Our flight from Siem Reap landed at the new Hanoi airport after dark. Warned about Hanoi taxi scams, we arranged for our hotel for a car pick us up from the airport — paying a premium for what seemed the safest way to get from the airport at night. We stood outside the terminal of the new airport for five or ten minutes before a driver with a sign with our name came. His English was very limited, and we don’t speak the local language, as usual on our Southeast Asia vacation.
After we left the airport, the driver got a phone call and told us he wanted us to change to his friend’s taxi. We told him we didn’t want to do this. The driver slowed down and turned down a dark side road with no people around. For the second time that day, we were taken for a ride.
We yelled at the driver to stop and get back to the main road, and he did. We asked to speak to the person who was phoning him. He called and handed over the phone. On the phone, I demanded an explanation and to talk to the hotel. The person at the other end didn’t respond and hung up.
The driver eventually said he’d take us to the hotel. It was a long drive into Hanoi’s Old Quarter. We finally arrived at the hotel. We got out, got our bags, and went into the hotel without tipping the driver. The driver left without explanation. We checked in and told the manager our story, but he had no idea what was going on. We said that this was a poor first impression for tourists coming to Vietnam. The manager upgraded our room and promised a response in the morning.
At breakfast, the concierge asked us our name, apologized, and provided this explanation. The hotel contracts with a car company, which is more reliable than a taxi company. The original driver had car problems, so he asked a friend to pick us up at the airport. The original driver got his car going and was trying to get us to transfer to his car from his friend’s car. We told the concierge that we would have felt safer if we could have talked to the hotel to confirm the change in plans, and she agreed.
Follow the saying “Fooled once, shame on you; fooled twice, shame on me”, we walked and avoided taxis where possible in Hanoi. We saw lots of the Old Quarter but skipped more distant tourist attractions. After a Ha Long Bay cruise, we had to take taxi rides to our hotel and to the airport. The cruise director told us to use the Hanoi Group Taxi or Mai Linh Taxi. We did, and both taxi rides worked out.