Hanoi does not have the most ideal transportation infrastructure, and this is one of the city’s primary problems.
Hanoi’s only airport is Noibai International Airport. It is a new airport which was completed in 2000. Despite its beautiful modern architecture, there are many problems with the airport. For a city the size of Hanoi, approximately 1.5 million people, the airport is really small, and it is not able to handle many passengers at a time. A new runway was completed in 2002, and plans were made for a new terminal and control tower. Also, the airport is 45 km from downtown. They built it here because the land was cheap, and it not over swampland. Finally, transportation to and from the airport is poor. There is no train going from the airport to the city center, and the highway to the airport only has 4 lanes. The only way to get into town is by car or bus along this highway. One can only access the city by car, bus, or motorbike from the airport.
The city is accessed by a number of major , roadways. National highways from all directions converge in the city’s outskirts. There is a major ring road that runs around the outer portions of the city. Hanoi’s street network, however, is very chaotic. Planning roads in Hanoi is very difficult because of the city’s many lakes. They are in close proximity to major residential and business sectors. Roads had to be built around the lakes, and traffic on these roads is very heavy. Hanoi’s major roads are the riverfront highway, three east-west boulevards (one south of the CBD and two coming from the CBD), and three north-south boulevards stemming from the city center. These streets, although very important, are poorly planned because they all have different names in different segments. This is the same with most other streets in the city, on top of the already difficult language barrier. In addition, streets and highways in the city are also poorly maintained. These factors make Hanoi a poor city for tourists to get around by themselves. A guide who knows the road pattern is essential.
A chaotic road network normally leads to a chaotic bus network. In Hanoi, the bus system is only adequate. Buses travel on main arteries of the city and get people where they need to go at a cheap price. There is a lot of route overlap, and there are approximately 20 major route intersection points. The buses themselves are old and need a good amount of maintenance, but do the job. Because of the cheap prices and nicely planned routes, buses are very crowded. The city needs more buses, but they can not afford more. For a picture of the Hanoi bus network
Another problem with transportation infrastructure deals with economics. The city has little money for improvements to its streets. In some areas, roads are not paved. In the Old Quarter, there are little or no traffic lights, making a simple trip across the street a gut-wrenching experience since hordes of people drive at any given second. Most people, however, are too poor to afford cars. Instead, the majority of Hanoi zoom around the city on motorbike. Motorbikes are very useful in Hanoi because they can weave in and out of traffic, and handle narrow streets well. Motorbikes are also very easy to maintain.
Economics and landscape harm Hanoi when it comes to world city transportation amenities. It is important to keep in mind that the city was built on swampland. It is very expensive to build under swamps. Therefore, there are no tunnels going across the Red River. There are only two bridges that cross the river because the it is very wide. Also, the combination of the swamp and the lakes makes it very expensive to build a subway system in Hanoi. However, the city planners realize that in order to gain stature, they need more bridges, a tunnel or two, and an efficient subway system. The Hanoi Plan for 2020 includes these amenities, with most of the funds coming from foreign direct investment.
Although Hanoi is on the Red River, it does not serve as a port city. Hai Phong, situated 100 km east of Hanoi along the Red River, is the closest major port. Mostly served by container and cruise ships coming upriver from Halong Bay, Hai Phong is the largest port in northern Vietnam. With the large workforce at the port, Hai Phong is Vietnam’s 3rd most populous city.
Hanoi also serves as the major train center of northern Vietnam. The train station, situated in the south central part of the city, handles many trains a day. From Hanoi, one can take a train as far east as Halong City (175 km), as far north as Kunming, China (approximately 550 km), as far northwest as Lao Kai (293 km), and as far south as Ho Chi Minh City (1726 km) on the Reunification Express. For the most part, the trains are very old and very slow. For example, the Reunification “Express” takes almost two days to go from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.