Hoi An was without a doubt one of my favourite (if not my favourite!) destination in Vietnam. Preferring to stay off the beaten track, I was apprehensive about Hoi An, fearing it would have fallen victim to over-tourism like so many other spots throughout Asia.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that, though very busy and packed with tourists, Hoi An has still managed to cling onto its authentic charm and work tourism in its favour.
The UNESCO World Heritage town has the best of everything Vietnam has to offer. Culture, beaches, shopping and great food, Hoi An has it all and is safe and easy to navigate around.
While in the ancient town, I met a good friend of mine who currently lives in Hoi An. This blog post is based largely on her recommendations and tips as an expat living in Hoi An.
How To Get To Hoi An?
FLY: From Ho Chi Minh, we simply flew to Hoi An via Vietjet for only €25. If you are flying into Hoi An, you must fly into Da Nang city, about thirty minutes away from Hoi An. Taxis are readily available outside, ours cost 460,000VND (E17) straight to your hotel, or you could get the local bus (BUS #1), which takes over an hour but only costs roughly €1.
Bus services run from at 05:30 – 18:00, with a frequency of one bus every 20 minutes. For your convenience, you can use Google Maps and its schedule explorer to pinpoint the nearest bus stop near your stay and the arrival time of the bus.
OVERNIGHT BUS – You can book an overnight bus in any hostel or tour agency in the city – they are literally everywhere. We can recommend booking with Christinas, they are a really cool bunch of people, with great English and a helpful manner. Pham Ngu Lao, which is in District 1 HCM is where most of the tourist buses will leave from. and arrive to. Make sure that you book a bus to Hoi An, and not Da Nang!
How Long To Stay?
Initially we were planning on staying in Hoi An for three nights and leaving on the fourth. However, we loved the town so much, we stayed five days and left early on the sixth! If you’re stuck for time, a happy medium of four full days would do I think.
Where To Stay
There is genuinely two areas to stay in while in Hoi An. People usually choose between staying by the beach or staying in town. I would suggest staying halfway in between. We stayed right on the river’s edge and it was ideal – stunning views and close enough to both the Old Quarter and the beaches. If you rent a bike, you will have no problem getting to and from places.
BUDGET – If you’re looking to save some penneys, but not skrimp on comfort and cleanliness, Paddys Hostel is the place to be! Paddys (onced owned by an Irish guy from my hometown!) is a great little hostel with an even better Trip Advisor rating. Complete with a small pool (which is such a plus in humid Hoi An!), bar and free WiFi, this place is great for singles and couples alike. Moon, the general manager, is a friendly Vietnamese woman with great English and a warm smile!
SPLURGE – If you’re willing to spend a little extra dough the Riverside Resort and Spa is a little slice of paradise in bustling Hoi An. For just €40 a night based on two people sharing, this four-star hotel sits right on the Hoi An river, with huge rooms and a gorgeous swimming pool. The grounds are dotted with beautiful Vietnamese lanterns and throughout the day, local fishermen can be seen on the foggy river, going about their daily business.
How To Get Around Hoi An
As is the way all over Asia, scooters are the handiest way to travel. For about €8 a day, you can rent a scooter and zip around Hoi An to your heart’s content. A few rental companies asked for our passports in exchange for the scooter, but we simply moved on and asked another. Remember, NEVER hand your passport over to anyone, it is your single most important item while travelling.
If you are not comfortable driving your own scooter, download the app Grab. It’s cheap and simple to use, with plenty of drivers available to pick you up from your exact location.
Things To Do
Hoi An is the ideal place to take a beach day break as people either come South to Hoi An from the mountains, or North up from Hoi Chi Minh city. Unlike Nha Trang, Hoi An beaches are more quiet and there are no high-rise hotels lining the sand.
TIP: Avoid the main Hoi An stretch of beach and head to the small beach passed the Victoria Resort. This beach is small and empty, but most importantly it’s very clean (unlike the main beach).
If you’re looking for a tailored made suit for a special occasion, there’s no better place than Hoi An! A three-piece tailored suit (with tie, pocket square and suit lining) will roughly cost you about €80!
