Though the overwhelming majority of tourists who pass through Danang are actually heading to Hoi An, step by step Danang is becoming a destination of its own. Vietnam’s third most important city after Hanoi and Saigon, Danang is getting more and more gentrified. Coasts lined with resorts and hotels and exciting international dining scene attract quite a few Asian tourists and Westerners are starting to include Danang into their travel itinerary, too. There is a lot of colonial architecture to be seen in Danang if you venture further inland from the seaside, and foodies will definitely appreciate thriving street food scene. Many visitors say that people in Danang are among the most hospitable people in the whole country, and it looks like it is the right time to explore this destination by yourself before it is flooded with package tourists from around the world.
From Hue to Danang
Though the distance between Hue and Danang is about 100 km only, be ready to spend for your journey from 2½ hours to 3½ hours, no matter whether you opt for a train or a bus. The second half of the route cuts through Bach Ma National Park, in greater part following the coastline and thanks to that is quite picturesque – quite enough to keep you from boredom during the trip.
From Hue to Danang by train
Vietnam Railways operate eight trains a day between Hue and Danang. All of these trains originate in Hanoi and head to Saigon, calling on their way south to Hue and Danang. All of them are air-conditioned and offer similar service. There are different types of cars in each train – from seats to first class sleeping berths. For rather a short trip from Hue to Danang seats are completely ok, and though pricewise there is not much difference between soft seats (USD6/VND135.000) and even first class sleeper (USD8-USD9/VND170.000-VND200.000), seats may prove more convenient for this particular trip. Some of the trains have been allegedly equipped with free Wi-Fi (e.g. SE1, SE3) and the rest are waiting for their turn, too.
Schedule-wise the most inconvenient trains for travelling from Hue to Danang are TN1 at 3.50am and two evening trains, SE7 (7.55pm) and SE5 (10.50pm). The two latter arrive late at night and if your final destination is Hoi An, you will have to stay in Danang for the night. In this case it is recommended to book your accommodation in Danang in advance and advise your host about your late arrival otherwise you can find the gate/door of your guesthouse closed – this refers to cheaper options.
There are private tourist cars (e.g. Livitrans and Violette) attached to SE1 train which calls to Hue at 9am. But normally tickets are sold for the whole trip from Hanoi to Saigon, and anyway there is not much sense in buying more expensive sleeping car tickets for a three-hour ride.
From Hue to Danang by bus
There are a number of operators serving the route between Hue and Danang with majority of options on passing through buses. The Sinh Tourist, the most reputable and experienced tour operator in Vietnam, has two buses a day passing through Hue and Danang, the morning bus at 8am and the afternoon one at 1.15pm. Both are VIP sleeper buses – sleeper buses, frankly speaking, are not the top choice for a short day time journey, but both take under three hours to get from Hue to Danang and cost under USD6 (VDN124.000). Buses are normally new and run on schedule. Note that The Sinh Tourist picks up and drops off their passengers at the company’s own bus stops by their cafes. In Hue they are located in Nguyen Lo Trach, while in Danang they are right on the main drag along the Han River in Bach Dang, between Pham Phu Thu and Tran Quoc Toan, parallel to touristy Tran Phu.
Note You may have already come across The Sinh Tourist cafes around Asia. With over 20 years of experience in tour industry, they have been catering for inquisitive backpackers in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for years. They are reliable source of information and Wi-Fi hotspot. Their services usually are rated high by tourists. Recommended.
Getting around in Danang
Danang is a big city; and if you are not going to limit yourself with Bach Dang and Tran Phu area, you will need wheels. Motorbikes are rented out by many hotels and rental shops in Danang. Expect to pay about USD5-USD6 (VDN120.000) per day. Motorbike is definitely the most convenient way to get around in Danang, but strictly speaking it is illegal to ride one without a valid Vietnam driving licence, though this is widely ignored unless you are involved into an accident. Compared to Hanoi or Saigon, traffic in Danang is moderate, so riding a motorbike is relatively comfortable.
There are metered taxis in Danang, and motorbike taxis are also available if you do not want to rent a vehicle. Both are wonderfully affordable.
