Hoi An - Town - 4

Hoi An – Vietnam – Retirement Locations


DECEMBER 2019 / JANUARY 2020:



OVERVIEW:

My ‘6 Year Around The World’ tour is complete. We are, now, going back to some of the best Retirement Locations in S. E. Asia. We start in my, personal, favourite S. E. Asia country: Vietnam.Hoi An - Old Town Riverfront House

… and, in one of my favourite locations: Hoi An …


PLEASE NOTE:

The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (or the ‘VND’). I will refer to them as V$s. At the time of writing, the wholesale exchange rates were:

US$1EU€1GB£1
Published Wholesale RateV$23,215V$25,775V$30,156
Effective Exchange RateV$22,538V$25,023V$29,276

You will not get these wholesale rates (read the ‘Money” section, below); expect to lose 3%. I lost 2.92%.

Over time, these exchange rates will change. Please check the current rates.


CROSS REFERENCES:

My last visit to Hoi An was in December 2015. You can read about that here.Hoi An - Old Town Ancient House

Please read my latest blog on Hanoi for more information about:

  • Getting your Vietnam Visa on arrival;
  • Getting money on arrival;
  • Getting a Viettel SIMcard on arrival.

GETTING THERE:

PUBLIC BUS TO HANOI AIRPORT:

To get to Hanoi Airport from the city centre, you catch the #86 or #86CT Public Bus. The price is V$35k per trip. However, it is not always easy to get to a #86 bus stop … being an airport bus, it does not stop at as many bus stops as other public buses. If you are unable to easily get to a #86 bus stop, the best thing to do is to catch any bus to 523 Au Co.Hanoi Pubic Bus to Airport Map

There are several different buses that take you from the city centre to this bus stop including #31, #41, and #55. The price is V$7k per trip. At the 523 Au Co bus stop, you can connect to the #86 to the airport. Allow 90 minutes to get from the city to the airport by public bus.

At the airport, there is a free shuttle bus to take you between the International Terminal (T2) and the Domestic Terminal (T1). These shuttle buses leave frequently: about every 15 minutes.

HANOI TO HOI AN:

I flew from Hanoi to Da Nang on Vietjet Air.Vietjet Home Page

I paid V$762,400 / US$32 inclusive of 25kgs of checked luggage. Vietjet do not have web-check-in: you need to queue at the airport. As usual with budget airlines, there are few counters and a long queue. I queued for about 30 minutes. My check-in process was fast and efficient. The flight left on time.

DA NANG TO HOI AN:

From Da Nang Airport you can make your way to the Train Station and catch a public bus to Hoi An. Depending on your negotiating skills, you may be able to get a taxi to the Train Station for, say V$50k. Then the public bus to Hoi An is V$30k each … but, they are renowned for over-charging tourists another V$20k for a suitcase / backpack. Allow 90-120 minutes to take this route.

I decided to spoil myself and I booked the KLOOK Airport Shuttle Bus. The Da Nang Airport to Hoi An express shuttle leaves hourly on the hour. It takes 1 hour to travel to Hoi An. You book in advance using their website. The online one-way price was discounted down to V$127k / US$5.50 each. I paid using my Credit Card.KLOOK Shuttle Bus

You are advised to allow at least 1 hour between landing and catching the shuttle (in case of flight delays). I was scheduled to land at 2:35pm so, I booked the 4pm shuttle. I was outside of arrivals at 2:50pm hoping to, possibly, catch the 3pm shuttle. Alas, I saw no KLOOK representative waiting as I exited Gate 4 … I had to wait until 4pm. At 3:30pm a young lady approached me as I sat on a bench outside of Gate 4 … she had my name on a piece of paper. She said that she would return at 4pm … which she did. About 6 of us were taken to the shuttle bus. The shuttle bus was modern and comfortable and had seating for 12 people.Hoi An - KLOOK Express Shuttle Seating

The shuttle bus drops you off outside of your Hoi An hotel (as long as it is centrally located). I was dropped off outside of my hotel on Can Nam Island at 5pm.


ABOUT:

 Hoi An was the principal port of the Cham Kingdom, which controlled the strategic spice trade with Indonesia from the 7th to the 10th century and was a major international port in the 16th and 17th centuries – and the foreign influences are still there to this day.Hoi An - Old Quarter 103

While the serious shipping business has long since moved to Da Nang, the heart of the city is still the Ancient Town / Old Town / Old Quarter, full of winding lanes and Chinese-styled shophouses, which is particularly atmospheric in the evening as the sun goes down. While almost all shops now cater to the tourist trade, the area has been largely preserved ‘as is’ (which is unusual in Vietnam) and renovation has proceeded slowly and carefully – Hoi An is (mercifully) absent of towering concrete blocks and karaoke parlours.

