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Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s best preserved ancient towns and definitely our favourite spot to unwind and escape the hustle and hubris of the country’s larger cities. There are many things to do in Hoi An and our highlights include the UNESCO World Heritage ancient centre, Thu Bonh river at sunset (lanterns galore), cycling through lush rice paddies and some of the best damn ‘nam food.
We’ve visited Hoi An a few times and have compiled our ultimate guide to Hoi An:
Best time of year to visit Hoi An
The temperatures in Central Vietnam stay warm throughout the year, averaging around 29°C (84°F). The dry season runs from February to August with plenty of sunshine, low humidity and low rainfall.
The monsoons tend to occur during the months of September through to January (with the heaviest rains of the season in October and November). You’ll find that the old town is prone to flooding so you may want to avoid visiting during this time. Check out our top things to do in Hoi An on a rainy day blog.
If you do not like huge crowds then also try and avoid visiting Hoi An during major Vietnamese holidays such as Tet (Chinese lunar new year celebrated in Jan/Feb).
How much do things cost in Hoi An?
We found Hoi An to be a very cheap destination with street food meals costing around 30,000 VND ($1USD) and restaurant meals around 60,000 – 120,000 VND ($2-4 USD).
Glasses of local beer can be purchased for as low as 3000 VND ($0.15) in some places during happy hour, but usually around 10,000 – 30,000 VND (40cents – $1USD) per can or bottle in a restaurant.
Having a pocket WIFI device can be super handy for finding your way around the city – pre-order one online with Klook to collect at your hotel. The rental cost is around $5-6USD per day and can connect up to 8 devices at once.
Things to do in Hoi An Old Town
1. UNESCO old town
The old town in Hoi An is simply gorgeous, adorned with pretty colourful lanterns and painted french-colonial houses. You can easily spend a whole day exploring all the attractions, gift shops and coffee houses here, and the old town is one of the best spots in Vietnam for travel photography.
However the old town is extremely touristy and sometimes feels just a bit too crowded (especially from 4pm onwards when busloads of tour groups arrive from hotels in nearby Da Nang). If you are keen to photograph the town in peace then you’ll need to be an early riser!
Old town attractions using the tourist ticket
There are lots of beautiful historical sites in Vietnam, and Hoi An has plenty in it’s old town. To enter the old town you’ll need to buy a tourist entry ticket from one of the 11 ticket booths (small yellow huts) on the outskirts of the old town walking area. The tickets costs 120,000 VND each ($5US) and 85% of ticket fee is used for the restoration and upkeep of the ancient town.
The ticket also includes entry to 5 of the 21 heritage sites which are listed in an accompanying brochure – they include temples, museums, assembly halls and more.
Some of our favourite places to visit using the ticket include:
– Japanese Bridge
– Fujian Assembly Hall
– Quang Trieu Cantonese Assembly Hall
2. River at day and night
The epicentre of Hoi An’s activities (and tourism trade), the river is best experienced at night when it comes alive with boats adorned with brightly coloured lanterns, and lit candles are placed onto the water. Many vendors vye for your attention on the water’s edge so be warned it can get quite touty and we’ve seen sellers arguing over customers (also see our Hoi An scam warning below). The main bridge over the Thu Bon River at night is the perfect place to watch the sunset reflections on the water (but watch out for the mopeds on the bridge).
We spent many an hour sitting in the bars and cafes directly overlooking the Thu Bon River and we picked up on quite a frequent Hoi An scam. You’ll likely be approached by one of several old ladies offering to place a harness with fruit baskets around your neck in order for you to take a picture. Be warned that if you accept the fruit harness, the old ladies will then expect quite a large amount of cash and will keep hectoring you until they feel you’ve paid sufficiently. If you don’t cough up, they may involve a younger man on the sidelines (who they also give their ill gotten gains to on a regular basis, in a discrete manner).
3. Central Market
Make your way past all the second-rate souvenir stalls around the outside of Central Market and head straight to all the food stalls inside. The food here is crazy cheap, fresh and above all, authentic. Each stall has several small seats – pull up a pew and point and pick which ingredients you want, before watching your dish come to live before your very eyes (many stalls also have english menus and there are also lots of vegetarian options to be found here). Prices are around 30,000 VND for a bowl of noodles.
Just across the road from Central Market, one of the main thoroughfares becomes a fascinating fresh market, with farmers and families selling all manner of produce. We got up at sunrise one morning to watch all the locals buy their fresh fruit, fish and veg from lines of old ladies who’d set up shop for the day (most transactions are done on the back of mopeds). Conditions for the livestock here are very different from western standards so if you are easily upset about poor treatment of animals and poultry (particularly chickens), it is best to avoid this fresh market.
