Your Complete Guide to Hoi An, Vietnam

Your Complete Guide to Hoi An, Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world. It’s no surprise, because Vietnam has it all: cheap food, sandy beaches, great weather, and tons to do. Expats seem to be heading to Central Vietnam, in particular, for beach holidays and semi-permanent living in order to enjoy all Vietnam has to offer! Here is the most complete guide to Hoi An, Vietnam!

Everything you to need to know for a successful move to Hoi An, Vietnam

 

How to get to Hoi An

Hoi An is one of the only heavily populated areas in Central Vietnam. There aren’t many stepping stools between Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Hoi An, so the two main ways to get to Hoi An both take time and money.

  • Option 1: Fly to Da Nang

Da Nang, the fourth largest city in Vietnam, is the hub for Central Vietnam. It has a regional airport with direct flights from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hai Phong, and even other cities in Asia. Flights take around 1 hr. 15 minutes to arrive from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and cost between $40-118 one-way depending on location and timing.

After flying in to Da Nang it’s easy to find a taxi to drive you the 30 minutes to Hoi An.

You can also download the Grab app, which acts like Uber for Vietnam. You can attach a credit card to your Grab account and then choose to pay automatically via the app or to pay cash after your drive. Grab will send you the license plate of the car picking you up, which helps you leave the Da Nang airport in peace!

If you aren’t interested in downloading an app or paying $12-15 for your ride from the Da Nang airport consider arranging an airport transfer in advance. It only costs $6, so there’s really no downside. Check it out here. 

  • Option 2: Take the Train

Trains to Hoi An are available from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. There are different trains available for each location and time, and they vary widely. In general you can pay for a seat or upgrade to a bed berth. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll find a completely empty berth for your entire family, but we do recommend upgrading to beds. Train seats tend to be too small and uncomfortable for Westerns, so it’s nice to have an option to lay down and change positions.

The train from Hanoi to Hoi An takes around 17 hours and costs approximately $45/ person. You are able to bring or buy snacks on the train and will have access to bathrooms.

 

How to Rent a House in Hoi An

rental house in Hoi An Cost of living in Hoi An Veitnam

One of the main draws for expats to live in Hoi An is the incredibly cheap real estate. This small town on the coast has houses and apartments from the beach to the town, so there’s something for everyone!

In our experience a 3-bedroom house averages $500/ month near town and gets just a bit more expensive as you move closer to the coast.

There are 3 main ways to rent a house in Hoi An:

  • Hoi An Rentals on AirBnB

AirBnB is a great option for short-term rental houses in Hoi An. You can easily use the site to see a map of the different locations which can help you decide where to live.

The downside of AirBnB is that it’s more expensive than the other options.

  • Use a Real Estate Agency

We use a real estate agency to find a house to rent in Hoi An. We used Nha Toi, a well known real estate agency in the area. They and other agencies are used to helping expats find housing for any amount of time, so they speak English well and have a list of short-term rentals ready at any time.

We contacted Nha Toi through their Facebook page, as that seems to be how most businesses communicate in Hoi An. We told them our monthly budget, how many bedrooms we wanted, and the part of town we wanted to be in. The following day we met them at their office and they took us to three different properties. It was so easy!

  • Use the Hoi An Rentals Facebook Group

There are many Facebook groups for expats living in Hoi An. This one is dedicated to finding property to rent in Hoi An. The upside of this service is finding a home cheaper than the other options, but the downside is that you can’t control what comes your way. There are a lot of people looking for homes in Hoi An, and a great property will have a lot of interest right away!

The beauty of renting a home by the month in Hoi An is that you can easily change homes the next month if you decide to live in a different neighborhood. It’s a cheap place to live, so you may as well try out as many as you need to!

