Vietnam has become a popular destination for travelers heading to Asia, especially those on a budget. When it comes to planning a trip to Vietnam there are dozens of places to choose from but at the top of that list should be the town of Hoi An. It’s definitely in my top 3 places to visit in Vietnam. Located in central Vietnam, Hoi An has become a popular destination in Vietnam for travelers. With colorful buildings and lanterns that decorate every street, Hoi An is a charming picturesque town full of history and culture and one that should be at the top of every Vietnam Itinerary. Read all about this beautiful town in the Ultimate Guide to Hoi An.
About Hoi An
Hoi An – pronounced Hoy On – is a historical ancient town in the central part of Vietnam. Its beginnings are rooted in many cultures dating back to the seventh century. Hoi An means “peaceful meeting place”. A mix of peoples called the Chams, from what is now Cambodia down to the Indonesian Islands, made up an Empire called the Champa Empire. They settled the area and made use of the waterways turning it into a trading capital. In the early 1300’s, the Chams and the Vietnamese signed a peace treaty giving control of Hoi An to the Tran Emperor in exchange for marriage to his daughter.
Hoi An was a trading port for Japanese and Chinese merchants as well as Europe and India. Eventually between changes in ruling parties and war, Hoi An lost it’s trading port status and was mostly forgotten for more than 200 years. In the 1990’s efforts to revive Hoi An started and today part of the area referred to as Ancient Town is an UNESCO site. Hoi An is a fusion of cultures and a huge art community.
*If you’re planning to visit more cities in Vietnam, check out my Perfect 2 Week Vietnam Itinerary. It takes you to all of the must-see places in Vietnam.*
Hoi An Travel Info
Our 2023 Ultimate Guide to Hoi An has all the important travel information you need for traveling there, getting around Hoi An, and other important information you need for navigating this town.
The first step to getting to Hoi An is booking a flight to Vietnam. Hoi An does not have an airport. The closest airport is located in Da Nang, about 40 minutes north of Hoi An. To get to Da Nang you will have to fly in from a larger airport such as in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, or Bangkok.
If you’re already in Vietnam and you have time, you can book a bus from another city to Hoi An. We took several sleeper buses and they are comfortable and affordable.
Getting from Da Nang to Hoi An
Once you arrive in Da Nang, you’ll need transporation to Hoi An. There are several options for that.
- Shared Shuttle Bus: You can book a seat on a shuttle bus (big transport van) through an online booking service such as Klook. Klook is a very trustworthy company in Asia that has all kinds of bookings from transportation to tours. Book your Shared Shuttle Bus here. A shared shuttle bus from Da Nang Airport to Hoi An starts at around $5 a person.
- You can also use Klook to book a Private Transfer to Hoi An. This will be a private car or SUV and starts at around $15 per person.
- Another website you can book transportation on is through 12Go. This is a trustworthy site and they have Minivan and Taxi services you can book. Minivan services start at $7 per person.
- There are Taxis and “other drivers” waiting around outside the Da Nang Airport offering to take tourists to their desired location. Stick to booking a car with a taxi sign on the vehicle. You also need to negotiate on the price with the driver. Do this before you get in the car. And be prepared to pay with cash.
- Train: although Da Nang has a train station it does not go to Hoi An.
Most people traveling to Vietnam will have to obtain a Visa to enter. For residents of 80 countries, you can get your Visa to Vietnam online (an e-Visa) before you leave home. The list of countries that are allowed to get an online e-Visa is here. Visas for Vietnam are good for 30 days once you enter the country. The e-Visa costs $25 and you can apply for it here.
Another option is to get a “Visa on Arrival”. You still have to fill out the application online but the fee starts at just $17. Print your approval letter and bring it with you. You’ll need it when you land at your first Vietnam airport.
Best Time to visit Hoi An
Vietnam is over 1000 miles long (1650km) from north to south. If you’re planning to visit multiple cities in Vietnam the best time to visit one city may differ from another. There are two seasons in Hoi An: the rainy season and the dry season. For Hoi An, February to April provides the best weather. January ends the rainy season (September to January) making the weather much nicer.
I was there in December 2022 and it rained non stop every single day. It didn’t ruin our time there but it would have been nice to have a sunny day. The dry season is from February through August. February starts out mild and then gets hot from there. Vietnam has a tropical climate so expect it to get warm to very hot and very humid. If you’re looking to avoid rain, high heat, and high humidity then you’ll want to visit in February – April.
