Vietnam has many fascinating cities to explore outside of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) like the historic city of Hue (pronounced hway) 635km to the north. To get from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue you have many choices, which we will summarise for you here. There are plane, train or bus departures leaving Ho Chi Minh everyday so you can choose basing on your preference, budget and how much time you have.
Hue, with its wonderful history, mixture of old and new hotels and setting on the Perfume River, has a lot to enjoy and in spite of being one of Vietnam’s more conservative cities, it has a healthy nightlife scene waiting for you too when you have finished exploring its history during the day.
From Ho Chi Minh to Hue By plane
If you prefer to travel quickly and efficiently or time is simply at a premium while you’re in Vietnam then the best option for you to get from Ho Chi Minh to Hue is to fly. By plane you could be in Hue in around an hour and a half.
There are numerous flights from Ho Chi Minh's Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) to Hue’s Phu Bai International Airport (HUI) daily.
Operators include Vietnam Airlines who have 6 flights a day with departures throughout the day starting at 5.40am and the last Vietnam Airlines flight is immediately after 11pm. This is the premium option though with flights in most cases costing from USD200 (!) per person one-way.
Another option, which is a bit more cost effective, is the VietJet Airlines service where you also have a choice of 6 flights a day between 7.15am and 7.40pm. The cost per person with VietJet ranges between USD30 and USD125 depending on what time you fly, but in most cases with a bit of flexibility you can always grab a ticket for under USD50.
Jetstar Pacific are the other airline that operate on this route, they have a daily flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue, which leaves at 6am and cost around USD55 per person.
From Ho Chi Minh to Hue by train
One of the most popular long distance travel options in Vietnam is to travel by sleeper train. The train services are mostly operated by Vietnam Railways, also referred to as the Reunification Express or North-South Railway, but there are also a few independent VIP service operators available, too.
Note These ones, though, come in a form of commercial carriages within the trains of Vietnam Railways.
You have plenty of options if you are looking to book a train directly from Ho Chi Minh’s Saigon Train Station (1 Nguyen Thong, Phuong 9, Quan 3) to Hue Railway Station (Sunny B. Hotel, Nguyen Tri Phuong Street) because there are departures regularly during the day from 6am to 10pm. The journey by train to Hue takes around 20 hours. Tickets, depending on the service and class you decide to book, will cost you between USD20 and USD60 per person.
Tip The direct trains from Ho Chi Minh to Hue are SE2, SE4, SE6, SE8, SE22 and TN2 with the two latter probably being the best option: they leave HCMC in the early afternoon and let you enjoy the scenery en route before it gets too dark and bring you to Hue in the morning or by midday.
From Ho Chi Minh to Hue by train via Nha Trang
As a 20-hour train journey is not for everyone and you consider breaking it, Nha Trang comes handy.
Why make a stopover in Nha Trang?
Vietnam’s modern, high-rise, seaside party town, Nha Trang is an energetic beachfront resort with its stunning aquamarine bay that is sprinkled with tropical islands. Nha Trang’s quirky boutiques, cosmopolitan restaurants, beachfront bars, late-night clubs and the impressive promenade have become increasingly popular with people of all ages visiting Vietnam.
Both trains and buses already mentioned above that go direct to Hue from Saigon all stop in Nha Trang en-route but you also have some additional options to choose from, too, including trains SNT2, SNT4, SNT6, HNT8 and SE26.
For a little extra comfort and privacy during your journey to Nha Trang you might also want to consider using the VIP 4 berth sleeper services operated by Saigon Golden Trains and Livitrans Express although they are, obviously, come out more expensive.
Train tickets per person from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang start at USD12 for a 2nd class soft seat ticket and go up to USD60 for a VIP sleeper cabin. The train journey will take around 9 hours and the last train departs from Saigon Train Station at 10.25pm each day.
When you’re ready to move on to Hue after your stopover in Nha Trang you can simply catch your onward train from the choice of any of the Ho Chi Minh City to Hue direct services (SE2, SE4, SE6, SE8, SE22 and TN2). The journey from Nha Trang to Hue by train will take about 12 hours. Tickets per person cost between USD18 and USD40, and the trains depart Nha Trang Station regularly between 3.25am and 9.30pm everyday so you have plenty of choice in terms of when to travel.