 

How to Rent a Moto in Hoi An

How to rent a moto in Hoi An Vietnam expat life in Hoi An The Obriens Abroad Family Travel

Commonly known as mopeds in the States and scooters in Canada, automatic motorcycles are called motos in Vietnam. Motos are the easiest form of transportation in Hoi An. You’ll notice most Vietnamese ride motos through town because many roads are too narrow for cars. Motos also help people drive around slower traffic, helping you get to your destination faster.

  • Daily Moto Rentals

You can rent your own moto by the day at a variety of stalls. The highest amount of moto rental agencies are near An Bang beach. Take a Grab or taxi to the beach and walk around looking for a sign offering motos to rent. You’ll find them for 1,000-120,000, or $4-5 per day. They will come with up to three helmets. You pay when you return the moto, as you may wish to rent it for longer than intended.

  • Monthly Moto Rental

Ask those same daily rental agencies if they offer monthly rentals. Most likely they do. Try to negotiate down to $50-75/ month, which you can find if you are willing to get a moto with a smaller motor. A 125cc-135cc will be cheaper while something with more power will be more expensive. You will be asked to pay in advance for the month, however.

  • E-Bike rental

The second most popular form of transportation is to bike around Hoi An. Many homestays will offer bicycles to guests, and there are also plenty of places to rent them. More serious travelers will be seen on e-bikes, which have a small motor. E-bikes are faster than traditional biking, but allow the control you sometimes miss with motos.

The best place to rent an e-bike is a small shop beside Vegan Beets Restaurant. There are other e-bike rental shops, but this one offers the lowest price.

 

Where to go Grocery Shopping in Hoi An

 

Grocery shopping is quite different than in Western countries.  You won’t find large supermarkets or tons of options for different items. If a fruit or vegetable isn’t locally sourced or in season then don’t expect to find it. And refrigerated goods get pretty expensive.

You definitely can find what you need, though!

  • Shop at a food market

Hoi An is home to two main markets: Ba Le Market and Tiger Market. Each feature individual sellers with their portable produce selection laid out on large wooden platforms. The stands are sometime separated or covered by tarps, making the collection look like a homeless commune at first. It’s a little intimidating, but really fun.

These stalls will mostly sell the same thing: a variety of fresh vegetables and herbs, local fruit, and eggs. Some may also have bags of spices and peanuts hanging from a rope above their stall and hidden compartments with dried noodles, oil, soy sauce, and other basic cooking needs.

There’s no real animosity between vendors, so you are free to visit any of them for your groceries. No guilt. In fact, if you want something they don’t have the woman in charge will most likely disappear for a few seconds and return with it from another vendor. I assume they share those profits.

To buy food from a street market you just need to point to the thing you want and hold up your finger for how many you need. They most likely know the English name of everything and numbers, too, so you can also just say what you’re looking for. It may be easier to say how many half or full kilos you want of something, so be prepared with that measurement in mind. The vendor will collect what you want, weigh it with a table scale, make a note of the price on a slip of paper and then put your item in a bag.

  • Order groceries online

If you don’t have time to go grocery shopping or aren’t up for the experience you can also order them online. We use the service Hoi An Fresh Fruit Delivery. They operate through Facebook, where they post an updated list of foods available and prices monthly on their wall.

You simply send them a message through Facebook saying you’d like to place an order and send them a list of the items you want. You say the amount of grams or kilos you want of each item, and they will arrange a time to deliver it within the next 24 hours. A driver will go to the market himself to pick out the best foods for you and then deliver them to your door with an itemized receipt. They add 10% to cover the cost of the service, which is so reasonable!

  • Go to a Mini Mart

You’ll find small mini marts all over Hoi An. They make the most of their small space, though! You’ll find foods piled from floor to ceiling and strung along the walls. There are refrigerators where you’ll find ice cream and yogurt. It’s amazing to walk in and see how packaged goods spray out of the door, and then even more amazing to realize that this small place actually has everything you need!

The best mini mart is across from Tiger Market. It has the same packaged goods you’ll find from the other mini marts, but also has a small selection of cereals, baked goods mixes, pop tarts, shelf stable milk, and coolers with frozen meat.

