Though not as famed as Bangkok for its traffic woes, Hanoi gets very congested, especially in the city centre, a situation that worsens daily as more vehicles join the throng. There is no subway or skytrain here, but fortunately the major tourist areas can be explored comfortably on foot, and with a little forethought it is easy to move from one district to another by taxi, motorbike taxi or cyclo.
Getting around Hanoi on foot
It is one of the great pleasures of Hanoi that walking around the centre is not the nightmare that it is in most capital cities of the world. The area around Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter, for example, are much better explored on foot than by any form of transport. Walking also invites encounters with the local people, an essential element of becoming familiar with a new culture.
Motorbike taxis in Hanoi
A ride round Hanoi on a motorbike taxi can be a hair-raising experience, but it is also one way to cut down journey times when traffic is heavy. Riders weave through the narrowest gap and even mount the pavement in an effort to keep going. You need to agree on a fare before setting out or you’ll get fleeced at your destination; 15,000-20,000D should get you most places in town. Make sure to put on a helmet, which is now compulsory for passengers as well as riders.
Taxis in Hanoi
Metered taxis in Hanoi are good value and generally easy to find. The flag fare of 10,000-15,000D will take you 1-2 km and unless you get caught in total gridlock, no ride will cost much over 50,000D. Avoid the freelance drivers who hang around hotel entrances trying to negotiate a fare in unmarked vehicles; they likely have some other scam to try on you once you are aboard.
Cyclos in Hanoi
Taking a ride in a cyclo is an easy way to kill two birds with one stone – you not only get from A to B, but also experience a uniquely Vietnamese form of transport.
The design of these bicycle taxis puts the passenger in front of the rider, which is perfect for sightseeing and taking photographs, but is not so great when a truck comes hurtling towards you.
The savvy cyclo riders are aware of their cultural cachet, so expect to pay more than for a taxi or motorbike taxi. It’s best to negotiate a daily fare–somewhere around 200,000D (US$10) is reasonable. Note: Cyclos are banned from several streets in Hanoi, so if your rider seems to take a roundabout route, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s trying to cheat you.
Buses in Hanoi
Though Hanoi has a fairly extensive bus system, it is tricky for non-Vietnamese speakers to use, as no route maps are printed in English. One route that is not so difficult to use is between the airport and downtown, serviced by buses 7 and 17, with a fare of 5,000D. Fares within the city centre are 4,000D.