Hoi An was my favorite destination in Vietnam. I loved spending time by the river, watching the sunset, strolling through the old town, and drinking inexpensive beer. The town is packed with picturesque historical homes, pagodas and street-side cafes. It’s extremely popular for buying hand-made clothing. You can get anything made here – from custom-made suits to gowns to sundresses to leather boots to sneakers. But even if you don’t want to shop, Hoi An makes for a relaxing destination, in an otherwise frenetic country. After all, a day at the beach is only a 15-minute bike-ride out of town. This was also my favorite place to gorge on Vietnamese food (don’t miss trying the cau lao that Hoi An is known for!).
Hostel prices – There are a few cheap hostels in town for about 160,000 VND a night. But typically, you should budget to pay 200,000-300,000 VND per bed. Private rooms start at about 360,000 VND for two people. Lots of hostels offer free WiFi, breakfast, and will have bicycles for you to rent and explore the town with. If you choose to stay a bit away from the town center, I recommend staying at a unique bamboo-hut-hostel at An Bang beach called Under the Coconut Tree Guesthouse for just 175,000 VND per night.
Budget hotel prices – Accommodation is inexpensive here with a night in a budget hotel costing from 270,000 VND for a double room. Quite a few places have pools, so if that’s something you want, make sure you pick one of them. My suggestions is to splurge here and get a hotel room (if that’s what you want). The prices of hotel rooms are low and the hotels are pretty quaint, local, and uniquely charming.
Average cost of food – Street food starts at 15,000 VND per meal. Meals in restaurants start at about 30,000 VND and go upward from there. Wine is expensive so I would skip it (especially in restaurants) and beers only run you about 12-15,000 VND a piece. You must try at least one Vietnamese coffee, which will cost you about 20-30,000 VND. If you prefer cooking, basic groceries for the week would cost about 600,000 VND. Note: If you’re at the beach, restaurant owners will offer you a chair to sit on if you order food or drinks from them. You can relax in the sun while you wait for your pho, fruit platter, bahn cuon, or fresh coconut to arrive.
Transportation costs – Everywhere in central Hoi An is within walking distance so it’s unlikely you’ll spend much on transportation here. If you choose to explore, rent a bicycles for about 30,000 VND or a motorbike for 80,000 VND per day, the town isn’t very traffic so it’s a good place to ride around. The taxis are metered (and cheap), so hop in one if your tired. A taxi from Da Nang’s Airport to the center of Hoi An can usually be booked for 250,000 VND.
Suggested daily budget – 680,000-900,000 VND / $30-40 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating all the delicious street, and using local transportation. If you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Cooking lessons – If you enjoy the food at a certain restaurant, ask for cooking lessons. These are often cheaper than the cooking schools advertised by your hotel, hostel, or found on the Internet.
- Camp on Cham Island – If you’re heading to Cham Island on a diving trip, it’s possible to save money on accommodation by camping on the beach.
- Shop around – There are hundreds of tailors in Hoi An. If you’re having clothing made, check prices with a few places before settling on one. Making a local friend and asking them to bring you to a tailor they trust is even better.
- Skip the SIM Card – Hoi An is highly connected to WiFi. You can hook into WiFi in just about every hotel, shop, restaurant, and convenience store for free! Then, as you walk by your phone automatically hooks into their WiFi and you can start surfing again.
- Eat at the market – Market stalls are some of the cheapest food you can find. Think about it, they have almost no overhead, so a meal will cost you 20,000-40,000 VND. There are a variety of dishes to choose from and places to eat. Enjoy everything from Vietnamese donuts, bahn mi (sandwich), to soups and good with more substance.
- Rent a bicycle – Bikes can be rented for 20,000-30,000 VND per day. This is a great way to leisurely explore the quaint city.
- Drink in hostels – Lots of hostels have bars, cafes, restaurants, or something that acts as all three. The food and drinks here will be only a little more expensive than if you bought it at a corner store, and it’s much less expensive than if you were to go to a proper restaurant. Hostel owners know their audience, so they keep their prices down to keep people in their space. Win-win!
Top Things to See and Do in Hoi An
- Shop at the Central Market – Hoi An’s Central Market is probably one of the best in Vietnam. The market sits on the riverside and is packed full of excellent food at rock-bottom prices. This is the place to pick up spices, souvenirs, try local food and have your tailoring done. There is also a great fish market worth visiting!
- Visit Quan Cong Temple – The temple was built in the early 17th century to honor the Chin Dynasty but nowadays it serves as one of Hoi An’s most spectacular architectural accomplishments and a thriving tourist attraction. Inside there are two huge wooden statues, one of Quan Kong’s protector, Chau Xuong and one of his adopted son and of course the gilt statue of Quan Cong himself.
