Da Nang

Overview from top of Son Tra

Da Nang (Đà Nẵng) is Vietnam's fourth or fifth largest city, and is on the South China Sea coast, midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and the largest city of Central Vietnam.

The city itself has neither the ambiance of Hanoi nor the hustle-bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, but has its share of sights and is close to the charms of Hoi An and the imperial capital of Hue, making it a popular vacation spot for those looking to explore the attractions of central Vietnam or soak up some sun while hanging out on the city's beaches.

Understand

The regions surrounding Da Nang (My Son, Quang Nam) were founded by the Cham Hindus most possibly 3,000 years ago, serving as the capital city and centre of the Hindu Champa Dynasty. Vietnamese invasions into the region in the 17th century significantly halted Cham development.

Given that Da Nang was the first point of colonial invasion, many vestiges of French architecture are present in the historic buildings.

There are many remnants of the "American War" leftover in Da Nang. During the war, many monuments and buildings were destroyed. On the way to the popular tourist spot; China Beach, the ruins of a military base remain in the form of helicopter hangars, although these are now more easily spotted at the airport, which serves both civil and military flights.

The city is often overlooked by tourists but is one of the friendliest to backpackers in all of Vietnam. My Khe Beach, known to American GIs as China Beach, is now home to a small community of guesthouse owners, marble statue shops, and other various trades. Some of the most beautiful and isolated beaches in Vietnam are found here, among some of the friendliest people. This is a must-stop for the budget traveller.

Until relatively recently, Da Nang was somewhat hostile to foreigners, a consequence of the attitudes of those who controlled the provincial government. In the early 1990s, however, this changed, and since then the provincial (actually autonomous city) government has been enthusiastically pursuing foreign investment and infrastructure development. Da Nang has some of the best roads in the country. The coast road is at least four lanes from northern provincial boundary to southern provincial boundary. Compared to either Hanoi or HCMC, traffic in Da Nang is always relatively light, although huge trucks blast through every now and again and there are brief rush hours.

The city has grown rapidly in recent years, and had a 2008 population estimated at 900,000. Until recently, this growth was mostly outward and infill, but now there are high-rises going up. Development is visible and rapid; the city has expanded tremendously in the last ten years, and several multi-storey buildings as well as more beach resorts are under construction, and there are now at least three large supermarkets as well as a Metro wholesaler. This involves redevelopment of areas near the city beaches across the river, with whole blocks of old housing being razed, new roads paved, and luxurious villas constructed.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 24.8 26.1 28.7 31.9 33.4 33.9 34.2 33.9 31.5 29.6 27.0 24.9
Nightly lows (°C) 18.5 19.8 21.5 23.3 24.9 25.5 25.3 25.5 24.1 23.2 21.6 19.3
Precipitation (mm) 96.2 33.0 22.4 26.9 62.6 87.1 85.6 103.0 349.7 612.8 366.2 199.0

Source: w:Da_Nang#Climate

The downside to the very laid back, less serious and frenetic aspect of Da Nang is that even locals frequently complain that there is nothing to do except drink, which they do a lot. This is not really true. There is a zoo, a soccer stadium, many tennis courts, and pool halls, several large modern discos/night clubs, etc., and of course the beaches and Son Tra Peninsula. However, it is also true that coffee and beer drinking are the most common leisure activities of most local residents.

The hottest months of the year are Jun-Aug, when the temperature can get to as high as 40 degrees Celsius, and it is generally very dry. There are usually tropical storms in Oct-Nov.

Get in

By plane

Da Nang International Airport

Da Nang International Airport (IATA: DAD) is the smallest of Vietnam's three international airports. There are frequent flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air and Jetstar Pacific, as well as domestic service between Buon Ma Thuot, Da Lat, Haiphong, Nha Trang and Pleiku and internationally Guangzhou, Seoul-Incheon, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai-Pudong, Siem Reap, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo-Narita.

Aside from a money changer, airport amenities are rather minimal, although some upgrading was done to the airport in late-2007 and early-2008 making the airport one of country's most modern. Compared to larger Vietnamese airports, Da Nang is a little bit laid back. Local travelers often arrive less than 30 minutes before their flights. There are also a couple of restaurants/coffee shops opposite the terminal, which offer more choice, if not lower prices, than inside the departure area.

