What's the best digital nomad city in Vietnam?

What’s your favorite city in Vietnam as a nomad? Specifically I’m wondering which is the most nomad friendly; co-working spaces, number of nomads, fun things to do, etc…

Advice on which area of the city to live would be great, plus any ProTips :slight_smile:

Thank for your input!

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Saigon without a doubt! Would look at d3, d5 or d7.

[why is there an 70 char minimum? I’ve nothing more to add…]

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I have lived in Ho Chi Minh City (also, referred to by its old name, Saigon) off and on now for about 3 years.

I love it here, and am here somewhat indefinitely.

We have large crew of nomads always passing through and more established entrepreneur expats. A typical night out can easily have 15 - 20 of us out.

There are literally 1,000s of coffee shops to work from. My friend James wrote this article on some of the best:

http://www.nomadicnotes.com/travel-blog/ho-chi-minh-city-cafes/

Awhile back, I wrote a Medium post about bootstrapping from Saigon:

As a new arrival into Saigon, I would recommend only living in District 1, the Central District.

It’s “fairly” walkable depending on where you are at. You will meet a lot of other people, which should be a primary goal when settling in.

For location, I would recommend walking the alleys of Saigon’s Japantown (the alleys of Thai Van Lung and Le Thanh Ton) and you will see lots of signs with rooms for rent that range from $200/ month and up.

A back up would be the street of 18A Nguyen Thi Minh Kai. Walk the street and look for the signs for rooms for rent, walk up and inquire.

I would strongly recommend not settling in the backpacker area in District 1, which goes by Pham Ngu Lao or Bui Vien Street. Most people who have had a “bad” experience in Vietnam - overpaying, scammed!, phone stolen or other petty crime - have had it happen there. It’s fun to visit, it would be a hassle filled shit hole to live in.

The other districts are great, but the city is overwhelming at first.

I live in District 2 and love it. There are lots of longer term expats in this district. However, I have been here for a while, ride a motorbike everyday and know quite a few people. There is fantastic housing stock in this district and I really lucked out on a house here.

But again, I would say District 1 only as a starting point.

Hope that helps.

Hit me up when you roll into town and I will introduce to the group.

Cheers.

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I prefer Danang for the beaches, safety, cleanest and amazing food. Local people are very friendly and hospitable.

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I second Da Nang. By far the most beautiful city in VN. If you want a healthy lifestyle along with good internet, food, culture… then Da Nang wins hands down. You have some of the best beaches in Vietnam (My Khe Beach), the Son Tra peninsula, Han River (with the Dragon bridge that breathes fire), Red Beach, the Hai Van Pass, Hoi An right down the road, Hue a morning’s drive away, and a modern, clean city of 1 million people. You can see the sunrise over one beach and set over a different beach (how many different cities can say that)! Great seafood, soups, and some really good expat/western spots.

Also, Da Nang is off the normal backpackers route, so you avoid trashy elements and get much better experiences with the locals. The expat community is much smaller than HCMC, but that means people are generally much nicer and happier to meet other westerners.

For $350/month we have a brand new 1bd apartment with views of the sunrise over the beach. We are constantly reminding ourselves that we live here rather than just on a few day vacation. It is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. HCMC is great, but the difference is a New York/Chicago like city vs San Francisco/Seattle like area. I prefer the latter.

Some videos to see what it’s like:



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Yeah, you really have to know yourself with regards to location.

Some far prefer Danang others like myself are Saigon through and through.

Over a longer term, I go nuts in slower, sleepier cities.

Really depends on you, but you should carefully consider your location criteria.

Hopefully, I didn’t paint Saigon as a paradise.

It’s far from it.

The city is constantly noisy, traffic initially overwhelming, the pollution bothers some people (I don’t ride at rush hour), music in cafes - always too loud, and the locals will seem very abrupt at first.

And for myself, herein lies the charm.

I have spent a vast majority of my life in big, dirty cities.

From Kolkatta to NYC to Buenos Aires to here in Saigon, and beyond, I like and prefer the constant activity of big cities.

