Summary of Hanoi 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.
The main north to south route in Vietnam is Highway 1 connecting Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City.
From Hai Phong – 2 hours 30 minutes; Halong Bay – 3 hours 30 minutes; Sapa – 10 hours.
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 Hai Phong 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.