Getting Around Hanoi - Wheels or Heels?

I was really impressed with how easy it was to get around this sleepy capital city in one of the last communist countries in the world. Here's some tips on moving around here!


Getting to the Old Quarter

Upon touching down at Noi Bai International Airport, you may wish to take the airport shuttle (Bus No. 86) that plies along the route between Hanoi's city centre and the airport at a modest fare of VND 30,000 (S$1.90) per person. You will be able to find it near the left end of the taxi stands upon walking out of Terminal 2 (International Terminal).

Airport Shuttle Bus (No. 86) picking up passengers on its way to Noi Bai Airport

Just hop onto the bus, drop your bags at the standing area and grab a seat if there's any left. Else, you can just stand around like me and enjoy the air-conditioning and the WiFi to let your family and friends know "I'm in Hanoi!" as the bus journeys down south to the city centre.

Once the bus heads out, the bus conductor will collect the fare from you and hand out the tickets, so there's certainly no rush to pay upon boarding. Take it slow and relaxed - the Hanoian way! The bus is absolutely convenient and so affordable. Don't be shy to start conversations with Vietnamese locals (who may surprisingly speak fluent English) or simply enjoy the scenery of rice paddies and the rural regions outside the city centre of Hanoi. During my trip to Halong Bay, I heard from a couple that they took an Uber ride to the Old Quarter which set them back a staggering amount of more than S$20, so that gives you some indication of how much you're saving (and how much more you can spend on shopping and food!)

Here's the timetable which you may find useful to plan ahead with. You may wish to note that the bus departs from Noi Bai International Airport once every 25 minutes.

Departure times for Airport Shuttle

The bus route is as indicated below, so you can get off from any of the following stops (whichever is nearer to your accommodation).

From Noi Bai International Airport to City Centre
  • Noi Bai International Airport (Terminal 2)
  • VAECO Company
  • Au Co - Lac Long Quan (523 Au Co Street)
  • Au Co - Xuan Dieu
  • Yen Phu - Cua Bac
  • Long Bien Bus Station
  • 142 Tran Quang Khai
  • Hanoi Opera House
  • Hanoi Melia Hotel
  • Hanoi Central Railway Station
From City Centre to Noi Bai International Airport
  • Hanoi Central Railway Station
  • Hanoi Melia Hotel
  • Hanoi Central Post Office
  • 23 Hang Tre
  • Long Bien Bus Station
  • Yen Phu - Cua Bac
  • Au Co - Xuan Dieu
  • Au Co - Lac Long Quan (468 Au Co Street)
  • VAECO Company
  • Noi Bai Domestic Airport (Terminal 1)
  • Noi Bai International Airport (Terminal 2)
This bus will also help you get back to the airport at the end of your trip. We were lucky to catch a relatively empty bus at around 10 in the morning. (The first bus out of the Old Quarter is at 5am, which may help you catch your early morning flight at Noi Bai.)


Getting Around Hanoi Old Quarter


Besides the roads, there are even railway tracks here!

I found Hanoi to be a really walkable city that can be explored rather easily on foot as the attractions are within reasonable walking distance of one another. The streets of the Old Quarter may prove intimidating at first with multiple perplexing and intertwining alleys and roads intersecting throughout the entire region. Don't be afraid of getting lost here, just take note of some significant landmarks around here like the Hoan Kiem Lake, the Opera House and the Flag Tower which will assist you in reassessing your location and guiding you back to your hotel or destination. From there, you can easily trace your way back and will certainly be able to manoeuvre your way around this maze.

There are plenty of statues which can serve as landmarks to guide you around.
This is a statue of Emperor Ly Thai To who moved the capital from Hoa Lu to Thang Long (modern-day Hanoi).

In fact, I became really confused and baffled as to where to go and got lost on multiple occasions here. However, it was during these incidences where I managed to stumble upon certain sights that I would otherwise never have discovered. Certainly, it's an awesome way to admire the sights and sounds of Hanoi through the eyes of a local!

Funeral procession in the Old Quarter

Alternatively, you may wish to try out the trishaw rides offered by the locals for a comfortable ride around the city. Remember to negotiate the price before getting on to avoid scams and unpleasant situations thereafter! Taxis are also available in large numbers, but we have been advised by the hotel to take those from Taxi Group (red and white) or Mai Linh Taxi (green), so you may wish to take that into consideration.

You may wish to refer to this map which really helped me a lot on my trip.

Map of Hanoi Old Quarter and its surroundings

Now that you know how to move around Hanoi, you may be wondering, "Where to?" Next up, I will be sharing a few itineraries incorporating a variety of tourist attractions - be it historical, religious or scenic landscapes. Read more here!

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Comments

  1. I didn't know that it is a communist country. It would be interesting to visit. I loved the railway tracks which passed through the living quarters. I prefer places which are pedestrian friendly. Glad that most of points of attractions in Hanoi are at walkable distance.

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    1. Yes, Hanoi is most definitely a walkable city which has fantastic attractions that you will enjoy visiting. Your journeys from point to point will also offer you a sneak peek into the lives of the locals as well.

      Yes, I love that picture of the railway tracks snaking between residential buildings too :)

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  2. I think it all depends on how concentrated sites are within a given area. I almost always go for a car rental, or a car and driver hire when I'm touring a region. In Europe, it's almost always trains, as they drop you off right in the middle of a city.

