Nha Trang

Nha Trang Bay

Nha Trang is Vietnam’s most famous seaside resort-town. It's more lively and urban in character than other beach destinations like Mui Ne and Phu Quoc. It's also the scuba diving centre of Vietnam.

Understand

Traces of human settlement in Nha Trang date back to the Cham Empire, though in times of Vietnamese rule, there wasn't much more here than small fishing villages. The French recognised that this beautiful bay, with its islands and white sand beaches, made for a perfect bathing spot, and began the transformation into a resort town. American soldiers agreed, and Nha Trang became a favourite R&R stop during the war.

The monsoon season is from Oct to mid-Dec. Sea winds can be heavy, and sometimes the weather can get pretty chilly. Summer, naturally, brings many vacation goers into town and hotel rooms get somewhat more difficult to find.

Get in

By plane

There are lots of domestic flights from Ho Chi Minh City, Vinh, Da Nang, Hanoi, Haiphong, with prices starting at 250,000 dong. Internationally city is connected to Seoul, South Korea and to a decent amount cities in China.

  Cam Ranh International Airport (IATA: CXR), Cam Ranh town (30 km S from Nha Trang). Built on the grounds of the old American airbase in 2004.

Taxi fixed rate from the airport to downtown locations is 250,000 dong, if going by the meter it will be about 100,000 dong more expensive.

A cheaper option is to take the airport bus which goes directly to the city center. There are a few companies operating on this route, which buses can be found in front of the airport entrance. 50 000 dong, 30 mins ride (2016). In the opposite direction the shuttle bus leaves 2 hours before each scheduled flight.

Besides, some midrange and upscale hotels organise airport transfers, often for free.

For the adventurous traveller, take a short taxi ride to a bus stop in nearby town of Cam Ranh, then catch the bus to Nha Trang (40,000 dong, about an hour). Bus stops and buses itself are orange coloured.

By train

Nha Trang is a stop on the main railway-line connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. If you want a soft-sleeper (the highest class available on Vietnamese trains), book your train ticket directly at the train station as far in advance as you are able. Having a private travel agent book this ticket will quite often result in you paying the agent for a soft-sleeper the agent will book a hard-sleeper and you will not know until you board the train and it is too late to make changes. This is one of the most common scams in Vietnam. Soft sleeper rooms are 4 berth, hard sleepers are 6 berth. You can sit comfortably on a lower bed in a 4 berth room but in a 6 berth you will have to be very short in order to sit up straight. SNT trains (meaning Saigon to Nha Trang) have similar quality cars, but are slower than the SE trains. The TN trains have the oldest and dirtiest cars and are the slowest so therefore are not recommended.

The journey to Nha Trang from Ho Chi Minh City takes between 6-8 hours on SE trains (often delayed), so a sleeper is not really necessary, a cushioned seat in the air-con car costs 190,000 dong, soft seats are 310,000 dong, soft sleeper about 500,000 dong (2012). There are 2 overnight and 2 daily SE trains. The SNT trains take over 9 hours and travel overnight only, departs Ho Chi Minh City at 19:40 and arrives in Nha Trang at 05:20, 535,000 dong (2012). The scenery on this journey is not that great compared to further north, so you are not missing out too much by travelling overnight.

  Train station (1 km north from the city centre).

By Bus

Nearly all long distance sleeper buses stop in Nha Trang. They come from Ho Chi Minh City (10-12 hours, 200,000 dong, both morning and overnight buses available, both are sleeper buses), Hoi An (12 hours). Sleeper buses usually drop off passengers on the side of the street somewhat near the tourist areas. From where it's only a short walk or $2 taxi ride to the required hotel.

Besides, there are hourly buses from Da Lat (3-4 hrs, 120,000 dong, hourly between 07:00-15:00) and a couple ones from Qui Nhon (6 hrs, 115,000 dong, at 07:30, 08:30, 13:00 and 15:30), Mui Ne (6 hr).

Bus station (10 minute walk west of the center).

By car

Private car rental with a driver are usually modern air-con cars and can be rented for about 1,000,000 dong per day. Car rental prices (as mostly anything in Vietnam) usually increase during holiday seasons especially around Tet (Vietnamese New Year). Make sure to avoid high prices by booking it beforehand with the car rental services.

