My husband David and I love Vietnam. And when it comes to finding a place to call home here, we’ve been spoiled for choice since the day we arrived. We loved Nha Trang’s spectacular bay, ringed by a long expanse of golden-sand beach, sparkling turquoise water and lush green islands that seemed to shimmer in the distance. It also offered a thriving expat community, welcoming locals, great food and even better value. The one-bedroom, furnished apartment we rented there was just a five-minute walk from the beach and included twice-weekly housekeeping and most utilities, all for just $400 a month.
From there, we moved to Hanoi, Vietnam’s exuberant capital city, with its rich history, beautiful French colonial-era mansions and wide, tree-lined streets. Living in a culture steeped in tradition, we shopped at the local markets, sat on tiny plastic chairs while eating some of the most delicious—and cheap—street food in the world and made some wonderful Vietnamese friends.
Almost every week we were invited to visit friends who lived among the peaceful rice paddies and ancient temples in the countryside to participate in family traditions that stretched back generations and for nights out on the town—dinner, followed by cold fruit drinks, bubble tea or perhaps some homemade rice wine to finish off the evening. We loved Hanoi but after five years, we felt it was time for a change.
We had been to Da Nang several times over the years—it’s just a $50, 75-minute flight from Hanoi— and always enjoyed it. The air is fresh and clean and the beach, My Khe, is an impressive 29-kilometere stretch of soft, white sand, made even prettier by the gleaming white 67-metre-high statue of Quan Am, the “Lady Buddha”, who watches over the city from the top of the mountains overlooking the beach.
Da Nang is a modern and progressive city but small enough to retain a liveable, friendly, laidback feel. There’s a large—and growing—expat community and the cost of living is seriously affordable, little wonder it’s known as Vietnam’s most liveable city. With so much on offer, the decision to make Da Nang our next home in Vietnam was an easy one.
We took a trip to Da Nang a couple of weeks before we made the move to find a place to rent. A property agent showed us several houses before we settled on one that was right for us. Our new home here is a large and luxurious three-storey, three-bedroom, modern home. It’s light and airy and we can see large, flowering trees from our bedroom balcony during the day and at night, we can see the Milky Way. It’s in a quiet, leafy corner of the city, less than a 10-minute drive from the beach. Our rent sets us back $939 a month.
The agent made all the arrangements, including providing us with a bilingual lease and negotiating some details with the owners, such as having a soft, Western-style mattress installed in the master bedroom. She even helped us open a local bank account, which makes accessing our cash and paying rent and utilities a breeze. In Da Nang, having a valid passport, visa and depositing at least $11 is all you need to open an account. It can be a little more complicated in other parts of Vietnam but it seems that everything is easier in Da Nang.
Moving here was a cinch too. We contacted a moving company in Hanoi that supplied us with all the packing materials we needed, then had a crew come to our house. They carefully wrapped our motorbike and carried all our boxes to the moving truck, then put everything on the train. A few days later, everything arrived safely in Da Nang where it was delivered right to our door. The entire process set us back just $390.
Even in a low-cost country like Vietnam, we’re finding the cost of living here to be exceptionally affordable. We’re paying $18 per month for high-speed fibre-optic internet, $3 per month for water, $70 per month for electricity and $48 per month for a housekeeper who comes once a week. At the market, a kilo of avocados can be had for less than a dollar, a bag full of fresh vegetables hasn’t set us back more than $2 and seafood of all varieties is a great deal in Da Nang—we bought a kilo of fresh, giant prawns the other day for $17.
We’re enjoying settling down in our new neighbourhood, exploring the beautiful, surrounding countryside and checking out the seemingly endless supply of great restaurants. Our favourite, so far, is the Happy Heart Cafe. They serve up the most delicious breakfasts, sandwiches, Mexican food and hearty entrees. Our bill seldom exceeds $12 for two large meals and drinks.
We’ve been here for less than a month but we’ve already made new friends. It’s easy to meet people simply by popping by one of the popular expat-owned restaurants and bars—like Happy Heart or Six-on-Six—or by joining in with meet-ups you’ll find advertised on local expat Facebook groups.
New friends, low costs and so much to explore…we’re looking forward to staying long-term in Vietnam’s most liveable city.