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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