travel tips &  itinerary 

Hoi An is the ultimate destination as there is so much to do - you have the history with an interesting and unique city centre to explore, a gorgeous beach close by, there is great shopping where you can get tailored shoes, clothes and leather goods and there is so much to discover in the countryside that surrounds. There are several links within this itinerary so you can watch travel vlogs based on the locations mentioned, and I've Google mapped locations to each spot for convenience. I have also highlighted my absolute favourite places I visited, so you will know that these come highly recommended. 


 

Travel tIPS

  • GETTING THERE | Hoi An doesn't have an airport, and the closest one is in Da Nang which is a 45-minute drive away. When I was looking at flights from Hong Kong to Da Nang direct (without stopping first in Saigon or Hanoi) I was completely limited to one airline only, Hong Kong Express - and the flights weren't cheap. Once in Da Nang, you can either get a taxi or Grab (Asia's Uber alternative), or ask your accommodation if they offer airport pick up service. Our Airbnb host did and offered $320,000 VND ($20 NZD) one way. 

  • visas | New Zealanders need a visa to enter Vietnam even if you are only staying for a short period of time, and you can read more about it HERE. I highly recommend you apply for this online and fill out all the forms before you go - applications can take up to 3 weeks to process, however, there is a more expensive fast track option if you need it. As well as this form, you will also need to print the visa approval document that they send to you (so two documents/forms all together), and you will also need two passport photos per person as well as $25 USD per person as an entry fee (on top of the Visa application fee). I had all of this prepared and ready to hand over at immigration. IMPORTANT: On arrival at the airport, as soon as you clear security you need to take the forms to the 'VISA APPLICATION' counter BEFORE lining up to clear immigration - the forms actually needed to be verified and photocopied at this counter first before you can make your way through immigration. At the Da Nang airport, this visa counter had the big yellow sign. And, of course, there are no signs or instructions given to explain any of this at the airport, so it can be a little confusing. Once you have finished at the Visa counter you can join any of the lines (the foreigner's line is always huge) so we joined the 'flight crew' line and this was no problem. You can apparently pay for an E-Visa and also a fast-tracking service, but I did not look into this.

  • money exchange | This is the first city I have been to where it has been recommended to exchange money at 'gold stores', ie shops that sell jewellery. The way to do it is you go in and ask what their rate is, and that with 3 or 4 places then go back to the one that's the best rate! We just used ATM machines which is an easy way of getting money out and they are dotted all over town. Just check the bank fees and alert your bank that you are travelling. 

  • lantern festival | Once a month on the evening of the full moon in Hoi An, there is a lantern festival. You can check this calendar HERE to see if you can be here when one of these special festivals is happening.


 

getting tailored clothes made

Hoi An is known for its craftsmanship and tailors - a tradition resulting from its past as a trading port on the silk route. One of the things that I was most excited about when coming to Hoi An was getting clothes tailormade. After much research, I went to Tony the Tailor (I have also included a few other suggestions in the itinerary below) and had 16 items of clothing made in total from a five-piece suit for Aaron to dresses, kimonos and jackets. Here is some advice before you go to a tailor in Hoi An:

  • Prepare in advance before you come! I brought all my own fabrics here in New Zealand so I knew I had exactly what I wanted - and I am so glad I did, as I didn't really find the fabric I loved when I got there. However, suit fabric is great there and they do have a good range of linens and that was a little cheaper than in New Zealand.

  • Have pictures ready to show them of the designs you have in mind, or even better, take an item of clothing you already have and love and get them to copy it (in a different fabric). For me, the clothes made which had the best results were the ones where they had that physical item to copy from. I had taken a bomber jacket and had it made in a navy and black camo, and they had made it IDENTICAL to the original. I'm so happy with it! 

  • I printed a little booklet of images (even pics of the physical items) and stapled a sample of the corresponding fabric to each image.
    I had so many items, and lots of black fabric, so I wanted to make sure the right fabric was being used on the correct design. I was also able to write down notes and details on each page for the designs.

  • You have to be as precise and as detailed as you can with your description to get the result you want. From the fit, to the arm length to how you want the shoulders to sit...the more details they have the easier it is for them to create what you want.

  • They will do several fittings to make sure everything is perfect, and you get the opportunity to make changes if you need. The turn around time is usually 48 hours or less depending on the number of things you are ordering. 

