From the moment I stepped off the bus and walked into the town of Hoi An, I knew I’d made the right decision.
Because frankly, it was love at first sight. And I was so glad I’d come.
My sense of peace was heightened by the fact that I’d flown in from Hanoi that very morning; my ears still ringing from the constant beeping of horns among its hectic streets. (Of course, there’s still plenty of horn-tooting in Hoi An – this is Vietnam, after all – but it’s not quite as anxiety-inducing!)
Yet no matter how tranquil a place, there’s still a learning curve to go through upon arrival. So here are a few of my top tips to make that transition as smooth as possible.
Some Basic Road Rules in Hoi An
Starting off with potentially the most important aspect – the road! Here are some things I’ve observed during my time in Hoi An…
Rule 1 – The more stuff you have loaded on your bike at one time, the greater your level of skill. Just yesterday I saw someone carrying around 20 chairs on the back of their bike. Seriously. Even the locals were impressed!
Rule 2 – An unstrapped, plastic motorbike helmet has protection that far exceeds any other type of head protection.
Rule 3 – There are no sides of the road that you must stick to. That’s right. None at all. When fast approaching a sharp corner, you simply take the racing line – and always toot your horn.
Rule 4 – Bigger is always better. A bus or lorry is king of the road, no matter what. If one is coming at you full-speed (on your side of the road)…you’re in the wrong. Get out of the way!
Rule 5 – Riding your motorbike with a broken horn is like eating a Banh Mi without chili sauce. Pointless.
Rule 6 – It’s very likely that you’ll come up against one of Hoi An’s silent assassins – the electric bike. Make room for those, too. You have been warned, my friends. You have been warned…
Now that you know the rules of the road, you’d better get yourself a bike. After all, they’re cheap to rent and easy to get hold of. Biking is also popular, it’s fun…and it’s dangerous. Sure, what more could you want?! (Note: when you do get out on the road, take care. In addition to the rules above, make sure to go much, much slower than you would at home and you’ll be just fine.)
Carrying on with our transport theme, we have traffic control – until very recently, Hoi An’s only method of which was the pothole.
The town’s recent road repairs have put that system to rest. But fear not, a new scheme has arrived to take its place – large and protruding manhole covers. Hooray!
Cyclos: you either love ’em or hate ’em. I’m in the first camp, as I think they’re one of the easiest ways to get around if you don’t have transport of your own.
It gets ridiculously hot by around 11:30am, far too hot for walking. And anyway, what’s not to like about a gentle roll around the Old Town, listening to soothing classical music that’s piped into the streets? Nothing, that’s what.
Cyclo tours are a great way to get ferried around the town. Tip: these are best early in the morning, before the drivers have their afternoon nap.
Now I’ll be honest – I’m a cycling fanatic. So I’ll admit that my opinion may be somewhat biased. But I’m not alone in thinking that there’s no better way to explore the villages and rice fields surrounding Hoi An than by getting lost on a bicycle!
However, if getting hopelessly lost in the countryside is something you’d rather not do, you can get a local guide to take you to some of the lesser-visited spots.
Most guest houses will offer bike rental or if you’re lucky, they’ll provide one for free! But remember, you get what you pay for (or what you don’t). These bikes are ok for a few days but if you plan on staying longer, you might want to upgrade. To a bike with gears, for instance. Or proper brakes.
At the bottom of the transport pile is walking. It’s safe to walk here, very safe (at least in the Old Town). But be careful when crossing roads, as it’s never too clear when it’s good to go.
My advice? Spot a local in the same position and go when they do; although admittedly, I’ve yet to see a local walk further than 3 steps before jumping onto their moto…so you may be waiting a while!
Ready to roll…
Now that you’ve got a handle on Hoi An’s traffic scene, you’re good to go!
Take to the streets, get out in the countryside – and enjoy every second of it.
Hi, I’m Mike – Bike blogger and full-time traveller. I stumbled into Hoi An a while ago and couldn’t bring myself to leave. It’s a home away from home! So I’m currently working with my good friends to help people see just how magical this place is. It isn’t hard. 😉 Thanks to Postcards & Passports for letting me share my story!
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Sounds a lot like the bike and scooter swarms surrounding me on trips to Singapore, Malaysia and Bangkok!
All those bikes, walkers, and other forms of transport sound a little hectic. But I love the image of the man with 20 chairs piled on his bike. Reminds me of the talent for overloading we saw on Seoul motorbikes.
Such a helpful post for navigating traffic rules and staying on course in Hoi An. It can be so cumbersome to get in the way of locals.
Wooahh. 20 chairs on a bike! I’d fall over instantly. Fun post!
I bet the traffic would be overwhelming in the best sense: chaotic but wonderful! I’d love to see someone balance all of those chairs on one bike–that’s gravity defying talent!
Really, 20 chairs on one bike?! 😀 Oh my… You’ve made me laugh with some of those rules. Like, what’s a bike without a horn! I mean, really! 😀 Had fun reading this, and thanks for some great tips (I should probably forget about cycling there 😀 )!
Ha ha, the traffic rules seem funny, and they pretty much apply to many countries in Asia I guess. I would love exploring Hoi An on a bicycle and a bike! I’ll keep your tips in mind!
Love it! I think you have convinced me that there is no way I would try to pilot a scooter around any town in Vietnam. I am pretty keen to spend some time on a cyclo though.
That’s very useful! Our next destinaton is…Hoi An. We’ve picked it out as a base for a few months while my husband trains for Ironman Langkawi. Can’t wait, it’s been 17 years since we were last there and it looks like time has stood still…thankfully!
20 chairs stacked up on a bike, yep that is pretty impressive, there’s certainly no shortage of odd things I’ve seen carried on a moped over the years. For me the cycling is more my speed, far away from the busy city streets.
Hahaha…this was dark humour at it’s best! I enjoyed reading it, especially about the famed “silent assassins” – but seriously, how do you escape these silent ones?
Great advice for navigating this city!
Ahh, this article and the photos bring back such lovely memories of the time I spent in Hoi An! I agree that it’s a nice change after the bustle of the bigger cities, but that you still have to be oh so careful for all the zipping vehicles!