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How to get to Hanoi

By plane

Most people arrive at the Noi Bai International Airport (IATAHAN), 35km (45-60min) north of the city. For decades, the Noi Bai airport was small and heavily congested. Queues used to be long, but still shorter than Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat. With the 2015 opening of the international terminal, immigration has become a lot faster, usually taking around 10-15 minutes. The new terminal is clean and modern with lots of sunlight. Shopping options however are overpriced and limited. 

From the airport

  • Express bus 86: Hanoi opens a new high quality public bus from Hanoi train station to Noi Bai Airport. The bus stop is directly in front of the two terminals. Most airport employees would be happy to direct you there as well. The bus will run at 5:10 AM in the morning in Hanoi station and 6:30 AM in Noi Bai airport with an interval of every 20/30 minutes. It'll finish at 10:30 PM in the evening in Hanoi station and 11:30PM in Noi Bai airport. You'll spend 50-55 minutes/one way for transfer 30.5 kilometers from the airport. The authorities expect that having 80-94 round trips/day with 30.000 VND/one way. The purpose of opening the new bus improves transfer for tourist, especially, foreigners visiting Hanoi. Within Google Maps you can add the route map. For the Old Quarter it stops in front of the Post Office at Hoan Kiem lake.
  • Public buses to the city centre from Noi Bai airport take about 1.5h. Bus #7 crosses the Thang Long bridge and goes to the Daewoo Hotel on the western part of Hanoi (almost an hour on foot to the historical centre of Hanoi). To catch bus #7 from the international terminal, exit the arrivals level and then left, keep walking right past the taxis and minibuses, past the outside restrooms and to the bus stop which is located in the corner of the parking lot and is equipped with an easily noticeable shelter. Bus #17 goes straight to the Old Quarter (Long Bien bus terminal), it doesn't stop at the international terminal (March 2016), perhaps as a courtesy to local taxi drivers milking the touristic cash cow; however it does serve the domestic terminal, which is just 1 km away from the international terminal in the eastern direction (upon exiting the international terminal, walk to the left, past the bus#7 shelter and follow the pedestrian walkway conveniently connecting the two terminals). Luggage is permitted aboard the buses, as of March 22, 2016, you're not supposed to pay extra for it, unless it's the size of a tiger cage. Ticket price for bus #17 is VND9000, as of March 2016. Don't listen to taxi drivers or shuttle bus operators that claim the stop for the public buses is a few kilometers away or that service has been terminated. Public buses operate 05:00-22:00. Bus 90 begins at the international terminal bus stop then to the domestic terminal, and ends at Kim Ma bus station with stops on Lac Long Quan, Hoang Hoa Tham, Van Cao, Lieu Giai, and Kim Ma. This direction operates from 06:40-22:30. From Kim Ma station to the airport (domestic terminal first, ending at the international terminal), the bus goes along Giang Vo, Kim Ma, Lieu Giai, Van Cao, Thuy Khue, Lac Long Quan. This direction operates from 05:30-21:10. Tickets are 9,000VND and the buses are orange. The journey takes about 55 minutes. Many locals and airport workers take the #90 bus, so space is limited. There are no luggage racks available on this bus.
  • Shuttle-buses from the airport to Hanoi stop at the Vietnam Airlines Office on 1 Quang Trung (a bit south of the old quarter but conveniently stocked with taxis and motorbike drivers, of course!). Tickets are sold in the building in front of which the minibuses park, or you can give the fare directly to the driver. The fare is USD2 or 40,000 dong for foreigners (insurance reasons), and 35,000 dong for Vietnamese (which includes Vietnamese-Americans), which rate is indicated on the sticker fixed to the bus's body. The driver will potentially give you trouble if you have additional bags, but if you push, you will get the same USD2 rate. They also try the 'typhoon in Ha Long Bay' scam whereby they take you to a street where you cannot see the hotel name and tell you that the Ha Long Bay guests are still in the hotel and they will take you to their other hotel for the same price. This place is a complete dive facing the highway. You should also beware the drivers trying to offer you a ride to your hotel for USD5, claiming the Old Quarter is 5km from the office - it is much cheaper to go to the Vietnam Airlines office and switch to a taxi (or walk, it's not more than 2km to anywhere in the Old Quarter). The taxi will not cost more than the USD3 price differential and if it does, you should refuse to pay as the driver has cheated you somehow. They say that the shuttle buses go to the airport hourly, but they will only leave when the bus is full (took 2+ hours in one case) and will not tell you this. Meanwhile the taxi drivers, who are supposed to offer the same service, will constantly offer to take you to the airport. Despite the fact that the shuttle buses are supposedly run by Vietnam Airlines, the employees in the office across the street don't have any information on the buses, and tourists will get scammed (or waste time) if traveling alone. Note: as of October 2014 it's been observed that 4 Vietnamese sharing a taxi paying around VND50,000 each. So it's possible to go with an un-metered taxi for VND200,000-300,000 from the Vietnam Airlines stop to the airport depending if there are too many taxis in the stop and it's convenient for them or not.
Shuttle at Noi Bai Airport Terminal, Hanoi

