Let’s Go Exploring! Da Nang, Vietnam: The Next Digital Nomad Paradise?

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The last time we were in Vietnam was 2016. Things were simpler back then. No one knew what a pandemic was, ChatGPT wasn’t threatening to replace jobs, our parents were all healthy, and the only thing we worried about was how badly we were going to get scammed. We’d read an article from seasoned budget traveler Nomadic Matt called “Why I’ll Never Return to Vietnam,” and were pretty worried about going there. After all, we’d just been spoiled by Thailand, “the land of a thousand smiles,” which had a visitor return rate of 50% while Vietnam only had a 2% return rate. So needless to stay, we had low expectations.

Vietnam, as it turned out, far exceeded those expectations (which wasn’t exactly hard, since it was pretty much in the gutter). We did get scammed way more than in Thailand, but having visited Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Hoi An, Na Trang, and Kat Ba, I discovered that Vietnam has a lot to offer if you just give it a chance. But it’s not going to be as convenient, comfortable, and laid back as travelling in Thailand so just set your expectations accordingly.

And now, 7 years later, we were going back to see if there are any big changes. Especially given that Da Nang has been touted by many digital nomads as the next up and coming hub now that Chiang Mai is getting saturated and overpriced.

Turns out, 7 years makes a big difference because Da Nang surprised me in many ways.

Accommodations

After spending one of the best months of my life with a group of thirty FIRE friends and digital nomads in Chiang Mai and paying only $440 USD/month for a 1-bedroom condo with a pool, I didn’t think accommodations could possibly get any cheaper and better.

Turns out, I was wrong. In Da Nang, the Lagom apartment style hotel with roof-top pool ended up costing us only $13 USD/day or $390 USD/month. That’s less than how much most people spend on lunch in North America! Plus, it came with daily cleaning, laundry, and was only 5 minutes walk from the beach. After staying at over 100+ accommodations all over the world, I’ve found that apartment style hotels are my favourite. You get the best of both worlds: a living room, kitchen, and laundry that makes it feel like home rather than hotel, plus hotel amenities like a pool, daily cleaning, and fresh towels every day.

I would say, of all the places we stayed in in the world, this one, hands down, was the best value based on price for quality. We got lucky since it was just built in 2022, and they’re charging a ridiculously low price trying to entice tourists after the pandemic. Even if the cost doubled, for the location, the level of quality and service, it’s still worth it.

Service

I’ve always had to lower my expectations for service in Vietnam compared to Thailand, because they simply don’t have as much experience as their neighbours in terms of welcoming travellers. Plus, because of colonization and the war (they don’t call it the “Vietnam War,” they call it the “American war”), they are naturally less trusting and relaxed than the Thais, but this time I was pleasantly surprised. Other than the grouchy ticket counter and security staff at the “Marble Mountain” tourist attraction and the touts in that area, service has been great. I also got a great haircut for only $8 (one of the cheapest and best I’ve ever gotten) at Ly’s Salon. Generally, I didn’t feel that Da Nang was a touristy place, even though we stayed in the touristy Khe Beach area, which is one of the cleanest beaches in Vietnam since they hire people to pick up trash every day. It felt like a chill place I could live in for the long term.

Hoi An, which is around a 45min drive from Da Nang, is another story. Since the last time we were there, the place seems to have exploded in popularity—especially with Korean tourists. Interestingly, prior to the pandemic, the biggest cohort of tourists in Southeast Asia were Chinese. Now, Korean restaurants and signs are everywhere, replacing Chinese ones and the tour buses full of Chinese tourists have all been replaced by Koreans.

The Food

The number one reason I love Southeast Asia is the food. The variety, cost, and availability of night markets just can’t be beat. I simply have never found anything like it anywhere else in the world.

Weirdly enough, Da Nang didn’t have a big selection of night markets (which is very strange for Southeast Asia), but it wasn’t a big deal because there were tons of good restaurants to choose from.

The only time I turned on the stove in my apartment hotel in Da Nang was to boil some eggs for breakfast. All other times, we ate out and devoured Vietnamese specialties like:

Pho (beef noodle soup)

Our favourite mom-and-pop Pho shop Pho Vu. Only 25,000 dong or $1 USD. Weirdly only opens until noon.

