Hue is intimately connected to the imperial Nguyễn Dynasty, based in Hue, which 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 what is known locally as the American War, when it was conquered by the Viet Cong and held for 24 days, during which the VC executed around 1,000 people suspected of sympathizing with the South, and then subjected to a ferocious American assault to retake the city.
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 famous 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 Celsius at night. Alternatively, when the sun makes an appearance for a day or a week, it can reach 30 degrees C.
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".
Hue's international Phu Bai Airport (HUI) has 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-Oct to mid-Dec). The majority of flights are Vietnam Airlines, but Jetstar Vietnam also has a flight or two from Ho Chi Minh City and once a day to Hanoi. The airport is 15 km from the city centre and should cost no more than 180,000 dong by taxi (30 minute ride). There is also a bus that will take you into the city and even drop you at your hotel for 45,000 dong. Arrange airport transfer service at Your Local Booking.
Da Nang's airport, only two hours away by car now that the Hai Van Tunnel is open, is busier, and has more connections. A one-way taxi from Da Nang airport to Hue can be negotiated down to USD45 (large car) or USD40 (small car). Using the meter, the cost for a large car is about 1,200,000 dong.
There are several trains a day to and from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang (4 hours), et al. The journey down south through Lang Co and the Hai Van Pass is particularly scenic, and from Da Nang you can take a taxi or motorbike to Hoi An. A second-class sleeper ticket from Ho Chi Minh City on the much superior express SE2-SE6 train to Hue costs 588,000-740,000 dong depending on the level you're on (1, 2, or 3). SE 2 departs at 19:00. The beds are quite hard, as there is not much of a mattress, and it is placed over a plastic bench/seat. You can get other trains, but the little extra you pay is worth it several times over. It offers a wonderful travel experience. The traveller 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 squalling babies.
Buy your tickets at the train station. Hotels often over charge by doubling the prices (at least USD80 for a soft sleeper), often using excuses such as "it's high season" or that they "have to buy on the black market". The train station is about a 40 min walk from most backpacker hotels (in Pham Ngu Lao). Train tickets can also be purchased from the (official) booking office at 275C Pham Ngu Lao. The office is not obvious: look for a blue sign. It closes at 18:00.
Public buses from all the bigger cities (including frequent services to Hanoi and Saigon) connect to the main bus station (Bến Xe Phía Nam and Bến Xe Phía Bắc). Most open tour buses include Hue on their itinerary, connecting to Hoi An or Da Nang to the south (4–6 hr) and Hanoi to the north (13–16 hr). The overnight Hanoi route is popular with locals, many of whom seem to be prone to motion sickness.
- Sinh Café Buses, 7 Nguyen Tri Phuong St, . Direct buses from Hoi An cost USD4 and leave twice daily: the 08:00 and 12:00 services stop at the Marble Mountains and makes the trip in 4 hours, while the 13:30 and 16:30 services manage the trip in three. Buses to Hanoi depart at 17:30 every day (USD9) with stops in Dong Ha and one or two other places.
VIP (not really) buses leave Pakse at 08:00, 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.
You can book a sleeping or sitting bus for 180,000 kip (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 19:00 although at Vientiane'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 07:00. Here is where they'll collect everyone's passports to get stamped out of Laos. Everyone needs to include a 15,000 kip fee (foreigners may end up getting asked for 30,000 kip) 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 circumspect with them. If you just hand them some kip without establishing what rate you're getting, or not even bothering 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 not 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 Vietnamese coffee. All meals and the coffee break should be included in your ticket price. You must pay for anything additional that you order.
Once you reach Hue you can get dropped off before the Hue bus station and maybe save yourself having to ride into town on a hired motor bike.
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 2 km 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 your 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 (USD18).
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.
Hire a motorbike and join the locals as they careen across the bridges and along the main roads at a leisurely pace. They're available for around USD5/day from hotels and shops.
Cycling is also a good option, with plenty of bikes available from 25,000-30,000 dong/day.
For a motorbike with driver, small hotels have connections to freelancers. You may be lucky to have an English speaking guide for all 6 tombs (the 7th tomb is inaccessible) including those locked and forgotten for lack of tourist interest, plus three temples, and the emperor's arena for one day and still have time in the early afternoon for a beer and some Vietnamese do-it-yourself spring rolls and the famous Hue pancakes for just USD10. The DIY spring rolls and pancakes are not free, but they simply worth it for only 45,000 dong.