  • Go Grocery Shopping in Da Nang

If you are outfitting a new rental you may want to just go to a big, recognizable store. You’ll find a few Wal Mart-esque shopping centers in Da Nang with floors of clothing, restaurants, and a grocery store. There’s definitely something familiar about the fluorescent lights of a grocery store, so if that’s what you’re looking for try Lotte Mart or VinCon.

 

The Best Restaurants in Hoi An

You’ll find amazing food in Hoi An. Street vendors sell delicious Banh My sandwhiches and bowls of Pho or Cau Lau for $1 which will leave you and your wallet satisfied. If you’re in the mood for air conditioning, though, you’ll want to enter one of the many restaurants.

Because Hoi An is a hot destination for travelers and expats from around the world, world-class cuisine can easily be found here.

  • Vietnamese Restaurants

It’s hard to find restaurants serving food as good as you’ll find on the street, but nice to have the option in case you need air conditioning.

Banh Mi Phuong, Phan Chu Trinh, Cẩm Châu, Hội An, Quảng Nam. Banh Mi Phuong is a famous local banh mi restaurant. It was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, so you can expect a line at any time of day. What most tourists standing in line don’t know is that there are two levels of seating behind the cash registers. Our favorite banh mi is the #5, BBQ. They’re all good but that one is great!

Ress Kitchen and Pub211 Cua Dai | Cam ChauHoi An 560000, Vietnam. Ress is a restaurant with more Northern Vietnam dishes. We love their Bun Cha, one of our favorite Vietnamese dishes. It’s a plate of rice noodles, delicious meatballs, and greens. They serve it with a dish of sauce you can dip each item in before eating. It’s the best Bun Cha in Hoi An!

  • Vegan restaurants in Hoi An

Hoi An attracts lots of vegans and vegetarians, so many restaurants have popped up to fill this need. Here are our favorites:

Karma Waters, 213 Nguyễn Duy Hiệu, Cẩm Châu, Hội An, Quảng Nam 560000. Karma Waters is a small, fully vegan restaurant. It is well decorated and easy to find but a bit slow. Our favorite meal is the mango salad, but they have other great dishes and even a menu of fresh detox juices.

Am, 33D Ly Thai To StreetHoi An, Vietnam. Am is a large restaurant with two dining sections. The traditional decor is beautiful, and it’s great to have so much space to spread out. Our favorite meal is the Sea Salt and Lemongrass Fried Tofu and the coconut salad. Both are amazing! 

  • International Restaurants

Indian cuisine is quite popular in Hoi An. This has led to some amazing Indian restaurants in the area!

Baba’s Kitchen, 115 Phan Chu Trinh, Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quảng Nam. This Hoi An Indian restaurant is owned by a emigrant from Indian so you can be sure each meal is authentic and delicious.

Zeytun,  2b Phan Chu Trinh, Cẩm Châu, Hội An, Quảng Nam 560000. Zeytun is a great Mediterranean restaurant. Our favorite items are the falafal balls and grilled veggies. Yum! Zeytun also delivers, which is great for busy or rainy days. 

Related: 5 Dishes You Need to Try in Hoi An

 

 

What to do in Hoi An

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This list could go on for a while, so I’ll keep it to the most popular must-dos for now. If you’re interested in even more options I encourage you to talk to one of the many tour operators in town!

  • Hoi An River Cruise

This is perhaps the most popular thing to do in Hoi An. You’ll find eager gondolas awaiting passengers all around the An Hoi Island. An Hoi Island is where you’ll find Old Town and lots of other tourism sites, so it’s most likely you’ll find yourself there at some point. Women stand on the island asking visitors if they’re interested in a ride. If you are she will lead you to her partner boat driver and you’ll set off!