  • Their speciality is tailoring, and clothing that fits the body well, so save your money and don't get floaty dresses etc made, it will be much cheaper to get these at a mall. Go for items like jackets as this is where you will really see their tailoring magic. The concept of oversized stuff was a bit weird to them - I got a really cool oversized mesh dress made (to wear over a slip dress) and the size was not big enough, they kept wanting to make it more fitted. But the shop owners want to make sure you are happy, so after a couple of fittings and adjustments, it came out just how I wanted it. 

  • Aarons five-piece suit (pants, shorts, vest, shirt and jacket) which cost $135 USD was made to perfection! Suits really are their speciality. 

    As well as clothing you can also get shoes made. Any shoes - but leather seems to be a speciality here. Again, take a photo in or a shoe to copy, give them 24-48 hours (each store may vary) and you will have your very own custom pair of shoes! I didn't end up getting this done, but a recommendation I found from research is 'Friendly Shoe Shop', s
    ee on TripAdvisor HERE.

 

 

accommodation 
I have not listed the Airbnb we stayed at in Hoi An as it was really noisy at night, so we did not get a good sleep while there. We were tired after leaving Hoi An because of it. Instead, here are two other places I found when researching.

  • AIRBNB BOUTIQUE HOTEL (mid-range)  | A luxury hotel with a gym, swimming pool with a swim up bar, buffet breakfast is included in the price and it is centrally located along the Hoai river. The rooms look gorgeous and the reviews sing the praises of the facilities and service here. At $79 NZD a night, it is well worth it. | Link HERE

  • AIRBNB ENTIRE HOUSE (pricier) | An amazing bungalow with beachy/tropical vibes right on the An Bang beachfront. It is a little pricier for Vietnam at $118 NZD a night, but its all about location - and to sweeten the deal, breakfast is also included in the price. Link HERE

videos TO WATCH

  • Hoi An travel vlog - view on YouTube HERE.

  • A video on what to eat in Hoi An, HERE.

     

itinerary DAY ONE

  • TOUR | Hidden gems of Hoi An | Being the first day, a tour of Hoi An with a local guide might just be the perfect introduction. The tour is described as: “We are honoured to show you our beautiful city thru the walk into backstreets to discover inside perspectives and secrets that only a local guide can offer. We will visit local family businesses that produce and sell products in Hoi An. You’ll learn how the Vietnamese produce organic bean sprouts and Cao Lau noodle in its factory. Then we’ll keep walking into trails of local flow to learn more about our family temple, market, architecture and lifestyle – a favourite walk that shares everything and true stories stunning about this ancient city. You will learn how Japanese, Chinese, and Westerners have impacted life in Hoi An and its cuisine. We’ll enjoy local foods at a variety of stops”. The tour is $36 NZD per person and I liked that it was only 3 hours, so you had the rest of the day to do other activities. It is from 8am-11am, and you can see the details of the tour HERE.
     A must see 

  • TAILOR | There are over 400 tailor shops in Hoi An, so that can be overwhelming trying to choose one. There are a rare few among the 400+ shops that repeatedly come out on top, and here are the top three which I found from my research that won't break the bank! TIP: Go to the tailor in the morning so that they have time to make the items - most places require a 48-hour turnaround.
    Tony the Tailor | This was the Tailor we went with in the end after going to get a few different quotes at other tailors. This one wasn't the cheapest, but we felt like they asked good questions, and that the attention to detail was going to be great. It has amazing reviews on TripAdvisor, people say because it is a little off the main Tailor street, their rates are slightly better than some of the bigger and more well-known places (like Bebe tailor), with impeccable tailoring to match. Read more on TripAdvisor HERE
    HOURS: 8 am - 8 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

    FAIFOO | Has good reviews on TripAdvisor also! See HERE.  
    HOURS: 8 am - 9 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

    Heavenly | Found this tailor on YouTube, and their TripAdvisor reviews are great. Also has a certificate of excellence. See HERE.
    HOURS:  8 am - 8 pm

    ADDRESS: HERE

  • SIGHTS | Old Town  | Hoi An was once a major Southeast Asian trading post in the 16th and 17th centuries and is basically a living museum that houses old-town architecture. I read somewhere that during the Vietnam War (or American War, as said in Vietnam), Hoi An was not affected by the bombs, so the old buildings were not lost. The Ancient Town entrance ticket costs 120,000 VND ($7.50 NZD) and this fee goes towards the maintenance and preservation of the city. Old Town tickets can only be bought at specific ticket stalls, and not at individual heritage sightseeing places. There are ticket stalls located in small yellow huts around the outskirts of the old town’s designated walking area.
    ADDRESS: HERE

