Hoi An sunset

A Rough Guide to Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is my favorite place in Vietnam. Some may call it touristy, and they’re right, but I always say the same thing to people who make that argument. “It’s touristy for a reason”. People come from all over the world to visit this magical place because it is in fact, magical. People come and never want to leave. At least, that’s what happened to us. And if the tourists really bother you, there’s plenty of places to go to avoid them.

Breada and I first fell in love with Hoi An during our motorbike trip across the country in 2016, and decided to spend nearly four months there in 2017. We love it so much we came back for two weeks on our current trip. I was giving recommendations to someone recently and they asked if I had all this information on the blog, and that’s when I realized I never wrote a guide to the town. Not anymore!

Hopefully this will sort out most questions you may have: what to do, where to sleep, where to eat, etc. Anything that isn’t answered I’ll make sure to give you a resource to find the answer.

How to Get There

By Plane/Train/Bus 

Most tourists get to Hoi An via plane. While there is no airport in town, Da Nang International Airport (DAD) is just 30 minutes away. If you’re already in Vietnam and don’t want to fly, there are trains that will take you to Da Nang, or coach busses from most major towns to Hoi An. Be prepared though, some of these bus rides can be upwards of 18 hours long and the “beds” are small and uncomfortable. That being said, there are so many beautiful places to see throughout the country that your bus ride shouldn’t be more than a 3-5 hours from your last destination. 

Yellow Bus #1

If you arrive to Da Nang and really want to save money, you can take a public bus to Hoi An for 25,000 VND. As a foreigner, they may try and charge you more. You can stand your ground and argue, pointing to the price listed, but it may or may not work. It’s your call. Luckily when Breada and I took it we had no issues whatsoever.

The bus will drop you off at the public bus station in town. Depending on where you’re staying you can either walk, take a cab, or take a xe om (motorbike cab). I typically advise against motorbike cabs because many of them will try to pull one over on you, charging you far more than you should be paying. My advice is to take a regular cab and make sure they have their meter on.

Overall, unless you’re on an extremely strict budget I’d advise against this method.

Grab Taxi

Since Uber is ending Southeast Asian operations soon, Grab is now our go-to for getting into town. It will cost you about $15 USD from the airport to your accommodation. If you’re on a tight budget you can try and find a couple other travelers to split it with.

Getting Around Town

Walking

Hoi An is pretty small and unless you’re going to the beaches, almost everything is within walking distance. The Ancient Town is especially nice to walk around at night. There is a restriction on cars and motorbikes between 8:30 – 11 am and 3 – 9:30 pm anyway so unless you’re cycling it’s your only option.

Bicycle

For those places a little further out like An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach, a bicycle will be your best friend. Many hotels and guesthouses offer them free of charge, but should you need to rent one it will cost you about $1 USD / day.

Motorbike

This is my preferred method of travel throughout the country, but I know it will not sit well with everyone. A basic motorbike will cost you 100,000 VND / day plus the cost of your fuel.

FAIR WARNING : There is a lot of ambiguity on whether or not International Driver’s Permits (IDP) are valid in Vietnam. There was talk at the beginning of 2017 that the government began accepting IDP’s, but according to this UK source that is no longer true. This doesn’t matter in terms of getting in trouble with police, at most you will pay a small fine of about 200,000 VND (~$10 USD ) if they even bother to stop you which is very rare in Hoi An, but it can have serious consequences should you get injured. Insurance companies will not pay out if you’re driving illegally, so bear than in mind if you ride. If you do decide to ride, read this post on tips for riding around.

*** https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/vietnam/safety-and-security  ***

*TIP* The petrol station on Hai Ba Trung is known to cheat foreigners. Some employees won’t reset the pump, so if 20k has already been pumped and you ask for 50k worth, you’ll only really get 30k. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes, and have read many stories of it happening to others. If you do fill up there, make sure they reset the pump.

Cabs

Cabs are always a way to go, though they are also the most expensive option. Unless you know how much you should be paying for a particular ride and you negotiate it ahead of time, make sure the meter is on.