A cyclo is the local version 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 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. 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 USD100! Many cyclo drivers also act as pimps, and may offer you ladies (starting at USD10/hr).
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 and map. Make sure to stop by his place at 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.
- Ho Chi Minh Museum, 6 Lê Lợi, ☎ . Closed Su. Contains photos and information on Ho Chi Minh as well as the history of Hue in photographs. Free.
- Imperial Citadel (Đại Nội). Daily, 6:30AM- 5PM. 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.w 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. Inside you can pay USD1.50 (30,000 dong) to dress up in the king or queen's clothing and sit on the throne for a fun photo opportunity. 105,000 dong (Nov 2013).
- Ngọ Môn. The main southern entrance to the city, built in 1833 by Minh Mang. The central door, and the bridge connecting to it, were reserved exclusively for the emperor. Climb up to the second floor for a nice view of the exquisite courtyard. The Ngo Mon Gate is the principal entrance to the Imperial Enclosure. The emperor would address his officials and the people from the top of this gate.
- Thái Hòa Palace. The emperor's coronation hall, where he would sit in state and receive foreign dignitaries.
- Trường Sanh Residence. Translated as the "Palace of Longevity", the Truong Sanh Palace was the residence of King Tu Duc's mother, Empress Tu Du, under the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century. It lies in Tu Cam Thanh, one of the two major parts of the Hue Citadel. Currently under renovation, the project, estimated to cost almost dong 30 billion (roughly USD1.8 million), includes the restoration of Lach Dao Nguyen, the palace's protective moat, decorative man-made rock formations and mountains, bonsai gardens, and the palace gate. While not officially open to the public, it is possible to enter the grounds and should be seen, as even in its overgrown state, it's beauty is recognizable.
- Forbidden Purple City. Directly behind Thai Hoa Palace, but it was almost entirely destroyed during the 1968 Tet Offensive and only the rather nondescript Mandarin Palaces on both sides remain.
- Hue Jungle Crevice. When the Viet Cong briefly overran Hue, they rounded up 3,000 of Hue's citizens and officials. Fearing the prisoners would slow them down their hot retreat, they tied them up and pushed the people over the cliff into the crevice.
- Phu Bai Airport. A must-see if you are interested in the earlier conflicts, back when the airport was a dirt strip. During the Vietnam War, an American garrison was assigned there and built up the airport with concrete bunkers, a paved airstrip, and a few other luxuries. The airport was vital in keeping Hue supplied during the Easter Offensive of 1972 when "Charlie jumped the line". The airport retains the original buildings built by the Americans; however, they have been retrofitted for use by the Vietnamese.
- Thien Mu Pagoda. Perched on a bluff over the river and housing some very fine gold and silver Buddha images. The Thien Mu Pagoda overlooks the Perfume River and is the official symbol of the city of Hue. Thien Mu means "elderly celestial woman", and refers to an old legend about the founding of the pagoda. Brimming with opportunities for great photos.
- Tombs of the Emperors. 08:00-17:00. The other great attractions in Hue are the Tombs of the Emperors, along the Perfume 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. 80,000 dong per tomb.
- Group tours usually cost about USD2, which includes an excellent (really!) lunch aboard the boat, but does not include admission 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 travelling on your own, boat hire or a motorbike and driver should cost somewhere around USD20, again not including tomb admissions. All of the tombs can be walked to from the wharves 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 07:30 or 08:00 to 17:30, depending on the season. Tour groups arrive around 10:00 and leave around 15:00 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. Along the way you will meet many darling Vietnamese children who like to practice their English by shouting "F--- you!" and other English expletives at passing foreigners.
- 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.
- Tombs from oldest to newest:
- Tomb of Gia Long (20km). The most remote of the tombs, quiet and fallen into disrepair as Gia Long, the first Nguyen emperor, was notoriously despotic.
- Tomb of Minh Mang (12km). In this opulent complex, the main buildings are arranged on an east-west axis, including a courtyard surrounded by warrior statues and several temples and pavilions. Several bridges cross two lakes before the axis ends before the vast burial mound (which is circled by a fence). The mausoleum features large gardens and lakes: a pleasant place to sit and relax. If you're dropped off by boat note that there is a stretch of souvenir sellers to navigate during the short walk to the mausoleum entrance.
