Working Remote From Nha Trang, Vietnam

Recently I went to Vietnam to visit some family and stayed in Nha Trang for a little over 2 weeks. Very luckily Square is flexible on work schedules and work locations. Additionally my manager allowed me to work from Vietnam, and I did for most of my stay!

I had always wondered what it would be like to freelance while backpacking through Asia and this gave me a little sense of it (minus the backpacking), which I’ll share in this post.

Nha Trang #

Where I stayed #

My parents in-law own a small hotel in Nha Trang called Modern Sky Hotel, and that’s where I stayed for a little over 2 weeks. Nha Trang is a little beach town somewhere in the middle of Vietnam, see below:

Vietnam Map.png

Nha Trang is a very popular destination for both Vietnamese and international tourists. It has plenty of major hotel names such as Intercontinental and Sheraton. The most expensive hotels are on the beach ($100+/night) and prices drop very quickly when going in-land ($15-30/night). Modern Sky Hotel is just a handful of blocks inland, see the map of downtown Nha Trang below:

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 3.43.16 PM.png

Getting There #

For those interested in visiting Nha Trang, the airport (CXR) is actually in Cam Ranh, which is about 45 minutes from Nha Trang. A taxi ride to Nha Trang costs around 250,000VND to 300,000VND ($11-$13) each way. Some hotels have free shuttles but you have to call them in advance. The airport also has a brand new and fancy international terminal; so getting to Nha Trang is easier and cheaper than ever before.

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 3.44.35 PM.png
Trip from Cam Ranh international airport (CXR) to Nha Trang.

Note I am not aware of any public transportation options from the airport to downtown Nha Trang. They also do not rent cars or motorcycles at the airport. Finding car rentals in Vietnam is notoriously difficult for foreigners but most low-budget hotels offer bike and motorcycle rentals.

My Working Remote Setup #

Now let’s get to the point of this article: working remote from Vietnam.

IMG_3134.JPG
Rainforest cafe in Nha Trang

I carry a MacBook Pro and Square gave me a Mifi that I can use internationally so I can have a wifi hotspot anywhere I go. My hotspot service was provided by T-Mobile and unfortunately I couldn’t get more than 128kbps in Vietnam so that was pretty much unusable. My father in-law kindly lent me his Mifi with a local SIM card and I was able to get LTE service with a solid 5Mbps connection! Local networks are super cheap so I strongly recommend visiting a shop and purchasing a SIM card with data on it. Your hotel may be able to help you with this and tell you where to go. Every single cafe also has free wifi but quality of service varies.

Getting Around #

I would typically walk because that allows me to explore. You’d be surprised by the number of venues that are not even listed on Google / TripAdvisor at all. It’s really hot though, and most roads lack a sidewalk so it’s tough to walk long distances. Therefore I’d also use Grab a lot. Grab is the Southeast Asian competitor of Uber (who recently bought Uber’s operations in South East Asia). In Nha Trang however there can be some difficulty finding a ride depending on the time of day. Crossing the city costs around $2. Most drivers don’t speak English at all but the mobile app is all you need!

If you take a taxi, make sure to write down the taxi company name and the car number before you get in. The number is often only visible from the outside, either on the rear window or the side of the car. Grab solves this problem for you by recording your rides but if you forget something in a taxi you’ll want to know the company and car number. The drivers are typically pretty honest and if you do forget something valuable, odds are you can get it back the same day by simply calling the taxi company.

The Typical Day #

IMG_3021.JPG
My daughter Camelia drinking milk at the Modern Sky Hotel.

On a typical day I’d get up at the same time my daughter got up, which was around 6:30am. I’d wash up and head out of the hotel around 7am. I usually would pick 2 places to work for the day, one for the morning and one for the afternoon; however I’d switch if I didn’t like the venue especially if I couldn’t find a power outlet or got no wifi.

In Vietnam most cafes work just like in France, they are “service continu” (continuous service). This means they serve food and drinks from morning to night with no interruption. You can usually get breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and alcohol all at the same location without issue.

Since I got to a cafe around 7:30am I’d always get coffee and breakfast as soon as I sat down. Even though there is a full menu, there are only two sensical coffee choices: Cà phê sữa đá or Cà phê đá (Iced coffee with milk, or iced black coffee). Cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with milk) is a super concentrated dark French roast drip coffee with condensed milk and ice. It’s my favorite and I got it most mornings, it never gets old for me except that it is a little sweet so I’d occasionally get a Western coffee 🙄 to avoid sugar. Coffee is typically $0.50-$1.