Where to stay in Hoi An
Vietnam is very affordable so there’s something for every budget. Hoi An has a large amount of hotels to choose from as well as hostels and homestays.
Alegro Hoi An – Little Luxury Hotel & Spa is definitely a splurge for Vietnam but still pretty affordable. It’s an easy walk to all the main sites.
Laluna Hoi An Riverside Hotel & Spa is close to the center of town and the main tourist area of Ancient Town. It’s an easy walk to all the main sites. This hotel at the time of writing is showing pricing at around $60 a night, which is half off their “regular” price. This is pretty typical for Vietnam so if you don’t see the half price deal there will be deals elsewhere. Another option is is MaiChi Villa Hoi An. The regular price is $42 but it’s on sale for $28. These are just a few examples of what you can find for a good price.
I’ll put several budget places here to look at. All are within walking distance to the main site of Ancient Town. When you think of a budget hotel you usually think of someplace small and run down. So It almost seems wrong to say these are budget hotels. They’re actually really nice! First up is Calla Villa Hoi An. It’s just $25. Seriously, so nice for a really good price.
Another budget option to consider is a Homestay. These are houses that local residents have opened up to tourists. You still have your own room and bathroom. The D Central Hoi An Homestay is in the perfect location. If you’re still looking to go as low as possible for your budget, The Imperfect Downtown Hoi An offers dorm room style bunkbeds for just $10 a night. It’s still in a great location so you won’t have to walk very far.
Currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). I know! So many jokes… There are currency exchanges at the airport as well as places located in the city. My choice for getting local currency is at an ATM. ATMs are located everywhere throughout the country. We never had a problem finding one. The rates are close to currency exchanges and I only take out enough for 3-4 days. Don’t forget to let your bank know you’ll be traveling so you don’t trigger a fraud alert.
When paying for things in Vietnam it’s very easy to confuse their notes. The 10,000 note is worth about 42 cents in American Dollars. Their 100,000 note is worth around $4.25 in American Dollars. They look very similar so be careful not to mix them up when paying for things. It’s not a lot of money to lose out on but every bit counts.
The local language in Vietnam is…wait for it…Vietnamese. :-). You will find a lot of locals, especially those who work in tourism and the younger generations speak English. If you wander into a store off the beaten path you might have a harder time communicating. Download the google translate app you will do fine.
Getting around Hoi An
If you stay anywhere in town close to the tourist area, you should be able to walk everywhere. We were about a mile outside of Old Town and we walked every day. Many hotels in Hoi An have bicycles available to borrow or rent. There are also taxis all over the place so finding some form of transportation won’t be an issue.
I highly recommend downloading the Grab app. It’s just like Uber but since Vietnam doesn’t have Uber, they have Grab. We used it all the time while there. It’s usually cheaper than a taxi too. You won’t have to upload a credit card either. Just order a Grab and it will show you how much it is before you accept. Then, just pay in cash.
To get to places outside of Hoi An, such as Da Nang, I would hire a driver. You can get a rate for the time and the driver will wait for you until you’re done. Or they will come back to pick you up at a specific time. You don’t have to pay until your day is over.
Ultimate Guide to Hoi An: Things to do in Hoi An
Now that you’ve figured out how to get to Hoi An, it’s time to plan your days. The Ultimate Guide to Hoi An will give you all the options you need to fill your time while visiting.
Hoi An sits along the Thu Bon River, which was key to it being a main trading port from the 15th to 19th century. The town was shaped by visits from people of these different cultures, many who eventually settled in Hoi An. Today, Hoi An is a well preserved town of over 1100 ancient buildings made of timber, brick, and wood. The original street plan of houses and alleys that was developed hundreds of years ago still exists today.
Ultimate Guide to Hoi An: Travel tips
There is a LOT to see and do in Hoi An. Come with a good plan on how you’ll see everything. I have a few itineraries at the end of this article.
It gets pretty crowded in Old Town, especially at night. Everyone comes out at night to see the lanterns. They all hang across the streets and in front of buildings and it looks like magic!
Hoi An Old Town has limited access for cars and scooters. Motorized vehicles (including scooters) are banned between 9am to 11am and 3pm to 9pm.