4. Hoi An Night Market
Hoi An Night Market on Nguyen Hoang Street is worthy of a visit, especially the lantern stalls at the start of the market (you’ll recognise them from Instagram!) but given how samey all the stalls become after a while with limited good food offerings, this certainly isn’t one of the finest ‘nam night markets you’ll experience (Hanoi’s night markets are much better in our opinion). Open 7 nights a week from 6pm to 11pm, there are around 60 or so stalls of varying quality, with the best stalls found at the start of the market, nearest to the Thu Bon River.
5. Hoi An coffee shops
Vietnam is known for it’s excellent coffee and you’ll find a high density of coffee shops in Hoi An’s old town. Cafes in Hoi An are very popular with the small digital nomad community working and the best coffee shops include Hoi An Roastery, Mia Coffee, May Concept, and Reaching Out Tea House.
Make sure you have sufficient room in your backpack or suitcase to take home a dress or suit of your very own sartorial styling. A rite of passage for Hoi An is to visit one of the many tailors in the Old Town, get measured up and come back the next day to pick up your new clothes. The most famous ones like A Dong Silk (as seen on BBC’s Top Gear programme decking out Jeremy Clarkson) don’t need to advertise so we’d recommend you avoid any of the tout ones, who try and get you to come in off the street.
7. Lantern making workshop
Making your own Vietnamese lantern makes a wonderful souvenir and is also a great way to learn about traditional craft techniques. There are many lantern making workshops available in the city but we’ve heard many great things about The Lantern Lady Lantern Making Workshops (advance booking is recommended), or book this class on Klook. This is a good activity to do during Hoi An’s rainy season.
Things to do outside of Hoi An old town
8. Cookery Class
After trying many delicious dishes in Vietnam, you may want to learn how to recreate them back at home. We booked an inexpensive, morning cooking class with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class which also included a visit to a local market and a bamboo basket boat ride!
We prepared a variety of Vietnamese dishes including Phở Bò (beef noodle soup), Banh Xèo and fresh springs rolls, which we then sat down to eat them afterwards. The class was very entertaining and it was the perfect rainy day activity (we visited during a very wet December).
9. Food Tour
If you are a foodie and fancy eating your way around some local spots in Hoi An which are a little off the beaten track then we recommend the highly rated Hoi An Food Tours. They offer a variety of different food tours including ones where you visit local places whilst riding on the back of a moped in the countryside!
We enjoyed the 4 hour Afternoon Street Food Walking Tour which also included visits to local food stalls outisde of the old city, plus a huge home cooked Vietnamese feast at a local’s house!
10. Basket boat ride
A ride in a traditional Vietnamese bamboo basket boat is quite touristy but also good fun! Many tours offer the rides as part of a combined package with a cooking class or a bike ride. You’ll learn how to fish for crabs and get to watch local fishermen work, whilst admiring the beautiful scenery of the mangrove forests.
Click here to book a Fishing Village Visit and Fun Basket Boat Ride Tour or a Market Tour, Basket Boat Ride and Cooking Class
11. Cycle in the rice fields
Although it is fun (albeit touristy) to take a cyclo around the Old Town, there are several tours where you can cycle around the outlying rice paddy fields, see water bison roaming around and meet local farmers.
If you are on a very tight budget and can’t afford to do a cycling tour, many hotels also offer free bike hire – we stayed at the Royal Riverside Hoi An Hotel for several nights and made use of their free cycle hire facilities to cycle a little out of town and experience the local fishing ports and villages (barely another tourist in sight). Thanh Ha Terracotta Park is also a sedate, flat 15 minute bike ride out of town.
12. Visit My Son
A UNESCO world heritage site, My Son Santuary is a Hindu historic site and ruins approximately 40km outside of Hoi An, constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries by the Champa Kings.
Generally accessed by moped or guided tour, My Son features ruined temples, statues and towers, many of which have been restored since being damaged by bombing during the last war. Similar in feel to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, My Son is best visited very early in the morning before the tourist bus battalion arrives.
13. Hoi An beaches
Hoi An’s beaches are located 3km from the old town and a quick motorbike/taxi ride away. These beaches aren’t particularly amazing but are perfect for spending a few hours unwinding, plus many of the bars and restaurants offer sun loungers and umbrellas that you can rent. An Bang is the most popular beach and also the busiest (with many great seafood restaurants and a nightlife scene).
There are several luxury beachside resorts if you want to base yourself here instead of the old town.
Other fun things to do in Hoi An
14. Morning Food and Coffee Tasting Tour
This food tour will take you off the beaten path where you will taste many delicious types of street food and learn about Vietnamese coffee culture. Click here to book a tour.
15. Fish market tour
Early morning tour which includes a visit to a lively local fish market and sampling some regional specialties for breakfast. Click here to book a market tour
16. Backstreet Academy
A range of authentic experiences run by locals including wood crafting, cooking, cycling and farming. Click here to check out their tours.