- Tomb of Thieu Tri (8km). Built in 1848. This emperor and his wife were the most revered and loved throughout the country. Although he only ruled for 7 years, he was the most sorely missed. In a time of strife and economic problems, he was careful with the country's treasury and improved his people's living standard. His last wish was to be placed in a tomb that was not extravagant, parting ways with the tradition of creating lavish final resting places for emperors.
- Tomb of Tu Duc (7km). Built between 1864-1867, the complex served as a second Imperial City where the emperor went for "working vacations". Tu Duc's contemplative nature and poetic spirit is reflected in the landscape and arrangement of the 50 buildings that at one time stood here. A vast, sprawling complex set around a lake, with wooden pavilions and tombs and temples dedicated to wives and favoured courtesans (Tu Duc had 104 to choose from). The courtesans' quarters are in ruins, with only outlines and crumbling walls left amid waves of overgrown grass and silence, but other areas are stunningly well-preserved. The emperor's tomb itself, tucked away in the back, is surprisingly modest. The final courtyard is nearly empty with just a stone coffin in the middle. (The tombs of Empress Le Thien Anh and Emperor Kien Phuc, who briefly ruled in 1884, are also here.) Try to dodge the crowds for this one.
- Tomb of Dong Khanh. Built in 1917. In March 2014, this tomb was closed to the public for renovation.
- Tomb of Khai Dinh (10km). Dating from 1925, this is the best preserved of the lot and, while comparatively compact, quite grand at first sight. While it follows the classic formula of forecourts leading up to the tomb of the emperor, complete with statues in attendance. Architecture buffs will spot some European influences. The tomb itself is completely over the top with incredibly detailed and opulent mosaics of cavorting dragons. Try to get to this one early, as it is a favourite stop for Asian tour-bus groups. Also, you may want to leave the tourist path and head up the hill on the right side of the tomb, where a small temple stands. You will have a great view of the tomb and the valley it faces.
- Blind Massage, Kiet/Alley 180 Phan Boi Chau (Off Phan Boi Chau St on the right up the hill about 1 km past the train tracks (look for a small blue sign in English)). At the institute for the blind. All of the staff work and live in this facility, and speak a little English. This is where the locals go. 40,000 dong/hour for massage and 30,000 dong/hour for steam-bath.
- Hai Van Pass Motorbike Tour. Many tour companies and hostels offer "Top Gear" motorbike tours over the Hai Van Pass, through Da Nang and over to Hoi An. For someone who knows how to properly operate a motorbike or scooter this can be a very rewarding experience. Keep in mind that you will usually go through Da Nang at around rush hour in the afternoon, which can be very hectic and potentially dangerous if you are an inexperienced rider. USD30–40.
- Hue Day Tour. Including the citadel, 3 tombs, and a garden house. Tour available at many hotels. Entrance cost is not included and money will be asked in the bus (55,000 dong for citadel and tombs, 10,000 dong for garden house). Buffet lunch included. You can choose to only visit some of the places if you want. "Best" tomb is probably last one / Tu Duc.
- My An Hot Spring and Spa (7 km from Hue on the way to Thuan An Beach). The water here has a high sulfur content, purported to have health benefits. USD3 for foreigners to use the swimming pool and 2 hot spring pools.
- Thanh Tan Hot Springs (About 13 km from Hue centre). Similar to My An, but without the odor of sulphur. This site is surrounded by woods, which are pleasant to explore. Has graduated sections. Start with the cool section, and work your way up. The hottest section is actually closed off, as it is too hot to bathe in. There are also private pools for 2 or 4 people, and a swimming pool. There is a tiny restaurant on site. This is also where the local bottled Thanh Tan mineral water comes from.
Embroidery is a traditional craft of Hue and framed embroidery can be purchased in many stores in the backpacker area of Hue.
- Healing the Wounded Heart Shop, 23 Vo Thi Sau St, ☎ . 08:00-22:00. A humanitarian project of the Spiral Foundation. This shop sells eco-friendly handicrafts made by disabled artisans in Hue. Many of the products are made from recycled items, including recycled soda cans, and recycled telephone wire baskets. All net proceeds fund heart surgeries for poor children in the Hue area.
