  • Cross only at traffic lights or use pedestrian bridges
  • Wear bright clothing and walk slowly

Walking is the best way to experience Hanoi up-close. Sensory overload comes from the sights, sounds and smells of street vendors, storefronts and traffic. The narrow streets of the Old Quarter force pedestrians to walk on the edge of the road. Watch out for motorbikes coming from behind or weaving through the crowds.

Only attempt to cross the road when the walk sign flashes green at traffic lights. Look carefully for oncoming vehicles before stepping off the curb. Bright clothing helps you stand out in the chaos. Walk unhurriedly and don't stop suddenly so drivers can steer around you.

Three individuals strolling in front of a building on a street.
Walking in Hanoi (Source: Collected)

2.3 Bicycle

  • Inexpensive way to get around (20,000 to 70,000 VND per day)
  • Dangerous for inexperienced riders
  • Stick to less busy side streets
  • Use bike lanes if available
  • Rent from hotels, hostels or bike shops

Bicycles offer a budget way to explore greater Hanoi at your own pace. Rentals are cheap. But Hanoi's traffic is better suited for experienced urban cyclists. If you're comfortable navigating through small gaps, a bike can be a handy form of transport. Stick to side roads or bike lanes if possible. Avoid major thoroughfares which are clogged with vehicles.

Make yourself visible with lights and reflectors if riding at night. Bring a helmet, pump, lock and spare inner tube. Hotels, hostels and shops throughout Hanoi rent out bikes by the hour or multiple days. Carefully check the brakes, wheels and pedals before rental. And don't leave valuables in the bike basket when parked.

A line of blue and white bicycles parked on the roadside, ready for riders to hop on and explore.
TNGO bike renting (Source: Collected)

2.4 Motorbike Taxi

  • Fast, cheap way to zip through traffic
  • Agree on price before riding
  • Grab app offers convenience
  • Hold on tight and wear helmet
  • Useful for 1-2 passengers with light luggage

For a truly local experience, hail a motorbike taxi to effortlessly weave through gridlocked streets. Known as "xe ôm", drivers wait on street corners and are easily flagged down. Negotiate the fare before hopping on the back. A short ride within the city center should cost around 20,000 VND. Longer distances usually run from 40,000 to 70,000 VND.

Helmets are a must when riding xe ôm. Keep a firm grip on the driver or hand-holds during sudden maneuvers. Most drivers only carry 1-2 passengers with light luggage. But some bikes have a special seat fitted for extra capacity.

The Grab app offers added safety and convenience when booking a motorbike ride. Rates are shown upfront. Drivers and passengers are rated. And you can track your route via GPS. Just remember to dress appropriately for riding on the back of a motorbike.

A beautiful sunset over a calm ocean with vibrant orange and pink hues reflecting on the water.
Hanoi Local Motorbike Taxi (Source: Collected)

2.5 Bus

  • Extensive network covers 300 routes
  • Runs from 4:30 am to 10 pm
  • Fares under 2,000 VND
  • Can get crowded during rush hour
  • Best for long trips along major roads

Local buses provide an incredibly cheap way to get around Hanoi. Fares start from 7,000 VND (30 US cents). The network consists of over 100 lines that blanket the entire city. Major bus terminals like Giap Bat and My Dinh connect to train stations. Buses run from 4:30 am to 10 pm daily.

Figure out the bus number and schedule in advance. Stops are not always marked in English. During rush hour, buses fill up quickly. You may have to wedge into tight spaces. Carry cash for your fare and try to have exact change.

A bus parked at a bus stop with another bus nearby.
Hanoi Public Bus (Source: Collected)

2.6 Metered Taxi

  • More comfortable than buses
  • Meters start around 12,000 VND
  • Add 20-30% at night
  • Mai Linh, Vinasun are reliable companies
  • Ask hotel to call taxi or book Grab/Xanh SM app

Taxis provide air-conditioned comfort for affordably zipping around Hanoi. Metered taxis like Mai Linh or Vinasun are considered the most reputable. Flag one down on the street or have your hotel call to arrange a pickup. Taxis queue at major hotels, attractions and bus stations.

