Moto-taxis, or “xe oms,” are convenient and cheap, especially for short distances. The drivers have grown up on these streets, and know how to navigate them safely and quickly, though you should be sensitive to whether a xe om driver has been drinking–if a driver smells like beer, there’s undoubtedly another driver not far away. The xe om drivers wait in clusters on street corners, by supermarkets, and anywhere else there’s a good chance of getting a fare. As a rule they will charge as much as they can get–in practice xe oms are about half the cost of a taxi. It should cost VND 30,000 or less to get around anywhere in the Old Quarter, and VND 50,000 to get from West Lake to the center of town.
The xe om drivers are a scrappy, friendly bunch. Helmet laws are strictly enforced, so they all carry a spare for their passengers–however, many locals and expats carry a helmet of their own for xe om excursions. In addition to being a quick way about town, xe oms are a great way to SEE the town–because you’re at street level, up close to everything, but you don’t have to pay attention to driving. Don’t forget your dust mask, at least for long moto-taxi rides–and hold on!
Bicycling in Hanoi is not for the faint of heart. Cars, buses and motorbikes dominate the roads, and bicycles are considered lowest on the food chain. However, some intrepid expats swear by their pushbikes as the best way to get around. They’re especially convenient and pleasant for running local errands if you’re in an outlying district like West Lake or Ciputra. Naturally, caution is paramount, and make sure you wear eye protection