17. Sunset Dinner Cruise
Enjoy cocktails and dinner as you cruise along Hoi An’s Thu Bon River at sunset. Click here to book a cruise.
18. Photography tour
3-hour sunrise or sunset photography tour in the villages outside of Hoi An, suitable for both amateur and professional photographers. Click here to book a photography tour.
19. Snorkel in the Cham Islands
Grab your snorkel mask and head to the Cham Islands by speedboat for a day of snorkelling, swimming and chilling on the beach. Tours are usually only available during the dry season as the seas get too choppy during the monsoons. Click here to book a Cham Islands tour.
20. Day trip to Ba Na Hills
Mountaintop resort complex in Da Nang, only accessible by cable car. Stroll through the French Village, ride the roller coasters and visit the famous Golden Hands Bridge – seen frequently on many Instagram accounts. Click here to book a Ba Na Hills tour.
21. Day trip to Hue
Take a day trip north of Hoi An and visit the UNESCO-listed Imperial City of Hue. Tour the Forbidden City, Emperor’s Private Residence and take a boat ride on the Perfume River. Hue to Hoi An is a 2 and half hour drive. Click here to book a Hue tour
Where to eat in Hoi An
The local dishes in Hoi an are delicious and you’ll be spoilt for choice with the variety of restaurants across the city. Here are some highly rated recommendations:
Note – avoid eating Vietnamese dishes in the tourist restaurants along the Thu Bon river as the food we ate in a few of the places there were really terrible! Stick to the western dishes they offer if visiting any of these restaurants.
Banh Mi Phuong and Madam Khanh Bahn Mi Queen
The two most popular and famous banh mi cafes selling inexpensive french baguettes. Visit early to avoid long queues.
Read about our search for the best Banh Mì in Hoi An >
Morning Glory Restaurant
Highly rated and stylish restaurant serving traditional Vietnamese dishes (advance booking recommended).
Riverside Asian fusion restaurant with an upstairs terrace overlooking the famous Japanese Bridge.
Ganesh Indian Restaurant
Excellent and authentic north Indian restaurant popular with tourists and expats. Vegetarian Friendly.
STREETS Restaurant Café
Mix of local and international cuisine. The staff at this restaurant are disadvantaged youths who have been trained up in hospitality, and all proceeds go towards funding its culinary training programmes.
Very busy restaurant located in the old town selling reasonably priced and delicious local dishes.
Located near the Japanese bridge, this small eatery sells seasonal small plates such as pork-belly steamed buns and chilli lime shrimp, plus smoothies and home made ice creams.
White Rose Restaurant
This restaurant has only two items on the menu – the famous ‘white rose’ dumplings and crispy wontons. Most of Hoi An’s White Rose dumplings are made and distributed by the family who work here.
Where to drink in Hoi An
Hoi An doesn’t have a huge nightlife scene but it is easy to find places to go for drinks and maybe some live music. Happy hours are very popular in Hoi An and many of them last all night!
Riverside restaurant and bar with an outdoor terrace – great for cocktails.
Popular nightlife spot with live music, pool tables, garden courtyard and mojito buckets! Owned by the Cham Island Diving Centre.
Small, intimate bar with live music from 8pm.
Hoi An’s riverside is lined with several busy bars – many of them with very generous happy hours. These bars are great for drinking cheap local beers, but please avoid bars such as Bean Bar, Why Not Bar and Tiger Tiger – they have extremely bad reputations and many customers have experienced violent behaviour towards them from the staff. Have a quick look at the TripAdvisor reviews of any bar which uses touts to lure you in before you decide to enter.
How to get to Hoi An
Da Nang is the nearest city if you are visiting Hoi An. Here are some transport options for travelling from Da Nang to Hoi An:
Hoi An doesn’t have an airport and the nearest one is Da Nang International Airport. Da Nang is located a 30 minute drive north of Hoi An and you can travel to the city by taxi, private car, shuttle or bus:
If travelling by taxi the fare should cost between VND 300,000-400,000 ($12-17 USD). Make sure you write down the hotel name, address and phone number and give it to your driver to avoid any confusion.
Arranging a private transfer with your hotel can be a lot cheaper than getting a taxi – usually costing 220,000 to 250,000 VND one way. Alternatively book a private transfer online with GetYourGuide or Klook.
Shared Shuttle Bus Transfers
A modern shared minivan runs from Da Nang Airport to your Hoi An hotel between 5am to 11pm, costing around 125,000 VDN one way. Book online in advance with Klook and present either a printed or a mobile voucher on arrival.
This is the cheapest way to reach Hoi An costing just 25,000 VDN (1USD). However you’ll need to take a 12 minute taxi to nearby Da Nang central bus station to board this bus. From there the public buses run every 20 minutes from 5.30am until 6pm, taking around an hour and a half to reach Hoi An.
