Sandwiched between beautiful white sandy beaches and the Thu Bon River, Hoi An is the perfect place to jump on a bicycle and pedal your way around Hoi An.
The quaint old quarter in the centre of town is very cycle-friendly, and it takes only a very short ride out of town before you are passing through rice paddies and traditional villages. Hidden has done the “legwork” for you, testing out the plethora of different bike routes in and around the town. In this article, we provide you with our best Hoi An cycling (self-guided) tips and useful information for getting you comfortably out on your bike. We then send you out on the road along the best self-guided routes that we know.
Bike Rental in Hoi An
When you arrive in Hoi An, you will see bicycles everywhere. They are a popular mode of transport for tourists wanting to explore the old town and for locals to get around. When hiring a bike there are two main options: fixed gear town bikes and mountain bikes. Most hostels and hotels will have bikes that can be rented either free or for a very small fee—usually less than 25,000 VND (1 USD) a day. They can also be hired from countless places around town. These will all be fixed gear town bikes, some of them in a better state than others. These bikes are great if you are planning to cycle around the old town or to the beach. However, because they don’t have any gears or suspension, they are not so good if you’re going further afield. If you’re planning to head into the countryside or anywhere outside of the city, then we definitely recommend getting a mountain bike.
Hiring a standard fixed gear town bicycle in Hoi An is easy—if you haven’t already got one from your hotel, then they can be found for rent on pretty much any street and should be pretty cheap to hire. However, if you want a proper mountain bike, then the choices are a bit more limited. When hiring a bike always check that a bike lock is included, the brakes work properly, that the gears (if any) change smoothly, your tyres are fully pumped, and give it a short test ride to make sure it doesn’t fall apart. If you are above average height make sure that they have a large or extra-large bike frame. Hidden recommends the following places for mountain bike hire:
The best quality, range, and best-maintained mountain bikes in Hoi An can be found at Grasshopper Adventures. All their bikes are meticulously cleaned and looked after meaning you can rely on them to work how they should. They have a good range of sizes and also have kids bikes and child seats. Bike hire for the day is 150,000 VND (7.50 USD) and they also require a passport or 5,000,000 VND (250 USD) for a deposit.
The Help Expat Services have a small range of mountain bikes for hire, starting at 60,000 VND (3 USD) a day or 300,000 VND (15 USD) a week. They are well maintained and the owner is very friendly, also offering motorbike hire and a range of other useful services.
General Cycling Tips
The roads in Vietnam can be more than a little bit crazy. Thankfully, Hoi An is relatively small, and the traffic is much more manageable than in the big cities. However, there are still some things you need to know and do to keep yourself safe when you’re out on the road.
Vehicles in Vietnam drive on the right side of the road. This is particularly important to remember when crossing roads because you might be looking for traffic in the wrong direction. Take care when crossing intersections, especially four-way intersections, as many locals on motorbikes will come around corners on the wrong side of the road. If you have a bell on your bike, then ring it as you approach the intersection to let others know that you are coming through. We strongly discourage riding at night as some motorcyclists do not use their headlights and can be very difficult to see. Many traffic lights are also turned off after 10 pm at night adding to the risk. If you are riding at night, then wear reflective clothing and try to have a front and a backlight on your bike.
When you’re out and about and you need to leave your bike somewhere that you can’t see it, use a bike lock to make sure that it doesn’t disappear. At night, bring the bike inside the fenced area of your hostel or hotel and lock it.
During the day, the sun is fierce, and even cycling at a leisurely pace can quickly tire you out and leave you sweating buckets. Light clothing and a sunhat is a good idea. Wear sunscreen when you’re on the bike, and make sure you have plenty of water with you. A big bottle of water is enough for most of the shorter, half-day rides, but for anything longer, two is a good idea.
Hidden Hint: In hot weather, if you stop and get off your bike for any decent period of time, then do yourself a favour and park in the shade if you can—or cover your seat. You’ll thank us later when you return to your bike and the seat doesn’t feel like the surface of the sun!
While the sun might be shining when you get on your bike, the weather in Hoi An and Vietnam, in general, can change very quickly. Take a small backpack with your water and a raincoat or poncho if you’re headed into the countryside. While many locals and tourists alike don’t wear helmets when riding, it can’t hurt to have a bit of extra head protection and you might be very grateful for it if you take a tumble. Ask for a helmet when you hire the bike.
If you get a flat tire in town, then pull up to any of the myriad of places offering bike hire; and if they can’t help you, then they will know someone close by who can. If you are a bit further out, then don’t worry. Make your way to the nearest village and ask one of the locals for help. Again, if they can’t help you, they will know who can. Fixing a puncture shouldn’t cost more than 80,000 VND (4 USD), but it would be a bit more if the tube needs replacing.
Where to Cycle
There are many different places to ride in Hoi An, both in and out of town. If you want a relaxing morning or afternoon ride interspersed with great food and shopping, then look no further than the old town. While the old town is small enough to walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes or so, a bike can be a great way to get around and gives you more freedom to backtrack or get sidetracked. The old town is closed to motorbikes from 3 pm onward, but it starts to get very busy and weaving through hordes of people can be a little stressful. We recommend going in the morning before the crowds have arrived and the heat of the day has set in. Explore the historical sites scattered around the streets (tickets available at all the entrances to the area), do some shopping, then sample some delicious Vietnamese food at one of the many restaurants before heading back to your accommodation to escape the afternoon heat.