Get around

Today, most of the tourist infrastructure is in the southern part of town around Biet Thu, whereas most of the locals live around the Cho Dam in the northern half. Cho Dam Market is a popular destination for visitors as well, though.

Tran Phu is the backbone of the city, accompanied by a pleasant waterfront promenade, palm trees, and the nearly 6 km of beach.

Nha Trang has a reliable and easy-to-navigate public bus system, where the ticket fare does not exceed 3,000 dong for a ride on a modern, air-conditioned bus with Vietnamese music. You will find buses 2 and 3 the most useful, since they pass through the southern quarters. Alternatively, you'll find the usual selection of taxis, cyclos, and motorbikes.

There is no destination in downtown Nha Trang that justifies a fare higher than 20,000 dong/person. Taxis are a good option, but be sure they turn on the meter to get the cheapest price.

A wonderful option for seeing the sites is to hire a cyclo-driver for the day. This runs about USD15 plus tip. All the in-town highlights, the post office, and my choice of restaurants from 08:00-19:00. English skills may be basic. The driver will keep the touts away--a real bonus!

Its also easy to get around by bicycle. Nha Trang is quite flat and bicycles are easily found for hire, typically 20,000 dong for one day for a basic no-gears bike. Locals on bicycles are more commonly seen at night when its cooler and no sun to burn their skin.

See

Po Nagar Cham Towers
Nha Tho Nui Cathedral
Buddha statue of Long Sơn

The beach is the main draw here. But the beaches are littered and the water can also be polluted, so if you are going to Nha Trang specifically for the beach, and have been to other Asian destinations such as Thailand and the Philippines you are likely to be very disappointed. You will see many female vendors walking along the beach selling fruit and hot, steamed seafood. Make sure that you visit in the right season. The beach can be disappointing when the weather is grey and the waves choppy. The experience is then one of murky sandy waters, a strip of standard brown sand with a multitude of empty beach chairs and no one to be seen.

Museums

Beaches

Nha Trang's beach

Outside of the city

Dien Khanh front gate

Do

Performance of the water puppet theatre

Amusement and Mud Bath Parks

Vinpearl waterpark

Diving & snorkelling

Close off-shore from Nha Trang sit a series of islands that offer decent diving and snorkelling, easily accessible by day trip. The city has about two dozen dive shops, making for fierce competition and great value. PADI open water courses with equipment rental are available for USD250. A two-dive boat trip with equipment rental and modest lunch can be had for USD45.

Coastal and undersea construction has stirred up a lot of sediment in the area, so under-water visibility is sometimes not great. The area is heavily fished, so fish life is also limited. You wouldn't cross the world just to dive at Nha Trang. But if you always dreamed of getting a scuba certification, Nha Trang is a good place to do it. The shops generally offer good-quality equipment and experienced, certified dive masters. Diving goes on year-round, but in the Oct-Dec windy season, the boat ride can be a bit rough and diving is limited to a few sites in the lee of the islands.

Organisation of the Nha Trang dive industry is sometimes complex. If you sign up for a trip with shop A, you might find yourself joined with a group and divemaster from shop B, which shares a boat with another group and divemaster from shop C, the boat itself being independently owned. Consolidation is especially active in the off-season, when few if any shops can fill a boat on their own. It's a good illustration of Vietnamese culture, which does not stand on ceremony, and loves a bargain, and is very skilled at making maximum use of resources. The local divemasters are mostly great, friendly guys with lots of stories to tell.

Other Watersports

Buy

ATMs

ATMs are common but the vast majority have a transaction limit of 2 million dong or less. Agribank give 3 million dong per transaction with $1 fee.

Eat

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Vegetarian

Drink

Coffee shops

Sleep

Budget

There are plenty of budget hotels in Nha Trang costing less than USD20 per night and nearly all are en suite and have the usual air-con, cable TV, fridge, bedside table, wardrobe and night light. Most also have Wi-Fi, if not in rooms, at least in the reception area. "Mini-hotel alley" at 64 Tran Phu is a good place to head for as it has a dozen or so budget hotels located in a relatively quiet alley near the beach and the main tourist area. Hostel dorm beds are available for USD 5-7 per night. Don't be surprised if you are followed by a motorbike rider, sometimes they can be helpful showing you where your hotel is but often they are just annoying but either way if you arrive at a hotel with one they will demand commission from the hotel, even if you have a booking.