Bún chả  (vermicelli noodles and veggies dipped in grilled pork and fish sauce)

30,000 dong or $1.28 USD. Also from Pho Vu

Bánh xèo (crispy stuffed rice pancake)

Hanh & Ken – Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine, 36 An Thượng 5, Bắc Mỹ An, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng 55000, Vietnam

Bun Bo Hue (Hue style beef noodle soup)

Com Pho Bun Hanoi Style, 49 Trần Bạch Đằng, Phước Mỹ, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng 550000, Vietnam

Mì Quảng Noodles (Da Nang specialty)

Mì quảng Phương, 1 Phan Tứ, Bắc Mỹ An, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng 550000, Vietnam

Cao lầu (Hoi An specialty of chewy rice noodles soaked in local water with lye)

Quán Cao lầu Bá Lễ, 49/3 Trần Hưng Đạo, Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quảng Nam 56000, Vietnam

Bahn Mi (Vietnamese baguette stuffed with cold cuts and pate)

BBQ grilled Lobster

Dragon Bridge night market, 366J+HRW, An Hải Bắc, An Hải Trung, Sơn Trà, Đà Nẵng 550000, Vietnam

Fresh Grouper


Nhà Hàng Hải Sản Biển Việt, 64 An Thượng 26, Bắc Mỹ Phú, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng 550000, Vietnam

Egg Coffee

RawCoco coffee, 83 Phan Chu Trinh, Old Town, Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam

French Bakery

Paris Levain Bakery & Cafe, 112 Trần Bạch Đằng, Bắc Mỹ Phú, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng 550000, Vietnam

I’ve also noticed a lot more international cuisines and vegan cafes pop up since 2016…

My favourites were: Pizza 4P’s Hoang Van Thu, Pokeman, and Khong Vegan Kitchen

Am I obsessed with food? Who knows? But the thing about Vietnam is *inaudible due to mouth being stuffed*

Entertainment

I never get bored or lonely in Southeast Asia because there’s always so much to do! From bustling night markets, street festivals, to animal sanctuaries, to scuba diving, to karaoke, to massages, to all-day saunas, the list is endless! And you never feel lonely because you’re always surrounded by people.

I knew that coming to Vietnam, I’d have to give up the massages I’d gotten to love so much in Thailand. They have massages in Vietnam, but not nearly as good or cheap as Thailand, but what I didn’t know was that there was a whole new thing to discover!

Vietnamese hair washing! I honestly thought this was a Taiwanese thing because that’s the only other time I’ve ever seen it, but these services have been popping up all over Da Nang.

For 250,000 dong (or $10.65 USD), you get a “one hour hair wash package”, in which they wash your hair, massage your face for 30 minutes, followed by 25 minutes of head massaging while rinsing your hair. Then they blow dry and style your hair. It’s so relaxing! We went to the “Khan Spa” in Da Nang every other day and it was heavenly.

Hair wash station at our favourite Khan Spa

In addition to relaxing hair washes, we also visited the giant White Buddha, the Marble Mountains, the Memories Show in Hoi An, and the Dragon Bridge which spits fire and water every weekend at 9 PM. Again, impossible to be bored.

The Dragon Bridge spits fire and water every weekend at 9 PM
Hoi An “Memories Show.” Book from Klook to get a discount.

My Khe beach was also fun to take a stroll on, though I found the water too wavy for swimming. It’s great if you want to learn how to surf though.

Normally, I’m pretty happy only spending a week or two in Vietnam, but after spending a whole month in Da Nang, I felt like I could’ve stayed longer. The process of getting a visa to go to Vietnam has also gotten easier now that you can apply online for a 30-day e-visa. However, as of right now, there isn’t an easy way to stay longer, unlike Thailand, where you can get a 60 day visa before entering the country and then extending it for 30 days. Just be aware that you may need to have the credit card name match the name of the Vietnamese e-Visa when you apply. One of our friends ran into this problem when she tried to use her husband’s credit card to pay for both.

So, after a relaxing time in Da Nang, I flew to Hanoi, staying one night before we flew out to Australia. But immediately, right after we checked out of the Airport Hanoi hotel, the staff tried to scam us by charging us extra for breakfast, which was already included in the price, early check-in, and transportation to the airport, which was listed as free on their website!

Now there’s the Vietnam I remember!

Here’s how much we spent daily for the month in Da Nang:

CategoryCost in USD/couple per dayCost in CAD/couple per dayNotes
Accommodations$13$17.58The Lagom apartment style hotel was one of my favourite hotels in Southeast Asia with the best quality for price.
Food$24.47$33.03 ($27.69 eating out, $5.34 groceries)We hardly cooked at all and mostly ate out at restaurants. I love how in Asia I can eat out everyday and not gain any weight. The fact that portion sizes are probably 2/3 to 1/2 the size of that in North America and is also low carb probably helps.
Transportation$7.77$10.50Grabs (the Uber of Asia) were super cheap and only cost around $2-$5 to get anywhere in Da Nang and we were within walking distance to most attractions and the beach, so most of the transportation cost is the $100/person flight from Bangkok direct to Da Nang, amortized over the month.
Entertainment$13.82$18.66We had hair washes nearly every other day and the other attractions like the Memories show (around $24 per person) wasn’t expensive so entertainment was pretty cheap for the whole time there.
Total$59.06$79.77Despite the fact that prices have inflated somewhat and we’ve incorporated more massages into our lifestyle and more expensive food, Da Nang Vietnam is still remarkably affordable at only $21,556 USD/ couple per year or $29,116 CAD/couple per year.

