Hue Perfume River : Our Charming Afternoon Tea Cruise

Created by Colleen Sims | Updated : 8 July 2024 |

If you know anything about us you’ll know at least 2 things 1) we love a boat trip and 2) we’re partial to a little afternoon tea.  Finding the Hue Perfume River cruise with Afternoon tea was like a match made in heaven!

We spent a few days in Hue and after searching for things to do I found this tour.  It’s inexpensive and as a result, we didn’t have high expectations.  Read on and we’ll share how our little afternoon boat trip panned out.

Colleen and Gerry enjoying their Hue Perfume River Cruise

Where Is The Perfume River?

The Perfume River, which is actually called the Huong River in Vietnamese and it flows through the city of Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam.

The Perfume River originates from the Annamite Mountain Range, on the border between Loas and Vietnam and flows into Hue and onwards into the South China Sea.

Historical Significance

The river was an important factor in the choice of location for the Imperial City of Hue; which has now been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Along the banks of the river you’ll find Thien Mu Pagoda; one of the historic landmarks in Hue.  The tombs of Nguyen Imperial Emperors, such as Minh Mạng and Khai Dịnh are also located by the river and are popular tourist destinations.

Today life continues to centre around the river.  Locals use the river for swimming and it is central to various cultural and religious activities, including the Hue Festival.  And traditional dragon boats are still seen on the river, transporting tourists.

The Origin Of The Name

The Perfume River gets its name from the fragrant aroma that came from the local flowers and vegetation along the river but also from orchards located upstream. When the flowers fell into the water, they carried their scent downstream to Hue, giving the river its distinctive name.

afternoon tea cruise

What Is The Perfume River Afternoon Tea Cruise?

We were a little sceptical when we booked; we paid 16€ each for this. The price seemed low so as a result we didn’t expect a lot.

The cruise details tell you to expect :

  • Cruising along the Perfume River, learning about the daily life of Hue people
  • Have views of the Imperial City Hue and the Citadel, the Da Vien Bridge and Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Afternoon tea with herbal tea, cakes and fresh fruits
  • Commentary and storytelling about the Perfume River and Hue whilst admiring the beauty of Huong River.

The tour seems to offer a great deal and the commentary is in English and it just seemed too good an opportunity to miss.  And I can happily report that the cruise really did deliver on these promises.

What Is Included In The Afternoon Tea?

The afternoon tea was exactly as shown in the tour photos.  There was a lot of cakes, fruit and tea for two people.

The first thing we noticed was how beautifully the table was laid, with fabulous cutlery and crockery.  It instantly made the Afternoon Tea experience seem special.  There was no choice of menu and looking at other visitors photos I think the same afternoon tea is served to all guests.

  • Royal Herbal Tea was served and it was plentiful. 
  • The Cakes are presented on each table and include traditional cakes, 2 little sandwiches and a selection of fresh fruit.

The dining area was very pleasant; indeed much nicer than we anticipated.  When we’ve taken these trips previously the boats are often more rustic.  Not this cruise.  The space was lovely and again it added to the ambience of this trip being a treat.

Top Tip : I never asked for a gluten free meal when I booked the tour, so I cannot comment on availability.  I would recommend that you contact when you book and specify dietary needs.  I ate the fruit and Gerry very much enjoyed a lot of cake and sandwiches.

afternoon tea on the Hue Perfume River cruise.  With fancy cakes and tiny sandwiches and fresh fruit

How Long Is The Boat Tour?

The cruise will usually last 90 minutes but I would recommend that you allow about 30 minutes longer.  This covers the early arrival time for boarding and also a few minutes at the end for disembarking.

I say usually as there are other tours which can extend for longer periods, I’m referring to the cruises like our Afternoon Tea Cruise.

Our cruise pretty much ran on time.  We never saw a sunset but we did see the sun dipping over the water and the sky turn to a delicious pink colour.  We walked back to our hotel along the river (there’s a wonderful footpath).  It took a while as I kept stopping and turning back to watch the sun turn red as it set.  It was a beautiful evening.

What Will You See From The Boat?

Primarily you’ll see local life along the river but you will also see a few important landmarks of the Hue.

  • You pass under Truong Tien Bridge, an iconic symbol of the city’s architectural heritage.  It won’t come as a surprise to learn that the French engineering company Eiffel designed the bridge.  It was completed in 1899 and has served as a vital crossing over the Perfume River for more than a century.
  • You get to see the city landscape of Hue and the colonial buildings along the river. You may also spot a few traditional stilt houses on the city outskirts.
  • The turning point of the cruise is the Thien Mu Pagoda, meaning Temple of the Celestial Lady.  This seven-story ancient pagoda was built in 1601 and is the oldest pagoda in Hue
  • We also spotted locals swimming from the banks and our commentator for the afternoon explained how this is a much loved activity for locals as the river is so clean.
sunset river cruise

How Much Does The Tour Cost?

The ticket price does vary a little between the 2 booking sites but I suspect that is more down to exchange rate calculations. 

  • The cost is currently 16€ and on Viator there is a slight reduction for children but it’s pennies. 
  • Children under 2 are free but they will need to sit you your lap.
  • There are no other costs; that price is fully inclusive.

How Can I Book The Tour?