Tip Schedule-wise, the evening trains SE22 and TN2 are the most convenient ones as in case with the direct train ride from Ho Chi Minh to Hue, but SE6, which passes through Nha Trang at 4.30pm and arrives to Hue before 6am, can also be considered.
From Ho Chi Minh to Hue by bus
Another way to get direct from Ho Chi Minh to Hue is by Open Ticket Tour or sleeper bus operated by the Hoang Long Bus Company.
Note Open Ticket Tour buses are the most inexpensive way to see Vietnam and offer plenty of flexibility, too, because you can get off the bus at any of the major cities and then catch another bus for the next leg of your journey when you are ready to, subject to advising the tour operator of your travel plans at least 24 hours before you want to travel.
Note Be aware that the roads in Vietnam can get very congested at times and are also not very well maintained, which can make travelling by sleeper bus in Vietnam an interesting adventure!
Hoang Long Bus Company is a relatively new bus operator in Vietnam and so the buses tend to be a little more modern than some of the more established operators. Many of the Hoang Long buses are fitted with TVs, DVD players, air-conditioning and have toilet facilities, too. Also included in the price of your ticket are complimentary cold towels, bottled water and a snack.
The buses from Ho Chi Minh to Hue leave from Mien Dong Bus Station (292 Dinh Bo Linh Street, Binh Thanh District), which is about 5km from central Ho Chi Ming City on Highway 13.
There are 5 departures daily to Hue with tickets costing between USD25 and USD28 per person. The journey to from Saigon to Hue by bus will take around 24 hours although it is best to leave some extra time in case of heavy traffic or delays on the roads.
From Ho Chi Minh to Hue by bus via Nha Trang
As in case with the rail journey, you can consider making a stopover in Nha Trang.
Note that there are more departures from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang than to Hue, and similarly from Nha Trang, you have more options to get to Hue, bot by train or by bus, than directly from Ho Chi Minh.
Sinh Tourist operates 2 bus services from Saigon to Nha Tranh daily, one at 7am and the other at 8pm. Tickets are USD11 per person and the journey will take between 10 and 11 hours depending on what time you decide to travel.
Hanh Café is another Open Ticket Tour operator serving Nha Trang from Ho Chi Minh and they have one morning departure at 8am and 4 evening departures between 8pm and 10pm daily. The Hanh Café buses take 9.5 hours to get to Nha Trang and cost USD9 per person.
After your stopover in Nha Trang, you can hop on a bus to Hue and continue your journey. The Hanh Café Open Ticket bus to Hue takes about 17 hours to cover the 500km and tickets cost around USD15 person.
Onward travel from Hue
As well as exploring the historical wonders of Hue there are many other things to see and places to enjoy around Hue, for example, Bach Ma National Park is mid way between Da Nang and Hue with it’s 40,000 hectares of natural jungle, hiking trails and abundance of wildlife. From Hue, Bach Ma National Park is just an hour away and there are plenty of local buses and day trips available.
Da Nang is another fantastic option from Hue. It’s only a couple of hours away and with its tree-lined boulevards, beautiful beaches and high-end bars it makes a great excursion from Hue.
Heading north from Hue you could also visit Hoi An, which is about 3 hours away by train or an hour if you take a private taxi. Enjoy the graceful atmosphere and historic charm of this ancient South East Asian trading port that dates back to the 15th century.
Moving even further north your choices would include Dong Hoi and Phong Nha Cave, which are about 200km away and will take just over 4 hours to get to by train. The UNESCO World Heritage site at Phong Nha–Ke Bang National Park is a very popular destination for travellers to this part of Vietnam that is not to be missed.
Other amazing destinations to explore in Northern Vietnam include Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, with it’s bustling streets and endless markets. The Old Quarter of Hanoi is very popular with travellers and it is a stone’s throw away from the mysterious wonders of Halong Bay. You can also reach the World Heritage site at Halong Bay via Hai Phong where the splendor of its spectacular limestone pillars jutting out of the water and over 1,600 uninhabited islands are waiting for you.
Sapa is another major tourist attraction from Hanoi. Sapa is often referred to as The Queen of the Mountains, because of it’s cascading rice paddies that appear to tumble down the mountainsides forming a patchwork quilt along the endless mist-covered valleys that are inhabited by the local hill-tribes. An experience of a lifetime, Sapa is another destination in Vietnam not to be missed.