  • Old Town

Old Town is also on An Hoi Island. Here you’ll find many of the UNESCO protected sites like the famous Japanese Bridge. There will be lots of tourists on the bridge, making it hard to even walk across it. Old Town also has museums, Buddhist temples, and other historic buildings. Purchase a pack of entrance tickets for around $5 which will give you unlimited access to enter some historic sites and 5 tickets to use at your discretion at others.

Old Town is also where you’ll find the Night Market. Every afternoon the Old Town streets close to motorized traffic and street vendors set up their wares. You’ll find food and souvenir vendors offering lots of unique Hoi An goods. The streets get crowded and the prices are generally higher than other places, but its worth going to at least once!

If you’d rather have an experienced local take you around arrange a tour here. You’ll be shown around and sure not to miss any of the best places.

  • Ceramics Class

The Tanh Ha Pottery Village is a section of town known for it’s fresh clay and ceramic artists. You’ll find multiple homes with small pottery studios which are open to visitors. Park at any of them and a resident will emerge, ready to show you how to make your own masterpiece on their pottery wheel. For around $2/ piece you will be shown how to fashion an animal whistle, small vase, or cup set.

  • Lune Theater

The Lune Performing Arts Center is relatively new to Hoi An. It’s a gorgeous, round theater where local performers put on cultural shows throughout the week. The performances are expensive, around $22-25/ person, but the shows are truly works of art. We left with a deeper understanding and appreciation for Vietnamese culture.

It’s recommended to book tickets in advance, as the Lune theater is small and may sell out. Check here to get tickets early!

  • Vietnamese Cooking Class

Taking a Vietnamese cooking class is one of the most popular things to do in Hoi An. Many restaurants advertise their cooking classes on their wall or on a sign at the street. You are welcome to walk in and reserve a spot for $25-40/ person.

We suggest reserving a cooking class ahead of time, since you’re never too sure what you’ll be getting off the street. This cooking class also includes a bike ride through the countryside to pick out your own fresh fruit!

  • Get a Massage

Hoi An is a mecca for weary travelers to rest on the beach. It comes with the territory of this laid-back town to have plenty of spas to help tourists relax! You’ll find plenty of spas advertised from Old Town to An Bang and everywhere in between. Each spa offers relatively the same menu of options: foot and leg massage, back, neck and shoulders, or full body for 30,60, or 90 minutes. Some spas will also offer facials or nail care. We have found 400,000 dong ($17) the average price for a 60-minute massage.

Our favorite spa is Phuoc Lavender. It’s a bit out of Old Town, so you’ll have to catch a taxi or ride your own moto to get there. It is well worth it, though! Every massage starts with a foot bath until you’re taken to a massage room. We love Phuoc Lavender for their clean, roomy studio and extra touches like hot towels and aromatherapy.

  • Have Clothes Made in Hoi An

Having clothes made in Hoi An is quite popular. In fact, many people come to Hoi An on a tailor holiday just to freshen up their wardrobe or have wedding clothes! And why not? You can have custom-made clothing and a beach vacation for the price of clothing in western countries.

Old Town is the best place to go to have custom clothes made. The two most recommended tailors, Kimmy and BeBe, are both located there. When you arrive at any tailors you will choose your items from a book of designs. If you already have something in mind it would make the process easier to come prepared with an image you’ve drawn or from the internet. They can re-create anything!

Once you decide on a design they will help you pick out fabrics based on the weight and style you like and will then take measurements. Tailors are used to working on short deadlines since most customers are only in town for a few days, so don’t worry if you haven’t left them much time. You can expect anything from shorts to dresses to cost $20-100+, depending on the style and amount of work involved. If anything isn’t as you expected and you have a few extra days be open about your wishes and give them the opportunity to fix them for you.

Related: Where to find Greek food in Hoi An

 

An Bang Beach

An bang beach hoi an expat guide to hoi an what to do in hoi an vietnam the obriens abroad family travel

The most popular beach in Hoi An is An Bang Beach. The city runs West from the coast, so head East and you’re sure to end up at An Bang! If you catch a taxi or Grab they may even say, “An Bang?” as you enter. It’s that popular.

