Nha Trang, Vietnam: Sun, Sea, Sand, and Scams.
The Story – Nha Trang, Vietnam
From Quy Nhon‘s nearest train station, Dieu Tri, we took SE5 (220,000d/$10.50) at 3:09pm and arrived in Nha Trang around 8pm. That night Ryan vowed never to ride a Vietnamese train at night again, after witnessing a mouse run out from under our seats, across the aisle, and towards an adjacent lady’s bag of corn that she had on the floor.
Nha Trang is Vietnam’s most popular seaside resort for many reasons: the hotels are great value, the beach is beautiful, the weather and water are warm, there’s steaming fresh seafood everywhere, and Nha Trang is a lively town with no end of things to keep you busy.
Kim Ngan Hotel was perfect and a good deal. We had a room at the front with a balcony, AC, mini-fridge, and cable TV for 270,000d/$13. We spent one more day than we had planned because we were so comfortable.
On our first night in Nha Trang, we went for dinner at a local BBQ restaurant — thinking we were so hardcore for avoiding Lonely Planet/Travelfish/wikitravel suggestions. We ordered and fended off the scantily clad San Miguel beer girl. We chose the spicy chicken wings and pork grilled with chili. They didn’t have any rice (what?!) so we ordered french fries on the side. We sat with bated breath awaiting our delicious barbecued feast. As the waiter approached and we eyed our dishes we could see that the chicken we had ordered consisted of one single, lonely chicken wing. That’s going to be difficult to share. The pork wasn’t any better. When we bit into it there was nothing but gristle and fat. Chalking it up to a bad choice, despite the fact they had a whole pig sitting up by the barbecue, we asked for the bill. We looked at the price 300,000d. We knew immediately that we hadn’t eaten 300,000 dong worth of food. Upon closer inspection they had charged us for 2 large San Miguels, a plate of rice, 2 plates of grilled pork, and the price of the chicken wing was incorrect. We sent the bill back three times before we got it down to the correct amount of 132,000d. Lesson learned: ALWAYS check your bill in Vietnam. There was no doubt, they had tried to scam us.
Aside from that fiasco, Nha Trang treated us rather well. The next day, we spent most of our time relaxing and went for a drink at Louisiane Brew House. A drink is all we could afford. A 330mL glass of their freshly brewed tipple is 40,000d, and it was some of the finest beer I’ve ever had. Impressive in a country like Vietnam where the majority of beer tastes like piss.
On our way home we were accosted by a young man who wanted us to have lobster for dinner. Down on the beach they had mats set up and were cooking what appeared to be small lobsters, crabs, tiger prawns, and shrimp. He told us he would sell us two lobsters for 50,000d and cook it fresh on the beach. When we hesitated he threw in a crab, then a tiger prawn, then two shrimp — all for 50,000d. It sounded too good to be true. We decided to do a little research and if everything was kosher (not literally), we would come back tomorrow night. Later we came upon this nugget of information thanks to Thorn Tree. What they are actually selling are spiny lobsters (identifiable by their lack of claws).
We say good night to picturesque Nha Trang as we are continuing further south along the coast to a little slice of heaven called Mui Ne!
The Budget – Nha Trang, Vietnam (for 2)
Bus from Mui Ne: 278,000 VND ($16.20)
Accommodations: 2 nights for 840,000 VND ($49)
Meals: 2 lunches, 2 dinners – 560,000 VND ($32.66)
Coffee/Booze/Snacks: 105,000 VND ($6.12)
Train to Dieu Tri (for Qui Nhon): 196,000 ($11.43)
Total: 1,979,000 ($115.40) – $28.85 each per day
The Facts – Nha Trang, Vietnam
Getting In and Out of Nha Trang, Vietnam
The international airport in Nha Trang, Cam Ranh International Airport is just barely international, since the only foreign countries it serves is Russia. At any rate, if you find yourself landing at the airport, you’re probably looking at a 380,000 dong taxi ride (fixed rate) to the city center. I’ve read that Mai Linh will do the ride for less, but I’ve also heard that’s no longer true. What I’d recommend is that you hurry out of the airport and catch the minibus. Buy a ticket for it at the desk before you exit the airport. The minibus will fill up, so hurry a bit if you want on it. It will take you to the old airport in Nha Trang. The cost is 70,000VND. From there you can get a much cheaper taxi (about 30,000 for most hotels), or maybe even walk to your hotel. This bus is also available going to the airport. Conveniently, it leaves 2 hours before every scheduled departure.
The train station in Nha Trang is only a 15-20 minute walk to the heart of the city. Trains run the reunification line, going to Saigon or Hanoi and everything in between. For schedules, fees, and even to book it the Vietnam National Railways website can now hook you up. If you are planning to buy a ticket on a weekend, holiday, or a sleeper train, then you should really consider buying one ahead of time — either at the station or on the website. The website will show you what seats are available, so you could always check to see how many open spots there are and only buy one if it’s about to sell out. Ho Chi Minh City is about a 7 hour train ride away, so a sleeper train isn’t necessary, but it would save a night in a hotel.
Buses come in and out of various points in Nha Trang. If you are taking a bus from Saigon, it will cost about 210,000 VND and will most likely leave in the morning or evening. Either way, it will likely be a sleeper bus. Futa Buslines has buses leaving their district 1 location (274 Đề Thám) at 8AM, 10AM, noon, 7PM, 8PM, 9PM, 10PM, and 11PM. This could change though, so I suggest popping in and seeing what they say. The bus will drop you off in Nha Trang about 8 hours later at 7 Hoàng Hoa Thám.
Another good option for buses is Sinh Tourist. They have buses from Nha Trang to Saigon, Da Lat, Mui Ne, and Hoi An (and vice versa). Their prices are reasonable and the buses are nice.
The Best Budget Hotel in Nha Trang, Vietnam
Finding a great hotel in Nha Trang shouldn’t be a problem. For luxury at about $20 per night, it’s possible to get a double room at La Mer Hotel. A beautiful beach is across the road and the area is quite peaceful. The problem is, it’s a bit away from the action.
For something closer to downtown, I have to recommend Tabalo Hostel, because it makes me feel like a kid to climb into their beds. They also have a nice rooftop patio with great views, and a decent breakfast included with the reasonably priced double rooms (about 420,000 VND per night).
The Best Budget Restaurant in Nha Trang, Vietnam
Đặng Văn Quyên is a great place to drink beer and eat delicious food. It’s consistently busy, which means you’ll experience a great atmosphere as you scarf down grilled meats and spring rolls. The restaurant’s specialty is nem nuong, a grilled pork meat that you’ll be able to get in many forms. Just a note, I’d avoid the nem chua as it’s a fermented pork meat that doesn’t usually please the western palate. You should also try their cha ca, a kind of fish cake made with locally caught fish.
The Map – Nha Trang, Vietnam
Next Stop Recommendation – Quy Nhon, Vietnam
Not a lot of tourists have Quy Nhon on their radar, but it breaks up the long bus ride to Hoi An. Thuan Thao bus company makes the trip leaving at 1:15PM and arriving around 6:15PM for 90,000 VND.