- Hope Center, 20 Nhat Le St, ☎ . 08:00-22:00. The Hope Center offers disabled and disadvantaged people a place to learn and work. Garment manufacturing is the mainstay. However, a range of handicrafts are also made. In particular the beautiful handwoven cloth by A Luoi women is unique in its design and manufacture. Scarves, hand bags, purses, and hand crafted jewellery are for sale. Well-worth a visit.
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 barbecued pork served with vegetables and noodles.
- Banh Bao (Corner of Ben Nghe and Nguyen Tri Phuong). A street vendor who sells wonderful Banh Bao. 5,000 dong.
- Bun Bo Hue, 11B Ly Thuong Kiet (Far from the river on the south bank). Small and very local. This eponymous eatery specializes in its namesake dish. 25,000 dong gets you a bowl with a generous, mouth-meltingly soft (if fatty) cutlet plopped on top. 25,000 dong.
- Bun Cam, 38 Tran Cao Van St. 06:00 until they run out of soup. This is the real thing, local, not adapted for the Western palate. Try it with their chili sauce. The lady sitting behind the soup cauldron is Cam, the cook and namesake of the business. She only speaks Vietnamese, but just look in the pot, as the locals do, The price varies with how many different things you choose.
- Bún Cha Hà Nôi, 20 Nguyen Tri Phuong. This family-run restaurant only serves original Hanoi-style bun cha: a dish with pork spring rolls, some meatballs, cabbage, and carrot sauce with hot peppers, and bundles of noodles to dip in the sauce. As with all Vietnamese dishes, the hungry may have to order twice. Nice atmosphere while keeping the genuine atmosphere of a local restaurant. 25,000 dong.
- Banh Khoai Hạnh, 11 Phó Đức Chinh (Between Ben Nghe and Tran Quang Khai), ☎ . This is a family restaurant where locals come to eat Hue specialities. Cheap and very good. Ban khoai, 18,000 dong; nem lui, 30,000 dong.
- Banh Khoai Hong Mai, Dinh Tien Hoang - Nguyen Bieu corner (Inside the Purple Forbidden City). Pancakes, nem lui (minced pork grilled with lemon grass on coal) and banh beo recommended.
- La Carambole, 19 Pham Ngu Lao, ☎ . Serves French food, Vietnamese food, and pizza. Quite touristy.
- Mandarin Café, 24 Tran Cao Van. The owner is a good photographer and many of his pictures hang on the wall. The food is good with local and Western favorites.
- Phuong Nam Cafe, 38 Tran Cao Van, ☎ . A nice little restaurant with decent, but very cheap food and excellent fruit shakes.
- Hot Tuna, 37 Vo Thi Sau (Corner of Vo Thi Sau & Chu Van An), ☎ . Recommend the chicken breast with mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes, 80, 000 dong and well worth every bit of it. Duck also quite nice. 40,000 to 160,000 dong.
- Japanese Restaurant, 34 Tran Cao Van, ☎ . This Japanese restaurant serves excellent food for a relatively good price. 30,000-50,000 dong.
- Không Gian Xưa, Điện Biên Phủ St. A nice place to enjoy delicious local cuisine in a well-designed traditional style building.
- Ong Tao, 31 Chu Van An, ☎ . Excellent traditional Hue food, try the meat rolls (wrapped in mint leaves) or the fried spring rolls. Incredibly crunchy. Not too crowded, kind of hidden on the first floor. Don't miss it. All dishes (have small and big versions, so you can order a few. USD1-7.
- Paradise Garden Restaurant (Nha Hang Vuon Thien Dang), 17 Le Loi St (In front of Saigon Morin Hotel), ☎ 838485. 07:00-23:00. Expensive, nice setting, not very authentic, but still good. Cheap by normal standards obviously. The live music is good. USD1-5.
- Ancient Hue Royal Cuisine and Gallery, 104/47 Đường Kim Long, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the biggest restaurants in Hue. Prices are good, food is excellent, extremely clean. All is served by a professional staff, international experienced chef. It is also a complex of ancient houses among huge garden area. Nice food carvings. Cheapest wine is USD25 a bottle and beers started at USD3.50, rather steep when you are paying USD1 for a beer anywhere else. USD30.