Cafe menus are often large but they only serve a small portion of their menu depending on the time of day. The tough reality is you’re not getting bánh mì for breakfast because that’s a lunch item. Until around lunch time, most Vietnamese cafes only serve soup, or any items that are pre-made (ie. cake / dessert).

Sometimes I got lunch at the cafe where I was or found a new place, then headed to my second cafe choice for the afternoon. Lunch would cost me $2-3 unless I got Western food, which can run up to $5. I’d work until around 4pm and head back to the hotel. The rest of the evening was always spent with my daughter. Sometimes I’d get delivery for dinner using foody.vn. Foody is a new startup based out of Ho Chi Minh City that took over Vietnam very recently, and I found it super useful even in Nha Trang. They have an English website, and their phone agents speak some English. I couldn’t use any of the electronic payment options but thankfully they accept cash.

Goût Coffee (Đà Lạt) #

Gout Coffee.jpg

Address: 55 Nguyễn Văn Trỗi 2 Đà 2 Đà Lạt, Phường 2, Thành phố Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng, Vietnam
Website: https://www.facebook.com/goutcoffeeshop/
Hours: Open 7-days from 7:30am to 10pm
Payment: Cash & cards
Tech: NO WIFI, few power outlets

This is actually not in Nha Trang at all, but I’ll mention it because I worked from there and it was in Đà Lạt, where I traveled for just a couple days. Goût Coffee is located in a super narrow street and they have a really inconspicuous front.

46390571_1546687922140454_141032131701768192_o.jpg

It was actually so inconspicuous that when I first saw it and realized this was it, I thought I wasn’t going to go in and had wasted my time getting there because it looked so small. However, just like every Vietnamese cafe, it’s actually huge inside. Vietnamese buildings are always designed very narrow so it’s pretty standard to have businesses / apartments that are just 6-10 meters wide yet 50 to 80 meters deep. I was the only person at Goût Coffee in the afternoon so it was super quiet. They didn’t have wifi (that I knew about) and very few power outlets so that kinda limited the time I could stay.

There were plenty of cafes in Đà Lạt, which I won’t mention because I wasn’t working and just focusing on Camelia.

IMG_3071.JPG

My daugther and I at Len’s cafe

Address: 26 Nguyễn Chí Thanh 1 tp. Đà Lạt 1 tp. Đà Lạt Lâm Đồng, Phường 1, Thành phố Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng, Vietnam

City Fox Café #

Untitled.jpg

Address: 27, Lê Quý Đôn, Tân Lập, Thành phố Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa, Vietnam
Website: https://www.facebook.com/CityFoxBistroCafeNhaTrang
Hours: Open 7-days from 7:30am to 10pm
Payment: Cash & cards
Tech: Wifi & power outlets

City Fox Cafe is my favorite place to work in Nha Trang. They have two floors with a lot of different types of tables and chairs. It’s pretty quiet and their menu has a lot of different food options both Vietnamese and Western. It isn’t that easy to find a working power outlet but otherwise it’s pretty great. I found that getting focused was very easy, and I could get anything I needed.

Aulac Bistro #

Aulac.jpg

Address: 75a Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Tân Lập, Thành phố Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa 650000, Vietnam
Website: https://www.facebook.com/AuLacBistro/
Hours: open 7-days from 6:30am to 11pm
Tech: Wifi, few power outlets

Aulac Bistro is super nice and comfy, however they really have few power outlets so it’s best to sit near the wall. I also found they had essentially no food available until lunch except for cake so since I was starving I had to move out.

Time House #

Time House.jpg

Address: 16a Ngô Thời Nhiệm, Tân Lập, Thành phố Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa 650000, Vietnam
Website: https://www.timehousenhatrang.com/
Hours: open 7-days from 6:30am to 11pm
Tech: Wifi, few power outlets

Time House is a French-colonial-style building and bistro, which has French owners. The food is really great and inexpensive. This place serves a Western breakfast right from 6:30am. There are various seating options, but just like in colonial times it lacks air conditioning. Nha Trang can be a bit humid and pretty hot so unfortunately this wasn’t the ideal place to do work for an extended period of time.

Runam Bistro #

I didn’t go to Runam because it’s overpriced. I didn’t have to put this here but Ru Nam is listed as one of the best cafes on TripAdvisor and other sites so I thought I’d explain why I didn’t go.

