by Karen Quinn, Feb 01 2020
The coastal town of Hoi An in central Vietnam is widely thought to be the prettiest in the whole of the country. Being much less crowded and laid back than the more popular cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh means you should definitely visit Hoi An with kids on your next trip to Vietnam. Hoi An used to be most popular with backpackers working their way across Vietnam but is now a family travel favourite due to it’s explosion of luxury resorts and white sandy beaches. If you’re heading to Hoi An and other parts of Vietnam with kids then I highly recomend you read this post on planning a family trip to Vietnam
Hoi An is not the authentic Vietnam of ten years ago, the booming tourism industry has inflated prices (although it still feels very affordable to Westerners), bought in many recognisable brand names and plenty of tourist friendly activities to try.
Hoi An’s UNESCO status
The old town of Hoi An was given UNESCO world heritage status in 1985 as it is “an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century”. It focusses on the timber framed buildings and mix of cultures – with Chinese, Japanese and European influences.
Things to do in Hoi An with kids
Hoi An is not about crazy theme parks or family focussed attractions, it’s more about exploring, soaking in the culture and learning about this part of the world and it’s people. That said, there are still plenty of things to do to keep the whole family happy. Here are my top recommendations.
The Japanese bridge
Built by Hoi An’s Japanese community in the 16th century, the Japanese bridge is a pretty and interesting insight into the mixed heritage of Hoi An. It won’t take long to walk across but it is worth taking some time to look at the details and enjoy some shade. A visit to the bridge is covered by the Old Town ticket below.
Wander the Ancient Town
This is pretty much how we spent a whole day in Hoi An, just mooching, window shopping and wandering. I love exploring a new place by foot and in Hoi An, it’s really easy to do so. Just make sure you keep a close eye on little ones when you need to cross a road, the bikes can be pretty brutal! If you can, it’s best to visit the old town in the morning or late afternoon, traffic is banned until 11am and then again between 3 and 9.30pm. This rule is “mostly” adhered to!
Hoi An has loads of beautiful art shops and plenty of places you can pick up a lantern to take home with you. I fell in love with the decorated store fronts and flower covered doorways.
Exploring by foot can get pretty hot for kids so we made sure to stop regularly for snacks and cold drinks, in shaded courtyards and air conditioned cafes.
You are supposed to buy a ticket to explore Hoi An old town for a cost of around £4 although we couldn’t quite work out where to get the ticket and no one ever stopped us. I’ve since learnt that you can get a ticket from a few of the yellow booths on the outskirts of the old town – kids are free so for such a reasonable price, it’s best to just buy one when you can.
Get a massage
If all that exploring takes it out of you then a foot massage is a must. There are plenty of small spas to choose from in the village, we just headed into one that took our fancy and enjoyed half an hour of relaxation for under £5.
Hit the beach
Ang Bang is the main and most popular beach. During the winter months, this is a good spot for surfing and you’ll always find kids playing in the waves. Whilst you’re here, make sure you pop into the Salt Pub for a cold beer – it has a fantastic kids playground which can be pretty hard to come by in Vietnam.
Cua Dai is more laid back and a little quieter than Ang Bang. The sand is powder fine and white, the water is clear and perfect for swimming. You’ll find plenty of places to sit with a drink or grab a meal right on the sand.
You can walk the 3 km between both beaches in around an hour and a half. It’s a lovely stroll with plenty of cafes and restaurants along the way. Added bonus is that you’ll pass the “Secret beach” on the walk.
Make and light a lantern
The entire town of Hoi An is covered in lanterns, big, small, colourful and intricate. They represent luck, happiness and wealth and you’ll see them hanging from trees, buildings and strung across the streets.
Lantern making in Hoi An may be a little fiddly for tiny hands so this is probably an activity for teens upwards. There are loads of lantern making workshops available. You can usually start from complete scratch or with a pre-made frame you just fix the fabric to. The second option is obviously a lot easier.
Visit the Lantern festival
These days the Hoi An lantern festival seems to happen most nights. You can light a lantern and head out on a boat with it. The ride is only around 15 minutes and will cost just a few pounds.
Vinpearl Land Nam Hoi An
Opened in 2018, Vinpearl land is a theme park with a huge water park, funfair, thrill rides and a river safari. It’s not exactly authentic Vietnam but it will keep the kids happy for a day. It will take you around 20 minutes to drive there from Hoi An. Book discount tickets for Vinpearl Land on Klook. Entry is just £18 for adults and £13.50 for kids.
Get some clothes made
Hoi An is famous for Tailors and you’ll pass many as you walk through the streets. They’re famous for good reason, the clothes are all great quality and the tailors are highly skilled. You can choose pretty much whatever design you like so make sure you have a picture on your phone ready to go. Kids will love getting measured up and having something specially made.
Do a bit of research before you choose your tailor. The popularity of the industry in Hoi An has led to hundreds of less than skilled tailors popping up. Everyone you meet seems to have a friend who can make you a dress for a good price. Ask at your hotel for recommendations, you may have to pay a bit more but it’s still cheaper than getting something custom made back home.
