Disclaimer: This is our personal opinion about moving to Da Nang, Vietnam. We liked it, but we didn’t love it – and decided NOT to stay here long term. Even though hundreds, if not thousands of expats will disagree with us. This is what we experienced, and what our first impressions were. Read on for more details.
After about a year in South Africa, our plans to build a house fell through. We were abruptly left with not much of long term plan. At first we were pretty sad and disappointment, but as we believe everything happens for a reason we decided to take it in it’s stride and find a new plan.
Cody and I have always shared the dream of seeing the world (while working on the road) “one day”. One Day or Day One, am I right? Well, with nothing rooting us to our current location anymore, we decided to do some research: Was there anywhere in the world we could afford to live with our current income?
We earn a steady and decent income from our food blog “livingchirpy.com” that we started in early 2015. Couple that with a bit of freelancing, we’ve definitely got something to work with.
Turns out, there’s a bunch of options out there! And the one that sounded most intriguing – Vietnam!
We looked into all of the bigger cities in Vietnam and ended up choosing Da Nang.
On paper it seemed almost too good to be true:
- Low cost of living
- Cheap apartments right by a world class award winning beach
- Cleanest city in Vietnam (according to various sources)
- Meals for $1 per person
- Great coffee
- Relaxed atmosphere
- Good For Families
- Lots of expats
- Beautiful scenery
- Friendly locals
- Lots of amazing things to do in and surrounding Da Nang
Once we’ve done enough research, we booked our tickets and started packing. From the day our build plans fell through to the day we stepped foot in Da Nang only 3 weeks had passed. So, to say it was a quick life change is a gross understatement.
Sometimes though, what you see on paper and what you experience in person doesn’t always line up quite right. And this was very true for Da Nang.
The Realities of Moving To Da Nang:
1. Traffic in Da Nang:
We arrived in Da Nang as it started to get dark. We got ripped off by a taxi right off the bat, which we were expecting…but still. The traffic is as crazy as we’ve read, with hundreds of scooters zipping and zooming through each other with no rhyme or reason (to us foreigners anyway). You truly can only understand Vietnamese traffic when you experience it with your own eyes, but believe me when I say that it is CRAZY. Awesome, but crazy.
I would definitely not call this place “relaxed” lol.
We check into our hotel, which we’ve booked for a week so we had some time to apartment hunt. So far so good, except for the fact that we’re dead tired after a 13 hour flight, an 8 hour layover in Hong Kong and another 2 hour flight to Da Nang.
2. Food in Vietnam – What to feed young kids and toddlers:
Once we reach our hotel, we take a short rest and then set out for some food! We find a little market by the beach and don’t really know what we’re looking at. If it were just me and Cody, we would probably be a bit more adventurous. But when you have a 1 year old you’re trying to feed good whole foods, we have to err on the side of caution and really, everything looked a bit dodgy and not quite suitable for our little one.
Good thing we packed a bunch of “on the go” food pouches for him or else he would have gone to bed hungry!
Cody and I end up finding some okay looking stuff for ourselves – chicken, some questionable meat skewer, Bánh Xèo. It all tastes pretty good, and I’m definitely a fan of Bánh Xèo.
As the week progresses we decide that with our baby in tow, we would most likely need to choose the cleaner, more “fancy” restaurants, and street food might be a bit of a no-go. Safety first, as much as possible.
Don’t misunderstand us though, the food is great! But feeding a toddler is not easy. We buy Bo a lot of fresh fruit, feed him some of the vegetables, meat and broth off of our own plates and whenever we find something made with egg, we order it for him. He definitely eats a lot of eggs now.
So, gone are our dreams of $1 meals. After only a week, it became clear that we’d probably pay an average of $4-8 per meal for both of us (Bo still shares my food). We know that when we find an apartment and can cook for ourselves, it will be a different story, but for now it’s quite challenging.
3. Getting Around:
Even though you can extremely easily use Grab to get around cheaply, it does start adding up. And while you can definitely walk to a lot of places, the heat makes a a bit unbearable most days. We have not really ventured much into Da Nang’s public bus transport, but I’m not sure if that will be worth it to figure out.
The locals definitely seem dead set on charging you double if not triple the going rate, just because you look foreign.
4. Apartment Hunting in Da Nang, Vietnam:
Our second day in Da Nang, we had an appointment with Danang Landlord to look at a bunch of apartments in our price range. We needed to find a small, but nice place in a convenient location for under $400 a month. Which, according to the internet, should be a breeze.
We read that while you could find decent stuff online, you’d most likely find better and cheaper places just by walking the streets.
We are severely underwhelmed by the places shown to us by Da Nang Landlord. Although the agent went to a lot of trouble to show us many places, we were definitely being taken for a ride. Not so great studios in okay areas for around $300-$400, and halfway decent 1 Bedroom places for $400 up to $560.
This is definitely NOT the picture painted online, and we also could not find “Cho Thue” signs anywhere.
After asking a fellow instagrammer that lived in Da Nang which area they recommend, we set off to explore the An Thuong area. Here, the “For Rent” signs were plentiful and we felt a surge of hope, but it didn’t last long. After looking at another long list of apartments we came to the conclusion that we are not going to find what we were hoping for. Sad face.
As the week went on, we definitely started doubting our decision in choosing Da Nang.
Finally, we catch a break and look at an okay 1 bedroom apartment in a good location for $400 per month. The only drawback is that the windows look out to the back another building, so not much natural light. We head back to our hotel and have a long and hard discussion about what our next step should be.
Our final decision: Is Da Nang right/good for expat and nomad families?
After some long and hard deliberation, as much as we wanted to fall in love at first sight with Da Nang, it was hard to avoid the cold hard realities of the place. Especially with a little one.
Three seperate people told us that Hoi An might be a better place for young children, and we decided to take the hint. We repacked our bags, booked a hotel in Hoi An (23km south of Da Nang), and were on our way.
Even though Da Nang is considered a very “relaxed” city compared to others like Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City, don’t kid yourself. It is still very much a big city – loud, obnoxious and crazy with tons of people and traffic. If you’re used to living in a big city, you might feel different. We aren’t, so it was a bit too much for us.
While the internet paints a very fairytale-like picture of how cheap it is to live here, it’s not quite the truth. Yes, it is MUCH cheaper than most other places in the world, but $250 apartments and $1 meals – eh not quite. I think this counts for ALL of Vietnam. Once we’ve been here a month, we’ll post an accurate Cost of Living in Vietnam (and link it here). We’ve been meticulously keeping track of every cent we spend.
We’re not saying we don’t like Da Nang, because we do. It’s a great place with tons of things to do, but we just couldn’t see ourselves, especially with a 1 year old, living here long term.
On the flip side, here is some things we did love about Da Nang, Vietnam:
- Amazing Coffee Shops – Go to Ka Cong Cafe!
- Friendly people
- Truly beautiful and clean beaches with powdery white sand and clear water
- Lots of things to do
- Chasing the Bahn Bao scooter guy! Gotta get that Bahn Bao!