Hoi An Lantern Boat Ride on Hoai River

A lantern boat ride is a thing to do that visitors must do today in Hoi An. For many centuries, locals have taken it on the Hoai river by the Hoi An ancient town in the full moon. Not just to view amazing scenes of lanterns, they want to release lotus-shaped paper lanterns to make wishes for beloved persons. Thanks to uncountable lantern lights in the town and on the river, millions of travelers visit Hoi An, especially at night. Citizens of Da Nang also drive to Hoi An and of course, cruising the river and dropping the lanterns can’t be missed. This article outlines everything first timers need to know about lantern boat ride of Hoi An old town world heritage.

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What is the Lantern Boat Ride in Hoi An?

On Hoai river by the Hoi An old town world heritage, every night, many sampans carry people downstream and upstream. That are “lantern boats”. Simply, the name comes from a creativity of locals: using silk lanterns to decorate the boats. Introduced by Chinese people in 15th century, the lantern is one of the emblems of Hoi An (even it’s titled “city of lanterns”). Read Hoi An lanterns for more information.  

During a lantern boat ride on Hoai river, visitors will enjoy the beauty of Hoi An at night from a more special point, watch the world and of course, have lots of impressive pictures. In the full moon night, the best experience is provided, thanks to soft tremulous lights from hanging lanterns in streets and floating lanterns. Vibrancy of the town at that time is an extra. In addition, the passengers also can release paper lanterns lit by candle to the water and then make wishes or pray for beloved persons. A meaningful video or photo can be created to save the signature activity of Hoi An. Along the waterfronts, there are old ladies selling shimmering lotus-shaped lanterns, giving a great content for photography. Lantern boat rides on the Hoai river are unforgettable.

Note: By Hoi An central market, there are many cruises with lantern decorations also. Locals don’t mean these are lantern boats! Usually, used to carry groups of day trippers (like Asians) on the Thu Bon river. Of course, traditionally people don’t take to releasing the lanterns.


Hoai River: Everything You Need to Know About

Hoai river (Hoi An river, Hoi An canal or Song Hoai) is a small, 1,5-kilometers-long river in Hoi An, and a tributary of greater Thu Bon river. It runs between the Hoi An ancient town world heritage to the north and An Hoi island to the south. Its name means “the missing”, expressing homesickness of citizens who migrated to Hoi An from another country or another part of Vietnam. The Chinese called this historical city “Hoai Pho” or the town by the Hoai river. By that, Europeans called it “Faifoo”. The city square where Hoi An’s important events and festivals take place, is also named “Hoai river square” also. The iconic waterfront of Hoi An is Bach Dang road bordered by Hoai river. In recent years, Hoai river is known for fabulous lantern boat rides every evening.

Read also: Thu Bon River


History of Lantern Boat Ride in Hoi An

For many centuries, Vietnamese people have celebrated the lantern festival every full moon. In this cultural and religious event, red lanterns are hung up to decorate the houses, to pray for fortune and happiness. By the Hoai river, people release paper lanterns lit by candle, in order to pray for themselves and their loved persons. This tradition originates from Buddhism that has been a part of Vietnamese culture. For a better experience, many prayers travel by a sampan to do it. Photographers also love to take photos with ladies wearing ao dai long dress and dropping lighting lanterns.

Inherited from ancestors who were merchants and businessmen, local boat riders sell the ride on Hoai river for tourists. In 2018, this activity is loved so much and more locals provide it, including many scammers. Sampans are decorated by colorful, lighting lanterns and pinwheels that support good pictures. In the next couple of years, lantern boats increase, leading to lack of organization and safety guidelines. For example, visitors have to pay different costs for the same experience, and occasionally, it is very expensive. To professionalize Hoi An’s lantern boat rides, local authorities decided to set regulations. City leaders said that former boats and their rainbow-like decorations lost Hoi An’s traditional characters. Until now, one sampan has two lanterns only, in the head and the tail, and that’s all.


Hoi An Lantern Boat Ride Cost and Extra Costs

For 1 to 3 people, a lantern boat ride costs 150,000 VND and it’s 200,000 VND from 4 to 5 people. These are official prices, shown on the information boards at each ticket station, in both Vietnamese and English. If liking to buy a paper lantern to release, visitors need to pay from 5,000 to 15,000 VND for one. Five people are maximum in a same boat, according to public regulations. Meaning that families of above 5 members, it’s needed to travel on two boats. Small kids are free of charge.

Lantern boat ride is not included in the Hoi An old town entrance fee. Because of the boat stations within the old town, tourists need to pay for this admission also. The fee is 120,000 VND for foreigners and non-Vietnamese passport holders. Read Hoi An old town ticket for further details.

Note: The staff won’t help solo travelers combine with other people. So, he or she should deal by himself/herself to share the boat (and the cost).


Hoi An Lantern Boat Ride Ticket

Visitors have to pay a fee and then get a paper ticket to experience the lantern boat rides in Hoi An. At the present, there are 5 places (booths) they can go to, all by the river: three in Bach Dang road waterfront and two in the Night market and An Hoi bridge. See our map at the end of this article to know their correct location. Each booth has a table, lanterns and a board showcasing price and regulations. If paying 150,000 VND (1-3 people), visitors will have a yellow ticket and it’s red when they are charged 200,000 VND (4-5 people).

After holding a ticket, visitors will give it to a manager (men) who points out the boat having the duty. To get the boat, it’s needed to walk downstairs. In the “night market booth”, a small wooden wharf is built, providing better safety than iron ladders. That’s why elders need to be very careful or should consider not to go if feeling dangerous. Boat riders advise passengers to walk slowly and sit gently to retain the balance of the boat. They should face the other side of the rider, and wear life vest immediately to be allowed boarding. In addition, he or she will give a lighter to light the candle in paper lanterns.

