Hoi An Free Things to Do: Budget Travel in Hoi An Vietnam

Travelers should know free things to do in Hoi An, to save the budget for this wonderful city and by that, can stay longer to explore. From old town, countryside to beaches, it’s possible to make a trip without any payments, except water to drink. On the coastline, sunbathing with your own towel, swimming, watching sunrise and playing sports with locals, are what to expect. Around the countryside, visitors have the chance to see slices of real Vietnamese rural life and handicraft making traditions. Nearly all places don’t require an admission to access and discover further. In the old town, tourists must purchase an entry fee. It covers 5 sites, however, there are still numerous venues and spots open with free doors.

In this article, we list all of the free things to do in Hoi An for you – travellers to design easier the best plan for yourself and of course, have fun days without spending much money. In fact, in most hotels, bicycles are free to the guests and why not take one and discover by your own way.  

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Hoi An Lantern Festival

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This well-known celebration is held monthly, in the full moon in Hoi An Ancient Town. After the sunset, people will hang up lanterns in their houses, restaurants, shops and streets that are varied in size, shape and color. They do believe that the action brings luck, happiness and prosperity to themselves and beloved ones. Their ancestors had the tradition from 15th century and they are still keeping it. Since the town won the Unesco world heritage title, lanterns using the candle are encouraged to save energy. By the canal, locals also light candles on paper lanterns, and then drop down the water to make wishes. Thanks to a magic, mythical world of lights, vibrant atmosphere and lively slices of life, nobody misses the lantern festival. Of course, no fee is required to attend.  

Read also: Hoi An old town walking tour, night market and sampan boat ride (half day)


Hoi An Night Market

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From the Old town, visitors need to walk across the bridge to the opposite bank, to get to the Night market. It opens from dusk to around 10 p.m (or may be later during the high seasons), with over 150 stalls standing along a street. Foodies in town all know this place, because they can see a variety of yummy street foods and food specialties, such as pork barbecue rolled with rice papers. Shopaholics never miss a stroll around, to “safari” cheap souvenirs and gifts, and many other things to buy. Thanks to sparking colorful lantern shops, instagrammers also love the market and hope to take at least a photo with the fantastic backdrop. Night market opens for the public, so unquestionably, it’s one of the “best” free things to do in Hoi An.

Read also: Hoi An old town, night market and sampan ride (half day)


Beaches in Hoi An

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Hoi An coastline is long (nearly 10km), fine sandy, bordered by blue water of the Pacific ocean and lined by coconut palms. The nearest beach from the Old town (also the best) is An Bang where lots of sun beds and thatch talapas stand by its expanse. During the sunny months, this place is really ideal to sunbathe, get a tan and relax with cool breezes. Due to being shallow and rock free, the sea here is really safe for swimmers and little ones. For that reason, local families love to visit with their members after a long day of working. On the coast, there are many restaurants and bars to choose from, for a cold drink or snacks. Down south, sun seekers should know Tan Thanh, Hidden and Cua Dai beaches. All of them are nice to soak in unpolluted water, cool off or chill out with a pretty view in the front.

Note: An Bang Food and Music Festival is held once a year in An Bang beach, with no tickets and fees. Visitors can see a variety of foods prepared by chefs from top-notch restaurants and handicraft things to buy. Tables and comfy sofas to watch live international music are also available.   

Read also: Hoi An ancient town and My Son sanctuary day tour


The Marble Mountains (2022)

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In 2022, entrance fee to the Marble Mountains is free. 15 km north of Hoi An center, this nationally-famed attraction is a cluster of 5 jagged limestone and marble hills. A king named it “Five Elements Mountain” or Ngu Hanh Son, and each hill represents an element. The largest one Hon Thuy Son or “Water Mountain” is the tourist draw because it owns the oldest Buddhist temples, holiest shrines, most amazing caves and scenic high points. All are one by one along a hike with hundreds of steps. In the foot, visitors can see the Hell Cave where Vietcong communists hid in the American war. Just outside, local people have carved marble sculptures for sale for over 400 years up to date.

