Cau An Hoi Bridge in Hoi An lit up at night with tourists walking over the lantern-lit bridge in Vietnam Hoi An

Hoi An Itinerary: Best 11 Things To Do

When planning your Hoi An itinerary, you will soon realise that there are heaps of things to do, taste and see. Whether you’re travelling Northern, Southern or the full length of Vietnam, every backpacker knows that Hoi An, and it’s Ancient Town, is a city that can’t be skipped. This is the country’s foodie capital, canal capital, heritage capital and tailor capital. It’s Southern Vietnam’s most alluring destination.

You won’t be bored here: stuff yourself with top quality and astonishingly affordable food; enjoy the lively canal atmosphere at night; choose your favourite pattern to carry home with you.

We visited Hoi An during the Wet Season and still found plenty of things to do. This itinerary guide to the Top 11 Things to Do in Hoi An will help you make the most of any kind weather. However, it will also point you toward plenty of tasty treats to while away a rainy day.

Getting There

AIR

Hoi An’s closest is Da Nang International Airport. There are plenty of taxis and minivans waiting to take you directly to Hoi An in around 45 minutes (around $20). If you’re looking to take the cheaper bus ride, then you’ll need to get to the Bus Terminal in downtown Da Nang first.

BUS

We arrived in Hoi An from Da Nang. You can catch an official coach from the Da Nang bus station to Hoi An, but we chose to get the cheaper local bus. If you arrive at the train station like we did, then it’s a 5-10 minute walk to 155 Lê Duẩn, where you’ll catch the No.1 bus direct to Hoi An. It costs 25,000d, and 5,000d for your luggage. Cash only.

Don’t be confused by information online about the old bus stop – it’s recently moved. Stand between 151 and 153 and you’ll see the local yellow bus passing every 10-15 minutes.

TRAIN

There is no train station in Hoi An. The nearest domestic train services are in Da Nang. Our night train from Vinh to Da Nang was in a cramped 6-bed compartment and cost 362,000d. Incredibly, we got the last two available beds on the train.

Hoi An Itinerary: Best Things to Do in the Ancient Town

Look Sharp in a New Suit

Getting measured for your new outfit is one of the first things to do when you arrive in Hoi An. Believe it or not, some people come to Vietnam just to get their formal wear tailor and then head home again. This is THE place to get it done, and you’ll know what we mean as soon as you’re in the centre.

The Experience

Every second shopkeeper in Hoi An will be desperate to pull you in and get you measured. It might seem like there are more tailors than anything else in town, but it’s absolutely one of the first things to do on your Hoi An itinerary. The sooner you get measured, the longer you have for alterations and trial fittings. Yes, you’re going to have to try it out a few times.

WEE TIPI can’t speak about the experience for ladies getting suits, dresses, and anything else made, but for me getting a suit made was an exhausting experience. From 45-minute measuring sessions, to choosing every little fabric, stitching pattern and style. Even the re-fits stressed me out and the constant need to select and choose and decide can be overwhelming. Take your time, relax, and know before you begin this process that it’s going to be very full-on.

Two men are being measured for suits in a tailor in Hoi An, Vietnam
Looking a little unsure (iPhone)
Choosing a Tailor

For both men and women, there are entire blog posts like this one and this one which talk you through choosing your tailor. It’s probably one of the most difficult things to do in Hoi An, and we won’t better these posts, so check them out before you arrive. Please, please read the ‘DON’T’S’ lists, because a lot of people get ripped off with poor-quality products. Do your research and this can be easily avoided.

We ended up going with Ba Ri. This was mostly because of their excellent reviews and price, but also because we were exhausted asking ‘all the right questions’ in other tailors and haggling prices. We were also itching to check out all the other things to do in Hoi An!

WEE TIPyou don’t need to carry your new outfit around with you for your whole trip. A lot of people, including me, choose to send their suits back to their homeland. I chose to do mine independently at the post office in town, because I trusted it more that way and got a tracking number. This cost a lot more than I thought it would, at roughly £40 for x1 2-piece and x1 3-piece suit (total). Your tailor will offer to post it back for you, so check their quote and make the call from there.

