Explore Hoi An – The Ultimate Beginner’s Backpacking Guide to Hoi An
The beautiful city of Hoi An has been a definite highlight in my trip to Vietnam. After living in Hoi An for two months I have been able to learn all there is to know about this wonderful place. This ultimate beginner’s backpacking guide to Hoi An will be sure to tell you everything you need to know before you go.
Hoi An is located in central Vietnam and is one of my favourite places on this entire planet (so far). This quaint city has a beautiful historic old town, is easily cycleable or you can scooter around without it being TOO busy, has amazing food (especially the vegetarian and vegan food scene), a beautiful beach, and in the evening, the town and river is covered with beautifully coloured lanterns.
Beginner’s Backpacking Guide to Hoi An
This beginners backpacking guide to Hoi An will be sure to inform you on everything important to make the most of your stay. From how to get here, where to stay, how long you should stay, best places to eat, and the best things to see and do both in the daytime and at night.
Make sure to bookmark this beginner’s backpacking guide to Hoi An while you are planning your trip for easy reference!
Best Way to Get to Hoi An
South to North
Are you travelling Vietnam from south to north? Then the best way to get to Hoi An is by night bus from the closest city you are in. Most likely either Mui Ne, Dalat or Nha Trang, Nha Trang being the closest option. Nha Trang is around 10 hours via night bus.
If you have rented a bike to travel through Vietnam, this would of course be your top choice to get to Hoi An. However, it is an exhausting 12-14 hour bike ride. If you are in fact scootering you will have to stop and stay at one or two small towns along the way. I would recommend making Quy Nhon one of those stops and staying a night or two at a hostel right on the beach.
North to South
Heading from the north of Vietnam down to the south, you will be passing through Hue and Da Nang. Whether you are taking the bus or scootering, I would recommend staying one or two nights in Hue if you have the time. There is a cool abandoned water park to explore as well as some beautiful viewpoints.
Once you are in Hue, if you are comfortable riding a scooter I would recommend renting one that you can pick up in Hue and drop off in either Da Nang or Hoi An. This ride is called the Hai Van Pass, a famous ride that is one of the must-do’s in Vietnam.
If you drop the bike off in Da Nang, or even if you end up getting a bus down instead, I would recommend also staying in Da Nang for a couple of nights so that you can do the attractions close by. Such as Bana Hills (cost 700,000 VND to enter so would recommend doing a full day trip here to enjoy the amusement park as well as the famous hand bridge), Lady Buddha, and Marble Mountains.
After you have enjoyed Da Nang a bit, there are many ways to get from Da Nang to Hoi An. In my opinion the best option for solo travellers is to take the local bus. It is extremely convenient, very easy to do, and costs only 30,000 Vietnamese Dong, or $1.50 USD.
Compared to the alternatives such as renting a private car, which costs around 250,000 VND or $12.50 USD. If you have a bike it is only a short 20km ride from Da Nang to Hoi An.
How Long to Stay in Hoi An
I may be a bit biased because I decided to live in Hoi An for 2 months. However, using a non-biased opinion I think that you need at least 4 or 5 nights here in total.
There are so many things to see and do, way too many delicious restaurants to try. You can be busy with different activities every single day and night.
Best Places to Stay in Hoi An
There are SO many places to stay in Hoi An. A handful of really good hostels, so many homestays and a ton of hotels. I won’t focus on the hotels here though because this post is meant for backpackers, who generally don’t have the money to spend on hotels. Although if you are travelling with one or two friends, this might be an even cheaper option than staying in a dorm room.
1. Tribee Hostels
Tribee has 4 different hostels all located on the same street within walking distance of each other. They also have one a bit further away called Tribee Bana, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this last one as it is not in a very convenient location.
The other 4 Tribee hostels are probably the very best option for solo travellers. They have free activities every single day, as well as free rum and coke on most evenings for a couple of hours. Tribee Kinh is the bar hostel, but it shuts down at 12 so you can easily sleep still. Tribee Ede is the one with a pool. While Tribee Cham, and Tribee Cotu are the quieter ones. It doesn’t matter which Tribee you are staying in, you can enjoy the facilities at each one and join into all of the free activities.
2. Leo Leo Hostels
Leo Leo is probably the second most popular hostel to stay at. They have two locations that are very close to Tribee. The “Little Leo Homestay” is slightly out of town, but they offer free bicycles. And one more called Cucumber Hostel, which is set in a good location not too far away from the first two. It is also a bit cheaper to book than the others.