I find calm where others find chaos.

You must know yourself well on this point.

And, with said chaos, it’s quite easy to escape and find tranquility.

Here in District 2, I have a newly built, 3-story home, which was designed by a well-known architect focused on a blend of modernism and Japanese design.

Sakura trees scale the house. Trees are in the house. The back is open air allowing for a breeze through the entire house coupled with a waterfall and pond in our living room.

I wake up everyday in the peace of my home, and head to the third floor, which houses my design studio. I just work. Collaborators visit. Customers visit. My food is on schedule. Gym is sorted.

It’s easy.

FYI - ugly construction is nearly done and concealed. old pic.

I don’t say these things to brag, just stating that there is incredible value here for this kind of living, peace and creating a positive work environment to really get shit done.


One big thing I would say about location selection. Wherever.

Look at what you do every single day - day in and day out. Those same things.

Not the things you might occasionally do if…

I used to think I was a beach guy. I love the beach. Love to surf. Still skateboard if I have the chance, but in reality - when I was presented with living in beach towns from Miami to Ao Nang/ Krabi to Gulf of Thailand Islands to here in Vietnam, I found I didn’t use the beach nearly as much as I thought.

Nice to look at - for sure, but that factor for me personally, it carries less weight. Beaches are vacation destinations for me not business hubs. Business is the most important thing for me right now. Probably will be for a long time. Others place more weight on having a beach. Depends on you.

That day in and day out thing is what I value the most.

What I do day and day out, who do I connect with, how do I make it enjoyable, optimize it and gain maximize impact. Ohh, and just have people around to have fun with.

In that regard, I find the lifestyle optimizations for how I run my routines and show to be the best in bigger cities. Certainly in Saigon, there are fantastic lifestyle multipliers.

Further, and finally to help give you a mental model for location selection.

Examine where you are at and what goals you are trying to obtain.

Near the top of my list for location selection is one thing - - -

It’s about the people.

It’s about inserting myself in a place where you have a higher potential for serendipitous interactions to take place and a higher volume of people with whom to connect.

Most of the breaks I’ve had in my life have come from simply setting up shop in larger cities and being active.

Saigon is no exception.

In the time I’ve been here, simply from always being out, being active and meeting lots of people, I have had opportunities handed to me.

For example, I have been consulting with a VC firm here and helping them launch a national bank.

That was a word of mouth connection developed here.

I’m not convinced such connections are as easy to establish in smaller towns.

So, consider that factor. Are you building, scaling, need to connect or all of these?

Location, who you are, what you love, what you tolerate and what you hate, determines the location calculus.

Hopefully that helps.

I’ve got get up to Da Nang and hang with the crew there. I will probably head there in a few weeks to have a look at a friend’s operation. Would love to hang out with you all.

If you all make it down to Hoch, first one is one me.

Cheers.

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I definitely feel you. I lived in HCMC for 6 months (district 3) and loved it. Favorite 3 things about it are:

  1. So many like minded people doing the same thing to meet and share ideas with
  2. Best city in the world for coffee shops. 1000’s of them and they are nicer (and more varied) than what I’ve seen anywhere.
  3. Even after being there for 1/2 a year, you can drive 5-10 mins in any direction and find a completely new neighborhood with tons of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars that you never knew existed. The city is massive and a true playground for an urban explorer.

In my opinion, HCMC is where you go if you want to network, grow you business through new opportunities, and enjoy all the benefits of a massive, bustling city. Da Nang is a great place to focus on your specific project, be able to enjoy the outdoors/beach/mountains, and be without the hassles of a huge city (but Da Nang is still ~1 million people). Seattle vs NYC is the best comparison I can come up with.

Internet is pretty much the same in both; very good for working unless the shark eats the cable.

For one last image of Da Nang, here was a sunset from the other day:

Overall, I’d say you won’t go wrong in either as they are both wonderful for working remotely. Jon, drop me a line when you come up and we’ll give you a good welcome :slight_smile:

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Wow, awesome feedback. You’ve all made great points, now I can’t wait to visit both cities!!

