A 48 Hour Stop-Over in Nha Trang.
Nha Trang, a seaside town, lay almost directly in between Hoi An and HCMC. It is a perfect stopover for travellers looking to break up their trip on the traditional backpackers route through Vietnam.
Home to many expats and scuba diving fiends, Nha Trang feels a little less like Vietnam, and more like a Russian Surfer’s Paradise (I’m not joking, they are everywhere!).
Nha Trang was definitely my least favourite stop on our trip throughout Vietnam, however I do think it is worthwhile stopping by for at least for 48 hours. You can stretch your legs, soak up some sun, eat some Western food (if you’re having cravings) and be on your way.
So Here’s How to Spend 2 Days in Nha Trang…
You’ve probably arrived in between 4am and 7am via overnight sleeper bus or train and I bet you feel like rat sh!t. I feel your pain. If you’re lucky, you might arrive right in time for a beautiful sunrise over the beach (featured above).
You’ll be amazed at how many people are on the beach well before the sun is up, swimming, exercising and meditating. Make your way to your hotel, drop your bags, freshen up and throw your swimmers on. It’s never too early to hit the beach.
By the time you’ve grabbed some breakfast and found the beach, the sunbeds should be out and ready for you to snooze on. They do cost about 50,000 VND for the day, but they’re comfy and shaded – perfect for catching up on last nights missed sleep.
I cannot stress to you enough how strong that damn sun is, so either lay under the umbrella from the get go or lather on up. Make sure you protect your belongings and take turns going for a swim. If you’re alone watch your stuff like a hawk while you swim. Theft is unfortunately not uncommon in Nha Trang.
By midday you’re probably thinking you’re just about reduced to a pile of sweat. Grab some lunch, and head back to your hotel to check in.
The rest of your afternoon can be spent scootering around Nha Trang to see the sites. Most hotels have scooters to rent out, however if they don’t there are plenty of shops in the Backpacker District who will rent you one. Ours cost 115,000 VND for the day.
The two main sites in Nha Trang are Long Son Pagoda and Cham Towers. Both are quite small and definitely achievable in one afternoon. If you don’t want to hire a scooter, you could definitely take a taxi for maybe even cheaper than the scooter hire to both locations.
Long Son Pagoda.
The Long Son Pagoda lay about 2km from the backpacker district and is home to a 24m tall Buddha. This big Buddha is definitely the highlight of this attraction, and you’ll have to climb a bunch of steps to get up to him, but I promise you, it’s worth it.
Entry to the Pagoda is free, but you will need to pay 10,000 VND for scooter parking. If you want to enter the Pagoda itself, make sure you dress appropriately with shoulders and knees covered.
Do check the opening hours before you go, as most days the pagoda will close between 1pm and 3pm (I assume for the monks meditation practice). You will still be able to climb to the top to see the Buddha during those closing times.
Historically, Cham is an ancient civilisation that was extremely influential in Southeast Asia (most notably Vietnam and Cambodia). They ruled Vietnam for 10 centuries and are said to have their root in Indian Buddhism, giving them an unmistakeable architecture which is spread widely across the country.
There is a great deal of similarity between Angkor Wat and the Po Nagar Towers (Cham Towers) found in Nha Trang. The Po Nagar Cham Towers were erected around 781 A.D.
I’ve got to admit I was a little underwhelmed with the Cham Towers. While the structures were amazing, the site was far smaller than I was expecting and it was incredibly crowded. It has also undergone a lot of restoration. This is great from a tourism perspective, however it didn’t feel (at all) like we were walking around a site built in the early A.D. It was worth a visit, without a doubt, but I think I went in with high expectations.
Entry to the Cham Towers is 40,000 VND. Scooter parking is available right beside the towers for 4,000 VND (per scooter).
Dinner & Drinks.
Nha Trang has an abundance of Western food. It was actually hard to find some traditional Vietnamese food, unless you wanted to eat a little more upmarket. This seemed silly to me after eating amazing Vietnamese food for a third of the price on the streets in other towns!
