Hanoi to Hoi An: Ultimate Travel Guide for a Memorable Journey

Hanoi and Hoi An – these two cities stand out with their historical heritage, filled with popular tourist attractions, delicious local cuisine, and an interesting experience that both tourists and locals absolutely love! Hoi An‘s rise in popularity over the years isn’t just by chance. This place is pure magic – a UNESCO Heritage Site that spellbound every traveler. The streets come alive at night with the warm glow of colorful lanterns and hidden alleys lined with shops and artisans – a paradise for any shopaholic, and let’s not even get started on the local food. It’s some of the best in Southeast Asia! Trust me, it’s a foodie’s dream – which you don’t want to miss!

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Hoi An street in the morning. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot

Choosing a starting point can be overwhelming when planning your first trip to Vietnam. Most travellers approach two main gateways: Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi (the North) and Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City (the South). It’s a great idea to kick things off in North Vietnam.

Hanoi isn’t just the capital; it’s a world of its own. Stunning French colonial architecture of the Old Quarter tells stories of the country’s past with tons of things to do and see for history and culture trippers.

Whether you want to know the best direct route from Hanoi to reach Hoi An, or you’re in for a more scenic ride, this guide’s got you covered. I’m here to map out your trip from Hanoi to Hoi An, ensuring you soak in as much of Vietnam as possible. Let’s dive into planning your adventure from Hanoi’s vibrant streets to Hoi An’s enchanting corners.

Fastest Way from Hanoi to Hoi An: Fly directly to Da Nang International Airport

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If you want to save time for Hoi An, a flight is the best option. Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh

If you’re the type who likes to get from point A to point B in the quickest way possible, or you pressed for time and only have time for a few destinations – then flying is your best bet. The fastest route from Hanoi – Noi Bai International Airport to Hoi An is through Da Nang International Airport (DAD) – the closest airport to Hoi An. You can book a one way flight ticket and continue your journey South or even possibly fly back out from Da Nang Airport.

Hitting the Skies: Flight from Hanoi to Da Nang

  • Airlines: You’ve got a few options here. Top picks include Vietnam Airlines for their reliable service, Bamboo Airways for a touch of luxury, and VietJet Air if you’re looking for budget-friendly fares. Each airline offers multiple flights daily, so you can pick a time that suits your schedule best.
  • Flight Time: The flight from Hanoi to Da Nang is pleasantly short – just about an hour. That means more time to explore or relax in Hoi An!
  • Booking Tips: It’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Make sure to put your full name on your ticket because otherwise, you might need help with issues if there are any missing middle names. It’s also important to note that flight delays are common unless you’re flying with Vietnam Airlines. Just a heads up! You can take a private car, shuttle bus, grab car or taxi from your hotel in Hanoi to Hanoi Airport, fly directly to Da Nang International Airport (DAD), and then check out the next simple section on getting from Da Nang to Hoi An.
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Da Nang city at night time. Photo by Hoang Hung

Completing the Journey: Da Nang to Hoi An

  • Wheels: Once you land at Da Nang International Airport, Hoi An is just a short drive away. Use Grab, Taxi drivers, or Car Hire: The most convenient option is hopping into a taxi or renting a car.
  • Driving Time: The ride takes about 45 minutes, depending on traffic. Taxis are readily available at the airport, but many hotels in Hoi An offer shuttle services or private car hires if you prefer something pre-arranged.
  • Travel Tip: If you choose a taxi, agree on the fare before starting your journey or insist on using the meter. For a more seamless experience, consider booking a car in advance through your hotel or a reputable service.

Flying from Hanoi to Da Nang and then taking a car or taxi to Hoi An is the most efficient way to travel. It saves you time, which is perfect if you’re short on it or just eager to start exploring the beautiful streets of Hoi An as soon as possible. 

Attractions from Hanoi to Hoi An

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A fishing boat working by Son Tra mountain, Da Nang. Photo by Van Space

While the direct flight to Da Nang is the quickest way to get to Hoi An, if you have time to spare, there are some remarkable destinations on the way! Each offers a unique glimpse into Vietnam’s diverse landscape and rich cultural heritage. 