If you happen to be in Hoi An on the 14th day of the lunar month then consider yourself lucky! You’ll get to take part in the Hoi An Lantern Festival. The festival celebrates the full moon which is a sacred time in the Buddhist calendar. All the lanterns are turned on while other electrical equipment is turned off.
Hoi An is a very safe place to visit. Of course, you always want to be aware of your surroundings but the only things you really need to worry about is scams and pick pockets. Watch your belongings and try to walk with another person, especially at night.
Most shops and even a lot of restaurants do not accept credit cards so you will want to have cash on you at all times. You can find ATMs everywhere.
Haggling in Vietnam is expected. They start off high, you’ll go low, and you’ll meet somewhere in the middle. Don’t be afraid to haggle and if you’re not comfortable with the price, walk away. Chances are you will be called back and be able to pay what you wanted to pay.
Ultimate Guide to Hoi An: Old Town Ticket
If you’re going to be seeing the sites in Hoi An Old Town, the first thing you’ll have to do is buy a book of Old Town tickets. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The purchase of these tickets to get into these sites helps to maintain the heritage buildings. Thankfully it’s not a lot of money and I’m happy to support the preservation of the UNESCO sites.
I’ve read that Hoi An charges tourists just to enter the Old Town area. We didn’t see anyone charging people just to walk in (December 2022) though. We did have to buy Old Town Tickets to enter some of the ancient sites though.
For $5 you’ll get 5 tickets which gets you into 5 ancient sites. Not every site in Old Town requires a ticket, just some of the historic buildings, museums, and temples. You can purchase your tickets at specific ticket stalls throughout Hoi An Old Town. You can NOT buy them at the heritage sites. I marked a few spots on the map below where you can purchase the tickets.
Map of Hoi An and the Ancient Town Sites
Ultimate Guide to Hoi An: Old Town Sites
There are ancient temples, assembly halls, museums and more in Hoi An Old Town. All of them are very easy to find and are all within walking distance of each other. I would recommend leaving the bike at the hotel because you will be stopping often. Also, since Old Town is the most popular area of Hoi An, expect crowds. Trying to navigate around the crowds of people might be difficult. Plus, there are so many cute places to stop and take photos of so walking is best. Below is just a few of the many places you can visit in Old Town.
- Chua Cau Bridge – aka Japanese Covered Bridge: This ancient bridge was built by Japanese merchants in the 16th century and has been restored.
- Quan Cong Temple: Named after a general from China in the years of 160-220, this temple was built in the mid 1600’s by Chinese traders who came to Hoi An for business.
- Cantonese Assembly Hall: Built in 1885 by Chinese traders to worship the Mazu goddess and Confucius, it now honors respectable historical figures in China.
- Phuc Kien/Fujian Assembly Hall: Constructed in the 1690’s by Chinese Traders, it is the largest assembly hall in Hoi An. This one was my favorite!
- Trieu Chau Assembly Hall: Built in 1845
- The Tan Ky Old House, built in 1741, is considered to be the most beautiful house in Hoi An with Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese architectural styles.
- The Phung Hung Old House is about 200 years old and is another place that blends the architectural styles of China, Japan, and Vietnam. Built with rare woods, it still retains it’s original color today.
- Quang Thang House: Built in the early 1700’s, it’s one of the oldest houses in Hoi An. There are wood carvings and sculptures on the walls.
- The Ba Mu Pagoda is probably one of the most unique temples in Vietnam. Built in 1926 in a different location, the pagoda was moved to the current location and has gone through many restorations. I know I said the Fujian Assembly Hall was my favorite but this one might tie it.
- Hoi An Museum of Cultural History: this museum houses over 200 artifacts and documents recording the historical developments in this town.
Other things to do in Old Town
If you’ve had enough of ancient sites and are ready for something else, the Ultimate Guide to Hoi An has some options.
- Take a Cooking Class: take part in learning how to cook a variety of Vietnamese foods at a restaurant in the rural area of Hoi An.
- Visit the Hoi An Central Market: Inside you can buy food to cook or eat later, or have lunch at one of the food stalls in the market.
- Take a spin in a bamboo basket boat through the canals of the mangrove forests.
