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Hoi An is a well-preserved ancient town in central Vietnam. It was once a trading port from the 15th to 19th century and foreign influences can still be seen in the architecture, food, and culture today. The area is a labyrinth of shops, tiny alleyways, and eateries. It has become known for its orange buildings and plentiful lanterns that line the street. Hoi An is a lovely place during the day but becomes something magical at night when the lanterns are lit up. Hoi An was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999 and has seen an influx of visitors ever since. It is touristy but somehow the crowds of people don’t distract from its charm. I visited with few expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I fell in love with the city and it remains one of my favorites in Asia. Not only is it absolutely beautiful, but it has a lot to offer for being such a small city. Continue reading to discover the top 10 things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam.
How to Get to Hoi An
Hoi An is a small city located in Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province. It’s located on the coast of central Vietnam and is about 30 km (18 mi) south of the city of Da Nang. Hoi An doesn’t have its own airport or railway station and can only be accessed via roadway. Da Nang is the closest major city to Hoi An and provides travelers with a few options for reaching the ancient city.
Plane + Transfer
The fastest and preferred way to get to Hoi An is by plane. The closest airport to Hoi An is Da Nang International Airport (DAD). There are domestic connections from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hue with Vietnam Airlines and VietJet Air and some international flights from major cities including Bangkok, Siem Reap, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Most people that visit Hoi An are traveling from the country’s capital of Hanoi. The flight from Hanoi to Dan Nang International airport is short and is only about an hour and 15 minutes long. Upon arriving in Da Nang, you’ll have to find ground transport to Hoi An. The drive from Da Nang to Hoi An takes roughly 45 minutes depending on the mode of transportation you choose. From the airport, you can take a taxi, arrange a private transfer or arrange a shuttle.
Private transfer is going to be the easiest. You can expect to pay between VND 460,000- 700,000, depending on the size of the car and the time of day.
A taxi can be an easy option as well. There are plenty to be found outside the airport but they can often end up costing more than a private car. Attempts were made to hustle me and I found the taxi stand manager to be very aggressive. Look up the current rate in advance so as not to be overcharged.
A shared shuttle is a great alternative to a private transfer. It’s cheap and only costs about VND 140,000 each way. The shuttle runs every hour from 4 am to 10 pm and takes about an hour and 15 minutes to reach Hoi An.
Traveling from Hanoi to Hoi An on a sleeper bus is easy to do and will be your cheapest option. However, the trip is long and takes about 17 hours. You’ll depart Hanoi in the evening and arrive in Hoi An around noon the following day. The busses have reclining seats so you should be comfortable enough to get some sleep. One of the benefits besides the unbeatable price is that a stop in Da Nang is not needed. The busses can take you directly to Hoi An but may have a couple of brief stops along the way. Two bus companies providing this service are Hung Thanh and Queen Cafe. A bus ticket is around VND 350,000 each way. Make sure to arrive at the bus station one hour ahead of your departure time.
Train + Transfer
A train that runs from Hanoi to Da Nang is available, although I would not recommend it. The journey is long and takes about 16-17 hours. It may be a good option for you if you have the time and want to enjoy the scenery. There is a night train available as well. Vietnam Railways has a handful of trains that depart daily from Hanoi. The ticket for the regular train costs roughly VND 811,300 one way and the luxury train is around VND 1,850,000. You will then have to arrange a transfer from Da Nang to Hoi An.
Best Time to Visit Hoi An
The weather can vary greatly between northern, central, and southern Vietnam. Central Vietnam has two seasons. These are the wet (Oct-Jan) and the dry (Feb-Sep) season. Many travelers will say that the best weather is from February to April. The average temperature during this time ranges from 73°F( 23°) C to 80°F (27° C). These are the driest months of the year and the temperatures are warm but mild. These months are great for outdoor activities and are popular with tourists. You can expect the tops sights to be quite crowded during this time. September can be a good month to travel to Hoi An as well. The humidity can be high, but it’s not unbearable and you’ll find it to be less crowded. The temperatures in Hoi An are the hottest from June to August and most of the rainfall occurs between October and November. These are months you will likely want to avoid.
How to Get Around Hoi An
Hoi An is a small town and is easy to get around. I recommend taking advantage of its walkability and staying as close to city-center as possible. Many of the hotels in the area offer use of complimentary bikes. Biking is a great and fun way to explore the town and river areas. If this isn’t included in your hotel stay, then there are lots of bicycle and motor-bike rentals around town. If it’s just too hot for walking then a cyclo (three-wheel bicycle taxi) can transport you around Ancient Town for a fee. For longer distances, such as the beach, your hotel can likely arrange a taxi or you can use Grab (Uber-like app).
