Travel to Hanoi
Flying to Hanoi
Vietnam Airlines operates direct flights from the UK to Hanoi. There are also plenty of options with one connection via cities such as Frankfurt, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. There are no direct flights from the USA. You can find cheaper flights to Hanoi by avoiding school holidays, Christmas, New Year and the Tet holiday.
From London - 11 hours 40 minutes; New York - 19 hours 35 minutes (including stopover); Los Angeles - 18 hours 15 minutes (including stopover); Toronto - 18 hours 30 minutes (including stopover); Sydney - 10 hours (including stopover).
Travel by road
The road network throughout Vietnam is reasonable but the standard of the roads varies dramatically from good to appalling. In theory, traffic drives on the right but in practice drivers take the most direct path avoiding the many thousands of bicycles, motorbikes and animals wandering along the road.
As self-driven car hire for visitors is non-existent, visitors to the country have to hire a car with a driver. Most agree that this is the only way until the country introduces and enforces a system of road rules. There are basic rules, such as you must stop at a red light and headlights must be used at night, but that tends to be as far as it goes.
Long-term foreign residents are allowed to drive a car but few are brave enough to do so, preferring to employ a Vietnamese driver. It is safe to assume that if a foreigner is driving a car involved in an accident, he or she will automatically be at fault.
Emergency breakdown services
There are several bus stations around Hanoi, each serving different destinations. Services on short journeys depart when they are full and those travelling longer distances generally depart early in the morning. It is not possible to book tickets over the phone so you need to go to the bus station the day before to check the schedule for the following day and buy a ticket. A useful number is 1080 where English-speaking operators can give information on timetables.
Buses to Halong Bay and Haiphong depart from Gia Lam bus station on Ngo Gia Kham. Kim Ma bus station, Nguyen Thai Hoc, has buses to the northwest of the country including Dien Bien Phu. Towns south of Hanoi, including Ho Chi Minh City, are served by buses from Giap Bat bus station on Giai Phong.
Time to city
From Haiphong - 2 hours; Halong Bay - 3 hours 30 minutes; Sapa - 5 hours 30 minutes.
Travel by Rail
There is only one major route from Ho Chi Minh City, via Nha Trang, Danang and Hue, with minor routes to northern towns. Internationally, there is a twice-weekly train service to Beijing.
The main railway station in Hanoi is Ga Hang Co, 120 Le Duan, in the southwest of the city.
You can buy tickets in person at the station, and a useful number is 1080, where English-speaking operators can give information on timetables. For long distances, it's best to book soft-class sleepers (four people in each cabin) or soft seats for shorter distances. The alternative hard-class sleepers (six people in each cabin) and hard-class seats are uncomfortable and crowded.
The Vietnamese railway company is Duong Sat Vietnam (tel: +84 4 3942 5972; www.vr.com.vn), although it is better to go to the station, at 120 Le Duan, in person to purchase tickets.
From Beijing - 38 hours; Ho Chi Minh City - 29 to 42 hours, depending on the number of stops; Hue - 12 hours; Lao Cai - 9 hours; Haiphong - 2 hours 30 minutes.