- This Lantern making class will teach you how to make your own Vietnamese lantern using traditional lantern materials like silk and bamboo as well as learning about the history of these lanterns.
- Spend time on a bike tour through the countryside exploring local villages, learning about local crafts, having lunch at a local family home, and a boat ride on the Thu Bon River.
Day Trips from Hoi An
There are other things to do right outside of Hoi An. If you want to explore some other areas close by, the Ultimate Travel Guide to Hoi An has a few options for you.
- The My Son Sanctuary are Hindu Temple ruins that were constructed by the Champa people between the 4th to the 14th century. It’s located about an hour from Hoi An so you will either need to hire a driver or book a tour. This tour starts out early before the crowds arrive and has you back in Hoi An before lunch.
- The Golden Bridge aka Hand Bridge is an absolute must if you’re this close to it. The Hand Bridge is located at Ba Na Hills in the mountains of Da Nang. Ba Na Hills is an amusement/theme park and unfortunately you have to pay for entrance to the theme park to get to the hand bridge. We paid, got our photos of the bridge, and then left. But, you could stay and enjoy the park if you wanted. If you want to stay for the day, you can pay for a round trip shuttle bus for just $9. If you only want to see the hand bridge (like we did), your best option is to hire a private driver to take you there and wait for you. I would tie it in with the Marble Mountains and Linh Ung Pagoda which is close by.
- Two of Da Nang’s top tourist sites is the Marble Mountains and Linh Ung Pagoda. This tour will pick you up in Hoi An and take you back when you’re done.
- Take some time out of your sight seeing and head to the Cham Islands for swimming and snorkeling. The Cham Islands Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO site.
- The Da Nang Dragon Bridge is this cool bridge in the shape of a dragon. You can see it anytime BUT if you happen to be in the area on a Saturday or Sunday night, you can watch the dragon shoot fire out of it’s mouth at 9pm.
- Located just a few miles from Old Town Hoi An is An Bang Beach. Get a Grab or rent a bicycle and relax at the beach for a few hours.
Ultimate Guide to Hoi An: What to buy
Hoi An has to be the cutest little town in Vietnam. I wanted to buy everything I saw! Here’s a few popular things to purchase.
- Lanterns! So many silk lanterns and they are all so pretty. I seriously wanted to buy them all but settled for two. I’m a sucker for souvenirs! Most of them go for around $5 each.
- A lot of people that visit Vietnam have hand tailored clothing made. Hoi An has a lot of these shops. You pick out the material you like and can get a suit, dress, or pretty much anything you can think of made.
- The traditional Vietnamese hat, a non la, is worn by many Vietnamese people. You can find plain ones and decorative ones painted with scenes from the countryside. These hats are very inexpensive, just a few dollars, and would make a great wall hanging at home.
- Vietnam has a lot of leather goods available from purses, backpacks, and travel bags.
- You’ll find all kinds of handmade jewelry, woodwork, and other crafts in Hoi An.
How long to stay in Hoi An – Itineraries
In this Ultimate Guide to Hoi An I’ve put together a few itineraries for your trip. Feel free to disregard any part that doesn’t appeal to you or if you feel like it’s too much to do. Whether you’ve only got 1 day or you want to hang out a little longer and explore, I’ve got several possible itineraries below.
1, 2, or 3 Day Itinerary
1 Day in Hoi An will keep you busy from sunrise to sunset but you can definitely see Hoi An in just 1 day. If you have 2 days to spend in Hoi An you’ll be able to visit My Son Sanctuary, the Marble Mountains and the Golden Bridge. 3 days in Hoi An gives you time to go to the An Bang Beach or the Cham Islands.
I would say 3 days is the perfect amount of time to visit Hoi An and the surrounding areas but if you only have time for 1 day then concentrate your time on Hoi An and not the surrounding areas and day trips.
If you only have 1 day to spend in Hoi An and are feeling ambitious you could squeeze a lot into one very long and likely exhausting day. But, you’ll be able to say you saw a lot!
Ultimate Guide to Hoi An – Final Thoughts
Hoi An is definitely a must-see town in Vietnam that you don’t want to skip. It’s hard to describe the feeling of this town. It has this beach-hippy vibe to it. Despite how long Hoi An has been around, it feels younger than some of the other cities in Vietnam. It’s a place I would love to go back to and spend a little more time in without the rain.