reflections on the river in hoi an

Is Hoi An Worth Visiting in 2024? Things to do and Reasons to Visit

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Every time you start looking for new places to travel it seems that visiting Vietnam becomes a part of the conversation. And rightly so, it is one of those rare places that has something for everyone without hordes of tourists.

The next thing you will notice is that a lot of the recommendations from reviews point towards Hoi An as the best place to experience tradition and culture. So we decided to find out if Hoi An is worth visiting.

We recently spent a month exploring Vietnam, travelling from Hanoi in the north to Phu Quoc Island way down south. In the middle of our trip we slowed things down with almost a week in Hoi An. So, how was it?

Where is Hoi An?

Hoi An is a historic town located in central Vietnam, on the coast of the South China Sea. It is situated in the Quảng Nam Province, approximately 30km / 20 miles south of Da Nang, the largest city in the region. Hoi An’s location is easily accessible with connections through Da Nang.

Is Hoi An worth visiting in 2024?

There are so many reasons for Hoi An to be a big part of your next travel plan, here are just a few:

  • Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its well-preserved Ancient Town.
  • Beautiful scenery including quiet rivers, rice and lotus fields, and beaches.
  • The stunning Lantern Festivals and the smaller nightly versions on the river.
  • Hoi An is a foodie paradise with many traditional local dishes to try at restaurants or in cooking classes.
  • Hoi An is renowned for its tailor shops where you can have custom-made clothing created at very reasonable prices.
  • Access to other places of interest like the Cham Islands and My Son Temple.
  • The laid-back vibe of Hoi An makes it the perfect place to recharge between the craziness that is Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

How many days do I need in Hoi An?

Ideally you should allow 4 days in Hoi An to give yourself time to experience more of the wonderful sights, tastes, and activities on offer in and around this unique town.

As you will realise from the previous list of highlights, anything less than those 4 days and you could miss out on appreciating the serenity of Hoi An by packing too much into a short time.

Hoi An is one of those places that no matter how long you take to visit, when you leave you will wish for just a few more days.

Maybe not the most comfortable bed but this field worker in Hoi An rests on the back of a bullock

How do you get to Hoi An?

By Plane

The nearest airport to Hoi An is Da Nang International Airport (DAD), which is about 30 km / 20 miles away.

From Da Nang Airport to Hoi An:

  • Taxi: Taxis are readily available at the airport and can take you directly to Hoi An. The journey takes about 45 minutes and costs around $15-20 USD.
  • Shuttle Bus: Several shuttle bus services operate between Da Nang Airport and Hoi An, costing about $6-10 USD per person.
  • Private Transfer: Many hotels in Hoi An offer private transfer services which can be arranged in advance.

By Train

Hoi An does not have a train station, but you can take a train to Da Nang, which is the closest station.

  • Train to Da Nang:
    • Trains run frequently from major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hue to Da Nang.
    • The journey from Hanoi takes about 16-18 hours, from Ho Chi Minh City about 17-19 hours, and from Hue about 2.5-3 hours.
  • From Da Nang Train Station to Hoi An:
    • Taxi: A taxi from Da Nang Train Station to Hoi An takes around 45 minutes and costs approximately $15-20 USD.
    • Bus: Public buses are available but may take longer and be less convenient than taxis.

By Bus

Direct bus services to Hoi An are available from several cities.

  • From Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City:
    • Sleeper buses operate daily and take about 18-20 hours from Hanoi and 20-22 hours from Ho Chi Minh City. These buses often provide a more budget-friendly option compared to flights or trains.
  • From Hue:
    • Buses from Hue to Hoi An take about 3-4 hours and run frequently throughout the day.

By Car

As you may know, we are road trip enthusiasts and I have driven in over a dozen countries, however, driving in Vietnam can be challenging due to traffic and road conditions, so it’s advisable to hire a car with a private driver.

