Once a popular place for G.I.s to take a break during the war, Nha Trang is still the busiest beach destination in Vietnam. Don't expect a charming little beach town like Mui Ne; Nha Trang is a bustling city of half a million people!
The traffic and high-rise developments can soon be forgotten while enjoying Nha Trang's superb beaches. The wide, sandy beaches are kept meticulously clean as is the waterfront park where stone sculptures and palm trees create a peaceful respite from the big city. The beautiful beaches drop sharply into a sandy bottom in the South China Sea where shorebreak makes it possible to enjoy the waves without going out too far.
Nha Trang has made great strides in improving its old reputation of prostitution and hassle. Now, local families collect on the beach nightly to play soccer, eat dinner, and relax. Young people rollerblade around the waterfront park and even give impromptu breakdancing performances! The vibe along the beach is generally relaxed, genuine, and family-safe.
Tran Phu - the main beach road through Nha Trang - parallels the coast and is packed with hotels, restaurants, shops, and cafes. Biet Thu runs inland and a matrix of roads paralleling the tourist strip are dotted with dive shops, travel agencies, and more restaurants.
A pleasant waterfront park runs the full length of the strip dividing Tran Phu and the beach; the iconic Tram Huong Tower - a symbol for Nha Trang - sits in a roundabout in the center of Tran Phu Road. Large resorts tend to dominate the northern end of the tourist strip beyond the Tram Huon Tower.
A narrow, pedestrian-only street running inland just before Nguyen Thi Minh Khai has a small night market with souvenirs, street food, and lots of people-watching.
Traveling Nha Trang on a Budget
Don't let the high-rise hotels fool you - budget travelers will have no problem enjoying Nha Trang. Most budget accommodation is found down a small alley called "Tran Phu 64" just off the main street; prices start around $8 a night. The beach at the end of the budget street is just as nice as anywhere else! Most of the budget hotels are kept in clean shape, but learn how to avoid bedbugs in advance.
Food is relatively more expensive around Nha Trang, however prices tend to decline as you move inland on Biet Thu. Try the Cafe Des Amis on Biet Thu for good food at reasonable prices. The nearby A-mart has the best prices for water, alcohol, and snacks.
- Money: ATMs are found on nearly every corner around the city. Most ATMs give a maximum of 2,000,000 Vietnamese dong - around US $100 - per transaction.
- Safety: The beach and waterfront in Nha Trang are safe in the evenings, however be aware that bag snatching by passing motorbikes is common. Never walk on the beach alone after dark once all the local families have retired.
- Hassle: The level of hassle by touts and hawkers is relatively high in Nha Trang. Men persistently try to rent their motorbikes on the street; plan to get a lot of attention as a tourist. Hordes of women walk the beach attempting to sell sunglasses, snacks, or anything else they can carry. When approached, simply offer a polite "no" - which usually isn't enough - then turn away until they go. Read more about scams in Southeast Asia and scams in Vietnam.
- Shopping: Other than art and souvenirs, Nha Trang isn't really the place for shopping; try visiting Hoi An farther north for a shopper's paradise.
- Groceries: Water, snacks, and other goods can be bought at a fixed price from one of the many green A-Marts scattered around town. The largest mini-mart is located on Biet Thu.
Scuba Diving in Nha Trang
Although not as famous as the diving in Sabah, Nha Trang is Vietnam's center for scuba diving. A multitude of dive shops around the tourist strip run boats to many of Nha Trang's 25 dive sites. The peak months from November to January inconveniently offer the worst visibility. For something different, ask your dive shop about the many small underwater caves that can be explored.
Island Day Trips Around Nha Trang
Visiting nearby islands is a popular way to get outside of Nha Trang for a day. Travel agencies offer boats for around $10 to four islands in one afternoon. Hon Tre - where the large VinPearl sign is - has some great snorkeling while Hon Mieu has a scenic fish farm. It is possible to make your own way to Hon tre for snorkeling; take the public ferry ($2 one-way) from Phu Quy harbor.
- Read about sun protection in Southeast Asia.
Located just offshore on Hon Tre Island, the gigantic Hollywood-style sign for VinPearl Land is visible up and down the beach. Known previously as the Vietnamese Peal Resort, Vinpearl Land has grown into a massive entertainment complex. The resort, spa, amusement park, shopping mall, fine dining, and dance club are a big hit with local families who take the cable car - the longest in the world crossing water - to visit the island.
- Read more about Vinpearl Land.
Getting Around Nha Trang
The best way around Nha Trang is on foot, however a multitude of taxis, motorbikes, and bicycle-powered cyclo taxis are available to move people around. Always agree on a price before getting inside of a taxi - see how to haggle in Southeast Asia for tips on negotiating a price.
Getting to Nha Trang
Nha Trang is a busy tourist city with many connections by bus and train. The journey between Mui Ne and Nha Trang is very scenic with mist-covered mountains towering above green rice paddies.
By Train: Nha Trang's train station is located in the northwestern part of the city, well off the tourist strip. The train from Saigon takes roughly 10 hours to reach Nha Trang. Travel by train offers a pleasant break from the maniacal traffic!
By Air: Flights to and from Nha Trang now use Cam Ranh Airport (NHA) which was once an old U.S. airbase during the Vietnam War. The airport is around 18 miles south of Nha Trang; only domestic flights are available.
Read more about what to expect in this Vietnam travel guide.