So… Da Nang, Vietnam. I spent a full three months here in 2016 while escaping the burning season in Chiang Mai (where they burn all the crops and the valleys fill with awful smoke), and it ended up being the perfect time to come here. Here’s what you need to know about Da Nang…
If you come here, you’ll definitely find more English teachers/backpackers than digital nomads. And in most parts of town you’ll find neither.
Da Nang certainly isn’t a hub for online startups or any other type of western visitor (yet!), and coming here directly from Chiang Mai was a bit of a shock. But the advantage is that you’ll get a more authentic experience in terms of the culture.
Because Da Nang isn’t flooded with western visitors, children run up to you to say “hello”. Random strangers ask you to sit and have a beer with them. And large tour groups (usually from China or elsewhere in Vietnam) will huddle together to take pictures with you. You’ll be a bit of a celebrity here.
Here’s everything else you need to know:
Da Nang, Vietnam for Digital Nomads and Remote Workers
I think Vietnam is one of the only countries in SE Asia where you do need a visa, and cannot do a “visa-free” entry.
However it’s extremely easy to get a “visa on arrival” online. You can get 3 months or 6 months. Single or multiple entry. And they’re very reasonably priced. I actually found it easier than Thailand overall and more pleasant.
I have used both of these sites to get a visa on arrival:
Lets talk about internet speed and reliability in Da Nang…
It’s pretty fast here compared to what I expected. The screenshot above is from the apartment I rented. I’d say it’s on par with Chiang Mai. Apartments seem to be better, but coffee shops tend to be worse.
I noticed a trend in Chiang Mai where it was quite easy to find a coworking space or coffee shop with great internet, but it was much harder when it came to apartments. Not such a big problem here. However there was the occasional power outage where they’d shut part of the city down to conserve energy. I think it only happened once and I simply walked to a coffee shop 15 minutes away.
There are nice, modern apartments to be had for $350-500 USD (for a 1 bedroom). You can live in the city center or the beach for that price.
The apartment I liked most was $450 per month. Here’s the Facebook page. Tell them Biron sent you =). The owners are a couple with a young child and they’re extremely sweet and nice! The apartment is brand new, high ceilings, luxurious, safe and secure.
But don’t arrive here without a plan, unless you’re willing to stay in a hotel while you look around.
This is not a city where you can walk building to building and just ask whether apartments have availability. Almost nobody speaks English.
If you don’t know a specific apartment to rent, you need to find a realtor to bring you around.
I used Central Vietnam Realty.
Or you can stay in hotels. I spent two weeks at a place called Emily Hotel. They were absolutely great. Super friendly and accommodating and the rooms were modern. Prices were around $16-20 per night (sometimes cheaper). Not bad for being located across the street from the nicest beach in the city!
Don’t expect too many people to speak English in Da Nang. This was one of the biggest hassles. Some of the younger people at bars and clubs will, but if you’re out during the day and talking to anyone over the age of 30, it’s a lot less likely.
It’s quite rare to find a local who can speak more than 10 words of English when shopping in stores, restaurants, and yes… looking for apartments.
The language barrier makes things a bit harder in terms of everyday life.
Cafes and Co-working in Da Nang
I only found two coworking spaces. Both were on the “city” side of Da Nang (Da Nang is split by a river… with the west side being more developed and “city”-like, while the east side is less developed and is known as the “beach” side.
Anyway, the first coworking space is Enuovo Space… They charge a very reasonable $60 USD (1.3 million VND) for a month.
The last time I spoke to someone at Enuovo, they said they were planning on relocating their office across the river, to the “beach” side of Da Nang, so you might want to check with them.
The only other coworking space I found is The Hub and it’s relatively expensive at around $170 USD for a month. It’s right in the middle of the main district on the “city” side (Hai Chau).
As for the coffee shops, Vietnamese coffee is amazing and there are a few great cafes in Da Nang, mostly on the city side as well.
Two of the best work spots I found were Liferia Coffee and Studio13. If it’s a hot day, go to Liferia for the air conditioning!
I felt safe. It’s not quite Chiang Mai (where you can pretty much leave your wallet sitting unattended for an hour and probably go back to find it), but it’s not bad. I walked alone plenty and never felt physically threatened, even late at night.
