Most sights and accommodations are in Hoan Kiem District (downtown), centered around the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake, and Ba Dinh, Dong Da or Hai Ba Trung districts. Most addresses include a district name. You'll want to plan your travels accordingly because getting from one district to another can be time-consuming. Within the downtown, you can easily walk from a spot to another.
Hanoi is well served by a number of local buses that cover regular routes through the city, but they are often crowded and using them is rather difficult if you don't speak Vietnamese. Bus costs about 25 cents for each ride and do not have transit card. With the ready availability of fast, affordable local motorbike taxis and good metered taxis, few tourists bother with local buses. However, it might be a great way to experience local life by taking the bus.
You can wave for taxi on the street or ask receptions at your hostel to call one. There are a number of taxi companies, enough to keep the price down out of competitiveness. All taxis have meter and you should check the starting price and whether they are functioning right. The starting price is usually 10,000 VND to 12,000 VND and a ride for 15 minutes should not cost you more than $1.5.
Some of the taxi companies are: Taxi CP (043-826-2626), 52 Taxi (043- 852-5252), Taxi Huong Lua (04-820-2020).
Be sure to get your change; drivers often seek a surreptitious tip by claiming that they don't have the right amount to give back. Smile. Tell the driver that you'll wait until it's obtained, and it will materialize. Tips are greatly appreciated, but don't feel pressured to give any certain percent, just round up the meter or offer 5,000 VND/35¢ and you are being quite generous by local standards.
Renting a car is convenient, but driving yourself is not recommended. Book a car with a driver from $33 a day. If an upscale hotel quotes you more, call one of the tourist cafes or travel agency to check the price. A rented car or shared taxi is a great way to make your own itinerary outside the city.
Remember that the type of traffic in Hanoi does not allow car to move any faster than a motorbike, so if your constitution is hearty and you like to throw caution to the wind, get a motorbike taxi to get you through the city traffic and small alleyways of the city.
This is a cheap and easy way to get around the city, but drivers sometime take you on their race. Bargain hard with these guys if you smell some rat, and insist on paying in Vietnam dong rather than in dollars. Motorbike taxi drivers in Hanoi can also be hired by the hour for 15,000 VND to 30,000 VND ($1-$2) and showing the driver the written address of where you want to go is a better alternative than trying to have your Vietnamese understood. The drivers know the streets better than even your hotel receptionist so they may help you toss around with the itinerary.
If you are into some adventure sports within the cities, rent your own motorbike. There are plenty of stores in downtown area with the sign “motorbike for rent”. Navigating Hanoi streets is a rewarding experience that not many other places can offer. One-day rentals of 100cc motorbikes start at $5. A 1-month rental of a little hair-dryer-style model (a Honda Dream or Wave) can cost as little as $40 to $50.
Demand a helmet, wear it, and go slow; honk to alert other vehicles when passing; and stay alert- and of course do not get annoyed when others honk at you- most people do! Inexperienced riders might want to think twice before handing over a copy of passport of driver license to the renting stores.
Cyclos are three-wheeled two-seated carts powered by a man on a foot-pedal bike riding behind you. You can flag them down anywhere. This is a particularly nice choice for touring the Old Quarter's narrow streets to slowly breathe in the local life. Bargain (art of haggling in Vietnam) with the driver before setting out. You can pay as little as 20,000 VND ($1) for a short ride, and 50,000 VND ($2.5) for a longer haul. You can also hire by the hour for about $2.
Rental costs for a bike are about $3 per day from a hotel or tourist cafe. The traffic is daunting, but the brave quickly learn how to just stay to the right and join the flow. Helmets are generally not available.