Life in Da Nang, Vietnam, Digital Nomad Style
Our time as digital nomads in Da Nang, Vietnam was a huge period of personal growth for us. Da Nang was not the easiest place for us to transition to and (after nearly a year of travel) we dealt with some of the most difficult culture shock we’ve ever experienced. Adjusting to life in Da Nang was work. The flavors I was looking for seemed hard to find, simple tasks seemed like mountains at first, and I found myself fighting the urge to take afternoon naps for the first time in a while.
After about 2 weeks we began to find our groove, settled into our Da Nang routines, eventually found some “restaurants” we could go back to, and connected with some fellow expats we could share a drink with. By the time we left, we were ready to add Da Nang to the list of favorite places we visited in 2017. It’s amazing what a few weeks and a change of attitude can do for you.
What you will find in this guide:
- General information
- Visa Info
- Accommodation tips
- Wifi/Coworking/Sim cards
- Cafe Scene
- For Foodies
- Getting Around
- Religion/Notable Festivals
- Our favorite things to do in Da Nang
Why Da Nang?
Central Vietnam offers the opportunity to experience a rich cultural history, new amazing foods, and new levels of culture shock. We were surprised daily just how different Vietnam felt from other Southeast Asian countries we’ve visited. The food options are quite healthy, the coffee is amazing, and there’s no shortage of tropical beauty to explore.
Da Nang is still a city on the rise, which is immediately evident by the wide, un-congested roads and the many buildings under construction. Da Nang definitely offers a more relaxed pace of life than other Vietnamese cities. There aren’t a ton of activities to distract you, so if you’re looking for a nice place to relax and focus on your work for a while, Da Nang is a great choice.
What Does Da Nang Offer Digital Nomads?
A small but lively expat community
We met some lovely expats from all around the world in Da Nang. Over time they’ve built a really cool and welcoming community.
Tons of coastline to explore by motorbike
DaNang is famous for some of it’s amazing scenic motorbike rides close by. The SonTra peninsula is a must visit, along with the High Van Pass, best known for being featured on Top Gear.
A small but growing startup scene
Danang isn’t booming yet, but it’s definitely on the rise. Coworking spaces are beginning to pop up all over the place. You’re sure to find one that suits you (if you’re into that kind of thing...)
Great daytrips close by
The ancient city of Hoi An is just a short ride away and is a must visit. Many Digital Nomads prefer Hoi An to Da Nang. It’s just a matter of preference.
Plenty of great cafes to work from
Da Nang has some of our favorite cafes in the world. There are so many options to choose from within walking distance from the beach. Vietnam is mildly obsessed with coffee and an awesome cup can be as cheap as $1. Indulge.
DaNang is pumping between 10pm and 2am. There are a few rooftop bars to choose from (if you’re into that kind of thing), and there are plenty of great places to grab a beer and enjoy a late night snack.
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Where do you see yourself spending the most time in Da Nang?
1| I need serious beach time, and a solid expat bar scene
2|I like to be in the heart of the local culture, and the city vibes
3| like a healthy dose of both
The good news is that Da Nang is not a very big city, so you can access the beach from the heart of the city in about 15 minutes by motorbike. But as for picking a spot to live, there really are no bad choices. Da Nang is split down the center by the Han River. There are 4 really cool bridges that connect the 2 halves.
We had great luck using Airbnb in DaNang although there are lots of apartments available by walking around and speaking with rental offices. Some hostels also have studio apartments. We fell in love with the top floor studio at Hi Da Nang Beach Hostel.
The inland part of the city is the older side of the city, it’s connected more to Da Nang’s local history, culture, and cuisine. This side of the river feels more like a city, with daily hustle and bustle. There are a couple of established coworking spaces on this side too.
On the coastal side of the city, you’ll see new growth every day. Huge buildings are on the rise, and and new restaurants, cafes and bars are popping up. New apartment complexes are abundant, and there are a few really chill expat hangouts that are great for beer, or even a spot to work from. We stayed in the An Thuong neighborhood which is conveniently located close to the beach and within walking distance of all basic needs. There is one established coworking space on this side of the city but plenty of cafe/working spaces to discover. Oh yeah, and it has easy access to Son Tra, a mountain peninsula to the North, and Hoi An, the ancient city to the South.
Working Time Zones
Vietnam is 12 hours ahead of EST so if you’ve got video calls to NYC you’ll be starting your work day around 9pm. If your company is based anywhere in Europe, then you’ll be about 6 or 7 hours ahead. There aren’t many 24 hour coworking spaces available in Da Nang yet, so if you’re going to need to work late night be sure to have solid wifi in your apartment, or a portable wifi device that you can tether to.
