How to experience Hoi An's bustling markets as a traveler

Public markets, known as ‘chợ’ in Vietnamese, are the heart of communities in every town in Vietnam. In Hoi An, a place with a centuries-long history of trading and agriculture, markets are a showcase of local produce and an important part of the fabric of everyday life. Make your own foray into the fascinating world of Hoi An’s markets with this easy DIY guide for travelers.

Your first market visit

Expect all your senses to be engaged when you enter a Hoi An market. The variety of the produce, the competing smells, and the color of the ingredients, together with the constant chatter and movement of the vendors and buyers create a heady atmosphere.

A look into the past

Hoi An was Vietnam’s official international trading port from the 13th to the 15th centuries. Crafts, spices, and goods from all over the country were sent to Hoi An to be sold to foreign merchants, who would buy them at fixed prices in market stalls along the Thu Bon River.

Community centers

Every sizable community in Hoi An has its own market, where local fishermen, farmers, and families will go to sell their produce and products. If you love food, you might like to explore one of these rural markets, together with the historic public market in the Ancient Town.

Hoi An Market

The Hoi An Market is the city’s center of commerce, and has moved and expanded several times over the centuries. An old brick well still sits in front. Inside are fabric sellers, dry goods, and food stalls, while outside are the vegetable and fish markets, as well as souvenir shops.

Tan An Market

North of the Ancient Town, the Tan An Market – sometimes called the Tiger Market – is a well-established market selling fresh produce, meat and seafood, mainly to locals. More relaxed than the Hoi An Market, this is a great place to learn about Vietnamese fruits and ingredients.

Cam Chau Market

The Cam Chau or Ba Le Market serves the countryside communities of Cam Thanh and Cam Chau, and is always stocked with an eye-popping array of herbs, vegetables, and seafood. Playful banter is common in this easygoing market, which is surrounded by local food stalls.

Other Hoi An markets

If you’re a foodie or just love local life, it’s worth waking up early to visit the small markets that pop up every morning around Hoi An. The markets in An Bang, Cam Kim, and Cua Dai rarely see any foreign visitors, and are full of interesting sweets, delicacies, and unique characters.

Shopping like a local

In Hoi An, cooks come to the market early each day to pick up a few fresh ingredients – they wouldn’t dream of buying days in advance! Shopping on a motorbike is also common. All buyers have favorite vendors, where they get good deals as well as the day’s latest gossip.

Special ingredients

The vegetable village of Tra Que is known for cultivating the most delicate baby herbs and leafy greens in Vietnam. Quang Nam is also famous for chili, ginseng, and cinnamon, amazing seafood from the Cham Islands, and tasty ducks and duck eggs from nearby farms and ponds.

What to look for

The markets in Hoi An are sectioned by produce. Because Hoi An is near the ocean, the seafood stalls are always buzzing, and you can also find spices from the forest, unusual fruits and vegetables, and seasonal ingredients sold on their own by specialty growers.

What to eat

Every market in Hoi An has food stalls where you can grab a quick breakfast, or a fresh coconut. Feel free to try food that is clean and thoroughly cooked, such as steamed rice cakes, tropical fruits, or boiling hot noodles. A long line of local patrons is also a good sign.

How to shop

When you see vegetables or herbs you like, select them yourself, then give them to the vendor to weigh and price. For fruits, seafood, and more costly items, ask the price per kilo before choosing whether to buy. If you think the price is high, simply look for another vendor.

Tips for travelers

Visit the markets early, from 6am to 8am to see them at their best, and full of energy and color. Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, and bring your own bag to reduce plastic waste. Watch out for passing motorcycles, and if you need to, always bargain politely and with a smile.