What do you think? Have you ever been to Da Nang? Would you ever live there?


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21 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Da Nang, Vietnam: The Next Digital Nomad Paradise?”

  1. We just saw last night a movie in Netflix about a Californian travelling to Vietnam assessing to buy a tourist firm… I really got hooked on the country side , food and culture. Definitely a place to go.
    Thanks Kristie… great as always

    1. Great write up!! My best friend from childhood lives in Da Nang. He is married to a Vietnamese woman from Ho Chi Minh. He always tells me to visit but your article got me excited!!!
      Wife and I have been traveling and living places since 2015. Currently live in Rota, Spain. We are Americans and are FIRE due to a military retirement, VA disability and now social security. But, we also reached it the conventional way with investments so we are set. Your blog has been our motivation so thank you!!

  2. Nice write up. We were recently in Danang for a month. I agree with you in most of your points, especially the cost of living and the food. We also enjoyed the local market in the morning. We found most locals to be pleasant. We were even spontaneously invited to a street party by locals where it was insisted we eat and drink beer with them. It was mostly a pleasant experience. The only negatives for me were the abandoned hi rise projects and the empty lots that seem to be magnets for trash. Word on the street is Vietnam may be returning to a 90 day visa some time this month. Fingers crossed. We are heading back in a couple of months… This time Nha Trang. Safe travels!

  3. I’m reading this article this evening in my apartment in Taipei, Taiwan and wishing I were YOU! I visited Vietnam sometime back in pre-pandemic times and it was a fun trip. One of the highlights was a trip to Vung Tau* and walking up into the Jesus statue (like the one in Brazil). I found that the area around my hotel in Ho Chi Minh City was very English-friendly, but outside of HCM, we REALLY needed our amazing tourist guide’s help.
    I have since been invited by my dear online Vietnamese graduate students to come visit and take part in the Vietnamese cuisine equivalent of a pub crawl–with native guides helping me navigate the menus. They also have urged me to learn their language and I’ve started with Pimsleur Vietnamese (Vietnamese is kind of hard! What in the Theological Place of Eternal Punishment was I thinking?).
    I’m aiming at taking them up on their invitation next summer–2024–upon my retirement under the Financially Dependent, Retire Late program (ha ha ha). Maybe I’ll bump into you at the Jesus statue!
    Dan V
    Taipei, Taiwan
    *Vung Tau was the location of the US military recreational beach during the Vietnam War and just as beautiful as the older soldiers described it to me. I saw no traces of the former US presence, although I don’t know if the stretch of beach near the Jesus statue was part of that beach–neither old signage nor that vintage wooden US Army architecture that both my World War Two/Korean War veteran father and I worked and lived in as US soldiers! 🙂

    1. Vietnamese is kind of easy if your parents teach you! Though I have trouble with reading anything but food.

      It’s a bit weird visiting as overseas Vietnamese. As my cousin pointed out, they can spot you from a km away. They just know.

      1. My Taiwanese private teacher some years back said that she could spot ABCs (American-Born Chinese) a mile away by how they walk!

        Dan V
        Taipei, Taiwan

  4. We visited Hanoi and Halong Bay for a week in 2018. It was great. We enjoyed Vietnamese food immensely and didn’t get scammed (much?). I’ll put Danang on the list when we visit Thailand next time. Hopefully, it won’t change too much in a few years.

  5. Do provide little help for digital nomads. A 30 day visa is useless. The title of this article should have to do with tourism. This article is for tourists.

  6. Awesome post Kristy, you’re freaking awesome. I haven’t started researching SE Asia for our FIRE travels and will definitely add Da Nang to our list. Hoping to reach FI in 2 years and start our retirement in our late 30s woohoo! My husband and I have both devoured Quit like a Millionaire, it’s totally changed our perceptions and strategy around FIRE. I even recommended it to over 80 undergrad students when I presented to my alumni’s marketing association last month. Spread it like wild-fiaaa. I just have to get smart about how to travel with our 17 lb dog lol. Random question but do you feel SE Asia is somewhere we could travel with our dog, or would it be too hard with transport and accomodation rules?

  7. I just got back from Vietnam (Hanoi, Ha Giang, Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, Ho Chi Minh City, and Phu Quoc), so I was excited to read your post. I am Vietnamese and the last time that I went back to Vietnam was more than 10 years ago. I was one of those 2% who had planned on never returning because even my own relatives tried to scam me, but my mother was headed over there to fix up my grandfather’s grave, so I decided to tag along. It has changed A LOT. This last trip was so much more enjoyable. I highly recommend doing the Ha Giang loop on motorbike if you’re ever back and looking for an amazing adventure. I did the 3 day motorbike tour and it was my favorite part of the trip. Epic views everywhere.