At the same time an new road and bridge was inaugurated which eases the access to the city.

  • Taxis to central Hanoi can be hired at Noi Bai. There are fixed price taxi stands right outside the exit, offering fares ranging from USD15-25 into the city. These are provided by various taxi companies and are slightly more expensive than the tout taxis, but fixed price, so no hassles about the fare. Later into the night, there don't seem to be any physical taxi stands, however you can still negotiate directly with taxi drivers for fixed prices all the same. Some taxis will engage in negotiations while others will agree only to metered fares so shop around. Drivers in general may try to take you to a hotel of their choice or even a hotel pretending to be the one you named (your passenger door being opened by a person showing you your hotel name and correct address on a clipboard, insisting you should come in) as destination, to collect a commission, so be very specific about your destination ahead of time and on arrival if this happens, as they usually give in. To be sure, have the address ready and maybe print out a map beforehand: since every street in Hanoi has clearly visible street signs at both ends, you should be able to discern which street you are in. Non fixed-price taxi agents will quote prices ranging from around USD15-30 as you leave the airport, so be sure you have a clear price agreement also with the driver before getting into the car, as the price quoted by the agent may not be what the driver is expecting.

Be careful of agreeing to operating the taxi meter: the meter may be tampered with, and can run upwards of USD40-60 or more to get to central Hanoi, and the upper limit is entirely out of your control. If you have changed money into dong at the airport you can, of course, pay in local currency. November 2014: there is no longer an official fixed price taxi service from Noi Bai to the city! It may be possible to negotiate something with an individual driver, but they will generally request you use the meter. The total cost will vary between around 325,000-475,000 depending on the company and your destination. It may also be possible to secure a lower (fixed) rate if you book in advance. April 2015: Taxi drivers will still agree to a fixed price and most quoted 350-400k to the Old Quarter which is the same that a properly set taxi meter will run (driver agreed to 360k and taxi meter ended up at 358k, using silver/pink ABC taxi).

There are a few official looking tourist information booths inside the arrival hall that will offer rides into the city for significantly higher prices than the taxi stands outside -- USD25-35 per car as they tell you not to take the cheaper taxis outside because of various scams.

To sum things up, taking a fixed-price taxi from one of the companies outside of the arrival hall is the least costly way with the least risk of surprises to get to your destination. However if you do this, as mentioned above, make sure to be very clear on the agreed price with the taxi driver himself and confirm that the taxi driver agrees to take you to your hotel's exact address.

  • If you already have a hotel booked, you might ask the hotel to dispatch a driver. The nicer hotels will do this and put the fare on your room bill. An $18 fare is fair for an airport pickup, and it is possible to get to the airport for $15 (Oct 2015).