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Welcome to District 1, Saigon on a beach with lots of Russians.
There are direct flights from Russia to Nha Trang which means that it is very much a Russian holiday destination.
Nha Trang is westernised; there are a lot of western-style restaurants, coffee shops, bars and other services for foreigners. Thanks to the high density of foreigners, there are many citizens who speak English (and Russian).
Hundreds of expats — Europeans, Australians, Asians, Canadians, and Americans — live in Nha Trang, either full- or part-time.
This beach town on Vietnam’s southern coast avoids nearly all the wet during summer.
This is not Vietnam’s best cultural experience, but the beaches are very nice, the nightlife is surprisingly good, and it’s fairly cheap once you get there.
From morning until night, the elegant promenade is infused with a lively but easygoing vibe.
Until recently Nha Trang was a backpacker favourite but they have, now, moved on. Vietnamese families now dominate.
Crystal clear waters off the coast make for ideal diving and snorkeling – especially around the 2 dozen or so small and scenic islands that can be got to on day trips.
“We rented a modern studio apartment — a five-minute walk from the ocean — that was fully furnished and included cable, WiFi, a small kitchen, maid service, laundry six days a week, a security guard, a weight room, and utilities for US$300 a month.”
Long-term hotel stays are available for as little as US$250 a month, and you can find plenty of short-term and long-term apartment rentals, most of them furnished. But, first, you will need to spend a month in a long-term rate hotel so that you can find these bargains.
I used CHEAPFLIGHTVIETNAM.COM to find the cheapest ticket from Phu Quoc to Nha Trang.
The normal flight search engines (like CHEAPFLIGHTS.COM, SKYSCANNER, etc) returned prices in the US$116 plus range. In the end, I saved money by booking the 2 legs from Phu Quoc to Saigon and Saigon on to Nha Trang myself with JetStar Pacific for a total of US$83.
The JetStar flight from Phu Quoc left at 12:55pm and arrived in Saigon at 14:10. Collecting my stowed luggage and getting to checkin for my next flight to Nha Trang was easy and went without incident. It left me 45 minutes free before boarding. I was in Nha Trang by 5pm.
The taxi scams and over-charging at the airport are well documented on the internet, so I won’t repeat them here.
I suggest that, as you exit Baggage Collection, you walk about 5 meters to find a small desk selling bus tickets. Here you can buy a VND65k minibus ticket from the Airport (which is 35kms out of town) to Cam Ranh (the old airport in the centre of town). The trip takes about 40 minutes.
Buy your ticket, walk out onto the street, turn left, walk about 20m and wave your ticket. You’ll be spotted and looked after.
When you get to Cam Ranh you can either walk the short distance to your Hotel, or negotiate a short distance taxi. I walked the 1km to my Hotel.
GETTING TRAVEL MONEY:
I had problems getting money from ATMs in Phu Quoc. I was limited to VND2m per withdrawal.
So, whilst at Saigon Airport, I took the opportunity to get to an ANZ ATM. There I could withdraw VND5m and, as it is my home bank, there were no Foreign ATM Transaction Fees.
SAFETY & DRUGS:
The internet tells you to be careful in Nha Trang; especially if you are out late at night and have been drinking. The Vietnamese girls are pretty good at distracting you whilst stealing your mobile and wallet…. with a couple of guys on scooters waiting in the background to assist if things ‘get heavy’. I got this exact same warning myself one night from a barman as I walked out of a bar at 2am (after watching Manchester City vs Liverpool).
You will, also, sometimes get the offer of Marijuana as you walk down the street.
Watch your things at all times and don’t display anything of value whilst out on the streets.
You will be approached by many street sellers and beggars whilst sitting in the bars and cafes.
When I first arrived in Saigon, I purchased a 1 month Viettel 3G SIM with 3GB of data (unlimited at a reduced speed of 256KB once the 3GB is used up) and VDN50k of call credits for VDN340k. This included the VDN90k payable for the SIMcard itself.
That was 1 month ago so I needed to top it up.
I went into a Minimart and bought a VND200k ‘scratchy’ top up. The girl behind the counter loaded to credits onto my SIM for me (which was nice of her). I had read on the internet that, on Viettel, you can buy 3.5Gb of data for VDN200k.
I tried to buy that data but failed and Viettel does not have an English website / phone app to help.
The girl at my Hotel did it for me but, after her calling Viettel, we discovered that I could only get 1.5Gb for VND120k. That ‘s OK, it means that I have a VDN80k credit for my next top up.
The center of Nha Trang is fairly small and you can walk everywhere that you need to.
You can easily rent a scooter if you want to and the roads and traffic are reasonably safe.
ACCOMMODATION / WHERE TO STAY:
I used BOOKING.COM to find the Letimo Guesthouse (now called the Victory Guesthouse).
My room was below GRANDPAcking standard. It was perfectly OK for me but the room was ‘cosy’ and the ensuite had a ‘musky’ smell. The in-room wifi was good. So was the aircon and cable channel tv. The staff were very friendly and helpful.
I had compared prices with AGODA who were offering slightly better discounted accommodation (including breakfast) for US$17.
I decided to use the US$8 difference (VND176k) to discover my own breakfast spots. You can buy a lot of breakfast for that many dong.
Most of the eateries are ‘westernised’ with tourist prices. You will be paying VND80-100k for a ‘standard’ meal.
You can find street stalls selling simple Burgers or filled Baguettes for as little as VND15-20k.
In the cheapest local cafes you can get a ‘no frills’ Fried Eggs & Baguette for VND15k and a Vietnamese Black Coffee for VND10k.
I found my favourite ‘breakfast local’ called the ‘3 Sisters’ just 10m down the alley from the Letimo / Victory Guesthouse.
There are many bars with Happy Hours… some are better than others.
In Happy Hour, you should be able to get a Saigon Green or Larue for VND8-10k.
Some of the more ‘westernised’ bars do Happy Hour 2 for 1s where you pay VND35k for something like a Saigon Export (with your next one free).
Outside of Happy Hour, VND30-35k is an average price for a beer.
The beach front is riddled with Tourist restaurants and bars.
All along the beach you will find loungers, towels, and sun umbrellas for rent.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
I am not a ‘shopper’ but noticed that there were many shops catering for tourists. From what I saw, the prices were reasonable – but shop around.
Minimarts: Large bottled water VND10k. Toiletries about 30-50% of European prices.
To get back to the International Airport, you can make your way back to the old Cam Ranh Airport and catch the minibus for VND65k. BUT, make sure that you are there AT LEAST 3 hours before your flight leaves as they don’t always leave to a schedule and the drive takes 40-45 minutes.
Your budget hotel can help book you a taxi. The ‘going rate’ is VND250k.
I had to leave at 5am, so the taxi driver wanted VND300k – which we agreed on the phone (with the help of my friendly receptionist). Most, if not all, taxis have a modern taxi meter; the meter clocked up a price of VND580k… so, agreeing a price ‘up front’ is DEFINITELY the way to go.
However, when we got to the Airport the driver wanted VND350k – he wanted to charge me VND50k more for my suitcase. Do these people think that a tourist travels without luggage? I stood my ground and asserted that we had agreed VND300k. He reluctantly agreed.
Nha Trang didn’t do much for me; it is just a small Tourist Town with inflated prices … I wouldn’t stay for long… move on to Hoi An (it’s much nicer).
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