Review: Vietnam's Hub Hoi An Co-Working Space
Located on the coast of central Vietnam, Hub Hoi An is smaller than many other co-working places we’ve been to, but it packs a big punch.
COST: For one month, Hub Hoi An costs 4,000,000 VND ($175 USD), while one week is 1,300,000 VND ($57 USD). That ain’t cheap by any means, but it’s pretty much in line with what other co-working spaces in Southeast Asia will run you.
For that you get: high speed internet, a great community, tea and water, one free drink per day of your choice (including a lot of specialty coffees), unlimited printouts, 24/7 access to the Hub, and a great team running the place.(When you sign up, you’ll get one of the best put together “welcome guides” I’ve ever seen.)
As for the cost of living in Vietnam, it’s very affordable by Western standards. Our brand new one-bedroom apartment, part of Rice Field Homestay, was $550 USD/month, and that includes daily breakfast, regular house cleaning, a swimming pool, and all utilities (and good wi-fi). It’s a five minute bike ride from the Hub (and the homestay rents bikes for $1/day).
Eating out is also incredibly affordable here, even if we weren’t fans of the Vietnamese cuisine (which was a little too authentic at times. Thanks, but I’ll pass on the chicken heads). We spent $5 USD/meal per person (and street food is less). Fruits and veggies are fresh, plentiful, and affordable. An entire watermelon can be had for $2 USD, no problem. And if you pick a bad one, you can trust the merchant to pick out a better one for you.
As always, be prepared to pay Western prices for Western products such as particular brands of deodorants, shampoos, candy. soy/rice milk, etc.
AMENITIES: Hub Hoi An is one of the smaller co-working spaces we’ve used, so if you’re coming in high season—January through April—you’ll definitely need to make a reservation ahead of time. And it’s a good thing HHA limits the number of members at any one given time, otherwise it’s easy to see this place jammed to the gills.
HHA has two main work-spaces: the glass house where talking is permitted (though it’s still pretty quiet), and the quiet room. Both have air-conditioning. I preferred the glass house because it’s bright and sunny, and let me look right out into the small but still lovely garden. Brent liked the quiet space because, well, it’s quiet (and also cooler).
There’s also a Skype/conference room you can book ahead of time, and a cafe that has a limited but tasty menu, including a variety of drinks such as coffee, espresso, smoothies, beer, and more. The community lunch every weekday will cost you about $4 USD (and is well worth it).
There is a garden with a couch and hammock, a front porch with more chairs, and another desk, and a long lunch table for the community meals. During the hot season, the indoor spaces can fill up, so most folks get here by eleven to make sure they have a spot with AC.
During operating hours, there was always at least one super-friendly staff member ready to help out with pretty much anything, though problems were minimal. Oh, and the internet was fast and reliable, as was the power (but it did go out three times in two months, twice due to nearby construction, once due to a storm).
COMMUNITY: HHA really excels when it comes to fostering the sense of community many digital nomads are looking for. Unlike with some of the larger co-working spaces, HHA’s smaller size made it easier to get to know our fellow digital nomads, something we loved. The group lunches every day also went a long way in helping members to get to know each other. During our two months, there was always a community manager organizing events and efficiently communicating with the members. Daytime events included Mastermind sessions, speed networking, other entrepreneur-oriented events.
Every week also had several things going on in the evening, whether it be game nights, movie nights, Game of Thrones viewing parties, excursions to the beach, and on and on. And every Thursday night there was an organized community meal at one of the many local restaurants. It wasn’t unusual for members to organize events on their own, a definite sign of a healthy community.
LOCATION: Located less than an hour south of Da Nang, Hub Hoi An is easily reachable. Da Nang has direct flights from almost every major Asian city, and Hoi An is a quick cab ride away once you clear immigration. (Don’t get in the wrong line!)
We liked Hoi An’s location because there was plenty to do when you’re not working. Old Town — with its many restaurants and affordable tailors — is just a few kilometers from the Hub. It’s a charming, magical area, with cobblestone streets and alleys, meandering waterways (where you can light and float a lumiere), and thousands of hanging lanterns that glow at night. And there’s an enormous night market nearby that makes for fascinating exploration.
You can also check out the beaches (2 kilometers away), the nearby water park that had almost no crowds, and the fascinating park at Ba Na Hills. In addition, Hai Van pass provides a nice day-trip, and nearby Da Nang dazzles with its bright neon. There’s always something happening in the city.
As for the Hub itself, the location is great. Directly across from the Hub are beautiful rice fields reminding you every day that, “Hey, you’re living in Vietnam right now! How amazeballs is that?” Once you get used to the rather chaotic rules of the road, a bike or scooter is a great way to get around. Bike trails even allow access to the rice fields themselves. But beware! The water buffalo get a little restless at night.
Less than a kilometer from the Hub is a business area, with restaurants, food stands, pharmacies, ATMs, an authentic Vietnam outdoor market, and Dingo Deli, in case you’re homesick and want a little more of a western menu. And while the hardworking Vietnamese aren’t quite as friendly or polite as the Thai (no wai-ing or khap here), they are very accommodating and happy to have you visiting their city.
VISAS: For Americans (and I think most other western nationalities), Vietnam does technically offer visa on arrival. But you need to show up with your acceptance letter, which you have to apply for online ahead of time. Kind of confusing. We opted for the three month single-entry, but there are other options, which you can read about here. One note of caution, whichever visa you choose, you have to pay for it on arrival with U.S. dollars. So plan ahead!
WEATHER: If you’re one of those digital nomads doing your darnedest to avoid winter — and that describes most of us, doesn’t it? — then Hoi An is a pretty great choice for you. Even in winter, the average high temperature is never less than 19C/66F. But be warned! Starting in April and lasting through September, the temps hit the mid-thirties and stay there. We even had one day in May that was a blistering 40C/104F. Match that up with sky-humidity, and you’re gonna sweat. A lot.
And at these latitudes, the sun is scorching, so you might want to follow the lead of the Vietnamese themselves who get up early (often well before 6 AM) to do their shopping, get to work and school, and whatever else needs doing, and then hide out if they can until the sun goes down. And you’ll definitely want to slather that sunblock all over your body.
So should you come to Hub Hoi An?
BRENT AND MICHAEL SAY: Hell, yeah! Sure, there were a few negatives. The heat really bothered Michael, the co-working space got a little too crowded for Brent at times, and neither of us much liked the coffee. But those are small potatoes in the big picture. All in all, we had a great two months in Hoi An and highly recommend it to anyone.