If I had to pick one city in Vietnam to visit, I’d pick Hoi An. I feel like it’s the perfect city for tourists to see the traditional Vietnamese life. You can walk through the shops and cafes in Ancient Town or take a bike ride through rice fields where locals are harvesting their stock. Although some activities can sound cliche, the experiences all felt so authentic to me. Read on for the perfect Hoi An Travel Guide suited for a 4 day stay.
11 Things to Do in Hoi An
1. Explore Every Street of Ancient Town
Ancient Town is less than 1km in length and very walkable. Parts of it is even closed off for pedestrians only. All of it is lined by souvenir shops, tailors, coffee shops, and restaurants. Lots of people will want to get a piece of clothing or bag custom made, and it’s recommended that you do that as soon as you get in. I chose not to get anything tailored in Hoi An and I shared why in another post. I walked through Ancient Town every day for the 6 days we were there and always found something new to look at. The two large roads are Tran Phu and Nguyen Thai Hoc.
2. Ride out to the Rice Fields
There are quite a few bike tour companies but we decided to just take a self guided tour. Most hotels will offer free bikes and once you get your bearing on the traffic rules, it was a pretty easy ride. It’s only about a 5 minute ride from Ancient Town to the start of the farm fields. It was so neat to see locals farming and I also saw some water buffalos roaming around! Get on Ly Thai To and turn into the fields at Nguyen Trai.
3. Check out the Hoi An Night Market
A very popular activity in Hoi An is the Night Market. Here you’ll find over 50 vendors selling snacks, souvenirs, and lots of counterfeit bags and accessories. You’ll have to use your bargaining skills though as there are no listed prices anywhere. You’ll be able to find the entrance if you cross Cau An Hoi bridge.
4. Nighttime Boat Ride
The Thu Bon River flows just south of Hoi An’s ancient town. Each night, you’ll see many boats with candles and lanterns floating across the water. You don’t need to book this activity ahead of time. Simply walk along the water along either side of the river and you’ll probably have multiple people hustling you to take their boat. The cost is about $10 USD per person. Even if you don’t get on the water, it’s a really beautiful view. I’d recommend combining this activity with the night market as they are right next to each other.
5. Take a Cooking Class
Vietnamese cuisine is amazing but not something I know how to cook! We took a cooking class with Sabirama and it was definitely a highlight of the trip. The tour is about 5 hours and includes a trip to the marketplace, a basket boat ride, an encounter with water buffalo, a foot massage and a 4 course cooking class! Our guide was very friendly and had great English! The tour is $45 USD each person and comes with so many freebies. Check out the full details for what we did here.
6. Hoi An Memories Show
I’m a bit torn on whether to recommend this or not. Because we were in Hoi An for 6 days, we have lots of extra time for activities. But if you are short on time, this might not make it on your list of things to do. The Hoi An Memories show is inside the Hoi An Impressions Theme Park with mini shows starting at 5pm and ending with a big performance at 730pm. The stories explore the tradition and history of the city (mostly in Vietnamese). There are a lot of Instagrammable spots in the park similar to Ba Na Hills. It was very impressive how many actors and dancers are used in the production. The show was enjoyable but not thrilling. You’ll enjoy this if you like music and dance! You can find tickets here or purchase through your hotel.
7. See a Water Buffalo Up close
I love animal encounters and especially meeting animals native to a country. The water buffalo are the work horse of Vietnam and are all over the farm fields. If you take a cooking class or country side tour, you’ll most likely have a chance to see a water buffalo up close as part of your tour! Or if you take a bike ride out to the farm fields, you might get lucky and spot one too!
8. Get a Massage
Massage and beauty services are cheap and plentiful in Vietnam. There are several massage shops in Anicent Town which makes it easy for you to relax after a long day of walking. I’d highly recommend visiting 5 Senses Spa. It was about $18 USD for a one hour massage and it includes a drink of your choice (beer, tea, coconut)! The spa was also clean and spacious which was a huge plus! You can also opt to go for a foot massage but I enjoy back massages more!