How to get to An Bang Beach

Taxis will drop you off at the main An Bang Beach entrance. It’s a wide road lined with beach clothing vendors. These shops sell relatively cheap clothing, bathing suits, and sunhats, so this is a great spot if you find yourself in need of those items.

If you happen to be staying at a small hotel/ homestay on An Bang Beach you may notice that no houses are actually on  the side of the beach. No, instead you’ll be staying across the road and will need to find one of the man small paved paths leading East. These side streets are easy to recognize on Google Maps, and some will have signs showing the direction of the beach.

The benefit of following a side street to get to An Bang is that that section of beach is bound to be much less trafficked than the main entrance. If you’ve come to Hoi An, Vietnam to relax this is your best bet. In fact, even if you’re not staying within walking distance to the beach you should still ask your driver to drop you off away from the main entrance and walk down on your own. The peace and tranquility of the Hoi An beach is not to be missed!

An Bang Beach Restaurants

Restaurants can be found all along the coast. These restaurants are a great place to spend an afternoon! We both love and hate these places. Deciding to go always depends on our mood and what we’re interested in doing. Below are some pros and cons of beach restaurants to help you decide!

  • Pros:
    • Restaurants face the water, so you’re able to play at the beach while waiting for your food
    • Most restaurants claim the beach right in front of their establishment and offer free lounge chairs and umbrellas to patrons
    • Most restaurants are open, for an opportunity to get off the sand and eat while still enjoying the view or watching kids play
    • You’ll find a variety of cuisines as An Bang Beach visitors are from all over the world
    • Easy to find
    • Some provide giant pillows and hammocks for lounging as well as a water tub to clean off sand
  • Cons:
    • A bit more expensive than other restaurants in town
    • Lead to crowded sections of beach
    • Play loud music
    • Often slow to make food

Our favorite An Bang Beach restaurant is Kahuna’s. It’s an expat favorite where you’ll find delicious food, cheap drinks, a clean pool, bocce ball court, hammocks, private beach access, outdoor showers, plenty of seating, and friendly staff. Kahuna’s is the perfect place for us to go as a family because our son can play in the pool while we eat dinner after all hanging out at the beach. We especially love that their private beach is separated from the rest of the An Bang strip, so it’s much less crowded than other areas!

 

Day Trips From Hoi An

The Beautiful Golden Hands Bridge Danang Vietnam Day trips from Hoi AN The OBriens Abroad Family Travel

There is a lot to do in Central Vietnam! It’s an area you’ll love if you have enough time to explore. Here are some of the best day trips from Hoi An, Vietnam to keep you traveling.

Hue

Hue (pronounced H-WAY) was the national capitol until 1945 and the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty. It is said that beautiful Vietnamese women would come to Hue to live in the emperor’s court, hoping to be chosen as a wife. Those not chosen stayed in Hue, so it now rumored that the most beautiful women in Vietnam live in Hue. Nice, huh?

Hue is a relatively small, cultural town. The main attractions are close together (though still require driving), so you can easily get away with spending just one day here.

  • What to do in Hue, Vietnam:

    • Citadel and Imperial City. A wide moat, thick walls, and canons gaurded the Imperial City. It is now a beautiful section to walk around! Notice the mosaic colored walls and well-manicured lawns.
    • Thien Mu Pagoda. Set along the river, this is a collection of buildings which serve resident monks. Respectfully walk around to see the 7-floored pagoda, a buddhist temple, incredible Buddhist wall art, and the blue car monk Thich Quang Duc drove for his famous demonstration against the Diem regime in Saigon during the Vietnam war.
    • Dragon Boat Tour. Hue is a city on the Perfume River. Across the street from the Thien Mu Pagoda you’ll find women soliciting rides on large dragon boats. You can board with any food you’d like, making for an enjoyable afternoon!
    • Bach Ma National Park. If you’re interested in getting away from town and tourists head to Bach Ma National Park. It’s just outside of Hue and can be access on foot, by moto, or by hiring a private car. Enter the park to hike toward incredible summit views and a beautiful waterfall.