Wifi | Sim Cards | Coworking
Wifi in Vietnam is abundant, although not overwhelmingly fast. Adam was able to successfully teach, with video calls, from our apartment though we did have occasional outages. Be sure to do a speed-test before you make any long term commitments.
Sim Cards are relatively cheap and easy to buy. 3G speeds are pretty consistent and coverage is quite widespread. We bought ours at the airport on arrival. For specific information on companies and plans check out this comprehensive blog post from Too Many Adapters
The start-up scene in Vietnam is still pretty small. And only a few co-working spaces have popped up so far. Da Nang is very much a city on the rise. New high rises are being built everywhere, and each day more digital nomads are settling in to Da Nang. Don’t be surprised to see Da Nang listed as the next Digital Nomad “hot spot”
As I’ve mentioned before, Vietnam is mildly obsessed with coffee. There are coffee shops everywhere slinging quality coffee for around a dollar. Talk about heaven. No matter what your style, you’re certain to find a spot that fits your mood. Hop around and try them all, or find your favorite and stick to it. We were particularly fond of Tanh Tam Coffee and Bakery for their delicious coffee, Bahn Mi, and french pastries. Rex Coffee, also known as Red Coffee was another of our favorites for interesting drinks and a cool working atmosphere.
For an amazing spot to eat/drink/work directly on the beach you must visit The Village. They host lots of fun events, and there's always a bunch of expats around. Go ahead, introduce yourself!
If you’re into alternative workspaces, you should certainly check out Don-Vi Toi. This place is exactly our vibe, and if you visit you’ll understand completely. Although it’s technically a bar, we were able to sip great coffee and work here in the day time. It’s also where Adam had his ass whipped in foosball by a 7 year old. There’s also a good chance of seeing some puppies while you’re there too.
Check out this post for more information on How to order coffee like a local in Vietnam.
Da Nang is full of hidden gems in back alleyways, noodle carts that can change your life, and surprises around every corner. Don’t be afraid to wander into someplace random and say “1 please.”
As with most tourist travelled areas, there will be “decoy restaurants” claiming to serve “authentic” Vietnamese food. They tend to have amazing signage and very inviting people outside...do your best to avoid these places and find the true local flavor, even if that means stepping outside of your comfort zone and into a dimly lit alleyway in search for food. In short...if you find hoisin sauce and sriracha on the table, you might be in the wrong pho restaurant.
A few of our faves
Mi Xao/Pho Xao| Xao means fried, Mi and Pho are just two kinds of noodles that are served this way. You’ve definitely got to try them.
Sugar Cane Juice| Seeing how they squeeze this fresh cane juice is a treat all in itself. The tiny green oranges they add for flavor are amazing!
Pho (Gai)| Pho is the dish the most foreigners are dreaming about when they come to vietnam, only to end up disappointed by how different it is from what they expected. Start with an open mind, and don’t settle with the first bowl of pho you eat. Try different places, and pay attention to the subtleties of the dish. Our favorite bowls of Pho were usually served on side streets or from carts. It might take some work to find the best ones.
Bun Cha| Tiny flavorful pork patties, vermicelli rice noodles, vegetables, and a tangy sauce, need I say more?
Mi Quang| A central vietnam staple. This is the noodle dish that changed everything for me. Once I found a friendly cart that served this one well, I was hooked. It’s basically a bowl of comfort food consisting of big fat noodles topped with meat, herbs , and a small amount of broth. It’s the hot pepper jam you’ve got to be on the lookout for. It’s a local specialty and it’s sure to add a delicious kick to any dish.
Seafood| Da Nang is famous for freshly caught seafood. There are tons of seafood shops along the beach selling fresh catch. You can also get some great seafood for cheap in the local markets. Go for the seafood hot pot cornucopia, of perhaps you’d prefer some tamarind crab?
There are so many amazing foods to try in Vietnam. Central Vietnamese is a cuisine all its own. We relied heavily on 2FoodTrippers Central Vietnam Food Guide for inspiration and guidance. They never steer us in the wrong direction.
Watch this video by Danang Cuisine get an idea of the kinds of food you’ll find.
Here’s a great guide for survival vietnamese phrases to use when ordering food!
