Here’s what we did in Hoi An, Vietnam!
Travel Dates: 27-29 July 2015
Airline: We spent our 1st 3 days in Vietnam in Hanoi & Halong Bay, so we flew JetStar from Hoi An to DaNang for only $52 per person!
Leaving, we flew from DaNang to Siem Reap on Vietnam Air for $168 each.
Visa: As of 2015, U.S. citizens need a visa for both Vietnam and Cambodia. (Always check with the embassy before leaving to see if the rules have since been updated!)
We used https://vietnamvisa.govt.vn/ to purchase the visas online at least 48 hours in advance (you can pay a rush fee if it’s within 48 hours). It’s pretty simple, but you need to bring money for the stamping fee and 2 passport sized photos.
Hotel: La Residencia Hoi An Luxury Boutique Hotel
I searched TripAdvisor reviews, Orbitz, Expedia, and asked on different travel groups for good hotel recommendations. This hotel was ranked #11 on TripAdvisor, had a great location, wi-fi, a fitness center, & pool. For $69 per night on Expedia Although the fitness center was a bit of a joke (a treadmill, a very small elliptical and very small bike not made for Westerners, and a weight machine), the hotel was a great deal!
Transportation: From the DaNang airport to Hoi An, a taxi is $15-25.
We paid for the hotel car to bring us from the airport to hotel. It was $20 for up to 4 people. The driver had to wait 1.5 hours for us too because our flight was delayed. A taxi would have been a few dollars less, but this was easy.
On the way back to the airport, we had the hotel book us a shuttle. It was 110,000 VND (about $5) per person. It was just as fast, but there was no one else to pick up on our trip so we were lucky.
In Hoi An, you can walk everywhere! (If you want, you can use a hotel bike, rent a bike, or moped, but there’s really no need. Our hotel had a free shuttle to the beach too.)
Itinerary: We’re now on Day 4 of our Vietnam & Cambodia vacation!
Day 1 in Hoi An – Arrival:
We arrived around dinner time, so after checking in we headed out for dinner and the night market. Our hotel was in a great location, just a block from the market and famous bridge with lanterns floating in the river below it. There’s also a famous Japanese covered bridge just a block further. We found a delicious restaurant right along the river, Thuan Y. They served 8,000 TND ($0.33) local fresh beer. Cau Lau is the famous local noodle dish, similar to the Japanese udon noodles. The night market had stalls filled with lanterns, beaded jewelry, and other typical souvenirs.
The hotel had a delicious continental breakfast with many local items such as dim sum, rice, various pancake-like cheese items, and exotic fruit. The hotel is only 2.5 months old, so the staff is very eager to please. The manager walked around and greeted everyone.
- Work out! After eating so many noodle & rice based dishes, we were eager to work out! It was a bit rainy, but we headed out for a run to explore the town, and possibly get to the beach (failed). We thought the beach was only 3-4 miles, but after getting rather far, we turned back to try to find the other beach, but that also was too far. We could have made it, but we were constantly dodging traffic (mopeds, taxis, etc.) and since they park many mopeds on the sidewalk we kept bouncing between the street and sidewalk. Anyway, we made it about 6 miles round trip and had fun exploring the area. (The hotel’s fitness center had a treadmill, but the bike and elliptical were made for small people.)
- Lunch at Dupont, located along the river. It was pretty good, but no fresh beer.
- Shopped around town, looking at custom dresses and suits, but I was too overwhelmed and decided not to buy anything. (We also thought we had a more restrictive baggage allowance, but came to find out we could have had more weight on Vietnam Airlines than VietJet. Oops. VietJet was 7kg max and we paid for a checked bag (15kg was $6.19 if pre-purchased), and Vietnam Airlines was 7kg but we didn’t pay for a checked bag because it wasn’t offered during the purchase process. Later I found I could buy a bag for about $12, but we opted not to because we were backpacking. At the airport, we found out we could have checked up to 20kg for free on Vietnam Airlines since it was international to Cambodia!)
- Massage! It was 500,000 VND for 2 people for a 1 hour Vietnamese Massage (full body).
- On the way to dinner, I decided to stop at a dress shop because she was offering $10 dresses. I figured since I couldn’t decide on a business suit, I should at least try a custom sundress. After finding a few designs, she walked me to her fabric warehouse. It was hard to pick the fabric, and she wasn’t too helpful. She showed me the more expensive fabric first, and I kept asking for the $10 fabric. It was on a dirty top shelf that no one could reach. There was $20 fabric nearby that I liked though, so I ended up buying a $20 dress. (I picked it up the next morning, and it was awesome to have something custom fitted! No lining, so not very fancy, but still a fun experience.)
- Dinner at Secret Garden. The Danish family that we met on the Halong Bay cruise recommended it. It was adorable! It’s in the center of town, but hidden down a little alley. It’s “fancy” compared to other restaurants, but I say “fancy” because the most expensive thing was still under $10 USD! The fried wontons were delicious! (They tasted almost like Mexican tacos.) I wasn’t too impressed with our other food though (orange beef and pork rice paper rolls). The atmosphere was very romantic.
- Late night snack at the restaurant from the night before (Thuan Y) for some 8,000 VND (30-40 cent) fresh beer and a small pizza while people watching over the river.
- Work out: Ran around the city, including down some back streets to see how the locals live. (My husband was chased by a dog and they were laughing at us.) Once you leave the pedestrian only zone, it’s much harder to run because of all of the mopeds/traffic.
Today was a light day, we just enjoyed walking around the town, lunch on the river, and preparing for our flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia!
Tips for traveling:
-If you want a custom suit or dress, bring pictures with you of what you want! Also know the fabric. They have look-books, but it is very overwhelming and if they don’t have your exact style it’s hard to describe to them.
-Most places charge 3-4% to use your credit card, so either prepare to take money out of the ATM (30,000 VND fee) often or bring cash. USD is widely accepted.
-Hoi An is more of a relaxing, quaint town with access to beaches. If you also want to visit Hue or DaNang, it would be close enough (30 minutes) for you to stay in DaNang and take day trips to Hoi An and Hue. We didn’t have time to see Hue, but considered it.
-Hoi An vendors bargained more than in Hanoi, but the prices started higher. Both cities had plenty of options for North Face products, purses, and more. Hoi An had more shops for custom suits/dresses, leather bags/shoes, hammocks, and other hand-made goods (wine holders, bowls, hats, etc.).