A Guide To Responsible Travel In Hoi An

It’s easier than ever to be a mindful traveller in the enchanting UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Hoi An Ancient Town. Responsible travel encompasses any aspect of tourism that can make a positive impact on the environment, people, places, and animals. In other words, shopping, eating and experiencing all that Hoi An has to offer with social enterprises channels your money directly back into the local community. So by supporting worthy causes with social missions in Hoi An, responsible travellers help keep local cultural traditions alive. Contributing to the sustainable development of community-based tourism experiences, and preserving natural wonders.

Here are several ways to make a positive impact in the delightful riverside town of Hoi An.  In other words,  by contributing to local conservation efforts through your meals, activities, and souvenir shopping.

What Responsible Travellers Learn Before Visiting Hoi An

Firstly being a responsible traveller begins with researching the history, culture, and traditions of Hoi An. Knowing what the local cultural norms helps you behave in a way that isn’t insulting or disruptive.  In addition, helping you interact in a thoughtful way with locals. Because the local Vietnamese in Hoi An are incredibly welcoming. But the community is quite conservative and deeply rooted in Buddhist beliefs.  Read up on the lasting effects of the War. Learn local laws and familiarise yourself with the 50+ ethnic groups living in Vietnam.

Responsible travel includes making an effort to attempt to speak a few words in the local language of the places you visit, in order to be able to communicate with locals. While many vendors in Hoi An’s Old Town speak English. English isn’t spoken by all Vietnamese in Hoi An. Show appreciation for Vietnam and a desire to converse by learning a few basics words.

Basic Vietnamese Words for Responsible Travel

Hello – Xin Chao (sin chow)

Goodbye – Tam Biet

Yes – Vang (vung)

No – Khong (khome)

Excuse me/Sorry – Xin loi (seen loy)

Thank you – Cam on (gahm un)

Vegetarian- An chay (ang chai)

How are you? – Ban co khoe khong? (ban co kwe khome?)

Can you help me? – Ban giup toi duoc khong?  (ban zoop thoy duc khom?)

How much? – Bao nhieu? (bow (like how) new?)

Clothes shopping in Hoi An
Dresses for sale at Chula, Hoi An

Responsible Travel – Shopping Local in Hoi An

Do your best to buy local in Hoi An. Therefore ensuring the money you spend allows the community to be able to benefit from your exploration of their town. So seek out restaurants, accommodation, tours, transportation, and souvenirs from locally owned businesses whenever possible.

Responsible Travel – Visiting Hoi An’s Buddhist Temples

Hoi An is home to a multitude of stunning Buddhist shrines, monuments, and temples. Responsible travel here means you are considerate and dress modestly when entering Buddhist houses of worship. Most temples don’t strictly regulate dress codes.  However, it’s inappropriate to bare your shoulders, chest, stomach, or knees. At most Buddhist temples, leave your shoes outside. Explore the temples as much as you’d like. Heeding any signs regarding photography and abide by rules on what not to photograph. Usually, it’s fine to take pictures in temples.  But, do not use flash as it can damage ancient relics. Also once inside the temple, remember don’t point your feet directly at any Buddha images when sitting or standing. This is seen as disrespectful.

The Most Eco-Friendly Way to Explore Hoi An

Cycling is the best way to explore the Old Town, serene rice terraces, and discover quiet stretches of beach along the coast in Hoi An. No cars are allowed in the Old Town and motorbikes only for certain times of the day. But the Old Town streets do get busy at night. So it’s best to park your bike in a marked parking area with a lock and then stroll around on foot. Above all, cycling is also the most eco-friendly way to get around.  Key to responsible travel! Most homestays and hotels have bicycles available for guests. Or hire them by the day for around 20,000 VND (1 USD).

Cans and bottles for recycling
One refillable aluminium water bottle can last at least four years, which could replace over 5,000 single-use plastic water bottles.

Responsible Travel – Refusing Plastic Water Bottles in Hoi An

Vietnam generates the fourth largest amount of plastic waste that’s littered in the ocean. Responsible travel here means doing what you can to avoid being a part of this crisis by avoiding single-use plastic. “No plastic straw” in Vietnamese is “khong ong hut nhua.” “No plastic bag” is “khong tui nhua.” Bring your own eco-friendly reusable water bottle when visiting Hoi An. One refillable aluminium water bottle can last at least four years. Replacing over 5,000 single-use plastic water bottles!

There are now a few public refill stations in Hoi An. Several businesses also committed to offering their patrons potable drinking water. They allow customers to refill their water bottles for free. These include Dingo Deli, Rosie’s Cafe, and The Fisherman. Most of these venues also use reusable bamboo straws.

