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. Nha Trang, like Mui Ne farther South, are very popular with Russian tourists. Consequently, most of the tourist infrastructure is reared towards those and you might find yourself not able to read the menu of a restaurant or check into a hotel, because the staff only speaks Russian/Vietnamese.
Cam Ranh Airport (CXR), built on the grounds of an old American airbase in 2004, is located 30km from the city and serves domestic destinations as well as Russia and South Korea. Taxi fare from the airport to downtown locations is a fixed rate of 380,000 VND, 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. Try to take a Mai Linh taxi as the Airport taxi drivers will quite often try to take advantage of you in some way.
A cheaper option is to take the airport bus at 70,000 VND to the old Nha Trang Airport Tower (closed). They sell the tickets for this 10-12 passengers mini bus at a desk just outside the baggage claim. Get the ticket, go out of the terminal, turn LEFT and the bus stop will be at the end of the sidewalk. The front of the mini bus will have CAM RANH written in white. That is the name of the company, but the destination is Nha Trang; confirm the destination with the driver. The bus company may hire a mini van taxi in case there are less passengers. Once in Nha Trang, the driver may drop you off at the entrance road to the old Nha Trang airport. The old airport terminal is in the city not far from most hotels. The bus office is located at the left end of the old tower building. For your return trip, get there 3 hours before your departure time and purchase your ticket. The bus station only runs when there are flights in/out of Cam Ranh Airport. Most city hotels should be reached by taxi for 40,000 dong or less. Mini hotel alley at 64 Tran Phu costs just 15,000 dong.
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 VND to Nha Trang (about an hour). The bus stops and the buses are orange coloured.
After a major upgrade, the airport has since 2010 been renamed “Cam Ranh International Airport” and is looking to attract direct package tour flights from overseas.
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.
For sorting through the schedules and fares of the different railway lines departing or arriving to Nha Trang, the travel search engine Baolau is a useful tool. It calculates the best route to connect Nha Trang with any other city of the railway network and provides information of the location of the train station and official ticket offices.
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. Soft seat is 310.000 dong (June 2012) The SNT trains take over 9 hours and travels overnight only.
For 535,000 dong (lower bed T1 or 465,000 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 September 2012. 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 8.00PM and arrives in Nha Trang at 5AM, in March 2013 a ticket purchased same day at the railway station cost 519,000 dong for soft berth sleeper (upper bed)
The train station is about 1 km away from the city centre, so you can easily walk.