Hoi An has become a beloved destination for many travelers. Families, couples, solo vagabonders – there’s something for everyone. Here’s our list of things to do in Hoi An.
Walk through the Old Town
To visit the old town you are required to buy a pass. It costs around 120000 VND, but lasts for many days. Your pass has 5 tickets, which you can use for visiting Japanese Covered Bridge, museums, old houses, chapels and more. Frankly, we used our tickets on the last day only, so we got to see the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Old House of Quan Thang, and weren’t very impressed. However, there’s nearly 20 other places you can visit with that ticket. Give it a try, and there’s a big chance you might find some museums and temples captivating.
Experience Vietnamese beaches
If you love beaches, you definitely should include it into your “Top Things To Do in Hoi An” list. Our choice was An Bang beach – white sand (super-hot too), clean water, great views. Beaches here luckily are not as crowded as in Thailand. When on the beach, you can choose if you want to lie on your own towel or use a sunbed. Sunbeds often belong to the restaurants and the fee for using them is waived if you then decide to have a meal there.
Our visit was in the end of June (find out what’s the best time to visit Vietnam!), and the weather was so hot that even though we normally prefer our own towels, going with sunbed+umbrella combo was probably the best investment we’ve made that day. I’ve seen a lady on that beach who looked like she had second degree sun burns on her back. That’s why, please, take care of yourself and use sunscreen. Selling sunbeds is definitely a way to attract customers to their restaurants, but this particular time falling into the “trap” seemed to be worth it. We ended up picking Kathy Chau food and were pleasantly surprised by the taste of their grilled fish and passion fruit juice.
Rent a bicycle
Many hotels in Hoi An offer a bike rental (complimentary or for a small fee), so do some street shops. As much as I adore riding a motorbike in SEA, I find that going with bicycle is a very enjoyable way to explore Hoi An, especially in the first part of the day. 2 things to mention on that topic. First, respect fellow human beings – little streets of the Old Town get very busy in the evenings. Trying to pedal through the crowd can be quite troublesome, and so is avoiding being hit by a bicycle. So please, don’t hesitate to get off the bike and walk instead. And second – if you decide to use bicycle as your transportation to the beach (please do, and take detours if you want to meet cows, water buffaloes and enjoy the scenery) – use sunscreen!
Explore local food scene
Dishes to try:
- Bahn Mi – Vietnamese baguette
- Cao Lau – pork noodles, specialty of Hoi An
- Com Ga – chicken rice that is very different from the traditional Hainanese chicken rice
- Bun Bo – rice noodle soup with beef
- Mi Quang – another rice noodle dish with shrimps/chicken/pork/beef
- Pho – beef noodle soup, distinct from the one you get in Ho Chi Minh City (frankly, we prefer HCMC version of Pho hands down)
Hoi An is buzzing with places to eat, but if you want simple, cheap and local – try the central market. Our favorite picks were Cao Lau and Com Ga (from different stalls in the central market), as well as chicken Bahn Mi from the Friendship Baguette at the night market (see tip #1 in this article). You can also find variety of snacks from the street vendors – from banana pancakes and donuts to satay and wontons. If you like what you eat – there’s plenty of cooking classes you can sign up to. And don’t forget to enjoy a fresh coconut while looking over the river!
Have drinks with locals
Besides being a prominent destination for foreigners, Hoi An is also a place where Vietnamese tourists go. But locals also find time to enjoy drinks in the evenings. Besides obvious places in the old town, it’s easy to spot where locals go. When you follow the Nguyen Du street, during the day it seems peaceful and somewhat abandoned. But later, especially on Sunday evenings, the riverbank is transformed into Hoi An’s biggest coffee shop and bar. Red plastic chairs and tables appear out of nowhere, and Vietnamese enjoy time with their friends and family over beers, bubble tea or sugarcane juice. So, if you are looking into things to do in Hoi An in the evening, this is a go-to! P.S. Sorry for a bad quality photo, that was too much fun to take pictures.
Make your own lantern
Besides charming yellow houses, old roofs and blue windows, one of the things that makes Hoi An so enchanting is its lanterns. Not only is the whole town decorated with colorful lanterns, but you can also buy them on almost every corner. Often tourists don’t know what to pay for them, so shop owners try their luck and offer higher price. For the same 30 cm lantern you can get quoted for 50000 VND in one place and 200000 VND in another.
One cool thing to do in Hoi An, if you have enough time, is to design your own lanterns. Several places offer lantern workshops, where you can see how they’re made and put paint on them. That will cost you a bit more than buying lantern in a local shop, but if you’re good with your hands and have something special in mind or just need a place for a little creative outburst – that’s a perfect opportunity.
Another interesting thing to do could be to watch Water Puppet show – read more about water puppets in Vietnam at Travel to Recovery.
Jump on a boat tour
When you enter the ancient town, you’ll certainly get offered many things, and one of them is the boat tour. You can enjoy one of the sightseeing tours or spend half a day with a fisherman – for a change, you’ll see Hoi An from a different perspective.
Get tailored.. anything
Suits, dresses, shirts, leather bags – the variety of things you can get custom made is quite impressive. You will notice that sometimes locals just start talking to you on the street. They will ask where you’re from and how long you are staying, and then they’ll take you to their “family shop” to get you tailored new clothes. The truth is – most of the places don’t make their clothes in the shop, they outsource; but the timing can still be quite good – it took us around 24 hours to receive our order.
It’s best if you have at least 2-3 days in the city, and if you don’t want waste your time – prepare in advance. Think of what kind of design you’d like, what kind of pattern and fabric. Otherwise you might end up spending couple of hours flipping through pictures in countless lookbooks (I will pretend that didn’t happen to me). Remember that bargaining is always an option. Also, there’s a big chance that if you do your research in advance, shop won’t have to pay commission to the person who directed you there.
Visit local coffee shops
Vietnam is a valuable destination for coffee lovers, and Hoi An is no different. You might want to visit all the cute little cafes you see or pick the one you like and include into your morning routine (see tip #2 for recommendations). Don’t forget to stop by a shop selling coffee so you can get some home with you – the varieties of coffee, like mint coffee or coconut coffee, might surprise you.
Get a cocktail bucket at one of the rooftop restaurants
The rooftops are some of my favorite places to be in Hoi An, and that’s definitely pleasant way to spend one of your evenings. Often you will find good deals or happy hours – but even if you won’t, for many tourists Hoi An is such an affordable destination that in the end it won’t make a bit impact on your budget. On our trips in SEA we particularly enjoy cocktail buckets. Not only due to the price, but also because we find it somewhat romantic to share one drink without having to replace it every 5 minutes.
Hope you will enjoy Hoi An As much as we enjoyed it. Let us know in the comments what was one of YOUR favorite things to do in Hoi An!
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