I’m planning to fly out around the end of October, probably HCMC first for a couple months followed by Da Nang.

I’ll give you guys a shout when I’m in town, cheers!

Awesome dude.

We are making plans at the moment actually.

Likely the last week of this month.

May end having a shop up there myself.

Will hit you up.

It’s simple, you want to focus on something specific and don’t want distractions, go to Danang. I personally like Hoi An to get work done, but others may find it boring. If you want to meet new people, network, and have a bunch of activities to do on the weekends, Saigon is the place to be.

ileitch, hope you have a great trip. Just keep in mind you’ll be coming during the rainy season in HCMC (heavy rains for ~2 hrs/day) and the typhoon season in Da Nang (a bit more bothersome). But as a plus, accommodation should be cheaper than other times of the year.

Hoi An is ok to visit, but I could never live/stay there. In my opinion, it feels like VN Disneyland for tourists with westerners everywhere and almost nothing is like an actual Vietnamese city - it’s 95% tailors, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Also, it’s about 1/10 the size of Da Nang (1/100 the size of HCMC), and the beach is mostly eroded at this point. But extremely beautiful at night.

wow this thread is awesome, bookmarking this one. thanks for the info guys!

Question to all Vietnam expats - what do you do when sharks eat the cables and Vietnam loses Internet connection to the outside world?

If you aren’t into urban living, Hoi An seems much more charming than Da Nang. Hoi An has incredible style in the Ancient Town, and it’s easy to get to the beach side as well. Some resorts are super cheap, and you can still find great expat bastions like Dingo Deli, a great digital nomad oasis even when the power goes out. Another Westerner comfort: incredible brunches, and we have been floored by the monthly brunch at Almanity as well as the weekly one at Victoria. I can’t speak for many places, since I’ve only stayed in Da Nang and Hoi An so far.

@Casey_Rosengren: Great question, since Internet for the whole country slows to a crawl (about .5 to 1 Mbps) when the undersea cable breaks, which happened 2 or 3 times in the last year, I think. Some people get around it reasonably by tethering to 3G data, but that’s about it. If your work can’t function at less than 5 Mbps for a month, planning a long stay in Vietnam may not be worth it. I worked around it okay.

Overall, I’m thrilled to be living in Hoi An for a couple months.

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PS! If you’re considering Hoi An, Dingo Deli made an excellent post for expats to get oriented and get started with life in Hoi An.

I too will bookmark the thread. I started a company in Cebu, Philippines in 2005 to do web dev and design for US w/ the absolute best talent in the country. But over the years the PH just didn’t seem like the best fit even though I love SEA and have traveled/worked extensively there. I explored Vietnam for 3 weeks in 2002 (explore: not there “on holiday”).

So, @jonmyers your post that you mention here…that was actually one of the inspirations of realizing Vietnamese cities are a great fit for me after I read it recently. You’re a rock star, no pun intended: what an awesome pic for your post about Saigon!

I will now date myself, age-wise. I moved to Prague in 1993 and worked there for a year-- most of you can’t imagine such a distant time-- but I was the advertising manager for “Prognosis” and it was enough to make anyone want to travel/work the rest of their life.

That was the biggest spot since Paris in the 20s. China became that …for a time. But now seems like Vietnam has all the amazing qualities of being the place to be if you thrive on on the positive energy that comes from a city in exciting times. It continues to explode with enthusiasm and people that have a chance to bring a fantastic city to a new level.

Are women there getting open minded about dating (if you’re a woman considering working in Saigon, I’m sure you’re interested in the way guys there stick to conservative ideas for boy/girl relationships as well)? I’d heard that it was like USA in the 1950s, perhaps especially when dating foreigners and that for women their eyes are always on marriage from the first date (not interested in BF/GF relationship).

