Transportation in Hue

Take an elephant ride around the ancient citadel
Take an elephant ride around the ancient citadel

Hue is a long way from both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi – 660kms from the former and 1080kms from the latter. Thus for anyone not wanting to spend too long travelling, the obvious way to get to Hue from either city is by plane. Regular flights connect Hue with both cities from Phu Bai Airport, around 15kms south of the city. A shuttle bus from the airport costs around US$2, while a taxi is around US$8.

Of course if you’re planning to visit any of Vietnam’s other coastal towns, like Hoi An or Nha Trang, it makes more sense to travel by bus or train and get to see more of the country as you go. The area round Hue is very picturesque, so arriving or departing overland is rewarding.

The railway between Hue and Danang, for example, goes over the Hai Van Pass with great views up and down the coast. The railway station in Hue is conveniently located right in the centre of the city. The main bus station lies four kilometres southeast of the city, though most travellers use open-tour bus services which drop passengers off on Hung Vuong, also in the centre of Hue.

Though Hue is a city, it isn’t very big, so no journey should take long or cost much more than US$1. There are some meter taxis, which are particularly useful when Hue suffers from one of its frequent downpours. As in most of the country, drivers prefer to negotiate a fare rather than switch on the meter, unless the meter has already been rigged, so it’s worth asking someone at your hotel to help negotiate and make sure you don’t get taken to the cleaners.

Since the city centre is flat, and surrounding hills not too steep, Hue is one place it can be fun to rent a bicycle, and this is a popular activity for many who stay a few days. Places like Mandarin Café can help you find a bike for just US$1-$2 a day, and will probably sketch out a fun route for you too.

Motorbikes are available for hire at around US$5-$7 a day, which allow you to explore further from town, perhaps a jaunt to the beach at Thuan An, 15km northeast of Hue. If you have a small group, ask your hotel about rates for a car and driver (probably US$30-$50 a day), which would allow you to zip north to the DMZ or south to Hoi An.

The great majority of visitors to Hue include a boat trip in their itinerary, often along the Perfume River to the Royal Mausoleums. It’s probably best to set this up through your hotel rather than haggle with boatmen at the quay, who may ask for more later anyway.

Rates depend on the size of boat and crew, and it’s often necessary to take a motorbike from the riverbank to the mausoleum, so you need to be clear about what’s included.