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I spent 8 nights in the Old Quarter, Hanoi and it was, now, time to leave Vietnam and move on to the Philippines.
I needed to get to Terminal 2, Hanoi Airport (Noi Bai) for my regional Cebu Pacific flight to The Philippines.
The ‘typical’ taxi fare from the Old Quarter to the Airport is about VND350k. It is a 35km journey (and the typical taxi rate is VND10k per km). But, try and negotiate a fixed price in advance so that there are no ‘surprises’ when you get to the airport.
Some airlines (like Air Vietnam) provide a shuttle bus for VND40k/50k – but their offices are not in central Old Quarter, so you may still have to add a taxi fare to get from your hotel to their office. Pre-booking may be wise. The trip to the airport from the Old Quarter takes about 1 hour.
My flight didn’t leave until 1am so I had plenty of time to kill after checking out of my hotel at midday. So, I decided to burn up some time and catch a local bus.
There are 2 local buses that get you from the Old Quarter to the Airport. Depending on where your hotel is, you either catch the Number 7 or the Number 17. The Number 17 bus stop was 100 meters from my hotel so I caught that one. It takes 1.5 hours to get to the airport and costs VND9k.
HOTEL TO THE BUS STOP:
The day before I needed to actually leave, I went looking for the Number 17 bus stop.
From the internet, I knew that it was somewhere on Tran Nhat Duat street north of the Cao Chuong Duong bridge and, possibly at Ga Long Bien train / interchange station.
From my hotel, I hit Tran Nhat Duat and turned left. There was a bus stop about 50m down the road on the southbound side of the road.
The bus stops in Hanoi display the numbers of the buses that stop at that stop. Number 17 was listed so I decided to wait and see how full it was.
Whilst I was waiting, a young Vietnamese girl came up to me and asked if she could help me. I said that I was looking for the 17 bus. She confirmed that this was the correct stop for the 17 bus going to the airport. She said that the buses leave every 15-20 minutes during the day (up to 10pm?).
Comfortable that I knew how to get to the airport, I waited to see one stop (which wasn’t full) and then wandered back to my hotel.
PUBLIC BUS TO NOI BAI AIRPORT:
I was at the bus stop at 6pm and on the bus within 5 minutes.
The bus was not full and I easily found a seat to sit on with my luggage in the aisle by my side.
After 5 minutes, the young Vietnamese man next to me introduced himself and asked if I minded engaging in ‘small talk’. We talked for the next hour… he, obviously, wanted to practice his English.
NOI BAI AIRPORT SHUTTLE BUS:
The bus arrived at Terminal 1 at 7:30pm. The Public Buses stop in a parking area about 50m left of the terminal building.
I walked to the terminal and found a sign saying ‘Shuttle Bus to Terminal 2’. The Shuttle arrived within 10 minutes. The service is free. It takes 10 minutes to get to Terminal 2.
HANOI NOI BAI AIRPORT CHECK-IN:
At check-in, I found the strictest luggage content rules that I have found in my 1 year of travelling around S.E.Asia.
The list of what you could and could not carry in your hand luggage included power cables, telecommunications cables, and a myriad of other ‘on the face-of-it’ harmless things.
I had packed some of these in my hand luggage so I had to quickly swap them into my check-in luggage.
I was flying to Puerto Princesa via a 4 hour ‘in transit stop-over’ in Manila. My checked-in luggage was booked through to Puerto Princesa.
With my Boarding Pass and Passport in had, I proceeded to enter the Departure Lounge. A scan of my Boarding Pass sent off an alarm. A customs official came to collect me and took me into a customs booth. As you can imagine, some worse-case scenarios flashed through my mind…
They had my checked-in suitcase there ready for me to open. They had detected a couple of spray cans in my luggage that they wanted to look at.
I opened my suitcase and took out the first can: a big can of bug spray. She looked at it and confiscated it. It had an ‘inflammable’ logo on it. I took out the second can: a small can of sunburn spray. She said that this was OK. I got the ‘all clear’ and re-entered the Departure Lounge with no further problems.
My flight was scheduled for 1am. It was delayed. We left at 1:50am.
MANILA AIRPORT IN-TRANSIT:
We were given an arrival card and a health declaration card to fill in on the plane.
We landed at 5:50am and checked through immigration.
Although my suitcase was checked through to Puerto Princesa, I had this strange feeling that I should check the luggage carousel. Sure enough, there was my suitcase!
The luggage receipt stub attached to my Boarding Pass said Puerto Princesa. The label attached to my suitcase said Manila! I grabbed my suitcase and cleared customs.
I tried to find the Cebu Pacific Transit Desk to resolve the problem (I assumed that their records may need cleaning up… or, someone might waste time trying to find a missing suitcase… or, worse, it could even delay a flight).
A Transit Desk at Immigration was closed and said to go to the one on the 1st Floor. I searched for one on the 1st Floor but could not find it. I went to Information who told me to go to the 3rd Floor. I went to the 3rd Floor and found the Cebu Pacific check-in counters. I asked for the Transfers Desk, they sent me to the 1st Floor. I returned to the 1st Floor and had another look but could not find it. I went back to the Information Desk who sent me to the 3rd Floor. I went back to the Cebu Check-in counters 3rd Floor. The assistant tried to send me back to the 1st Floor. I ignored her and queued at check-in.
At the check-in counter I explained what had happened with my luggage. ‘No problem’ she said. She checked in my suitcase and asked me to sign the release of the erroneous luggage tag. Once done, I was checked in.
MANILA AIRPORT ATMs:
There are many ATMs at the airport.
PSBank ATMs dispense a maximum of PHP10,000.
Most others dispense a maximum of PHP15,000 with a charge of PHP200 for the privelege.
I took out PHP20,000 from the Philbank ATM with a charge of PHP200.
I, obviously, still had my Foreign ATM Transaction Fee at my home bank end.
I entered the Departure Lounge and put my luggage through for scanning. I was stopped as I collected my bags at the other end. ‘Are you carrying a lighter’ they said. Yes, I always have one on me when I travel. It was confiscated. You can’t even carry a lighter now!
My Boarding Pass said Gate 117. I found Gate 117 and checked that it said Puerto Princesa flight 635… it did.
Over the intercom, they announced that the flight was delayed 30 minutes. No worries there…
They, then, announced that Gate 117 was for boarding another flight but the sign still said Puerto Princesa. I waited…
Ten minutes before flight departure, the Gate 117 counter staff announced that we were boarding at Gate 134. There was a mad rush as everyone tried to find Gate 134. I don’t know why, we were always all going to get on the flight anyway.
Our 10:00am flight finally left at 10:35. Our 1.5 hour flight caught up time and we landed at 11:45am.
Fortunately, my suitcase was on the carousel.
PUERT PRINCESA (PP) AIRPORT TO HOTEL:
Puerto Princesa Airport is very small.
When you walk out of the terminal, you will find taxis and tribikes waiting.
The normal price for a tribike anywhere around PP City is PHP10. Bear this in mind when you negotiate a price as the airport is only about 2km from City Centre.
I had been sitting down on buses and planes for over 12 hours, so I walked the 2 kms to my hotel; it was a pleasant walk.
At Hanoi Hoi Bai Airport, you can reverse the journey. This will get you from the Airport to the Old Quarter for VND9k each (about US$0.40c).
When you book a cheap airline, expect cheap airline problems.
The Philippines Airports are disorganised. Ask, and ask lots.
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