Most first-time visitors to Hanoi arrive by air at Noi Bai International Airport, situated about 35kms north of the city. Flights arrive here from Ho Chi Minh City and major towns in Vietnam, as well as from Hong Kong, Bangkok and other regional centres.
However, with an improving bus service, there are an increasing number of visitors who arrive in the city by bus at one of the main bus terminals, and even more who use the ‘open tour’ services offered by tour operators that cater mostly for budget travellers.
Bus terminals in Hanoi
There are four major bus terminals for state-run buses, and while they all have cheap, fixed prices and leave at regular times, these terminals are inconveniently located, generally requiring a taxi to reach them.
Gia Lam station is located a few kilometres northeast of the city centre and serves destinations to the northeast, including Ha Long Bay, Haiphong and Lang Son.
The terminal at Giap Bat–which is around six kilometres south of the city centre–serves destinations to the south such as Hue and Nha Trang. My Dinh bus station is about ten kilometres west of the city centre and serves destinations in all directions, including the northwest.
Luong Yen bus station–three kilometres southeast of centre–serves north and east including Cat Ba Island.
Open-tour buses in Hanoi
Open-tour buses usually begin from tour operators’ offices in the city centre, and any hotel or guest house can arrange tickets for you, but it pays to shop around before committing yourself to a particular company. They all offer very competitive prices, but manage this by working in league with hotels and restaurants along the route, so passengers often feel they are given no choice about where they sleep and eat.
If this rings warning bells for you, then you should maybe consider the reasonably efficient state buses, or the train, which has four routes from Hanoi (to Lao Cai, Lang Son, Haiphong and Saigon). And open-tour buses themselves vary a lot. Many are air-conditioned minivans that are reasonably comfortable for short journeys but less so for long hauls, when a full-size bus offers more room.
Travel website forums are full of warnings by travellers who have been dissatisfied with open-tour services due to shoddy vehicles and inept drivers, but a couple that are generally reliable are Sinh Café (Open: 08:00-18:00 (Monday-Saturday), 08:00-17:00 (Sunday); 66 Hang Than street, tel: +84 438 364 212, fax: +84 4 3756 7862, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.sinhcafe.com)and Kim Café (31 Ta Hien, tel: +84 91 322 4473, fax: +84 4 3756 7862, email: email@example.com,website: www.kimcafetravel.com).