The trip from Hue to Hanoi takes you through over 380 miles of the heartlands of northern Vietnam. It’s about leaving behind the old glory city of the Nguyen emperors, with its mystical palaces on the meanders of the Perfume River, for the motorbike-purring capital of the nation.
It’s a popular journey to make, letting you move between two of the top bucket list draws in Indochina. One day you’ll be wandering the haunting halls of the UNESCO-tagged Purple Forbidden City in Hue. The next, you’ll be lost in the Hanoi Old Quarter between the pho stalls and sprawling bazaars. Let’s take a look at all your travel options…
|Hue to Hanoi by Plane
|1 h 15 min
|Hue to Hanoi by Train
|Hue to Hanoi by Bus
Nothing is Quicker Than Flying: Plane Travel from Hue to Hanoi
Time – 1h15 (flight time only)
Price – From $45 per person
Comfort – 5/5
There’s nothing quicker than flying between Hue and Hanoi. It lets you smash the 350-or-so-mile hop in 1h15, which means total travel times in the region of around three hours when you factor in check-in and waits at the departure lounge. What’s more, there’s plenty of competition for the most popular domestic flight routes in the country these days. That means you can expect to have a choice of multiple departure options in both the morning and the afternoon, along with airfare that shouldn’t break the bank. Let’s dig a little deeper…
If you’re in a hurry to get to Hanoi and want to travel in comfort, there’s really no substitute for the planes, which whisk you up north in under 1.5 hours.
There are about five separate direct flights linking the ancient city on the Perfume River with the Vietnamese capital each day. They range from low-cost carriers like VietJet to fully-fledged flag carriers like Vietnam Airlines. Tickets on the cheapest ones tend to start at around the $45 mark if you book in advance, but remember to weigh up the cost of extras like checked baggage and speedy check-in. Going with a premium airline that includes frills as standard could end up cheaper overall if those are things you need.
All connections between Hue and Hanoi leave from the Phu Bai International Airport (HUI). The earliest in the day goes at 9.10am, while the latest leaves at 9.20pm. Because this is a short-haul domestic flight, try to get to the terminals around 1.5 hours prior to take-off time. Most passengers do that in a private taxi, which takes about 30 minutes from the center of Hue and should cost in the region of $11 total.
You’ll land at the Noi Bai International Airport (HAN). It’s one of the largest international and domestic hubs in the whole country, so is well linked to the center of Hanoi city. There are two options for getting to hotspots like the Old Quarter from the arrivals – a super-cheap public bus that costs under $1 or a private taxi that costs about $10.
The Real Way to Move From Hue to Hanoi is by Train
Time – 12 hours+
Price – Starting at around $15 for day trains and $35 for sleeper trains
Comfort – 4/5
Yes, flights are faster, but the real way to move from Hue to Hanoi is by train. You’re looking at a 427-mile odyssey of a journey that rolls through some of the most spectacular parts of the country. It takes over 12 hours in most cases but can be done either by day or by night. Passengers can pick from shoestring seating options and luxurious two-berth cabins on services run by either private transport companies or the national railway authority.
You’ll be riding on the railway line that covers the whole length of Vietnam, from Ho Chi Minh in the south to Hanoi in the north. It’s known as the Reunification Express and was actually built over 50 years between the 1880s and the 1920s. Travelers out of Hue pick up the train at the handsome station at 2 Bui Thi Xuan Street – it’s on the southwestern side of the town. All locomotives arrive at the big Hanoi Railway Station, which is just on the western edge of the Old Quarter, where most travelers stay.
Ask any veteran traveler in Vietnam, and they’ll tell you – the trains are the most adventurous way to travel north to south and south to north.
Not all trains are the same. Most of the services are run by Vietnam Railways. They have a whole range of classes, from the 3rd-class hard seating without air-con (not recommended for this long trip) to soft-sleeper, four-berth carriages (a comfy option that means you have your own bed on the night trains). You can also choose soft-seat carriages with big windows and climate control if you want to make the trip in daylight hours and enjoy the views. Then there are the private trains run by New Livitrans. They are billed as luxury because they offer two-berth cabins and have extra frills like snacks and complimentary water, though they do cost a little extra.
The main decision here is whether to travel by day or by night. There’s an argument to be made for both. Daytime trains will let you take in swathes of backcountry Vietnam, hitting a zenith at the karst peaks of Ninh Bình and the looming mountains of the Ke Go Nature Reserve. Night trains mean you won’t have to pay for accommodation for an evening and will cruise into Hanoi fresh and ready for sightseeing in the early hours of the following morning.
Hue to Hanoi by Bus
Time – 12.5-15 hours
Price – $16
Comfort – 2/5
If the travel budget is a little tight and you want to leave as many Vietnamese dongs for haggling through the bazaars of the Old Quarter once you reach Hanoi, the buses do offer a bargain way to go from city to city. For just $16 per person, you can secure yourself a seat on one of the regular long-distance coaches that run the route between Hue and the capital. They almost all go overnight and take in the region of 12-14 hours, but could be longer depending on how many stops and how much traffic there is on the way.
The so-called VIP buses aren’t the comfiest way to go, but they do the job and do it for cheap – tickets start at a mere $16 per person.
There’s no getting around the fact that this isn’t the comfiest way to travel. Vietnam’s so-called VIP buses are pretty infamous around the region. They often have ripped seats and broken air conditioning, and can be packed with up to 32 passengers at once. There are also regular reports of gun-ho drivers who speed and swerve. Just don’t expect the same relaxing ride you’ll get on the trains!
On the plus side, the seating is largely on lay-flat beds for the whole duration and there are over 10 bus options every single evening. They all promise to get you into the capital come the early hours – most arrive around 5 or 6am, raring to go for sightseeing or day trips to Ha Long Bay. Journeys also usually include two or three toilet breaks and food stops. These days, you can compare and contrast all the various coach companies and travel times online using 12GoAsia.
Once you’re finished touring the mysterious temples and ancient dynastic palaces of Hue, Hanoi beckons travelers to the buzzy heart of modern Vietnam. It sits some 335 miles to the north as the crow flies, touting the immersive guild markets of its Old Quarter, tasty pho kitchens, and the striking mausoleum of a certain Ho Chi Minh, the grandfather of the nation.
Hanoi also happens to be a great place to launch further travels to bucket-list destinations in Vietnam, including the hiking hub of Sa Pa and the eye-watering wonderful reaches of Ha Long Bay. This guide runs through all of the top ways you can make the journey from Hue to the capital, including fast flights, slow trains, and bargain buses.
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