Take a boat trip
You’ll see the pretty boats tied up all along the Thu Bon River near the An Hoi Bridge, their owners will call out to you offering rides as you pass. It really is a fun way to take in the area and the breeze is extremely welcome off the muggy streets. You can opt for anything from just an hour on the water to half a day depending on how much time you have to spare. Make sure you negotiate the cost before you get on – owners are never aggressive but prices can easily be walked down in a friendly way.
Visit a museum
Some of the old houses in Hoi An have been transformed into museums. They’re a bit odd and can’t hold too many people at once but it does make for an interesting insight into the Hoi An of old. You could also try the Museum of Folk Culture which covers traditions and dress of rural Vietnamese culture.
Where to stay in Hoi An
Hoi An luxury accommodation
For the ultimate in a family friendly resort stay, the Four Seasons Nam Hai is a beautiful hotel with a price tag to match – think £500 a night. You definitely do get your monies worth with an amazing Spa, onsite cooking classes and yoga sessions, amazing pools, right on it’s own private beach.
Mid range accommodation in Hoi An
One of the great things about Vietnam is that mid-range accommodation feels totally luxurious at amazing prices. You can stay at the Lasenta Boutique hotel, half a mile out of Hoi An for under £50 per night. It has a beautiful infinity pool, bright rooms and stunning views across the neighbouring rice paddies.
Hoi An budget accommodation
It is still possible to find budget accommodation in Hoi An. If you’re visiting with kids then I would probably look for 3 stars as a minimum and make sure you read reviews before you book. Homestays are always a good option for the budget traveller. Have a look at the Botanic Garden Homestay located just a mile out of the city. We found a room available for under £20 per night.
Accommodation out of town
We stayed in the city of Da Nang, around half an hour from Hoi An at the gorgeous Ocean villas. It was perfect for us having the city and many beaches within easy reach. If you’d like some other recommendations have a look at this guide on where to stay in Da Nang.
Where and what to eat in Hoi An
You can easily access pretty much every type of food in Hoi An. There are many western restaurants should you be visiting with fussy kids and we found it really easy to find vegan options when we were there.
You can’t visit Vietnam and not fall in love the the food. It’s fresh, fairly healthy and filling. They like a bit of spice and plenty of herbs, it’s my dream food but you can get plenty of plain options if the kids prefer.
Whilst in Vietnam, you definitely need to try:
Banh mi – a tasty baguette filled with crisp veggies, shredded meat, fish or pate. Totally delicious.
Pho – a filling bowl of noodles in broth, full of herbs and often including beef or chicken.
Cau lao – originating from the town of Hoi An itself, Cau Lao is a plate of thick noodles, beansprouts, herbs, and pork topped with crispy wonton crackers. So very moorish.
You can try all these and more on a Hoi An walking food tour. Book your space here
You can easily eat street food for every meal of the day for around £1 per meal. It’s delicious and we’ve never been ill eating off one of these carts. Piper loved that she could eat standing up, sitting on a pavement, walking along but after a while, we were craving a proper sit down meal.
There are so many restaurants to choose from in Hoi An you’ll be spoilt for choice. We stopped at quite a few due to Piper overheating and needing to find some air con. You don’t always need a full meal, we would have a bowl of noodles in one, walk a bit, have a fruit plate in another. Pop into whichever looks good to you.
The Hub & Coffee is a firm family favourite with some brilliant bamboo play equipment in its grounds. This is mainly for snacks and coffee but that’s how Piper likes to eat when she’s traveling anyway. I’m also a big sucker for beach restaurants, I can enjoy my meal whilst Piper plays in the sand. My favourite in Hoi An is Soul Beach at An Bang Beach. It has a lovely relaxed vibe and plenty of other kids to make friends with. There are loads of Vietnamese and Western options on the menu to keep the kids happy.
Vietnamese coffee is one of my new favourite things. It’s made using the drip method meaning it’s super strong and then sweetened with condensed milk. I drank it cold, over ice and often! You’ll also find more unusual varieties of coffee including egg or avocado – we weren’t brave enough to try though.
Wine is very expensive and poor quality in Vietnam, I’d give it a miss. A beer will cost you between 50p and £1. You’ll have no problem taking kids to bars in Hoi An, they’re welcome everywhere. We would find one with an outdoor terrace and park up under a fan. I’d avoid them at night though when the backpacker crowds start to get rowdy.
The best Day trips from Hoi An
Da Nang is a vibrant city half an hours drive from Hoi An. It’s where we based ourselves for a few days and I found plenty to keep us entertained. It’s a city on a beach, surrounded by mountains giving it a very unique vibe and making it a great day trip from the more relaxed Hoi An. Check out my top 30 things to do in Da Nang and decide which you want to cover off when you’re there.