3. DK’s House
DK’s was my favourite place to stay in Hoi An. It is referred to as a hotel, likely because the majority of the rooms they offer are private. However, they seem more like a hostel as there are usually travellers hanging around, they offer a free beer between 6 and 8pm, and they do have dorm rooms available for booking. The beds here are actually some of the comfiest I have found in my world travels! If you are looking for a social place that isn’t too party then this is your place. They also have a really cute rooftop to watch the sunset on as it’s one of the tallest buildings in Hoi An (with only 4 or 5 floors!).
Where to Eat in Hoi An
I have only been to Da Nang and Hoi An so far so cannot personally compare it to the food in the rest of Vietnam. Other backpackers say that it is some of the best food you can get in Vietnam, which I can totally see. The food here is simply amazing, especially the amount of options for vegetarian and vegan food.
After living in Hoi An for two months I am pretty sure I know the majority of the best and cheapest places to get an amazing meal. So here you go!
Breakfast in Hoi An
Free Hostel Breakfasts ($)
Most hostels and homestays have really good free breakfasts in Hoi An. The Tribee Hostels all have an unlimited breakfast buffet where you can get eggs made to order, toast, pancakes, salad, fruit, as well as tea, coffee and juice. DK’s hostel has a breakfast made to order, in which you can pick an omelette, eggs any way, banana pancake, and unlimited toast and fruit. Usually served from 7am until 10am.
Rosie’s Cafe ($$)
This is one of my all-time favourite breakfast spots. Compared to some other places it really isn’t that expensive, however it is also not on the super cheap side. Some of my favourites here include avocado toast, red beet hummus toast, chia seed pudding, oatmeal, and smoothie bowls. Each one costs between 60,000 – 80,000 Vietnamese dong, or $3 to $4 USD.
Dingo Deli ($$)
This famous deli serves all day breakfast with similar prices to Rosie’s. Costing around 80,000 dong, or $4 USD. Although I have put this under the breakfast menu it may be more of a lunch or dinner place as their deli sandwiches are what make them famous.
You get to pick from a variety of breads, choose your ingredients, including a variety of high-quality deli meats, the absolute best cheese I have had in Asia, and as many vegetables as you want. I had a panini pressed multigrain sandwich with brie and loaded with grilled vegetables and pesto sauce. I was in serious heaven, going back there again tomorrow for my last day here in Hoi An!
Lunch and Dinner in Hoi An
This is going to be an extremely long list. So instead of explaining each one in too much detail I will just make a list for you, with the key points beside each one. Please note that all of these places are vegetarian and vegan friendly.
- AM Vegetarian ($$) – All meals are on average 60,000 VND. Would highly recommend the Braised Eggplant in a Clay Pot with steamed rice.
- Minh Hien ($) – Average meal is also around 60,000 VND or you can get local dishes like Cau Lao, White Rose Dumplings and Pho for between 30 – 40k dong.
- Passion and Passion ($) – A restaurant that looks fancy from the outside but is extremely cheap! They also have the best happy hour that lasts all day long where you can get really nice two-for-one cocktails for only 50,000 VND, or around $1 each.
- Ba Dam Vegan Restaurant (Quan Chay Badam) – ($) – This is my favourite small local vegan place. It is usually packed with customers at all times of the day. You can order off menu where everything costs around 20,000 VND or less ($1 USD). Or opt for the “buffet” option where you can pick everything you want on your plate and costs usually anywhere between 20 – 40k dong.
- Taco NGON ($$) – This is a chain taco places with one also in Da Nang. You can choose either chicken, beef, fish, or vegetarian tacos. The vegetarian ones have either tofu or french fries in them. I thought the fries were a bit strange, so if they do have tofu, definitely opt for that option if you are vegetarian.
- Vegan Zone ($$) – Fresh juices and food to die for. Definitely recommend the noodle soup! (Pictured Above)
- Karma Waters ($$) – Also a strictly vegan restaurant. Their dishes are honestly hit or miss, I had the veggie burger there and wouldn’t strongly recommend. Although I have heard great things from other people about their Indian dishes and other western food. Great vegan desserts here!
