Cities: Hue

Hue (Huế) is in the central region of Vietnam and is the former imperial capital.


Hue is intimately connected to the imperial Nguyễn Dynasty, based in Hue, who ruled from 1802 to 1945, when the Emperor Bao Dai abdicated in favor of Ho Chi Minh's revolutionary government. The city went through tough times during the Vietnam War, when it was conquered by the Viet Cong and held for 24 days, during which the VC slaughtered around 3,000 people suspected of sympathizing with the South, being a highschool graduate or Christian. In retaking the city American forces initially didn't use artillery or air support to avoid damaging ancient buildings but due to heavy casualties these restrictions were relaxed and the city largely destroyed.

Hue is easy to get a grip on. The main landmark is the Perfume River (Hương Giang), with the old city and the Citadel on the north side and the newer city, including most hotels and restaurants, on the south side. Much of the riverside has wisely been done up as a pleasant promenade and park dotted with bizarre sculptures. The tombs are located further south in the outskirts of Hue.

Hue's weather is infamously bad: the Truong Son Mountains just to the south seem to bottle up all the moisture, so it's usually misty, drizzly or outright rainy. Things get even wetter than usual in the winter rainy season, especially from February to the end of March. To be safe, bring along an umbrella any time of year. Don't forget to bring a sweater and jacket in winter as it can get rather chilly, with temperatures falling to as low as 8 degrees at night. Alternatively, when the sun makes an appearance for a day or a week, it can reach 30 degrees.

It's usually quite dry during the summer months, when the temperature can reach the high 30's. Summer rains can be heavy but brief, and often arrive unexpectedly, whereas February rains can last for weeks. The best description for the weather in Hue would be "changeable".

Get in

By plane

Hue's international "Phu Bai" (HUI) airport fields daily flights to and from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, but flights are quite often disrupted by poor weather during the rainy season (Mid October - Mid December). Three airlines fly to "Phu Bai" airport: Vietnam Airlines, JetStar Pacific and Vietjet. The airport is 15 kilometers away from the city center and should cost no more than 250,000VND by taxi (30 minute ride). There is also a bus that will take you into the city & even drop you at your hotel for 50,000VND. You can buy a ticket in the arrival hall of the airport. The airport facility was recently undergoing renovations and has reopened in September 2013 or arrange private car to city center with English speaking driver by Hue Private Car.

Danang's airport, only two hours away by car now that the Hai Van Tunnel is open, is busier, and has more connections. As of February 2012, a one-way taxi from Da Nang airport to Hue can be negotiated down to USD 45 (large car) or USD 40 (small car); using the meter, cost for a large car is about 1,200,000 dong. If you travel with big group (more than 4 people), you should arrange private car with hotels in Hue or any car rental company in Da Nang or Hue.

By train

Several trains a day to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang (4 hours) etc. The journey down south through Lang Co and the Hai Van Pass is particularly scenic, and from Danang you can take a taxi or motorbike to Hoi An.

Train from Hanoi to Hue

A second-class sleeper from Hanoi to Hue on the SE1 (leaving Hanoi at 19h00) cost 710.000 on October 25th, 2012 (for a hard-sleeper, 6-person cabin, middle bunk ; bottom bunk is a little more pricey while top bunk is the cheapest). A soft sleeper (first class) bunk costs around 900.000 dong on March 18th, 2016. They will most probably try to sell you this option, which gives you more privacy and comfort. There are food and drink carts on the train, selling dumplings, instant noodles, coke, beer and coffee at reasonable prices.

A second-class sleeper ticket from Ho Chi Minh City on the much superior 'express' SE2-SE6 train to Hue costs between 588,000 & 740,000 dong depending on the level you're on (1,2 or 3). SE 2 departs at 7.00 PM. Be warned the beds are quite hard, as there is not much of a matress (about half an inch thick), and it is placed over a plastic bench/seat. You can get other train types, but the little extra you pay is worth it several times over. It offers a wonderful travel experience. The traveler gets to sit, lie and sleep in a very small cabin for 23 hours with five other people (nearly always Vietnamese), eat four plain but tasty and filling Vietnamese meals, listen to a fine selection of Vietnamese pop songs on the PA, and see some incomparably beautiful countryside, particularly in the last section between Da Nang and Hue. It's an excellent way to see the country and meet ordinary Vietnamese, who are unfailingly friendly and helpful, even to travelers who have not bothered to learn a word of their language. The trip is especially recommended if you like babies.

