After a hectic few weeks of settling in, training and starting our new jobs we were in desperate need of a mini-holiday. Luckily we found ourselves with 2 consecutive days off work so we booked our first trip in Vietnam. We picked Nha Trang, a beautiful coastal city famous for its sandy beaches, in the hope that it would offer the slice of tranquility we were looking for!
We had a lovely couple of days exploring and relaxing in Nha Trang and wanted to share this guide from our trip, along with some tips and information we picked up on the way. It’s quite a biggy, so grab a cuppa and enjoy.
We took an early morning flight direct from HCM to Cam Ranh International Airport, which is a 40 minute drive from Nha Trang (map here). There are a ton of daily flights from HCM with both VietJet and Jetstar, not glamorous but they are cheap. The flight says it takes 1 hour but both ours were about 40 minutes, and with no customs or hold luggage we were out of the airport by the time we were due to arrive – BONUS!
You’ll need to get a transfer to Nha Trang but there is no need to book online. Upon arrival you are greeted by a number of transfer shuttle companies and they all offer the journey for a similar price (we went with CherryBlossom Airport Shuttle costing 55.000₫ p/p). Taxis are also available and would possibly be cheaper if there were a number of you (set price of 300.000₫).
In Nha Trang most of the hotels, shops and eateries are within the first couple of blocks from the beach, making walking easy. Our hotel offered free bike hire which (had we realised sooner) would have been a fun and quick way to get around, especially along the beach promenade. Note: the roads are not crazy busy so cycling would be relatively safe.
However the beach front in Nha Trang is 6km long so it is likely that you will need to get a taxi if you plan to visit the other end of town. We found it easy to flag a taxi down during the day but so easy not when its was raining at night. Unlike HCM there is no Uber or GrabCab so unless you speak Vietnamese it would be challenging to order one yourself. Taxis are cheap – we took three averaging 60.000₫ (£2) each. As anywhere, be careful to make sure the meter is on or if not agree a set fare to avoid any disputes.
As a popular holiday destination for Russians and Vietnamese, and a common stop for backpackers, Nha Trang is not short of accommodation options. There are a number of fancier resorts on the outskirts of the city and a wide selection of hotels near the beach for all budgets. There were a lot more hotels in person than online so I have no doubt that you would find a last minute/on the day deal here during off-peak.
We stayed at a relatively new hotel, called the An Vista Hotel, which turned out to be a fantastic budget option. Situated towards the south end of the beach it features brand new decor, high quality air-con, free beach loungers and parasols and a rooftop pool and bar. They were great hosts and we highly recommend it as a taste of luxury on a budget (full review to follow).
The view from the An Vista Hotels rooftop pool and bar.
We ate out at three different restaurants during our stay in Nha Trang and all impressed upon us. We found eating out slightly more expensive than what we normally pay in HCM, however it is a tourist hotspot and we didn’t eat street food as we normally do. We did grab a Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette) for lunch when we arrived which was surprisingly cheap considering we normally get charged inflated westerner prices for street food.
The first night we went to Lac Canh a Vietnamese “DIY” BBQ place. This was such a fun experience and definitely something you must try during a trip to Vietnam! A claypot BBQ is brought to your table, along with a selection of marinated meat and vegetables of your choice for you to BBQ to your liking! Don’t expect anything glamorous, a high level of English (don’t worry the menu is in both English and Russian) or amazing service, but the energy of the place when its full is something exciting and its an experience you will certainly remember.
We spent the afternoon of our second day lounging and eating at the beachfront Sailing Club. This place was so tastefully decorated and it made us feel like we could have been sitting on the med, not on the Vietnamese coast. They have a more western menu with a range of Italian, Mexican and Indian dishes but expect to pay more for it. We opted for pizza and pasta (a light relief from the weeks of noodles and rice for our stomachs). The food was pretty good, not exceptional but they had real parmesan so I was sold. The atmosphere is great, with a range of fun seating options, day beds and a pool table, and the staff were nice. It also has lovely bathrooms (which any girl who’s been to Asia knows is a deal breaker).