Since 1999 (when their UNESCO World Heritage Site status was awarded) there has been a significant increase in tourism – resulting in most houses being sold to speculators and shop owners. But the ‘heritage’ has been maintained by strict rules on what can be done, how renovations / conversions can proceed, and what colour properties can be painted… ‘yellow is the new black’!Hoi An

The authorities have a ‘vision’ for Hoi An and the police patrol the streets to ensure compliance. Restaurants and Bars are not allowed to ‘spill out onto the street’ and there is talk of scooters being banned from some areas (including An Hoi Island). They are serious about maintaining Hoi An’s charm and in not letting things get out of control.

The Russians tried to ‘move in on’ Hoi An to turn it into another Nha Trang; but, the police pushed them out and stopped them taking hold. Thank God. There is a rumoured Russian Mafia connection with Nha Trang.

As soon as you arrive in Hoi An, you know that you have arrived somewhere special. It has character. It has atmosphere. It has a really nice vibe.


TOURISM:

Owing to the increased number of tourists visiting Hoi An, a variety of activities are emerging that allow guests to get out of the Old Quarter and explore by motorbike, bicycle, kayak, or motorboat.

The Thu Bon River is still essential to the region and it remains an essential form of food production and transport. As such kayak and motorboat rides are becoming an increasingly common tourist activity.Hoi An - Town - 4

This longtime trading port offers a distinctive regional cuisine that blends centuries of cultural influences from East and Southeast Asia. Hoi An hosts a number of cooking classes.

The Hoi An wreck, a shipwreck from the mid to late fifteenth century, was discovered off the coast of the city in the 1990s. A few years later, it was excavated; thousands of ceramic artefacts were discovered.Hoi An - Paddy Fields

Another attraction is the Hoi An Lantern Full Moon Festival taking place every full moon cycle. The celebrations honour the ancestors. People exchange flowers, lanterns, candles, and fruits for prosperity and good fortune.


THE BEACHES:

There are 2 main public beaches nearby: Cua Dai and An Bang / Cam An. Both are about 5kms from the Old Town.

Cua Dai beach has major erosions problems. An Bang / Cam An is the best beach … watch the video:

An Bang / Cam An is also surrounded by picturesques beachfront lanes … lanes full of quaint little shops and cafes.Hoi An - To The Beach - 14 Cam An Beach


WHERE TO STAY:

It is worth noting that there is now a ban on any more cheap Homestay conversions in Hoi An. The authorities believe that there are already too many. Any ‘new builds’ have to meet strict standards; those standards almost force any ‘new build’ to be to 2 star (plus) Hotel. However, there are plenty of existing nice Homestays to choose from – many to GRANDPAcking Standard and at GRANDPAcking prices.Hoi An - Daisy Garden Villa - Pool Area

In ‘Off Season’ you can get big discounts on Hotels near the beach … alas, you won’t really be able to get much ‘beach life’ … you may be better off finding accommodation that has a nice pool.

SHORT TERM:

Back in 2015, I did a fairly detailed write-up of Where To Stay in Hoi An. Back then, I was a ‘Tourist’ so I looked at it with more of a ‘short-term’ focus … I wanted to get ‘in amongst the action and the atmosphere’. I concluded that GRANDPAckers should stay in the heart of (or within easy walking distance of) the Old Quarter centre.


Long Term Hotel Options


Back in 2015, you needed to pay at least V$350k / US$15 per night to get an hotel room including Breakfast in this target area.

LONGER TERM:

For longer-term stays, I suggest that you look on the edges of the Old Quarter … and, perhaps, even further out of town. Many expats live in the area opposite the eastern end of Can Nam Island.

In Peak Season, a ‘good compromise’ may be to find somewhere in the ‘sweet spot’ half way between the Old Quarter and An Bang Beach: around the Song Thu Bon waterside on the way out of town, or somewhere rural like Tre Que Island.