Motorbike | Call us crazy, but we love riding our motorbike in Da Nang. Prepare to achieve new levels of focus, previously thought impossible. Motorbikes are certainly the primary mode of transportation around Da Nang. In preparation for future tourism, the roads are wide and uncrowded. Pay close attention to the habits of Vietnamese drivers and learn the ways of the road. Traffic rarely stops at any intersection. Don’t stop in the middle of the street and don’t hit any other bikes. If you can follow these 2 rules you’ll be fine.
Taxi | Taxis are relatively cheap and widely available. Just be sure to have them use the meter, as always.
Uber | Uber is relatively new (and illegal) in Da Nang. Though it does seem to be functioning at the time of this guide’s publication. If you choose to use Uber despite the illegality of it, understand that your driver is taking on a risk, and that you should comply with any special requests they might have. For example, many uber drivers will ask that someone in your group ride in the front seat to avoid the appearance of ride service.
Walking | There is plenty of walking to do around Da Nang. The city is pretty spread out especially on the beach side, where the blocks are really long. And walking along the beach can feel like being in Vegas, the buildings are further than they appear. However, if you set yourself up in a little neighborhood, you should have almost everything you need nearby.
Vietnam is one of the few Southeast asian countries we actually needed a visa to visit. We applied online through Vietnam E Visa National Portal on Immigration and had no trouble. Be sure to hold on to your e-visa paperwork the entire time you are in Vietnam. They will need to see it again to let you out of the country. Your passport entry stamp WILL NOT be sufficient.
Although Vietnam's traditional folk religion inherits it's teachings from the Chinese Taoism and Confusionism. There is also a heavy Buddhist influence. In Da Nang there is a large Lady Buddha that sits out on Son Tra penninsula. It is visable from Da Nang's coast line.
Some ATMs will allow you to take out more cash than others. You may have to shop around a bit for which ATM’s will give you 100,000dong notes.
Vietnamese is a difficult language to learn, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Luckily, unlike Thai, Chinese, Japanese and many others...it uses roman letters, which means that you can learn to recognize words and phrases more easily, even if you can’t read or pronounce them properly. This makes hunting down your favorite foods a lot easier!
For long term visitors, we always recommend learning a bit of the language to make your life easier and to help you connect with the locals. We recommend you look at this post for some basic vietnamese travel phrases, or listen to a vietnamese language podcast!
Don’t forget to pack...
- Bathing Suit
- Plug Adapter
Practice "Leave No Trace" when visiting beaches, nature, and ancient sites.
Shop Local, supporting local businesses is great for revitalizing the economy.
Be sure to dress appropriately when visiting any holy sites or spiritual places.
Da Nang definitely isn’t the most poppin city in Southeast Asia (that’s part of why we like it)... but there are plenty of bars, clubs, rooftops, tapas bars, late night burger joints, and lounges to keep you entertained. A quick look at Da Nang’s SnapMap or local Instagram story will show you exactly what we mean...
Top 5 things we love to do in Da Nang
- Sip delicious coffee and work in the amazing local cafe’s
- Take day trips via motorbike to the surrounding areas, Son Tra Peninsula, Hoi An, Hue...etc.
- Sunrise workouts at the beach among the locals
- Find the best Banh Mi
- Getting your ass kicked in foosball by a 7 year old in a bar
There are plenty of day trips and side trips to take from Da Nang. You can start by renting a motorbike and exploring Son Tra, you’re likely to see some monkeys along the way. Take a drive over the famous High Van Pass, or even just further North to Hue. Spend a weekend in Hoi An’s ancient city, or even a week. You won’t even have to miss any work, Hub Hoi An, is one of the most charming coworking spaces we’ve had the pleasure of working in.
Visa: A 30 day visa will cost you about $25 for the stamping fee and depending on website you go through, you'll also be charged a service fee.
3 month visas are also available
Accommodation: There is accommodation for every price range in Da Nang. You'll find 1 bedroom apartments with everything you might need for as little as $18-20 USD per night, and of course if you're looking for something a little more luxurious you'll find things in the $30-70 USD per night range.
Coworking Space: Coworking spaces in Da Nang are a steal! 1 month Hot Desk membership at Enouvo Space will run you $80 USD.
Transportation: Motorbike rentals are about $3-6 per day. Ask you accommodation to set you up with a rental, they usually have a rental shop that they work with. You can probably get an even better deal if you rent weekly or monthly. Taxi's won't cost you much either, just make sure they use the meter.
We want to know...
Do you have a question we didn’t answer about Vietnam? Got anything to add about your experience living in Da Nang? Or maybe we got something wrong... Leave us a comment!