I backpacked Vietnam in a week and visited Hoi An on the way. This Hoi An Backpackers Guide is the love child of my travel experiences. I loved exploring the cobbled streets of Hoi An ancient town and so will you. My hoi an trip blog should give you enough ideas and tips to plan your own travel easily.
Located in the coastal region of south central Vietnam, Hoi An is a historical city with its origin going as far back as 2000 years, the time when it was under the rule of Hindu Kingdom Champa. The remnants of the kingdom can still be seen in the ruins left behind.
Hoi An boasts of a culture which is a mix of several influences including Chinese, Japanese, and Champa. This influence also reflects in the architecture of the city. Since the beginning of the 15th century Hoi An was also an important trading port, bringing in riches for the locals and the foreign traders.
Best time of year to visit Hoi An
The best time to go to Hoi An is from February till April. The weather is pleasant and there is no rain during this tourist season. I visited Hoi An in September, and while I did had see heavy rain once but it only last an hour or so and the weather was clear after that.
Best Things To Do in Hoi An
Here is list of some of the top things to do and see in hoi an:
1. Ancient town of hoi an
The old town of hoi an is the vibrant center of the city, and this is where the tourists spend the most time. History of hoi an ancient town is a big draw for travelers from all over the world. Lot of visitors come to Old Town as a day trip to hoi an from Danang.
While there, take a walk in the narrow, winding lanes, soak in the architecture of the wooden houses. A slow meandering river passes through the town making the atmosphere even more serene. Note that the Hoi An Ancient Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ancient town is at the top of hoi an attractions.
Hoi an ancient town entrance fee: Nil if you aren’t visiting old houses. Ancient town is one of the free things to do in hoi an.
2. Custom Tailoring shops – Hoi an tailor guide
The first time you arrive in Hoi An, you’d be surprised at the number of tailoring shops in the city. Who comes on a vacation get a shirt sewn? Right? In-fact, getting clothes stitched in one of the fun things to do in hoi an.
The reason behind the popularity is the fact that getting custom tailored cloths from Hoi An is quite economical and a great value for money. You can get a nice shirt stitched for as low as $10, or you can go for a lofty suit, tailor made to your taste and fit.
This is how it works – you begin this hoi an activity by choosing the color and material (fabric), next you show the tailor the style you want. You can either take a picture with you and get a replica made or choose from the booklet available with them. Then proceed with giving your measurements, and finally an pay advance.
I will recommended you to pay only a small fraction of the total, reason being it helps you dictate terms later on when the final product arrives. If you are not satisfied with any part of the final product, do not hesitate ask for rework. You are paying for a custom product and the tailor is obliged to deliver you one the way you want it to be.
Tip: Only order at a tailor shop which has an in-house tailor, many of the shops are nothing but outsourcing fronts which get the tailoring done from someone else.
Some of the recommended tailoring shops in Hoi An include Remy Tailor, Vanda Tailors, Be Be, Yaly Couture, A Dong Silk and Kimmy and Thu Thuy.
3. An Bang Beach
Located at around 4km from Hoi An is the An Bang Beach, it is the main beach nearest to the town and a great spot to relax. The best way to get here is by hiring a motorbike or by a bicycle. Surely, one of the best hoi an activities to do when the Sun is milder.
4. Cua Dai Beach
Another one of hoi an tourist attractions, Cua Dai Beach was once the cynosure of tourist, but now this beach has now fallen out of the radar. Rampant development and a significant coastal erosion has led to the downfall of Cua Dai beach. If you are resort person then it might be worth it to spend a few days here as most of resort have secured a private beach area which is better than the public ones (walls of sandbag).
5. Hoi An Festival
Another one of best things to see and do in hoi an is the Hoi An Full Moon Festival. The festival is held on every 14th day of the lunar month (Chinese Calendar). The Full Moon festival start timing is around 6.00 pm. The whole of Hoi An town is lighted with trademark Hoi An lanterns and the street is filled with people – tourists and locals alike.
6. Hoi An Night Market
Hoi An night market is a typical Vietnamese market where you will find all kind of cheap goods – from clothes to personal accessories. Street vendors line up on the streets and you can easily remember them by stall numbers. Hoi An night market is the place you can indulge in bit of souvenir shopping, don’t hesitate to haggle! You can also enjoy live performances in one of the restaurants. The Hoi An night market closes around 10:30 PM.