The destinations I will introduce to you are all connected via a scenic train line. You could choose to visit all of them by train – from Ninh Binh to Da Nang – on your way to Hoi An. Or, depending on your time, and the weather conditions at that time of year – select a destination that resonates most with you. And do the route partially by plane, train, bus, and car.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the scenic route from Hanoi to Hoi An:

1. Ninh Binh: A Glimpse of Vietnam’s Majestic Countryside

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Bai Dinh Pagoda in the afternoon. Photo by VIA Ambassador Benjamin Tortorelli
  • Highlights: Often dubbed as “Halong Bay on Land,” Ninh Binh enchants with its extraordinary landscapes of limestone karsts and winding rivers. Ideal for nature lovers and photographers, this location offers serene boat rides and picturesque biking trails. A candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage List, Ninh Binh is rich in history with ancient temples amid stunning natural backdrops.
  • Getting There from Hanoi:
    • Train: Regular trains are available, taking about 2 hours. Get your train tickets with Vietnam Railways.
    • Bus: Numerous bus services run daily, approximately a 1.5-hour journey. Get your bus tickets with Hoang Long Bus.
    • Car: Hiring a car or taxi can be a more comfortable but pricier option, with a travel time of around 2 hours. Hire a private car with Vietnam is Awesome.

2. Dong Hoi / Phong Nha: Jungle Explorer’s Paradise

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Sunset on a field in Quang Binh. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot
  • Highlights: Dong Hoi is the gateway to the remarkable Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Ideal for those interested in caving, hiking, and exploring natural wonders. The park is renowned for its ancient limestone caves like Phong Nha Cave and Paradise Cave, showcasing breathtakingly beautiful natural formations.This UNESCO Heritage Site is famed for its ancient caves and breathtaking landscapes.
  • Getting There from Ninh Binh:
    • Train: Direct trains are available to Dong Hoi (closest station to Phong Nha). It’s quite a long journey, taking around 6-7 hours, so night trains are your best bet. Opt for a soft berth sleeper train to save time on your journey.
    • Bus: Several bus services operate this route, with a journey time of about 7 hours to Phong Nha.
    • Plane: No direct flights to Phong Nha; consider a one way ticket to its nearest airport in Dong Hoi from Hanoi.

3. Hue: Walking Through History

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Hue Imperial City. Photo by VIA Ambassador Le Van Anh Tai
  • Highlights: : A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hue’s historical significance is reflected in its palaces and shrines. For those fascinated by Vietnam’s rich history, Hue is a must-visit. As the former imperial capital, it boasts the incredible Imperial City! Beyond historical sites, Hue is celebrated for its culinary diversity and peaceful river scenes.
  • Getting There from Dong Hoi / Phong Nha:
    • Train: Regular trains are available, taking about 3 hours.
    • Bus: Frequent bus services, with a journey time of approximately 3-4 hours.
    • Car/Taxi: A more comfortable but expensive option, with a travel time of around 3 hours.

4. Da Nang: A Blend of Natural and Modern Wonders

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Son Tra Peninsula, Da Nang. Photo by Kenneth Oh
  • Highlights: Famous for the Marble Mountains and Dragon Bridge, it’s your final quick stop before Hoi An. Your train journey ends here as you hop off at Da Nang Railway station. Da Nang offers a mix of sandy beaches, contemporary architecture, and cultural history. This city has a nightlife scene and appeals to those seeking a blend of traditional and modern experiences. Notable attractions include the Marble Mountains, Dragon Bridge, and the Museum of Cham Sculpture.
  • Getting There from Hue:
    • Train: Scenic train rides along the coast, taking about 2.5 hours.
    • Bus: Regular bus services, with a journey time of approximately 2-3 hours.
    • Car/Taxi: Flexible and comfortable option, taking around 2 hours.

Which Destination is for Me? Choosing Between Ninh Binh, Dong Hoi / Phong Nha, Hue, and Da Nang

Deciding between these captivating destinations depends on your interests: nature’s tranquility in Ninh Binh, adventure in Dong Hoi / Phong Nha, historical exploration in Hue, or the urban charm of Da Nang. Each location promises its own unique set of experiences and memories.