    1. Interesting! I was in Vietnam once in 2005 but haven’t been there since. It was a bit weird being viet kieu though I don’t necessarily remember getting scammed much. Then again I don’t really buy much.

  8. We did just Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh last year in September but haven’t done Da Nang yet. Can’t wait to go back to Vietnam to do more exploring!

  9. Funny enough my partner and I are in Hue right now and related to your experience. I was worried after reading many bad experiences that other people had in Vietnam and I don’t know if it’s changed or what but our time here has been almost entirely pleasant. It really surprised me and I wish they offered longer Visas. There is so much to see, I already want to come back. I also found it to be much cheaper than Thailand.
    I also tried the hair wash service a couple of days ago and it felt amazing! Plus it was less than $2 USD. My hair felt like it does after coming out of an expensive salon.

    +1 for recommending Vietnam.
    I hope to come back and check out Da Nang.

  10. I love visiting Vietnam. Foods are everywhere well-priced, and good-quality.

    Regarding scams, I was ‘scammed’ when I had a motorbike took me to a cave.
    After we returned, when I paid him, I only had big bills and he refused to return back the change, unless I hire him the next day for another trip. I refused. My guesthouse staffs just watched and said nothing.
    The next day, I reported the incident to the local tourist office where I got the motorbike driver in the first place. They’re very apologetic, arranged a free transport to my next town as a token to their apology. I really appreciated their sincerity and efforts to correct the bad situation.
    Looking back, maybe the driver was just desperate for more business but we had language barrier as I didn’t speak Vietnamese, and I was not patient enough.

    As I have traveled more and been scammed in many other locations including in Europe/US/Canada, I have come to a solid conclusion that it happens everywhere, but the are more good apples than bad ones. I scold myself for being dumb enough to be fooled, then learn to privately thank the scammers for the interesting travel stories that I can share and laugh over with others later on. The story dividends pay infinitely. Who is the winner after all?

    I will definitely return to Vietnam one day, for the food, the people, and other good memories.

  11. I hit up Da Nang in November 2022. Definitely one of my fav cities along with Da Lat. You nailed the vibe. I would say you dont feel “alone” there as there are many people, but I wouldnt say the people are overly engaging. Personally I think thats why Vietnam has that 2% return rate. But hey, if you are looking to save a buck, enjoy great food, and maybe traveling with someone, Da Nang for the win.

  12. Glad you both gave Vietnam a second chance and have a better time!
    Vietnam economy is painfully paying a price for its citizens’ opportunistic personas; especially toward international travelers.

    This opportunistic behavior out-born from the 20 years economic embargo the United States placed on the country after the war. Economically, Vietnam lost 2 decades progress.

    If you are a DIY international traveler and is not into the full throttle night life as in Thailand, get yourself an old bike. You will have an incredible time exploring this raw country.

    We just passed and Hoi An, Da Nang on a recent bike trip to Ha Noi!

  13. We’re thrilled that you enjoyed your visit to Da Nang and share our belief in its potential for Digital Nomads! It appears that you indulged in as much delicious food as we did and that you scored an epic accomodation! Well done.

    You might want to check out the one we found in Cambodia for $390
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Wg-5XZUxq4

    However, we recently spent an entire month in Hanoi and found the culinary experience there to be even more exceptional. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter the scam issue you faced, so we consider ourselves fortunate. The only downside was the air pollution during our visit, but we’ll take measures to address that on our next trip.

    We’re delighted that you took our recommendation to explore Da Nang and we are glad to see that is looks like the way it was during our visit in February 2020 (post pandemic). I would though suggest giving Hanoi another chance. In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a detailed blog post about our time there, and I’ll make sure to send it directly to you so we can compare our experiences!

  14. An article about Digital Nomad Paradise with no mention about the quality and strenght of the Internet access. Or the ease of accessing the internet. Did the Hotel room have unlimited and strong Wifi? Did you have to visit a cafe?

    This article was well written and provided a lot of insite to visiting and staying a while in Da Nang but the title was click bate for the times that we are in.

  15. nomadic matt article about vietnam is the worst article about vietnam i read.
    imagine i write a trip to america where i was attacked by racist american at every street corner i go. do you think that will be fair to american?
    matt himself is jewish yet he seem to be a racist himself. look at the people he hire at his travel agency and the article he write about vietnam.
    i have experienced racist attacks (black white mexican) while traveling to america. i never return to america again. yet if someone ask me about america i say travel there to see for yourself.
    if you think being overcharged by a few dollars is bad. imagine being attacked physically just because the way you look.

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