Anybody searching for a co-working-space in HCMC District 1?
I am from Germany and settled six months ago in HCMC. I will stay for a while, so I rented an office - but it´s to big for me and my Software-Developer.
So, I´d love to get more life into our office, meet new people, and - maybe there are ways to cooperate. I am strong in software-development for the financial markets, but very weak in marketing software-products online.
But anybody is welcome, even if you´re a cookbook-writer :smile:

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Eric, well - I am in the SeniorNomad Club as well. :blush: - truthfully though, age really doesn’t cross my mind here much. The group here has all ranges.

I still workout everyday, take care of myself and am doing pretty much the same shit, say, like skateboarding, which I did when I was eight years old.

Anyhow, I have a bit of perspective on location, and how these things ebb and flow. I started my journey in 94/ 95 with a year of living in Taipei, Taiwan. I also lived in China back in 2003, have lived in India for a year, all over South America - Buenos Aires, Santiago, etc. - in all have racked up, I think about 30 countries.

Additionally, I have seen the explosion of mobility now. What an exciting time we live in.

I really need to update that Bootstrapping in Saigon post.

I’ll probably update and put a more comprehensive overview and blueprint for Bootstrapping in Saigon on my own site, which I will relaunch soon.

Quite a lot has changed since then.

The biggest change - - -

Construction has begun on a massive metro system.

Having lived in Taipei while their metro system was under-construction, and contrasting that with the present, I believe most will underestimate how the Saigon Metro System will impact the city.

Taipei 20 years ago was a lot like Saigon now.

Motorbike culture was the central force of that city at that time, it was pretty cowboy like Saigon can be in places, and it had a very invigorated and confident youth culture, which I see in Saigon at this time.

Oddly, Vietnam’s present GDP is that of Taiwan’s 20 years ago. Yet, they have a lot more people.

Vietnam at the moment has the fastest growing middle class in Southeast Asia. You can see the signs of it and optimism is in the air.

There are other factors to consider, which may pan out in Vietnam’s favor.

The controversial and previously top secret, TPP Agreement, which has been gaining momentum will likely be a huge benefit to Vietnam.

There are big downsides to this agreement, especially when it comes to decision making authority and environmental issues, but I’ve tried to view it from other angles.

Mainly, I see this as an effort to neutralize China’s influence. Probably why it was so secretive.

Being an entirely coastal country, having a very young population where 70% of the country is under the age of 30, continuing a shift from an agrarian based society to industrialization and with some meager banking reforms that have to come about due to Vietnam’s WTO compliance - - - I see the synthesis of all of these factors working in the country’s favor.

So much so, I have more or less based myself indefinitely.

Ohh, and there is another factor - - - - - I married a local. :sunglasses:


Dating

That’s an interesting segue into your other question.

At the risk of being judged, being misquoted, misinterpreted, accused, and so on, I’ll give you my personal point of view.

I know these kind of questions and discussions are the elephant in the room in this community, and can be explosive.

I avoided the trifecta of entrapment all of my adult life - marriage, mortgage and children.

I have never been previously married, I have no children - and have previously been open to the idea of marriage, but not children.

Then I came here…

Ok, on dating here, the culture and the interplay amongst men and women.

I really, really love the dynamic amongst the sexes here.

It’s hard to describe.

A bit of a back story.

I grew up being raised by a single mom, grew up around a lot of women because my mom was a ballet dancer, though I did have a grandfather who was blue-collar, a boxer and thus, I had a fairly rounded yin and yang model.

Growing up, I distinctly remember the interplay of the sexes.

It was calm, cool, confident and fun.

From my little view of the world at that time, the women I saw and observed were strong, working and could dish it out and take it.

Growing up there was a playfulness amongst the sexes, which was not overly concerned with offending, with being too politically correct or existing in a state of outrage over semantics.

And with that backstory, I will tell you my personal experience here.

There is a fun, unassuming playfulness between the sexes.

In terms of dating, it will depend, but in general, there is a very open attitude towards dating.

Very open.

In terms of that rushing to marriage expectation and all that stuff.

I think that’s mostly guy’s egos talking too much, if you want my honest opinion.