If this is something you’d like to do, I suggest getting it out of the way early, as extra time may be needed for adjustments and fittings.
My friends and I all went to The Tailory Hoi An and were treated marvelously! The ladies here are quick at their work and super friendly. They even dropped my friend’s purchases to the hotel after they worked lates into the night on the garments.
Nightfall in Hoi An is a magically sight to witness, regardless if you’re there for the Lantern Festival or not. Held once a month every full moon, the locals pay their respects, burn incense for good luck, and make offerings at family altars on the day of the festival.
Lights are dimmed, the streets are pedestrianised and lanterns are lit all over the Old Quarter. Unfortunately, the whole event has lost its authenticity and wit the influx of tourists, the festival has become nothing more than a money making racket.
TIP: Don’t waste your money on the boat trips down the river. They advertise a romantic journey where you can light your own lantern and let it sail away into the night, but in reality, the rover is chock-a-block with boats, all bottle-necking at the end, with the boat drivers spitting and shouting all around you! Not a very romantic experience, but a funny story all the same!
Visit Traditional Village
We booked a half day tour with Hoi An Eco Green Tours and visited Cam Thanh the water coconut village. We were picked up from our hotel early morning and brought on a gorgeous boat journey through Hoi An to the village outside. Here we hopped into basket boats, went crab fishing and after joined in on a traditional Vietnamese cooking class.
The Marble Mountains
This was definitely one of the best excursions we did while in Vietnam! Located about half an hour away from Hoi An, the Marble Mountains can be found in Da Nang. You literally cannot miss the mountains, as the motorway is a straight line from Hoi AN, with the milestone hills towering ahead.
The Marble Mountains are a group of five mountains (hills really), filled with caves, viewpoints shrines, relics and temples. Monks can be seen walking around the mountains as they go about their business.
You can organise a trip with a company in town, but I suggest making this journey yourself. This way, you will save big time on costs, and you can explore at your own pace. However, there are a lot of statues and temples in the mountains, none of which we had any clue about! It would have been nice to have a guide with some information about the place, but in any case, it was still nice to simply wander around the mountains admiring the history!
TIP: Go as early as possible!! The later in the day, the more tour groups there are. Also, bring water and wear comfortable clothing, as there is a lot of walking!
Where To Eat
All mentioned eateries below were recommended by my friend living in Hoi An! Thanks to a few insider tips from her local Vietnamese friends, we ate like kings every night!
Eat like the locals – You can’t come to Vietnam and not eat street food! Bánh mì can be found on every street corner, and don’t forget wash it down with a traditional Vietnamese coffee (Oh how I miss the coffee!!). In the evenings, why not try your hand in one of the local beer halls. These are where the locals hang out, watch football, play pool and eat to their heart’s content! They’re often very noisy and messy, but the atmosphere is great and you’ll likely be the only tourist around!
Vegetarian – The most amazing vegetarian food I’ve ever tasted has to be in Minh Hein Restaurant in Hoi An! The food is delicious, and they also serve bia hoi – freshly made light-alcohol beer! It’s super tasty and very refreshing.
Coffee and Shakes – Hoi An Roastery became our saviour from the mid-afternoon heat in the Old Town. One of the few air-conditioned joints in town, this beautiful coffee shop has gorgeous balconies that overlook the streets below. They also serve amazing barista-style coffee and fruit shakes.
Backpacker Pub – The Three Dragons is a bar for tourists and expats living in Vietnam and is great fun every night of the week! There is a weekly pub quiz every Wednesday night at 7.30pm (in English) and they serve pizza for €6.
Splurge – If you’re looking for a great restaurant for a special occasion, Luna d’Autunno is a beautiful Italian restaurant on the beach front. They serve authentic Italian food, with a view to die for.
And there you have it! My comprehensive travel guide to Hoi An with tips from an expat! Special thanks to my friend Eimear who showed us around all week! If you have any questions, as usual you can find me on Instagram or Facebook!