Hoi An old town ticket - need to know - review by Rusty Compass
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Hoi An old town ticket - need to know

| 07 Dec 2017
Hoi An old town ticket - need to know
07 Dec 2017

Hoi An’s tourist sights - old houses, temples and museums - are all accessed via a single entrance ticket. The 120,000VND allows access to 5 of 22 heritage sites or attractions. Technically, the ticket is mandatory for entry to the old town too. Enforcement is inconsistent and occasionally gets messy.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

A 120,000VND ticket, which provides access to some of the old town’s heritage attractions, is also occasionally required to walk the streets of the old town too. If you’re visiting Hoi An for the first time, grab a ticket and check out some of the historic sights.

The ticket can only be purchased at designated booths. It cannot be purchased at specific heritage sites. Nor can tickets be purchased for individual heritage sites. You can only access them by buying this ticket.

 

A happy encounter at Hoi An ticket counter. Not all encounters go so well.
Photo: Mark Bowyer A happy encounter at Hoi An ticket counter. Not all encounters go so well.

 

All up, it's not a system designed with ease and elegance in mind.

The part about using the ticket to access Hoi An’s old streets is more complicated. The rule is enforced unevenly on any given day. Travellers aren’t clearly advised that they need to carry the ticket at all times - like a Hoi An passport.

Things sometimes descend into open conflict between travellers and local officials. Local lore even has it that a tourist once pushed a local official into the Thu Bon River.

 

After a nasty skirmish at the Japanese Bridge - Hoi An
Photo: Mark Bowyer After a nasty skirmish at the Japanese Bridge - Hoi An

 

We’re all for Hoi An raising as much revenue as possible for its old town preservation. But we're also interested in tourists having a good experience.

120,000VND is good value for money - less than we would expect to pay for a good experience of the town’s history. But we’re not sure this is the best way to go about raising revenue. Nor do Hoi An's heritage sights seem to be making much effort to provide a world class experience to visitors.

While Hoi An is a beautiful place, the quality of the presentation of the old town’s incredible heritage hasn’t improved in 25 years. And it ain’t great.

Here are our guides to the places covered by the ticket -

Hoi An’s Museums

Hoi An’s Old Houses

Hoi An’s Temples and Pagodas


This is the message on Hoi An Tourism’s website. As far as we could work out, this information is neither clearly explained on the ticket or at ticket booths.

The ticket now reads “Entrance ticket to the ancient town and 5 relics”. But there are no signs around town clearly stating the town is only accessible with a valid ticket. Should officials start to enforce this, the impact will likely be serious - and result in reduced gross tourism income for the town.

And then there are the obvious complications. Is everyone always required to have a ticket? Repeat visitors? Long stay visitors? Residents? Visitors heading into the old town to pick up hundreds of dollars of shopping? Diners in the old town’s expensive restaurants?

In short, it’s a mess - but most travellers won’t encounter any issues. For those who do though, it’s an unpleasant experience.

If you’re a repeat visitor, tell the guards / ticket wardens. They’ll probably be OK. But we saw a couple of nasty showdowns between tourists at the Japanese Bridge recently. It was night time. They insisted they had already purchased tickets but did not realise they needed to carry them to walk around the town (I don’t believe this is specified). The tourists ended up storming off after a nasty and noisy stoush with a determined and fierce young ao dai clad girl. Not a good look for anyone.


Another approach?

Most heritage towns around the world choose to raise revenue for preservation through a mix of admission fees to specific sights and tax revenues generated by businesses benefitting from the heritage asset - hotels, shops, restaurants. In Hoi An’s case, this is would be a huge pot of cash.

National and provincial governments are usually involved too - because they see the economic value of heritage tourism and preservation.

Officials at Hoi An ticket booths insist that no tax revenue from the old town finds its way back into preservation (I’ve no idea if this is true but articles in local media in the past say the same thing). They also assist provincial and national support is negligible That’s a major problem that needs to be fixed.

Hoi An’s approach, which is more stick than carrot, runs the risk of disincentivising visits to the old town.

It also looks like Hoi An is avoiding addressing the poor quality of its heritage tourism products.

The city seems to have priorities other than telling the story of the town. A massive new museum on Tran Hung Dao St that opened only a few years ago is a colossal white elephant. I’ve been twice hoping to find something of interest. I was the only visitor on each occasion. It seems to have been repurposed as a car and bus parking lot.

A better heritage offering with quality displays and information could raise much more than the 120,000VND ticket price. Each heritage stop could reasonably ask 50,000 for admission (or more) - if done professionally. That continues to be an elusive “if” - despite the billions of dollars in tourism investment in and around the city. It’s a problem with heritage tourism across Vietnam.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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