Hanoi sprawls along the banks of the Red River, which is spanned by four bridges Long Bien, Chuong Duong, Vinh Tuy and Thanh Tri. The Hanoian is proud to be residents of a city of lakes, shaded boulevards and verdant public parks. A thousand years of its eventful history, Hanoi still preserves much ancient architecture throughout the Old Quarter, over 600 pagodas and temples, reminding of the city's rich cultural heritage.
What to expect?
The highlights of Hanoi include strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake, the Old Quarter and to Ho Chi Minh Complex with nearby One Pillar Pagoda. Other famous sites are the Temple of Literature, the Opera House (especially if can catch a live performance), the Museum of Ethnology and Women Museum. From Hanoi, it is possible to take day trips to nearby handicraft villages such as the Bat Trang ceramic village, the Van Phuc silk weaving village, the Ha Thai lacquer village or well-known destinations of Tam Coc or the Perfume Pagoda. Hanoi is also a good base for excursions to Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island and to Sapa as well as the northern mountainous area where you can sample authentic local life in Vietnam.
The best time to visit is during the Autumn months from September to November or the spring (March and April) for their milder temperatures and pleasant weather. The winters in Hanoi can get colder and damper than expected with temperatures reaching 12-15 Degree Celcious. Summer temperatures tend to hover around 30-35 Degree Celcious. Hanoi has high humidity year-round. The rainy season in Hanoi lasts from May to September but the rain is not consistent and does not usually interrupt travel or ruin a visit.
The road condition in Hanoi is dramatically crowded due to thousands of bicycles, motorbikes along the way. Thus, taxi, cyclo and car with Vietnamese driver are the best way to travel around Hanoi. There are reliable taxi companies operating within the city and they are all metered including Airport Taxi, Hanoi Taxi and Mai Linh Taxi. Cyclos often wait outside hotels and restaurants and a fare should be negotiated to your destination before setting off. If you are confident on a motorbike, it is possible to rent them from shops around the Old Quarter. You will need an international driving permit and a helmet. But it is recommended to be slowly and watch out when you are out of the street.
Most people arrive at the Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), 35 km (45-60 minutes) north of the city. Hanoi has fewer direct international flights than HCMC, but with a change of aircraft in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur you can get to the city with different airlines. Vietnam Airlines remain the main carriers of domestic flights and many international flights. Some budget airlines also have frequent flights in and out of Hanoi, such as AirAsia (to Thailand and Malaysia), Tiger Air (to Singapore).
From North America, most indirect flights have a transit in either Hongkong, Tokyo, Osaka or Seoul.
From Europe, there might be transits in Paris, Hongkong, or Moscow, depending on your starting points.
Trains from Nanning, China arrive at Gia Lam Station, about 5km north-east of Hanoi Station. When your'e already in Vietnam, you might consider a train experience from Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Danang, Hue, Dong Hoi or from Sapa in the northwest of Vietnam. All other trains use the main Hanoi train station (Ga Hang Co, 120 Le Duan, for daily services from cities. The Reunification Express goes all the way from/to Ho Chi Minh City, although there is very little 'express' about it.