Any newcomers to Vietnam expecting to find a third-world country struggling to develop are in for a big shock at Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), which is situated around 35km north of Hanoi. The sleek terminal made of glass, steel and marble, which opened in 2001, could be anywhere in Europe or the USA, and certainly doesn’t give the impression of a country struggling in any way.
The airport is served by several international carriers, such as Cathay Pacific, Thai Airways and Air Asia. Since it is not as well connected as Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong or Bangkok, many Hanoi-bound travellers need to change flights in those cities. The terminal is well-laid out and includes all the amenities you might hope for, such as exchange bureaux and ATMs, restaurants, tourist information and left luggage offices.
Visitors arriving at Noi Bai Airport who do not have a pick-up arranged by the hotel of their choice (which, incidentally, is the best way to go if possible) are faced with three clear choices. The cheapest, costing only 4,000D and 5000D, is the public bus. Number 7 goes to Kim Ma bus station and number 17 goes to Long Bien bus station; both are near the city centre. Buses run every 15-20 minutes between 05:00 and 22:00, and the journey takes about an hour. This could be convenient if you don’t have too much heavy luggage.
The second alternative is the Vietnam Airlines minibus, which costs US$2 (40,000D) and leaves when full, heading for the Vietnam Airlines office on Quang Trung in the city centre. The third option is to take a taxi, and while this is clearly the most comfortable and convenient way to get into the city centre, has caused grief to many new arrivals.
So if you consider this choice, be sure to read the Scam Alert below. A taxi ride into Central Hanoi from Noi Bai Airport should cost around US$15-$20, depending on where you are going, and should take around 45 minutes to get there.
Many international airports seem plagued by scams among taxi drivers that hang around them, and Noi Bai is no exception. In fact, Noi Bai is one of the easiest places in Asia to fall for their tricks.
They don’t try to extort high fares in general, but many are in cahoots with owners of new hotels in the city who are looking to fill their rooms, so offer a generous commission for any guests the drivers bring their way.
Thus the drivers may try to tell you that the place you want to stay has closed or is under renovation, insisting that they know somewhere much nicer. The solution to this problem is either to insist they take you to the hotel and address of your choice, or contact the hotel in advance to arrange for a pick-up.