While the old town is a wonderful place, it is most definitely set up for tourists. If you want to experience the traditional Vietnamese way of life, then you will only need to cycle a short distance into the countryside. There are many guided tours and a couple of self-guided tours that highlight the best of the Hoi An countryside. Some of the best places to visit are Cam Kim Island, Tra Que Vegetable Village and the surrounding rice fields, and the beautiful beaches. We cover the self-guided routes below, but for guided tours, check out our article here.
Self-Guided Hoi An Cycling Tour
If you don’t feel like joining a tour group or want to do some exploring of your own, then try this self-guided route through the rice fields of Hoi An. We think this route takes in the best of what the countryside has to offer, but there is nothing to stop you going off-route and exploring. Some of the best sights and experiences can be found down obscure side streets and alleyways. The best time to go cycling is in the early morning or late afternoon. This means that you escape the worst heat of the day. We recommend going in the late afternoon because that is when all the locals are out socializing and the sunset over the rice paddies is beautiful.
One Hour Self-Guided Cycle Route – The Blue Route
Starting only five to 10 minutes out of town, this ride is the perfect way to escape into the countryside. There are plenty of photo opportunities, such as a huge banyan tree, rice fields, traditional boats, and river views. It is a very easy ride that can be done on a standard bike and is suitable for kids. The route is very easy to follow as it is clearly marked with white arrows on the road. It goes from Ly Thai To Street through the rice paddies and into Cam Ha Village before looping back around and coming out on Hai Ba Trung, one of the main roads. From there, you can follow the road left for another five minutes to get to An Bang beach and relax on a lounger, or you can head right and follow the road for 20 minutes all the way back into Hoi An.
We start the loop from Ly Thai To Street at the point marked ‘Short Loop Start’ on the map above. The location can also be found on this map pin. Look for the white arrow on the road, these arrows will guide you along the entire route.
Once off the main road, it’s straight into the open expanse of rice paddies. The large open area gives great views of the locals at work and the motorbikes and bicycles crisscrossing the fields. It is a strange contrast between the distinctly rural countryside and the back of Hoi An’s buildings. You will circle to the right of the small group of buildings before taking a right-hand turn followed by the third left. Trust the arrows along here as some of the rice field paths are dead ends used by farmers to reach their field.
The busy Hai Ba Trung Road, marked on the map as “point 1,” runs right through the middle of the rice fields, so you will need to cross it. Take care as it can be very busy and motorists are not taken to slowing down for much. We advise stepping off the bike and pushing across this road.
After cycling through the remaining rice fields it’s into the small village of Cam Ha. If you’re passing through in the afternoon, there will often be lots of children around and families and neighbours outside playing cards. Keep an eye out for the Van Duc family temple on the left with its imposing front gate. If you are friendly and respectful, then they might even let you have a look around. The route goes right past the Jeep Club Café, which is a great place to stop and have a cold drink while escaping the heat of the sun. This is also where the route takes a hard right turn off the larger road, keep an eye on the arrows and you won’t get lost.
The large ponds that you pass are shrimp farms. A small bridge over the river brings you to the village on the other side where you turn right, cycling with the village on your left and the river on your right. Depending on the time of day, there might be fishermen out setting or emptying nets and there are usually plenty of traditional boats on the water, big and small.
Hidden Hint: Start this tour at about 3:30 pm so that you pass by the river when the sun is setting. This means that you will avoid the day’s heat and get some stunning views and photo opportunities.
Once you pass the Sessions Under the Bridge bar and restaurant, you have reached the end of the marked trail. At the main road, Hai Ba Trung Street, you can turn left and head to the beach which is only another five minutes away, or you can turn right and cycle back into town.
Advanced Ride – The Yellow Route
Expect this ride to take three to four hours—it’s mostly flat.
This tour takes you a bit further afield, where you will get some stunning views from the top of Cua Dai bridge, before heading into local villages and farmland where cows and water buffalo roam the fields. Keep an eye out for the many family temples that you will pass once you have crossed the river. They are easily identified by their ornate gates and the statues on their roofs.
We recommend going in the late afternoon (starting at about two or three o’clock) because this is when you will be able to see local life at its most active. There are a few schools that you pass and often the children will be singing and dancing at the end of the school day. The Vietnamese are very social once they have finished work, and the men can often be seen sitting around playing cards or, strangely enough, listening to very loud techno music. Expect all the children to wave hello to you, some might even try to and run alongside.
The advanced self-guided tour is significantly longer than the easy ride but is still mostly flat. The hardest part is slogging up the giant Cua Dai bridge. The route heads east from the old town, alongside the river, before crossing over the Cua Dai Bridge. Then it heads west, back along the other side of the river, across a couple of bridges, and onto Cam Kim Island. From there, it’s not far back to An Hoi and then to central Hoi An.
Follow the route on our map above or navigate between bridges on Google Maps Cau Cua Dai – Cau Truong Giang – Cau Duy Thanh – Cau Thu Bon – Cau Cam Kim – and then wherever in town you are staying or would like to go.
A bicycle is undoubtedly one of the best ways to get around Hoi An—it simply can’t be beaten for convenience and is great for those on a budget. It’s environmentally friendly too, easy to manoeuvre and as there’s no engine noise. The experience, at times, is blissfully peaceful. There are so many varied options for self-guided cycling tours, and literally, there is something for everyone. Maybe it’s a bike mounted shopping spree around the Old Town where you see how creative you can be at strategically balancing your shopping bags; or it could be a self-guided tour through the picturesque countryside watching families of water buffalo, local farmers, and ducks go about their day. The flat terrain and closeness of the countryside make it so easy to go on your own cycling adventure in Hoi An, so grab a bike and get pedalling.