- Annen Yoga & Vegetarian ($$) – Meals here cost on average from 50 – 70k dong, and is one of the best Cau Lao’s I have had here. Cau Lao is a local Hoi An specialty with thick noodles, either pork or tofu, lettuce, mint, and a ton of other greens, and a slight soupy sauce with an amazing flavour that you mix everything together in.
- Banh Mi Phuong ($) – This is the famous Anthony Bourdain banh mi place featured on his No Reservations show. They have an amazing tofu and avocado Bahn Mi if you are veggie like me, or you can opt for chicken or beef or even bacon and eggs. Whatever you are feeling! There is often a line here, but if you sit down inside you can get pretty good service.
- Banh Mi Queen ($) – This is a more local Banh Mi stand compared to the always packed touristy Bahn Mi Phuong. It is situated close to the aforementioned Tribee and Leo Leo hostels. Extremely good quality, although if you are vegan they don’t have any tofu alternatives, only egg.
Hoi An Desserts
There are no desserts that are necessarily specific to Hoi An, however there are a multitude of bakery’s and cafe’s in which you can find a variety of freshly baked croissants, cakes, doughnuts and more.
If you love ice cream there are also a lot of surprisingly great gelato places to find whilst just strolling around the old town. Quite common to get two scoops for 65,000 dong or $3 USD.
Vegetarian & Vegan Hoi An Food Note
As you can clearly see from the above list of lunch and dinner food in Hoi An, they have an amazing number of places that are veggie friendly. In fact, it is known to be THE place to get vegetarian and vegan food in Vietnam. So be sure to try out as many restaurants on the list as you can!
If you are new to Vietnam and the language, just look for any restaurant that has the word “Chay” in it. “An Chay”, pronounced [An-Chai], means I am vegetarian. If you are keen for some cheap street food just look for chay. For example Banh Mi Chay, Cao Lau Chay, or restaurants that say “Quan Chay”. You are guaranteed that these are vegetarian, if you are vegan you may want to try and communicate that you don’t want any eggs or dairy. Best to use Google translate for this.
How Much Does Hoi An Cost
With it being such a big tourist destination Hoi An is a tad more expensive than the rest of Vietnam. Don’t let that stop you though because even expensive in Vietnam can be very cheap. The hostel rooms are around $6-8 USD, compared to in the South or North with an average of $4-6 USD.
An local cheap meal will cost you between 20,000 – 40,000 dong ($1-2 USD). While an average meal is about 60,000 dong. Western food is typically a bit higher at between 80,000 – 100,000 dong.
Drinking, as usual is what can get expensive and blow your budget. Beers are of course the cheapest option at around 20-30k dong each, mixed drinks for around 50-80k depending on where you get them, and cocktails which are usually around 120,000. For better deals, see the nightlife section below for the best happy hour spots.
To Do During the Day
In the daytime there are SO many things to do in and around Hoi An. Here is a list of my all-time favourite things that will be sure to keep you busy while you are here.
- Cooking Class – One of the best things to do in Hoi An is definitely the cooking class. The Hoi An Eco Coconut Tour is the most highly recommended. You can choose to either go in the morning or the afternoon. The morning one, although early at 8am, is said to be better because when you go shopping at the market for ingredients it is actually bustling with other locals. Whereas in the afternoon most of the vendors are relaxing and sleeping.
- My Son Sanctuary – A complex of ancient Hindu ruins that were built between the 4th and 13th century. About a 45 minute bike ride from Hoi An. Takes about 2-3 hours to explore and fully enjoy. Would recommend either going early in the morning to beat the heat and crowds, or late afternoon where you can be driving home during sunset.
- Lady Buddha & Marble Mountains – This is a nice adventure that can also be done while you are staying in Da Nang. Or on your way down from the Hai Van Pass, as both of these attractions are closer to Da Nang. However, it is just as easy to rent a bike for the day in Hoi An and spend a few hours out here.
- Bana Hills (Golden Hand Bridge) – I am extremely sad I never got to go here. I was saving it for the end of my Hoi An trip and then ended up getting in a bike accident and can’t walk around very easily. But, I have heard how both crazy and amazing it is. Think of it like a French Disney Land on steroids. This is also where you find the Golden Hand Bridge, but I’d recommend doing an entire day as it costs 700,000 dong to get into, or $35 USD.