Speaking in general terms, the girls here are very strong, they have strong opinions, when I was dating here, I did not meet one girl who was “looking to get out” and say, move to America.

Like any other city, you will have gold diggers, but I found the gold digger factor to be low, and if that’s the case, it’s easy to spot and it’s up to the guy not to be a total idiot and fool and turn into a human ATM machine.

The judgers will think the dating game here is just a money game. It’s not - it’s nuanced. It depends on the persons and how they carry themselves.

The levels of social intelligence and perception again, in general, are very high.

Femininity is well expressed, and quite celebrated and appreciated by most.

And, that is where the dynamic of the sexes is at play.

It’s fun and comfortable most of the time, and if it gets out of line, you’ll know it.

An honest flirtiness that is usually not too out of line.

In terms of marriage.

Well, I never really saw myself getting married, ever - really.

My wife and I just celebrated our 1 year anniversary, and the 1 year report so far.

Amazing, far better than I could have imagined. I’m really happy.

Her family (who fought for the North) has welcomed me with open arms. We see them often and host them at our house for dinner often.

Obviously, I can’t speak for her, but she seems very, very happy as well. No moodiness. Not outbursts of anger. Even keeled.

She is motivated and does her own thing. She has her own business and I have my business.

We both work from home. She has her friends, I have mine and we both have our own lives.

She will call me out on any BS - yet, is very patient and understanding.

We live nearly conflict free. A concept very alien to me.

If there is an incommunicado, patience is exercised and we slow down and talk through it.

At times, I go out with my friends at night, will party (she doesn’t like to drink) and catch zero grief or jealousy when I return home. None. Nothing.

That makes me respect her more, lover her more and makes me value the relationship more. My eyes have little motivation to wander.

I had an ex-girlfriend of two years coming to Vietnam from the states who I’m still good friends with, and my wife and I were talking about where my ex would stay.

She looked at me and said - she will stay with us. Why would I care? I married you.

That’s it. No conflict.

That response was a shocker.

I lucked out. I have a good foundation and I see this going somewhere.

In short.

Yes, this is a great place to date.

One thing - don’t be a bullshit artist about how long you’re here or set false expectations.

That’s the one thing I see guys doing here a lot.

They’re too afraid to state the truth.

Some will use lies and deception to run up their numbers.

Don’t be one of those tools.

Just be honest.

Be crystal clear about your expectations and let the rhythm of dating run its course.

Just have fun. That’s what most locals are interested in. Fun.


Truthfully, from what I have heard, the dating side for most western women here will be more challenging.

I have quite a few female friends here and the challenges are often a subject of discussion.

Again, generalization - but, I’m told by my female friends that the guys here are not masculine enough to their tastes. In general, men here are shorter and western women are taller - and for whatever reason, my female friends want a taller guy.

There is a very large western expat community here, and not all of those guys are interested in dating locals. Thus, I have seen a few budding relationships between expats.

I know of one relationship between a local Vietnamese guy and a western woman, perhaps two - come to think of it. It’s not as normal I guess.

Though, ladies, I’d say this is open territory. I have quite a few local guy friends who are smart, handsome, successful guys who would be a catch. Never rule anything out.


Hope that helps clarify some things.

Feel free to ask me anymore questions.

I enjoy writing about this stuff because it helps me frame my thoughts.

Hope to see you all in the Hoch.

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Hey everyone, I’m a fresh boarder here. Very interesting read regarding Vietnam and especially interesting to hear that Da Nang looks exactly like the place to set my eyes on.

I’m currently on business visa and located in Chiang Mai, Thailand but the visa situation here is becoming harder and harder on growing pace so thinking of options outside the country.

Can anyone give me heads up on how to securely obtain business visa in Vietnam? And if anyone has more overall experience regarding living and working in Da Nang I would be more than happy to hook up in Facebook etc.!

Not much real meat here in terms of statistics, but funny enough - I just stumbled on this Sovereign Man post about Vietnam’s growth potential.

Wish you’d jumped on the China boom 20 years ago? Here’s your second chance in Vietnam.