Two men having their bodies measured in a tailor in Hoi An, Vietnam
Looking a little uncomfortable (iPhone)
A Job Well Done

At my final fitting, 3 days after my first one, I was pretty impressed with the suits that had been made for me. Ross was too. Nearly 4 months later I haven’t seen them since, but back home mum tells me that she likes the stitching on them anyway.

WEE TIPMy suits were stopped in customs in London on their way to Glasgow. This added another £50 to the process of sending my suits home. I’m not sure if I was unlucky or if this happens to be everybody, but be aware that this can effectively double the cost if you choose to send your new outfits home by yourself.

Firsts, Seconds and Thirds in Hoi An?!

Hoi An has a deserved reputation for delicious food. There are literally hundreds of shacks, shops and fancy restaurants all serving up local favourites. With affordable prices almost everywhere, tasting your way through Hoi An is one of the easiest things a backpacker can do.

A lot of local business owners have cashed in on the city’s great reputation – rightly and wrongly. While there’s an unquestionable amount of outstanding food in town, due to the number of visitors there are also a lot of average, bland and build-for-tourist traps that you need to look out for.

Morning Glory Original

Often hailed as the best food joint in town, Morning Glory opened in 2006 and serves up almost every Vietnamese dish imaginable. These days (in our opinion) it’s a total tourist trap, filled with a huge amount of foreign accents all sifting their way through an overwhelming menu and watching the centre-stage chefs at work. The pork and aubergine clay-pot was admittedly delicious, but we weren’t impressed with our other more forgettable staples and their hefty prices.

Mr Son Restaurant

Garlic pumpkin curry, fresh spring rolls, 18p beer and tangy noodles: for a more heartfelt and local experience, check out Mr Son’s place. This is on An Hoi island in a quieter area, away from the Ancient Town. It only seats around a dozen people at most. Wander down after you’ve visited the night market and you’ll be blown away by the value-for-money dishes here. We certainly were, and had to waddle back across the bridge after we stuffed our faces.

Mì Quảng Ông Hai/Mr Hai Noodles

One of the things you absolutely cannot do in Hoi An is miss out on trying the sumptuous Mi Quang. This is a thick rice noodle dish served with crispy pork, crackers and boiled quail eggs, and we guarantee your plate will be empty before you know it. Our favourite place in town serving the dish was Mr Hai Noodles – an absolute steal at 35K.

Tam Quang Minh

We only ate at this local vegetarian recluse once, but it was conveniently located next to our homestay. This made it very easy to chow back huge portions of fresh spring rolls before our night bus to Da Lat. It’s dirt cheap, too.

The Hoi An Ancient Town Tourist Trail

It’s easy to forget about the actual history of Hoi An, but people travel far and wide to ‘do’ the historical things in the Ancient Town. Old French architecture, Chinese temples and the Japanese Bridge are all popular on tours through the UNESCO World Heritage centre.

The Japanese Bridge over a canal in Hoi An, Vietnam
Check us being good tourists eh
The Attractions

The majority of the Old Town’s attractions are found between the river and Tran Hung Dao. Walk across the small 18th century Japanese Bridge and try spot all the animal sculptures within (but only if you have a ticket!). Get your photos near the canal below.

Other popular sites include Phung Hung Old House, the Cantonese Assembly Hall and the Ba Mu Temple Gate. You could easily spend 2-3 days trying to the rest. As you can probably already tell, we didn’t visit anywhere near as many of the historic sites as we should have. We were either baking on the beach or shovelling even more food down our mouths (and not that sorry about it).

A temple gate in Hoi An Old Town, Vietnam
One of many of the Historic Old Town’s attractions

In order to get inside most of the Hoi An attractions, you’ll need to make sure you’ve bought the right tickets. It’s a little confusing, so read up about it here before you start your super-tourist-day.

