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!).
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Hoi An
1. Explore My Son
2. Relax on the beaches
3. Take a cooking lesson
4. Take a bicycle tour
5. Shop at the Central Market
Other Things to See and Do
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1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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!
4. 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!
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
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 food, 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!
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