- Cross the Japanese Covered Bridge – The bridge is thought to have been built by Hoi An’s Japanese community in the late sixteenth century and roughly translated from Vietnamese, its name means “Pagoda in Japan”. It makes for great photographs.
- Take a cooking lesson – If tasting local food isn’t enough for you and you’d like to bring a like bit of Vietnamese cuisine home with you then consider enrolling yourself in cooking lessons. Many restaurants offer lessons where you’ll first start off picking the raw ingredients then learn how to prepare the food. If you want a more full-day experience, you can even tack on a 5am fishing trip in a bowl-shaped fishing boat. Prices vary, but most cost between 350,000-550,000 VND for a 4-6 hour market tour and cooking class.
- Take a bicycle tour around the city – Get guided around the city by a local who will answer any of your questions, teach you about history, the local economy, and take you out for some Vietnamese coffee. This is a great way to get your bearings since it’s a small, but relatively sprawling, city. You’ll go through the rice fields and into neighborhoods that you wouldn’t normally venture through. A morning of bicycling around in a small group starts at around 300,000 VND. You can book this through any hostel or hotel.
- Attend the Full Moon Festival – Hoi An’s Full Moon Festival is held on the 14th day of the lunar cycle each month and is probably the best time to visit the city. The streets are shut down to all traffic and are lined with brightly colored lanterns. This is a great time to party with locals as the streets come alive with folk music, plays, and dancing!
- Relax on the beaches – An Bang and Cua Dai beaches are both within close proximity to Hoi An and are a great place to spend an afternoon. Cua Dai is designated as one of Vietnam’s five UNESCO World Heritage sites but both beaches offer soft white sand and excellent beach-side restaurants. For reasonable prices, you can get your food served to you while lying recumbent in the sun. These beaches are fantastic places to spend the day getting some sun and meeting cool people.
- Take a trip to Cham Island – Many tourists take a day trip out to Cham Island which lies just 21km from Hoi An in the South China Sea. The diving there is great and because you’re in Vietnam, it’s very cheap. Most tours include lunch and it’s also possible to include a night dive in your excursion.
- Experience Da Nang city – Located about 30-minutes from Hoi An, Da Nang is a bigger city (where you’d fly into). It’s famous for it’s Marble Mountains, great beaches, and a pretty active surfing scene. There is also an extravagant party scene here that it good for a night out once in a while. Some hostels will help groups of guests arrange transportation to and from Da Nang for the night, just ask!
- Explore My Son – My Son (meaning “beautiful mountain”) is one of the most important sites relating to the ancient Kingdom of Champa and is said to have been Vietnam’s religious and intellectual center. Even in their ruined state, the remaining structures are impressive. The My Son ruins were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Admission is 150,000 VND per person.
- See the Fukian Assembly Hall – Built in 1697, Fukian is the grandest of the Chinese assembly halls and is a fine example of Chinese architecture. The main colorful temple is dedicated to the goddess of the sea, Thien Hau, while the statues of Thuan Phong Nhi and Thien Ly Nhan are said to protect sailors in distress. There is a scale model of a sailboat inside too. Entrance to this site and 4 others (on the same day) are 140,000 VND.
- Boat along the river – A great way to relax for a bit and to see Hoi An from a different perspective is to hop on one of the boats that leaves from Bach Dang Street. Admire the town from the water and overlook the colorful views of the waterfront. Don’t just go with the first boat you find; there are a lot of different options and prices there.
- Visit the Museum of Folk Culture – This small museum aims to preserve the traditions and dress of rural Vietnamese culture. The museum is filled with plaster statues of figures in costume, which seem a bit strange. However, there’s enough to see to give you a good idea about the local culture here. Admission fee is 35,000 VND.
- Relax with some yoga – There are only a few yoga studios in this relaxing city. If you want to take a class from a foreigner, you’ll spend around 250,000 VND per class, but if you go to the Vietnamese-run Annem Yoga Studio, you can get 12 classes for 500,000 VND. Even if you’re not a yogi, the atmosphere here lends itself to the centered-exercise.
- Head to the Marble Mountains – The Marble Mountains are a series of five mountains located 20km north of Hoi An. Besides the natural appeal, they also have many pagodas, and some also served as a base for Viet Cong fighters during the war.
- Enter the Old Houses – Some of the houses in Hoi An have had their interiors turned into museums, giving tourists a glimpse at what life was life for wealthy merchants in the colonial and pre-colonial period. Going into homes, old and modern, will give you a glimpse into how locals live their life day-to-day. I highly suggest checking it out. The Tan Ky and the Duc An homes are two of the more popular ones to visit.