Golden bridge and Sunworld Ba Na Hills
Come here for the beautiful Golden bridge with the huge concrete hands you’ll have seen all over Instagram but stay for the bonkers European Theme park. It’s a fun and totally family friendly day trip from Hoi An. SunWorld, Ba Na Hills is home to the world’s longest cable car network, fun rides, beautiful gardens and all the European stereotypes you can dream up. Read more about the theme park at Ba Na Hills and see some more pictures of the famous bridge. Sunworld can be reached in around one and a half hours from Hoi An.
My Son Ruins
These beautiful Cham ruins are just over an hours drive from Hoi An. It’s another UNESCO Heritage site dating back to the 4th century and is similar to the ruins at Angkor in Cambodia although a lot smaller. The easiest way to visit the ruins is by a pre organised tour, check out this one day tour to the My Son ruins
How to get to Hoi An
The town of Hoi An doesn’t have an airport or train Station so you’ll need to approach it by road. Read my detailed post on how to get from Da Nang to Hoi An here.
The nearest airport to Hoi An is Da Nang. It receives many flights daily both international and domestic. You can easily get a metered taxi at the airport and it will take you just over half an hour to get to Hoi An.
Getting around Hoi An
Cycling is a great way to get around and explore Hoi An and we saw many families doing just this. Kids tend to ride on the back of their parents bike – it looked pretty tiring in the heat! You’ll easily be able to pedal to the rice fields, to the beach or just explore the local area on two wheels. Remember it’s best to bring helmets for yourselves and the kids – the last thing you want is a faulty helmet to worry about and the cheap ones you can pick up at the markets really won’t offer much protection.
We found it very easy to walk to most places in Hoi An, just be careful of some of the pavements!
You won’t struggle to find a metered taxi in Hoi An, we saw loads waiting around for a pick up. Just check they start the meter running when you get in. You could also use Grab – my favourite way to get from A to B in Vietnam. This is the Uber of Asia, just download the app, fill in your details, log onto wifi somewhere and book your ride. We never had to wait long and I loved how it took away worrying about how much cash I had or what to tip.
You could also hop on the back of a rickshaw, it’s a cheap and cheerful way to travel which I’m sure the kids will love. I just always feel a bit awful having someone do so much work to pedal me about.
When to visit Hoi An
Hoi An has a dry season from February to September. This doesn’t mean they’ll be no rainy days but they’re not too common. The wet season is from October to January. During the peak of rainy season – October and November, the old town can get flooded.
The hottest month is June, and it’s almost unbearably so – maybe a month to avoid if you’re in Hoi An with kids. August was pretty much perfect although still very hot and obviously busy being peak holiday season.
What to know before visiting Hoi An, Vietnam
Not everyone will need a visa to visit Vietnam. British citizens can enter Vietnam visa free for travel and tourism for 15 days. Between 15 and 30 days you can apply for a visa online but for anything over 30 days you’ll need to visit the Vietnamese embassy before you travel. American travellers must have a visa and can apply online.
Passports must have at least 6 months validity on your departure date.
Vaccinations for Vietnam
As with any travel, make sure your vaccinations are up to date and you’ve consulted with your GP at least 8 weeks before you travel. For Vietnam Piper and I needed Diptheria and were luckily already covered for Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid which you will also need. If you’re planning on visiting more rural areas of Vietnam, you may need others.
It is not recommended that you drink the tap water in Vietnam. We always travel with a water bottle with a filter like this purification bottle. Or you can buy very cheap bottled water as you go. Be careful when ordering drinks, ice will not always be made from filtered water – always check first. Avoid cleaning your teeth in tap water as well, it’s really not worth the risk.
Currency you’ll need to order is Vietnamese Dong. £1 will get you 30,000 Dong. We also found that lots of places would happily accept American Dollars. We never had a problem finding a cash machine and many places accept card. Just keep an eye on extra charges.
Safety on the roads
This is definitely something you’ll want to talk to the kids about before you visit Vietnam. The roads can be crazy, there are mopeds and motorbikes everywhere and many people park on the pavement. Drivers are used to winding round pedestrians and over taking each other in what look like horrifying manoeuvres! It made us pretty nervous and I kept a firm hold on Piper as we explored.
A few Vietnamese words to teach the kids
Learning a bit of the language before you travel is worth the effort for so many reasons. Locals are often genuinely pleased you’ve made the effort to communicate and kids will love getting their mouths around totally foreign words. I also think it shows respect and appreciation – always a great thing to demonstrate to kids. Start with these simple phrases and see how you all get on.
- Hello = Xin Chao (Sin chow)
- Thank you = Cam on (kahm uhn)
- Sorry = Xin Loi (Sin Loy)
- Goodbye = Tam Biet (Tarm Byeet)
- No, Thank You! = Khong! Cam On (Khom, kahm uhn)
- What is your name? = Ten ban la gi? (Ten bang la zi)
To get an idea of the relaxed vibe of Hoi An, have a look at this short video walk through of the ancient town.
Make sure you pin for later for planning your visit to Hoi An with kids.
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