Motorbike Cabs

As I mentioned earlier I DO NOT recommend this method of travel, especially at night. While I was working at a bar in town last year I heard constant horror stories of people getting either scammed or flat out robbed by motorbike cabs. This is especially true if you’re drunk. 20k VND notes and 500k VND notes look awfully similar when you’ve had a few too many, and if you give a driver a 500k note he may turn around and tell you you only gave him a 20k. Trust me, it happens. When in doubt, just walk or get in a regular cab.

What to Do/See

Ancient Town

This is arguably the main attraction within town. It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999 and the architecture highlights what the town looked like when it was a trading port in the 16th and 17th centuries.

You need to purchase a ticket to visit the sites within the Ancient Town. The ticket cost 120k and though it says it’s valid for 24 hours, nobody will bother you as long as you have visits left on it. The ticket is only valid for 5 visits, and honestly it’s hit or miss on whether or not someone will actually ask you to see the ticket. You can see the list of places the ticket covers on this website here.

The Beach

There are two main beaches in Hoi An : An Bang and Cua Dai. I recommend An Bang as your go to. At one time Cua Dai was quite beautiful, but due to erosion a majority of the beach is nothing more than sandbags now. An Bang is very beautiful and has many bars and restaurants to keep you occupied.

A Few Spots To Look Out For..

  • Kahunas Beach Club
    • Awesome new spot away from the masses of people at the end of Hai Ba Trung. There’s a pool, lots of lounge space, and a good chunk of beach space with chairs and umbrellas. The drinks are cheap and we’ve heard good things about the food. If it was open while we were living there we would have been there everyday. if you’re staying at Hoi An Backpackers they provide a free shuttle service throughout the day. 
  • Salt Pub
    • Similar set up to Kahunas, but seemed to be a little more family friendly. Lots of play space for kids including a little playground. We had lunch and coffees here and were very happy with the meals.
  • La Plage
    • A little closer to the main beach area. Good prices for that part of the beach and they make a great cafe sua da. I recommend the chicken and cashews for a tasty lunch!

 

Tra Que Vegetable Village

This is less a thing to do and more just a place to see. It’s a massive swath of land off of Hai Ba Trung as you’re going towards the beach. Watch the locals work in the rice fields, the flowers bloom, the water buffalo roam, and just enjoy the peacefulness of it. Look out for the man who hangs out on the right side of the road as you’re going towards the beach with his water buffalo. He’s almost guaranteed to be there everyday ready to loan out his water buffalo for a ride or a photo. For a price of course 🙂

Water Puppet Theatre

It’s weird. It’s hilarious. It’s absolutely worth the 80k entrance fee. I had no idea what to expect beforehand, but I’m happy we went. It’s located on Hai Ba Trung and performances are on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Day Trips

  • Cham Island
    • Beautiful Island just off the coast of Hoi An. Wake up early, spend the day there, and be back by happy hour.

Da Nang

  • My Son

The Angkor Wat of Central Vietnam. Hire a car for about 600k and do it yourself or take an organized tour for about 500k per person.

  • Ba Na Hills
    • A mock French village set in the mountains. A little gimmicky if you ask me, but a lot of people enjoy it.
  • Marble Mountain
    • A cave complex between Hoi An and Da Nang. Go to the top for beautiful panoramic views of the area!
  • Hai Van Pass
    • One of my favorite spots in the region. 25km of some of the most beautiful coastal road in the world. Motorbike the road or hire a car. Lookout for the bullet holes in the buildings at the top!

Tailoring

You can’t go to Hoi An and not walk by a tailor shop. There are literally hundreds of tailors around town, and many can produce custom made to measure clothing in just 24 hours. I once got a shirt made to measure in just five hours! Quality will be all across the board. You can get a men’s suit made for as little as $60 USD or as high as $500+, depending on the quality of the fabric and where you go to get it made.

Most shops will also offer to ship your clothing back home with you if you’re on a longer trip and don’t want to haul it around. Average rate is about $40 USD.