     A must see 

  • SIGHTS | Quang Trieu Cantonese Assembly Hall | This beautiful and ornate building was constructed by Cantonese merchants and displays traditional Southeast Asian architecture from the late 19th century, dating back to 1885. See on TripAdvisor HERE. As seen on YouTube HERE (at 4:19 sec).
    HOURS: 7 am - 6 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • SALON/SPA | Ba-La Well Salon | I visited this spa twice when I was here, and the service was excellent - I love how meticulous they were. Aary got an incredible massage, and I got a shampoo and blow-dry with the BEST scalp massage for $13 NZD, and also a gel manicure and pedicure with heal treatment added on. This Spa/salon has a certificate of excellence on TripAdvisor, see HERE.
    HOURS: 9 am - 7 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE
    A 2-minute walk to Bale Well restaurant
     A must visit 

  • FOOD | BALE WELL |  Unlike other restaurants, as soon as you sit down, almost moments later the food arrives as it is a set menu (no ordering). The menu is grilled pork satay, Bánh xèo (pancakes), spring rolls, fresh herbs, vegetables and salads + sauces which combined together in thin rice paper creates a mouth-watering dish. If you ask, you will also get shown how to eat the dish. The price is $120,000 Dong ($7.50 NZD) per person. As seen on YouTube HERE (from 1:46 sec)
    HOURS: 6:30 am - 9:30pm
    ADDRESS: HER

  • CAFE | Reaching out tea house | This cafe employees and supports people in the community with speech or hearing impairments, and therefore the cafe is silent. They have word blocks to communicate with customers. It is much more expensive than other cafes in town, however. They also have a shop next door that sells wears made by the same community, and the sales help support them. I love this tea strainer HERE.
    HOURS: 8:30 am - 9 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • DINNER | Vy's Market Restaurant | Looks like a great place to come for dinner. A little more expensive (mid-range) but I like the look of the claypot, called Thit Kho here see in this video HERE (at 5:30 sec). The ‘tender caramelised pork cubes cooked in a claypot served with rice’ was the dish to order, which is $125,00 Dong ($7.50 NZD). Can share this and get other things on their extensive menu. Read more on TripAdvisor HERE where they have a certificate of excellence.
    HOURS: 7 am - 10:30 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

 

 

DAY two

  • MARKET | Central Market | When Hoi An became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, all street food carts were relocated to the Central Food Market, in an attempt to improve street cleanliness. Head here and you will eat like a king (or a local), and most of the dishes here will cost you just over $1 (NZD) depending on the serving size. Wash down with the traditional nước mía, sugar cane juice. When we visited in the morning, and as well as seeing the fresh market with all the products and local ingredients, this is where I had done a lot of shopping. I got a kitchen knife, bowls, baskets, wooden spoons and more...just make sure to take cash! NOTE: I didn't do any bargaining here at this market, the first price they offered was always so cheap with the conversion, so I was more than happy with their suggestions - they were happy and so was I. EXTRA TIP: I had the Jurno currency converter app downloaded to my phone so it was always easy to check prices where ever I was. 
    HOURS: 5 am - 4 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

     A must visit 

  • CAFE | PHINS ESPRESSO | The perfect cafe for a daily caffeine fix, serving  Vietnamese and Italian style and also speciality drip coffee. They have a certificate of excellence onTrip advisor, see HERE. 
    HOURS: 8 am - 5:30 pm

     A must visit 

  • AN BANG BEACH | SHORE CLUB  | The shore club has all the beach club facilities you would need - towels, loungers, a small pool and shower area, great food and cocktails! The food and facilities are more expensive than what you get in town, but it’s what you would expect for a beach club. The classic cocktails are $140,000 Dong ($8.80 NZD) and a bottle of Vietnamese beer is $50,000 Dong ($3 NZD). Order their HOI AN SPECIALTY PLATTER for two people, $430,000 ($27 NZD), looks great and has grilled pork, prawn sugar cane, fried wontons, rice pancakes, fresh spring rolls & white rose dumplings. See on TripAdvisor HERE.
    HOURS: 7 am - 11 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • TOUR | COUNTRYSIDE TOUR | This is the tour I have mentioned throughout this travel guide that we did with our guide Harry, and we absolutely loved it! Read more about it HERE.
    HOURS: Afternoon - evening tour 

