Hoi An was probably our favourite stop in Vietnam and I am here to share a few insights into this beautiful town. I have written a Hoi An Travel Guide with everything you need to know to fully explore this town. Read on to find out more about the Hoi An Lantern Festival, the ever-so popular tailoring parlours, the best things to do in Hoi An, and where to stay!
How to Get to Hoi An
You can only access Hoi An by road, as there is no airport nor train station in the town. However, the good news is, it is only an hours drive from Da Nang’s airport. The airport has domestic links to many places throughout Vietnam and also has a number of International flights landing here daily. You can get a taxi from Da Nang airport which can be pre-booked for 250,000 VND. If you are staying in Da Nang city, then I recommend getting an Uber to Hoi An. It will cost you half the price!
TIP! Ubers are a very controversial topic in Asia and are not always ‘accepted’ among the locals. Most airports/hotels cannot arrange an Uber to pick you up, so you must arrange this yourself.
We took an Uber and arrived at our hotel, Estuary Villa, which was on the outskirts of the main town. We were staying by the river that runs through Hoi An and were only a 5-minute bike ride from the beach. The hotel provided us with free bikes to use, to get around more freely and a free shuttle bus to/from town on a night.
Discovering the Beauty of Hoi An – Hoi An Travel Guide
When we arrived in Hoi An, we were amazed by the relaxing vibe it possessed. We had previously been in the busy city of Ho Chi Minh, stayed in the deserted town of Mui Ne, and back to another busy city, Da Nang. All of which were incredible places, but there was something different about Hoi An.
Hoi An was the first place that we felt such a loving, welcoming feeling. As we wandered through the streets, there were many people sitting outside in the cafes enjoying a few rays. The beach was also a nice treat as there aren’t too many available to the public throughout the country.
Our first night we made our way to town in the shuttle bus alongside a handful of lovely people who were staying in our hotel. We arrived to see a busy town, full of colour and life.
There were lanterns everywhere, lighting up the streets. People wandered down each one completely mesmerised. The colours were endless, and everybody was stopping to take pictures. In the middle of the town runs the river. Many locals sit by the water selling floating candles to the passing tourists. They light them up and send them on their way, lighting up the entire place.
Try Local Food at the Street Markets
There is a big street market across the other side of the river, where locals are selling their handmade gifts, and homemade dishes. It is a perfect place to try a selection of Vietnamese cuisines as the choices are countless. Typically, that specific day I was craving, and had, a blooming banana pancake didn’t I. And some rice, of course, let’s not forget the rice! 😊
Hoi An Street Markets are definitely the best place to try samples of the local foods. It is easily the cheapest place to eat in Hoi An, and the food is cooked by their very own local families.
You may have heard of Hoi An before as it is ‘known’ for 2 main things: the Hoi An Lantern Festival, and the local tailoring shops.
Hoi An Lantern Festival
First of all, what is it? Hoi An already consists of hundreds, if not thousands of lanterns on a daily basis, so what makes this festival so special?
The Hoi An Lantern Festival is an event held on a monthly basis to celebrate the full moon. As many of you will know, the full moon plays a sacred role in the Buddhist calendar, as Buddah himself was born on a day of the full moon. The traditional beliefs that the full moon is a time to reflect on life decisions, relax and meditate, and most of all, worship their ancestors, is still honoured by hundreds of people throughout Asia to date.
The lanterns are a symbol of good luck, which locals have placed throughout the entire town, giving Hoi An its name: the town of Lanterns.
The festival is celebrated by lighting up the lanterns, and allowing them to float down the Thu Bon River, which runs through the centre of town. At 8pm all lights are turned off, leaving the lanterns to be the only source of light within the centre. Effectively, the lanterns light up the entire town, creating a magical glow and a lovely atmosphere. To accompany this, there is usually music being performed, games being played, and plenty of street food to go around.
TIP! The Hoi An Lantern Festival is held on the 14th day of each lunar month.
If you can plan your trip around these dates I would highly recommend doing so. The Hoi An Lantern Festival is a great experience that shouldn’t be missed!
Tailor Made Clothes in Hoi An
I am not kidding when I say you can get absolutely ANYTHING made, and usually within 24-72 hours. When I say anything I mean dresses, to suits, to bikinis, accessories and even a pair of shoes.