  1. Start in Hanoi: Explore northern Vietnam, depending on weather and time.
  2. Hanoi to Dong Hoi: Fly directly to Dong Hoi Airport (1 hour flight) or opt for an overnight train from Hanoi Railway Station (10 hours) or Ninh Binh (9 hours).
  3. Visit Phong Nha: Take a taxi from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha and spend at least 2-3 nights there.
  4. Dong Hoi to Hue: Return to Dong Hoi and embark on a scenic train ride to Hue. (Travel time: 3-4 hours)
  5. Explore Hue: Spend 1-2 nights in Hue, immersing yourself in its historical charm.
  6. Hue to Hoi An: Take a scenic drive from Hue to Hoi An in a private car, via the stunning Hai Van Pass (travel time: 2-3hours)
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Hai Van Pass. Photo from Vietnam In Focus.

Practical Travel Tips for your Scenic Journey

Make your journey through Vietnam as enriching as the destinations themselves with these practical travel tips:

  • Versatile Transport Options: Embrace the picturesque Vietnamese landscape by train, available through Vietnam Railways or online. For longer routes, a soft sleeper berth ensures comfort. Alternatively, sleeper buses are the cheapest way (yet pretty comfortable with reclining seats and air conditioning.) If you prefer a more tailored experience, especially for groups or families, consider hiring a private car for flexibility and convenience.
  • Weather and Budgeting: Vietnam’s weather can be quite varied, so it’s important to check forecasts and plan accordingly, particularly during monsoon season. Also, keep a close eye on your budget as costs can fluctuate based on your transportation, accommodation, and dining choices. Both VND and US dollars are commonly accepted.Related read: Best Time to Travel to Vietnam.
  • Customising Your Trip: Tailor your journey to fit your interests and time constraints. Whether you choose trains, buses, cars, or planes, each mode of transport offers a unique perspective of Vietnam. Mix and match to create an experience that resonates with your travel style and preferences.

FAQs: Traveling from Hanoi to Hoi An

Fly from Hanoi to Da Nang, then travel by taxi, bus, or private car to Hoi An. For a scenic route, take a train or bus to Da Nang or Hue, and then continue by road.

  • Flight: About 1 hour.
  • From Da Nang to Hoi An by road: 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Train/Bus to Da Nang: 15 to 17 hours, depending on the route and stops.

No direct train to Hoi An; you’ll go to Da Nang. Prices for a soft sleeper berth range from 600,000 to 1,200,000 VND.

Yes! Hoi An is a must-visit for its unique mix of history, culture, and charm, featuring the Ancient Town, diverse cuisine, and shopping.

No. The nearest station is in Da Nang, 30 kilometers away. Travel from Da Nang to Hoi An takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour by taxi, bus, or car.

Yes, it’s recommended. Ho Chi Minh City offers a dynamic urban experience with historical sites, vibrant nightlife, and street food. A short flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City is usually needed as Da Nang might not connect directly to all international destinations.

Embracing the Journey from Hanoi to Hoi An

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A streetfood vendor in Hoi An. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot

This journey takes you from Hanoi’s vibrant streets to Hoi An’s magical Ancient Town. Whether you opt for the direct route flying from Hanoi to Da Nang, with a quick transfer to Hoi An, or the scenic route stopping along in Ninh Binh, Phong Nha, and Hue, I hope this guide helps you along on your adventure!

Hanoi awaits your arrival with its charming old quarter, fascinating history, and beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake. It’s a convenient hub to visit various attractions in North Vietnam.

Then head down to Central Vietnam towards Hoi An and soak up it’s captivating charm, rich history, delicious street food, scenic beaches and vibrant culture.

If you’re short on time, choose the direct route, or if you have more time to spare, take the scenic route! With a combination of plane, train sleeper bus, and car travel options.

So what are you waiting for? Check the weather, book your tickets, pack your bags and Bon Voyage! Have an incredible time travelling from North to Central Vietnam!

Related Read: Central Vietnam Guide: 7 Must-Visit Destinations Await!

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Written by Lauren Tracy
Content Ambassador - Vietnam Is Awesome
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Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Lauren has been living in Vietnam for the past 8 years. Her passion for the travel industry and wealth of experience has led her to become the Content Ambassador at Vietnam Is Awesome.