Hoi An is a city in central Vietnam, known for its atmospheric old town and period architecture.
The old town has become somewhat of a tourist hub, with lantern filled streets boasting lounge bars, restaurants and boutique-shops.
But travel a little outside of town and a more traditional way of life can be seen, with rolling rice fields and empty beaches.
Hoi An is in my opinion one of Vietnam’s prettiest most idyllic cities.
Our original plan had been to travel from Hue to Hoi An via motorbike over the Hai Van Pass, which is considered the most beautiful stretch of road in Vietnam.
Sadly, due to a typhoon hitting central Vietnam that caused wide-spread flooding, plans had to change. So instead from Hue we took a last minute flight to Ho Chi Minh city spent a few days there then traveled back up the coast to Hoi An by plane.
The closest airport to Hoi An is Da Nang. It’s is about a 40 minute drive from the airport to Hoi An.
We stayed at Hoi An Vietnam backpackers, it was a lovely hostel that had more resembles to a hotel than a typical hostel.
We stayed in a 4 bed dorm, and it was single beds as opposed to bunk beds which was a bonus. The communal areas and showers were kept super clean with staff regularly checking the areas.
The hostel also had a pool and a big social area which was great to chill and meet people.
Although the hostel was built from new when they designed it there was no consideration as to placement of the pool. This meant only a small section of the pool actually got the sun which was a shame, but not the end of the world.
The prices of drinks were higher than other hostels such as sunflower (another big hostel nearby) but backpackers was definitely more luxury so I guess you get what you pay for!
Distance from old town
One thing I would highlight is the distance of the hostel from the old town, it’s approximately 2.5 miles to the edge of old town which means it’s quite a walk.
A taxi in the day on the metre costs
around 50,000 dong which is reasonable.
However at night the taxi drivers try to scam tourists charging 200,000 dong which is a rip off. If you persist and refuse after 20 minutes of arguing they eventually give in.
Whatever you do, do not get a motorbike taxis home.
This is what will happen: the taxis will refuse to take you past 12pm, the motorbike taxis will then speed over offering a lift home, you get on the bike, they may or not take you to your accommodation. When you get off the bike they will shine a bright blue light into your wallet making it hard for you to see your money, you will open your wallet more and they will steal your money in seconds, you may not even notice it happened until later! Note, even if you are smart to this, if they want to take your money, they will find a way.
Be warned, luckily it didn’t happen to me, but i met over 20 people who experienced robbery in this way.
Exploring Hoi An
Hoi An is a pretty city by day, but by night it’s absolutely stunning. The streets are lined with lanterns of all different colours and the river is full of little boats and lanterns floating by.
You can either wonder the streets, find a bar, or get a boat and sail down the river letting a lantern off for good luck. Which ever you choose visiting the old town at night is a must.
Within the old town there is also an abundance of restaurants serving Vietnamese and western food at reasonable prices.
Markets line the street selling items such as clothes, jewellery, hand made items and food.
I can highly recommend the rolled ice cream but discourage dried and fried crab!
There is also a Japanese bridge worth wondering to as well.
Cycling around Hoi An
Cycling around Hoi An is a great way to get your bearings, explore the city and get a bit of exercise at the same time.
Having a bike gives you the freedom to visit places a little further out and allows a bit more spontaneity. While cycling around I found hidden beach, more on that later.
Going to the gym
Yes, you read that right. If you are into fitness and want to keep up your training there is a really great gym called Superfit.
It is in the centre of town and offers 1-30 day passes for reasonable prices.
Hai van pass
If you read my Hue blog you will know that we intended to ride from Hue to Hoi An on a motorbike and enjoy the Hai Van Pas, considered the most beautiful road in Vietnam.
Due to a typhoon hitting and roads flooding we were unable to do so. So after our stop in Ho Chi Minh city we decided that whilst in Hoi An we would ride the Hai Van Pass and back again in one day.
We hired a motorbike for $14 and were on our way. It was beautiful, mountains, beaches and open roads made the experience very enjoyable (even if my bum was dead).
The sun is pretty intense, but luckily we bought a lot of suntan lotion with us.
On the Hue side of the Hai Van Pass is the elephant springs, this is a dreamy must stop spot!
It cools you down after the long hot ride and it’s absolutely stunning. The water is crystal clear and so refreshing. There is also part of the waterfall that you are able to slide down, which was a lot of fun!
There is a lovely stretch of beach where you can chill out, catch some rays and enjoy a cocktail or two.
The large beach area visible from the main road is nice, but not as good as the beach if you continue towards Da Nang.
We found a spot called hidden beach which was lovely, there’s a restaurant and as long as you buy something from them you are allowed to use the sun beds all day.
Lady Buddha is on your way to Da Nang but still only a short motorbike ride from Hoi An.
The temple is free to visit and gives you great views over the ocean and city.
From the hostel you can take a sunset cruise down the river, enjoy some drinks and take in the view.
It’s not cheap at 250,000 dong plus drinks but a lot of fun!
Get a suit tailored
Hoi An is famous for its incredible tailors. You can get anything made exactly how you like it, its amazing quality and super cheap prices!
Eating in Hoi An
There is so much choice for food in Hoi An, be it local or western. We ate mainly in local places or street food on the market. I don’t have the names of all the places but here’s a few highlights.
This place was conveniently located just down the road from our hostel and it had amazing burgers.
The house special was a juicy Lucy, but I enjoyed the chicken and Avocado Lucy the best.
The burgers all have melted cheese in the middle of them which is delicious and the service here is amazing.
Not a local dish but so amazing especially if you enjoyed one to many drinks in old town.
This was another place on the way to old town, as the name suggests there was a lot of cheese on the menu which meant it was a definite hit with me.
But there was also a lot of healthy options to which was great to break up the local food bingeing.
Roof top bar and restaurant
I can not remember the name of the restaurant but it was on the opposite side of the river to the Japanese bridge and to the left of the footbridge.
It had views over the river, lantern lite streets and served local dishes.
We went as a group of 14 and they were easily able to accommodate us.
Hoi An is a beautiful city, it’s coloured lanterns light up against the night sky making an excellent back drop for some dinner or drinks.
The backpackers hostel is luxury as hostels go, but quite out the way, making it more difficult to pop into old town.
The taxi bikes are a definite no go, they are unsafe and untrustworthy.
Riding around the town is a great way to see the sites and enjoy a bit of exercise.
But I also loved getting a motorbike and riding the Hai Van pass and especially enjoyed the elephant springs.