Where to stay in Danang
For those who want stay close to restaurants and nightlife, the best areas to look for accommodation are Bach Dang, which faces the river, and Tran Phu, which runs parallel to the riverfront and is slightly cheaper. There is a good choice of reasonably priced mid-ranged hotels (about USD25) there. If you are looking for cheaper deals, check the eastern bank of the River where Tran Hung Dao Street hosts a collection of smaller hotels selling their rooms at about USD15. Neither western nor eastern bank digs are close to the beach, but both boast great river views.
If beach is your thing, choose one of the three beach areas. The most popular beach in Danang is My Khe Beach, also known as China Beach. To reach it, cross the river over the Dragon bridge (Cau Rong), which is rather spectacular – especially at night. To the north of My Khe lies Pham Van Dong, and to the south – Holiday Beach (or Ngu Hahn Son area) popular with surfers thanks to all season high waves; it arguably has the best beach and the vibe of the whole area. The accommodation close to the beach is predictably pricier or – if you need to stay on a budget – be ready to get a cramped windowless room a couple of blocks from the seaside: these are usually filled up by locals during weekends.
Things to do in Danang
Danang is not home to many high profile sights but if you find yourself in the region, there are a couple of things definitely not to be missed. The first one is the Cham Museum which was established under the patronage of the l'École française d'Extrême-Orient. The rooms of the museum host over 400 pieces attributed to Champa Kingdom, which dates back to as early as the 2nd century AC. It is the largest collection of the kind in the world, and even those who prefer to hunt for ancient artifacts not in museum showcases but ‘in the wild’ will be impressed.
The second one is the Marble Mountains in Ngu Hanh Son District. The five mountains bear the names of the five elements and are cut through by a number of tunnels opening to cave sanctuaries, grottoes and chambers some of which contain stone images of Hindu and Buddhist deities. Climb the mount Thuy Son for a panoramic view of the area.
From Danang to Hoi An
With over two millennia of history, no wonder that Hoi An is a major attraction around Danang. It used to be the main port of the Kingdom of Champa and flourished between the 15th and 19th centuries. In 1999, UNESCO recognised Hoi An as the World Heritage Site. The town hosts a number of museums but the main draw is its architecture typical of an old port town which during a course of times absorbed the influence of different cultures.
A historic town of Hoi An, which attracts a lion’s share of tourists passing through Danang, has no train station of its own. To get to Hoi An from Danang, take a taxi, a local bus or a minivan. The distance between Danang and Hoi An is about 30 km, and your trip is going to last from 45 minutes to one hour. Taxis are very affordable – a ride from Danang to Hoi An should not cost more than USD15 for a small vehicle and under USD30 for a bigger one, accommodating up to nine passengers.
Local buses are dirt-cheap and cost less than USD1.
Note though, that it is a common practice not to give change on buses, so prepare the exact fare in dong (20,000). There have been reports that conductors sometimes try to ask additional money from foreigners, but it is illegal. Just pay the fixed price on board and take your seat. Bus N1 leaves Danang for Hoi An every 20 minutes and takes one hour to reach the bus station in Hoi An from where you can walk to the centre of town.
Tourist buses cost more (USD6; The Sinh Tourist), but may be convenient as they pick up passengers in Bach Dang area in Danang and call to the centrally located Sinh Cafe in Hai Ba Trung Road in Hoi An.
From Danang to Lang Co
Lang Co is an easy day trip from Danang. It offers a beautiful stretch of sand fringed with palm trees bordered by a lagoon on one side and the sea on the other one. You can take a train from Danang to Lang Co – the trip will last 1½ hour. For a day in Lang Co, consider one of the morning trains, e.g. SE22 or SE2, leaving Danang at 6.30am and 8.35am respectively. Seats cost USD4 (VND90.000). A more expensive but very picturesque way to get from Danang to Lang Co is to get a taxi. Ask your driver to go via Hai Van Pass and enjoy the scenery. It is the old highway, which was used prior to the new tunnel. If you have not visited Bach Ma National Park yet, you can do it from Lang Co.