The easiest way by far to book this trip through a booking website.  We use Klook when we’re travelling in Asia and sometimes they are cheaper but the price difference between Klook and Viator is negligible. For this tour we’d probably book with Viator because we use it more.

Top Tip : Currently Viator don’t have this tour listed every day.  If it’s not running on your chosen date then use Klook (we’ve never had an issue with them).

This is a popular trip and the boat was full when we took the tour.  The company do run two boats and I imagine in peak season both boats would run. My advice (as always with tours) if you know that you want this tour and you know the date you want it, then book it. 

dragon boat hue

Logistics for the Perfume River Tour

What Time Does The Tour Start?

The tours usually start at 16:00 and they return you to the same spot at 17:30.  Our tour ran pretty much to time. 

Top Tip : It is recommend that you arrive 15 minutes before departure.

Where Does The Tour Start And End?

Our tour started some distance from the main town at 5 Le Loi Wharf.  We took a taxi which stopped on the main road and we walked 2 minutes down to the river. 

Top Tip : Your tour operator will contact you before the tour and send exact details as the location for boarding and disembarking as they can change depending on water levels.

When Is The Best Time Of Year To Take The Cruise?

Cruises on the Perfume River generally run all year, including during the rainy season.  

The rainy season typically runs from September to December. During this period, the region can experience heavy rainfall and occasional flooding. It’s usual for services to be disrupted and it often doesn’t rain all day but short sharp showers.

The peak tourist season is from January to April and this timeframe coincides with the dry season, offering more cool temperatures.  I use the term cool loosely as it was very hot when we visited Hue in February.

Top Tip : The ‘tea room’ is completely covered so regardless of the weather you’ll be dry inside.

gerry looking out from the boat at the Houng River during our afternoon tea cruise

Practical Tips About The Perfume River Cruise

If you have booked your tour through Viator or Klook you should have a confirmation email immediately so do make sure you give the correct email address.  You will receive confirmation within 48 hours of booking and if you hear nothing I would recommend that you follow this up.

What Should I Take With Me?

You need very little on the cruise but I would recommend :

  • Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat : It was very hot when we took our tour and you can sit outside of the tea room to catch the views and the breeze but there is very little shade.
  • Water : Whilst there was ample tea to drink we did get a little thirsty and having some water towards the end of the trip might be an idea
  • Snack : If you’re travelling with children maybe take some snacks so if there’s not anything they want to eat you have something to provide.  There is no opportunity to purchase anything onboard.  This is equally true if you have food intolerances although I wasn’t hungry and was happy with the fruit.
  • Insect Repellent : dusk is when biting insects can appear so it’s wise to have some precautions just in case
  • Small Notes : Tipping isn’t always expected but if you wish to leave a little something do remember to have some smaller notes with you as you will not be able to change onboard.
  • Camera : We took a lot of photos, especially of the sunset.  Make sure you bring your camera and that it’s charged.  There was nowhere on board to charge a phone.

Is The Tour Wheelchair Accessible?

My initial reaction to this question was no but according to the booking website they say that they are happy to accommodation wheelchairs. 

My advice would be to contact and confirm.  There is certainly space onboard but there were a few steps and a ramp to get onboard.  However, they may have a good solution that we didn’t see.

Is The Tour Suitable For Children?

We would have taken our children on this tour.  It’s a simple little trip but they would have loved the treat of Afternoon Tea (I wonder where they get that from?) and they would have enjoyed the journey along the river.

Is The Tour In English?

Our tour was in English and the commentator spoke excellent English.  She was from Hue and was able to recount stories of her life living beside the river.

Is There A Toilet Onboard?

There were restrooms onboard but we never used them.  My guess, judging by the standard of the rest of the boat, would be that they were very clean and tidy. 

What Are The Boats Like?  Are They Safe?

We were surprised by how lovely the boat was.  It was in excellent condition, the Tea Room was beautiful and outside areas had comfortable bench seating. 

Do You have To Share Tables?

We had a table to ourselves and it seemed as though each table had been catered specifically for each little group.  I am not sure if the same would be true in peak season but it felt as though this was standard.

our boat from the Hue River cruise moored at the boarding pier after our cruise

Is The Hue Perfume River Afternoon Tea Cruise Worth It?

We thoroughly enjoyed our experience.  We were surprised at the quality of the tea and also how nice the boat was.  We did a similar trip in Phnom Penh which we also loved but it was much more a ‘local’ boat and not quite as ‘posh’.  We also really enjoyed the story telling and learning more about the river.

Read through the reviews on the two booking sites and they pretty much echo our thoughts.  The boats were wonderful, the afternoon tea special, and the team onboard very professional.  The cruise offers excellent value for money and you get to see a different side of the city.

We definitely recommend the tour and after all that relaxation, you could stroll back to town alongside the river.  We weren’t alone as it felt like half the town came to walk too and it was the perfect end to our evening.

sunset on the Perfume River in Hue  taken from the Temple beside the river during our walk along the footpath

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel, you should have a great travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve ended up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland! Every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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Colleen in Salamanca on the Via de la Plata

Hey I’m Colleen. I’m married to Gerry, we’ve three fabulous kids and been living in France for almost two decades. I fell in love with Spain in the 1980s and I’ve walked 1000s of miles along the Camino de Santiago. Now we’re exploring and walking the world and I can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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