Meters start at 12,000 VND (50 cents) and tick up around 15,000 VND per kilometer. Extra fees apply for waiting time and booking by phone. Nighttime rides (after 10 pm) incur a 20% to 30% surcharge. Toll roads and airport transfers cost slightly more. Pay the metered fare and tip appropriately.

A taxi is preferable for long journeys or travelling with bulky luggage. Agree upon an upfront fare if the driver claims the meter is "broken". And avoid unmarked taxis which often scam passengers. Using the Grab app provides added peace of mind.

A taxi van with a green and red stripe on the side.
Vinasun Taxi (Source: Collected)

2.7 Ride-Hailing Services

  • Grab is the main app used
  • Shows fare, driver details and GPS map
  • Offers car, SUV and motorbike options
  • Cashless payment via app
  • Helps avoid language issues

Ride-hailing apps like Grab provide a safer, cheaper and more transparent alternative to traditional taxis. Grab dominates the segment after taking over Uber's Vietnam operations. You can book a four-seat car, seven-seat SUV or motorbike taxi.

Enter your destination in the app and you'll receive a quote. Driver details, model, license plate and GPS map provide peace of mind. Pay by credit card via the app. And rate drivers to improve quality. Booking Grab from the airport costs slightly more but still less than a taxi.

The app helps overcome language barriers with drivers. And you don't have to worry about fare negotiations or getting overcharged. Grab also offers food delivery (GrabFood) and other services via the super app.

Xanh SM
Xanh SM Taxi (Source: Collected)

3. How to Get Around Hanoi

3.1 By Foot

Hanoi's compact Old Quarter is best explored on foot. Hoan Kiem Lake provides a scenic stroll. Walking lets you notice small shops and street vendors that you'd otherwise miss buzzing by on a motorbike taxi. Cross the road cautiously and wear bright, comfy shoes suitable for walking all day. Carry a small backpack rather than wheeled luggage. Leave large bags at your hotel and take a smaller daypack when sightseeing.

3.2 By Bicycle

Bicycles work fine for leisurely exploration away from major thoroughfares. Expect to pay around 20,000 to 70,000 VND ($1-3 USD) per day. Test ride the bike before renting. Make a simple repair kit with tire levers, a patch kit and pump. Ask your hotel concierge for quieter streets or bike paths to follow. Or consider a guided bike tour of the Old Quarter's hidden alleys.

Motobike Hanoi Tour
Hanoi Motorbike Tour (Source: Collected)

3.3 By Motorbike Taxi

Agree on the fare beforehand when hailing a motorbike on the street. Expect to pay 20,000 VND for a short ride up to 70,000 VND to cross town. Only take a motorbike taxi with an extra helmet provided. Grab's motorbike taxi rates are clearly shown in the app. Hold on tight and keep belongings secure in front pockets or a small bag with crossbody strap.

3.4 By Metered Taxi

Ask your hotel to call a reputable taxi company like Mai Linh or Vinasun instead of hailing one randomly. Confirm the taxi has a working meter before setting off. Have your destination written in Vietnamese to show the driver. Add a 20-30% night surcharge for trips after 10 pm. Carry small bills so you can tip and pay the exact metered fare.

3.5 By Ride-Hailing App

Install the Grab app on your smartphone and set up an account before arriving in Vietnam. rover code and pay by credit card via the app. Double check the license plate, car model and driver details before getting in. Use the in-app messaging if you face language issues. Rate drivers and provide feedback after each ride.

Grab (Source: Collected)

4. Getting In To Hanoi

Arriving in Hanoi is relatively smooth thanks to a modern international airport and efficient transportation links to the city center, around 30 km away.

