Hoi An, a UNESCO World heritage Site is a place not to be missed when visiting Vietnam. Located on the coast of the South China Sea, the town is charming in many ways. The old town, decorated with hundreds of lanterns and studded with thousands of tiny silk shops will steal your heart.
Tailors here will make you a garment in no time with hardly any extra fittings needed in between taking the first measurements to presenting your masterpiece all stitched up and ready to wear.
The sunsets here are spectacular. Try catching one on the beach, further away from the crowds and savour the pink sky while swimming in the soothing waters.
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Getting to Hoi An
It’s easy to get to Hoi An from within Vietnam or the surrounding countries.
By train. The closest train station is Da Nang. From here you will have to take a bus or a taxi to get to Hoi An.
You will be mobbed with taxi drivers once you step outside the train station, but it’s a short walk to the nearest bus stop. Look for Pizza Hut on the corner, a few doors away, (outside house number 299) will see a bus stop, that’s where you can catch a bus to Hoi An which goes every half an hour.
By air. The 3rd international airport in Vietnam, Dan Nang International Airport, is conveniently located in central Da Nang.
You can take a 10 minute taxi from the airport into the town at around 60,000 VND (15,000 goes towards the airport entrance/exit fees). From Da Nang you can either take a local bus to Hoi An or a taxi.
Getting to Hoi An by taxi. Make sure you catch a green taxi, they have the meter running. However, the price to Hoi An might be set as it’s a fair drive from Da Nang. It should cost you around 320,000 VND.
Getting to Hoi by a local bus. Frequent buses between Danang – Hoi An are running every day, with last bus leaving Da Nang at around 6pm. It takes around 45 minutes, depending on the traffic and the technical condition of your bus. You can catch bus 1 from the stop mentioned above.
Bus ticket costs 16,000 VND but beware of dishonest ticketers, majority of them will try to rip you off. Most of the time they try charging foreigners 30,000 VND per person. If you try to argue, they will point to your backpack indicating that you need to pay for those too, which you don’t!
TIP: Make sure you have the right change ready or you will risk not getting any change back. Usually there will be a yellow notice with prices inside the bus. If they ask for more money, just keep pointing to the price list and smile.
Accommodation in Hoi An
There are plenty of hotels and other means of accommodation in Hoi An, but we really recommend staying outside of the Old Town. It’s a small place so you will never be too far away from the town centre. Most of the hotels provide bikes for free so you won’t need to spend anything on transport, unless you decide to catch a cab.
Jolie Villa Hoi An Homestay
Just a few streets north of the Hoi An bus station, on a quiet side street you will find Jolie Villa. Complete with clean crisp sheets, big comfortable beds the spacious rooms are great for relaxing after a day in the buzzing Old Town. Try getting a room with a balcony.
The staff are very friendly, speak good English and will happily help you with any questions you have. I had a bad motorbike burn on my arrival to Hoi An and one of the girls gladly provided me with 3 large chunks of Aloe Vera from the garden. A welcome relief!
The room costs 355,000 VND ($16 USD). Breakfast is not included, but it can be arranged for extra $2. There are lots of good local restaurants nearby where you can find good food if you fancy something different.
The hotel is located on a nice street, close enough to cycle into the town, but far enough if you are looking for a quality rest away from the town’s hustle and bustle.
Bikes are included in the room rate and are free for you to use at any time.
Jolie Villa on Google Maps:
Full House Homestay
Just round the corner on a parallel street to Jolie Villa (2 minute walk), you will find Full House, another great guesthouse with beautiful rooms and generous balconies facing the beautiful street.
The family who run the hotel are very friendly, welcoming and accommodating.
At 405,000 VND ($18 USD), the rooms are clean and spacious. Good breakfast is included in the room rate and here comes a perk, it’s served all day! If you missed your breakfast, you can get it at lunch time, or even save your free meal for dinner if you are out all day.
You will find a menu in your room with a variety of meals to choose from, from traditional noodles to sandwiches, if you fancy staying in. Prices range from 60,00o per person per meal. Coffee here is instant and comes in a tiny cup.
Bikes are included in the room rate and are free for you to use at any time.
Full House Homestay on Google Maps:
If you are planning to stay longer in Hoi An, consider renting an apartment. You will find further details on how to rent a flat in the section Renting a Flat in Hoi An of this guide.
The magical Hoi An Old Town
We felt like we were back in Cuban Trinidad when we saw the colonial architecture in the Old Town of Hoi An, it has so many resemblances. The yellow crumbling buildings are beautiful, but it’s the tantalising lanterns, hanging just about everywhere that will steal your heart. The colours and shape of these beautiful lights are the main feature that make Hoi An so distinctive.
