Hoi An proper is barred from motorbikes and cars most hours of the day, so how are you supposed to get around? The answer is simple. Rent a bike and see Hoi An and the surrounding country side by pedaling down back alleys and dusty roads at your own pace.
Where should I go and what should I do on my bike?
Check out Old Town.
Old Town in Hoi An has been called touristy by some, and although the constant, inappropriately European folk music being broadcast by loudspeakers is a bit cheesy, the town still feels authentic to me. Hoi An feels very lived in with family-owned shops everywhere and apartments peeking out above the cafes. I like that homey-vibe.
Take your bike down the back alleys to see some authentic Vietnamese culture and don’t be afraid to sit down on a plastic stool at a street food stall. Hoi An has some incredible food and since you have a bike you can stop at as many restaurants and stalls as you like.
Go to the market hall.
The market hall in Hoi An is a busy, noisy, and popular building. Locals and tourists alike putter about the building, bargaining, and taking in the sights and sounds.
The wet market near the river, located behind the hall is particularly interesting with a huge variety of seafood, vegetables and fruits.
Go inside the hall and you’ll find a nice, cheap food court. I highly recommend the fruit smoothie stand, which had one of the freshest pineapple drinks I’ve ever tasted in my life.
See the “other” side of the river.
Use your bikes to see the side of the river opposite Old Town. You can use any of the bridges to bike across. It’s not as historic as Old Town proper, but the food is much cheaper and it provides some great views of the river. We stopped for a beer on the river’s edge and watched some dogs frolicking in a nearby field. It was a very pleasant afternoon.
Swim at An Bang beach and check out Cua Dai beach.
Of the two beaches, An Bang is the must-see. It has brilliant white sand, warm waters, and surprisingly powerful but incredibly fun waves.
Take your bike up Hai Ba Trung and keep riding until you can’t ride any longer. It will take about twenty minutes to reach the surf. When you do, park your bike outside the beach. It’ll cost about 20,000 dong per bike, then go through the entrance and pay another 40,000 for a beach chair (or walk down the beach for a nice spot in the sand). You can easily wile away a day here (or several) sipping fruit drinks and lying in the sun.
The second beach, Cua Dai, is interesting. It has a shocking erosion problem, but if you’ve got the time and you want to see it, bike down Trang Hung Dao until you reach the end. From here you can either park your bike and check out the massive cliffs of sand bags which have been created to stop the erosion, or you can turn left and continue on until you reach the windy, but not completely unpleasant swimming area of Cua Dai beach. Of the two beaches, An Bang is undoubtedly the more pleasant one. Cua Dai is still interesting if you have time.
How to get to the Japanese Tombs?
Hoi An has a history of trade, including trade with Japanese merchants. There are tombs of the Japanese traders scattered throughout the country side near Hoi An.
You can get to these beautiful, well-cared-for old tombs by biking up Hai Ba Trung and following the signs once you reach the rice fields.
Don’t forget to enjoy the countryside.
If you’ve got the time and the energy then you have to take a day and bike down some of the narrow country roads outside of Hoi An.
The sights and sounds of rural life are therapeutic, especially if you’ve been traveling through the bigger South East Asian cities.
There is wildlife and flowers everywhere, so take your bike off the beaten path and explore what the countryside around Hoi An has to offer. Don’t forget to take your camera!
How much does it cost?
Renting a bike in Hoi An costs about $1 USD per day, which is so cheap you’d be crazy not to try it at least once during your holiday.
Are Hoi An roads safe?
Some people worry about traveling by bike in an Asian town where the rules of the road aren’t as hard and fast as they are in the Western world, but biking in Hoi An is some of the safest driving I have encountered after living a year in Vietnam. The streets are relatively quiet. Also motorbikes and cars are familiar with bicyclists; they will give you a wide birth. The only thing you have to be cautious about is crossing traffic, and you should be fine. Biking in a Hoi An is a great way to get a feel for Vietnamese roads in an environment that’s relatively safe compared to other Vietnamese cities.
What if you get into trouble?
The bikes that are rented out in Hoi An typically tend to be old, rusty, and not always reliable. On one of our rides I locked my bike and then was unable to unlock the rusty mechanism. On another journey we saw a woman whose bike had lost its chain.
So what are your options if you get stranded with a broken bike far from town? First, you should try to ask for help. People in Hoi An tend to be very friendly and helpful. If you’re lucky someone might be able to fix your bike. And if you aren’t lucky try flagging down a taxi or getting someone to call one for you. Taxis are everywhere, Mai Linh being the most reliable, and a taxi should be able to help you and your broken bike back to town, no problem.
Luckily I was able to get my bike unlocked and ready to go by kicking the lock very hard… mechanic skills.
If you are in Hoi An, you absolutely have to rent a bicycle. For a dollar a day you can completely fill your camera’s memory card with surprising finds and beautiful scenery. So put on your comfy clothes, sunscreen, and a hat. Then hop on your bike to check out the beaches, markets, history, and culture of Hoi An, Vietnam.