We have spent the last 5 months living in the magical town of Hoi An, Vietnam. From the historic Ancient Town to the lanterns that light up the night, it truly is a beautiful place to visit. It took us a time to learn the ins and outs of this small city. From where to stay, things to do and how to get around, we have compiled the Ultimate Hoi An travel guide. We aren't going to sugarcoat everything. Hoi An has some drawbacks as well that we'll help you avoid and manage so you can have a great visit!
Hoi An Travel Guide
Fun Facts About Hoi An:
• Hoi An, Vietnam is home to the UNESCO protected Ancient Town
• There is no airport in Hoi An. The closest airport is in Da Nang (DAD)
• Hoi An is about a 45 minute drive from Da Nang
• The population of Hoi An is over 150,000 but still feels like a small town.
• Hoi An is only 4 km to the nearest Beach (An Bang)
• Every night in Hoi An, visitors light candle lit lanterns and float them down the river
• Hoi An received over 5 millions tourists in 2018
• Hoi An's first Casino opened in March of 2019
• There are over 400 tailors and 200 spas in Hoi An
• There is no McDonad's or Starbucks in Hoi An
• Hoi An Ancient town floods most years
• Hoi An has a VERY rainy season that runs October until February
• There are two main markets and one night market
•The town is busiest from 3 pm until 8 pm when tour buses arrive from Da Nang.
Where to Stay in Hoi An
There are two main areas that visitors choose to stay when they Visit Hoi An. Either close to the beach or close to Ancient Town. Depending on the time of year might affect your decision. If you are visiting during the hot season March until August, you may want to be closer to the beach as Hoi An is sizzling hot! During the rainy season it's definitely best to park yourself as close to Ancient town for all the amenities.
Staying Near Ancient Town
For visitors looking for culture, dining and exploring the beautiful town, then staying as close to center as possible will be your best bet. That way you are within walking distance of Ancient Town and all the action. We found some great places to stay near Ancient town during our stay. Here are some of the top hotels in the area we highly recommend. The hotels below all have a location score of 9.0 or above on Booking because of their close walking distance to Ancient Town and the night market.
Staying Near The Beach
Best Places To Stay Near The Beach in Hoi An
Near Hoi An there are only a couple “true” Beachfront hotels. Most of the lodging is set back from the beach due to erosion. There is a long stretch of resorts between Da Nang and Hoi An. If proximity to Hoi An is not as important be sure to expand your search to Beachfront hotels in Da Nang which is a 45 minute drive. ($15 Taxi)
Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa: $166 – True Beachfront
Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai: $750 – True Beachfront
Hoi An will definitely keep you busy and for those who want to see everything, make sure to give yourself 3 days to explore. This will give you the opportunity to really take in the local culture and see all the different attractions and activites Hoi An has to offer. From visiting the hundreds of year old buildings in Ancient Town, laying on the beach, to strolling the night market for the perfect souvenir, Hoi An has something for everyone. Check out our complete travel guide on all the Top Things To Do in Hoi An! Here are some of the highlights from the guide.
- Touring the streets of Ancient Town
- Visit and haggle at the central market
- Walking through the night market
- Touring the Tra Que Vegetable Village
- Getting a massage
- Cross the Ancient Japanese Bridge
- Have coffee and people watch
- Visit the Casino
- Enjoy all the amazing Hoi An restaurants and cafes
- Take a tour with Vespa Adventures
- Take a day trip to Ba Na Hills
- Float a lantern on the river
- Tour Ancient Town at night
- Visit one of the 400 tailors for custom made clothing
No Hoi An travel guide would be complete without how to get around! Hoi An has multiple modes of transportation including Taxi, Grab, Cyclos, Bikes and Private Drivers. If you are staying close enough to center you may not need any at all. Walking around Ancient Town is definitely doable. The only thing that can be crippling is the heat. That is when a Cyclo (three wheeled bike) might come in handy. For anything outside of Ancient town, we found our best bet was Grab or hailing a green taxi. Just a warning if the trip is too short (under 1 km) many drivers will not accept the ride. Literally you can go from one side of Hoi an to the other for $4.00. Here is our comprehensive Hoi An transportation guide for more information and downloading the Grab app.