The airport is located within the city, just 3 km southwest of the centre of Da Nang, a 10-minute trip at most. Many travelers now choose to stay in Da Nang as it is considered as a gateway to Central Vietnam World Heritage Sites: Hoi An (25-30 min, USD15) or Hue (2 hr, USD40-45 depending on car size), My Son (1-1.5 hr). The hotels and resorts in Da Nang have their own travel desks which offer some half day or a day trips to those destinations. The fixed-price taxi coupon system has regrettably disappeared and now you have to haggle with the drivers outside, who ask silly prices but can be negotiated down to the amounts above. Find a few other travellers to ease the pain. If going to a destination within or close to the city, ignore offers to set a price in advance and insist on use of the meter (drivers may only be willing to accept pre-set fares during holiday times, such as Tet). If you arrive on a late night flight, you may encounter an unscrupulous taxi driver who has a fast meter, but usually there are lots of taxis and companies like Mai Linh, Taxi Xanh, or Song Han are reliable. Avoid Airport Taxi, especially at night. Average metered fares to downtown should be around 70,000 dong.

By train

Da Nang Railway Station

The Reunification Express makes a stop in Da Nang. Many motorbikes and taxis are available outside of the station. Scheduled arrival and departure times are loosely followed. If you just want to get to Hue, you can also take the local train which is slow (about four to four and a half hours from Da Nang to Hue, with several stops along the way; a car or taxi does it in two), but cheap (25,000 dong including a meal) and passes through some spectacular coastal scenery.

Da Nang to Hanoi

Da Nang to Hue

Da Nang to Nha Trang

Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City

By bus

Bus service from Da Nang to Tha Khek

Several bus-pass services (incl. "Sinh Cafe" and "Cuc Tung") make stops in Da Nang, and can be taken from either Hue or Hoi An or further in either direction. From Hue trip takes about three hours with one refreshment stop on the way (50,000 dong). The bus uses the tunnel so does not go over the spectacular pass between Da Nang and Hue.

From Hoi An, you can take the local bus to Da Nang, it is a yellow bus that has "Hoi An - Da Nang" sign along the front window. It's possible to catch it at the station on Nguyen Tat Thanh (about a 10min walk west from Hai Ba Trung). The highest price listed on the bus window is 18,000 dong, however the ticket collector may charge an additional fee for any luggage. Buses leave the station every 15-30 min during the day and take about 45 min to get from Hoi An to Da Nang.

Sleeper buses depart from Da Nang to:

You may book tickets at the Da Nang Intercity Bus Station, travel agencies and at some hotels. It is wise to reserve your seat at least one day in advance for travel on weekends and during festivals.

By boat

Get around

By taxi

Taxi rates are very reasonable in Da Nang, and scams are less common than in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, but you're better off going with a reputable company to avoid any hassle. Mai Linh (mostly green with white lettering, though sometimes green or silver) ☎ +84 511 356 5656 (or 0511 356 5656 if dialling from a local telephone) and Vinasun (white with green and red lettering) ☎ +84 511 368 6868 have large fleets in the city and are generally honest and reliable, with meters that start automatically after the taxis have moved about 5m. At the airport, Mai Linh taxi wardens wear green shirts with green ties, and Vinasun wardens dark green shirts with maroon ties. These wardens can radio taxis for you. Some travellers have reported that Song Han's yellow taxis are also fairly reliable.

According to traveller reports, USD 10 is the standard rate for going to Hoi An. You can try to negotiate with a taxi driver at the train station, and agree on a fare of USD10 (200,000 dong).

By bus

Da Nang has limited bus service inside the city, but has a fairly reliable (though not so comfortable) intercity bus to Hoi An.

If you want to catch the bus from the train station, you can walk out of the station straight to the next big street (Le Duan St, in front of #287, less than 5 min walk. Bus goes eastwards, to the left). You should be able to see bus stop for a yellow coloured Bus 1, Da Nang - Hoi An on the opposite side of the road. The fare is 15,000 dong, which is posted on the side of the bus to Hoi An. You may have to insist on that fare as the conductor will probably try to charge more (for luggage or because you are a foreigner). This same bus also passes by Marble Mountain (Vietnamese: Non Nước or Ngũ Hành Sơn). Bus 4 (destination Tam Ky) leaves from the same location (Le Duan Bus 287) and goes to Hoi An as well but stops at a more central place in Hoi An.

Note that taxi drivers may park in front of the bus stop and tell you that the bus is not running. This is not true; they're just trying to get your business.