- Hoi An Old Town – Take the day exploring the many cafes and restaurants. Visit one of the many tailors if you’re interested in getting something made. Although it is a bit expensive compared to buying normal, un-tailored clothes, but everyone I met who had something done absolutely loves it. Stating “It honestly feels like your slipping into a glove that was made just for you. So amazing.” Make sure to also come back and explore at night time when the weather is a bit cooler and the lanterns are all lit, especially directly by the river.
- Gym & Yoga – Looking to get a bit of exercise or mindfulness in while you are here? There is one amazing gym I’d recommend called SuperFit. It’s a bit expensive for one day at 100,000 dong but if you buy a 3 day pass it’s only 200,000. Which includes access to all of the A/C gym equipment as well as the yoga classes offered. You can even go multiple times a day if you feel like doing gym in the morning and yoga in the evening. There are also many other yoga studios if you are wanting just yoga. Nomad Yoga is a really good one that I haven’t been to personally, but have friends that work there and it does look extremely nice. Costing 200,000 for two classes.
- An Bang Beach – There are two main beaches in Hoi An. An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach. Sadly Cua Dai was affected in a bad storm a little while ago and isn’t quite the same. An Bang beach is said to be the nicer one and I can definitely attest to that fact. Go to Kahuna’s Beach Club to relax, get access to a free pool, a decent food and drink menu, and free beach chairs! Kahuna’s is seriously my happy place.
Hoi An Nightlife
There are two main night markets. The one that is on the side of the river still inside the old town is better for souvenirs and has tiny local food stands set up in the midst of it all. Places where you can actually sit down at a tiny table and be fed real local food. The other night market, and the one people usually talk about when they are referring to “the night market”, is across the bridge on the little island where you’ll find the Tiger Bar and Mr. Bean Bar.
This market is just one street full of different street food vendors and little trinket souvenirs typically found at Asian night markets. Would highly recommend trying the grilled banana that gets topped with coconut flakes and peanuts!
There are some places with really good happy hour. One of the best ones being the Passion and Passion restaurant mentioned above. They serve you proper cocktails for 50,000 dong, but it is also all day happy hour with buy one get one free. So only 25,000 dong or $1.25 for a supremely delicious cocktail.
By the river they typically have happy hour from 9-11pm where cocktails are also buy one get one free. However their cocktails are 120,000 dong, so each cocktail is 60,000 dong or $3 USD. There are a few of these places including Tiger Bar and Mr. Bean Bar.
If you are staying at one of the Tribee Hostels, they typically have free rum and coke from 7-7:30pm, and again from 8:30-9pm. Except on Sunday and Wednesday nights where they do a free spring roll class and dinner at 7pm.
Bars and Clubs
There are two distinct time frames in Hoi An when it comes to going out at night. For lack of a better term, there is pre-party time, and party time.
“Pre-party time” is between 8-midnight where everyone’s had dinner, and is now either drinking at their respective hostels, getting free rum and coke from Tribee, or hitting up some of the other happy hour spots mentioned above.
“Party time” is midnight and afterwards. This is when everyone heads to other places that are open late and offer a more club-like atmosphere.
Hair of the Dog
This bar has to be first on the list because it is Hoi An’s most popular bar and is busy every single night of the week. It doesn’t seem to matter what else is happening. If you arrive at Hair of the Dog around 12:30 am on any evening, it will be packed with drunk tourists ready to party.
This is actually a hostel, and a really nice one at that. However, on Sunday and Wednesday nights they open up their upstairs techno-club. All of the Tribee Hostel stayers tend to come here after their bi-weekly spring roll dinner and neon party. If you love techno music, dancing, drinking and balloons, then this place will have you up until at least 4 in the morning.
This is one of the more popular beach nightclubs. It’s usually only good on certain nights which tend to change a little bit. I believe that Saturday’s are the main night for Opio, but I would recommend doing a quick google or asking around to know for sure before taxiing over there. This is also a techno club, as well as a nice spot to get some good Lebanese food and beautiful beach views during the daytime.
Beginner’s Backpacking Guide to Hoi An
Hoi An has been one of my all-time favourite places in my entire world trip. Find out more about why I decided to live in Hoi An for two months. However with the two months almost up now I am ready to start exploring the North! They say it is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I even get to explore a cave where Avatar was filmed, how awesome is that.
Hopefully this beginner’s backpacking guide to Hoi An gives you a good idea of everything important you need to know. If you think there is something missing, or you found it valuable please comment below! Thanks for reading and as always, happy travelling.