Taxis everywhere in the world love to get a newly arrived foreigner in the back. That is when the tricks start, and that is nothing specific to Hanoi, but it does exist.
As a general rule always insist that the meter is on, just point at it and say ‘Meter’ and he will get the message. Sometimes the driver will refuse, so I politely ask him to stop and I get out, even if it involves taking my cases out of the boot. But if you are going to or from the airport it is a set fee and they will not always use the meter; just sometimes to check the distance.
On the other hand sometimes the taxi driver is only too eager to turn on the meter; it appears to be
‘foreigner mode’ and almost spins out of control clocking up more money every second. Unfortunately without local knowledge this is quite difficult to manage, but if you are stopping at your hotel, go into reception and ask for some assistance.
If you have taken a particular trip a hundred times and know the price just give the driver the fair amount for it. No doubt he’ll yell and scream, but your only option is to give him the money and walk away. He won’t take it further as he knows he is wrong, but it’s not the most comfortable thing to do.
To avoid naughty taxi drivers, try not to get a taxi that is parked and calls you over, and watch out for taxis outside or near a hotel or tourist hot spot. It’s a better bet to hail a taxi that is driving down the road, but not always a guaranteed method.
Once in your taxi try to close your eyes and put ear plugs in your ears as their driving style can be breathtaking, and there’ll be constant tooting on the horn even though no one is in front of the car.
It’s surprising that even a driver who can speak 4 languages fluently has no idea of how to drive to our standards. This is all part of the adventure !!
Be respectful and tipping is at your discretion, and sob stories about the driver’s family are often given to encourage a healthy tip. Sadly these stories probably have an element of truth to them as many families are separated when parents head to the city for work leaving children with the grandparents, or the drivers will be working to finance their children’s education.
Another international taxi trick is getting a city tour when you only want to go a few blocks. If you‘re even a little familiar with the map at least you get to know if you are going in the total wrong direction and can comment, but if you sit in the back reading your guide book or trying to work out where you are going for dinner, you may not notice and just have to pay.
Taxis are cheap on the world grand scheme of things. Prices totally depend on the taxi company. Bigger companies like ‘Hanoi Taxis’ are reliable and you can book by phone.