A Laidback Lifestyle For $1,300 a Month: Welcome to Da Nang

Da Nang, Vietnam

“Honestly, after living here, going back to Australia full-time would be disappointing,” says Gary Stapleton, 63. “Australia is very regimented. I don’t feel I’m really living when I’m there.

“Vietnam is different. People here have a great deal of respect for older people. I like that. Vietnam is also much more vibrant, entertaining and interesting. Plus, I love the beaches and the laidback lifestyle here.”

There’s certainly a lot of beach to like in Da Nang, with its 29 kilometres of waves and clean, powdery sand—and it’s rarely busy, even on the hottest days. The long riverside park in Da Nang’s business district is graced with pretty sculptures and topiary. Views of the four attractive bridges spanning the slow flow of the Han River and the multi-hued local fishing boats making their way to the South China Sea are a perfect backdrop for the trendy restaurants, bars and cafes that line both banks of the river.

Gary’s been living in Da Nang since 2013 and lives well on his budget of about $1,300 a month. He rents a three-bedroom furnished house in An Thuong District. “It’s less than a kilometre from the beach and I pay $470 a month for rent,” says Gary. “My international health insurance policy is $175 per month and I spend about $90 per month for all my utilities. The remainder is for food, clothing and entertainment.

“If you’re living here and eating Western cuisine, going to the popular bars and living in high-end accommodation, it can be expensive. However, you can choose to eat in local restaurants, eat out twice a day, go to nice Vietnamese bars and have comfortable accommodation for around $350 to $475 per month. You can have a very inexpensive lifestyle.

“If you live here for a longer period of time, you can get very good values and products in Da Nang. You get to know where you can save money, but that takes time to learn. The longer I live here, the lower my cost of living becomes. I shop at the markets regularly and eat at home quite a bit. But on nights out my girlfriend and I can enjoy a beautiful seafood dinner in a beachfront restaurant for about $26.”

Back in Australia Gary worked as a teacher and he wasn’t ready to stop after his retirement. “I teach English for the American Academy four evenings each week, which gives me three-and-a-half days off to take road trips, travel or relax,” he says. It’s also been a great way to meet people.

Da Nang’s excellent bars and seafood restaurants are good gathering places for entertainment, fine food and meeting up over a few drinks or the occasional game of pool. “I have made many friends in the expat community,” he says.

One of Gary’s favourite spots to have a drink and snack is Boulevard Gelato and Coffee where people stop by to greet him and exchange a word or two. “Most of my Vietnamese friends I have met through my teaching,” says Gary. “Coffee and eating out is a common pastime and with wonderful cafes to visit, it can be a delightful morning or afternoon’s enjoyment.”

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