A guide to Hoi An on a budget
Hoi An is the food capital of Vietnam- it is full of delicious fresh street vendors and a lot of authentic culture in the streets!
From wherever you are you don’t need to book travel journeys until the day or so before you plan to leave.
From Hanoi you can take a cheap overnight train which takes about 18 hours. If you don’t have the time for that take a short 1hr flight with VietJet Air for around $65.
From Hue you can take the train for around $10 and this will only take a few hours and is pretty comfortable. However it stops at Da Nang and then you need to travel 30minutes to Hoi An. You can take a cheaper bus for $5 and this will take slightly longer however is direct.
From Nha Trang you can take a 12 hour bus for about $15.
I would recommend staying at either Sunflower or Greenfields Hotel. Despite the name they are most definitely hostels and are flooded with backpackers. I stayed at Sunflower Hotel and the staff were sometimes disorganised, however I was there by myself and the social atmosphere well outweighed that. It was ridiculously easy to meet new people (I made literally 30 friends there). One of the biggest bonuses was their free breakfast. This was a huge buffet of all western and local food and filled us up for most of the day!
Both are situated in between the Cua Dai beach and Old Town (about 10minutes to each), although there isn’t much to do directly where it is. This was never an issue as most people rent bicycles and ride around. Alternatively you could stay on the beach or in the Old Town. I have been recommended the Prince Hotel which is five stars but often has cheap deals (if you feel like splurging).
Things to see and do
1. Explore the Old Town
Hoi An has a beautiful Old Town to discover which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage and I would recommend spending a day or two wandering the authentic streets trying all the street food you can find.
2. Eat and party on the waterfront
There is a beautiful waterfront in the Old Town that hosts many restaurants and bars. There is also the beautiful old Japanese bridge nearby. If you’re there in late January for Vietnamese New Year (TET) you will find this area covered in lanterns and pop up street vendors, where you sit along the river on plastic stools and celebrate with the locals. There are fireworks and a lot of singing and dancing, it is pretty spectacular to see.
3. Rent a bicycle
Hire a bicycle for $1 and ride around everywhere. The streets are very manageable and it’s the best way to see the town, beach and any places out of reach.
4. Get suits made!
Hoi An is tailor capital of the country. On your travels you will meet people who can recommend tailors and this is the best way to choose, otherwise there are too many. You should pay around $100-$150 for a good suit. Any less than this and you are compromising quality, anymore and you are getting ripped off.
5. Eat at the Banh Mi Queen
This is a unique dining experience to say the least. The Banh Mi Queen has a cart at 115 Tran Cao Van Street and sells the best Banh Mi (Vietnamese specialty of crispy pork salad rolls) for only $1 AUD. You can either take away or sit in what seems to be her living room and enjoy some of the best hospitality on offer. She has become super well known through word of mouth between travellers and this reputation is well deserved!
6. Do a cooking class
There are some fantastic cooking schools in Hoi An that host morning or afternoon classes. You are shown local ingredients, cook an array of dishes taught by established professionals and feast on them afterwards.
7. Chill on the beach
The Cua Dai beach is a lovely stretch with lots of restaurants and resorts. Enjoy some fresh seafood on the sand and soak up the sun.
8. Get pampered!
There are a lot of spa places in the city and near the hotels I recommended. If you bargain with them you can get an hour massage for $6-$10. I got one everyday here- it was the perfect hangover treatment!
Along the waterfront there are bars from one end to the other and they will all coax you into drinking at their bar with offers of free drinks. So find the one with the best atmosphere and you’ll have a good time. Also the restaurants are open until what seemed to be forever so you can chow down on some fresh food before stumbling home.
The hostel I stayed at offered free taxi rides to a nightclub ‘Volcano’ bar which offers $2 all you can drink spirits until midnight. I know what you’re thinking, firstly how do they afford this, secondly is it methanol?! We were certainly skeptical at first but we slowly eased into it and never had any problems with the alcohol quality (just keep your wits about you).
There are also meant to be great beach parties on Cua Dai beach I heard about, however I never got that far.
How long to stay
I stayed five days in Hoi An and managed to do a lot. However I was going at a slow relaxed pace sleeping in regularly after big nights out, so this depends on how much time you can allow.
Take your time and enjoy Hoi An!