The closest airport to Hoi An is in Da Nang (DAD). The drive takes about 45 minutes and is 29km. There are multiple ways to get to Hoi An from Da Nang including taxi, Grab, private car and local bus. Some lodgings include free transfer from the airport so be sure to check with your hotel. One of the cheapest and most efficient way to get from Da Nang to Hoi An is by Private Car. The company we used was called Same Same but Better and will cost around $10.00 USD per four seater car. The owner of the company Chau is very professional and responds very quickly to booking requests.
One of the most important things in any Hoi An travel guide is FOOD! We are big time foodies and searched high and low for quality restaurants at great prices. There are over 1000 cafe's and restaurants in the Hoi An area so we made finding the true gems our mission. One thing for sure is the food in Hoi An is cheap. So cheap it can be cheaper to eat out than stay in. Here is our complete guide to the Best Restaurants in Hoi An
The Best Time of Year To Visit Hoi An
Next in our Hoi An Travel Guide is WHEN to visit?
Hoi An has two very distinct seasons:
Rainy Season: Have you seen Forest Gump when he was in Vietnam? The rain can be relentless from September to December and falls hardest in the month of October. The best part about these months though is that there is relief from the heat. Most people would believe this is the low season but many people flock to Hoi An during the cooler weather. Hoi An is also no stranger to flooding, especially around the Ancient Town. Be prepared for rainy weather and temperatures dropping to high of 19°C in late December.
Dry Season: Or I like to call it oppressive heat season. For about two weeks after the rain ended in January the temperatures were very pleasant. After that, the humidity and heat set in. Daily highs shot back up to 30°C with the humidity “feels like” hitting the 40°C mark by March. If you love sitting at the beach or lounging by the pool all day, this weather is PERFECT! My advice is to do your exploring at night or very early in the morning. The heat and humidity are no joke and the town will be abandoned between 11 am – 2 pm. June, July and August are the three hottest months of the year.
The best time of the year to visit:
It depends on who you talk to but our best advice would be February, March and April. The rain will have ended and you will be met with sunny days without the oppressive heat. If you visit between May to August be prepared for high humidity, relentless sunshine and highs up to 35°C.
When is High Season and Low Season?
This continues to be debated. One thing is for sure Christmas, New Years and Tet holidays are crazy in Hoi An.
Hoi An Travel Guide Tip: You will find most locals stay inside from 11 am until 2 pm. Expect locals to be less willing to bargain and more likely to be having an afternoon nap even though their shops remain open.
Tet Holiday Can Seriously Impact Your Vacation
Important Hoi An travel guide note!
Tet holiday is when Vietnam celebrates their New Year. Most stores close for up to 10 days straight. Hoi An will be extremely busy but operating at only 10-20% of what is usually open. Things are crazy and this is an important time for the Vietnamese to celebrate with their families. Airports, trains and buses are insanely busy causing overcrowding. Personally I would avoid booking a vacation around Tet holidays at all costs.
Closed in Hoi An during Tet holiday
- 90% of restaurants
- All services
- Gas stations
- Visa Services
- Banks (ATM's can run empty)
Restaurants that do remain open will be operating on a Tet menu with prices that have been increased. These costs are to cover the mandatory wage increases of having staff work during Tet in Vietnam
Hoi An Travel Guide Tip: Withdraw enough cash from an ATM before Tet holiday that will last you 10 days.
Prices in Hoi An & Budgeting For Your Trip
I have one word….CHEAP! Seriously, it's one of the most affordable destinations in the world. That might not last for long so get to Vietnam soon to take advantage of the great prices. Vietnam tourism is the 4th fastest growing in the world as of 2019. As we've seen before in Mexico, Thailand and Bali when tourism exploded, prices went up fast. You can honestly live like a millionaire in Hoi An on $500 a week. If you are just visiting for a couple of days here is what you can expect.
*Prices below are in USD
- Homestays & Hostels: $10-20/night
- 3 Star Hotels: $15-$45/night
- 4 Star Hotels: $25-60/night
- 5 Star Hotels: $85+/night
Food & Beverage at Restaurants:
- Budget Meal: $1.00-$3.00
- Mid-Range Meal: $3.00-$7.00
- Steakhouse & Fine Dining: $10.00-$20.00
- Beer: $0.50-$2.00
- Glass of Wine: $2.50
- Soft Drink/Pop: $1.00
- Vietnamese Coffee: $1.50
Taxis start at $0.50 and go up by $0.60 every Kilometer you travel. Going across town should never cost you more than $4.00
If you want an even cheaper ride you can book a Grab Car or Grab Bike. Read our transportation guide for more information.