The only thing that didn’t feel safe was traffic. Crossing the street, riding a motorbike, or even walking on the sidewalk is a semi-dangerous adventure here.
Vietnamese drivers do not obey traffic laws whatsoever, including going in the complete opposite lane or wrong side of the road when traveling a short distance. They’ll drive on sidewalks too. They don’t give a damn.
Okay this topic is the biggest drawback. Da Nang is very undeveloped still compared to any major city. Tiny shops line the streets, selling a few things like bottles of water and laundry detergent. But you have to walk blocks and blocks to find a convenience store with deodorant, toothpaste, soap, etc.
I had to walk 45 minutes to find dental floss. I had to walk even further to find a shop that sold motorbike helmets. And not a single person along the way spoke English to help me.
One more thing to mention here is the ATMs. I had to spend about an hour finding an ATM that’d accept my “chip” card. The machines here are so old that most can’t read a newer card with a chip.
Most ATMs also limit the amount you can withdraw to 2 million VND. That’s only $90 USD at the time of writing this.
I did find an HSBC ATM that allows you to withdraw 5 million VND. Here’s the address:
72 Bạch Đằng, Hải Châu 1, Đà Nẵng, Vietnam
The beach is great. One of the best I’ve seen. And it’s something like 10 km long so you will have a ton of space. There are comfortable day beds you can nap on, coconuts, beers for $1 USD, etc.
The beach is also super clean and had no garbage. It felt extremely safe, and even had some activities like volleyball games going on during weekends. One weekend I was there, they had a triathlon. Other weeks had concerts.
The water is actually refreshingly cool too, at least in March.
Everywhere I looked online, I couldn’t stop reading about how amazing Da Nang’s food scene is. I found it okay but not great.
There’s a bit of international food (I found a great Indian place called Mumtaz), and some good western food, but it takes a couple of days to get your bearings and find places with healthy food, or a decent portion of meat/protein. (Most street stalls or local places will give you almost no meat. Just noodles and bones).
Here are some of the best western/international food places to check out. They’re all on Google Maps:
- “Waterfront Restaurant and Bar”
- “Burger Bros”
- “Koi Sushi”
- “Tam’s Pub and Surf Shop”
All four of these offer great meals for around$5 USD.
If you’re into fitness or healthy eating, plan on doing bit of cooking here along with eating out. There aren’t enough healthy options to rely on restaurants.
I got away with eating out 100% of the time in Thailand but it would not be healthy nor enjoyable here in Da Nang.
The gyms all seem to be on the “city” side of Da Nang (reminder: that’s west of the river), not the beach side. However the beach does have some equipment to do bodyweight exercises like chin-ups and dips. And it’s a great place to go for a long run.
The locals in Da Nang are very friendly and welcoming. I was invited to weddings, birthday parties, and all sorts of other events by the awesome people I met here.
- Da Nang had the biggest rats and mosquitos I’ve ever seen in my life. Every night was like Jurrasic Park. Use bug spray and don’t walk near piles of trash bags because 20 rats will jump out
- Da Nang is located perfectly for some AWESOME day trips. Hoi An, a Unesco World Heritage is just 30 minutes away. There are other trips nearby too, like Son Tra peninsula also known as “monkey island”. If you are a motorbike rider DO NOT skip Son Tra island. The roads become too narrow for cars so it’s a motorbike heaven. Winding roads up and down the mountainside, with beautiful ocean on every side.
Da Nang felt safe, the wifi was better than expected, but the city is difficult to walk around in, difficult to find healthy food, and the lack of English makes communication very hard. If you love the beach and sun, love day trips and adventures, and want to experience a completely different culture, you’ll love Da Nang.
If you want a supermarket or convenience store on every block, shops that speak English, and other similar conveniences, then Da Nang is not for you.
Overall I think it’s on the rise though. There’s new construction everywhere, they put a huge priority on keeping the beach and ocean clean, and things are headed in the right direction.
In my last month there, I even saw police at some of the most popular intersections stopping motorcyclists and telling them they cannot just drive through a red light whenever they feel like it! Gotta start somewhere=)
Da Nang is doing all the right things to improve and attract more visitors in the coming years. I’ll be returning at some point!