By Motorbike

For adventurous travellers, renting a motorbike is an option. The journey from Da Nang to Hoi An by motorbike takes about 45 minutes. Ensure you have an international driving permit and are familiar with local traffic laws.

Best things to do in Hoi An

Explore Hoi An Ancient Town

Wander through the UNESCO-listed Ancient Town, where you can admire the beautiful buildings, visit historical sites, and enjoy the buzzing street life. Watch for the Japanese Covered Bridge, the Old House of Tan Ky, and the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation.

Visit the Japanese Covered Bridge

This 18th-century bridge is one of the most photographed places in Hoi An. It’s beautifully preserved and features a small temple on one side, and also an important spot for learning about the town’s history.

Experience the Lantern Festival

If you happen to be in Hoi An the 14th day of the lunar month, you can experience the magical Lantern Festival. The streets and river are illuminated with colourful lanterns, and you can release your own lantern on the water for good luck.

On any other night you can still get a small taste of the Festivals by taking a short boat ride on the river and releasing a small lantern. It is a touristy but fun thing to do and hey, where else would you ever do it?

Learn to Cook the Traditional Dishes of Hoi An

Hoi An is a foodie hotspot in Vietnam, and taking a cooking class is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in local traditions. Many classes include a visit to the local market to buy fresh ingredients before cooking traditional dishes like Cao Lau and Spring Rolls.

Grab a Drink, or Swim at An Bang Beach

Just a short distance from the town centre, An Bang Beach offers a sandy coastline, clear waters, and plenty of beachside restaurants and bars. Hire a bike to get there and find a spot to unwind and enjoy the ocean.

Get Tailor-Made Clothes

Hoi An is renowned for its tailoring services. You can get custom-made clothing at affordable prices from reputable tailors like Yaly Couture and Bebe Tailor. Choose from a wide variety of fabrics and styles for a perfect fit.

Insider Top Tip – You don’t need to accept the first offer. With so many tailors in town it is worth some time to shop around to find the best product at the best price.

dean & Pauline

Take a Boat Ride on the Thu Bon River

A boat ride on the Thu Bon River offers a different perspective of Hoi An. You can take a sunset cruise, a traditional fishing tour, or an evening ride on the river to release a lantern.

Boats on the river in Ancient Town Hoi An at night

Join a Lantern-Making Workshop

Join a workshop to learn how to make Hoi An’s famous lanterns. It’s a fun way of creating a unique souvenir to take home.

Eat Yourself into a Food Coma

Savor Hoi An’s culinary delights by trying must-eat dishes like Cao Lau, White Rose Dumplings, and Banh Mi. Food is amazing and cheap so there is no reason why you shouldn’t try a bit of everything.

Visit renowned restaurants such as Morning Glory, Miss Ly Cafeteria, and Banh Mi Phuong, plus our favourites Claypot, Hoi An Bread, and Mr Son.

Pauline at the sidewalk table at Mr Son in Hoi An

Visit My Son Sanctuary

A half-day trip to My Son Sanctuary, an ancient Hindu temple complex, provides a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s Champa Kingdom. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site located about 40 km / 25 miles from Hoi An.

Insider Top Tip – Choose a tour that starts early in the morning to avoid the crowds that will build up throughout the day.

dean & Pauline
one of the temples at the My Son Sanctuary

What should you eat in Hoi An?

Hoi An is a foodie hotspot known for its unique and flavourful dishes. Here are some must-try dishes in this lovely town:

1. Cao Lau

Cao Lau is a signature dish of Hoi An, featuring thick rice noodles, slices of pork, fresh herbs, and crispy croutons. The noodles are distinctively chewy, having been soaked in lye water from a local well. The dish is often topped with a rich broth and served with a side of greens.

2. White Rose Dumplings (Bánh Bao Bánh Vạc)

These delicate dumplings are made from translucent rice paper and filled with shrimp or pork. They are shaped like roses and steamed, then topped with crispy shallots and served with a light dipping sauce.

