After a while, I was out amidst the lush fields, where the country life of Vietnam was at its best – raw and simple. The cows grazed, and the hens kept loitering in the backyard and sometimes right on the road when they got too excited to notice the carrier vans honking.
Buildings and shops disappeared and bridges with rivers beneath appeared. In no time, I was driving on the road surrounded by mountains on the horizon. The murky weather with a tinge of mist aggrandised the landscape to a new level.
Renting a motorbike is surely the cheapest way to explore Vietnam, and that includes Hue too. So if you love biking, do not miss this experience. However, it is important that you are cautious enough while on the road. I met at least 5 guys who had met with an accident, where one looked really bad and another had a miraculous escape from a head-on collision with a bus. But if you are an Indian with enough experience driving on the roads in India, it would be a cakewalk. Anyway, my point is that just be safe than be sorry!
Much of Hue can be explored in 2 to 3 days. 3 days makes it for a comfortable trip to Hue, while 2 days would accommodate most of it. You can even spend just a day in Hue if you are running short of time – Yes, it’s definitely worth it if you love history, and want to experience a replica of the imperial kingdoms in China.
Things to do in Hue Vietnam
But just don’t expect to be anything like the previous destination that you would have visited in Vietnam. Instead, be prepared to be swayed away by the dragons, moats, meticulously sculpted monuments, royal tombs and the bright red walls adorned with paintings.
Below are the various itineraries for Hue, which can be used for your trip depending on how many days you wish to stay in the city.
Hue in 1 Day
You don’t have to deal with FOMO if you have just a day in Hue. Instead, head out to check what Hue is known for, which includes these:
Start either from The Forbidden Purple Imperial City
, passing through The Perfume River , which is in the centre of the city . You can drive out of Hue next to head to Khai Dinh Tomb, Minh Mang Tomb, and Tu Duc Tomb. Check out Thien Mu Pagoda in the end on the way back if the sun is not down yet (but you’ll have to drive to the centre again as it is close to the Imperial city).
The other way around is to first visit all the royal tombs and then to the Imperial City along the Perfume River, which would also allow accommodating Thien Mu Pagoda if you have some time left.
You can try this Hue Heritage Tour: Full Day from Hoi An if you are short on time. The other tours that you can opt for are Hue City by Cycle Rickshaw: Half-Day Private Tour and Full-Day Hue City Tour which also comes with Entrance Fees and Lunch.
Quick Tips: The easiest way to explore more when you just have a day would be to explore on a bike. Also, start as early as possible. If you are a morning person unlike me, you are in a better position as the heritage sites open as early as 7 AM in the morning, which gives you enough time to not feel rushed. Also, all of these sites need some walking around. So make sure to allocate sufficient time for each, say an hour.
I feel 2 days is the ideal time for Hue to check off the places of interest in Hue as it would be neither too quick nor too slow. A cost-effective way to save this would be to do one day on foot and the other on the bike.
Day 1: You can start with the Imperial city in the morning by taking a long walk along the Perfume river if you wish to explore on foot. You can walk on the iconic Trong Tien bridge over the river to reach the imperial city. Then head to Thien Mu Pagoda. The second half can be spent either heading to another pagoda in the centre – or head to any museums of your interest.
Day 2: Rent a bike and set out for a tomb tour or book a group tour for the tomb. Depending on how soon you start and the time you take, you would be left with some time just around the sunset. Pick a place by the bridge to witness a serene sunset with a beer if the sky is clear.
3 days in Hue would give you enough time to get a glimpse of the two versions of Hue – the ancient capital city with the modern city of Hue. One that takes you back in time, and the other that lets you enjoy the small yet vibrant town of Vietnam that is home to cool cafes and little local shops to savour the nightlife.
Day 1 & Day 2: The above-mentioned 2-day itinerary could be included here.
Day 3: A motorbike trip to Hai Van Pass – Hai Van Pass is one of the most cherished challenging trail amongst the bikers, which was popularised even further after Top Gear ran an exclusive motorcycle episode on this pass. It is a 21km stretch that runs along the coast and is popular as the ‘Pass of Ocean Mist’ as it encounters Chinese sea waves when the weather gets bad. Add to it the sharply curved roads that elevate as its progress, it’s a perfect thrill-seeking adventure for a biker.
Unlike the one I did – the lesser known Monkey Pass which can be done from Hoi An, this drive is closer from Hue. So if you want a whole day for an exquisite, hair-raising drive that culminates in a feast for the senses when you witness the panoramic views, go for it!
Quick Tips: It would be better if you sandwich the Hai Van pass drive, meaning on day 2, as it would give you a much relaxed third day where you would also take time to cool off your tired back!
All these itineraries are based on my experiences alone, and these aren’t either the only ways or the best ways of course but my suggestions to make the most of your time!
How to Reach Hue
If you are traveling from North of Vietnam: You would be probably arriving from Phong Na, and there are two buses every day and the journey time is 4 to 5 hours. The price is usually between 120,000 to 150,000 VND depending on the operator. You can book at your hostel/hotel over the counter or with tour operators that are omnipresent. Irrespective of where you book, the prices don’t differ much.
The other option is to take a train from the nearest railway station Dong Hoi, that is over 60 km from Phong Nha. The train price ranges between 14$ to 18$ currently.
If you are traveling from South of Vietnam: If you are coming to Hue from the south like I did, you would arrive from Danang or Hoi An, and there are many buses regularly from both the places, which can be booked at your hostel.
By train, you can travel from Danang to Hue directly, but there is no direct train between Hoi An and Hue. You can book the train tickets online in advance
Like the rest of Vietnam, Hue has all range of accommodations according to your preferences. The central area is the walking street – Thừa Thiên Huế (Available on the Google Map), which has a night market and vibrant cafes for a decent nightlife.
Hostels: There are many budget hostels if you are looking for good dorms/private rooms. I stayed at New Life Homestay, and it was totally worth the money. I just loved the place! Check out the prices to book below.
Some of the other good hostels are:
Amy 2 Hostel, Everhome Hostel and Sala Homestay
Hotels/Guest Houses: These are some of the mid-range hotels – Charming Riverside, Kha Hotel, and Hue Boutique Hotel
This is it for Hue! Have a wonderful trip! Let me know in the comments below or get in touch with me online if you have any questions. Here are the other posts to help you plan your Vietnam trip.
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Things to do in Hue Vietnam