By far the two most interesting cities in Central Vietnam, Da Nang is the fastest growing city in Southeast Asia, and Hoi An, the most touristic. Usually we don’t group two cities together in our Layover Series, but these cities are almost synonymous with each-other. Only a 20 minute motorbike ride away from one-another, Da Nang & Hoi An are two cities in Vietnam that should not be missed.
Da Nang: With a population of nearly 4 million, this city is the third most populated, behind Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Not only does Da Nang boast one of the best coast lines of the entire country, there are possibly more things to do in and around this city than any other. Within the city itself, you can visit the pristine coastlines, explore Marble Mountain, hike Son Tra Peninsula for a birds-eye view of the city and surrounding mountains and coast, get lost in one of the many inside or outside markets, and visit Lady Buddha: a statue taller than the Statue of Liberty, respectfully. Outside the city, you can visit UNESCO World Heritage City Hoi An, UNESCO World Heritage City Hue, UNESCO World Heritage Site My Son, or you can visit Ba Na Hills: a French-colonial city built on top of a mountain that currently holds the record for longest cable car in the world. Additionally, Da Nang is known as the commercial and educational capital of Vietnam and is often called the “City of Bridges” as it boasts four massively impressive bridges and about half-a-dozen others that connect the city.
Hoi An: With a substantially lower population of 120,000, Hoi An welcomed more than 3.2 million tourists in 2017. Claiming a UNESCO World Heritage City title in 1999, Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and street plan reflect a unique blend of influences, indigenous (Cham) and foreign (French). Prominent in the city’s old town, is a covered “Japanese Bridge,” dating to the 16th-17th century – Walking through Hoi An feels as if you’re walking through an ancient fairy tale. Additionally, This UNESCO City is home to the most tailors and massage parlors we have personally ever seen in one location. From shoes, jackets, suits, to wedding dresses, you can get anything custom-made just for you at a fraction of the cost; and while you’re waiting you can grab a massage at any of the plethora of options.
Getting To & From The Airport
Da Nang has one International terminal and one Domestic terminal. Both are located next to each-other, about 10 minutes away from the city center. The International Terminal has just opened (in 2017) and brings more than 8 million passengers to Da Nang annually – compared to 1 million passengers annually only 10 years ago in 2008.
There are only 3 ways to get into Da Nang city from Da Nang (DAD) International Airport.
1. Taxi (Fastest option – no waiting for your GRAB to arrive. There are plenty of Taxi’s waiting just outside the arrival hall)
Cost: A one-way 10 minute trip will cost around 110,000 VND ($5.50 USD)
Cost: A one-way 10 minute trip will cost around 100,000 VND ($5.00 USD) + 10,000 VND airport exit fee (only applicable if you are in a private car, such as a GRAB)
3. Coco Bus
Cost: 250,000 VND, because you have to purchase a 24-hour pass, as this is a hop-on hop-off tour service.
If you are going straight to Hoi An, you can either contact your hotel, hostel, or homestay and arrange a ride, or take a GRAB for a cheaper fare than a taxi.
“You don’t have to go looking for great food in Vietnam. Great food finds you. It’s everywhere. In restaurants, cafes, little storefronts, in the streets; carried in makeshift portable kitchens on yokes borne by women vendors. Your cyclo-driver will invite you to his home; your guide will want to bring you to his favourite place. Strangers will rush up and offer you a taste of something they’re proud of and think you should know about. It’s a country filled with proud cooks – and passionate eaters.”
– Anthony Bourdain
Must-See’s Of Da Nang & Hoi An
Da Nang and Hoi An offer visitors a plethora of sightseeing options, but with the right plan, both cities can be explored and mastered in 72 hours. Here are the must see sights of these cities that you can explore and conquer in 72 hours. There are 8 must see attractions between these cities that we have included, that have come to define both of these cities’ global popularity. From the ancient streets of Hoi An, the fire breathing Dragon Bridge in Da Nang, the breathtaking beach in both cities, the views of Da Nang city from the tallest tower, Marble Mountain, or Lady Buddha – it’s all broken down below.
DA NANG – Marble Mountain – Cost $2 – A cluster of five marble and limestone mountains. The five mountains are named after the five elements: Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth). All of the mountains have cave entrances and numerous tunnels, and it is possible to climb to the summit of Mt. Thuy.