Ba Na Hills

Ba Na Hills is a newly-renovated recreation complex 90 minutes outside of Hoi An. It’s best known for having one of the top ten cable car systems in the world and the brand new Golden Hands Bridge. Ba Na Hills is even more than that, though. The complex is built into three parts on the side of a mountain. Here’s a little more about each section:

  • Bottom Section: This is where you buy entrance tickets and head onto the cable car system. A gondola will carry you from the bottom to the second section, full of incredible scenery and views of Da Nang along the way.
  • Middle Section: This is where the first gondola drops you off. The middle section is where you’ll find the Golden Hands Bridge, an incredible European topiary garden, and Buddhist pagoda. Here you’ll enter a second gondola to take you to the third section.
  • Upper Section: The upper section is home to the amusement park rides of Ba Na Hills. Designed to look like a European city, there are old-fashioned buildings housing rides and entertainment.

Da Nang

Da Nang, Vietnam is the largest city in Central Vietnam. It’s where you’ll find the region’s airport and train station, as well as major beach resorts.

What to do in Da Nang: 

  • Conventional Shopping. Once you’ve settled into Hoi An Da Nang is the closest city to do major home shopping. There are multiple Wal-Mart-style shopping centers to outfit your home, kitchen, and closet.
  • Visit the beach.  The Da Nang coast is well-maintained and fun to visit. There’s plenty of space for everyone, and you’ll also find restaurants nearby and fishing boats ready to take you out for a good time
  • The Marble Mountains. The Marble Mountains is a set of hills where marble was harvested for ornamental statues and figurines. You can now access the top of the hills via glass elevator, or take any of the hiking trails up. 
  • Chua Linh Ung. This is a Buddhist pagoda with a famous Buddha statue facing the ocean.

 

Hoi An, Vietnam with Kids

Hoi An Vietnam with Kids Best things to do in Hoi An With Kids Expat Life in Hoi An The OBriens Abroad Family Travel

Hoi An is a great destinations for families! You’ll find plenty of expat families living here with great joy. Living in Hoi An gives children an opportunity to learn a new culture and be exposed to incredible nature and wholesome activities. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Hoi An with kids:

Merlin’s Homeschool

There are three well-regraded international schools for English-speaking children. We chose to send our first grader to Merlin’s Homeschool because they accepted him on a month-to-month basis. I also love that their class is capped to less than 10 children and that they have a child-led philosophy on education and play. Best of all, tuition is less than half the cost of the other schools!

Jack’s Cat Cafe

Jack’s Cat Cafe is one of our son’s favorite places. Here he can roam around and play with loose kittens. They are treated well and provided with all of the food and toys they need to enjoy interacting with humans on a daily basis!

Dingo Deli

Dingo Deli is an expat hot spot. What families, in particular, love about Dingo Deli is the indoor and outdoor playground available in the back. It also offers wifi, so parents can bring a laptop or phone and have some work time while kids play in a safe, fun atmosphere.

Kahuna’s Pool & Restaurant

As previously mentioned, Kahuna’s is one of our favorite places to take our son in Hoi An. We are able to supervise him at the private beach or playing in the heated pool, and they have a specific delicious, kid-friendly menu children love! The staff is very welcoming to families and work hard to promote a kind, respectful atmosphere.

Other Resources for Families

If you’re looking to join a playgroup or find a babysitter in Hoi An request to join the Hoi An Parents Facebook group. It’s full of parents in-the-know who are happy to give out any advice they have! There is no reason to navigate Hoi An alone. It does kids well to meet other children, and parents need some friendly support, too!

 

We think Hoi An, Vietnam is the perfect city to live as an expat. Hopefully this guide will help you settle in!

 

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