Although Hoi An is a city that has become a huge tourist destination, it’s one of my favorite places in Vietnam. I was really excited to return after having visited three years ago for just a day and a half during the winter. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has remained full of it’s beautiful restored architecture from its former port trading days. It’s famous for its lanterns that cover every street in the Ancient Town and light up in the evenings.
The biggest change I noticed is the size and scale of development, especially across the river. Today the entire street has been restored and developed into modern restaurants and bars. There are also a lot more hotels and resorts on the edge and outside the Ancient City and there seems to be lots more construction expanding.
Because it was May and a weekend, it was extremely crowded with people visiting from nearby countries and cities for the weekend. I would recommend trying to go during the week if you can so it’s a little quieter.
DA NANG CITY
The closest airport and train station is in Da Nang city, about a 45 minute car ride to Hoi An. Da Nang is a great place to stop if you are looking for a relaxing city vacation. You can stay in a four star hotel on the beach cheaply and the city is filled with restaurants and cheap taxis to bring you anywhere you want to go. I stayed at the Diamond Sea Hotel.
Book your train tickets to/from Hoi An here: https://www.baolau.com
DA NANG -> HOI AN
Many hotels in Da Nang have shuttle buses that go to Hoi An if you are looking to save money not taking a taxi. A taxi/car though is still pretty cheap if your hotel doesn’t have any. My hotel in Hoi An arranged the car picking me up from the airport and it was $16 but I saw it advertised through independent car services for half that price (hotels usually increase the price for their booking services).
The best way to get around Hoi An is to walk. Cars aren’t allowed in the Ancient Town. In the evenings if you don’t feel like walking around take a Cyclo tour. If your hotel is farther outside the Ancient Town or you’re headed to the beach borrow a bike from your hotel. And if you don’t feel like walking/biking or your hotel is too far from Ancient Town there are taxis waiting on the edge of the Ancient City to take you home.
Currency: Vietnamese Dong ($1 USD = 22722.11 VND)
ATMs: There ATMs almost everywhere
Hotels: Accept cash and credit cards
Restaurants: Accept cash and some accept credit cards
Shops: Accept cash and some accept credit cards
*Credit cards are usually charged an additional 3% transaction fee and Visa is the most commonly accepted card.
Wander the Ancient Town
Technically you are supposed to get an Ancient Town tourist ticket (120,000 VND) to enter but you only are asked for the ticket if you want to go inside the temples and historical buildings (and if you enter the Ancient Town from the west side near the river where the tourist buses drop people off). Each ticket gives you five stubs for entry to places like the Japanese Covered Bridge. If you don’t plan on going inside anything you can avoid it if you want. The value is supposed to go towards the restoration and upkeep of the town.
Get Custom Clothing Made
This is what most people think of when visiting Hoi An. For not that much money you can have basically anything you want custom made and tailored. I went to Yaly Couture and my friend had two suits and five shirts made for $421 and I had two jumpsuits made for $100. The cost depends a lot on the fabric choice. They were able to make our items in two days. The first day we went in and made our style and fabric choices. And then the next day we had two fittings, one midday and one in the evening. They delivered our clothing to our hotel in the evening.
Take a Cooking Class
I am not much of a cook but I loved taking a class at Vy’s Market Restaurant and Cooking School because we learned so much about local Hoi An cuisines and it was not just about the cooking. We even tried some local delicacies like snails, frogs and pig’s brain!
Go to An Bang Beach
Borrow a bike and head out of town to the beach. You can bike through the rice fields on the way. There is bike parking for $1 and you can sit under an umbrella with a chair on the beach for free as long as you order a drink. You can also take a taxi if you don’t feel like biking.
Release a lantern for luck
In the evenings buy a lantern to release into the river or take a boat ride and release it from the boat.
Get a Massage
One of the best parts of Vietnam! Cheap massages. For around $10 you can get an hour long massage plus tip. You can also negotiate the price if they quote you high at first. Resorts and Spa Hotels will charge more.
Visit the Market
I love seeing all the local produce and food. Pick up a bag of mango or dragonfruit while you shop for souvenirs and check out what’s for sale.
Visit the Night Market
Across the river in the evenings the streets fill with vendors. A lot of them are just selling souvenirs but the best part is seeing the lantern stalls lit up at night.
Get out of town to visit The Marble Mountains or Mỹ Sơn:
There are dozens of bars and restaurants all over the city. The heat and humidity was so high I spent a lot of time just sitting looking over the water with a Mango smoothie in hand. The most famous restaurant in Hoi An is a place called Morning Glory. If you’re looking for a dependable place with local food it’s a good choice. Make sure you go early if it’s busy as they run of dishes at the evening goes on.
LOCAL MUST-EAT SPECIALITIES
Bánh mì: You’ll see this sold on lots of street carts, a baguette style sandwich.
White Rose Dumplings: One of Hoi An’s most famous specialties.
Cao lầu: My favorite Vietnamese dish that’s special to Hoi An with noodles, pork, greens, bean sprouts and crunchy crouton-like bits.
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