From the airport:
There is an airport, Phu Bai (HUI), about 12km from Hue, and you’ll pay around 250 000 Dong (max.) for a taxi. There are some other options, for example private shuttle vans and the Vietnam Airlines shuttle bus from the airport to its office in Hue.
However, you’ll probably arrive in Hue either by bus or train, especially if you’re travelling the country north to south (or south to north).
The train station isn’t in the centre of town, and when you arrive you’ll see some cafes (handy if you’re hungry and ready for breakfast) and taxis, whose drivers are ready and waiting to take you to your hotel.
However, if you have some energy, and your luggage is either not too heavy or on wheels, why not walk to your hotel? It’s a nice walk, along the river, plenty to see, lots of photo opportunities and places to sit if you need a rest. Depending on where your hotel is in Hue, and how fast you walk, and how often you stop, the walk from the train station can take from 20 minutes to more than an hour – but it could be a welcome change after spending the night in a cramped sleeper train.
If you arrive by bus, the location of your arrival could be anywhere, but will probably be in the main part of the town. Make sure you have a detailed map on hand so you know how to get to your hotel.
We’ve stayed in this hotel, the Nhat Le Hotel, which I recommend. It’s cheap, and the rooms are extremely clean, and big, and some of them have balconies. But there are so many choices of hotels in Hue, especially in the ‘tourist’ part of town, so do a search and find one that suits your budget and is in the area you’d like to stay in.
Hue is quite big, but getting around on foot is possible – when it’s not too hot. In the summer it can be unbearably hot outside so in that case why not take a cyclo? There seems to be less cyclos now than when we were there the first time in 2008, but you can still find them – or they’ll find you. And of course if you can’t get around easily there are taxis available everywhere (both 2 and 4 wheels).
You can also hire a bicycle from your hotel and take a 2 wheel tour of Hue.
The choice is endless. The most famous local dish is Bun Bo Hue, which is a noodle soup with slices of beef and chili oil. There are many delicious dishes to choose from in Hue: Nem Lui, sweet minced pork on bamboo sticks; Banh Khoai, which is a pancake filled with bean sprouts, shrimp and pork; Bun Thit Nuong, which is barbecued pork with vegetables and noodles; Banh Beo, sticky rice with shrimp and pork with a sweet fish sauce dip.
We found this type of fried, crispy ‘pancake’ called Banh Trang Trung at the night market near the river. When we’re in Hue, it’s our dinner every night. It’s simply divine.
Street food is abundant in Hue. You can get food at any time of the day from hot soups, sandwiches and various other goodies. If you see a ‘café’ with tiny plastic chairs and filled with local people – go there and eat. You won’t be sorry.
Most tourist shopping is on the south side of the river, with shops open until 9 or 10pm. Shopping malls Vincom and Phong Phu Plaza should have everything you need. In Phong Phu Plaza you’ll find the Big C supermarket, and because it’s quite far from the tourist hotel area, it’s mostly for the locals. Which means it’s cheaper than shopping in the more convenient areas of Hue.
There’s also the famous Dong Ba market which I absolutely recommend for shopping and eating. Everything’s reasonably priced (bargaining/haggling is expected) and the food is exceptional (if you can look past the seemingly unhygienic conditions). And there’s a more western shopping complex right next door to the market, complete with a supermarket, if you prefer a different shopping experience.
Finally there’s the night market on the bank of the Perfume River near the bridge Cau Truong Tien. Apart from souvenirs, you’ll find a variety of tasty Vietnamese street food and fresh fruit.
There’s a lot to see in Hue, but some of it is out of town and you’ll need a taxi or other type of transportation to get there.
There’s the Citadel, the Perfume River, the Emperors Tombs, pagodas and more. The Citadel is a UNESCO site, and contains hundreds of monuments and ruins – it’s a must see. And there are boat trips on colourful dragon boats, day and night. Just head down to the river and you’ll find someone selling a river tour.
An open-air ‘tea house’ built around a huge tree which we found randomly while walking on the north side of Hue. It’s full of men drinking tea (hot tea in winter), and beer or other drinks. So we sat and had some tea, and when we asked to pay, they told us it was free. We don’t know why.
Almost everyone will appreciate the delights of Hue. Might be a bit tiring for small children. 3-4 days is probably enough to see all the sights and try all the tasty dishes.
For a quiet stay in Hue, find a hotel away from the main tourist strip.
Fix the price for your cyclo or taxi ride in advance, and make sure it includes the return trip or you might find yourself paying double just to get back to the centre of town.
Go to Hue, enjoy all it has to offer. I’m sure you’ll want to go back again and again.