7. Take a walk through Thanh Ha Terracotta Park
If you are interested in seeing terracotta sculptures, Thanh Ha Terracotta Park is a top thing to do in Hoi An. Here in the park, you will find beautifully crafted clay replicas of popular buildings around the globe such as Eiffel tower and Opera House. You can watch the locals as they work on their pottery crafts. The entrance ticket to Thanh Ha Terracotta Park costs 30,000 VND. Surely, the Terracotta park is another one of fun things to do in hoi an.
8. Grab a bite of Banh My
I am a big fan of Vietnamese food, there is just so much variety. Banh My is the Vietnamese version of the French Baguette. There is a vegetarian and a egg only version available too. You can visit any of the typical Vietnamese food joint such as Banh My Phuong, or better, grab a bite from a local street food vendor. While you are there do try Banh My, one of the top things to eat in hoi an.
9. Lantern Night Market of Hoi An
The lantern night market in Hoi An is located on the other side of the Thu Bon river, close to the bridge of lights (Cau An Hoi). The colourful lanterns are made from Hoi An Silk and are aptly called Silk Lanterns. The beautiful silk lanterns of Hoi An makes for a great souvenir and an exotic gift to the loved ones. The best time to visit the lantern market is in the evening when thousands of lanterns are lit up, lending a romantic vibe to the whole area. Lantern market is for sure one of the top Hoi an things to do and see.
10. Rent a motorbike
Hoi An is a large area with relatively less population as compared to nearby Da Nang, this also mean Hoi An has beautiful countryside. You can easily rent a motorbike in Hoi An and go out to explore the village scenery.
Best day trips from hoi an
1. The ruins of Myson
Remnants of Old Hindu temples, not as exciting if you have been to the Great Angkor Wat. If not make it a top to do on your Hoi An travel checklist.
Mỹ Sơn meaning beautiful mountain, is a temple complex located deep in a valley nestled in the mountains. My Son, UNESCO World Heritage Site, gives you a ‘lost’ feeling, something which Angkor Wat lacks. Though, on the flip-side you might be bit disappointed with the current state of the site as compared to the Angkor Wat
My Son, a Hindu temple complex, was said to be built by the King Bhadravarman, in the heydays of the Champa kingdom. The temple complex of My Son is dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva. If ancient sites attract you, you must take a tda trips from hoi an.
Champa ruled parts of South and Central Vietnam for almost 1600 years (3rd to 19th Century), though very little is known about the Champa Civilization. With the decline of Champa kingdom, the ancient site of My Son fell our of use and was considered lost.
My Son was accidentally re discovered by the Frenchman M.C. Paris, at the time when Vietnam was a French colony. Unfortunately, Americans heavily bombed the site (yay, go yankees!) during second IndoChina war (year 1969) and much of My Son’s glory is lost forever. Of the 70 structures that once stood here, only 18 structures remain today. Certainly, one more tragic casualty of the Vietnam war.
My Son temple timings are from 6:30 to 17:00 daily. The My Son entrance ticket costs 150,000 VND. The ticket includes a visit to the museum, which houses the artefacts receovered from My Son temple complex.
How to get to My Son
The ruins of My Son are located around 40 km from Hoi An. You can take a day trip from Hoi An to My Son. Buy it from your hostel/ hotel or from any tourist shop. The My Son day trip costs US $10, and you need to pay the entrance fees separately.
There is also an option to rent a motorbike, which is what I’d recommend for a great adventure. The parking at My Son is 10,000 VND.
2. Go Diving in Cu Lao Cham Marine Park
Cu Lao Cham is considered one one of the best day trips from hoi an. If you are interested in watching coral reef and marine life, and looking to get away from the crowd of Hoi An for a day, take a day trip from Hoi An to Cu Lao Cham Marine Park. Cham islands are a group of 8 islands, bestowed with the title of UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Cu Lao Cham Marine Park is where the tourists go to find their adventure – you can either go for Scuba diving or for snorkeling.
You can easily take a day trip to Cu Lao Lam Marine Park, by booking a guided tour from your hotel. If you are on a solo trip to Hoi An, you can take a local boat from Cua Dai Harbour. The boat ticket to Hon Lao, Cham island is 120,000 Dongs and timings is 08:30 A.M.