But, if you ‘go rural’, choose your location carefully as some of the rural streets are far from picturesque.Hoi An - To The Beach - 9

If you get out into the small lanes in the farming areas, you can find some very nice spots.Hoi An - To The Beach - 2

Obviously, in these farming areas you will need your own transport (see, below).Hoi An - Bike Trip - Rural House

For more detail, read my post about Around Hoi An By Bicycle.Hoi An - Bike Trip - Cam Nam Street

You can easily expand your target area by 2-3 kilometers in any direction from the Old Quarter; it is easy to bicycle everywhere (and your out-of-town Homestay usually provides you with a bicycle free of charge).Hoi An - Bike Trip - Bridge to Tra Que Island

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:

If you are coming to Hoi An during Rainy Season, choose your location wisely. Hoi An regularly gets ‘flooded out’ and some locations can be 3 to 7 feet under water for a day or two. November is the riskiest month… torrential rains inland fill up the dams upstream and the authorities have no choice but to open the dams to flush the water out… this leaves down-stream Hoi An vulnerable. Before they flush the dams, the authorities warn the locals in advance.Hoi An - Ken with Flooding Levels

The locals are used to it and do a good clean up afterwards but, if you have a long-term-rented a house, the problem will be yours. The last major flood was in 2015 and before that in 2013, 2011, 2009 and 2007. In 2015, my hotel on Cam Nam Island (see, below) was under 1 metre of flood water.

OLD QUARTER:

If you want to pay the premium hotel prices, the Old Quarter (including An Hoi Island) offers a picturesque environment amongst the hustle and bustle.

CAM KIM ISLAND:

Accommodation options are starting to spring up on Cam Kim Island (such as The New Destination Hostel). The prices of these Cam Kim options are attractive but what is Cam Kim like?

I do not recommend staying on Cam Kim. If you do come, the nicest area is west of the bridge around the Secret Garden Hotel.

EAST OF OLD QUARTER:

East of the Old Quarter is a good option. Look in the area bounded by the Old Market (to the West), Cua Dai Street (to the North), Tran Nhan Tong Street (to the East), and Thu Bon River (to the South).

CAN NAM ISLAND:

This is another good option if you want to get away from the day-to-day bustle of the Old Quarter.


ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS:

LONG TERM RENTAL SITES:

I looked at several sites including ‘expat’ sites. The rates were more than our GRANDPAcking budget (of no more than US$600 per month). These sites target Foreigners who don’t know any better. The expat sites, in particular, are full of expats trying to rent out accommodation at ‘western rates’. It is better that you come to Hoi An and find somewhere once you are here.

On sites like HoiAnHouse.com, you will find a selection of rental options in the US$300-US$500 price range. However, for US$300-US$400 / month you will most likely get Vietnam standard accommodation … and, when you get there, they don’t look as good as the pictures. Often you will find that the pictures were taken many years ago and / or the nice furniture in the pictures has been replaced with items of lesser quality.Hoi An House

You should be able to find GRANDPAcker Standard furnished rental accommodation for under US$400 / month. For a cleaner to come in once per week for a couple of hours (enough to go through the whole house including bathroom and kitchen) expect to pay about US$3 / week (no more than US$4 / week).

NORMAL HOTEL SEARCH SITES:

I found better options on the ‘Normal Search Sites’. For longer-term rentals, we are looking for something with better facilities than a mere hotel room (such as a TV and a kitchen / kitchenette) … This is what GRANDPAckers can expect to find at short notice from mid December for a 1 month / 28 day rental:

BOOKING.COM:

Hi An Booking Apartments

HOTELS.COM:

Hi An Hotels Apartments

PLEASE NOTE: HOTELS usually display prices INCLUSIVE of TAXES. But many search sites (like HOTELS) don’t provide a ‘private bathroom’ filter, so be careful with some of the cheap hotels and make sure that you read the room details. HOTELS competes with BOOKING by selling their hotel allocations well in advance. They do so by offering discounts. At short notice, they tend to have few options left.

AIRBnB / HOLIDAY RENTALS:

Hi An AirBnB Apartments

PLEASE NOTE: Other sites (such as Homeaway, FlipKey and VRBO are also worth a look). However, these types of accommodation options are not very popular in Vietnam.

SUMMARY:

GRANDPAckers will easily find accommodation within our price range of upto US$600 per month. Start looking well in advance to get the best prices on HOTELS. Look on BOOKING for last minute deals.

Alternatively, book yourself into an hotel short term and look around once you are here. The only problem with that is that it is hard to find an apartment that you can move into within a few days … you, usually, have to wait a little bit longer.