A trip to Hoi An wouldn’t be complete without a few lazy days on the beach. As you enjoy An Bang go for a stroll and pick up as much trash as you can. Or join in on the regularly scheduled beach cleanups at The Fisherman. Every Saturday morning, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., the Hoi An Clean Up non-profit team goes out on kayaks to clean up the river banks. Travellers can volunteer three hours of their time to assist with the cleanup efforts. Contact Hoian Kayak on Facebook to reserve your spot and coordinate details.

Responsible Travel in Hoi An – Go On Community-Based Tours

In Hoi An, responsible travel includes avoiding tours that exploit humans, animals, and places. The best way to ensure that the tours you book in Hoi An are ethical is to find authentic cultural experiences operated by local non-profits.

The charitable Karma Waters was founded by a local family back in 2005. They have been making a major impact on the local community ever since. Karma Waters also operates an assortment of tourism experiences.  This includes their world-famous vegan cooking class in which you can learn how to prepare authentic Vietnamese cuisine. In addition to cycling through the picturesque Tra Que Organic Vegetable Village.

If you plan to explore the Cham Islands while visiting Hoi An, make the trip with Karma Waters. Rest assured that the money you pay for the experience is channelled back into the local community in a meaningful way. Karma Waters operates a responsible travel homestay in collaboration with the Bai Huong Tourism Cooperative. This supports the livelihood of local people and conservation of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. A local English-speaking guide helps you explore the village. Then takes you snorkelling at Hon Tai island and leads you through a cooking class. Also, they help you connect with locals to volunteer a few hours of your time to tutor in English. There’s no better way to immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture in Hoi An than being welcomed into the home of locals for an authentic cultural exchange.

Hoi An painted boats
Look for tours run by ethical organisations.

Enjoy Delicious Meals that Give Back in Hoi An

Hoi An has several social enterprises, responsible travel restaurants and training cafes serving delicious traditional Hoianese dishes. Many of these eateries employ at-risk children or those with different abilities. In addition to eating meals that support local charities, responsible travellers can reduce their carbon footprint by indulging in a few vegan meals. Bring your own plastic-free kit including a reusable water bottle, collapsible cup, bamboo straw, and cutlery.

Streets International Restaurant

Web – Address: 17 Le Loi

STREETS Restaurant Café serves up delicious Vietnamese cuisine with a side of social enterprise.  All housed in a historic shophouse in Hoi An’s Ancient Town. The beautiful cafe functions as a hands-on hospitality training program for disadvantaged local youth. The 18-month program equips trainees with an education in the culinary arts and various vocational skills free of charge.   Their aim is to make a paradigm shift and set them on the path to a prosperous career. The program is internationally acclaimed and credentialed by the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. So all revenue from STREETS benefits the training program, fully operated by the beneficiaries, from cooking to serving.

The motto “good food helping good kids” goes beyond providing career development for vulnerable children. STREETS is also committed to reducing their single-use plastic waste and has substituted wasteful plastic straws for compostable grass straw alternatives. 

Karma Waters

Web – Address: 213 Nguyen Duy Hieu

Karma Waters is one of the best places in Hoi An to taste local delicacies prepared in a Buddhist vegan manner with organic locally-sourced produce. Devout Buddhists are strictly vegetarian. But most Vietnamese are only meatless during the new moon and full moon.

The Karma Waters Charitable Association operates a variety of projects supplying healthy food to disadvantaged people around central Vietnam. In addition, Karma Waters operates a vegan food program distributing dishes to hospitals in order to provide healthy meals to the sick and disabled. Through the association, Karma Waters raise funds to provide medical assistance to poor patients. In order to help them pay for the medical bills for their life-saving treatments. The nutritional lunch program allows those in need to purchase a daily vegan meal for just 5,000 VND (0.25c USD). They even extend this offer to students.

Reaching Out Tea House

Web – Address: 131 Tran Phu

Reaching Out is a social enterprise that operates two charitable businesses within the quarters of the ancient town. An artisanal goods shop and a tea house. Both were created in order to provide sustainable job opportunities for those who are differently-abled.

In an ancient teakwood tea house, deaf and hearing-impaired staff members use written notes and gestures to provide a traditional Vietnamese tea service and locally sourced coffee to guests. Reaching Out has made it possible for these local people to have prosperous careers in a safe and nurturing environment.

 

Reaching Out - Responsible Travel in Hoi An
Each purchase from Reaching Out helps them to provide more jobs for differently abled people in Hoi An

Jack’s Cat Cafe

Web – Address: 12 Le Hong Phong

Make a reservation at Jack’s Cat Cafe for some furry cuddle time while you’re in Hoi An! The Vietnam Cat Welfare animal shelter welcomes guests to visit their cute inhabitants by reservation from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  They are open Tuesday through Saturday. Jack was the first kitty at the shelter, there are now over 80 cats rescued from the streets! The entry fee of 100,000 VND (5 USD) includes a drink and allows you to play with the cats for at least an hour. Children under 12 visit for free as long as they’re accompanied by an adult. In addition, Jack’s Cat Cafe also offers healthy vegan meals.

