Should I Uber and Grab in Hanoi, Vietnam?

Two months back, I was in Hanoi with my family. We are a family of five, and all three of us kids have been to Hanoi before on backpacking trips. We know how travelling alone is more ideal for bargaining transport fees. As a group of five inseparables, touting drivers have the upper hand.

Lucky for us, this time round there’s Uber and Grab!



Pro: More affordable

Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive. We wouldn’t know the surcharge and man, was I bad at exchange rates and numbers. The kiasu in me double checked with the airport transfer desk for prices, and the aunty in me happily declared to my family: “UBER!” (Haha *dramatic* No, this is not a paid ad.)

We were quoted VND500,000 for an airport transfer to Hanoi Old Quarter as a group.

Bargained it down to VND450,000.

Now we even tried to book on Uber, then cancel, then book again — just to compare if there’s any glitch in price we saw. We whipped out other phones to book for Grab too, just to compare prices.

Eventually, we believed and booked on Uber. Here’s our receipt. Look at the difference in pricing!

Pro: Point of contact after alighting

I have to add a disclaimer that this receipt arrived before I gave the driver a 5 star and a raving review.

My little sister has left her GoPro in the backseat. Panic ensued but our kind hotel staff spoke on the phone with the driver and 30 minutes later — yes, 30 minutes! Because he was rather far away but he U-turned for us — we had our precious camera back safely.

It was a whirlwind but oh, we wouldn’t have been able to retrieve the lost item if not for the contact form on the App. We would think all’s a lost cause if we had flagged down a driver at the airport instead.

Con: Sneaky sneaky

Within the city, we get a little lazy sometimes and book for Uber. The sun, our tired knees, oh a moment of aircon — and of course, affordable ride! Each trip costs $1 to $2, no kidding!

However, we had one ill experience where the driver arrived, we hopped on and he turned on the meter. All five of us started going, “no no no no…” and he shoo-ed us off, despite nodding at the beginning when we said “Uber?” and confirmed his car plate number and face. Ah, but we didn’t lose faith!

Pro: Language barrier do not count

Of course, the incident above wouldn’t have left us a little shaken if we could speak Vietnamese and converse clearly.

That said, Uber and Grab both negate the need for conversation as once destination is keyed clearly in the respective Apps, the driver simply picks you up and drops you off. Most of the time, we just smiled at each other while my dad made weak attempts to make friends.

Look, even the receipt of Grab is illegible to us! Psst, the ride back to the airport from the hotel cost only VND 249,000.

Con: Time management

Please, do not wait till the last minute to book for your transfer back to the airport. Speaking from real experience, my family dripped buckets of cold sweat with this mistake.

Half an hour before our check-out at the hotel, I did a hasty check and said “guys, there are tons of Grab and Uber out there. Chill.”

Half an hour later, and less than 1.5 hours to our flight out — we were running down streets trying to get signals for cars to pick us up. We had spent ALL our money and hence couldn’t even flag down a cab. Eventually we were lucky to catch a Grab signal while running down a corner of a street (we wonder if this really did the trick). Lesson learnt: Yes, trust the apps. But hey, plan your rides!

Anna lives to explore. She loves digging toes into warm sand, diving, hugging trees, eating with locals, yoga and meditation. She enjoys stuffing her face with good food and prancing through back alleys of urban spaces. Some say Anna lives carelessly, she says "live wild, live carefree."