Tickets can be bought at the station, or in hotels/travel agencies. The latter will mark up prices by ~50% (e.g. $60 for a $40 fare), but saves time and difficulties waiting in queue and communicating with the train staff. Note: the station counter only takes cash.

From the train station, it is about a 20min walk to most backpacker hotels (around Pham Ngu Lao street) but it is straight. Taking a motorbike driver can be bargained down to 20,000-30,000 dong.

If you have very rigid travel dates, are travelling on a public holiday, or can't be bothered to head down to the train station you can book your tickets through Vietnam Impressive [1] is a reliable agency.

By bus

Daily bus from Hue to Hoian running by a local tour operator in Hue city.

Daily bus schedule: 9:00 Hue - Hoian - VND 210,000 ~ $10 Stop on the way at: Cau Hai Lagoon, Lang Co Beach, Hai Van Pass, Marble Mountains. 14:00 - 14:30 arrive in Hoi An.

Daily bus from Hoian to Hue: 15:30 Hoian - Danang 16:00 Stop at Marble Mountains 17:30 Taking photo & take a rest at Lang Co Beach 19:00 Hue arrival

Hotel pick up. Drop off: Hue: 120 Le Loi Street., Hue city, | Danang: 198 3/2 Street., Danang city | Hoian: 77 Ba Trieu Street., Hoian Town

Where to book? You can ask your hotel reception or check out with Hue Tourist with Mr Thomson or Mr Alain. They can help you on email/phone or meet them at their office - opposite to Huong Giang Hotel.

Public buses from all the bigger cities (including frequent services to Hanoi and Saigon) connect to the main bus stations (Bến Xe Phía Nam for the south and Bến Xe Phía Bắc for the north). Most open tour buses include Hue in their itinerary, connecting to Hoi An or Da Nang to the south (4-6 hours) and Hanoi to the north (13-16 hours). The overnight Hanoi route is popular with locals, but beware of motion sickness among them.

Regular buses run between Da Nang and Hue (around 50,000 VND).

By car

Normally you can get train from Danang city to Hue or Tourist Bus from Hoian or ride motorbike by yourself to Hue but you can also travel to Hue city on private car. You can contact with a local company to get in there. Distance 145km -4 hours of driving. But the most advantage of private transfer from Hoian to Hue is you can stop on the way such as Marble Mountain, Cham Museum, Lang Co Beach, The Cloudy Pass and Elephant Spring for swimming before get to Hue while others are non stop. And of course they are the cheapest way to travel and saving money but should we pay what should we get. Cost for 4 seats car US$56, 7 seats car is US$66 and 16 seats car is US$84. They also support for picking at Hue airport to Hue city center for 12$/4 seats car (the cheapest private car).

To/From Laos

From Vientiane You can book a sleeping or sitting bus for 180,000Kip (sleeping is the same price as sitting) to Hue or continue to Da Nang from the Southern Bus Terminal. The trip takes 15 hours to Hue so the sleeping bus is the better choice. Departure time for just Hue/Da Nang is 7pm although at Vientiene's southern bus station you'll also see other options heading south and you could probably take those as well.

You'll have a couple bathroom stops (bathrooms not necessarily available) and at least 2 or 3 eating stops.

They'll try to arrive at the Lao Bao border crossing before it opens at 7am. Here is where they'll collect everyones passports to get stamped out of Laos. Everyone needs to include a 15,000Kip fee (foreigners may end up getting asked for 30,000Kip) so have that ready in your passport ahead of time. You'll also have several ladies asking if you need to change any money. They'll come in the bus or roam around the bus stop. Be careful and shrewd with them. If you just hand them some kip without establishing what rate your getting or not even bother to count how much you gave you'll end up with a lousy 50% or 1:1 rate so you've lost half your cash! (Probably best not to exchange anything as you'll have no chance to actually buy anything with your Dong until you reach your destination. However, you might no be able to exchange your Kip when you're in Hue. So plan ahead!)