By motorbike

Renting a motorbike to travel to Hoi An from Da Nang costs about 80,000-150,000 dong per day from most hotel and rental companies in Da Nang. The locals pay about 50,000-100,000 dong. With a little bargaining and renting for a number of days, you could bring down the price.

The distance to Hoi An is approximately 28 km and takes about 45–60 min. The route is fairly simple and straightforward and takes you along the coastline of Da Nang allowing you an extraordinary experience and views along the beaches to Hoi An. The traffic is light. Make sure you bring along a windbreaker or sweater as during autumn and spring as the temperature along the coastline can be a little cold. Avoid riding in winter season as the wind is strong and rain is frequent.

See

For years, tourists have bypassed Da Nang on their travel itineraries, preferring to spend their time viewing the ancient imperial court at Hue or walking the streets of the old town in Hoi An. And yet, as those who call it home are aware, Da Nang has plenty of interesting and beautiful sights of its own. Nestled in between the Annamite Range and the South China Sea on the banks of the Han River, Da Nang's natural beauty is hard to miss; a trip up into the mountains and down to the beach should be on your to-do list. Culturally, Da Nang once lay at the northernmost reaches of the Kingdom of Champa; the Museum of Cham Sculpture, located downtown, should be mandatory if you're planning on visiting the ruins at nearby My Son.

Ba Na Hill Station
Bridge over Han River
Pagoda in the Marble Mountains
Museum of Cham Sculpture

Do

The Cham Islands

Learn

It is difficult to learn Vietnamese in Da Nang as the expat community is small and the demand for language learning is not great. You will be able to find many people who are willing to do language exchange with you and there are a number of qualified Vietnamese teachers. The current rate is about USD5/hour.

The Da Nang dialect of Vietnamese is distinct from both Hanoi and HCMC versions, although closer to HCMC than to Hanoi. If you learned your Vietnamese in Hanoi, many ordinary people in Da Nang will have some difficulty understanding you until they realize you are trying to talk like the presenters they see on TV. Even trained teachers will tend to teach you to speak like a Da Nang person unless you emphasize that you want to learn Hanoi dialect, which is understood [eventually] throughout the country as it is the official version and that used on TV. If you spend a fair amount of time in Da Nang, either employed or as a volunteer, it is fairly easy to find recent English graduates, or current students studying English at the College of Foreign Languages of the University of Da Nang who will happily work through a Vietnamese textbook with you for a lot less than USD5/hour, and this is probably as good a way as any to acquire some Vietnamese. There are Vietnamese course books for foreigners: Teach Yourself Vietnamese (Huong Dan Tu Hoc Tieng Viet, a Complete Course for Beginners) by Dana Healy is one of the best; Jake Catlett and Huong Nguyen's Vietnamese for Beginners is easier and less comprehensive; Nguyen Anh Que's Vietnamese for Foreigners is good and has a lot of material and vocabulary.

Work

There are a number of schools (ILA, Apollo, Academy English Center, and the University of Da Nang) where qualified teachers can teach English. The salaries are many times above the average national wage.

Buy

One of the beautiful things about Vietnam is that you never have to go too far to shop. People often run shops out of the ground floor of their homes, selling any number of things: coffee, bánh mì sandwiches, dry goods, clothing, SIM cards and more. Walk a little farther and you'll eventually come across a neighbourhood market, where people sell fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat and fish. You can get lots of shopping done, but be aware that, as a foreigner, you're likely to be overcharged quite a bit unless you haggle. There are an increasing number of supermarkets appearing where prices for everything is fixed.

Han Market

Markets

Other

Eat

Mì Quảng, a regional specialty

Although not a culinary capital like the ancient imperial capital Hue, Da Nang still has more than enough variety to keep you well fed throughout your stay. Seafood (hải sản) is big here, so you shouldn't be surprised to see plenty of it—fish (), shrimp (tôm), squid (mực), clams (nghêu), snails (ốc), and the list goes on. As long as it looks fresh and well-cooked, give it a try.