MY ACCOMMODATION:

I have a friend who has been living in Hoi An for 17 months. He pays V$4m / US$175 per month (i.e. US$6 per night) for an average sized room in the Cua Dai Street area with a Double bed which comes with minibar, aircon, cable tv, good wifi, and private bathroom. No breakfast (which is worth at least V$35k-V$50k per day or V$1m-V$1.5m per month). There is an outside kitchenette that he shares with one other room. Electricity is additional and averages V$250k / month. Housekeeping is not provided but he has access to a free washer/dryer. They provide free bicycles. It was tucked down a small, quiet alley.Hoi An East - 7 Side Alleys

I was looking for something nicer than this and I knew that I wouldn’t have to pay much more to get it. But, I also knew that I had to be in Hoi An to find it.

Back in December 2015, I booked myself into a Double Hotel Room on An Hoi Island for US$15 per night including Breakfast. I learnt from that … I knew that I could do better …

CORN RIVERSIDE VILLA HOTEL:

I used HOTELS.COM to book a Superior Double Room with Pool View in the Corn Riverside Villa Hotel. It was located on the riverside on Can Nam Island.Hoi An Corn Riverside Villa Location Map

I paid V$7,683,200 / US$341 for 28 nights (HOTELS only allow you to book up to a maximum of 28 nights). This is about V$274k / US$12 per night. This price included a Vietnamese Breakfast for 2 people. The rack rate was US$33 per night, so I got it at a 64% discount. I booked 4 weeks because (1) I was getting an excellent price and (2) I didn’t want to take a chance over Christmas and New Year.

I am a member of the HOTELS Reward Program: for every 10 nights booked, you get 1 night of the same value in a future hotel for free. So, effectively, I got a 2.8 night credit which brought the real cost down to US$11 per night).

My Double Room came with mini fridge, Cable TV, aircon, and a kettle. Housekeeping was daily and they provided free bottled water and complimentary tea and instant coffee. However, this ‘daily’ clean took a very swift 2 minutes … it was only done properly once per week … sometimes, they didn’t come at all. My ensuite had an hot water rainfall shower. Outside, I had a small balcony area with a table looking out over the river and the pool.

The complimentary Breakfast was a choice of 1 main dish from a selection of about 10 items coupled with either a banana pancake or muesli. In addition you got unlimited fruits, fruit juice, and bottomless tea / coffee.

The wifi throughout the hotel was very good and fast enough to stream video.

The Breakfast area doubled up as a restaurant but, in Low Season, it closed at 4pm. Menu prices were ‘average’ with something like a traditional noodle soup going for V$45k. Their beer was a bit pricey though with a 330ml can of local beer going for V$20k and something like a 330ml Tiger beer going for V$25k.

It took less than 10 minutes to cycle the 1km from the hotel to the Old Town Market.

SUMMARY:

The Vietnamese are lovely, friendly people. This hotel was no different. At US$11 per night including Breakfast and a free bicycle, I was happy. I decided to spend my first 4 weeks at the Corn Riverside Villa and, then, try and find something better after that … perhaps, a bit closer to the Old Town centre?

DAISY GARDEN VILLA:

It was now January. The November rains were well behind us … and so were the ‘deep discounted’ hotel prices.

I like the area south of Cua Dai Street. A friend recommended the Daisy Garden Villa. So, I went in person and negotiated directly with Daisy (the owner).

I negotiated them down from V$9m to V$7.5m / US$333 per month (my month was 31 nights). This is about V$242k / US$11 per night. This price included a Vietnamese Breakfast for 1 person. I booked 1 month because the Vietnamese / Chinese New Year (Tet) started on 23rd of January. It lasts 1 week. Prices go up over Tet.

My Double Room came with mini fridge, Cable TV, aircon, and a kettle. Housekeeping was daily and they came daily. Bed linen was changed once per week. My ensuite had an hot water rainfall shower. Outside, I had a small balcony area with a table looking out over the pool.

The complimentary Breakfast was a choice of 1 main dish from a selection of about 7 items. In addition, you had the choice between a fruit shake or tea / coffee. Usually they also gave you complimentary fruit.

The wifi throughout the hotel was very good and fast enough to stream video.

Restaurant Menu prices were ‘good’ with something like chicken fried rice going for V$55k. Their beer was also reasonably priced with a can of local beer going for only V$15k. A glass of local wine was V$30k.Hoi An - Daisy Garden Villa - Chicken Fried Rice VND55k

It took less than 10 minutes to cycle the 1km from the hotel to the Old Quarter.

