Nha trang travel information
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 center of Vietnam.
Traces of human settlement in Nha Trang date back to the Cham Empire, though in times of Vietnamese rule, there wasn’t much more than small fishing villages. The French recognized 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 favorite vacation stop during the war.
The monsoon season is from October to mid December. 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.
Cam Ranh Airport (CXR), built on the grounds of an old American airbase in 2004, is located 30km from the city and serves only domestic destinations. Taxi fare from the airport to downtown locations is a fixed rate of 260,000 VND (with Nha Trang Taxi Company - maroon color taxi) though many hotels have their own buses. Do not offer to go by the meter here as it is about 100,000 VND more expensive than the fixed rate. A cheaper option is to take the airport bus at 40,000 VND to the old Nha Trang Airport.
After a major upgrade, the airport has since 2010 been renamed "Cam Ranh International Airport" and is looking to attact direct package tour flights from overseas.
Mai Linh taxis also offer fixed price fares to and from the airport, starting at 180,000dvn for a small, 4-seat taxi. For the adventurous traveller, take a short taxi ride to a Phuong Trang bus stop in Cam Ranh, then catch the Phuong Trang bus, 40,000 dvn to Nha Trang (about an hour). The bus stops and the buses are orange coloured.
Nha Trang is a stop on the main railway-line connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC or Saigon). The railway station is close to the cathedral in the northern part of town. 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. Each of the SE, TN and SNT coded trains end with a number. If the number is odd it travels from North to South. If it is even, it travels from South to North.
The journey to Nha Trang from Ho Chi Minh City takes between 6-8 hours on the SE trains (but are often delayed), so a sleeper is not really necessary, a cushioned seat in the AirCon car costs 190,000 dong. The SNT trains take over 9 hours and travels overnight only.
For 400,000 dong (lower bed T1 or 360,000 dong for upper bed T2), you can book a soft sleeper on the SNT1 or SE1, SE3, SE5 or SE7 trains from Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City. These are the prices if you buy directly from Nha Trang train station. You will obviously pay more from an agent. Prices and times correct November 2010. Hotels will typically be able to buy the ticket for you for an additional 30,000 dong. The scenery on this journey is not that great compared to further north, so you are not missing out too much by travelling overnight.
The SE1 train departs Nha Trang at 8.26pm and arrives in Ho Chi Minh City at 4.10am. The SE3 train departs Nha Trang at 9.42pm and arrives in Ho Chi Minh City at 4.30am. The SE5 train departs Nha Trang at 12.39pm and arrives in Ho Chi Minh City at 8.00pm. The SE7 train departs Nha Trang at 8.41am and arrives in Ho Chi Minh City at 4.48pm. The SNT1 train departs Nha Trang at 6.40pm and arrives in Ho Chi Minh City at 5.20am.
The SNT2 departs Ho Chi Min City at 7.40pm and arrives in Nha Trang at 6am.
Most open tour buses arrive from Ho Chi Minh City in the south (10-12 hours) and Hoi An to the north (10 hours). They drop their passengers in the main tourist area around Bien Thu, while the public bus station is at 58, 23 Thang 10, about a 10 minute walk west of the center.
Private car rental with a driver are usually modern air-con cars and can be rented for ~1,000,000 VND per day.
Car rental prices (as mostly anything in Vietnam) usually increase during holiday seasons especially around Tet (Vietnamese’s New Year). Make sure to avoid high prices by booking it beforehand with the car rental services.
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 quarters. 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 6km of beach.
Nha Trang has a reliable and easy to navigate public bus system, where the ticket fare does not exceed 3000 dong for a ride on a modern, air-conditioned bus with Vietnamese music. You will find buses nr. 3 and 2 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. I agreed upon a price for the entire day (Jan. 2009-USD$10 + tip) and my driver took me to all the in-town highlights, the post office, and my choice of restaurants from 8AM-7PM. While English skills were basic, we were able to communicate. He also kept many of the touts away--a real bonus!