WEE TIPwe were told that the cycle over the bridge and around Can Nam island was pretty cool and spent a half hour doing so. It was pretty underwhelming, and there wasn’t anything in particular to see, so we wouldn’t recommend this when you’re cycling in baking heat and there are plenty of other things to do on your Hoi An itinerary.

See the Thu Bon River at Night

Once the sun goes down on the Old Town, the Thu Bon River illuminates around Cau An Hoi Bridge. For us, this is when beautiful Hoi An is at its most special. Even though the bars and restaurants on the river are on the expensive side, it’s worth wandering along the riverside to enjoy the atmosphere at night.

Candles lit in paper lanterns floating down the Thu Bon River in Hoi An, Vietnam

Couples light candles and float paper lanterns down the river; lovers take romantic boat rides; the bridge to An Hoi island lights up and keen photographers and selfie-smilers amble along it, all of them chasing the most colourful frame. The bridge leads over to the Lantern Market and the livelier nightlife, but we’ll get to that soon.

Nightlife in Hoi An and the Ancient Town

There are plenty of buzzing nightlife hot-spots throughout Vietnam. Hoi An isn’t one of them. If binging, shotting and partying ‘til dawn is one of the things you most want to do in Hoi An, then we’re afraid you’re going to be a little disappointed. We recommend unwinding, relaxing and enjoying the pace of this city at night.

The bars in the old town close around midnight. If you’re really desperate for a big night though, cross the bridge from the Ancient Town to An Hoi Island where you’ll find all the carnage you need.

Dive Bar & Q Bar Cocktails

Doubling as a dive school and adorned with loads of awesome underwater photography, Dive Bar is our kinda place. The beers were cheap, its location is perfect and staff know how to have a good time. Even after one drink, free vodka shots were appearing, and the music sets you up for a great night.

Next door, Q Bar are the cocktail masters in town. Enjoy one of many local-style mojitos before 7pm, when the price essentially doubles. This isn’t much of a party place, but somewhere to visit with your other half and enjoy the relaxed vibes.

Brightly coloured lanterns at the lantern market in Hoi An, Vietnam
Be sure not to miss the lantern market, but beware you may need to buy one before taking photos!
The Hill Station

This is the one that got away from us! Every night we promised to make it there we somehow missed it. With a great selection of French wine, cheese and craft beers, this is one to splash out on during your Hoi An itinerary. Happy hour before 6pm.

WEE TIPso it’s not the backpacker-party-capital, but plenty of backpackers still end up in Hoi An looking for a blow-out. A few places in town still cater to this. Why Not Bar have an ‘all-you-can-drink’ happy hour, and a few other sketchy operations cater to the same crowd. It’s advertised as the cheapest way to get ‘fucked up’, and to be fair you’ll probably end up in a bit of a state. Spiked drinks, robberies and hospital-inducing hangovers are concerningly common. Save your party for the next town on your trip and definitely avoid Why Not Bar.

Mr Bean Bar

Mr Bean Bar is one such bar. Expect the rowdy-backpacker-crowd and loud music which doesn’t stop until the last customer stumbles home. Most of their local-spirit drinks are 2-for-1, but we’d recommend sticking to drinks that are opened in front of you (like the tasty local beers). We may not be describing it in glory but we had a great night, the staff are hilarious and some of the slightly disturbing Mr Bean-theme really has to be seen to be believed.

Mr Bean caricatures at Mr Bean Bar in Hoi An, Vietnam
It gets worse (iPhone)

WEE TIPthe staff will push the hard-sell on the laughing gas. Sure, we tried some and got a wee buzz. Another table tried the ‘super laughing gas’ where one of them took a fit, and their flailing arm smashed a table-lamp. She was completely fine after it, and had no recollection of what happened, apologising and happy to pay for a new lamp.

And guess what? The next person to try said ‘super laughing gas’ took a really disturbing fit. He knocked over a lamp too, and after he’d recovered 4-5 members of staff were around him demanding payment for the broken decoration. See a link here? DO NOT try the ‘super looking gas’ anywhere here. You’ve been warned.

