Hue was the imperial capitol of the Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam from 1802 until the communist revolution in 1945. The city sustained heavy damage during the last war but the imperial citadel, royal tombs and temple complex still attract both foreign and domestic visitors. Hue is situated on the always beautiful Perfume River and the peaceful city is a welcome change from the rush of Hanoi.
Traveling from Hanoi to Hue
Traveling from Hanoi to Hue can be quite an enjoyable trip and you will have many transportations options. The journey from Hanoi to Hue on land takes about 14 hours and can be done by bus or train. Unlike neighboring countries, the bus is usually not faster than train due to poor road conditions. Going from Hanoi to Hue by train will either give you the chance to view the beautiful scenery by day or get a good sleep by night. Hanoi to Hue by airplane is only an hour of flight time but neither airport is located near the cities and delays are to be expected on domestic flights.
From Hanoi to Hue by Train
Taking the train from Hanoi to Hue is very popular amongst our users and deserves special attention as it is serviced by two private railroad companies. These firms operate luxury cars which are attached to the Vietnam Railways trains running from Hanoi to Hue. The fastest trains run at night and make the trip from Hanoi to Hue in around 13 hours. These would be the SE1 and SE3 which depart at 7:30 and 10:00pm respectively and arrive in Hue at 9:00 and 10:30am. VIP Sleeper Cabins with 4 berths in each are available on Livitrans Express and Violette Express Train. These cabins are considerably cleaner and the staff more attentive than Vietnam Railways making them ideal for going from Hanoi to Hue by train. The luxury train operators will provide more comfortable sleeping arrangements and higher quality amenities than you are likely to find elsewhere. Livitrans and Violette Express berths for the route from Hanoi to Hue will cost about $75 for the slower train and $85 for the fastest .
Vietnam Railways also operates two day trains which can give you the chance to take in the scenery along the way but they are not serviced by any private train companies. These services depart at 9:00am and 1:10pm, arriving in Hue at 11pm and 4:00am. A hard seat on Vietnam Railways for getting from Hanoi to Hue will be about $25 but we recommend that you avoid both hard and soft seats for this trip if possible as they can get quite uncomfortable after a few hours. The price for a 1st class sleeper will be around $45 and should make for a much more enjoyable trip from Hanoi to Hue.
From Hanoi to Hue by Bus
To get from Hanoi to Hue by overnight bus is one option the budget traveler can consider. Small bus companies that operate between Hanoi and Hue have questionable service records with regards to cleanliness and safety and so we advise you to travel with a well known operator that has a history of serving foreign travelers. One such company is the Sinh Tourist which operates a sleeper bus from Hanoi to Hue that departs at 7:00pm and arrives at 8:00am. Customers have only sent good feedback for the service from Hanoi to Hue and the price is $13.50.
Hue is a fairly compact city and most attractions (except the royal tombs) will be within walking distance. Cyclos and motorbike taxis are common so ask your hotel about reasonable prices before heading out. To avoid confusion and conflict agree on a price beforehand and write the number (including all zeroes) on a piece of paper.
While not known for having as many scams as Hanoi, Hue has few major taxi companies and thus service can be hit or miss. All taxis should have a working meter but be generally aware of how to get to your destination to avoid being overcharged. Your best option may be having a hotel or restaurant arrange the taxi for you.
Bicycles and motorbikes are widely available for rent and can be a good option for getting around town since traffic is more manageable than in the big cities. Bicycles are rented out for a few dollars a day and motorbikes for under $10. Ask your hotel to arrange the rental.
Where to stay in Hue
Popular accommodations in Hue are clustered within a few blocks of the Perfume River across from the citadel. Their rates tend to be lower than Hanoi or Saigon and the quality comparable. It is usually not necessary to book far in advance but you should consult a calendar to ensure that your time in Hue does not coincide with a holiday as the city is a popular domestic tourism destination.
Activities in Hue
The imperial citadel in Hue attracts domestic and foreign visitors alike despite sustaining heavy damage during the American War. 20 structures remain on the site and you can spend several hours exploring it and the adjacent To Mieu temples. The site is near the Perfume River, across from most accommodations and guides are available should you want a detailed history.
To the south of Hue are the tombs of several emperors from the Nguyen Dynasty, each with a unique style inline with the story of the person buried. There are four prominent sites 8 to 12 kilometers away from the center of Hue and are within biking distance if you have good directions. Each tomb is a short walk from the river and you can hire a boat to take you on a tour for the day. Expect to pay a few dollars to enter the sites but they are well worth it.
The Thien Mu Pagoda is the official symbol of Hue and it’s tiered, octagon shaped tower is an icon recognized across Vietnam. The pagoda is on a hill overlooking the river 4 kilometers south of the citadel and can be reached by both bicycle and boat.
Onward travel from Hue
Several hours south of Hue by bus or train is the city of Danang and the nearby tourist attraction of Hoi An Town, a restored trading post dating back hundreds of years. The journey by train from Hue to Danang is considered especially beautiful and takes only three hours with a cost of $5 on Vietnam Railways. There are three trains daily but only the 10:30am departure will allow you to enjoy the scenery during daylight hours. To travel on to Hoi An you will need to catch a taxi from the train station or book a charter taxi to avoid being overcharged. The transfer takes about one hour and costs $40. The Sinh Tourist offers bus services at 8am and 1pm from Hue to Danang for $5 and continuing on from Danang to Hoi An for under $15.