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The almost car-free riverside city of Hoi An is always on every travelers' must-see list when visiting Vietnam. Boat rides on the Thu Bon River, herbal remedies in the Ginger Spa and so many silk tailoring stores all help to create an extra special experience. And, just three to four hours north of Hoi An, you'll find the sister city of Hue provides more of the same plus plenty of pagodas, palatial properties and Perfume River tours, alongside.
When traveling the 126 kilometer (78 mile) distance from Hoi An to Hue, you have three overland options: you can take a minivan, bus or private car. Buses are split into two classes: Economy and Local Sleeper. They're air-conditioned, have reclining seats and take around four hours to reach Hue from Hoi An. Cars are all standard class, include a local private driver and take around three hours to get from Hoi An to Hue. Minivans come in three classes: Standard, VIP and Van. Minivans are all air-conditioned and take about four and a half hours to ride from Hoi An to Hue.
No matter which mode of transport you decide upon, there will be rest breaks along the way for food and bathroom stops. It's a relatively short journey but still gives you enough time to get some rest in between locations.
Top tip: buy some snacks and drinks for the journey in advance as they'll be more affordable than what's available at the designated rest stops.
What you're able to see out your window between Hoi An and Hue depends entirely on what time of day your ride leaves. An early start - 7.30 or 8am – by bus or minivan allows you to grab a coffee and hit the road in time to reach Hue around midday.
Private cars can leave whenever you need them to, so can get you into Hue even earlier. Handy to know if you've got a flight to catch from Hue's international airport. Also, it's always a good idea to be at your departure point at least 30 minutes before your designated start time. Set those alarms for even earlier and you may get to see the sunrise for one last time over the Thu Bon River, a truly stunning experience to enjoy before you leave.
Once you're on the road you'll get to see lots of little roadside villages and rural scenes. Rice production is still considered to be one of the nation's key areas of rural income in this region of Vietnam. Watching how the countryside blends with urban areas is a real eye-opener for any travelers wanting to understand the real Vietnam outside of the tourist hot spots.
The fastest way to get to Hue from Hoi An is with a Standard Car by Hue Happy Travel. You can organize hotel pickup and drop off, and the ride takes around 2 hours 45 minutes.
The cheapest way to get to Hue from Hoi An is with a Local Sleeping Bus by The Sinh Tourist which costs $7 and takes around 4 hours to arrive.
The most popular way to get to Hue from Hoi An is with a Standard Minivan by Danang Online Travel. It takes about 7 hours for an 8am departure - which includes several sightseeing stops - and 4 hours for all other departure times; costs $17.
Buses come in two classes: Economy and Local Sleeper. They provide an extremely affordable and efficient means of getting overland from Hoi An to Hue. All buses are air-conditioned and have reclining seats. They take about four hours to complete the journey and will usually include a rest break en route to stretch your legs, use the bathroom and stock up on snacks, drinks and random (expensive) souvenirs.
Buses depart from at least four designated pick up points in Hoi An, the earliest at 7.45am and the latest at 2.00pm. The best advice is to arrive at least 30 minutes before you're due to depart, so as to avoid a crazy rush and the inevitable walk of shame if you're last to rock up.
Minivans take about the same amount of time as a bus to get from Hoi An to Hue – approximately four hours – however, there will be less people onboard and more leg room. Minivans come in three separate classes: Standard, VIP and Van. They're slightly more expensive than buses but the ride is much more comfortable, and peaceful. You can also book an entire minivan if you're traveling as a group. This enables you to leave whenever you wish and share the travel costs.
Minivan pickups in Hoi An
Minivan drop-offs in Hue
As you can only drive in Vietnam if you're Vietnamese, choosing to travel by private car means that you'll also be getting your own private chauffeur. Drivers often speak English and will provide a pleasant and fun question and answer session as part of the experience. Of course, the choice of music is at the driver's discretion so just go with the flow and listen to whatever comes on the stereo. You may be surprised at what tunes become your brand new soundtrack to accompany the rest of your trip.
There are around 12 total buses and minivans leaving from Hoi An to Hue each day, in addition to private car transfers.