Read also: My Son sanctuary, Marble Mountains and basket boat tour


Precious Heritage Art Gallery by Rehann

This private art gallery and museum is the best of its kind in Hoi An. It’s founded and owned by Rehann, a talented French photographer living with a love for Vietnam. He spent a lot of time touring around the city and traveled around the country, to capture the most memorable moments and beauty of Vietnamese people. In the first space of the gallery, visitors will see impressive pictures of them, hanging up on the walls. In the remaining parts of the ground floor and the upper floor, the most complete collection of traditional costume from all 54 ethnics is seen. How the French men approached each group of people is told on the front information board.

Hoi An Central Market

Read details in Hoi An central market

This central market of the Old town (and city) opens from the early morning to dinner time. Around the sunrise, visitors can see a bustling scene of fishers and buyers in the fish market by the river. Then, tour around Bach Dang St next to, to see a variety of local procedures in different colors. In the first rush hour of the day, photo opportunities are many, to capture the most lively, authentic slices of life. “Under the roof”, the sellers have fresh meats, cooking utensils, spices and cooked foods for sale. In the entrance of the market, the well is still producing water and in use. Some people use the water from there to prepare cao lau noodles, instead of the one from Ba Le well because it’s nearer. In Tieu La St, it’s possible to see locals dun drying the fresh noodles on round trays that are rarely seen around the town. Around the dusk, visitors have the chance to meet various street food and souvenir stalls, including on the pavement and with a cart.

Cam Kim Island

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Cam Kim Island is surrounded by Thu Bon river, the largest waterway in the province. To get to it, visitors need to cross two Cam Kim bridges or get a boat ferry from the old town’s quay. Due to being isolated from the city and mainlands for a long time, people here still keep nearly-unchanged rural lifestyles, traditional handicrafts and speaking accents. Their village, gardens and rice paddies are still free from large constructions, crowds of tourists and factories. For that reason, lots of visitors want to come here and get insight into the countryside of Hoi An – the real Vietnam.

The best way is on wheels of a bicycle which allows you to paddle in small, low-traffic back roads and access local families. Without a guide, visitors can ride over Cam Kim bridge, visit Kim Bong carpentry village, nearby Cam Kim market and across other villages and windy rice paddies. No fee is required to enter and get around this pretty piece of Hoi An’s countryside. The bicycle is available in the hotel, so why not?

Read also: Hoi An old town and Cam Kim island bike tour (full day)

Tra Que Vegetable Village

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Tra Que is a traditional village 3 km north of the Old town and not far away from An Bang beach. Visitors can cycle to get here, visit lush organically-grown vegetable gardens and photograph the farmers at work. Growers are happy to allow visitors to join their daily works, such as transplanting baby herbs, watering and so on. Near the gardens, there are a couple of historical sites to see, including communal houses, temples, tombs of military soldiers and Champa wells. At the end of the day, coming to nearby rivers or rice paddies, visitors definitely have the chance to witness a brilliant sunset.

Read also:

  • Hoi An ancient town and countryside experience
  • My Son sanctuary and Hoi An countryside tour


Kim Bong Carpentry Village

Ride the free bicycle in the hotel and cross over any of Cam Kim bridges, visitors will get closer to Kim Bong carpentry village. It’s established in 16th century by people who moved from the north of Vietnam. Over 400 years, the traditional handicraft is still passed down from father to son, and the tradition becomes a national intangible cultural heritage. Boat building “industry” is still alive by the river and in the inner roads, there are workshops where artists are hard working in their sculptures. Galleries don’t require an entrance ticket, so feel free to walk in and admire masterly-crafted furniture and objects. Take the bicycle further inside the Cam Kim island, visitors may see more slices of Vietnamese rural life along the roads.

Read also: Hoi An old town and Cam Kim island bike tour

Free Instagrammable Spots

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There are lots of places where visitors can take really nice photos that don’t require an entrance fee. Ba Mu temple gate is one of the best known ones, in Hai Ba Trung St. It’s what an enormous Chinese temple leftover from wars and renovated in a recent time. People can visit any hour of the day, from sunrise to midnight. Other highlights are “Hoi An vibes only” wall in the Sunday in Hoi An, yellow wall of Tan Ky house (riverside), Japanese covered bridge (outside), lantern streets Nguyen Thai Hoc, bougainvillea flowers and so on.

