With a distinct French influence and local Vietnamese beauty, Hoi An is one of those destinations that seems other-worldly. Wandering along the streets of the Old Town, peering into dimly lit, historic buildings and pausing for coffee and pastries, it feels like you could have stepped into the pages of a storybook. Hoi An is a special place, a charming little town offering great food, a relaxed atmosphere, endless photo opportunities and a divine backdrop for your adventures. If you’re planning your first trip but aren’t quite sure where to start, here’s my essential first timer’s guide to everything you need to know about visiting Hoi An.
Must-know tips for arriving in Hoi An
First things first, you’re going to need to check out the Visa requirements. As an Australian, I need a visa to enter Vietnam. You can do your visa on arrival but I’d encourage you to do it before you go as it’s much easier and less stressful. You can arrange one in advance through the Embassy in your home country, be sure to check the relevant website for details on how to do this. We live in Brisbane and posted our passports, along with a money order, down to the Embassy in Canberra and had them back within a few days. It was surprisingly easy.
How to get to Hoi An
To get to Hoi An, you’re going to need to fly to Da Nang. We’ve visited Hoi An twice and, both times, flew from Hanoi to Da Nang. I don’t believe there are any direct flights from Australia to Da Nang so you might like to fly to Hanoi, spend a few days exploring then fly down to Da Nang. We flew with Vietnam Airlines and had a great experience, the airline felt reliable, the flight was on-time, seats were comfortable and offered a good amount of space and the service was great!
Once you arrive into Da Nang you’ll need to make your way to Hoi An. It’s an easy 45-minute drive from the airport to Hoi An. I would recommend booking a hotel or resort that offers an airport transfer, either as part of your booking or at an additional fee. The last thing you want to be doing is trying to find a taxi and figure out a price with the driver, having your transfer pre-organised will make your life a lot easier. One thing to note, on our first visit, the driver stopped at a marble gallery and we felt obliged and a little pressured to feign interest in it and buy something. If you don’t want to visit one of these places, you don’t have to – just tell the driver in advance you don’t want to stop.
Best time to visit
Hoi An offers warm temperatures pretty much all year round, but it’s important to be mindful of the rainy season and hotter months when planning your trip. The dry season runs from around February through to August while monsoon season runs from September to January. We’ve visited twice in October and experienced rainy drizzles and the occasional storm, but nothing holiday-ending (even a typhoon couldn’t stop us!) February to April is a safe bet as it’s warm but not too humid. You’ll find the weather particularly hot from June to August and rainy from September to January. If you want to avoid hot weather altogether, try planning your trip from November to January.
Where to stay: Luxe to Less
With so many different options available, it can be confusing trying to pick a spot that’s best for you. Here’s a look at two great hotel options, perfect for the budget-conscious traveller and the flash traveller.
Luxe: Sunrise Premium Resort
If you’re looking for a luxe stay with a tropical, beach vibe, check out Sunrise Premium Resort. The five-star resort offers a gorgeous base for your Hoi An adventures, with fantastic service, delicious dining options and a beautiful hotel layout. The pool will knock your socks off, complete with tropical palms, white sand and beach chairs perfect for relaxing. For a special stay, you might like to consider staying in one of their suites or villas, offering a little more luxury and privacy. The villas also offer your own private pool to swim, soak and relax. Best of all, the resort overlooks the beach so you get easy beach access, gorgeous views and that true holiday vibe.
Less: Vinh Hung Emerald Resort
If you’re on a budget but still want to stay somewhere nice, check out Vinh Hung Emerald Resort. Conveniently located within walking or bicycle riding distance to everything, it’s a great base for those looking to explore Hoi An properly. The hotel has a large pool overlooking the river and a number of deck chairs and umbrellas for relaxing under. The rooms are simple but comfortable, with high ceilings, dark furnishings and a huge bed. The balcony and the hanging nest-style seat are great for sitting and relaxing.
The best things to see and do in Hoi An
There’s a wealth of things to see and do in Hoi An, here are my picks on a few of the very best.
- Explore Hoi An’s Old Town on foot and take yourself on a DIY tour – it’s hard to get lost and the photography opportunities are endless!
- Wander the bright lights of the Hoi An Night Market and, inevitably, get sucked into buying a gorgeous lampshade
- Have clothes custom made at a local tailor, just be sure to specify exactly what you want and spare no detail
- Join a cooking class and learn to prepare all your favourite Vietnamese treats
- Visit the Japanese Covered Bridge and snap some photos of the historic site
- Take a trip to Cua Dai or An Bang Beach to soak in the beach vibes
- Hire bicycles and ride around town, finding hidden pockets of beauty and new places to eat
- Check out the historic Tan Ky House, built over two centuries ago
- Photograph and explore the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation
- Join the Full Moon Festival and get your party on!
- Take a guided food tour of Hoi An Old Town
Where to eat and must-try food
So much food, so little time! There are a lot of great places to eat and awesome food to try in Hoi An, here are my tips on a few of the best.
- Head to the Cargo Club for delicious pastries and a yummy menu to suit all tastes
- Get a great cup of coffee at Mia Coffee
- Have a truly unique experience at Reaching Out Tea House, which provides jobs for the hearing impaired
- Visit Banh Mi Phuong for the best Banh Mi in Hoi An (it’s Anthony Bourdain approved!)
- For a fancy experience, visit Aubergine 49 and dine on modern European cuisine
- Dine at Streets and contribute to the education and advancement of locals (while feasting on delicious food)
- Head to Nu Eatery for small plates of absolutely divine Vietnamese fare
- Enjoy delicious Vietnamese dishes at crowd favourite, Mai Fish
What to pack
There’s absolutely no need to overpack when visiting Vietnam, in fact, you’ll want to leave room in your luggage for all the things you pick up along the way. I’d recommend packing light, comfortable clothing that breathes well, especially if you’re visiting in the warmer months. If visiting in the rainy or cool seasons, pack an umbrella and maybe one light cardigan or scarf to cover your shoulders in the afternoon. Read my full, detailed guide on what to pack for a trip to Vietnam here.
It’s important to keep in mind Vietnam is a conservative country, so while it’s not required, it’s respectful to wear clothing that observes this. I recommend light cotton dresses and skirts that aren’t too short. You should also be wary of donning low-cut tops and exposing your mid-region.
Watch our ‘How to spend a luxurious week in Vietnam’ video
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.