How Much Time Does a Lantern Boat Ride Take?

The duration of Hoi An’s lantern boats is 20 minutes. For a longer ride, the passengers need to pay a little bit more for the riders, directly. After buying the ticket, visitors will give it to a man who decides on your boat. Just follow him! If without a request to end the ride earlier, the rider will propel his/her boat until time runs out. Once again, just needed to politely say “can we stop?”.

It’s possible to ask for landing at another place. For example, visitors may board from An Hoi bridge by the Bai Choi singing stage and stop the ride on the opposite bank, by the Night market. It also means that you don’t have to board and land in the same spot. Please tell the rider.


Hoi An’s Lantern Boat Timings

According to official information from local authorities, lantern boats on Hoai river is available from 6 to 9:30 pm daily. However, if it’s dark early (especially in the wet season) or there are many tourists in the town, the boats can board earlier or later than this timing.

If expecting to see the town when it’s full of dynamic, visitors should experience the lantern boat ride from 7:30 to 9 pm. During this period, crowds appear and lantern lights are most, providing the best scene of the night. To have a chilly mood, it’s needed to board earlier.

The Best Spots to See Lantern Boats

Not only to experience, the scene of lantern boats and floating lanterns is really lovely to see. Visitors can sit by the river, on the low stone columns to tie the boats (possible for one person only!). Along Bach Dang road, there are so many places with outdoor seating to get a drink (or try local foods), enjoy the view and watch the pedestrians and moving rickshaws. Around sunset when it’s not too dark, visitors can take better photos than in the evening. Old lady vendors selling paper lanterns and locals releasing the lanterns are what photographers love shooting. In the upper floors of riverside restaurants, seating there is also ideal to see the river and the boats. However, it’s necessary to reserve a table in advance (especially by the balcony). From the An Hoi bridge, the Hoai river filled with lantern lights is really fantastic. Because many people love to have a picture, that’s why it’s stuck during the evening.

Other Activities in Hoi An at Night

The Hoi An Lantern Full Moon Festival

Every full moon, the Lantern festival is held in Hoi An old town. Traditionally, locals will hang up red lanterns in their house at this time, to pray for fortune and happiness. They also go to temples and pagodas, and sure, celebrate ceremonies for ancestors. Other activities which visitors will see in this well-known festival are folk games, outdoor performances, more. Read Hoi An lantern festival to know further details.

The Hoi An Night Market

More than 150 souvenir and food stalls make up the Hoi An night market, on Nguyen Hoang road. Here, visitors have so many choices of things to buy and eat (bargaining is needed!), and have the chance to take nice pictures with a colorful lantern backdrop. From the Old town, people need to walk across the bridge and turn right. Read more information in Hoi An night market.

The Hoi An Memories Show

Not far away from Hoi An ancient town, the Hoi An memories show is the largest outdoor art visual performance in Vietnam. Within an hour, the audience will see a wonderful show carried out by 500 male and female artists. It depicts the history and characters of the town, such as the wedding between a Vietnamese princess and Champa king, ladies wearing white long dresses on the bike. Read everything in Hoi An memories show. Text us in whatsapp number +84968009827 to reserve the tickets.

Playing Bai Choi (game) with Locals

Bai Choi is a traditional game of central Vietnamese people in the countryside. It’s held every spring, especially during the new year festival. By An Hoi bridge and the river, visitors can join locals to play it. Read all you need to know in Art of Bai Choi.

The Japanese Covered Bridge

The Japanese covered bridge still opens at night, and in its surroundings, visitors can find delicious street foods and see local entertainments (folk songs, dances, traditional games, etc). Taking pictures with a shoulder pole carrying fruits or flowers is also funny. People often don’t give cash for the ladies, and buy something for her instead.

Cong Nu Ngoc Hoa Food Street

Near the Japanese bridge, this riverside road has outdoor tables and seating to allow visitors to have dinner, with a lovely view. Local food specialties, drinks (no alcohols) and especially, grilled pork skewers are sold. Here, it’s less busy than other Hoai river waterfronts.

Nguyen Phuc Chu Pub Street

On the opposite bank of Hoai river, Nguyen Phuc Chu road is lined by restaurants, pubs and bars. Live music and happy hours are provided, along with a social atmosphere and nice view to the river and lanterns. On the menu, visitors can see many options of alcohols and non-alcohols to choose from. Around mid-night, most venues close.


Da Nang to Hoi An: What is the Best Transport?

Hoi An centre (or Hoi An old town) is 30 km south of Da Nang. For couples, families and groups of friends, the best transport to get from Da Nang to Hoi An is by car or van. The drive is from 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the traffic. The Cost of a car ranges from 700,000 to 1,000,000 VND for 2 ways, and it’s 900,000 to 1,200,000 VND for a van (16 seats). Text us in whatsapp number +84968009827. Please remember to take the telephone number of the driver to contact to return to Da Nang (should set pickup time and location in advance!). Visitors will walk around Hoi An ancient town to visit and to reach the river for lantern boat rides.

For solo travelers or those who travel with a budget, the best option to go to Hoi An from Da Nang is by shuttle bus or self-driving motorcycle. The rental price of a scooter is from 100,000 to 200,000 VND, and the automatic bikes will be more expensive. Sure, this price doesn’t include the gasoline and insurance. Helmets are always available. 

Read also: How to get from Da Nang to Hoi An

Hoi An Lantern Boat Ride Map

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