Entrance fee to Hoi An’s Old Town
Yes, there is an entrance fee to the magical Old Town. It’s a one off 120,00 ($5 USD) fee per person. Make sure you keep the ticket safe as you can be stopped anywhere in the Old Town and asked to show it. The ticket will also get you into 5 main Hoi An attractions of your choice.
We weren’t stopped until the last day in Hoi An. The checks are very random and can seem like a scam so it’s up to you whether you want to risk it or contribute to the preservation of this fabulous place. Also, it’s unlikely you will be stopped if you are just passing by on your bike.
Things to see in the Old Town
The Japanese Covered Bridge is one of the main attractions to see in the old town. The photogenic spot is popular amongst both, locals and visitors. It glows beautifully at night so make your way to the town once the sun goes down.
If you fancy juicy mangoes or other tropical fruit, head to the central Hoi An Market.
The Full Moon or Lantern Festival is a beautiful sight to behold on the pitch black streets of Hoi An’s Old Town. It’s the time when the locals pay their respects to their ancestors, burn fake money for luck and wealth and, of course, sell lots of paper lanterns to tourists. We really recommend timing your visit with this festival, if you can. It takes place on the 14th day of each lunar month but that can vary so check with the locals.
The famous ancient buildings in the Old Town include the Cantonese Assembly Hall, Duc An Old House, Hoi An Craft Workshop, Museum of Folk Culture, Museum of Trade Ceramics, Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, Phung Hung Ancient House, Tan Ky Old House, Tran Family Chapel, Quan Cong Temple.
TIP: Get up as early as possible to see The Old Town of Hoi An during the sunrise. It’s the best time to take photos, the light is soothing and the streets are free of visitors. You will have a glimpse of the locals opening their shops or having breakfast together with the family outside their businesses. The Old Town at sunrise is a magical place.
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Coffee in Hoi An
While there are a fair amount of coffee shops in Hoi An we encourage you to also join the locals on the little colourful stools and sip coffee while contributing to the community. We think it’s always important to check out the street life before heading into the coffee roasters.
Reaching Out Teahouse
If you, like us, are interested in something unusual, pop into the Reaching Out Teahouse. It’s a social enterprise which was created in order to share an authentic Hoi An (meaning peaceful meeting) trough the tradition of drinking tea and coffee with friends and family.
The ambience here is serene as the guests are encouraged to whisper and appreciate the beauty of silence. The teahouse is run by hearing and speech impaired staff and so for communication you use the cubes provided on the table.
You can read our full post on the Reaching Out Teahouse.
Reaching Out Teahouse on Google Maps:
TIP: Pretty coffee shops and those who claimed to be ‘organic’ didn’t always live up to our expectations. Go for local brew and soak up the atmosphere instead of the hyped up tourists spots.
Food options in Hoi An
A lot of times we found Vietnamese food to be hit and miss. Mostly because they seem to mix everything together. Since I don’t eat red meat and Charlie’s allergic to shell fish, we had to put more effort into finding places that catered for us both.
Luckily Hoi An, even though a small town, has a massive food scene and hundreds of restaurants to cater for everyone. Some better than others.
A big Aussie ex-pat community lives in Hoi An and neighbouring Da Nang, so if you’ve been travelling around SE Asia for months and want something more tangible to sink your teeth in, go for the Aussie restaurant and bakery Dingo Deli. The food here, although on the pricey side, is really great.
We ate our way through the menu while living in Hoi An and loved almost every dish. Try the Fish & Chips or make your own deli sandwich. Check out their specials board, they always have something good going on.
Coffee here is great, opt for the American bottomless coffee from Vietnamese Mocha blend. Nice and simple.
The deli is also a great working space. If you need to work on the laptop, they have a fairly speedy internet, plenty of tables inside with aircon and outside tables with sockets and fans. We got lots of blogging done from the restaurant when the internet broke in our flat, this place was a lifesaver.
3 Dragons Gastropub
Fancy a burger in Hoi An? Not a problem, at least two places served great burgers. The 3 Dragons gastro pub by the river serves best burgers in town. Believe me, we’ve done our research. Again, a bit on a pricey side, but absolutely worth it if you are feeling slightly homesick.
This is another place for a comfort grub. The veggie burger, made from potatoes, was slightly plane, but the blue cheese burger was fabulous. Chunky chips here are beautiful too.
Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant
One of the best veggie restaurants in town is definitely Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant. Their tofu with passion fruit sauce is to die for. If you are vegetarian, you can try the veggie version of the White Rose, which is traditionally made with pork and shrimp. The Won Ton here is also great.
Fresh beer is available for a mere 3,000 VND ($0.13 USD!), it’s very nice and you should definitely have a go and try it.