How Many Days in Hoi An
Hoi An is a small town and seeing most of its main attractions is doable in two or three days. However, four or five days would be ideal and would allow you to see everything at a more leisurely pace. It would also allow you time for a day trip or free up some time to simply relax by the pool.
Budgeting for Hoi An
Vietnam is an extremely affordable travel destination. Hoi An is relatively cheap but the prices in the center of town tend to be slightly inflated. To get the most bang for your buck, I recommend finding restaurants and accommodations just outside of the city center. Accommodation can be found for under $15 USD/night and the price of a luxury hotel is equivalent to the price of what I would consider a mid-range hotel to be in the United States ($70-140 USD). The average cost of a good meal is about $7 USD. You’ll want to budget a bit more if you plan on having custom clothing made or wish to partake in activities or day trips.
Things to Do in Hoi An:
1. Explore Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An Ancient Town is a well-preserved area that functioned as a trading port between the 15th and 19th centuries. For this reason, a combination of Chinese, Japanese and European influences can be seen throughout the town. A ticket to Ancient Town is required for the town’s attractions. For the cost of the ticket ( VND 120,000), the ticket holder is allowed to choose five of the town’s twenty-two heritage attractions to visit. There are museums, assembly halls, and ancient homes. I recommend visiting Fukian Assembly Hall and the Japanese Covered Bridge. After visiting the attractions, spend some time getting lost in the town’s many alleyways.
2. Go Shopping in Hoi An
Shopping is one of my favorite things to do in Hoi An. I recommend exploring the shops in Ancient Town. You can find great housewares, leather goods, traditional crafts, and artwork. There are lots of incredible silk items to be found as well, including beautiful bed linens, clothing, and more. There are great deals to be found on many of these high-quality products.
3. Spend a Day at the Beach
Cua Dai and An Bang are the two closest beaches to Hoi An. They are both under a twenty-minute drive from Hoi An Ancient Town with Cua Dai being slightly closer. An Bang has become the more popular of the two in recent years. Cua Dai, unfortunately, isn’t as beautiful as it once was due to erosion caused by recent storms and climate change. Expect to see sandbags piled up in areas along the shore. However, I still found it enjoyable and it was much less crowded than An Bang. Both beaches offer umbrellas and chairs for rent (bring cash) but An Bang has many more options when it comes to eateries.
4. Browse the Night Market
The Hoi An night market can be found on Nguyen Hoang Street in the center of town. It’s on the opposite side of the river from Ancient Town. It’s open nightly and gets started around 7 pm, although vendors usually start selling as early as 5 pm. The street is illuminated by beautiful lanterns, making it a great place for photos. Local vendors line the street selling everything from clothing, jewelry, tasty street food, and even those lovely lanterns you see hanging everywhere. Don’t be afraid to bargain, most prices are inflated.
5. Boat Down the River
A great way to see Hoi An is by boat. You can hire a sampan (flat bottomed Chinese boat) to explore the Thu Bon River. This can be done as a day or evening activity but I recommend going in the evening. It will give you a chance to relax after a long day of sightseeing and you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful lanterns that surround the river and light up the boats. Another option is a sunset dinner cruise. These cruises are on larger boats and work well if your group or family can’t fit in a sampan.
6. Eat Incredible Food
There is an overwhelming amount of great restaurants in Hoi An. It can be difficult to decide where to go. Rosie’s Cafe is a great choice for breakfast. It’s located in an alley just a few minutes from the Japanese Covered Bridge. I recommend trying their veggie omelet. Located in the same alley, is Nu Cafe. I’ve only had a dessert here, but I hear their menu is fantastic. The mocha cake with peanut brittle and spiced cream cheese sounds unusual but is really tasty. I quickly became obsessed with a dumpling dish called White Rose. White Rose is an open-faced dumpling made with rice paper and either shrimp or pork. They’re simple but so good. I would recommend Hai Cafe or Morning Glory for these.
