Most travelers reach Hanoi by air via the NoiBai International Airport, Vietnam’s largest. Most airlines offer flights into NoiBai from nearby travel hubs, such as Singapore and Hong Kong. While there are land entry points, these are seldom used by tourists.
Once in Hanoi, most travelers choose to travel by private car, as this is safest and most convenient. Renting bicycles, catching cabs, and spending some time on your feet are also popular options.
Hanoi is a large and exciting city just waiting to be explored, but sometimes it helps to have a private driver who knows the lie of the land.
Quick Facts (Getting In)
- Hanoi is serviced by NoiBai International Airport.
- Many major airlines fly to Hanoi, including Singapore Air, Cathay Pacific and Korean Air.
- March to April and September to October are the cheapest times to fly to Vietnam.
- Summer and winter holidays (Western) and Tet New Year are regarded as the busy season for travel in Vietnam.
- It can be difficult to book affordable flights and accommodation during Tet New Year, so using a travel service is recommended.
Getting to the Airport
Unless you are already in Southeast Asia, you will probably need a layover at a larger regional airport. Below is a typical route, for example, of someone traveling from the western United States:
San Francisco International Airport – Hong Kong International Airport – NoiBai International Airport
A traveler from London may, for example, arrive via Singapore:
London Heathrow Airport – Singapore International Airport – NoiBai International Airport
As NoiBai continues to grow, however, it is becoming possible to find direct flights from outside the region.
NoiBai International Airport is the largest in Vietnam (in capacity) and one of the largest in the whole region. Terminal 1 serves domestic flights while terminal 2 handles international travel. The airport is both modern and well-maintained, and provides all the normal amenities.
The airport offers shuttle services to local hotels, information to tourists (in English), and baggage transportation if needed. Due to the size of the airport it is recommended you click here for a map of the international terminal, before you depart.
Inside the airport you can purchase SIM cards, food and beverage, and exchange most global currencies.
Getting to Hanoi from the Airport
Like most International Airports NoiBai is not in the heart of the city it serves. Traveling from the airport to your hotel with your luggage can be something of a challenge. Worry not, however – on an Asia Highlights tour this will be arranged for you.
If you are not traveling with Asia Highlights you can still call one of the many services listed on the airport website and book a shuttle bus or car for you and your family.
If you do not call ahead you may find yourself waiting in a long line for a taxi. While Hanoi is a developed city, you can occasionally still find yourself paying unduly expensive fares if you are not familiar with the local scene. Whenever possible, hire a private car.
Entering and Exiting by Train
If your trip takes you to both Vietnam and China then one affordable way to travel between the two is by train. Sleeper trains run morning and night, seven days a week between Hanoi and Nanning in China. This line has operated since 2009 and is cost-effective and reliable.
While a bullet (high speed) train service is rumored to be coming to this line soon, the journey currently takes between 7 and 12 hours, depending on the cost of your ticket and the type of train. Express trains will cost more but take less time.
Travelers can select hard sleeper or soft sleeper tickets (the names are self-explanatory). A ticket booked in advance can sometimes be purchased for as little as $42 US.
Entering and Exiting through Can Lan Port
You may be entering Vietnam via a cruise, to take advantage of its warm weather and numerous beaches. If so, you can get to Hanoi by disembarking at Can Lan port. You will need to take a bus/shuttle for about three hours to reach the city.
If Can Lan is your first stop in Vietnam, cruise companies will assist you with visa acquisition.
Quick Facts (Getting Around)
- There are plenty of options for getting around Hanoi: cyclos, walking, biking, and more!
- Hanoi is hot most of the year, so no matter how you plan to get around, be prepared for the heat and remember to carry plenty of water.
- Taxis and buses are not always air-conditioned, but if you book a private car it will be.
- Street traffic has been described as intense and one should always cross the street with caution.
- If someone approaches you with a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. A common scam is for taxi drivers to quote a very low price and then try to claim they meant that price per person not for the whole group.
Hiring a private car is recommended for getting around Hanoi. The city is large and sprawling and afflicted by high temperatures and lots of rain, which can make it frustrating to navigate on foot. Local taxis are plentiful but can often end in frustrating disputes over the price of a fare.
Private cars eliminate all of these headaches. Cruise to each destination in air-conditioned comfort while a knowledgeable and professional driver takes you to your destination – truly allowing you to enjoy your surroundings.
Traveling with Asia Highlights will provide you with a private car service when needed, as well as a guide to make sure you never even have to call the car.
Walking is actually a common way for travelers to get around shorter distances. If you are exploring the Old Quarter, for example, you can do most of this on your own two feet.
Sturdy walking shoes are recommended and be prepared for rain. Walking in Hanoi is generally safe, but pay attention to the sidewalks and safety signs whenever you are in a new place.
As you explore Hanoi you will see many motorbike drivers lounging around with an extra helmet sitting on the back of their bike.
These (almost always unlicensed) freelance motor taxis might be the fastest way to travel a short distance, but they are also the most terrifying. The drivers are known to weave through traffic at speed and the helmet they offer you is little more than a plastic bowl.
Especially around the Old Quarter you will also see bicycles converted to serve as passenger vehicles. These slower-moving cousins of the motorbike are referred to as cyclos, no longer as infamous as they once were. They are not a very efficient means of travel, but can still be good fun for the novelty-factor.
The coffee you find in Vietnam, however, is different from French coffee. The French tend to like their coffee hot and black, while the Vietnamese like their coffee cold and sweetened with condensed milk.
These are a few examples of how the Vietnamese adopted some aspects of French cuisine. There are many other examples you may come across during your exploration of Vietnam.
A good way of sampling the local food is via a food tour in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Our tour guide can give thorough explanations and advice about the food.
Explore Asia with Asia Highlights
At Asia Highlights we offer tailor-made tours through Asia, where you can enjoy all highlights as well as amazing cultural experiences. To get started, send us an email.