People talking about the big cities of Vietnam always say that if you loved Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), you will definitely hate Hanoi, and vice-versa. For me, this was not true. Having to make a choice, I would go for Hanoi as the more pleasant one, but if I would not have seen the city during a weekend, I do not think my answer would have been the same. So lets tell you which things to do in Hanoi can make your Vietnam trip a grand success.
In & out
You can arrive in Hanoi either by plane, bus or train.
If you arrive (or leave) by plane (Noi-Bai airport) You can either:
- take the local bus 17 from Long Bien bus terminal (see map), every 30 minutes from 5AM-10PM for 5000-10,000D, (takes 1.5-3 hours depending on traffic, it stops a lot) which is a 20 minute walk from Hoan-Kiem lake however the terminal is in a pretty dodgy neighbourhood which can feel quite unsafe for (female) solo travelers;
- take the airport-shuttle, which I recommend (see map), leaving from the city (roughly) every hour on the hour from 4.30AM – 7.30PM for 40,000D (takes 45min-1.5 hours depending on traffic) (I know the first and last bus contradict the ‘on the hour every hour’, but I found out the hard way that the last one leaves at 7.30 PM), see the photo below of the ‘shuttle-terminal’ on the city-side; or
- take a cab, which should cost you around 200,000D per car (I missed the last shuttle and had to take a cab, I shared one with 3 other backpackers so it only costed me 50,000D), however if you are in a hurry or have bad luck you might be forced to pay double.
If you arrive by train you can either walk the 2-3 km walk through the French quarter or take a taxi. Walk straight from the main entrance for about 6 blocks, then head left. If you take a taxi, beware of taxis with speed-meters. They are notorious for overcharging with a factor 3. ABC-taxis are cheap, clean and reliable. You recognise the pink colour.
From Hanoi, fly anywhere in Vietnam for about 350,000-900,000D or take the train to Ninh Binh, or the night-train straight to Hue. Hanoi – Halong Bay is about a 3 hour bus drive which is also a great ‘next destination’ or head North to Sapa.