SUMMARY:

Everyone at this hotel was lovely. The Daisy Garden was excellent value for money. I recommend it.


ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com

Hotels Logo Big


EAT & DRINK:

There are still many ‘street stall’ and ‘local cafe’ options available to help keep your ‘Costs Of Existence’ down.

TRIPADVISOR:

Don’t trust the Tripadvisor price-range ratings. Most reviewers don’t know what they’re talking about and, once the restaurant knows that they have good reviews on Tripadvisor, they put their prices up. The information is inaccurate and out-dated.

Only use the ‘$’ – ‘$$$’ indicators as a guideline.

CHEAP EATS:

ON THE STREET:

In the suburbs, the best street food is a Banh Mi (Baguette) which should cost V$15k (egg) to V$20k (meat). These prices can as much as double in the Old Quarter! The Baguette comes filled with sauces, salad, and egg / strips of meat.

You can eat a very simple meal (like Pork Chop with Rice and a Spinach Soup on the side) in local cafes for V$35k. A more ‘typical’ price is VN$40-55k for different types of Noodle or Rice dishes.

A Cao Lau (a noodle soup with salad and slices of pork topped with pork scratchings) should cost V$30k.Hoi An - Corn Riverside Villa - Example Breakfast 1

A Banh Xeo (prawn filled fried pancakes with a dip, rice paper and salads … to make you own Spring Rolls) should cost V$40k.Hoi An - Typical Banh Xeo VND40k

THE MARKET:

Another cheap place to eat is at the Old Market which can be found on the waterfront between Tran Quy Cap and Treu La streets. You get ‘harrassed’ by the foodstall vendors a bit more than you do elsewhere (they can be very persistent), but it is a good place to eat a cheap lunch with things like Cau Lao and Mi Quang (and others) for only V$30k / US$1.25.

You can also mix it up a bit and pay VND50k+ for something more ‘substantial’ like a mixed rice topped with different meats and vegetables.

SPOIL YOURSELF:

NAMASTE OMAR’S:

The Ganesh Indian Restaurant in the Old Quarter is, now, too well known … and is, now, over-priced as a result. A better option is Namaste Omar’s on Cua Dai Street. They have a set menu for V$160 that includes:

  • Choose between a Vegetarian Samosa or Onion Baji;
  • Popadom with dips;
  • Choose between any Vegetarian or Chicken Curry (Tandoori dishes not included);
  • Vegetable fried rice;
  • Choose between Garlic / Butter Naan or Plain Naan;
  • Choose between a local Rum or Brandy.

DRINK:

BIA HOI:

This is a beer drinkers paradise. This is Bia Hoi territory where you can do the famous “US$1 Pub Crawl” (Google it)! Bia Hoi is locally brewed draft beer. If you get to the ‘edge’ of the Old Quarter, you can find Bia Hoi selling draft fresh beer for V$3k / glass (the glass is the size of a half-pint / 250ml). Some even do a ‘Buy 2 Get 1 Free’, so it costs you V$6k for 3 drinks – that’s V$2k (less than US$10c) per beer (less than US$30c per pint)!

The beer is good too! You would think that it might be a bit ‘rough’ and leave a nasty ‘hang-over’ in the morning, but, no. Probably because of the lower than average alcohol content.

BARS / HAPPY HOURS:

In the ‘tourist bars’, expect to pay V$30k for a 330ml beer. In upmarket bars like the Barbetta, you pay V$90k for a 450ml draft Tiger.Hoi An - Barbetta

Watch out for the ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ Happy Hours that don’t display prices. You usually discover that the price of the beer was inflated anyway so, by the time that you get your 2 for 1, you are paying the normal price.

There are, also, a lot (if not more) Happy Hour Cocktail offers. During the day, some bars hand out vouchers / invites to attract you in that night. As always, the girls get the best deal… on many occasions their 1st Cocktail is free. Get the girls in… and the boys will follow … Cocktails should range from V$50k-V$75k, so a ‘2 for 1’ on these is good value for money. Alas, watch out for these really cheap cocktail offers … most are likely to be cheap local spirits … some are just laced with ethanol.

Avoid the ‘dodgy’ bars. There are many good bars to go to offering special Happy Hours on different nights of the week. There are many more around town to choose from; just look at the ‘flyers’ during the day as they are being handed out.

