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Get to Hanoi

posted Apr 25, 2014, 6:59 AM by Tim Hawards   [ updated Apr 26, 2014, 6:12 AM ]

Hanoi sprawls along the Red River (Song Hong), which is spanned by three bridges. The oldest is the 1682m (5500ft) Long Bien Bridge, built in 1902. Though bombed repeatedly by the US, the bridge supported rail and other traffic continuously throughout the war; today it serves pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles only. A few metres south is the newer Chuong Duong Bridge, and north of the city, servicing the airport, is the Thang Long Bridge.
hanoi


Most of Hanoi's streets are prefixed with pho , while larger roads and boulevards are called duong . The city is divided into seven central districts (quan) , surrounded by outlying neighbourhoods called hyyen . Can't-miss quan include the Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi's attractive city centre, and the elegant Ba Dinh district, also known as the French Quarter, which is home to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum.

Most travellers experience of Hanoi will be in the Old Quarter, just north of Hoan Kiem Lake. This fascinating maze is made up of narrow streets whose names reflect the wares that are sold there.
 
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Getting There

For a capital city there are surprisingly few flights into Hanoi, but that's slowly changing. You can get direct flights into Hanoi's Noi Bai airport from Europe (Paris, Vienna and Moscow), Australia (Sydney and Melbourne), and most major Asian cities (Bangkok, Hong Kong, Phnom Penh, Tokyo, Seoul, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Taiwan), including several Chinese destinations. There are no direct flights to Hanoi from the Americas.

The bus system is inexpensive and easy to use with the aid of a bus map. There is cheap public transportation from Hanoi's several bus stations to all parts of Vietnam. Most travellers avoid the buses, preferring to use the transport provided by the government sanctioned travel and tour companies.

The capital's main train station, Ga Hang Co, provides access to the 2600km (1612mi) Vietnamese railway system, which runs up and down the coast between Hanoi and Saigon with links all over Vietnam and twice-weekly service to Beijing. Though sometimes even slower than the buses, these dilapidated trains are more comfortable as well as safer, for cross-country travel.

Getting Around

There are plenty of taxis and minibuses plying their trade between the airport and city centre, and it's possible to hire either for a trip around town. However, watch out for airport sharks taking you to the wrong hotel for commission, as this is all too common.

Renting a car or motorbike is a popular option, despite the presence of water buffalo, chickens, maniacal truck drivers, bicycles laden with struggling pigs, and packs of hormone-crazed teenage boys in vehicles of every shape, size and colour all sharing the narrow, pockmarked roads and obeying traffic laws that have no parallel in the known universe. Hanoi is so compact that you can get by (and get fit) by walking around town. Remember, walk don't run through the traffic: the drivers will go around you (just don't try this at home!).
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