Other Miscellaneous Costs:
- Motorbike Rental: $8.00
- Bicycle Rental: $1.00-$3.00
- 1.5 L Bottle of Water: $0.50
- Cigarettes: $1.15
- Laundry: $1.00 per Kg
- Rowing boat Tour 30 minutes: $2.50-$5.00
Wait there's no price tags!
Like many parts of Southeast Asia, Hoi An, Vietnam works almost entirely on the haggling system. 98% of stores including convenience stores do not have prices listed. They will charge you what they think you can pay. Obviously being a foreigner doesn't help with you getting the best prices. One thing to remember is that we might be talking a difference of $0.25 on a drink, so it may not mean a lot to you but it does to them. Don't be cheap and remember they make a lot less. That being said do not grossly overpay for items as it drives up costs for every visitor and for locals. The items you'll really have to haggle for will be the souvenirs in the market or custom clothes at tailors. We put together this guide on How to Haggle in Hoi An so you know you're getting a great price!
Hoi An Travel Guide Tip: Always be friendly and smile when haggling. It goes a long way!
Using Your Mobile Phone & Sim Cards
Sim cards in Vietnam are readily available and they are very cheap! You can pick up a tourist sim for around $10 at the airport which will give you 4GB of data PER DAY. You read that correctly 4GB per day! If you missed the sim cards at the airport, just visit the Mobifone office located at: 326 Lý Thường Kiệt, Phường Minh An in Hoi An. When you arrive just ask for a “Tourist Sim” card. You can read more in our guide on How To Get a Sim Card in Vietnam.
Safety & Health In Hoi An
For the most part Hoi An is one of the safest places in Southeast Asia we have been. In our 5 months here so far, we have yet to have any troubles with crime or felt unsafe. The most dangerous part of Hoi An will be navigating the busy and crazy roads which seem to be void of any rules. Here are our top Hoi An travel guide tips we recommend that will help keep you safe and healthy during your visit:
- Don't take late night moto-taxi's outside of bars. These are not licensed and have recently been accused of scamming intoxicated tourists.
- Do not get intoxicated in public as is makes you an easy target
- Keep valuables in your hotel room safe
- Do not flaunt large amounts of cash, high end electronics or jewelry
- Do not approach street dogs or cats
- Wear mosquito repellent as there have been isolated cases of Dengue fever.
- Do not drink the tap water
- Wash your feet upon returning to your hotel (just trust me on that one)
- When crossing the road don't quickly change your pace, Motorbikes will go around you
- When walking always do a shoulder check before crossing or changing your path. Scooters are always coming up behind you.
- Use common sense when snapping selfies in busy areas. I have lost count of how many people have fallen down or walked right out in front of an oncoming motorbike. They can only avoid you so many times.
If you happen to get sick or hurt, I highly recommend the Doctor below. He speaks good English and is priced fair for foreigners. His visits include exam, blood work if needed and medication for $28.00 US.
Dr.Cường: 114 Trần Cao Vân, Phường Minh An, Hội An – Click to open the location on a map.
Hoi An Travel Guide Safety Tip: Get a pair of rubber boots to protect your feet in the rainy season. Sewer and rain water can back up onto the streets.
How to Get Your Vietnam Visa & Extending Your Visa
There was a lot of confusing information online about how to get a Visa and the different types available. Once we combed through all the fluff and found the easy way, it ended up being quite simple. Here is a guide on getting your Vietnam Visa so you can enjoy Hoi An!
We ended up loving Hoi An so we had to extend our Visa while in Vietnam. I chose to go for a border run to Laos which was organized by Mr Hung. (Let him know Trevor sent you and he'll give you a good deal). The van ride to Laos and back took the entire day but when I got back, I had a brand new 3 month visa without any hassles or problems. Alternatively you can take a flight to Bangkok and back as well. Renewing your Visa without leaving the country can only be done once for a 30 day extension and is very expensive so we do not recommend going that route.
