What’s the best way to ride a bicycle from Hanoi airport into Hanoi city? Are bikes allowed on the highways, is traffic safe enough, will I be able to find my way? As a newbie cycle tourer flying into Hanoi for my first long tour in Southeast Asia, getting this right seemed crucial to getting started on the right foot, and I didn’t have enough experience to trust that I could work it out on arrival.
I’m happy to report that YES, you can easily bicycle from the Hanoi airport into Hanoi. There are two main routes and both will take you a couple of hours. Whichever you choose, it will begin with 10-15 kilometers of highway riding in a safe separated bicycle/moto lane. It will end with the more chaotic but lower speed traffic of Hanoi proper. Below I’ll tell you what I discovered about how to cycle from Hanoi airport into the city.
Once you’re in Hanoi, I definitely recommend taking a few days to explore before pedaling out. Here are some ideas for things to do in Hanoi while you’re getting oriented.
Putting the bike together
Because I had never flown with a bike before and didn’t want to assemble my bike under pressure and with an audience, I took a short cab ride to a hotel near the airport and spent the afternoon leisurely assembling my bike in my room. If you’re comfortable with the process I think you could easily assemble the bike at the airport and just ride straight into town.
I also hear you can take a cab into the city with your bike box if you’d prefer to skip the ride and assemble your bike in the city center. Going rate seems to be $14 – $18. But, you came to Vietnam for a cycle trip, right? Read on to find out how to cycle straight from the airport.
The map above shows the two main routes from Hanoi airport into the city. I’ve drawn them leading to the Old Quarter neighborhood, which is where a lot of the cheaper backpacker hostels are, and a nice place to stay.
Beware though, a lot of hostels and guesthouses in the Old Quarter don’t have inside parking for bicycles. I stayed at Chien Hostel which directed me to park for a small fee at a nearby temple. You may need to get creative or hunt around, or if you are organized, make a booking and verify bicycle parking in advance.
Once you get across the bridges there are many ways to get to the Old Quarter or most other places; follow your nose and have fun!
Vo Van Kiet (west route)
This is the way I biked from Hanoi airport. It is mostly easy riding with multiple lanes including a separate one for motorbikes and bicycles. The traffic was fairly light. Overall I felt it was manageable, even for a solo cyclist on her first big tour.
There is only one slightly complex section. As you near the city there is a large bridge which motos and bicycles are not allowed to cross. This is clearly marked with a sign telling you to exit to the right. You will see all the motorbikes exiting, and you should follow them. The detour is a bit circuitous, so follow what seems to be the biggest flow of motorbikes or ask locals for directions. Basically you will do the following:
- Exit to the right
- Turn left to cross under the highway
- Turn left again, as if you are heading back onto the highway going the wrong direction (I know, it feels wrong, but it’s not)
- Just before the side road rejoins the highway, turn right again (away from the highway) onto some smaller side streets.
- Take the first major right turn, which will have you heading in the correct direction parallel to the highway. If you follow the other motorbikes this will eventually lead you onto a moto/bike-only crossing beneath the main bridge for just you and your other two-wheeled friends. Easy! Stay to the right though, because the motos will pass you quickly.
After this bridge you are in the city; follow your map and/or your nose to wherever you’re headed.
Highway 14 (east route)
This road passes by the east side of the airport. I didn’t ride it into the city, but I rode it in the opposite direction a few days later on my way north to the mountains so I was able to scout it out. It looked very straightforward, with fast but orderly traffic and a separate moto/bike lane. This lane continued over the big fancy bridge, so it’s a simple straight shot, no detours required like on the other route above.
Which route to take?
Both are a similar distance, both have good roads, and both have reasonable traffic.
The east route is a bit more straightforward because you don’t need to detour to get across the bridge. If you’re worried about that part (though you really don’t need to be) then that could be a reason to choose the east route.
Otherwise, I’d say choose the one that is most convenient based on which side of the airport you end up on, and where in Hanoi you are headed.
Bike safe and have fun!
More Cycling Resources
If you’re heading to Hanoi by bicycle, here are some other resources you might find helpful:
- Guide to Independent Bicycle Touring in Northern Vietnam
- Guide to Independent Bicycle Touring in Laos
- Fixing Bicycle Seat Soreness for Women
- Cycling safety tips for dealing with traffic in Southeast Asia
- What women might want to wear while touring in Southeast Asia