Tiger Tiger Bar

One of the most important things to do in Hoi An is AVOID this place. You’ll be given plenty of flyers and begged in to visiting. Think our advice is extreme? Friends that visited confirmed that reviews like these aren’t made up.

Banh Mi Hop

The dining scene in Hoi An is famous for many things, none more so than the addictive Banh Mi. This delicious sandwich, French in design and Vietnamese in flavour, is one of our favourite foods in the world. You’ll see plenty of stalls in town, but we only tried two of the ‘big hitters’ below. If you’re feeling a little rough after last night’s Mr-Bean-blowout, sink a few sandwiches and find your form again.

Madam Kamh – The Banh Mi Queen

She’s got our vote as banh mi queen. This was without doubt our favourite banh mi and one of the most delicious sandwiches we’ve ever had. Daniel and Ross scoffed 5 between them for lunch on the first day and still wanted more. Go for the chicken or mixed style, 20,000d. They offer up tasty juices too.

Tourists walk in to Banh Mi Queen in Hoi An, Vietnam
Descending on our feast (iPhone)
Bánh Mì Phượng

When Anthony Bourdain visits and sings your praises, you’re doing something right. Queued on to the street, the banh mi here is admittedly delicious, but for us it wasn’t good enough to top the offerings from the Banh Mi Queen. Disagree? Get in touch in our Comments section below and let us know which banh mi joint was your favourite! We were also recommended Phi Banh Mi in great confidence, but unfortunately we could never roll ourselves far enough out of town to sample them.

Rainy Day Café Hopping

When the heavens open and the beach isn’t an option, there are plenty of cafes in town to keep you entertained. There are so many places to try and write about, but we’ve chosen a few noteworthy ones below. Some of them are on the list for quality coffee, some for their atmosphere, and others for their local coconut or egg coffee specialities. Regardless, café-hopping in Hoi An is one of the things you absolutely need to do on your itinerary.

Rosie’s Cafe

Coming direct from Luang Prabang, we took a 23 hours bus to Vinh and an overnight train to Da Nang. Needless to say, we weren’t in a particularly good way after our 40-hour journey. That being the case, Rosie’s Café, found down a quiet shaded lane, was our oasis.

We visited Rosie’s twice more when we were in town and fell in love with the place. The menu puts a big focus on vegetarian and vegan offerings and everything we tried hit the spot. The breakfast salad, smoothie bowls, brownies, chia puddings, baked granola with yoghurt, French toast, local coffee and enjoyable atmosphere made this our favourite café in town. We compared pretty much every coconut coffee we tried in Vietnam to this one (and none of them came close).

A coconut coffee on a wooden table in Rosie's Cafe, Hoi An, Vietnam
We’ve fantasised about this coconut coffee long since having it
Le Fe Cafeteria

Le Fe Cafeteria seemed to come up on a lot of our online searches, and we’re still not sure why. Difficult to find, and impossible to enjoy their local coffee, leave this one out. There are plenty more places in town to try.

The Espresso Station

This was our fail-safe whenever Rosie’s café was full! The Espresso Station serve up sharp coffees from all over the world and even roast in-house. Of course, the espresso was strong and delicious, but their Ethiopian V60s were an absolute treat as well. Highly recommended.

Hoi An Roastery

Ubiquitous and reliable, Hoi An Roastery are making an effort to roast proper coffee for a reasonable price. Although it’s a local chain (there are 7 branches in the old town), they focus on sourcing their beans directly from farmers in the hills near Da Nang and training their staff with a high attention to detail in all things coffee. While the espresso went down pretty smooth, don’t feel bad about ordering the famous egg or iced coconut coffees either.

Reaching Out Teahouse

We kept the special Reaching Out Teahouse separate from the other cafes because it deserves a little more attention. Visiting this place is an experience in itself. All of the staff are sight and sound impaired, and ordering a tea or buying any of the original crafts helps people with disabilities ‘to learn skills and gain meaningful employment.’ It’s certainly inspiring to see the staff living a fulfilling life and refreshing to see your cash going to a good, local cause.