We ate at two different places that would be well-worth a visit. Good Morning Vietnam is a new Italian restaurant on the main backpackers drag. The pizza and pasta were both delicious and reasonably priced.
We had a craving for Western food and it hit the spot!
The other place is Café des Amis. Serving both Vietnamese and Western cuisine, this is more of a budget option with fried rice or stir-fried noodles costing around 60,000 VND. The food was also delicious, and the owner, incredibly welcoming!
If you’ve got some wiggle room in your budget, you should definitely consider a trip to Above Sky Bar (atop Liberty Central Hotel). This rooftop bar offers incredible views of Nha Trang city by night, and has a really cool vibe.
There is no entry fee but you are expected to buy a drink. Cocktails start at 120,000 VND and beers start around 80,000 VND.
Nha Trang is home to Vietnam’s best snorkeling and diving. If you’re an avid diver or snorkeler, I doubt you will think too highly of the reefs, but there is a lot of coral down there and plenty of different types of fish to see.
We went on a full day tour (9.30 – 3.30) with a company organised through our hostel. They took us to three different spots around Hon Mot Island and Hon Mun Island for about 45 minutes each.
At first, we were pretty grossed out by the amount of rubbish in the water (so disappointing), but you can navigate around it to cleaner waters.
I wouldn’t bother paying extra for scuba diving in these areas, as they’re quite shallow. You can easily free dive down to get a closer look at the fish (like Scarface!!) and the reef.
We also got a substantial banquet style lunch on the boat of noodles, seafood, spring rolls, and various meats and vegetables. The food was good and there was plenty to go around!
The only complaint I would have was the abrupt nature of the main tour guide. I got the feeling like we were just ‘dumb tourists’ to him. But for $16 USD, I didn’t have insanely high expectations and we had a really fun day just mucking around in the water.
Where to Stay.
Nha Trang is quite a long stretch of beach, with the main road filled with fancy high-rise hotels. For price, location and convenience, the best place to stay is the ‘Backpackers District’, shown in the map below.
As you can see, within a two or three block radius you will find tons of places to eat and drink, tons of places to stay and you will be a short 5-minute walk to the beautiful beachfront.
We stayed at Truong Giang Hotel. It had great location (see map below), friendly staff and strong Wi-Fi. Breakfast was also cheap and delicious. They had scooters for you to rent, they explained the map of Nha Trang and things to do upon check-in, and were always happy to help with anything we required. For these reasons, I can recommend them highly!
I do have to mention that we had problems with ants in our room. They didn’t actually come anywhere near us, but there was definitely a nest-building operation going on right outside our doorway. The staff were super apologetic about it, but, you know, there were still ants in our room 🙁
What to Budget.
Nha Trang was expensive. Maybe we felt such a stark comparison because we had been up North first and just come from Hoi An, where 80,000 VND for Pho was an outrage. You won’t find decent (or any) food for less than 60,000 VND. The cheapest beer we saw was maybe 20,000 VND. Expect to pay at least $18 USD per night for a hotel.
But you know, it is a tourist area geared for a little more luxury than other spots in Vietnam, and it is priced accordingly. So allow a little more room in your daily budget for your visit to avoid any surprises.
In hindsight I could’ve skipped Nha Trang. Especially if we had a tighter schedule. But in saying that, if you do have room in your budget and itinerary for an overnight stay, you should do it. The beach really is beautiful and there are tons of good places to eat and drink. So even if you take a night to relax and recoup you’ll be doing yourself a favour. And it will get you off that horrendous night bus.
I for one, simply could not imagine staying on an overnight bus all the way from Hoi An to Saigon (or vice versa). That would be worse than hell on Earth. (Blog post about that coming soon! 😉 )
Have you been to Nha Trang? What was your impression of the town? Drop some comment love below 🙂