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    1. Hi Milosz, I guess it depends on how well developed the transport infrastructure is in the country. Hanoi is developing rapidly and does not have any train service as of yet (except the railway that goes to the different provinces), so we'll have to rely on buses and taxis for now :)

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  3. Vietnam is in my next year's travel bucket list. Thanks for summarizing out on all the possible ways to get around in Hanoi. I especially liked the idea of exploring the old quarters by walking along and getting lost.

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    1. Hi there! Awesome - Vietnam's a lovely place that you'll definitely enjoy visiting. Walking around the Old Quarter certainly felt like I travelled back to the 60s! :)

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  4. Very nice! I love cities that provide public transport from the airport to the main city centre. I had tried that in Sri Lanka. It required a 1 km walk from the airport to find buses and I was thrilled to have been able to do that. Far east, I think its more organised with airport buses or metro rides going to the airport. I think the only bummer is there are no buses between 11 pm and 5 am, but for most part this looks easy! I loved your photo of the train track cutting through the old city. Old cities are probably the best way to start exploring a given city, to get the original vibe of the city.

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    1. Hey there! We're really lucky that Hanoi has started this airport shuttle bus service recently. Previously, tourists would have had to take 2 public buses downtown or rely on private transport.

      Yeah, I love that photo as well - really iconic of old towns!

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  5. One of the hassles always centre around transport from airports when you land in a new city. You are always prone to getting scammed or overcharged here. Nice to know that there is a safe and economical option to get to the city from the airport in Hanoi. Also ease of getting around the city makes it so convenient to move around freely and have an immersive experience of the place.

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    1. Yes Sandy! The journey between the airport and the city centre is often a tourist trap with overpriced taxis and hotel limousines. I was really glad I managed to discover this hidden gem which really helped to cut transport costs.

      The Old Quarter is definitely easy to move around with short walking distances. A walkable city indeed!

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  6. Sometimes getting lost does make a trip more authentic than tours and whatnot. Hanoi looks like an interesting city.

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    1. Hey Lisa, absolutely! I really like that 'authentic' feel of living and walking alongside locals, rather than the artificial sense of being ushered up and down private transport and getting chauffeured around between attractions.

      Getting lost does offer opportunities to see new things as well. I managed to stumble upon a railroad and a funeral procession whilst getting lost in Hanoi. Why not - as long as you can find your way back? :)

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  7. I love this! It's great to know how to get around. I've never been to Vietnam, but when I do, I definitely will be consulting your site. Thank you!

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    1. Great to hear that, Jennifer! Hope you'll be able to visit Vietnam real soon. It really is a charming country with lots of history and food! Hope the tips I've listed above will help you move around the capital, Hanoi, more easily! :)

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  8. Your photo of the train tracks in between the buildings look amazing. I have become too dependant on uber in new cities i visit. Your detailed instructions on the public transport in hanoi mean that atleast there i can depend on the bus network.

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    1. Hi Denny, Hanoi does have a reliable bus network system which you can choose to commute on. Nevertheless, the city centre is quite compact and walkable, so you should be able to move around easily on foot once you're in the Old Quarter! :)

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  9. When I visited Hanoi, I didn't get a chance to explore the city the way you have. However, I did go on short cycling trips through the city. Your portrayal of the city, along with the details is impressive. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Umang! Cycling around the city centre in Hanoi must have been quite an experience considering the crazy traffic. I'm sure you must have enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds as well!

      Hope you'll have the opportunity to visit Hanoi again and explore the city in greater detail this time! :)

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  10. Would love to visit Vietnam some time soon! Thanks for all the wonderful tips! It should come in handy when planning for my trip there! :)

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    1. Hi Claire, great to hear that my post was able to help you in planning your trip to Hanoi!

      I hope you'll be able to visit this charming capital of Vietnam real soon and I'm sure you'll enjoy it tremendously :)

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  11. I am really happy that Hanoi is so walkable. To walk and explore around a place is our favorite choice. next comes public transport. And I am glad Hanoi has quiet some options here as well for the visitors.

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    1. Hey Neha, my sentiments exactly! I enjoy exploring cities on foot, as it gives me the opportunity to get a sneak peek into the locals' livelihood and interact with them. Taking public transport achieves the same objective of living with the locals.

      That is a much more authentic travel experience as compared to being ushered up and down and getting chauffeured from an attraction to another on private transport! :)

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  12. Great read! Hop on hop off buses as well as rickshaws are a great way to discover the city. Hanoi looks like an interesting place to visit. Hopefully, I'll visit Hanoi some day and enjoy the fascinating sights of the city.

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    1. Hey Shaily, Hanoi is a charming city which is really rich in culture and history. To top it up, it has one of the best cuisines I've ever tasted, where you will have the opportunity to try renowned dishes like pho to exotic local fare like trung vit lon (balut).

      Even though I did not take the rickshaws, I saw many tourists on them and taking in the sights and sounds of the Old Quarter. I'm sure you'll enjoy it - just remember to negotiate on the price before boarding! :)

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  13. This is great. I did not know you could walk so much in Hanoi.

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    1. Hey Megan, it really helps that the tourist attractions in Hanoi are located within walking distance of one another, which makes exploring the city on foot really easy and convenient.

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  14. This post is really helpful for anyone looking for advice about getting around Hanoi. I will keep it bookmarked for when I finally make it to Vietnam!

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    1. Hey Amiekay! Great to hear that you found the tips I've shared in this post useful to you in planning for a vacation to Hanoi.

      It really is a charming city with rich history, amazing culture and mouthwatering local fare. I'm sure you'll enjoy it very much! :)

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