4.1 Noi Bai International Airport

  • Located 35 km from Hanoi
  • Serves domestic routes and international connections
  • Airport shuttle buses to city center
  • Taxis and ride-hailing services
  • ATMs, currency exchange, SIM cards

Most visitors fly into Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), 35 km north of Hanoi. The airport has separate international and domestic terminals linked by a free shuttle bus. ATMs, currency exchange booths and stores selling local SIM cards are available in both terminals.

Public shuttle buses connect the airport to Hanoi's Old Quarter and other districts. The well-organized transportation desk assists passengers. Airport taxis queue up outside the terminals and can drive you directly to your hotel. Or book a ride-hailing service via the Grab app for added convenience and fare transparency.

Domestic carriers like Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air and Bamboo Airways fly from Hanoi to other Vietnamese cities like Saigon, Da Nang and Nha Trang. International connections link Hanoi with major hubs in Asia and the Middle East for onward connections.

Noi Bai International Airport
Noi Bai International Airport (Source: Collected)

4.2 Airport Shuttle Bus

  • Public bus
  • Runs from 5:30 am to 10 pm
  • One-way fare is 30,000 VND
  • Stops at major hotels and Old Quarter
  • Can get stuck in traffic

The cheapest way to reach Hanoi's city center is via the public shuttle bus. Tickets cost 30,000 VND (around $1.30 USD) one-way. Buses run from 5:30 am to 10 pm daily with stops at both the international and domestic terminals. Look for bus #7 signs near terminal exits.

The ride takes 1-1.5 hours depending on traffic. Stops include Hanoi train station and popular hotels like the Hilton Hanoi Opera, Daewoo Hotel and Lotte Hotel. The final stop is near Hoan Kiem Lake's northern edge, so you can walk to many Old Quarter accommodations. Rush hour makes for slower trips.

Vietjet Air Airport Bus
Vietjet Air Airport Bus (Source: Collected)

4.3 Metered Taxi

  • Costs 350,000 to 450,000 VND ($15-20 USD)
  • Mai Linh, Vinasun are reputable
  • Agree on fare beforehand
  • Quickest transport to city center
  • Watch for "broken meter" scams

Taxis offer the fastest way to reach downtown Hanoi in about 40 minutes if traffic is light. Fares range from 350,000 to 450,000 VND ($15-20 USD). Reputable companies like Mai Linh or Vinasun use meters to calculate the fare. Insist on using the meter or settle on a price before departure.

"Broken meter" scams are common, so be ready to walk away from dodgy drivers claiming meter problems. At the airport, book an official airport taxi from the counters inside the terminals for fair rates into the city. Negotiate a fare before riding in dodgy unmarked taxis.

4.4 Ride-Hailing App

  • Grab, Xanh SM offers fixed rates into city
  • Airport fares start around 200,000 VND
  • Provides fare estimate in advance
  • Ensures driver accountability
  • Useful for late night airport arrivals

Booking an airport transfer via the Grab app provides peace of mind for arrival. Driver details, license plate number and fare estimate are provided upfront. Airport rates are slightly higher but overall cheaper than regular taxis. And you don't have to negotiate any amount.

Payment is cashless via credit card linked to your Grab account. Both passengers and drivers can rate each other to ensure accountability. For late night airport pickups, Grab is preferable to taxis loitering outside terminals. Just select the car type you need and enter your destination for a guaranteed rate.

4.5 Premium Airport Transfer by GHG's Hotel

  • Private car with premium services
  • Costs 350,000 to 450,000 VND
  • Pre-booked with hotel confirmation
  • Look for driver with your name
  • Avoid arrival hassle of taxis/buses
Premium Airport Transfer by GHG
Premium Airport Transfer by GHG (Source: Collected)

Booking an airport pickup through our hotel provides a no-hassle arrival. Transfers can be arranged at the time of reservation. Rates are similar or slightly higher than taxis. Look for your name on a signboard upon arrival and confirm with the assigned driver first.

Advantages of pre-booked transfers include having a fixed rate, avoiding taxi queues and guaranteeing a ride during late night arrivals when other transit options are limited. If your plans change, call ahead to re-arrange or cancel the transfer to avoid no-show charges.

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