3. Banh Mi

Hoi An is home to some of the best Banh Mi in Vietnam. This Vietnamese sandwich is made with a crispy baguette filled with various ingredients such as pâté, pork, pickled vegetables, herbs, and chili sauce.

Banh Mi Phuong and Madam Khanh (The Banh Mi Queen) are famous spots to try this delicious snack, but also try the mixed option at Hoi An Bread.

the mixed bread banh mi at hoi an bread

4. Mi Quang

Mi Quang is a noodle dish with a turmeric-infused broth, often served with shrimp, pork, fresh herbs, peanuts, and sesame rice crackers. The broth is typically minimal, making it more like a noodle salad than a soup.

5. Com Ga (Chicken Rice)

Hoi An’s version of chicken rice features tender shredded chicken served over fragrant turmeric rice, accompanied by fresh herbs, and a tangy dipping sauce. Try this at Claypot Restaurant, it’s more complex than it sounds.

vietnamese chicken rice made during a cooking class at the Claypot restaurant in Hoi An

6. Hoi An Pancakes (Banh Xeo)

Banh Xeo are crispy, savoury pancakes made from rice flour, turmeric, and coconut milk, filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts. Often wrapped in rice paper with fresh herbs and dipped in a sweet and sour fish sauce.

7. Grilled Pork Skewers (Thịt Nướng)

These skewers of marinated pork are grilled to perfection and often served with rice paper, fresh herbs, and a dipping sauce. They are a popular street food and make for a tasty snack or appetizer.

8. Fried Wontons (Hoanh Thanh Chien)

Hoi An’s fried wontons are a local favourite, featuring crispy wonton wrappers filled with shrimp or pork and topped with a tangy tomato-based sauce, herbs, and spices. Once again we recommend Claypot Restaurant.

fried wontons topped with shredded chicken and a sweet and tangy vietnamese salad

9. Pho

While Pho is not unique to Hoi An, it’s a staple Vietnamese dish but every region is slightly different. It is a rich, aromatic broth, rice noodles, and slices of beef or chicken, garnished with fresh herbs and lime.

10. Sweet Treats

  • Che (Sweet Soups): A variety of sweet soups made with ingredients like beans, fruits, and coconut milk.
  • Coconut Cakes (Banh Dua): Sweet, chewy cakes made from grated coconut, rice flour, and sugar.

Where to stay in Hoi An

Hoi An has something for every budget, from small hotels and hostels to luxury 5-star hotels where you can indulge in some luxury. Here are our recommendations for your trip:

✅ Hostel Option: Cheerful Hoi An Hostel is a highly-rated hostel in a handy location. It features budget-friendly prices and is within walking distance of many restaurants and the best things to do in the city.

✅ Budget Option: HOI AN HEART LODGE is located in the centre of Hoi An. This bed & breakfast is highly-rated and offers large comfortable rooms at crazy cheap prices.

✅ Apartment Option: Christina’s HA4.4∙ Suites w/ VILLAGE VIEW is within easy walking distance of all major attractions in Hoi An. It includes a kitchen and a washing machine.

✅ Mid-Range Option: Hoi An Golden Holiday Hotel & Spa is a 4-star hotel within walking distance of the Ancient Town. The hotel features a very nice pool area.

✅ Luxury OptionAlmanity Hoi An Resort & Spa is a 5-star colonial building in the centre of Queretaro, less than 2 blocks from the San Francisco temple. The rooms feature high-end appointments and the hotel has a rooftop with great views.

How affordable is Hoi An to visit?

As with Vietnam overall, Hoi An is considered a very inexpensive place to visit for travellers. Whether you travel on a tight budget or want to experience some luxury without breaking the bank, this is one of the best places to be.

The cost of living is much lower than most Western cities, allowing you to enjoy a wide range of experiences without spending the kid’s inheritance. Accommodation, food, transport, everything is great value for money.