Meanwhile, as this is going on you'll be served some Vietnam coffee. All meals and the coffee break should be included in your ticket price and then you have to pay for anything additional that you order.

Once you reach Hue you can get dropped off before the actual Hue bus station and maybe save yourself having to ride into town on a hired motor bike. (Oct. 2010)

From Pakse VIP (not really) buses leave at 8am arriving in Hue 12-13 hours later. Local buses leave Pakse in the evening. Tickets can be bought from travel agents in central Pakse. Be prepared for a no air-con ride.

Get around

By taxi

Like other Vietnamese cities, Hue is flooded with cyclos and motorbikes, as well as a few meter taxis. Taxi drivers are usually honest, but make sure they turn the meter on: trips start at 15,000 dong for the first 2km and tick upward at 11,500 dong/km. Some meters run incorrectly (showing up to 10 times the distance actually travelled), so ensure you have a rough idea of the distance to you destination. If the meter is running too quickly, at the destination pay an estimate of the fair price and insist on calling the police if the driver will not accept the estimated non-meter price. The driver will back down. A metered trip out see two tombs, with waiting time, should come to around 300,000 dong (US$18).

If you travel with big group, you should arrange private car rental with hotels or any travel agents in Hue With cyclos and motorbikes, all of the usual disclaimers apply: negotiate a price ahead of time, and don't be afraid to walk away if they're asking too much. No trip in Hue should cost more than 20,000 dong. Many of the motorbike drivers double as pot dealers, and you may be offered to buy marijuana along with your ride.

By motorbike

Hire a motorbike for 100,000 dong locally. Fuel costs 25000 Dong per litre.Join the locals as they swarm across the bridges and along the main roads at a leisurely pace. If you're not familiar with motorbikes you may want to practice on smaller, less busy roads first. Gas stations can be found at some of the major intersections in the city - ask the person you are renting from to mark any they know on your map.Note that a map is a Foreign concept- nobody understands them, NOBODY. Make sure your motorbike comes with a helmet, as you can be fined otherwise. You can also buy helmets for 50,000-125,000 VND. Helmets priced at 50,000 will not offer much protection in a crash - these are sold so people can avoid fines more than to offer real protection.

New arrivals in Vietnam should familiarize themselves with the way traffic works in Hue. Take a motorbike taxi to get an idea how to fit into the traffic.

For motorbike with driver, small hotels have connections to freelancers. You may be lucky to have an English speaking (a bit mumbled but knowledgeable) guide/driver/US army veteran for all 6 tombs (the 7th is inaccessible) including those locked and forgotten for lack of tourist interests plus three temples and the emperor's arena for one day and have extra time in the early afternoon for a beer and some Vietnamese do-it-yourself spring rolls and the famous Hue pancakes for just $10. The DIY spring rolls and pancakes are not free though but they are the best for only 45,000 dong.

By bicycle

Cycling is also a good option, with plenty of bikes available from 25,000-30,000dong/day (March 2012). It is a cheap an interesting option for shorter trips, such as for visiting the Tu Duc Tomb (around an hour from Hue, with some steep but doable sections). For directions, just check the walking option in your favorite map site. At Tu Duc, you can leave your bike at the entrance for a reasonable 5000 dongs. You can stop for coffee or for a soup on the trip back to Hue at one of the many family-owned shops along the route.

By cyclo

A cyclo is the local versions of the trishaw, with the passenger in front of the cyclist. Be prepared to haggle for reasonable prices as cyclo drivers tend to quote indiscriminately. It's a good idea to agree absolutely on your price before you go. Also make sure this is a return price, and not one-way. Of course, if you want to change your itinerary after you're already on the way, you should discuss how this might affect the agreed price with your cyclo driver right away. Otherwise, you may get a rude surprise when you arrive at your final destination, and the driver tries to charge you an exorbitant amount. Be aware that while most of the cyclo drivers in Hue are fair, and can be quite helpful, there are a few who are very unscrupulous. If you agree on the price as "100", make it very clear that you are agreeing on 100,000 Dong, and not 100 US dollars! Many cyclo drivers also act as pimps, and may offer you local women (starting at $10/hr).