On our second night we ate at Lanterns, who offer good food, in a cute setting where all the profits go back into the community, providing school scholarships and meals for local orphanages. This place was so worthwhile and it was amazing to arrive and see that it was jam packed. We would recommend booking a table if there are a number of you, however as a couple we were able to get a table after waiting 10 minutes or so. During our wait we were directed to an area at the back of the restaurant where we were able to order our food and drinks. This good service continued throughout our meal. The food was tasty and offered some alternatives to the more common vietnamese food, such as the hearty curries and fried rice which we happily devoured.
TO SEE and DO
Nha Trang Beach
It goes without saying that you can’t visit Nha Trang and not enjoy at least a morning lounging on the beach, soaking up the rays. Most hotels offer free sunbeds and umbrellas on their own section of beach, however don’t worry if your hotel doesn’t because you can always rent them from other hotels (and often if you pay you end up with the best beds nearest the water).
The Cham Towers
While in Nha Trang you should try and squeeze in a little bit of culture. Wandering around the Cham Towers site offered a peaceful escape from the tourist hub of Nha Trang. You do pay to enter the site but at only 22.000₫ it won’t break the bank. You can also get a nice vantage point from here to help you get a lay of the land.
We treated ourselves to some full body massages during the storm on our first night (downside to traveling in monsoon) which was a great way to unwind after a long day of travelling, sightseeing, eating and relaxing (its a tough life!). We booked ours through the hotel spa as we didn’t want to venture out in the storm again, however the next day we noticed a number of masseuses set up on the beach promenade where you could unwind with a view of the beach.
Walk along the promenade
The beach front of Nha Trang features a lovely walkway which takes you through peaceful gardens that offer a slices of shade on a hot summer day, and past the Trầm Hương Tower, an iconic feature of the city.
Watch the sunrise
On our final morning we headed to the beach to catch our first sunrise together. It was lovely to watch the water turn golden as the sun rose over the islands in the distance. It was much busier than we expected, with locals having a morning dip and lounge on the beach before the heat of the day, and lots of tourists with the same idea as us. Luckily we found a slice to ourself where we were able to bask in the early morning glow.
We recommend avoiding the night market as it was mainly filled with tacky tourist souvenirs and knock off clothes. Instead head to a market elsewhere – Ben Thanh in HCM and Hoi An night market both offer some nice alternative souvenirs like chopsticks, coconut bowls, beautiful lanterns and handmade bags and jewellery.
Had we had more time to explore Nha Trang we would have considered taking a cooking class/food tour with Lanterns (where we had dinner), a four island boat trip with snorkelling/scuba (as recommended by a colleague) and a mud bath experience.
“My favourite part of our trip to Nha Trang was our visit to the Cham Towers. We hadn’t looked them up much so we were instantly taken away with the sites beauty and tranquility (a great advocate for not doing too much research). Taking in the peace and quite, viewing the city from above and finding hidden pockets of beauty while wandering around the gardens provided the respite we were looking for in Nha Trang.” – Frances
“The unexpectedly brilliant dinner at Lac Can was my favourite part of Nha Trang. Food hygiene, health and safety, in fact the entire rule book we’re used to in Britain has been thrown out the window and it was amazing. So simple, so tasty.” – David
OVERALL DESTINATION RATING
Nha Trang was a great place to chill out and relax on the beach, with good food, bars, and lots of sunshine. It is however a very popular destination with Russian tourists so expect lots of Russian menus and hecklers trying to get you into restaurants and bars. We’ve marked it down a bit purely for how touristy it was, but if you’re looking for some beach relief from the more cultural destinations in Vietnam then this is the place for you!
We’ve included a breakdown of the cost to help you plan and budget, but bare in mind that we are not full time travellers and were treating this as a mini-holiday so our cost was higher. You could experience a similar trip on a much tighter budget by altering accommodation, eating more street food, not getting a taxi to the airport (we were just lazy on the return) and by getting massages at a parlour rather than hotel spa! We’ve transferred prices back into GBP£ to make it easier to understand.
Travelled August 2016 | Cost for 2 people for 2 nights and 2 days in Nha Trang
|Total trip cost:||£251.34|
|Return flights from HCM:||£38|
|Airport transfer:||£3.75 bus and £11.85 private taxi. Total £15.65|
|Accommodation including breakfast, pool and free beach loungers:||£57 (~£14 p\p, p\night)|
|Food and Drink, including 2 dinners and a full day at the Sailing Club:||£75|
|Activities:||£21.50 (2x 1hr back massages & the Cham Towers)|
|Taxis around Nha Trang:||£6.19|