Cheap Clothing

For cheap custom clothing just go to the Hoi An Fabric Market and walk around there till you see fabrics you like and you can negotiate with the owner. You’ll find the cheapest deals inside there. Just make sure that at least one refitting is included in the price.

You can also find many shops along Cua Dai that have ready made things to buy. Mostly dresses and rompers (playsuits if you’re from the UK!) and funky colorful clothing for men. The quality will be about the same in each of them so I would just look for the one that gives you the best price. I always had good luck with Sunny Tailor, just next to Sunflower Hotel.

Mid Range

  • Ba Ri
    • Breada and I have both had work done here and have been very happy with the quality. There is absolutely room for negotiation so don’t jump on the first offer they give you.
  • AoBaba
    • They made my first shirt in town and I was very happy with it. Like I mentioned earlier, they had it done in just 5 hours and at a reasonable price for the quality of the fabric.

High End

These shops will have the most variety to choose from, the highest quality fabrics, and will be the most professional. That being said, they will be the most expensive. They are constantly packed with people so they really don’t have to negotiate with you at all, but if you’re buying many items they’ll give you a break on price.

One of the nice parts of a higher end tailor is they will save your measurements for life too, so if you go back home and decide you want more clothes you can just send them an e-mail and do the entire process online!

  • Yaly
    • I just had a suit tailored here and it came out phenomenal. They have a body scanner they put you through to make sure they get your measurements just perfect. Highly recommend.
  • Bebe
    • I haven’t had anything made at Bebe personally, but Breada’s sister Mary did and all of her things came out very nice. My one gripe about their shop is their prices aren’t listed, which makes me think there’s some room for negotiation there.
  • A Dong Silk
    • They cater mostly to men’s suits. My friend got his suit there last year and it was very nice. Prices range from $100-400.

Like I mentioned before, there are hundreds of tailors and there are plenty of good ones that I didn’t mention. Do your research and shop around. Don’t just jump into the first place you come across.

Coffee Shops

You can’t come to Vietnam without having a coffee. There are coffeeshops all over the place, from little old ladies with street side stands to proper western style cafes. You’re bound to get a good one no matter where you go, but here are a couple of our favorites.

  • The Espresso Station
    • This is a proper coffeeshop, with some seriously strong coffee. It’s tucked inside of a tiny alley, and you wouldn’t even know it’s there if you weren’t looking for it. For a coffee a little closer to home, this is the spot.
  • Jack’s Cat Cafe
    • Breada wrote about Jack’s recently, but we’ll give them another shout here. If you like cats, then this is a must visit in town. You must make reservations on their site, but it’s worth it to be able to hang out with the kitties all day and know your money is being well spent.
  • Uy Viet Coffee Bean
    • I’ve been here dozens of times, and more often than not I’m the only foreigner there. I’m not sure why. It’s in a great location and the coffee is priced locally. A good sized Saigon style coffee ( cafe sua da with crushed ice ) is only 17k. A local friend told me once he thought their coffee was weak so maybe that’s why. It’s right on the main road and you can’t get a much better spot for people watching. Try it yourself!
  • Dingo Deli
    • Great coffee and the spot to go when you’re looking for import items from home. They stock all sorts of things you may miss, including high quality meats and cheeses.

Nightlife

While Hoi An isn’t exactly a hot spot for partying, it does have its fair share of bars to go to. The majority of them will be within the Ancient Town area, but you’ll also find some along An Bang beach and down Cua Dai.

If you’re looking for cheap drinks, go to An Hoi. To get there, cross the bridge going over the river in the Ancient Town. You’ll know you’re there when you see all the people handing out flyers for free drinks at the bars. These places will likely be filled up with backpackers and the booze will be cheap, both in price and quality.

Fair Warning : Vietnamese spirits are terrible. They’re cheap as chips, but you will absolutely feel it the next day. 