There are two Minh Hien Vegetarian restaurants in town. One is in the town centre (50 Trần Cao Vân, tp. Hội An) which also runs cookings classes and the other one (30A Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoi An) is located slightly outside the main tourist area, on a quieter street.
On the way to the beach stop at the Restaurant 339 for the best Cao Lau in town. They might even do a veggie option, if you ask nicely.
It’s on the main road to An Bang beach so makes a great pitstop on the way there or back. Great mango smoothies here too.
Hoi An Local Food Hall
A cheaper option in Hoi An is the Food Hall in the heart of Hoi An’s Old Town. There are lots of stalls selling local street food at low prices. We had lovely mango smoothies here accompanied with beef and chicken Cao Lau (at 20,000 VND per portion) and it was great value.
Give the Restaurant 382 a try. The ladies who run the restaurant are delightful and the food here is great. The vegetable spring rolls are beautiful and they also make super sweet home made sorbet-like mango ice cream.
Hoi An So Co La chocolate shop
As it’s pretty hot in this part of the world, chocolate is not on everyone’s mind, but in case you are really desperate for chocolate, there is now a chocolate shop in Hoi An. It’s on the Old Town side of the river just to the west of the centre.
The choice is wide, from dark chocolate to sugar free chocolate and truffles to chocolate fondue. The Belgian chocolate, which is made in Hanoi and then shipped to Hoi An, is as nice as it is pricey.
TIP: As we travelled through Vietnam from North down to the South, we found that places who have best views or decor, often have poorly prepared food. Also, some places who try to cater for westerners as well as locals, don’t always cook great food. Stick to local only places or restaurants run by westerners.
Beer by the river in Hoi An
Bia Saigon or the local Biere Larue can be found everywhere around the town, but the best way to enjoy it, if you are on a budget, is by the river with the locals. They have it all set up, just sit at the table or on a little chair and enjoy the quietness away from the Old Town along the river to the east.
Tailor up in Hoi An
One of the best ways to buy some lovely clothes in Hoi An is get them tailored. There are so many beautiful dresses and other garments on display, but don’t be fooled, they are all just samples. Unless you are tiny, to get the right size, let them measure you.
Lu Ly Couture is a great little shop just on the edge of the old town opposite the market. Lu is great, she’s very accommodating and speaks good English. I had my shorts tailored in just a few hours and they fitted perfectly. When I came to pick them up, no alterations were needed.
Address: 39 Hoang Dieu St., Hoi An
Contact details: Mobile: 0906579234; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vietnamese massage in Hoi An
Book yourself for an invigorating Vietnamese massage at Pandanus Spa Hoi An. Staff here are extremely friendly and accommodating. The place is not as fancy as the other spa’s in the Old Town, but the services are professional and much cheaper.
You can treat yourself to a full facial, mani and pedi, waxing or body therapies. The prices vary between $12 for facial services (60 minutes) to $14 for a full body massage (70 minutes). 3 to 5 hour personalised pampering packages are also available.
Phone: 0935 552 733
Beaches in Hoi An and nearby
There are 2 beaches in Hoi An, An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach. The latter has been recently shattered by a typhoon so doesn’t have much of a beach left. Both beaches are within easy reach from Hoi An.
To get to An Bang Beach you can hop into a cab or simply cycle. If you are cycling, take extra care on the main road, it’s narrow and always very busy with trucks and coaches going back and forth.
TIP: To avoid overcrowded beach, at the junction before the main parking lot, turn left. Cycle along a local narrow street until you see signs on your right, pointing you towards the beach. The path will take you away from the crowds.
In general it’s quite a clean beach, but unfortunately some rubbish is washed up along the shoreline. The water is clean and gets very warm in the summer months. Slightly cooler in spring.
If sunbathing is not on the agenda, head to the beach for a sunrise swim in soothing warm sea. Sunsets here are pretty spectacular too.
If you are looking for a pristine white sand beach, head further north to the gorgeous My Khe Beach in Da Nang. The beach comes to life and starts buzzing after the sunset. That’s when the locals come out to play. If it’s full moon, stay around until dark and have a swim in the moonlight.
If you a planning to stay in Hoi An for a month or longer, consider renting an apartment. We rented a 2 bedroom flat which was around a 15 minute cycle from the Old Town and had everything we needed to live and work. We might not have had a comfy sofa, but we did enjoy super fast internet.
It’s easy to arrange a viewing with the local estate agent. The best way to find up to date information about renting an apartment in Hoi An is to join the ex-pat community on Facebook. The page is very helpful for lots of local advice when living in Hoi An.
Are you going to Hoi An any time soon? Do you need any more information? Maybe you’ve been here and would like to add something to this guide? Drop us a line in the comments below…
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