7. Take a Cooking Class
A great way to spend a morning in Hoi An is at a cooking class. You’ll be able to learn some traditional Vietnamese recipes and be able to recreate them upon returning home. There are a lot of options as far as classes go in Hoi An. One great option is Ms. Vy’s Market Restaurant & Cooking School. Ms. Vy is the owner of some of Hoi An’s most successful restaurants, including Cargo, Vy’s Market, and the above mentioned Morning Glory. She no longer teaches the classes herself but has an excellent team in place that caters to all skill levels. Other options include Green Bamboo Cooking School and Hoi An Eco Cooking Class.
8. Get Custom Clothes Made
Hoi An is famous for its tailoring. There are many shops throughout town that specialize in custom clothing. You can choose the color and material and then your measurements are taken. It’s a great place for men to get a nicely made suit at a great price. There are places that do clothing for women as well. The turn-around time is usually only a day or two but you should go near the beginning of your trip so there’s time for multiple fittings and you can achieve the perfect fit. If you have a piece of clothing at home that you love, go ahead and bring it with you. Many places will be able to reproduce it. BeBe Tailor, Vanda Tailors, and Yaly Couture are some of the tailors that do clothing in house. You’ll find that many of the other shops will outsource their work.
9. Grab a Coffee
Vietnam is known for its coffee and there are many cute cafes around Hoi An. For your morning latte, visit The Bird House. It’s the perfect place to sit next to the river. They don’t serve food but do have a few pastries. Mia Coffee is a great place for an expresso. They roast their own beans and have some great varieties.
10. Take a Day Trip
There are a handful of easy day trips to take from Hoi An. Hue, Golden Bridge, My Son Sanctuary, and Cham Islands are the most popular and are all within a few hours of Hoi An.
Golden Bridge was constructed in 2019 and instantly became one of Vietnam’s top attractions. A pair of giant hands appear to be holding up a golden walkway. The bridge is located in Ba Na Hills and the drive is about an hour from Hoi An. It’s accessed by one of the world’s longest cable cars within Sun World amusement park.
The Cham Islands are a cluster of islands located just off the coast of Hoi An. A public ferry operates daily but most travelers opt to join an organized tour. The area is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and is a great place for snorkeling or diving. The best time to visit the islands is during the summer months.
Hue is a bit further from Hoi An (about 3 hours) but can still be done as a day trip if that is all the time you have. Hue is the former Royal capital of Vietnam and was once the political and cultural center of Vietnam under the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802-1945. Hue is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the day can be spent learning about its history and exploring its tombs, pagodas, and citadels.
My Son Sanctuary
My Son Sanctuary is often referred to as a “mini Angkor Wat”. It dates from the 4th to the 13th centuries and is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex is a cluster of abandoned Hindu temples built by the Champa civilization. My Son can be reached in about an hour from Hoi An.
Where to Stay in Hoi An
Hotel Royal Hoi An
Hotel Royal Hoi An is a beautiful luxury option for the price of a mid-range hotel. The hotel is in the perfect location for exploring Hoi An. It’s about a five-minute walk from ancient town and offers complimentary bicycles. The furnishings are newer and the decor is exquisite. Many of the rooms have large tubs and great views. It overlooks the river and has two beautiful pools, one of them on the rooftop. It also has multiple restaurants, two bars, fitness center, and a spa. Hotel Royal hoi An is a personal favorite of mine.
La Siesta Hoi An Resort & Spa
La Siesta Hoi An Resort & Spa is a beautiful boutique-style retreat. It’s located near the rice fields and the Thu Bon River. It’s just a short walk from Hoi An ancient town and the resort offers the complimentary use of bicycles to explore the city. There are two pools set in a tropical garden-like area; one is saltwater and the other freshwater. There are also two restaurants, a bar, a spa, and a fitness center on the property. La Siesta partners with one of the resorts at An Bang beach and reserves an area of the beach for their guests. It may sound like a high-end luxury hotel but its rates are surprisingly affordable.
Hoi An Four Seasons Villa
Hoi An Four Seasons Villa offers luxurious villas overlooking the ocean and is perfect for those looking for an escape. Each villa is beautifully decorated in the style of a traditional Vietnamese garden home with a timber frame, pitched roof, and an elevated sleeping area. Staff can arrange different experiences for you such as visiting a fishing village in a basket boat or a foodie Vespa tour. The property has three infinity pools, a cooking academy, tennis courts, and basketball courts.
Have you visited Hoi An? Is there something I missed? If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or share using the social media buttons below. Is Hanoi on your Vietnam itinerary? Continue to my post, “Top Things to Do in Hanoi, Vietnam” and discover the best way to spend your time there.