These shops have become increasingly popular among tourists, as buying a tailor-made suit costs a third of the price compared to in our home countries. If you plan on getting something made (and you’re not a guy – it’s way easier for guys!) then have a plan before you get there. Make sure you have an idea about the design, colour, hem, etc. so you can beat the crowd and be prepared. If you are struggling, the ladies in the shops offer the best advice, so you are in good hands.
As it is becoming more popular, the locals are seeing an opportunity for an increase in price. Make sure to bring your bargaining head along with you, to keep things how you want them! Things vary in price but for example: we paid 1,356,645 VND ($80AUD) for a 3-piece suit and a silk tie!
TIP! There are hundreds of these parlours so make sure you shop around before you commit to buying anything. Chances are you can get the exact same thing down the street for $20AUD cheaper. It may not sound like a lot to you now, but $20AUD goes a long way in Vietnam! That can buy you 6 meals!
Best things to do in Hoi An
Visit Hoi An at Night
If I haven’t made it clear already then, I’m doing a terrible job. The town is full of life, positive energy and a fantastic atmosphere. It is a must-do when in Hoi An
Hire a Bike
There are available bike tours which sound like a lot of fun. They are a great way to meet new people and explore the town in more depth. We hired bikes on our own which was still a good laugh. Everything is within a good distance so nothing is too far away
**Here’s a very attractive photo of myself from the day I hired a bike. The weather was beautiful, and all of a sudden it began to absolutely p*ss it down! It lasted a total of 10 seconds, but I was drenched to the bone! Oh, who doesn’t enjoy the tropical weather ;)**
Spend a Day at the Beach
The beaches in Hoi An are one of few that you will see throughout Vietnam. It is not a country known for its beaches, so when you find one – take advantage! There are many to choose from, so take a pick and enjoy your day 🙂
Indulge in Local Vietnamese Foods at the Hoi An Street Market
There is no better place for variety, and budget friendly foods.
Visit the Japanese Bridge
This bridge dates back to the 1500’s but has since has some reconstruction. It is not a huge tourist attraction, but it is a nice little place to visit for a quick stop.
Day Trip to My Son
The My Son Sanctuary is known as a UNESCO world heritage site and is around an hours’ drive from Hoi An on scooter. It is probably quicker if you get a taxi. This site has been massively affected over the years as the result of several wars. Unfortunately, the most recent war with the Americans has destroyed it even more. There are still plenty of ruins to rummage through and many have even been re-built. I would only recommend visiting My Son if you are interested in its history. There is an entrance fee of 150,000 VND, and a parking fee to park up on site.
Where to stay in Hoi An – Hoi An Travel Guide
There are tons of places to stay in Hoi An that suit all budget-levels. If you prefer to be by the beach, then I recommend staying on the outskirts of town. Most of the hostels/hotels offer transport into the town centre so you can visit as you please. Taxis are also cheap making the journey in and out affordable if these services aren’t available. If you’d like to be in the centre to have time to fully explore Hoi An, then there are also plenty of options here too. The centre is only 10-15 minutes to the beach, so either one works perfectly!
For a night in a hostel/budget hotel, prices range from 160,000 VND to 290,000 ($9-17AUD). If you fancy something more ‘fancy’, the prices will naturally be higher.
TIP! If you are in a couple, or are a couple of friends, it always works out better to stay in a hotel. The price is evidently split in two for the room, meaning you get the luxuries a hotel can give, but for the price of a hostel bed.
We stayed in the Estuary Villa Hotel on the outskirts of the main town. We were on a bit more of a budget than usual, as we were funding a whole 3months of travel. Luckily, you can find 3-4* hotels including breakfast for around $15AUD a night in Vietnam! We came across this place online and liked the look of it.
Hoi An Travel Guide
As we arrived we were greeted by the most welcoming staff. We were upgraded for free as there were spare rooms available. The hotel has its own pool and breakfast was also included. There was a free bike hire, so we could get to the nearest beach more easily.
We paid $56AUD for 2 nights, between the 2 of us. It worked out at $14AUD a night each. For this price we received a private double room with an ensuite bathroom, free breakfast, WIFI, access to an outdoor swimming pool, free bike rentals and a free shuttle bus to town on an evening.
This hotel was a lovely little spot to stay and we couldn’t recommend it enough. It was very small, with only around 20 rooms, but we could not have been made to feel more welcome.
If you are planning to visit Vietnam and are worried about how to get around, check out our next blog post: The Best Way to Travel Through Vietnam