We stumbled across the Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival festival by chance when we were trying to figure out why so many hotels were fully booked around the time we wanted to visit Hoi An. Many hours of Hoi An research later and we’d established the cause: the Full Moon Lantern Festival was taking place a day after we were scheduled to leave Hoi An. With the colourful, lantern filled evening quickly making its way towards the top of our Vietnam bucket list we knew we had to make some rearrangements to our Vietnam travel plans so we could experience it for ourselves!
Experience it we did and, with the magical night still fresh in our memories, we’ve put together a guide with all of our best Hoi An Lantern festival tips and information to help with your Hoi An planning! Enjoy!
Where to stay in Hoi An
If you are planning travelling to Hoi An during the lantern festival be sure to book accommodation in advance as Hoi An is busy. We didn’t realise our visit conincided with the festival and lots of properties were sold out when we came to book!
- River Suites Hoi An: excellent hotel just two minutes walk from the Old Town. Location is convenient, rooms are clean, breakfast is great and the small pool is a bonus after a long hot day in Hoi An. The River Suites are a Hoi An fave – check latest prices here!
- Royal Riverside: we stayed in a junior suite at the Royal Riverside Hoi An hotel. The hotel, a 10 minute walk along the river, was excellent and we loved the pool, the fab breakfast and our river view room – check latest prices here
- Essence Hoi An Hotel: luxury at a reasonable price with superb rooms, great facilities and a shuttle bus service to both the beach and the old town – check latest prices here!
Hoi An hotel tip: most of the boutique hotels can arrange reasonably priced cars and drivers to do airport trips, travel the Hai Van Pass to Hue and visit the ruins of My Son.
A Guide to the Lantern Festival
1 | When does the Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival take place?
The Full Moon Lantern festival takes place on the 14th day of each lunar month. By our reckoning that’s the 2017 dates listed below but please do make sure to double check before making firm travel plans! We confirmed with our Hoi An hotel before finalising our travel arrangements.
2017 Hoi An Lantern Festival dates:
- July 7, August 5, September 4, October 3, November 2,
- December 1, December 31
2 | Where does the festival take place?
Festivities take place in the old town where motorised vehicles are banned and electricity use is kept to a minimum. Instead, colourful candlelit lanterns providing light on the streets. The action is centered in the area between the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Cau An Hoi Bridge, which connects Hoi An with An Hoi, and spills onto the surrounding streets and river banks. You can’t miss the sea of colourful lanterns if you stay close to the river!
3 | How much do the lanterns cost?
The going price for a lantern is 5,000 VND although some sellers have a starting price of 10,000 VND. It’s 25 cent vs 50 cent so it’s up to you how much you want to negotiate! The lantern sellers have super long poles to help lower the lanterns into the river and their use is included in the price. The picture below was extra of course but worth every VND in my opinion!
4 | How much do the sampan boat rides cost?
The river banks are lined with sampan boats manned by locals ready to navigate the maze of lanterns in the river. The price is around 100,000 VND so negotiate at your peril! A sampan ride is a nice escape from the chaotic streets above the river and it’s a lovely way to release your lanterns into the water. It’s very easy to find a boat. In fact it’s likely that you will spend a good portion of the evening saying ‘no thanks’ to the offers of a river trip!
We’ve used a number of guidebooks for planning our trips to Vietnam, with the Rough Guides series being our favourite
5 | What time does the Full Moon Lantern Festival start and finish?
The festivities kick off at dusk and the action on the Hoi An side wraps up between 9 and 10pm. An Hoi, on the other side of the Cau An Hoi Bridge, is a little more lively and the fun can continue a little later into the evening. It’s best not to leave it too late to join in so start exploring at dusk to make the most out of the Full Moon evening!
The An Hoi night market:
6 | Where is the best place to watch the action?
Our favourite place was along the banks of the river at the Cau An Hoi Bridge on the An Hoi side. It was a little less crazy than the Hoi An side and there are some small walls that are perfect for taking a break and sitting on. We spent over an hour in this spot chilling out and indulging in lots of lantern and people watching! It was bliss!
Other good view points are the street cafes lining the river near the Japaneses Bridge on the Hoi An side or a balcony seat in a restaurant overlooking the river.
The Cau An Hoi Bridge has beautiful, panoramic views over the festivities but it gets very, very crowded and it’s not the most relaxing spot!
7 | Is the Lantern Festival Crowded?
Yes, yes and yes again! The Full Moon Lantern Festival isn’t just for tourists and locals attend in their thousands to pay homage to their ancestors. The streets are chaotic but it’s all good fun although do make sure to mind your possessions!
With the crowds it’s very easy to get a knock from behind as you take pictures of the lantern filled river and, oops, your expensive cell phone or camera and potentially a memory card full of irreplaceable Vietnam pics will land in the river. We witnessed this happen to one unfortunate tourist on the Cau An Hoi Bridge and he was inconsolable about the loss of both his pictures and an expensive phone.
Crowds lining the river side:
8 | Is access to the historic sights of Hoi An still free on the night of the Full Moon Lantern Festival?
In the past, Hoi An operated a ticket fee which allowed access to certain historic landmarks and temples and this fee was waived on the night of the Full Moon Lantern Festival. However, with the enforcement of the 120,000 VND fee to enter the ancient town of Hoi An (as opposed to previously only being charged when visitors wanted to access the historical sights) this is unlikely to be beneficial as you will still need to buy a ticket anyway.
9 | Any other tips?
Where we stayed: a junior suite river view at the Royal Riverside Hoi An hotel which cost around $55 and which we booked through Agoda. The hotel was excellent and we loved the pool, the excellent breakfast and our river view room. The hotel arranged our trip to My Son and a driver to take us to Da Nang airport.
Have fun! The Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival is a magical experience and we have fab memories of our colourful, lantern filled evening in Hoi An.
If you have any other tips or suggestions for enjoying the Hoi An Lantern Festival let us know in the comments below!