Accommodation in Hoi An ranges from budget hostels and guesthouses to mid-range hotels and luxury hotels. Budget travellers can find dormitory beds in hostels starting under $10 USD per night, while decent mid-range hotels with comfortable amenities typically cost around $25-40 per night.

Even high-end hotels and boutique accommodations are incredibly affordable, often priced between $80-150 per night. This ensures that there is something to suit every budget, and may be your chance to upgrade cheaply.

Vietnamese food in Hoi An is both delicious and cheap. Local dishes are a major highlight, and popular dishes like pho and banh mi costing only $1-3 per serving.

Dining at local restaurants is also affordable, with meals typically priced between $3-10. Upscale restaurants in Hoi An that offer fine dining experiences are substantially less than Western prices.

Overall, Hoi An provides a memorable insight into Vietnam’s past at a fraction of the cost of many other travel destinations.

Backpackers seeking bang for your buck, value-for-money travellers like us, or anyone seeking luxury on a budget will find what they are looking for in Hoi An.

Common questions about Hoi An

How is the walkability in Hoi An?

Hoi An is mostly flat and an easy city to explore on foot. Getting around on a bicycle is a great option and most accommodation will offer free bikes, if not there are plenty of places to rent one.

When is the best time to visit Hoi An?

The best time to visit Hoi An is between February and April when the weather is pleasant, although any visit is sure to be a memorable experience. The Lunar New Year sees the largest Lantern Festival but also the biggest crowds.

How do I get around Hoi An?

As mentioned above, much of your exploring can be done on foot or bike, but for longer distances, or when you just don’t want to walk any further, there are plenty of taxis available.

A fun way to get around on the Hoi An taxis

Is Hoi An safe for tourists?

Hoi An is generally safe for tourists, with very few serious crimes reported. But it’s always good to stay cautious and take standard travel precautions against pickpockets and scammers.

Can I use credit cards in Hoi An?

Credit cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants, and larger shops, but you should carry some cash for small purchases and street vendors.

Are there ATMs available in Hoi An?

There are many ATMs throughout Hoi An, but be sure to only use those labelled as a part of a major bank. Also, be wary to protect your PIN and check for skimmers.

Is Hoi An Worth Visiting? Our opinion.

Of our month in Vietnam we had four amazing nights in Hoi An, and we left wanting more. Especially when our next stop, nearby Da Nang was nowhere near as pretty or traditional.

To be fair, we did experience everything that we had planned during our stay, which shows that 4 days would be about the perfect length of stay for most visitors. But a few more days soaking up the history would have been nice.

reflections on the river in hoi an

Our highlights include walking along the edge of the river at night, watching people release lanterns into the water as they paddle along, as well as the tour of My Son Sanctuary, a place where spirituality, history and careless destruction collide.

But the real star of Hoi An is the food. Not just the cheap and magnificent street food at Mr Son, or the packed-to-overflowing banh mi at Hoi An Bread, or even the dinner at Claypot Restaurant which we rate as one of the 3 best meals we have had on our travels anywhere.

We did a cooking class in Hoi An which was fun and informative and was teamed up with a ride in the unique basket boats, but our meal at Claypot was so good that we arranged a private cooking class the following morning.

Dean and Pauline on the river in a basket boat near Hoi An

And that cooking class will stay with us as the overriding memory of what was a fantastic few days in Hoi An.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that if you want to find the place that pulls together the best of Vietnam and offers it to you in one small and beautiful package, then Hoi An is that place.

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Is Hoi An on your travel radar? Discover why this enchanting town is worth visiting. From its well-preserved architecture and serene riverside setting to its vibrant festivals and culinary delights, see what makes Hoi An a standout destination.
Not all of Vietnam is hustle and bustle like you find in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. There is a place where tradition and rural life is the norm, and that place is Hoi An. It sounds good but is it worth visiting?
Considering a trip to Hoi An? Learn why this picturesque town is worth adding to your travel plans. Explore its rich history, stunning scenery, and unique cultural experiences. See why Hoi An is a favorite among travellers.
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