- Tinh Gia Vien, 20/3 Le Thanh Ton, ☎ . Wonderful old Hue-style nha vuon garden villa on a quiet side street, formerly the residence of a princess, converted by a bonsai enthusiast into a restaurant serving imperial cuisine. There are three set menus. All have 11 courses and are guaranteed to fill you up. The food wins full points for presentation, but is unfortunately somewhat toned down for the foreign palate. USD15-25.
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.
- Com Chay (vegetarian rice) (Near the river on the newer side). Simple, but good and cheap vegetarian meals.
- Lien Hoa, D Le Quy Don (On the grounds of the Lien Hoa pagoda, across from the football stadium). Monks and nuns frequent this restaurant during lunch. A small shop near the door sells Vietnamese language Buddhist texts, prayer beads, and icons.
- Quang Tinh, 91 Vo Thi Sau. Very simple place. Menu of noodles and rice. 10,000+ dong.
- B4 Bar-Café, 75 D Ben Nghe. A charming Belgian-Vietnamese owned bar, with a welcoming interior and free pool.
- Brown Eyes Chillout Bar-Club, 56 Chu Van An, ☎ . Happy hour, 17:00-22:00. Live DJ, free pool table, and a good vibe. Not far from Pham Ngu Lao, but they offer to pay for taxis from hotels for parties of four persons or more. Stays open till the last one passes out! No cover..
- Café on Thu Wheels, 1/2 D Nguyen Tri Phuong. It's a little bar owned by the charming lady Thu.
- DMZ Bar & Café, 44 D Le Loi. Stays open late.
- Sinh To Place, 30 Ben Nghe. Shop for drinking ice tea, coffee, smoothies and juices. Local prices (they are published on a board). Try rau má juice: when available it is meant to be very good for your health. Rau má (centella asiatica juice) 6,000 dong, smoothies (sinh to) 8,000 dong.
- Vy Da Xua, 131 Nguyen Sinh Cung St (Sast on Le Loi, about 2 km past the causeway). Enjoy a delicious cup of Vietnamese coffee, or any beverage, in this beautiful setting. The traditional beam house is surrounded by a garden and small stream where you can hear birds and restful music.
- Why Not?, 21 Vo Thi Sau, ☎ .
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 6,000-8,000 dong for Vietnamese people; 10,000 dong+ for foreigners
- La Beaute, 87 Vo Thi Sau (close to Nguyen Cong Tru). 12:00-22:00. Lovely cafe in a quiet side street and therefore still unspotted by the LP crowd. Atmosphere with soft music and green bamboo around and half the prices than in the tourist area 200 m around the block. Lots of different coffees and cakes, where especially the very recommendable coffee with cacao flavour is not easy to find in Hue. Coffee 12,000 dong.
- Sidewalk Coffee, Opposite 30 Bach Dang St. 05:30-10:00. Go local and try some delicious early morning coffee with chocolaty overtones, hot or iced, while watching river life on the canal. The woman who brews it up also offers banh mi, French bread with your choice of fillings. Another woman shares the same patch of sidewalk and sells very reasonably priced banh canh, a popular local breakfast soup. A real plus here is the cleanliness. The coffee glasses are spotless! After your coffee, you can continue walking along Bach Dang to reach 2 famous local pagodas, both nearby.
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, Pham 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. Just by walking around in the side streets of Pham Ngu Lao, you'll quickly find some guesthouses for USD5–7, depending on your bargaining skills. There are plenty of them around, too many to mention separately. Most of them are well renovated and offer the usual comforts of budget hotels like a small TV, a fridge and a proper bathroom. Wi-Fi is available everywhere, as in most parts of Vietnam. In Pham Ngu Lao itself you only get a dorm bed for the same price, so walking 100 m around the corner is probably well worth the effort. Also note, that the prices offered online are sometimes a fair bit higher than if you just show up there in person.
- Amigo Hotel, 66/3 Le Loi St, ☎ , fax: +84 5 4383 8005, e-mail: email@example.com. Tucked away find in the heart of the guesthouse/cheaper district. Friendly staff, good rooms, and rates negotiable. Free Wi-Fi and PCs available for guest use. Air-con. Satellite TV. Laundry service at 20,000 dong per kilo. Restaurant downstairs does great food and very reasonably priced. USD13-25.