Getting around Hoi An
Backpacker’s Guide to Hoi An recommends you to hire a motorbike taxi to get around Hoi An, it is convenient as well as one of the cheapest way to get around in Hoi An. The basic minimum fare to use a motorbike taxi is $1. You can also rent a bicycle in Hoi An or even get one free from your hotel. Since the distances are short and the roads are level, riding a bike is a good option to explore Hoi An. The bicycle rental price in Hoi An is around $2 for a day.
Da Nang Airport to Hoi An by Taxi
Da Nang is the nearest airport to Hoi An, and you can easily find a taxi to Hoi An from the airport.The Da Nang airport to Hoi An taxi fare is around $20
Hoi an Eating Guide
Fix your own food
First things first, if you are a backpacker in Hoi An, Vietnam, staying within your food budget is critical for you. Unfortunately, unlike Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh there are no branded mini marts here, all you will find here are individually owned marts which sell items at whatever price they think is right. e.g. A half liter water bottle costs 7000 Dongs, pretty expensive if you ask me. So, if possible as a solo traveler to Vietnam I will suggest you pack up you grocery from Da Nang where there are plenty of cheap mini-marts.
Restaurants in hoi an ancient town
Food prices are generally higher because of the whole tourist thing. There are gazillions of restaurants in Hoi an ancient town, and barring a few they all are identical. If you are on a budget I will suggest try to find a restaurant as away as possible from the center (Japanese bridge area) and you’d see drop in prices.
Here are few of the best restaurants in hoi an old town:
1. Nhan’s Kitchen – is a good budget restaurant in Hoi An. Try the trademark Vietnamese spring roll, and white rose dumpling. They also serve pizza and burger.
2. Phi Banh Mi – The go to place to have Banh Mi in Hoi An. Try the Tofu Banh Mi, if you are a vegetarian. The vegetarian Banh Mi costs 25,000 Dong, while the cheese Banh Mi will cost you 15,000 VND (~ $0.60 U.S.).
3. Am Vegetarian Restaurant – First class pure vegetarian restaurant in Hoi An, with lots of unique Vietnamese delicacies. Go for their signature dish Okonomyaki pancake. Food can be real spicy – especially the hot pot.
Things to eat in hoi an: Try Banh My and Egg Coffee!
Tips for planning your trip to Hoi An
- Hoi An has free internet. No registration needed.
- There are few bars in Hoi An where you can enjoy the night life. To explore the Hoi An nightlife head to Nguyen Thai Hoc Street
Best Places to Stay in Hoi an Old Town
When you are traveling to Hoi An, the first choice to find an accommodation in old town. If you are wondering where to stay in hoi an town, let me assure you there are plenty of options.
For myself, I found one of the best place to stay in hoi an for backpackers. In-fact, I booked a dorm room in one of the hotel and I was upgraded to a private room with TV, A/C and all. Wondering how?
Here’s the thing, some hoi an hotels near old town might be running a scam. They let their dorms to be overbooked and when the guest arrives they ask him to take a private room for little extra (Not really! They could be expensive). Nice rip-off, but guess what?
Stick firm to your position that you already booked a hostel dorm, don’t pay anything extra even if they sound ‘helpless’. Tell them you have a valid booking and should be provided with at-least what you booked. They would bulge eventually and offer the upgrade for free. Lesson learn, Vietnamese are very easy to haggle and negotiate.
If you are looking for best hotel in hoi an old town, consider the are around Japanese bridge as the center point and try to book your hotel/hostel in the area. Also, make sure it is as close as possible to the river. The area around the Japanese bridge is where the action is! Here are a few cheap places to stay in hoi an:
Best hostels in Hoi An
- Hoa Binh Hostel: Female Dorm/ Mixed Dorm 6 beds – $6 – breakfast included
- Hoi Pho – 6 bed mixed dorm – $5. double room – $13. booking.com/HoiPho
- Tipi Hostel – Single Bed in Dorm – $7. Budget Single room – $13 booking.com/tipi
- Tribee Cotu – Single Bed in Dorm – $7. Double room – $21 booking.com/tribee
Budget hotels in Hoi an old town
- Cosy House Homestay: Deluxe Twin Room – $18 booking.com/cosyhome
- Nha Lan Homestay – Double Room – $20 bookin.com/NhaLan
Hoping that this Hoi An Travel Guide was useful to you to plan your fist trip. This travel blog was put together based on my backpacking in Vietnam and after extensive research on the subject. And these things you need to know before you visit Hoi An was packed with as much practical travel advise as possible.