THE HAVANA BAR:

This was one of my favourites. It is located on Cua Dai Street away from the Old Quarter hussle an bustle.Hoi An - Havana Bar 1

They have an Happy Hour 3pm to 7pm. Larue (330ml) or Saigon Green (450ml) beer is 2-for-1 at V$20k (V$10 each).Hoi An - Havana Bar 2

They usually do 2-for-1 cocktails on Saturdays.

THE RASTAMAN BAR:

This became my local. I loved this place: a lovely owner (Ty), a nice regular crowd, and a really good ‘local pub away from home’ atmosphere. It is located on the edge of town on Tran Nhan Tong Street. You can find them on Facebook.Hoi An - Rastaman Bar 1

A 450ml Saigon Green is V$20k. Three nights each week they have good Happy Hour 2-for-1 cocktails (4pm to 7pm). They have a pool competition (V$50k entry – winner takes all) at 7pm each Friday. They have karaoke 6-9pm every Sunday.

IN SUMMARY:

V$35k-V$55k will buy you a simple local Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner. Eat where the locals eat. Add V$15k if you want a fruit juice or 330ml bottle of beer. Budget an average of V$60k (US$2.60) total per meal per person.


TRANSPORT:

If you are in or near the Old Quarter, you can get everywhere on foot… and, it is pleasant to do so … although you may have to dodge the multitude of Tourists taking ‘selfies’ everywhere.Hoi An - Canal 1

SUGGESTION: Get in the habit of walking on the left side of the road so that you can see on-coming traffic.

BICYCLE HIRE:

Some bicycle rentals are asking for V$50k / day! DON’T PAY IT.

There are many rental places around and there is a lot of competition… pay no more than V$25,000 / US$1.1 per day. For 1 week, target upto V$20,000 / US$0.80c day. For longer term, target upto V$12,500 / US$0.55c per day – but you will need to shop around and negotiate very hard to get this low price.Hoi An - Countryside 1

Some hotels out from centre provide complimentary bicycles – they have to because, otherwise, it is too problematic for their guests to get around.

You can easily get from the Old Quarter to the Beaches on a bicycle… and, it is a pleasant 25 minute ride.

SCOOTER RENTAL:

Daily: The ‘standard street price’ for a scooter is V$150k / US$6.50 per day! DON’T PAY IT. Equivalent scooters can be rented for as little as V$100k / US$4.50 per day … but, V$120k / US$5.25 is more normal.

Weekly: For a weekly rate, target V$75k / US$3.35 per day; your Homestay should be your first ‘port of call’ as they are the most likely to do their guests a good deal (hoping that you will stay with them longer).

Monthly: Expats living in Hoi An can pay as little as v$1.2m / US$53 per month or V$40k / US$1.75 per day. These extra cheap rates are hard to find and you will need expat connections to get them. These are, invariably, old machines … so check yours out thoroughly first. For a monthly rate, target V$1.5m / US$65 per month or V$50k / US$2 per day.Hoi An - Street Houses 1

A typical scooter tank will cost about V$70k-V$80k to fill from empty.

RECOMMENDATION: When you hire a scooter, it is normal for you to leave your passport as ‘security’. It is, also, normal for you to be held responsible for any theft or damage. If it is stolen, you can expect to pay US$1,000 to replace it. For these reasons, it is usually best to rent a scooter from your hotel … they are likely to be more ‘reasonable’ should anything go wrong.

DAISY GARDEN VILLA:

I did a deal with my hotel (Daisy Garden Vila). Their daily rental rate is V$120k. We agreed V$1.5m per month. This worked out to V$48,500 / US$2.15 per day.

TAXIS:

You shouldn’t really need one, unless you are arriving / leaving and need to get to / from an Hotel that is out of centre. Taxis have modern meters, so you can usually trust the price – but watch out for the extra ‘luggage’ charge when you come to pay. Expect to pay about V$25k per km.Hoi An - Old Quarter 101

Always ensure that you agree a fixed price and / or what is included in the meter price before starting your journey.

GRAB:

Their rates are about 20% cheaper than a standard taxi but they were never available when I tried to use them.

MOTOS:

Be careful when using the Motobike Taxis (Motos). There are many bad stories … the ‘Moto Mafia’ is well known phrase here. You hear about drunks getting mugged or raped. My friend’s driver met up with the driver’s friend en route to out-number him and quadruple the agreed price. Etc.

GRAB:

If you can, use a GRAB Moto. They are cheaper and safer.