- Bamboo Hotel, 61 Hung Vuong, ☎ . Good hotel. The staff is friendly, the rooms are clean and neat. Free Internet. From USD10.
- Binh Duong I Hotel, 17/34 Nguyen Tri Phuong Alley, ☎ . Air-con, hot water & satellite TV included. Popular with Japanese tourists. Friendly and helpful staff. Some rooms have bathtubs and/or private balcony. From USD10. Dorms are USD4 (84,000 dong)..
- Canary Hotel, 37 Nguyen Cong Tru, ☎ . All rooms are air conditioned, all equipped with 32-inch LCD cable TV, shower with bathtub, and minibar. Bar and restaurant, Internet room, boutique and souvenir shop, and laundry service. USD16.
- Halo, 10A/66 D Le Loi (Up an alley off the main road, where there is an array of other guest houses. There's a small sign for it at the alley's entrance). Spotless rooms, spacious, with large bathrooms and TV. There is a balcony to sit on at night, and it's close to all the nightlife in Hue. Doubles 160,000 dong.
- Hue Backpacker's Hostel, 40 Chu Van An St, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. From the makers of the ever popular Hanoi Backpacker's Hostel. Hue Backpacker's is the newest addition to Chu Van An and is rapidly becoming the spot to stay and hang out. Cheap accommodation, very clean, spacious balconies to relax and read a book, and they've got an elevator for your packs. Free Internet, Free Wi-Fi, and super friendly helpful staff. The downstairs area is also a bar and restaurant serving arguably the best burgers in Hue and other Western delights. From USD5.
- Lam Bao Long Hotel, 80 Le Loi St, ☎ . Check-in: 08:00, check-out: 12.00. Has 15 non-smoking rooms, air conditioning, bathrobes, daily newspaper, desk, hair dryer. USD12.
- Mimosa Guesthouse, Le Loi, ☎ . Friendly, quiet location in a backpacker hotel alley off Le Loi. From USD4..
- Minh Hieu Hotel, 3 Chu Van An, ☎ . Family-run hotel named after the wild urchin who'll make his displeasure known if you spend too long on the Internet-ready computer downstairs, thereby keeping him from online puzzle games. The rooms are spotlessly clean, with satellite TV, hot water, and mini-fridges; each floor has a balcony, and it's not too loud outside. Breakfast is available for USD1. From USD10..
- Phong Lan, 12/66 Le Loi St, ☎ . Very nice, clean hotel on a small, calm side street near Pham Ngu Lao. All rooms have balcony, air-con, private bath. Rooms for 2 to 4 persons. Free Wi-Fi, bicycle, and motorbike rental available. Staff is very friendly and speaks good English. USD10.
- Sports Hotel, 15 Pham Ngu Lao St. Nice cheap hotel located on the main tourist hangout. Surprisingly clean and big spacious rooms and not far from the river. From USD10.
- Valentine Hotel, 7, Lane 64 Nguyen Cong Tru St, ☎ , fax: +84 5 4381 7898, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 10:00, check-out: 12:00. USD12.
- Waterland Hotel, 35/42 Nguyen Cong Tru St, ☎ +84 5 4393 5435 / 3935735. Boutique hotel near Perfume River. All rooms have wooden floors and are equipped with IDD telephone, air conditioning, cable TV, refrigerator, bath, (bathtub and shower), hair dryer, coffee and tea making facilities, private computer with ADSL.
- Asia Hotel. The rooms are well equipped and the rooftop restaurant and pool have nice views. Rooms from a slightly overpriced USD30, including a decent buffet breakfast. USD30.
- Holiday (Diamond) Hotel, 6/14 Nguyen Cong Tru. Exceptionally good value. The spotless, air conditioned rooms are well-furnished with modern amenities, and include lockable wardrobes. The included breakfast is substantial. The staff is very attentive, and will learn your name. They will warmly welcome you back after each foray outside, and provide you with free drinks (lemon juice, corn water) every time you enter, and whenever you sit in the lobby. USD20-35.