Mid-range

Splurge

Vinpearl Resort

Resorts outside of town

Doc Let Beach

About 60km north of Nha Trang is a stretch of coastline about 20 km long that contains some of the best beaches in Vietnam. Soft power like white sand beaches with clear blue sea and gentle gradients, these beaches are more beautiful and easier for swimming than in Nha Trang. This is an ideal area to explore by motorbike, perhaps taking a night or two side trip from Nha Trang city. The turn off for Jungle Beach gets you off the busy highway for a more relaxing 20 km stretch of road to Jungle Beach Resort. Just after this turn off for Jungle Beach is the turn off for Doc Let Beach, which is another 13 km away and a similarly more relaxing and scenic road. There is an interconnecting road between Jungle and Doc Let so no need to go all the way back to the highway to get from one to the other.

Stay safe

NOTE: While quite safe during the day. At night Nha Trang is extremely rampant for theft and pick pocketing of tourists leaving the bars or just walking around late at night. Travelers should be advised to leave all valuables at their hotel room, including cell phones and cameras which are targeted the most. Unless you are willing to lose it, you shouldn't bring it out to the bars.

Nha Trang generally has a low crime rate, though the risk of petty crime especially late at night is high compared to most other places in Asia. The most common crime is pick pocketing after midnight near the Sailing Club. During the day, it is relatively safe though bag snatching on the beach is no uncommon, so don't take any valuables to the beach. Staying cautious at all times is best. Do not wear too much jewellery, and keep an eye on your belongings. It would be smart to travel in groups when you are out roaming the streets at night. Also, people coming home from the clubs should take a taxi and not a motorbike taxi. Single males walking back to their hotels in the early hours from clubs and bars such as the Sailing Club and Why Not Bar, especially if a little drunk, should beware of ladies approaching, typically in twos or threes, but often with a couple of guys on motorbikes watching closely from a distance ready to be get-away drivers or to get involved if things get nasty. They come over all friendly and touchy-feely, first checking to see what valuables you have and where, then relieve you of them. Often the victim doesn't even know he's been robbed until he gets back to his room or after he wakes up. This is almost becoming a tourist attraction in the sense you can watch this spectacle almost nightly, perhaps helping out a fellow drunken tourist being robbed. Unbelievably, no police are seen, and no hotel or bar security gets involved.

Do not keep money in your passport. If you want your hotel to lock up your money, they will usually be happy to do so in their hotel safe and have procedures for doing that. Passports are kept separate from other valuables as they need access to these for reporting each day your stay to the government. Better than giving the passport to the hotel is handing over a photocopy (personal data page and visa). It is never a good idea to give your passport to anyone other than officials. Never store money in your passport. Keep some money in a different pocket to your wallet/money belt. No point in displaying it when paying for small purchases.

Drive-by motorcycle theft is fairly common in Nha Trang. Banknotes and wallets have been snatched from tourists' hands.

If hiring a motorbike, check what coverage your insurance company gives for riding motorbikes in Asia, and it is frequently none.

Do not argue with locals who try to hustle money from you. This includes tourist touts, moto taxis, etc. They can become violent and aggressive easily, often resorting to the use of rocks or even concealed weapons. Although they can be a bit harder to get rid of than in other places, it is best to avoid these people altogether.

There was one negative report about TM Brothers buses. It's claimed, that they have a bad reputation, and some of the seats are broken and you can find cockroaches on the bus. However, their buses are usually a few dollars cheaper than other companies.

Connect

Internet access can be found in many hotels. There are not that many Internet cafes around now as most hotels typically have computers available for free use by guests or Wi-Fi.

When using the telephone at a hotel be sure to check their rates. Skype or Google Hangouts is free or low cost.

Mobile SIM cards are readily available, mobifone seems the best option for tourists. Their SIM cards cost 50,000 dong or a little more depending where you buy it and come with about 100,000 dong credit for use in the first month. They also provide 3G Internet data packages, e.g., 1.5 Gb for one month costs 120,000 dong. Cellular Data info: APN: m-wap Username: mms Password: mms

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, April 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.