MONEY:

GENERAL:

LAUNDRY: The normal rate is V$25k per Kg. On the streets, you can find it as low as V$15k per Kg. Your hotel will charge about V$40k per Kg.

ATMs:

Most ATMs in Vietnam are limited to dispensing a maximum of 40 notes. You will find that the most of the ‘local bank ATMs’ are limited to V$2m per withdrawal… which means that you lose a significant percentage in fees on every transaction. To keep your ‘cost of travel money’ to a minimum, you need to choose the right ATM.Hoi An - Old Quarter 102

To ensure that you get small notes from the ATM, ALWAYS ask for an amount that is NOT DIVISIBLE by 500,000 (e.g. ask for V$2,950,000 NOT V$3,000,000). If the withdrawal amount is divisible by 500,000 you may find yourself only having V$500,000 notes! If you only have V$500,000 notes, you will struggle to get them changed.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT ATM:

Different banks charge different fees. Some are a lot better than others. Some charge you a fee without even telling you how much it is! Remember, you will still, probably, have your Home Bank charging you a ‘Foreign ATM Transaction fee’ on top of the ATM owner’s charge. My Home Bank charges me NZ$5 (US$3) per transaction.

AGRIBANK: I always use Agribank. They only charge V$22k for a $V3m withdrawal. After my Home Bank Foreign ATM Fee, I get an Effective Exchange Rate of over 97%. Not all Agribank ATMS dispense V$3m, some are limited to the standard V$2m. To get V$3m use the ATM next to the Ganesh Indian Restaurant or go to the main bank opposite the Karaoke Queen Bee.

RECOMMENDATION: Do NOT use ATMs that don’t tell you what fee is being charged. They, usually, don’t tell you because they are charging you too much! Some charge as much as 5%!


INTERNET / WIFI:

Vietnam is, generally, very good for internet access with almost all Accommodation, Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars offering decent and reliable Free WiFi. Obviously, some are better than others.Hoi An - Old Quarter 104

However, sometimes, their wifi is so slow that you appreciate being able to ‘fall back on’ your own mobile data plan operating at a decent speed.

Don’t trust your ‘budget’ hotel to provide good wifi in our GRANDPAcking price range.

RECOMMENDATION: Get a Viettel SIMcard. I bought a 4G SIMcard at Hanoi Airport with a 28-day 28GB Data Plan for V$300k / US$13. I could have gotten a 1-Month Combo Plan with 15GB with some talk time and texts for US$11. I found that 28GB was much too much … I didn’t need it. In Hoi An I purchased a 1-Month 5GB Data Plan for V$90k / US$4.


HEALTH & SAFETY:

HEALTH INSURANCE:

I got online and bought a 1-year WorldNomads Backpacker Policy for US$565. I don’t need all of the ‘bells and whistles’ that go with the more expensive policies. I, fundamentally, just need Medical and Personal Indemnity Insurance. Read more here.

DODGY BARS:

Nowhere’s perfect. That includes Hoi An. There are some ‘dodgy’ bars that GRANDPAckers are best to avoid. They target the young, backpacker crowd and entice them in with offers of 2-for-1s, free drink on entry, free Shisha for groups of 4, etc.Hoi An - Park

The problem is that this also attracts some ‘dodgy’ locals. This is where they come to prey on unsuspecting tourists. The tourists are usually drunk and ‘easy pickings’… whether that be for pick-pocketing, over-charging for rides home, or playing for money on the pool table.

You would avoid such bars at home in your own country, so why would you go to them here in Hoi An? I advise you to avoid the Tiger Bar, and the Why Not Bar.

DRUGS / MARIJUANA / SMOKING:

The expats in Hanoi seem to have no problem getting hold of Marijuana. In many ‘pubs’ the expats openly ‘skin up’ and pass their joints around. The locals and owners don’t seem to care.Hoi An - Riverside Boat 1

There are a lot of smokers here (more so than you will find in Western Europe) – not a surprise when a branded pack of 20 costs as little as V$25k and a Vietnamese pack of 20 less than V$15. Smoking is common in bars and restaurants.

GENERAL SAFETY:

If you stay clear of the Dodgy Bars, Hoi An is reasonably safe. You don’t feel uncomfortable walking home late at night / early in the morning. But, caution is always advised. As usual, don’t make yourself an easy target.


VISA EXTENSIONS

I used Vietnam-Visa to apply for a 3 month Multi-Entry Tourist Visa. The price of their normal ‘3 day’ service was US$55. At Vietnam Immigration I paid an additional US$50 ‘Stamping Fee’.

