If you’re planning on travelling through Vietnam this year, then Hoi An is a stop that you simply cannot miss. We spent 3 weeks travelling through this spectacular country, and found Hoi An to be one of the most culturally significant and exciting spots you could wish to visit. It houses a number of buildings going back hundreds of years and is perfectly situated for day trips to a number of other great spots.
I recommend stopping by for at least 2 nights, but ideally 3. This will give you plenty of chance to soak up the atmosphere and charm of the city and see the most popular spots. More importantly, it will give you chance to partake in the first of the awesome things to do in Hoi An …
The Best Things to do in Hoi An
1. Visit a tailor
Vietnam, in general, is widely known as one of the best spots in the world to have a cheap suit made. Vietnamese tailors produce incredibly high-quality suits, shirts, dresses and other garments. Best of all, it is ridiculously cheap compared to what you would likely pay back home. Hoi An, in particular, has grown to become one of the most popular spots in Vietnam for having a suit made.
As a rough guide, expect to pay as little as $60 for a tailor-made suit. On your first visit, they will size you up and allow you to choose exactly which fabrics you would like it to be made of. They then ask for just 48 hours in order to get it made. That’s right, just two days later you will have a 100% custom-made suit for only $60!
2. Experience the lantern display at night
If you search for images of Hoi An, the most popular shots you will see are of the lantern displays. I’m not exactly sure when the lantern festival began in Hoi An, but it is a tradition that takes place once every month when it’s the full moon. But don’t worry, you don’t have to go on a certain day in order to see the lanterns.
Instead, they are brought out almost every night, once the sun sets. They are simple paper lanterns, in all sorts of colours and sizes. They are placed all around the Ancient Town, adorning the alleyways and lighting up the paths for tourists to wander. If you’re keen to learn more about the lantern festival and see which dates the actual festival takes place, here’s a useful post.
3. Discover the rest of Hoi An Ancient Town
The Ancient Town, or Old Town as it is often called, is perhaps the most important place to visit in Hoi An. As well as the lantern displays in the evening, it is home to a number of historical buildings and other structures; such as the Japanese Bridge, which dates back more than 500 years and has now become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Due to foreign influence over Vietnam in the last few centuries, the Ancient Town is a wonderful blend of styles and designs from around the world; including French, Japanese, Chinese and, of course, Viatnamese.
Due to the historical significance of this area, you will have to pay a small ee in order to visit most of the places around the Ancient Town. It costs 120,000 VND for international visitors and 80,000 VND for locals. Be sure to hang onto your ticket as it’s valid for a full 24 hours and allows you to experience these different monuments and the cobbled streets of the Ancient Town both in the day and at night. As well as the bridge, other important parts of the town to discover include:
● The canal
● Tran Ancestor Worship House
● The Assembly Hall Of The Cantinese Chinese Congregation
● Phung Hung Ancient House
4. Head to the beach
If you wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day, then you can go on a short trip to one of the local beaches. Both Cua Dai Beach and An Bang Beach lie just a 15 minute drive from town and are very popular with tourists all year round. As long as the weather is nice, then they offer the perfect location to relax on warm sands, listening to the ocean lap before you. They are literally like paradise, with palm trees lining the golden sandy beaches. Best of all, you’ll find plenty of local vendors there all day selling food and cocktails. You can pick up a sun lounger and umbrella for between 40 and 50 thousand VND per person. Food and drinks are very cheap as well.
5. Hire a bike for the day
If you want to discover Hoi An and the surrounding areas in style, then I recommend hiring a bicycle for the day. They are very cheap to hire and many hostels and hotels tend to offer them to their guests for free. What’s nice is that it doesn’t take long to escape the city and find yourself amidst lush green fields, with farmers out tending their crops and their buffalo.
If you do end up paying to hire a bicycle, don’t pay more than $2USD a day, as this is the fair going rate. Also, be sure to check that it’s in good condition and the brakes work correctly before heading out! For a more in-depth guide on cycling around Hoi An, this post is very helpful.
6. Take a day trip to Danang
Though not strictly “in Hoi An”, a day trip to Danang is indeed one of the best things to do if you can spare a day in your itinerary. We had originally planned on spending two or three nights in Danang as a part of our route, however, a powerful monsoon ripped through the area during our stay, so we were forced to stay in Hoi An and weather out the storm. Once it had cleared, we decided to rent a moped for the day and just do a day trip there.
Which, in retrospect is probably the best thing to do. There are some great things to see here, but one day is plenty of time. Instead, I would recommend saving those days and spending more time doing things further north of Danang; such as exploring caves in Phong Nha or taking a boat cruise in Halong Bay. The best things to see and do in Danang are …
● Discovering the caves on Marble Mountain
● Riding up and over Tho Quang mountain
● Walking over Golden Bridge
What are my top tips for visiting Hoi An?
To help you make the most of your time in Hoi An, and experience it to the max, here’s a few pieces of advice.
Hire a moped to get around
If you do plan on doing any day trips further outside of Hoi An, then a bicycle might not be enough. Instead a moped is by far the best way to get around. They are so much fun to drive and really cheap all across Vietnam. Just make sure you have your international driver’s license with you.
Book some accommodation near the Ancient Town
We actually stayed a little outside of town which, though it was nice and a bit cheaper, meant we had to pay for cabs to and from town a few times. It also meant we missed out on some of the late night charm and atmosphere of the Ancient Town.
Pick up some other cheap clothes whilst here
If you had to the markets during the daytime, then you’ll find tonnes of stalls selling knock-off designer clothes and shoes. If you are a budget backpacker and in need of some new t-shirts or flip flops, this is a great place to pick up quality clothes on the cheap.
Arrive in the Ancient Town before sunset
Sunset was my favourite time of day in Hoi An Ancient Town. On a clear day, the sun sets beautifully over the horizon and there are loads of quaint restaurants and cafes located all along the canal. They get really busy around this time, especially those with a rooftop seating area. So get there early, grab a seat and enjoy your food or drink with the sun setting and the lamps slowly starting to come to life.
I strongly believe Hoi An should be a part of any itinerary through the country, as it is home to many of the best things to see and experience anywhere in Vietnam. Be sure to spend at least 2 or 3 nights here, soaking up the night-time beauty of the Ancient Town and spending your days exploring the coast and Danang.
You won’t need to budget too much, unless you are choosing to splash out on some fancy artwork or sculptures from one of the galleries in the Ancient Town. Other than this, food and drink is very cheap, as are things like bicycle and moped rental.
If you plan on heading north afterwards, be sure to stop off in Hue and Phong Nha. If your route takes you south, then Nha Trang and Dalat should be next on your radar.