Taxis are the best way to travel long distances, but the cyclos, or pedicabs, are a cheap way to make shorter trips. Taxi fares are not always consistent, and the rates for each taxi company have not been standardized. For lone travelers, rides on the back of motorbikes (actually low-powered scooters) are popular too (known as xe om, literally meaning motorbike-hug)
Some meter taxi owners in Hanoi will attempt to negotiate a flat fee in advance rather than use the meter. If you have a fair idea of how far you’re going or how much you’re willing to pay, this is probably a good idea. If the driver refuses, turning around and walking away will almost certainly change his mind. Don’t sweat it, it’s all part of the expected negotiation protocol. It has also become common for the drivers of some of the less reputable taxi companies to “fix” their meters to run faster hence giving differences in prices for the same distance by a factor of 30! The recommendation is to only use the reputable and reliable taxi companies. These are (as of July 2008) Van Xuan Taxi(Tel (04) 38222888 ), Taxi 3A (Tel. 043 8575757) and Taxi CP (Tel. 04 3826 2626, 043 8565656).
Motorbike drivers can be found on virtually every corner, especially in the Old Quarter. Expect to be offered a ride every half-block (or more). Negotiate a fare in advance, and again, turn around and walk away if you don’t like their offer. There are far more drivers than tourists, and they know it – your fare could be the only one they get all day. You might want to write down the negotiated fare to avoid confusion. Even if you do speak Vietnamese, a driver might pretend that you said 50,000 dong instead of 15,000 d! In case of argument over fares after the ride, keep calm and repeat the original agreement. (Remember, you have the leverage.) A typical 10 minute fare should cost no more than 15,000-20,000 dong. Many drivers will accept US dollars as well.
Motorcycles can be rented for around US$5-6 a day, and can be arranged by most hotels. This is good for making lots of trips around the city for individuals or duos, but be careful: Hanoi traffic is very difficult place to sharpen motorbike skills. Park on the sidewalk with other bikes, and be sure to lock the front wheel. Locals will help arrange the bikes near their stores.
Scam free, cheap but a bit difficult to comprehend at first, the buses in Hanoi are relatively fast and surprisingly comfortable. Pick up a map with printed bus lines at the Trang Tien street (the book street by the Opera house) and spend a few minutes to identify the over 60 bus lines, find your bus stop, wait for the bus, pay 3000 dong and of you go.