I needed to extend my visa by 1 more month (Single Entry). Vietnam-Visa quoted US$120.

Mr Hung Le Van cs@vietnamvisahere.com is the ‘go to man’ in Hoi An for visa extensions. He quoted US$80.Hoi An - Park 105

Daisy Garden said that they could do it for US$90. Daisy had been so reasonable with me about the price of my hotel room and about the price of my scooter rental, that I decided to renew my visa through her. You renew within 15 days of your old visa expiry date. You give them your passport and it comes back the next day (with, yet another, full-page visa stamp).


WHEN TO GO

Hoi An has two main seasons: rainy and dry seasons.Hoi An Climate Chart

The hottest period is from June to August. Many find the heat and humidity ‘overbearing’ and uncomfortable in this period.

November to January are the coldest months. The rainy season lasts from September to January. The dry season is between February and May when the weather becomes very mild with moderate temperature and less humidity. Calm mild weather is now limited to the season of late May to late August when the seas are calm and the wind comes from the South.

The end of May to the end of August is the High Season for Tourism.


GRANDPAcking COSTS:

Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.

SPREADSHEET SUMMARY:

Hoi An Revisited GRANDPAcking Costs

MY COSTS:

My costs are broken down into:

  • Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there;
  • Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun.

PLEASE NOTE: I have reduced my time period to 6 weeks instead of 8.5. I have proportioned some costs accordingly. I have done this so that I can report on Hoi An during Tet (the Vietnamese New Year) separately. During Tet, all prices go up.

COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):

Effective Exchange Rate: I managed to keep my cost of money below 3%. I did this by using my Credit Card to pay for my accommodation and by using AGRIBANK ATMs.

I EXISTED to GRANDPAcking standard. My accommodation averaged V$258k / US$11 per night.

I spent V$1.178m / US$52 on transport. The bulk of this costs was my scooter rental and petrol.

I already had the Viettel SIMcard that I purchased on arrival in Hanoi Airport. I spent V$180k / US$8 on topping it twice (V$90k each) with monthly 8GB data plans.

I have allocated 42 days of my 3-Month Visa costs. At just over US$1 per day this totaled V$1.125m / US$50.

I have allocated 42 days of my 1-Year Travel Insurance costs. At just over US$1.50 per day this totaled V$1.548m / US$69.

I spent an average of V$98k / US$4 per day on meals and water.

My COE worked out to be about V$446k / US$20 per day. This was 38% of my daily budget.

COST OF LIVING (COL):

I LIVED to GRANDPAcking standard.

Drinks / Partying: V$2.791m / US$124. This averaged about US$3 per day.

Personal Care: V$184k / US$8.

Entertainment / Trips: V$1.92m / US$85.

Shopping: V$2.15m / US$95. US$80 of this was on 4 tailor made trousers..

In / Out Costs: V$932k / US$41. US$39 of this was the flight and shuttle from Hanoi to Hoi An.

Medical: V$0 / US$0.

My total COL was about V$632k / US$28 per day. This was 53% of my daily budget.

COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:

Again, costs are broken down into Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL).

COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):

Accommodation: I have booked you into something for V$350k / US$15.50 per night including Breakfast for the first 2 nights. Once in Hoi An, you should be able to find something nice for V$8m / US$355 per month including Breakfast.

Transportation: I have budgeted a weekly return Public Bus trip to Da Nang at V$30k each way per person.

Communications & Fees: I have budgeted a V$250k / US$11 Viettel SIMcard with a 30 day Data-Talk-SMS Package. I have apportioned 1 month of your 3-Month Tourist visas. I have apportioned 1 month of your 12-Month Travel Insurance Plans.

Food & Water: Your budget averages about V$264k / US$12 per day for 2 people. This is to eat ‘like a local’. This includes water purchased in 5 Gallon bottles (at V$40k per bottle).

Your COE is about V$683k / US$30 per day. This is 58% of your daily budget.

COST OF LIVING (COL):

This leaves you about V$504k / US$22 per day to LIVE on. This should be plenty.


CONCLUSION:

Hoi An is a popular Retirement Location … at these costs, it is easy to see why.

Many GRANDPAckers will enjoy what Hoi An has to offer.


RETIREMENT:

Could you afford to retire here on a GRANDPAcking budget? YES. Would you want to? YES.

TTFN


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