If arriving by train from Hanoi, the nearest train station is also in Da Nang, You’ll find plenty of taxi drivers waiting outside the station – expect to pay around 250,000 VND ($10 USD).
How to get around Hoi An
The old town is quite compact and easy to get around by foot (scooters and motorbikes are prohibited in this area during the day). Alternatively there are other transport options:
You can rent a bicycle from your hotel or any bike rental shops – usually for as cheap as 30,000 VDN per day.
These are ideal for exploring places further afield such as Da Nang. Shops offer motorbike rental for around 100,000 VDN per day.
Grab taxis are widely used by both tourists and locals, and the fares are really cheap! Download the Grab app here and use the code GRABCKTRAVELS to earn a free ride when you sign up.
Private car transfer
Book a chauffeur-driven private car and make your own itinerary for your journey – great for small groups of travellers. Book your private car online with Klook.
Cyclos are also a fun and leisurely way to see the old town – but make sure you negotiate a fixed fee or hourly rate before starting the journey (standard fares are 20,000 VDN per kilometre) or better still, take a prepaid cyclo tour.
Where to stay in Hoi An
Most first time visitors to the city stay in or near the old town, as it is home to most of the attractions. Alternatively there are some luxury beachside resorts just a short drive away out of the city.
Here are some accommodation recommendations if you are planning a trip to Hoi An.
On a budget?
These backpacker hostels are highly rated online and in super locations:
Tribee Kinh hostel / Hostel with a party atmosphere and 5 minutes walk to the ancient town. Check out prices and availability for Tribee Kinh hostel.
Hoa Binh hostel / Good location in the centre of town with dorms/private rooms and free unlimited buffet breakfast. Check out prices and availability for Hoa Binh hostel.
Leo Leo hostel / 3 minutes walk to old town with dorms/private rooms and free breakfast. Check out prices and availability for Leo Leo hostel.
Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa / Riverside hotel just minutes from the Japanese bridge and an outdoor swimming pool and hair and beauty salon. Check out prices and availability for Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa.
Hoi An Silk Marina Resort & Spa / Air-conditioned villas just a 7-minute walk from Hoi An Ancient Town with a beautiful outdoor pool. Check out prices and availability for Hoi An Silk Marina Resort & Spa.
La Siesta Hoi An Resort & Spa / All air-conditioned rooms feature a private balcony that opens up to views of the huge swimming pool. Check out prices and availability for La Siesta Hoi An Resort & Spa.
Here are some super nice places if you really want to treat yourself on your Hoi An trip!
Lantana Boutique Hotel Hoi An / Modern and elegant hotel with indoor swimming pool. Check out prices and availability for Lantana Boutique Hotel Hoi An.
Hotel Royal Hoi An – MGallery by Sofitel / Luxury riverside hotel with rooftop swimming pool and bar. Check out prices and availability for Hotel Royal Hoi An – MGallery by Sofitel.
Anantara Hoi An Resort / Elegant resort featuring French colonial architecture and outdoor swimming pool. Each room has a seating area and private porch with beautiful views of the garden or river. Check out prices and availability for Anantara Hoi An Resort.
By the beach
Sunrise Premium Resort Hoi An / Located directly on Cua Dai Beach, this luxurious resort offers stylish garden or ocean-view rooms and 2 swimming pools. Check out prices and availability for Sunrise Premium Resort Hoi An.
Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa / Located along the shores of Cua Dai beach with Vietnamese, French and Japanese decor, and 2 swimming pools overlooking the ocean. Check out prices and availability for Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa.
Festivals and events in Hoi An
Hoi An Lantern Festival
The Hoi An Lantern Festival is a popular monthly event that celebrates the full moon. Floating lanterns are lit with candles and placed on the Thu Bon river with a wish for happiness, luck and love. From 8pm onwards all fluorescent lights are turned off and vehicles are prohibited from entering the old town.
Tet – Vietnamese New Year
The most important of national holidays in Vietnam, Tet is the annual Vietnamese New Year which is held in either in January or February (coinciding with the Chinese Lunar New Year). Tet is the busiest time of year in Vietnam and many restaurants and shops are closed during the duration of the holiday.
New Years Eve
Fireworks and concerts held on the evening of December 31st. Click here to read our New Years Eve in Hoi An blog post.
The Mid-Autumn Festival marks the end of the final rice harvest of the year and takes place on the 14th and 15th day of the eighth lunar month, usually falling in September. Expect lantern parades and street performances.
Other Vietnam blog posts
- The best local dishes and food experiences in Hoi An
- Top things to do in Hoi An on a rainy day
- Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Hoi An, Vietnam
- Visiting Vietnam’s Lady Buddha in Da Nang
- Be aware in Marble Mountains – how I was robbed in Da Nang, Vietnam
- Highlights of Hanoi, Vietnam (plus a few lowlights)
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