9. Visit Central Market
One thing I really loved about Hoi An is that the locals are still living their lifestyle even though it’s such a touristy town. If you visit Central Market in the morning, you’ll see all the locals picking up their veggies and meat for the day. You can find this at Bach Dang and Tieu La. Then you can also go into the Cho Hoi An market where dried goods of all shapes and sizes are sold indoors.
10. Bargain for Touristy Clothes
We didn’t do any shopping in Hanoi or Da Nang, but I remember seeing people wearing these banana shirts that were pretty funny. Well, you’ll find all of that in Hoi An! The same print is made for men, women, and kids. So your whole family can match! You won’t be the only one though as I saw many couples and families wearing matching outfits. The pieces are a lot more expensive than I thought. Expect to spend around $10 USD for each piece of the tropical print patterns. We were able to bargain for some beer t-shirts to about $4.50 USD.
11. Visit An Bang Beach
Lastly, if you are looking for a beach break, make your way to An Bang beach or a less popular beach like Coconut Beach. Since we took our beach vacation in Da Nang we only rode our bikes by to take a look! There are plenty of vendors along the beach and chairs that you can rent for the day!
Where to Eat and Drink in Hoi An
There are a lot of food options to choose from in Hoi An! I love that everything you need is within walking distance! In Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, we ended up taking Grab (Vietnam’s version of Uber) or ordering delivery. You’ll also want to hit up the 3 famous Banh Mi spots in addition to these restaurants listed below!
Moderate/Fine Dining Restaurant
- The Sea Shell – Tripadvisor Our first modern Vietnamese meal of the trip! Prices are really great for the nice presentation and unique flavors
- Nu Eatery – Tripadvisor The more high end sister. Come here for really refined modern Vietnamese food
- Eat Thai – Tripadvisor The best Pad Thai I’ve ever had (until I got to HMC). The curry was delicious as well!
- Hoi An Burger Plus – Tripadvisor We were craving a burger and really enjoyed our chicken and beef burger at Burger Plus!
- Pho Xua Riverside – Tripadvisor For cheap authentic Vietnamese food, you have to come here! We had all the local specialities like Cao Lau and White Rose dumplings. So delicious!
- Pasteur Street Brewing – Tripadvisor Right by the river with gorgeous views on their upstairs balcony. Good craft beer!
- Morning Coffee – Tripadvisor Delicious coffee and juice blends! Modern, white cafe just north of Ancient Town
- Cong Caphe – Tripadvisor This is a chain that is available across Vietnam but their coconut coffee is amazing! Great location in Hoi An by the river
Where to Stay in Hoi An
You would think that a touristy city like Hoi An would have high hotel prices. But quite the opposite is true. I found the hotel in Hoi An gave me the best bang for the buck during the whole trip! I’d highly recommend to stay close to Ancient Town. There are no hotels inside Ancient Town, so you can browse around the perimeter.
We stayed at Riverside White House Villas. It is right next to a few more luxurious hotels. Our room was very spacious with a modern glass shower. We also got a balcony that over looks the river. I spent a few mornings in the pool and enjoyed the free breakfast every day!
You can find amazing deals if you look at homestays. Some start as low as $10 USD a night.
How Much to Budget for Hoi An
Let’s take a look at how much I spent in 6 days. The exchange rate is 17,500 VND to $1 CAD.
Hotel: $263.64 CAD for 6 nights
Food: 2,008,000 VND (we had free breakfast buffet at the hotel)
Coffee & Beer: 891,000 VND
Transportation: 447,000 VND (335,000 was the trip from Da Nang)
Massages: 1,240,000 VND
Souvenirs: 830,000 VND (6 pieces of clothing and a wood sculpture)
Hoi An Memories 1,200,000 VND (2 admission tickets)
$642 CAD for 2 people for 6 days