     A must see 

  • DINNER | Bánh Xèo Cô Anh | The menu here has only three items on it; Banh Xeo, two types of skewered pork and spring rolls. It has amazing reviews on TripAdvisor, see HERE. Co Anh 05 Nguyen Hoang, which is that street that sells a bunch of lanterns on the other side of Hoi An across from the Japanese Bridge.
    HOURS: 9 am - 8 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

 

 

DAY THREE

  • TOUR | Cooking class | We didnt get to do this tour as we did a second tour with Harry, but I thought I would leave it in in case you were looking for a cooking tour to do while here. This 6-hour cooking class offers a market tour, a boat ride to a village and cooking with a granddaughter and her grandmother. “We offer you more than simply a cooking class. You will embark on an unforgettable voyage into the heart of the Hoi An countryside and be welcomed into my family’s home where you will learn to prepare the Vietnamese cuisine of this region as it has been traditionally prepared and continues to be prepared by my grandmother today. Your voyage will begin by a boat ride to the village where I was raised, on a small island in the centre of the river delta that borders Hoi An. You will meet the warm and friendly people that live in the Hoi An countryside. We will visit their gardens where they raise the aromatic plants and spices used in the daily preparation of the regional dishes. You will learn to use these indigenous plants during your cooking lesson. Your next stop is my family’s home, where my grandmother still lives. Here you will begin your cooking lesson. You will learn how to prepare several dishes and how to adapt our Vietnamese recipes to use ingredients available in your country so that you can easily reproduce these recipes when you return home.” See more on their website HERE and on YouTube HERE (at 2:30 sec). They also have a certificate of excellence on TripAdvisor which you can view HERE. It costs $30 USD per person and if you want a market tour, it is an additional $7.50 USD. 

  • SALON/SPA | Ba-La Well Salon | After a day of swimming at the beach the day before, I thought it would be great to pop in here (again) and get a shampoo/blow dry. 
    HOURS: 9 am - 7 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

  • BANH MI | You can get Manh Mi all over Hoi An, but the locations below are the most famous and popular. One sandwich will cost you $20,000 Dong, that’s only $1.20 NZD! See more on Hoi An Banh Mi in the videos HERE and HERE.
    Madam Khanh - the Banh Mi Queen | We visited this banh mi shop three times on our trip, it is SO delicious, and cost $1.20 NZD per roll. Also, their juices are incredible too! “Nguyễn Thị Lộc, 79, makes the best bánh mì in Hoi An—and probably all of Vietnam. Lộc's shop is 15 minutes north of the Thu Bon river. It’s tucked away in a less touristy part of the city and has had her storefront for 30 years, and has been selling street food for almost 50. It's a simple place with four tables behind her sandwich stand, which is perched just off the street at the forefront of the shop” - Munchies. Read more in this article HERE. Sit in and enjoy the sandwich with a Vietnamese coffee.
    HOURS: 7 am - 8 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

     A must visit 
    Banh Mi Phuong | Made famous by Anthony Bordanine (see HERE), this place always had long lines and a delicious Banh Me to match! Many say it’s the best in town! Order the BBQ pork one.
    HOURS: 6:30 am - 9:30 pm 
    ADDRESS: HERE

  •  BASKET BOAT TOUR | Visiting the historical and cultural relic of Cam Thanh Nipa palm Site and enjoying the ecological scenery. Here, you will be enthusiastically welcomed by the local people, they will lead you to visit the creeks in the water coconut woods by basket boats, you will be instructed to fish crabs and you will see the performances of rowing basket boats by the local rower. This small family run business also has a variety of other tours and have amazing reviews on TripAdvisor, see HERE. The tour costs $189,000 Dong ($12 NZD) per person. 
    CONTACT VIA WHATSAPP: +84 935828981

  • SIGHTS | Riverboat cruise | There are boats all along the waterfront, take your pick as to what boat you want to take a cruise on.

  • LUNCH OR DINNER | RED DRAGON | This place was recommended to us by our Airbnb host, and it turned out to be our favourite restaurant in Hoi An. It's Vietnamese / French fusion cuisine, and we loved it so much - we ate here three times during this trip. This was actually Aaron's favourite restaurant of the whole trip! The seafood is cooked so perfectly like their snapper and seared tuna and they were paired with fruity salsas (not usually my thing, Aary was all about it, but I have to admit, I did really enjoy it) , we also adored their 18-hour pork belly, the coconut sticky rice they served with everything, and their crème brûlée was the best I have ever had!
    HOURS: 8:30 am - 10 pm
    ADDRESS: HERE

     A must visit 

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