One of the most popular things to do in the UNESCO city of Hoi An is to cycle around. The old city is pedestrianised for the majority of the day, which has made cycling a popular way for both locals and tourists to travel around town. During my first trip to Hoi An, way back in 2016, I loved exploring the old town by bike. This was before I had learned how to ride motorbikes, so after months of having to rely on taxis to transport me around, I wasn’t keen on giving up the new-found freedom of having a bike in Hoi An. I decided to keep cycling, and ventured out of Hoi An to explore the surrounding countryside on my own self-guided/DIY bicycle tour.
And boy does it pay to get out and see the Vietnamese countryside. Within a short ride of the city centre you can see farmers and water buffalo at work in the rice paddies, fishermen reeling in their nets in the rivers and an abundance of lush greenery and rustic local life.
Where to get bicycles in Hoi An
The easiest place to get a bicycle in Hoi An is for free through your accommodation. Almost all the hotels in Hoi An offer bike rentals as part of your stay, and if not for free then most have cheap rentals for $1/2 a day. If you don’t yet have a hotel booked for your stay in Hoi An, you can browse the options here*. I have stayed at the Long Life Riverside Hotel* and the Thanh Van 1 Hotel*. Both are in close proximity to the main attractions, offer luxury on a budget and have the crucial free bike rental.
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Related Post: Hoi An Guide and Budget
If you find yourself in a squeeze where your accommodation doesn’t offer any bikes, then you can rent a bicycle from independent vendors near the riverside, or on virtually all the major streets feeding into the old city, like Hai Bà Trưng street (where our route starts). Once you start looking out for bike hire signs, you’ll find that near enough everywhere offers bike rentals.
A bike route to explore the Hoi An countryside
The land around Hoi An is pretty flat which makes it an easy and low intensity cycle. This is the route I took to explore the countryside which takes you in loop around the Hoi An countryside before coming back into the city from a slightly different angle. I went all the way out to the beach, and then on the way back turned off the main road between the rice paddies. If you have a look at the route map you will see there are many branches off the main road which you could explore, using this DIY bike route as a basic shell.
To start your self-guided bicycle tour, you want to head to Hai Bà Trưng street. This is one of the main streets of Hoi An and will take you all the way to the beach. It really is that easy peasy.
Tip: Download google maps on you phone and save the area map for Hoi An to offline mode. This allows you to search for directions and nearby points of interest even without internet, which is amazing for allowing you be spontaneous and head off down random lanes without worrying about getting too lost!
Cycling in the countryside around Hoi An
Hoi An is so unlike other major tourist cities in Vietnam, in that a quick 10 minute bicycle ride from the city centre see you out in nature (something I long could be said about Saigon). So its easy to get a glimpse into local Vietnamese country life! Around Hoi An there are lots of rice paddies, that you can see even from the main roads. You can see farmers working in their fields, with help from their beautiful water buffalo. By the rivers are fishing farms, with fishermen checking their catches and reeling in their nets. Depending on the time of year, you might be lucky to see huge mounds of rice grains drying out in the street in the smaller residential areas.
This looping route took me a lazy afternoon to complete. I grabbed myself a Banh Mi on my way out of town, stopped to take photos and then plonked my bootie down on some sun loungers at the beach for an hour (where I devoured my Banh Mi for lunch). You can find food along the beach front if you wanted to get lunch there, but expect to pay a premium for the location. I also had to buy a drink in addition to paying for the use of the sun loungers, so be sure to bring a comfortable amount of cash with you.
This route can’t be more than 10km so if you were keen on fitting it into a tight schedule, it would be possible in a few hours, assuming you are in good health. The luxury of doing a self-guided tour is that you can spend as long or as little time out in the Hoi An countryside as you wish!
Tips for cycling in Hoi An
If the idea of cycling on wild Vietnamese roads is off-putting, let me (attempt) to give you some guidance. Thankfully the roads in Hoi An are not nearly as busy or chaotic as those in Hanoi and Saigon, making riding around easier and safer. I recommend you time your trip to avoid rush hour, which is normally 7-9am and again at sunset. If crossing the road is still overwhelming and sparks anxiety within you, then you are probably best to stick to cycling within the pedestrianised area of Hoi An where there are no cars to add further complication.
I know it sounds super lax, but focus most of your attention on what is in front of you, without worrying too much about what is behind you. This is generally how traffic in Vietnam works, and if someone in-front of you swerves and you are too busy looking behind, you will crash into them. Oops. If you find yourself in a situation where there are cars overtaking and driving on your side of the road, you will have to move out of the way for them as they won’t slow down or move for you (frustrating and silly, but put your safety first and don’t be stubborn about it). Oh, and incase you weren’t aware, in Vietnam you drive on the right-side of the road. Though to be honest, the locals might not even notice if you forget which side to stick to.
Wear a helmet if you can get your hands on one and avoid riding topless, even on overcast days (like the day I went on my self-guide bicycle tour) you are at serious risk of sunburn. Just plain ouchie.
I loved taking a self-guided bicycle tour around the Hoi An countryside, mostly for the freedom which it gives you to explore! And of course for getting to see the water buffalo.
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For more on Hoi An:
- Hoi An Guide and Budget
- Hoi An Wanderlist (coming soon)
- Vietnamese Cooking class in Hoi An
- Photo Journal: Hoi An Market