When I first started thinking about visiting the central parts of Vietnam, I baulked at the prices of transportation between the major sights that I wanted to see. Private cars and tours would have doubled the price of what I was paying in accommodation! However, there are cheaper and more effective ways of getting around this part of ‘Nam.
Danang has the Marble Mountains. Hoi An has the Ancient Town. Hue has the Imperial City and the Imperial Tombs. There are also the matter of 3 incredible beaches, one at each location: Hue has Lang Co Beach, Danang has Non Nuoc Beach, whereas Hoi An has An Bang Beach. And don’t forget the My Son ruins close to Hoi An, either!
So you need to find an itinerary to fit as much of this in as possible (preferably everything) whilst not over-spending. It seems pretty difficult, but it can be done!
One of the main annoyances I encountered was the lack of a train station at Hoi An. It can cost around $13 in a private taxi to get to Hoi An from Danang train station and a little more from elsewhere in the city. Most people who choose to stay in Danang will partake in daytrips to Hoi An and My Son and end up back in their hotel by the evening. I think visiting My Son first, in the early morning when the heat is not as stifling, is a better bet, then head to Hoi An Ancient Town for the afternoon. You will probably want to spend at least 4-5 hours in Hoi An to maximise your sightseeing potential. Just so you know, there are old public buses from Danang’s Thang Khe District that offer one way services to Hoi An for just $1, but these buses are slow and in poor condition (what do you expect for $1?!). Other buses ply the Danang-Hoi An route for around $4.
Trains are an option from Danang to Hue, as Hue has its own train station (unlike Hoi An), although the journey time is still only a couple of hours by taxi or bus. There are frequent bus every half hour or so between Danang and Hue. You can either head to the bus terminal to purchase your local bus ticket, or contact one of the travel agencies in Bach Dang Street. There is a large Danang intercity bus station at Dien Bien Phu street which is 3km west from the city centre. There are bus destinations to all major destinations in the region, including Dong Hoi (56,000 VND, five hours, six daily), Quy Nhon (65,000 VND, six hours, 11 daily) Hue (40,000VND, three hours, six daily) and Kon Tum (85,000VND, five hours, three daily).
It is hard to say which of Hoi An or Hue that I preferred. I guess different people will prefer different things, although in a nutshell it is Hue that has more cultural attractions, such as the Imperial City and the Royal Tombs, whereas Hoi An is more of a coastal town with its well-known and colourful Ancient Town to explore too!
From Singapore, Silkair fly to Siem Reap via Danang, so it is a good idea to plan your itinerary enroute to the temples of Angkor with a stopover in Central Vietnam!