On foot

Hue is quite compact, so you can reach most of the hotels, restaurants, and the Citadel easily on foot. Mr. Cu at Mandarin Cafe has prepared a free walking tour brochure & map. Make sure to stop by 24 Tran Cao Van St to pick up your free map (and enjoy some delicious banana pancakes). You'll need to arrange transportation to reach the emperors' tombs, though.

Courtyard of Ngo Mon, with the Thai Hoa Palace in the background


Imperial Citadel (Đại Nội)

The former imperial seat of government and Hue's prime attraction, this is a great sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, walls, gates, shops, museums and galleries, featuring art and costumes from various periods of Vietnamese history. Thanks to its size, it is also delightfully peaceful - a rare commodity in Vietnam. It is pretty huge; plan to spend at least 3 hours there.

The citadel was badly knocked about during fighting between the French and the Viet Minh in 1947, and again in 1968 during the Tet Offensive, when it was shelled by the Viet Cong and then bombed by the Americans. As a result, some areas are now only empty fields, bits of walls, and an explanatory plaque. Other buildings are intact, though, and a few are in sparkling condition. For the rest, while restoration has been going on for 20 years, there is still quite a long way to go. Allow several hours to see it properly. Entry 150,000 dong for adults 30, 000 dong for children 7-12 (april 2015) (for foreigners, less for locals of course) and it is open 06:30-17:00. Inside you can pay $1.50 (75,000dong) to dress up in the King or Queen's clothing and sit on the throne for a fun photo opportunity.

Tombs of the Emperors

The other great attractions in Hue are the Tombs of the Emperors, which are located along the Perfume Huong River south of the city. They are accessible by taxi or bike from the city, but the best way to see them is to hire a river boat and go for a cruise. Plan to make a full day of it, although if you rent a car, it will take only a few hours to see those worth seeing.

Guardian statues at the Tomb of Khai Dinh

Group tours usually cost about 200,000 VND, which includes a lunch aboard the boat. The lunch consists of small portions of rice and vegetables, you are given the option to order more dishes at a cost. The cost of the tour does not include admission to the tombs (100,000 dong apiece for foreigners as of April 2015 - ensure you count your change carefully if paying by large denomination note as short-changing can occur) or the cost of a motorbike from the wharf to each tomb. If you're with a group, the price should be set by the tour company at roughly 25,000 dong for each round-trip. Choose a tour with as few stops as possible. Some companies lard up their itineraries with visits to silk farms and a few pagodas, promising to fit everything in neatly, however tour companies aren't noted for their time management, and you'll wind up rushed along and frustrated for at least one of the tombs.

If you're traveling on your own, boat hire or a motorbike and driver should cost somewhere around US$20, again not including tomb admissions. All of the tombs can be walked to from the wharfs in anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour. The paths are mostly obvious, but you still probably shouldn't try it without a map or a terrific sense of direction. Most of the tombs are open from 7:30AM or 8AM to 5:30PM, depending on the season; note that the tour groups arrive around 10AM and leave around 3PM in order to get back before dinner, so plan accordingly to avoid the crowds. You'll be glad you did.

The tombs are also easily reached by bicycle, although there is a shortage of good maps of how to reach them. Ask your hotel about bicycle rentals and maps, and be cautious on the crowded and potentially potholed roads. This is probably the most inexpensive (and enjoyable, if you enjoy cycling) way to reach the tombs.

The tombs themselves are worth the cost and effort. They mostly date from the late 19th or early 20th centuries, when the Emperors had been reduced to figureheads under French colonial rule and had little else to do than build themselves elaborate tombs. The finest of them are the Tomb of Tu Duc, the Tomb of Minh Mang and the Tomb of Khai Dinh, all of which are excellent examples of Vietnamese Buddhist aesthetics and architecture. The older ones have been allowed to crumble into picturesque semi-ruin, although some are now being restored.

There is no discount for Vietnamese visitors, the rather hefty admission price is the same as for foreigners.

The tomb of Khai Dinh on a misty morning

In order of age:

Lake and pavilion at the tomb of Tu Duc

Other sites



A traditional industry of Hue is embroidery, and framed embroidery can be purchased in the many stores of the backpacker area of Hue.


Hue is famed for its Imperial cuisine, originally prepared for the emperor and his retinue. Although the emphasis is more on presentation than taste, an imperial banquet is well worth trying.