An Cafe #

An Cafe.jpg

Address: 40 Lê Đại Hành, Tân Lập, Thành phố Nha Trang, Tân Lập Thành phố Nha Trang Khánh Hoà 650000, Vietnam
Website: https://www.facebook.com/ancafenhatrang/
Hours: open 7-days from 6:30am to 10pm
Tech: Wifi & power outlets

There are multiple An Cafe locations in Nha Trang and I was told this one was the best. The entrance has absolutely no signage and looks like an abandoned shed, so at first I went to the wrong cafe. It’s a really big cafe with a lot of compartments so there are lots of choices for spots to work. There is no air conditioning but the architecture is such that there’s always a good flow of air so it actually doesn’t feel too hot. It’s fairly easy to get power and wifi, however their breakfast options are really limited. They basically only have beef soup in the morning but after some extra negotiation I was able to get a fried egg (ốp la). The drinks you can see in my picture are a mango juice and iced tea. Note that iced tea is usually served by default and is often complimentary (don’t ask if it’s tap water just drink it).

Highlands Coffee #

I didn’t actually work at Highlands Coffee but I’ll mention it because it’s a huge chain that’s a big deal in Vietnam. It’s basically as close as you can get to Starbucks. I usually find Highlands super loud, super packed, a bit overpriced and everything they have is extremely over-sweet.

Toastina (at the Sheraton) #

Toastina.jpg

Address: 28 Trần Phú, Lộc Thọ, Tp. Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa 650000, Vietnam
Website: https://www.facebook.com/DiningatSheratonNT/
Hours: open 7-days from 7am to 10pm
Tech: Wifi & power outlets

Toastina is a large cafe in the lobby of the Sheraton hotel. They have deep leather arm chairs, large leather couches, it’s pretty quiet, making it super comfortable. They have power outlets really everywhere and fast wifi service. Since it’s part of a hotel, they also have wide food and drink options at all times of day.

Rainforest Cafe #

Rainforest.jpg

Address: 146 Võ Trứ, Tân Lập, Thành phố Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa 650000, Vietnam
Website: https://www.rainforestnt.com/
Hours: open 7-days from 7am to 10pm
Tech: Wifi & power outlets

Rainforest is an amazing place in Nha Trang, which is definitely one of my favorite cafes. It is very popular and can get packed in the afternoon even though it is incredibly huge. Rainforest has 3 floors and lots of compartmentalized spaces. Some are totally air-tight and enclosed in glass with air conditioning, others are little huts suspended in the air like in my photo, some others are booths, etc. They have plenty of power outlets and fast wifi. I like their big menu with plenty of food options both Vietnamese and Western.

The space is really hard to capture with a camera unless you have super wide lens so definitely look online for better pics. Also they have a slide from floor #2 to the ground floor.

Jungle Coffee #

Jungle Coffee.jpg

Address: 8 Lê Quý Đôn, Phước Tiến, Thành phố Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa 650000, Vietnam
Website: https://www.facebook.com/junglecoffeenhatrang/
Hours: open 7-days from 6am to 10:30pm
Tech: Wifi & power outlets

Jungle coffee is a 2-floor cafe, just like most others it has a lot of zones with different themes and styles. Most of the cafe has no air conditioning but I sat upstairs in a block sealed off with glass panels where the temperature was much more comfortable. Interestingly the cafe was filled with gamers on their laptops, a sight I had not seen anywhere else. It wasn’t too too easy to find a power outlet but they’re there and there’s fast wifi. My laptop has a battery after all so it’s all good. Jungle cafe had good inexpensive food and drinks.

More Cafes #

There are dozens more cafes I haven’t had the chance to visit, dozens more cafes that have opened since I wrote this, and dozens more that will open by the time I go back to Nha Trang.

Working Remote From Asia #

When I found a good spot where things generally worked well (fast Wifi, power outlets, good food…) and it was quiet I got a lot more work done than I would in the office. It is a little difficult to keep in touch with the San Francisco office because of the 12-hour time difference. I essentially had zero overlap with Square office hours but colleagues would still respond in the evening (morning in Vietnam). I basically would post all my updates at the end of my day, which my colleagues would read hours later when they got up in the morning.

I visited a lot of cafes that I probably wouldn’t have visited if I were just traveling on my own or with family and not working, so overall it was a very different and interesting experience. At the same time though what I was looking for in a cafe was mostly a good place to work and not necessarily something entertaining.

More Reading & Links #

 
5
Kudos
 
5
Kudos

Now read this

Drone Hardware For The Rest Of Us

Coming from a software background I learned a few things about hardware while working on my Arduino drone. Much of what I learned is probably very simple and obvious and often that means it is not discussed much online as it’s considered... Continue →