Hoi An is a beautiful old town set along Vietnam’s central coast. The closest airport is in Da Nang (approx. 30 minutes drive away) and there are now direct international flights from HK, KL, Busan, Macau, Seoul, Singapore, Siem Reap, Tokyo and mainland China.
This is the perfect place to visit if you like your beach with a side of culture. The best time to visit is Feb to May. From May to August it’s still dry but hot hot hot.
Organising your Vietnam Visa
If you’re arriving at Da Nang International Airport you have two visa options: either apply for a VOA ‘Visa on Arrival’ OR get the visa in your passport in advance. Whilst the VOA is cheaper, you still have to queue up to have the visa stamped on arrival and then get in the immigration queue. My advice to those traveling with young kids is just to sort your visa out in advance. I went to the Vietnam embassy in HK, with our completed forms and a passport photo of each of us. Be warned the visas are expensive – HKD $500 each!
Where to stay
If your focus is on enjoying a family friendly holiday at a high end resort, choose to stay in Da Nang (a 30 minute drive from Hoi An). If you prefer to have close access to Hoi An then you can stay within the historic centre (guesthouses a plenty) or a hotel close by. Here are some hotels that have been tried and tested by the Jetlag & Mayhem team.
- Uber luxury close to Hoi An – no other choice than the Nam Hai
- Colonial treasure in Hoi An – the Victoria
- Family friendly beach resorts in Da Nang – either the Hyatt Regency or the Intercontinental Sun Peninsula Resort
- New kid on the block – Premier Village Danang (stay tuned for a review)
- Unique (private villa/cookeryschool) – Red Bridge Villa
What to do
- Kids cookery class. Apparently Green Bamboo is one of the best for kids. Travelfish have a nice roundup for what’s on offer. Remember young kids really do have short attention spans so best to find one that caters specifically to them.
- Wander around Hoi An old town a gorgeous blend of ancient Vietnamese and colonial France.
The area is pedestrianised which makes a nice change from the feeling that you’re going to get run over on the rest of Vietnamese streets! There are sites you can enter from the Hoi An Museum of History to the Old House of Phung Hung. However, the reality with young kids is that they’ll be moaning from walking and too taken by all the illuminating toys on sale to want to visit a museum. The Japanese Covered Bridge is beautiful at night.
- If you’d like to try all the delicious street food but not quite sure where to start – get yourself on a food tour. Lots of choice available – on Coconut Tours, kids go free. Arrive hungry!
- Shopping! Not just for you but for your kids too. Give your kids some of their own money and have them barter. There are tonnes of boutiques and shops in Hoi An from silk tailoring to colourful lanterns.
- Go for a boat ride on the Thu Bon River. No need to organise in advance, simply loiter around by the water and you’ll soon get people offering to take you on the water. For something slightly more upmarket, Jack Tran’s Ecotours offers varying trips from a 6 hour ‘Faming & Fishing Life’ to a 2.5 hour ‘Sunset Cruise’. Read Mum On The Move’s review of a tour with her 2 and 4yo, sounds like great fun!
- Visit the Cham ruins of My Son. Travelfish have some tips on how to make the most out of your trip there.
Where to eat
- Morning Glory is one of the most popular restaurants in Hoi An and rightly so. A beautiful mix of Vietnamese cuisine, make sure you book ahead.
- If you don’t want to spend every meal at Morning Glory (believe me, you could), Miss Ly is a great alternative
- You must try the Vietnamese sandwich speciality, the banh mi (kids will love them). You can find them all over town but the winning baguette will be at Phuongs – you know a place is good when it’s been certified by Anthony Bourdain.
- There are some delicious street food vendors lining the outskirts to the old town. Use your judgement wisely as to whether you think what they have on offer looks appetising/safe. Typically I go for the ones with the big queues!
- Traveling Anyway has a useful list of eight family friendly restaurants in Hoi An
I loved Hoi An, it’s one of those destinations you can easily return to. Next time I think we’ll fly into Da Nang and head out towards Hue. If you’ve done that trip already, I’d love to hear your tips!