Located just south of the bustling city of Da Nang, the historical town of Hoi An still holds a lot of its traditional charm. With a river running through the middle of town, it’s the perfect example of a classical Vietnamese coastal trading town. One moment you’re wandering through the lantern-lit winding streets of the Old Town, the next you’re sipping on a locally brewed beer on the riverfront watching the world go by. It’s also known as THE place to get tailored clothing for Vietnamese prices so if you’re after a new suit, shoes or dress, this is the time to get it done!
Once you’ve explored the town by foot, hop on a bike or a scooter and explore the paddy fields, beaches and nearby towns – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you’ll find.
How to Get There
Bus / Hoi An is quite easy to get to by bus. Most of the overnight, cross-country buses from Hue or Nha Trang will stop off at Hoi An or will drop you off at Da Nang and transfer you to a smaller bus. The main bus stop is pretty close to most of the hostels and hotels so you can easily make it even with your huge backpack.
Train / While there is no train station in Hoi An, you can hop off at Da Nang and then catch a local bus to Hoi An (around $4-5)
There’s plenty of places to rest your head in Hoi An from backpacker hostels to high end resorts so whatever your budget and comfort threshold, there will be something for you.
We stayed in both a hotel and a hostel as we wanted to have some private time as a couple (you know how it is!) but our favourite was definitely the Dai Long Hotel. It was in a really central location, just 5-10 minutes from the Ancient City and the water and right next to some of the best tailors. Make sure to pay the extra $2-3 for the triple room with a balcony as it’s much bigger and cooler in the hot evenings.
The hostel, Hoa Binh was still a popular choice for backpackers due to the great location and generous free breakfast. A night in a 6 bed dorm will set you back about $7 and while it isn’t luxury accommodation, it’s much better than some of the places we stayed in S/E Asia.
How Long Should I Stay?
Whistlestop / 2-3 days at least. The Ancient City requires at least an afternoon of wandering around and you’re not doing Hoi An properly unless you’ve explored the markets and had some drinks by the water.
Taking Your Sweet Time / A week. We were ‘stuck’ in Hoi An for 6 days over Tet holiday (I know, poor us!) and we were so sad to leave. During the summer months and if you’re a beach bum, you could stay here even longer if you wanted.
Things To Do
Explore the Ancient City, cycle around the local area, get a suit tailor made, haggle your way around the market, go to the beach, visit the ancient Chinese temples and eat your body weight in amazing street food. Seriously, there’s a lot to do in Hoi An so you’re in for a bit of an action packed trip.
There’s also plenty of shopping opportunities. The area has long been known for it’s fabric production and fantastic tailoring at crazy affordable prices so bite the bullet and get that suit/dress/chinos you always wanted. While it can be tempted to find the cheapest tailor and get a suit made for $50, the fabric and craftsmanship will probably match the price, leaving you with a pretty shoddy three-piece. My boyfriend got a few suits made at Kimmy Tailor, a Vietnamese-Canadian shop in the centre of town. While they are more on the pricey side for tailoring in the town, he had plenty of fittings, personal attention and all his suits are fantastic quality.
If you’re in Hoi An for a few days, it’s also worth hiring a bike or scooter and making the most of the beautiful surrounding areas. Navigate your way along the narrow dirt roads of the paddy fields, head to the beach, explore the local area. We had the best day when we hired a motorbike (about $3-4) and drove through Da Nang to Monkey Island (Núi Son Trà) where we spent a day on an abandoned beach.
Eating and Drinking
There are limitless options. You want crazy authentic street food? Hoi An’s got it. You want high-end, luxury dining? Hoi An’s got it.
For some seriously authentic and affordable eats, just follow your nose down an alleyway. Yep, that sounds dodgy as hell but trust me, it’ll be worth it. One of our best meals in Hoi An was a bowl of pork, noodles and some incredible sauce that a lady in wedged flipflops whipped up down a side street. It cost us a grand total of $1 all together. There’s also some locals cooking up a storm by the river just past the Japanese Bridge so if you’re not having any luck scouring the alleyways, head down to the water.
There’s also a good few restaurants dotted around the town. Good news for veggies as there are plenty of places serving up green grub – our fave was Minh Hien Vietnam Vegetarian Restaurant, just around the corner from our hotel. It’s half book shop/library and half veggie restaurant who also run cooking classes. For something a bit more sophisticated, see if you can find The Secret Garden. We headed there for a late Valentine’s Day dinner and a three course meal and bottle of wine set us back AU$40 / £25. The food is wonderful and the interior is just magical. Definitely worth going at night to see the garden lit up with fairy lights and candles.
If you’re after some bevvies, head towards the river. On the main side, you’ll find some swanky cocktail bars and just over the bridge you’ll find restaurants serving 3,000 VND home brewed beer and backpacker bars pumping out music and cheap drinks ’til the early hours.
Mr Trung’s Day Tours. We were having a beer at the Seafood Garden restaurant on the other side of the river when Mr Trung approached us and asked if we wanted to come to his village. A bit skeptical but intrigued, we agreed and the next day he took us around his fishing village just 10 minutes out of Hoi An where we spent the day fishing, visiting a local pottery and getting a unique glimpse of rural Vietnamese life. In the afternoon he invited us back to his house where we cooked dinner with his family and got to know them. It was a fantastic experience and one of the best days of our trip.