A couple spots to look out for…

  • Mr. Bean Bar $  
    • Because who doesn’t love a bar dedicated to Mr. Bean?
  • One Love Bar
    • 2 for 50k on mixed drinks (local spirits) for happy hour. Giant Jenga and other games to keep you occupied. Chilled out vibe. 
  • Lava Bar $
    • A good spot if you’re staying on Cua Dai, looking for rock bottom prices, and don’t feel like going into old town. 20% off if you’re a Sunflower Hotel guest and all you can drink for 50k from 8-10 pm.
  • Three Dragons Sports Bar $$ 
    • When you need to catch a game or match from your home country.
  • Dive Bar    $$
    • Not actually a “dive bar”, but a bar themed around diving. If you’re like me, you’ll be mesmerized by their underwater videos.
  • Soul Kitchen $$
    • Live music every night. On the beach away from the mobs of tourists in Ancient Town.
  • Q Bar $$$
    • Lounge vibe. Proper spirits.
  • White Marble Wine Bar $$$
    • When you just want a good glass of wine and Da Lat isn’t cutting it.

What to Eat

Hoi An is filled with amazing food options, both local and western cuisines. First, some local specialities to try :

  • Cao lầu: a noodle dish consisting of sliced pork, greens, and usually pork rinds or rice crackers. The dish is only made in Hoi An because the water used to make the noodles is pulled from a single well in the area. The flavor cannot be replicated elsewhere.
  • Mi Quang : a noodle dish with pork, shrimps, and rice crackers. The dish is finished with greens and peanuts.
  • White Rose Dumplings : rice paper dumplings filled with meat or shrimp and topped with fried shallots. The dish gets its name from the look of the dumpling after it is steamed.

Where to Eat

  • Mr. Trung’s (local foods) $
    • Our go-to street food stall. He specializes in com ga and cau lau. Find him on the right side of the Cloth Market after 6:30pm against the wall. 
    • *TIP*Go off-menu and order the duck salad. Delicious!
  • Pho Xua (local foods) $
    • Marginally more expensive than a street stall, but the comfort of a restaurant.
  • Phi Banh Mi (banh mi) $
  • Nu Eatery (Asian fusion) $$
    • Momofuku inspired pork belly buns. Don’t sleep on them.
    • *TIP* Their space is very small so they fill up quickly from reservations. Go to their 2nd location with the same menu, The Sea Shell, for an easier time getting in off the street.
  • Ganesh (Indian) $$
    • You can’t eat Vietnamese all the time!
  • Circle Cafe (Burgers/ Comfort Food) $$
    • Our favorite burger spot in town. Their specialty is the juicy lucy, a cheese stuffed burger sent from the food gods themselves. For an appetizer, get their street corn. Make sure to throw some chili jam in there!
  • Mango Mango (Asian fusion) $$$
    • Can’t beat Mango Mango for a fancy night out. Expect to pay closer to Western prices here.

Where To Stay

Hoi An is an endless sea of great accommodation for cheap. There’s so much competition across all price ranges that if you’re not good, you’ll be out of business very quickly. I always tell people, if you don’t like your accommodation leave and go somewhere else. There’s too many good spots to stay somewhere bad.

Hostels / Dorms

  • Hoi An Backpackers
  • Tribee Khann
  • Under The Coconut Tree
  • Sunflower Hotel

Homestay

  • Fusion Villa
  • Mango Garden Homestay
  • Flame Flowers Homestay

Mid Priced Hotels / Villas

  • Hoi An Sincerity Hotel
  • Hoi An Relax Garden Villa
  • Hoi An Silk Luxury Hotel and Spa

Upper End Hotels

  • Essence Hotel and Spa
  • The Almanity Hotel
  • Victoria Hotel

Additional Information

It’s hard to put every last recommendation in one post. You could write an entire website around Hoi An. In fact, there already is one. Hoi An Now is a great resource for all things regarding the town. Whatever I haven’t mentioned, they are almost certain to have it.

If there is something in particular you don’t see on here or there, you can message me and I’ll try to get the answer for you!

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