The most famous local dish is bún bò Huế, a noodle soup served with slices of beef and lashings of chili oil. Another tasty local treat is sesame candy (mè xửng), which is peanutty, chewy and quite tasty if fresh, and goes for under 10,000 dong/box.

Nem Lui is a dish of sweet, minced pork around bamboo sticks grilled over hot coals. Banh Khoai is a "pancake" filled with bean sprouts, shrimp and pork. Bun Thit Nuong is delicious barbecued pork served with vegetables and noodles.

Banh Beo is a sort of an appetizer. Sticky rice with shrimp and pork dipped in a sweet fish sauce. Add chilli to the fish sauce (if you want) then pour it on the 'rice'.

If you are a streetfood-lover then Hue is the right place for you. For breakfast, you can get a hot and filling soup between 20-40,000 dong. Don't be afraid to try one of the places with tiny plastic chairs - if you see locals eating there, it's probably good. If you are more into sandwiches, try the pork and vegetable filled baguette that can be bought for around 15 - 25,000 dong from any of the hot-dog carts.

There are also some french-inspired bakeries, some selling excellent croissants and pain au chocolat (expect to pay around 20,000 each). Local baked goods include decent donuts for 3,000 a piece. Pancakes are also a good choice.





The people of Hue have a strong tradition of eating vegetarian food, so vegetarian restaurants are more common in Hue than in the rest of Vietnam. On the 1st and 15th of every lunar month, vegetarian restaurants are packed full of patrons for dinner and it may prove difficult to find a seat. Vegetarian restaurants are the cheapest places to eat, after street vendors.



There are lots of small cafés (quán cafe) in Hue. Going out for coffee is a favorite local pastime. Most Hue people wouldn't think of starting the morning without meeting friends over a glassful. Most coffee shops open for business in the morning, close down from about 10:30 or so until late afternoon, then open again for the after-work and evening crowds. Do try the local style, iced, either with condensed milk, or black, which means with sugar. In the South, the iced coffee comes in a tall glass with lots of ice and lots of syrupy milk. In the Central area, the glass is much smaller, and the coffee is usually stronger. If you don't look Vietnamese, you may be served a weaker coffee, or if you order cafe nong (hot), they will also give you an extra glass of hot water to pour in. Do try your coffee first, to taste it the way the locals like it. Something like an iced, sweet espresso, with chocolaty overtones. Generally 6,000d-8,000d for Vietnamese people; 10,000d+ for foreigners.


There are plenty of cheap traveller hotels and mid-market hotels in Hue, as well as a couple of expensive giants. The largest cluster is around the short lane ofPham Ngu Lao (including Le Loi, Hung Vuong, Chu Van An, Nguyen Cong Tru). It's not quite as big (or backpackery) as its Ho Chi Minh City namesake, but still a definite tourist magnet. Across the river, near the citadel there are a few budget hotels on and around Dinh Tien Hoang.





Stay safe

Hue is a safe city, and there is not much to worry about. As is common with other cities in Vietnam, at night time caution should be used with any offers of transportation. Motorbike drivers will drive up and offer to bring people (presumably men) to prostitutes or drugs ("Hey... Lady? Massage? Marijuana?") and can get quite surly. Cyclo-drivers, especially in Pham Ngu Lao area, should be avoided, as there are recent cases in which travelers have been mugged, beaten and robbed by these people. During the day a ride should be fine, but at night, especially when they say its free or "up to you" avoid them at all costs.

Be suspicious of locals asking where you are from and then claiming to have family living there. The scam goes something like this. They will ask you to sit down for lunch/dinner/coffee with them and talk. After eating they will offer to pay for the meal and just ask that you buy them a local bottle of wine to drink at their temple. When you arrive at the local store the shop owner will say the wine is 7,000 dong and then when you attempt to pay she will say 700,000. Be suspicious also of women that need to change euro coins into dollars. After counting several times ther amount of euros, they try to keep some coins when they give you the money to change.


Vietcombank ATMs do not accept bank cards with chip. Simply find an alternative. There is much discussion around ATMs in Vietnam and in particular about which ones allow a foreign traveller to take out more than 2-3 Million VND. The primary advice is that the Military Bank (MB) ATMs allow large withdrawals (5-8M). However, there are two issues in Hue with the MB ATMs.

Get out