Nha Trang is the popular beach destination for backpackers and local in Vietnam. White, sandy beaches stretch into a dramatic backdrop of mountains, and islands, it’s no wonder that this is a popular place for tourists. This is the perfect spot to learn how to dive while still keeping your budget in check. Those who yearn for a variety of scenery and pace need only venture outside to find rice paddies, quiet scenic roads along the ocean and a fortress of mountains that shields this bustling city.
The beach is the star attraction, and the fact that the city is conveniently located right on the beach helps draw both domestic tourists and international visitors of all budgets. The downtown core stretches along six kilometres of palm-fringed white sand and the brilliant turquoise waters of Nha Trang Bay – and it’s all free.
What Nha Trang does so well is give visitors from all walks different options so when it comes to accommodation, beaches, food and transportation, there is something for everyone. Whether you choose an international five-star, a backpacker hostel or something in between, everywhere in the tourist centre is walking distance to the beach. If you get tired of the crowds at Nha Trang beach, easy day trips to Bai Dai, the deserted northern Cam Ranh peninsula area and gorgeous Doc Let deliver a totally different experience.
An emerging segment in the accommodation scene is fully furnished serviced apartments at a flashpacker or midrange price. They’re worth considering if you plan on spending more than a few days in Nha Trang, though you can rent one for just one night. Rates drop considerably for longer stays. There’s a convenience store and minimart on every block for all your self-catering needs including milk, cheese, bread, instant noodles and booze. Lots of booze.
It’s easy to get around Nha Trang. You can rent a bicycle or motorbike. Walking around the downtown core is doable as the city is flat, major streets have footpaths and there is a beautiful promenade along the beach – though any form of exercise can be very uncomfortable in the midday heat (which is why you find most locals napping during this time). Xe om (motorbike taxis) hang out in every corner. Taxis are also plentiful. You can go by meter but most locals we spoke to recommended agreeing on a fixed fare upfront or risk being driven around in circles. Or if you’re not in a rush, cyclos (three-wheel bicycle taxis) are a classic, fun way to tour the city in the evening.
Our favourite is the cheap, air-conditioned city bus that costs only 7,000 VND per ride. There are six routes in total but bus #4 (Hon Xen – Vinpearl) is the most helpful to visitors as it runs north-south straight through the tourist centre and it gets you to within walking distance of the major sights Vinpearl, Cho Dam market, Po Nagar Cham Towers, Chong Rocks and the excellent oceanview seafood restaurants just south of the rocks.
Scuba diving is another big draw to the city. The shallow waters of Hon Mun Marine Protected Area in Nha Trang Bay is one of the best places in Vietnam to learn how to dive and several centres offer fun dives or PADI certification. Snorkeling and diving are probably the most popular things to do at Nha Trang. The best time to dive or snorkel is April to October – most optimal in July and August. Expect to pay around 1,700,000 VND for two dives.
Scuba diving in Nha Trang (source: southeastasiabackpacker.com)
We read a few reviews online for the scuba diving in Nha Trang, and they didn’t give us much optimism. Reports of over-fishing, coral bleaching, boat pollution and little reef conservation were rife across the internet.
Visibility was a lot better than we had expected – around 10m – with almost zero current. You can expect fair visibility and a wide variety of small colourful tropical fish, though no big ticket animals like reef sharks or turtles. While there wasn’t an abundance of marine life, the dive was still quite fun as we hit a bottom depth of 20m and slowly started making our way up, floating amongst pinnacles and rocky outcrops. The swim-through tunnels will appeal to more advanced divers.
Hot springs and mud bathing are popular in Nha Trang. A relaxing past-time, the mud claims to have somewhat healing powers with the mud formed from rocks and volcanic ash. Prices will vary but expect to pay at least 130,000 VND per person.
Thap Ba hot springs (source: alotrip.com)
National Oceanographic Museum
At the far south end of Nha Trang is the National Oceanographic Museum. Great for those who do not like the idea of diving because here there are tanks of marine life and stuffed birds and sea mammals. Brilliant if you want to occupy a couple of hours on a not so pleasant day. Admission is 30,000 VND per person.
Hostel prices – Basic dorms start at 100,000 VND per night, while private rooms will cost around 500,000 VND per night for a double. Free WiFi is standard, and free breakfast is quite common. A few hostels also offer self-catering facilities.
Budget hotel prices – Expect to pay at least 200,000 VND for a basic double hotel room. Prices for nicer rooms go as high as 450,000 VND per night. Free WiFi is standard, and a handful of budget hotels also include free breakfast. Hotels located close to the beach will be more expensive. Airbnb is available in the city, and a shared room will cost at least 220,000 VND per night (though there are very few options for shared accommodation) while an entire apartment is at least 600,000 VND per night.
Average cost of food – Street food starts at 16,000 VND. Local food in restaurants starts at 25,000 VND for a basic meal, while Western food is more expensive, usually 75,000 VND and up. Domestic beer in restaurants will usually cost around 20,000 VND, though you can get it for a fraction of the price at smaller local places (sometimes as little as 3,000 VND!). If you plan on cooking your own meals, expect to pay at least 15,000 VND per day for groceries (though food is so cheap that you’re better off just eating out!)
Transportation costs – If you stay near the beach you likely won’t need any transportation because you can walk everywhere. Buses are crowded but rarely cost more than 15,000 VND. A cycle-taxi ride is around 25,000 VND per kilometer. Regular taxis start at 25,000 VND per kilometer. Be sure to use only metered, nice-looking green and white taxis! For intercity travel, a train to Hanoi will cost around 1,100,000 VND while the bus will cost around 300,000 VND. The train south to Ho Chi Minh City will cost around 600,000 VND, while a bus will cost around 220,000 VND.
Source: nomadsaurus, nomadicmatt and rustycompass