Things You Weren't Expecting
Like I said earlier, I don't want to come across like there aren't downsides to Hoi An. There are definitely things that drive us nuts. I think the best thing is to be prepared for them so it doesn't take away from your trip!
1. Foreigners can be treated like walking ATM's
I noticed the closer you are to Ancient Town, the less friendly in general the Vietnamese are. They have learned that foreigners bring money, a lot of money. Most of the tourists that visit Hoi An are only in town for a couple hours and the only place they see is Ancient Town. Even though this brings many locals their bread and butter, they start to take it for granted and even get to the point of being rude.
For example we were blatantly being ripped off for 3 band-aids in ancient town where the owner tried to charge us $5.00 (100K Dong). I said “absolutely not” as we knew that's not a fair price. Having said that I was willing to overpay for the 3 band-aids but at least not be scammed. I finally got her down to $1.00 (20K Dong) for THREE band-aids. We aren't talking boxes here. Single band-aids. When I took out the 200K Dong Bill, she immediately said a bunch of things in Vietnamese in a pissed off way like I was a rich foreigner for having a larger bill and not paying the original asking price. She continued to shout in Vietnamese at us as we walked away.
How To Be Prepared
Don't be taken advantage of. If you know for a fact something is grossly overpriced just don't pay for it and walk away. You're going to hear lots of “You buy something!” “Come in my shop”. It's good to understand that they deal with thousands of tourists coming through every single day. Don't be offended. Say no thank you if your not interested and continue your day exploring.
Get off the Beaten Path!
Ancient town is very small and soon as you walk one or two blocks in either direction out of it, attitudes change very fast. You will start getting friendly hellos and see how nice the locals can actually be. You just have to get out of the tourist zones a little.
Hoi An Travel Guide Tip: If someone approaches you on the road in and around Ancient Town asking “Where you from?” that is a conversation that'll lead to a sales pitch of some sort. It's ok to say “no, thank you” and continue walking.
2. The Never Ending Horns and Karaoke
The noise in Hoi An can be deafening. Non stop horns from scooters, cars and trucks all day long. They don't use traffic signals here, they use horns to the point where you are ready to snap if you hear just one more. Once the horns stop, the night time Karaoke starts. Who needs sleep anyways.
How to prepare:
Bring ear plugs for sleeping and understand that this is their culture. Not everything we do is normal to them either. Just chalk it up to an experience, bring your anxiety meds and you're good to go.
From 3 pm until 8 pm every day, expect crazy crowds around Ancient Town and the night market. I don't mean a few hundred people. I mean thousands upon thousands of Korean and Chinese tourists are bussed in from the huge resorts in Da Nang . Attractions like the Japanese covered bridge, the night market and the walking bridge connecting ancient town to the night market become very congested.
How to prepare:
Be ready for it! Understand that this beautiful town is on Travel and Leisure's Top Places to visit list. It's no longer a secret and has become a tourist mecca. The increase in mass tourism has resulted in more western style accommodations and restaurants that will make your stay more comfortable. Take your time. There is no use trying to walk faster than everyone else. You'll always end up behind more people so just take it all in and enjoy the atmosphere.
Go early in the day to Ancient Town. It will be a ghost town leaving you to get all the wonderful Instagram selfies you please.
Go later in the evening to the Night Market. The night market is open until 10 pm so head there around 8 pm after having your dinner. The crowds will have started to thin out and head back to Da Nang.
Get out of the touristy spots. There is more to Hoi An than Ancient Town and the Night Market. Try exploring the surrounding areas so you can see how the locals actually live and how friendly they are.
Final Thoughts on Hoi An…
Hoi An is a magical city with lots of culture and historical significance. The town is changing rapidly and tourism continues to grow fast from Da Nang all the way to Hoi An.
The question we get asked often. “Would we return after spending 5 months in Hoi An?” Our answer is “Absolutely!”. Although Hoi An is no longer the quaint secret it once was, it will continue to evolve and grow into something new. The town infrastructure continues to improve and more western comforts are finding there way into Hoi An. There are still no chains in Hoi An so in terms of becoming the next Ubud, Bali or Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, it has a long way to go. Only time will tell and until then, enjoy the laid back atmosphere and cheap Cau Lao.