DA NANG – Lady Buddha – Free to visit – Built in 2010, this is the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam and is located on Son Tra Peninsula in the northern part of Da Nang. It has a height of 67m and has 17 floors in the statue lap, each floor has an altar with 21 Buddha statues which have different shapes, facial expression and posture.
DA NANG – Dragon Bridge – Free to visit – This super cool bridge crosses the Han River and is a ironic 666m long. What’s cool about this bridge is every Saturday and Sunday at 9pm, the bridge is closed to traffic for 15 minutes while it breathes fire and water over the surrounding spectators. *We personally recommend visiting 7 Bridges Brewery for an awesome view of the show and a great IPA. This is a much better view than being in the crowds on the street.
DA NANG – Ban Co Peak/Monkey Mountain – Free to visit – Ban Co (Chessboard in English) peak is the highest mountain in Son Tra peninsula, standing at nearly 600m. From Ban Co peak, visitors can enjoy spectacular panoramic views over the entire Da Nang city, Hai Van pass, Lien Chieu bay, Ba Na Hills, and Cham islands. To get to the peak you must drive up Monkey Mountain: a mountain full of beautiful and nearly extinct monkeys (Red-Shanked Doucs.
DA NANG – Novotel Sky Bar 36 – Free to visit – Sky36 Club is the highest rooftop bar in Da Nang. This three-storey nightlife spot boasts an outdoor bar, sofa beds, and VIP lounges. The rooftop is one of the best places to enjoy panoramic views of the city, the Han River, and Dragon Bridge. *It is possible to enjoy the view without purchasing a drink (if you dress the part – i.e. fancy).
HOI AN – Ancient Streets/Walking Town – Free to visit – Claiming a UNESCO World Heritage City title in 1999, walking through Hoi An feels as if you’re walking through an ancient fairy tale. Exploring and getting lost in Hoi An is a great adventure, as the city itself is so small, you always find you way back. The streets are littered with vendors, art, ice cream, and picturesque moments.
HOI AN – Japanese Bridge – Free to visit – Hoi An’s Japanese covered bridge dates back to the 18th century and is a beautiful historical piece of Japanese architecture. It is claimed that it was created by the Japanese then living in Hoi An as a way to reach the Chinese quarter. Today, the bridge stands as a symbol of Hoi An and remains as aesthetically pleasing as it was when it first opened.
HOI AN – An Bang Beach (Soul Beach Restaurant pictured) – Free to visit – A superior beach to the one in Da Nang (not to say it’s bad), is full of chill restaurants, adventure sports, souvenir vendors, and blue water with views of the nearby Cham islands. *We recommend going to Soul Beach Restaurant for some of the best food, amazing drinks, live music, and a relaxed hippy-esque atmosphere.
Exploring Da Nang & Hoi An On Public Transportation
Da Nang & Hoi An are both well structured and connected cities. Thus their public transportation is easy to use and affordable. When sightseeing, we recommend hopping on any of the options below to reach your desired destination. All options are reasonably affordable and will take you anywhere in the city or between the both of them.
***When bar-hopping in Hoi An, do not ever take a motorbike taxi or take any kind of taxi by yourself. Unfortunately, Hoi An is run by the local mafia and the motorbike “taxis” will take you where you want to go and then rob you. Likewise, always take a taxi with a friend; power in numbers. However, Hoi An is so small there is really no reason why you shouldn’t walk.
Coco Bus – When sightseeing in Da Nang, there is a new hop-on hop-off tour company. There are more than 25 bus stops including at the most famous attractions: Marble Mountains, My Khe Beach (Da Nang), Cham Museum, Dragon Bridge, and more.
Purchase your Coco Bus Tour pass on the bus itself, at Cocobay Information Centre, or at the Danang International Airport.
Price: 250,000 VND/ticket
Hop on hop off
Valid for 24 hours
Local Bus – There is a yellow local bus that runs not only through the city of Da Nang, but to and from Da Nang and Hoi An.
Rent a Motorbike – The most popular and cheapest option is to rent a moped. You can rent these in either city for $5/day.
Grab – The Uber of Asia. Download the app and save yourself time, money and the hassle of taking a cab and paying ridiculous fares.
Taxi – With Da Nang has no shortage of taxis or taxi companies. The taxis use meters, so make sure to only pay the price on the meter.