- Jade Hotel, 17 Nguyen Thai Hoc. Has the same owner as Holiday Hotel, but simpler rooms. Pickup from train station included, if booked in advance. USD15-20.
- Hanh Dat Hotel, 15 Pham Van Dong St Vy Da, Thua Thien Hue, ☎ 84 54 3898486. Rooms with air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and 32-inch LCD TV with satellite/ cable channels. Restaurant, business centre, fax, and photocopying services. USD25+.
- New Star Hotel, 36 Chu Van An St, ☎ . Hotel offering 56 air conditioned rooms, all of which have a cable television, an Internet connection, and a minibar. Amenities include massage and sauna, an outdoor swimming pool, and a souvenir shop. USD45+.
- Orchid Hotel. Professional and personable staff. Clean, spacious, and beautifully designed rooms. Free pickup from train. USD35, including a decent buffet breakfast.
- Park View Hotel Hue, 9 Ngo Quyen, ☎ . In the centre of the city, near the Perfume River. It's a 10 min walk to Hue Citadel.
- Vina Hotel Hue, 57/03 Nguyen Cong Tru St, ☎ . Hotel surrounded by trees. Rooms with river or city view. USD28-50.
- La Residence, 5 D Le Loi (Walking distance from the train station), ☎ . Renovated, it tries to bring to life the French colonial era of the 1920s. It has the largest swimming pool and spa in Hue. USD136+.
- Saigon Morin, 30 Le Loi St. Hue's grand old hotel, opened by a Mr. Morin from France and running strong for over a hundred years. Excellent riverside location, whitewashed colonial charm and a pleasant inner courtyard, although the rooms could use a little fine-tuning. From USD100..
- 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 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 insist on 700,000 dong.
- Hue is a safe city, and there is not much to worry about. However, at night all cyclo-drivers, especially in Pham Ngu Lao area, should be avoided. There are recent cases in which travellers have been mugged, beaten, and robbed by these people. During the day a ride should be fine, but at night, especially when they say it's free or "up to you", avoid them at all costs.
- Hue travel agents are keen to sell day-tours of the former Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which was supposed to be a buffer between North and South Vietnam, but which saw intense fighting. DMZ trips will include the famous Vinh Moc tunnels, where a few hundred people lived for two and a half years.
- You can be outside the city of Hue and into the jade green rice fields in just 10 minutes. Whether by car, motorbike or bicycle, there is much to see. (It's a bit too far to go on foot). Different villages tend to specialize in different handicrafts, so you can visit one area to see noodle-making, another for incense, then move on to see bronze-crafting, or rice cultivation.
- Hoi An - old merchant port 100km away (about 4 hours by road or train. Though train, 67,000 dong, stops at Da Nang, you will need to take local bus from there), with Da Nang, the Marble Mountains, and China Beach as potential stops along the way.
- Dong Hoi - about 3 hours north of Hue. Sleepy seaside town to sit around in. Bus from Hue: local bus: 80,000 dong. Sinh Cafe Bus: 400,000 dong. Tourist buses: 300,000 dong.
- Nam Dong district - great place for visiting Co Tu villages on the fringe of Bach Ma National Park.
- Beware booking buses with Moon Travel (Nguyen Tri Phuong), with promises of a bus dropping you off at your hotel in the destination city. They change buses, and then ultimately you end up at the bus station with no recourse.
- There are also frequent bus services to Savannakhet and Vientiane in Laos. Buses leave at 06:00 and 18:00. There are 3 scheduled direct buses to Vientiane: 06:00, 09:30, and 18:00. The trip to Savannakhet takes about 12 hours and cost around USD12, to Vientiane about 14–18 hours depending how many stops bus makes and USD20-30. The vehicle can be anything from a minibus or air-con bus to a local 30 years old bus. Usually buses are packed with traders and their cargo so that finding enough space is a problem. You'll probably have to change buses 3-4 times during the trip and toilets (aside from squatting in the jungle) are seldom available. Tickets can be bought in any booking office in the centre of Hue.
- VIP Bus to Savannakhet run by the Lao State Company leaves at 08:30 from the Southern Bus Station 5 times per week, every day except Sunday and Friday, and costs 220,000 dong. From Savannakhet to Hue, departure is at 10:00 at Savannakhet Bus Station, M-F, 100,000 kip.