Join Workshops and Learn about Traditional Vietnamese crafts

Responsible travellers in Hoi An are keen to learn about the local crafts heritage. They have an abundance of options of providers teaching guests various art forms. Many of the fair trade shops in town also offer half-day courses. Here travellers can make their own lantern, jewellery, masks, and more. Read our full article on Craft Workshops in Hoi An.

Xu Dang Trong

Address: 9 Nguyen Thai Hoc

Xu Dang Trong, otherwise known as Hoi An Traditional Handicraft, is a fair trade, responsible travel shop.  Located in a 200-year-old house that once belonged to a Chinese merchant. At 3:15 p.m. each afternoon, local musicians gather to perform traditional Vietnamese music at the boutique with heartfelt performances. From Monday to Saturday at 10:15 a.m., various artisan workshops are held.  Here you can witness the age-old craft behind many of these beautiful creations. Some of the most popular events are lantern making and Vietnamese opera mask painting. Above all don’t miss the Mehndi painting every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon to get your own wearable art.

 

Craft Workshop in Hoi An Responsible Travel in Hoi An
Hoi An Traditional Handicraft, is a fair trade shop located in a 200-year-old house that once belonged to a Chinese merchant.

Where to Shop for Ethically-Sourced Souvenirs in Hoi An

Today in Hoi An, there are several fair trades, responsible travel boutiques and workshops offering a beautiful assortment of meaningful souvenirs. But while haggling is part of the procedure of buying goods in Vietnam, it’s not appropriate to bargain over the equivalent of a few dollars when purchasing handcrafted artisan goods.  Especially not when the funds support a charity. Be respectful when you’re negotiating a price. Therefore keep in mind that your purchase will be directly infused in the local tourism economy. If a shop has a sign that reads fixed prices, and the items are simply out of your budget, then take your spending elsewhere.

Xu Dang Trong

Address: 9 Nguyen Thai Hoc

Along with the craft workshops already mentioned, the ancient teakwood interior of Xu Dang Trong is brought to life with a colourful offering of traditional Vietnamese handicrafts. Making the perfect responsible travel keepsake souvenir or gift for loved ones back home. Local artisans have crafted various goods such as intricate ceramics, handwoven silk scarves, and dashing lacquer bracelets. Xu Dang Trong supports sustainable economic development for ethnic minorities in Vietnam by directly sourcing handicrafts and paying artisans a fair wage for their talents.

Mekong Creations

Web – Address: 136 Tran Phu

This national fair trade boutique focuses on responsible travel. Mekong Creations has a darling artisan shop within the lantern-lined alleyways of Hoi An’s ancient town. Everyone can find a meaningful gift here as the assortment is quite extensive.  It includes everything from handwoven rugs, colourful home decor items, and even bamboo bicycles. All items sold at Mekong Creations are made of locally sourced materials and produced by artisans living in disadvantaged areas of Vietnam and Cambodia in partnership with the NGO Mekong+.

Villagecraft Planet

Web – Address: 59 Durong Phan Boi

Villagecraft Planet works with ethnic minority artisans to create sustainable, ethical, and handmade clothing, home décor, and accessories. All of the stylish designs sold in the shop, responsibly-sourced and designed. They have the principal idea of keeping traditional textile methods alive. Their ethos, “a new way to look good, while doing good” . Therefore something those focusing on responsible travel can seriously get behind. However, Villagecraft Planet is a bit more luxurious than other fair trade shops in Hoi An. But the quality is worth the cost.

Chula

Web – Address: 11 Nguyen Hue

However, if you’re looking to source an avant-garde responsible clothing item during your travels head to the beautiful Chula boutique. The colourful brand pays tribute to Vietnamese culture through clever designs and references. The fashion collection of wearable art, handcrafted by Vietnamese people with physical disabilities. In other words, Chula is fashion at it’s best. Thoughtful clothing that honours the heritage and supports the livelihood of local people.

Reaching Out

Web – Address: 03 Nguyen Thai Hoc

Reaching Out also operates an artisanal goods shop in addition to the tea house. At the arts and crafts store employees, handcraft various goods at the Reaching Out workshop. Additionally, they invite guests to learn about the craft as silversmiths make unique pieces of jewellery and weavers create beautiful rugs. The lovely handicrafts are available for purchase. They have a responsible travel focus with all proceeds going towards supporting people living with different abilities in Vietnam.

Reaching Out Shop - Responsible Travel in Hoi An
Reaching Out’s old town shop front

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