Then there are regional specialties like mì Quảng, or Quang Nam-style noodles, featuring chicken, shrimp, quail eggs, peanuts and rice crackers in a turmeric-spiced broth; bún chả cá, or rice vermicelli with fish sausage; and bún mắm, or rice vermicelli served with a high-octane fish sauce that's not for the weak of palate. Central Vietnamese love their food spicy, too, so be warned that the chili peppers (ớt) you may see on your table are the real thing, even if they look tiny and harmless.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge


Drink

Bars and discos

Coffee

Café Trúc Lâm Viên

Coffee is part of the culture in Vietnam, and it's enjoyed differently from place to place. In Da Nang, and more generally, in central Vietnam, people take their coffee very strong. As opposed to the south, where coffee is served in a tall glass filled with small cubes of ice, central Vietnamese tend to take their coffee in a small cup with one large block of ice, which melts as slowly as the coffee drips down from its metal filter—leaving them time to chat with friends, colleagues, or whoever might be sitting nearby.

There are several kinds of coffee shop in Da Nang, from street-side cà phê cóc, through mid-class shops to more luxurious ones. Most offer Wi-Fi nowadays, in case you want a place to relax and get online.

Cà phê cóc (Frog coffee)

Walk down any street in Da Nang and you'll no doubt come across a group of Vietnamese men squatting on tiny plastic chairs, sipping cups of coffee—often sold out of a cooler or a drink cart—as they chat with friends. This is cà phê cóc (literally, "frog coffee", from the way patrons squat to drink), a humble, yet popular way to drink coffee in Da Nang and, in fact, most of Vietnam.

Mid-class coffee

Mid-class shops are found everywhere; the drinks are quite cheap and they are a place to relax or meet friends. A step up from cà phê cóc, these shops are usually quite comfortable and serve a variety of non-alcoholic drinks besides coffee, such as tea, smoothies and fruit juices.

Luxurious coffee shops

Luxurious coffee shops can be found on many streets of the city, they are quite nice and elaborately decorated—with higher prices to match. Many can be found along Phan Chau Trinh St. Some incorporate open-air gardens, with air-conditioned areas indoors, and some even feature live music in the evenings.

Sleep

Budget

There are many small hotels along the east side of the river (Tran Hung Dao St), which generally start at 300,000 dong for a single room and have Wi-Fi, hot water, and air-con. Pham Phu Thu is a good street with many budget hotels in the centre on the west side of the river.

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Internet

There are plenty of Internet shops scattered around Da Nang that will charge a small fee for an hour's use of web, e-mail, or whatever you like. You'll be able to spot them by their walls lined with computers. Online gaming is huge (and controversial) in Vietnam, and you'll often see these shops packed with teenagers playing online games together, especially after school and into the evening. Some shops will have printers, some not; if you have a thumb drive, you can always load it up with what you need to print, and walk over to a print shop.

If what you want is a quiet place to relax and check your email, you may be better off stopping into a nearby coffee shop; most of these have free Wi-Fi, and outside of peak hours (early mornings and lunch time) they're fairly quiet.

Post

There's a convenient post office branch right on Bach Dang Road, right next to the Han River Bridge. There are also major branches in each of Da Nang's districts, so you can drop off a letter or postcard wherever you might be.

Stay safe

In general, you'll find that Da Nang is a safer and far more laid back city compared to hectic Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. As the number of tourists rises, of course, things begin to change. That doesn't mean you'll have to walk down the street clutching your bag like you would in bigger cities. Still, it pays to observe some rules of thumb to avoid unnecessary hassles:

Taxi scams

One thing to beware of is the standard taxi scam: When going on a long trip to Ba Na Hills, Hue, or elsewhere, an unscrupulous taxi driver may stop and agree to a very low price for a return journey. Once you reach your destination, he triples or quadruples the price, knowing you have no other options. When you do return to your hotel—parking the car slightly away or out of sight of the main entrance—he locks the doors and demands the price first before letting you go. To avoid getting caught in this kind of situation, stick with taxis from reputable companies such as Mai Linh or Vinasun, and agree a price with them. To play it even safer, take your driver to the hotel reception to confirm the price again and leave the taxi details, including the licence plate number, with hotel reception.

Cope

Da Nang is less Westernised than Hanoi or HCMC, so it can be more difficult to feel settled here. All the same, the locals are friendly/curious enough to always be willing to help you, even when there is no common language.

Immigration office

Go next

Frequent bus service to Hoi An is 15,000 dong, but foreigners may be refused passage at this price. Keep insisting until they accept your 15,000 dong. This is usually accomplished by handing the purser the money with an air of finality. The price is posted on the side of the bus, near the entrance, as well as fares to other destinations throughout Vietnam.

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