Order with the pen and pad – silence is expected throughout the café – to give you a small of experience of life in silence. Their different blends of tea and various tasting platters mean that the product matches the experience in terms of quality.

A coffee on a dark table with light peering through in Hoi An, Vietnam
Order and wait for your delicious drink in absolute silence

Hoi An Itinerary: Things to Do Around Hoi An (Outside of the Ancient Town)

Cycle to the Beach

If you’ve travelled all the way down from the north, then you’re probably desperate to get to some of the best beaches in Vietnam! Once you’ve seen everything in the Ancient Town, you deserve to relax on An Bang beach – one of the most popular things do to in Hoi An. There aren’t too many places in South East Asia which combine cracking beach, terrific food and beautiful old town heritage together.

A view of An Bang beach with water and mountains in the background
And relax

Furthermore, the cycle to the beach is well worth doing. Our homestay hooked us up with free bike rental and we ended up exploring most of the town on these bikes (and the beach twice). Bike rental shops are easy to find in Hoi An if your accommodation doesn’t have any.

The Journey to An Bang Beach

Cycling north-east from town you’ll eventually find yourself on Nguyen Trai. Take a few random turns and follow the back streets until you find yourself on Hai Ba Trung. Soon you’ll discover that the side streets and pathways take you around all the local rice paddy fields where you can see local people working hard using traditional methods.

A vietnamese man works his paddy field in Hoi An, Vietnam
The amazing rice fields on the cycle to the bach

The fields were flooded when we were in town and made for some cool photo opportunities. If you have time, check out the Tra Que Culinary Village for lunch. The site is complete with restaurant, cooking courses and even a spa! All of their ingredients are locally sourced and they put a big focus on using their own organic produce in everything they do.

After a big lunch, park up at An Bang (free if you buy a drink from one of the stores along the street) and head to the beach and one of the most relaxing places to be in Hoi An. If you’re not one for doing nothing, then there are plenty of water sport options to keep you busy too.

A parachute ride on An Bang Beach in Hoi An, Vietnam
Some of the watersports you can enjoy at An Bang

WEE TIP: there are a few beach bars and restaurants offering sun loungers (complete with parasol) near the water. These are all free if you buy a drink, and the prices are all pretty similar.

Take a Day Trip

There are so many things to do in Hoi An, but if you end up staying even longer than we did, then you have a plethora of day trips to choose from to extend your itinerary. One of the most popular day trips is to My Son, another UNESCO World Heritage Site with abandoned Hindu temples built as early as the 4th century. If you’ve read any of our Myanmar WITs about Yangon, Bagan or Hpa-an, you’ll understand why we were a little ‘over’ temples when we were in Hoi An.

Another popular day-trip option combines a trip to modern Da Nang with the nearby Ba Na Hills and Golden Bridge. Check out some of the reviews before you visit – they’re pretty mixed and not all that kind about the value-for-money. Your accommodation will be able to organise day-trips for you, but if for some reason they can’t there are plenty of tourist offices in town and online.

Fish Market Photography

The Fish Market Photography Tour was advertised as one of the ‘alternative’ things to do in Hoi An that caught Daniel’s eye. However, it was quickly dismissed when we saw the unbelievable $50 price tag.

Freshly caught fish in a bucket filled with water in Hoi An, Vietnam
Freshly caught fish

With a little investigate work online and a stroke of luck, Daniel found the location of the fish market. Since bike hire was free, he cycled there one morning on a ‘tour’ of his own. While there was certainly plenty of early morning activity and he was the only tourist there, he came back a little disappointed with the shots he got.

The reviews for the organised tour praise the tour guide’s knowledge of the ‘best shots to take’ – and that’s probably the best way to see the market. Free if you want it to be, but for the top-quality photo opportunities maybe joining on the tour is for the best. Fish Market Location: Chợ Thanh Hà. Arrive before 6am.

On the way back make time for Hoi An’s Central Market too. It’ll be at its most quiet and there will still be plenty of vendors selling clothes, snacks and every kind of organic produce you could imagine.

