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I heard a lot of good things about a small town located in the center of Vietnam, Hoi An (not to be confused with Hpa An!). I didn’t know this city but all the travelers I met kept telling me I really had to go “Hoi An, I loved it! You absolutely have to stop by and spend a few days there! You’ll see by yourself, you won’t regret it! It’s not too big, not too small, and it’s a charming city! Oh, and you’ll see all the lanterns there, sooo beautiful! Daytime it’s pretty but the lanterns nighttime? Wonderful! Really man, you have to go to Hoi An!” So I decided to go visit Hoi An! It’s one of the top places to visit in Vietnam!
Description of Hoi An
Seems like Hoi An is part of every traveler’s Vietnam itinerary! I already said it before, but I’m always a bit skeptical when many people praise a place. Another city packed with tourists (including me of course!), inflated prices and locals trying to scam the rich tourists. But this time… I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised! If you ever go to Vietnam, I need to let you know there’s one city you can’t miss, and you get it, I’m talking about Hoi An, and the thousands of lanterns there! Hoi An deserves its name of the city of lanterns!
Hoi An, formerly known as Faifo, is a city with 120000 inhabitants located in the center of Vietnam, and noted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. It’s not far from Danang (here’s a Danang guide if needed). Hoi An is quiet and indeed Hoi An is not too big, nor too small, and it’s a charming place. The atmosphere is relaxed, it makes a nice change from the noise, the bustle and all the scooters in Hanoi. Hoi An is also known as the yellow city because of its numerous yellow buildings and shops selling Vietnam souvenirs!
Although this is a touristic city, Hoi An managed to keep its charm. The architecture of the buildings is a beautiful mix between Chinese, Japonese and French style. Indeed, Hoi An is one of the very few Vietnamese cities that was not damaged during the Vietnam War. The Thu Bon river crosses the city and it’s enjoyable to wander around the narrow streets. All over Hoi An, you’ll see lanterns. They sell those in small shops but it also serves as decoration in the streets. How come?
When the moon is full, the city turns off all its lights. In fact, Hoi An lights up thanks to all its lanterns. Splendid! That night, you have to buy a lit lantern, put it on the river of the city, and make a wish. That’s the tradition. I stayed for a few days in Hoi An and unfortunately, it wasn’t during a full moon night so I didn’t get a chance to see how it goes. But from what I heard, this is something you can’t miss!
As I said, Hoi An is a quiet and relaxing city. There are many bars and terraces, and many Asian tourists (Chinese, Japanese…). Having a walk in Hoi An is enjoyable, and for your information, there are no cars in the old town, they cannot get there. I saw many Westerner couples taking a walk in the city, and yeah I understand, seeing the beauty of the place and the good atmosphere. Another thing. There are hundreds of tailor-made suits shops (Hoi An is known for this!), but also custom-made shoes there. And of course, if you’re looking for lanterns in Vietnam, just go to Hoi An!
What to eat in Hoi An
Regarding food, Hoi An’s signature dish is called Cao Lau. It’s made with thick noodles with green salad, herbs sliced, roast pork and crispy rice pancakes. This emblematic dish has been eaten in the city since the 17th century! Otherwise, you have to try a Banh Mi. It’s just a sandwich in a French baguette with crudités, salad, meat and sauce. You got it, banh mi was introduced to Vietnam during the Indochina era, when Vietnam was occupied by the French. The best place to eat a good banh mi? “Banh Mi Phuong” stall, there’s always a long line to get one! And I can tell, it’s delicious! Are you into food? Here’s the best street food in Hoi An!
For your information, it’s possible to attend a Vietnamese cooking class. Click here for more info.
Things to do in Hoi An
The Japanese bridge
Hoi An doesn’t have a big, popular tourist attraction. It’s mostly a place to admire the beauty of the area. However, if you go there, the most emblematic spot of the city is the Japanese bridge, built in 1590. At the time, they built this bridge to connect the Japanese and Chinese neighborhoods of Hoi An.
The lantern market
There’s also a lantern market. As the name suggests it, you can buy lanterns there. And yes, as I said, you have take most of the city daytime, but you also have to walk along the river in the evening. Hoi An by night is just magic, with all its lights!
Hoi An beach
Daytime, you can stop by the market, where they sell all you can think about, but especially fruits and vegetables. And just a few kilometers away, you can go to the beach! I went there, it’s not far and surprisingly, it was quiet empty. People stay in town. It’s funny, as soon as I left the city center to go to the beach, people started staring at me, a lot of locals started greeting me (especially kids), invited me to have a drink, to have lunch together… Just 15 minutes away by foot!
Activities in Hoi An
You can go visit the My Son sanctuary with a group and a local guide. Click here for more info. You can also go visit the marble mountain in Da Nang. Click here for more info. You can go see the Ba Na Hills. Click here for more info. Or go sightsee Hoi An and its surroundings by bike. Click here for more info. Finally, you can go on a boat trip to the Cham Islands. Click here for more info.
I have to say it one last time, Hoi An is a small, relaxing, enjoyable town. I recommend you to spend a few days there, you’ll be delighted! If you don’t have much time, here’s what you can do in 24 hours in Hoi An!
How to get to Hoi An
You can get there by plane. Click here to check the latest flight prices. By plane, the nearest airport is Da Nang, 30 kilometers/20 miles north of Hoi An (flights are cheap from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City). From the airport, a shuttle bus goes to Hoi An every hour. It’s more or less 120000 dong (4.50€). You can also take a bus from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a 20-hours ride from Ho Chi Minh city, 17-hours ride from Hanoi.
Best time to go to Hoi An
Between January and August, ideally between February and May!
How to get around in Hoi An
It’s not a big town, getting around by foot is the best option. Otherwise you can rent a bicycle or a scooter if you wanna go further (for instance to go to the beach), but in the center it’s not necessary. Having a bicycle or a scooter will encumber you more than anything else with all the people walking in the street. Renting a bicycle costs 20000 dong (0.75€) per day, a scooter 100000 dong (3.70€) per day.
Where to stay in Hoi An
If you’re traveling on a budget, you’re gonna like the Melody Boutique! Click here to book your stay. If you want to stay in a mid-range hotel, the Happy Town Hoi An is modern and the staff is really nice. Click here to book your stay. If you prefer luxury hotels, I suggest you to stay at the Little Riverside. Click here to book your stay. Otherwise click here to check what are the hotels available in Hoi An.
If you prefer to stay in an apartment, click here to check the apartments available on Airbnb.
Hoi An travel tips
- Traveling soon? Check out my travel resources page! This list of travel accessories can also be useful!
- Wanna go to Vietnam? Check the visa policy here. You will probably have to apply online for a 30-days visa here. Or go to an embassy (there’s one in Laos, one in Cambodia, another one in Thailand, etc…).
- Do not go to Vietnam without a travel insurance! Scooter accidents are frequent in the country! Here’s why you should buy travel insurance!
- Want a tailor-made trip to Vietnam? Get a free quote here!
- Here’s the best time to visit Vietnam!
- I didn’t talk about it in the article but in Hoi An, it’s possible to buy a pass allowing you to visit several museums, old houses of storekeepers, temples… Among others Duc An House, Tan Ky House, Tran Family chapel… The pass costs 120000 dong (4.50€). I wasn’t alone and nobody wanted to buy the pass for the visits, so I didn’t take it, and we just passed by all the different buildings.
- Always use a VPN when you’re traveling. I use ExpressVPN and I love it. Here’s why you should use a VPN when traveling!
- Vietnam is a cheap place to visit on a budget!