Read also: Hoi An ancient town walking tour and countryside experience

Cycle around Hoi An’s Countryside

Around Hoi An’s city centre, there is a peaceful, nearly unspoiled countryside that lots of travellers love to cycle around. With a free bicycle from the hotel, you can choose to paddle across the northern countryside (surroundings of Tra Que village) and Cam Kim island. In the first area, it’s possible to expect lush vegetable and herb gardens, rice fields and waterways dotted with fishermen’s nets. In the island, thanks to being on the river, the riders enjoy low-traffic roads through small villages, rice paddies and sedge grass fields. Sometimes, temples, pagodas and family chapels are hidden away in trees. In the late afternoon, watching the sun going down the horizon is one of traveler’s favourites. Don’t forget that Kim Bong carpentry village is on the island, without the entrance fee.

Read also:

  • Hoi An ancient town and Cam Kim island bike tour
  • My Son sanctuary and Hoi An countryside experience (full day)
  • The bests of Hoi An – old town and countryside

Buddhist Temples and Pagodas in Hoi An

Read details in Temples and pagodas in Hoi An

Visitors don’t pay an entrance fee if visiting Buddhist temples and pagodas in Hoi An, as a long-standing tradition. Therefore, you don’t need to. The most famous pagoda is Chuc Thanh (not in the old town) – the headquarter of Linji school of Buddhism in the region. It’s built in the second half of 17th century when Hoi An town reached its peak in international trade. Also dated back from the same time, nearby Phuoc Lam Pagoda is also worth a visit. Closer to the ancient quarters, the Confucius Temple is grand, newly reconstructed in traditional architecture. In a house here, disabled people make handicraft objects (like lanterns) to sell and earn for living. You can buy to support their life.

Bai Choi Singgings and Games

Bai Choi is a Unesco intangible cultural heritage in the province. It’s a mix between gaming and singing that occurs during the spring in rural villages. After winning the title from the United Nations organization, artists come to the town to perform and introduce their ancestor tradition. By An Hoi bridge, visitors can see bamboo huts where players and the audience sit and participate. All huts face an open yard where the hosts stand. Although it’s very hard to understand what they sing, watching the art allows visitors to know about a local heritage. In the lantern full moon festival, folk games and classes to teach childrens folk songs are also arranged around the waterfronts.  

Read also: Hoi An ancient town, night market and sampan boat (half day)

GAM Gemstone Art Museum

At 130 Nguyen Thai Hoc St (An Hoi bridge), this museum allows visitors to enjoy the beauty and diversity of gemstones found in Vietnam and the outside. All are showcased in an old Chinese merchant’s house. In other areas, it’s possible to see options of coffees and beverages but nobody requests to take anything.

Early Morning Fish Markets

Fish markets in the sunset are stunning to visit, not only for photography lovers, but also for those who seek real slices of local people’s life. The nearest from the Old town is Thanh Ha fish market under the Cam Kim bridge. Other famous ones (but further) are Duy Hai fish market near the mouth of Thu Bon river and Binh Minh fish market on the beach. For sure, nowhere charges an entrance fee.

Sunrise and Sunset

Watching sunrise and sunset – two magic moments of the day – are favourite things to do for nature lovers and romantic souls. The best place to watch how the sun goes up, of course, is the beach. The nearest one depends on where you stay, but if staying overnight near the Old town, An Bang is the choice. There, not just scenic and inspirational scenery, the viewers also see how the life of people is at the beginning of a new day. The beach is popular to local swimmers, exercisers and sport players everyday. If lucky enough, visitors will see fishers offloading their catches of seafood on the water edge.

To enjoy the brilliant sunset, visitors can reach bridges over Thu Bon river, such as Cua Dai, Cam Kim or Cam Nam bridges. Rice fields in the countryside are also ideal, because of no obstacles. In town, come to Bach Dang river quay. After the sun disappears, it’s time to view how the lantern lights on and become sparky quickly then. Along the riverfront, paper lanterns with a candle are dropped down the water and float leisurely, making the night scape truly mesmerizing.

Read also: Hoi An ancient town tour, night market and lantern boat ride

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