Where to Stay in and Around Hoi An

Leaf Homestay our choice

This was our best value-for-money sleep in the whole of South-East Asia. We don’t say that on a whim. Leaf Homestay’s incredible owners will look after your every need and even let us charge up and hang around on the balcony until our bus at 6pm on our last day. The rooms are huge, impressively clean and surprisingly bright. The private bathroom was perfect and the small seating areas on each floor were great places to do our research with fast Wi-Fi. Including the filling beef pho breakfast and free bike hire, it’s an absolute winner.

Privates from 300,000d

Tribee Hostels the reliable hostel chain

With 5 hostels in Hoi An and 3 located within the Historic Centre, the Tribee chain are reliable and highly recommended if you’re looking for a hostel near Hoi An Ancient Town. This chain pride themselves on free buffet breakfasts and their no bunk-bed promise. Friends stayed at Tribee Bana and had nothing to complain about, and particularly enjoyed the social atmosphere.

Dorms from 200,000d

And there you have it! Our guide to planning the perfect Hoi An itinerary. If you’re heading to the hills next, then check out the Best Things to Do in Da Lat . Looking for some more time at the beach? Instead, have a look at our Guide to Mui Ne. Have a great trip!

Hoi An Itinerary

Example Hoi An Itinerary:

Day 1

  • Get yourself fitted for a new suit/dress
  • Cycle to An Bang Beach via Tra Que Culinary Village and spend the day relaxing after your first stressful measurement
  • Fill your plate at your first eatery of choice

Day 2

  • Be a good tourist and see all the temples and historic sights you want to in Hoi An
  • Enjoy a walk by the river and the lantern market after dinner
  • Party in An Hoi island with the infectious Mr Bean Bar staff

Day 3

  • Cure your hangover with copious Banh Mi and coconut coffee
  • If it’s a sunny day, you may want to head to the beach again too

Day 4

  • If you don’t have time for a day-trip on check-out, then try your hand at some Fish Market photography
  • Otherwise, if you’re catching the night-bus to Da Lat, then head on a day trip to nearby Golden Bridge and Da Nang, or My Son
Accommodation:
  • Leaf Homestay
  • Tribee Hostel (chain)
Restaurants:
  • Morning Glory Original
  • Mr Son Restauran
  • Mì Quảng Ông Hai/Mr Hai Noodles
  • Tam Quang Minh
Cafes/Bars:
  • Rosie’s Café
  • Le Fe Cafeteria
  • The Espresso Station
  • Hoi An Roastery
  • Reaching Out Teahouse
  • Dive Bar
  • Q Bar
  • The Hill Station
  • Mr Bean Bar
Fruits and seeds make up a smoothie bowl on a wooden table in Rosie's Cafe, Hoi An, Vietnam
Mouthwatering offerings in Rosie’s Cafe

Hoi An Itinerary Budget Breakdown

Getting There:
  • Vinh Railway Station – Da Nang Railway Station
  • 6-berth compartment
  • 362,000d pp
  • 155 Lê Duẩn – Nguyễn Tất Thành Bus Station
  • Public bus
  • 30,000d pp

Total: 784,000d ($33)

Accommodation:

Leaf Homestay

  • Double room (private bathroom)
  • 300,000d price per night (x3 nights)

Total: 900,000d ($38)

Attractions:
  • 5 Ticket Stubs for Old Town Attractions 120,000d

Total: 240,000d ($10)

*this total doesn’t include potential bike hire costs, the drink at An Bang Beach parking, An Bang Beach Bar drink (including free sun lounger) or any of your new tailored goods. The prices for all of these vary too much to include.

Moving On:
  • Hoi An – Da Lat Bus Terminal
  • 18:00 – 07:00 with Dalat Open Tour (email)
  • 300,000d pp

Total: 600,000d ($26)

Total for 4D/3N: 2,524,000d/$107

The above budget is for x2 people. Food and drink is not included.

This budget breakdown isn’t meant to be an exact record of what we spent, but should give you a rough idea of what you’re likely to spend.

*all currencies accurate at the time of writing*

 

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