Nha Trang, the Ibiza of Vietnam... While some information on internet might lead you to think that it is a worthy destination, we explain here why you could doubt it.
For those who don’t know where Nha Trang is or why we bring it a particular interest, well you need to know that as per Wikipedia: “Nha Trang is well-known for its beaches and scuba diving and has developed into a popular destination for international tourists, attracting large numbers of backpackers, as well as more affluent travelers on the south-east Asia circuit; it is already very popular with Vietnamese tourists, with Nha Trang Bay widely considered as among the world’s most beautiful bays”
It’s located on the coast line of Vietnam, not so far from Dalat. There is an airport and it is one of the favorite beach destinations in Vietnam. In 2015, we went for a cycling trip and decided to stop by this city to enjoy the bay and scuba dive there as it is a popular scuba diving spot in Vietnam before heading to Ho Chi Minh. Of course, when you look up on Google, you find only amazing pictures and rapidly we though it was a must-do. How wrong we were…
The beaches are fairly dirty and polluted
No much words to say besides the fact that our stay in Nha Trang has been the trigger to create this blog. When you go on holidays and you pay a substantial money to enjoy sun and beach, you expect it to be clean. The beaches are full of trash and even if the municipality cleans them every day, there is a huge amount of garbage floating in the sea, so you swim between plastic bags and other kind of trash. We even saw a syringe!
Then you walk in the street and you see some trash a bit everywhere. The street dirtiness is not worse than anywhere else in Vietnam though. We were expecting a lot from the Nha Trang beaches as they are supposed to be among the most beautiful of Southern Asia. Unfortunately, tourism is developing rapidly and not in a sustainable way in Vietnam, it is going out of control.
The coral reefs are destroyed or close to be
We stopped by Nha Trang because we wanted to dive as this is one of the best spot to dive in Vietnam. We had 4 dives planned. We did 1 and we cancelled the others. I actually cried (do not try this; it’s really difficult to cry and breathe in a regulator!). Why? Because the reefs were destroyed by the fishing boats as there are no regulations and no protection in place. All the coral was dead except for 2 or 3 small remaining reefs. It looked quite apocalyptic.
Very little marine life, and for the few fishes that were there, they didn’t look such in good shape. I met one butterfly fish with a hook stuck in its jaw which was preventing him from opening its mouth. We couldn’t do anything for him, I felt terrible. I didn’t want to see more of that so I asked Denis to cancel the other dives.
It is expensive
Compared to the rest of Vietnam, prices are in average 20% higher in Nha Trang for accommodation and it’s the same for bars and food. Of course you can always find cheaper places, but we found the city more expensive and less Vietnamese-typical.
It is not very beautiful
You would tell us that you don’t go to Nha Trang for the city and you would be right because the city looks like any other coastline city in Asia. There is nothing that stroke us in particular. Not its originality, not its charm, not its people, not much.
It is mainly a Russian holiday destination
If you are looking for a typical Vietnamese experience, you will be disappointed in Nha Trang. Everything is designed for tourists especially for Russian tourists. Most bars and restaurants have a Russian menu and even in shops you find Russian translation. Very exotic.
The food isn’t particularly good
That point is actually pretty similar to the point before, but we had spent 2 weeks and a half in Vietnam before heading to Nha Trang, so we tasted some food and tried a certain number local places. In Nha Trang, nothing is really local, besides the name of the dishes. We didn’t enjoy the food in Nha Trang even though we stayed 3 days and tried different kind of restaurants. This is the reason we ate 2 times at the same restaurant, we couldn’t find anything better…For the food, go to Hue, well known in Vietnam for its cuisine.
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June 24, 2017
You came here during the long APEC event or/and and festivals (did u?). This is a peak time, much more (domestic) tourists than other months of the year.
I go to swim every day in front of the hotels in the mornings. I also noticed much more trash and messy sand etc these days. But some weeks later it will be fine again, garbage s been continuously collected.
Russian texts everywhere? Oh, u prefer more English banners and menus? Why? Because u are native E-Speakers? Wrong. Ur article is deeply biased. But sure, u do not have to come back here.
The sea is clean, but u have t o get up early not like an average tourist at noon. Suggested hours in the water from 05:00 to 8:30 AM – got it?
From the other hand u r right. The whole city/the whole country – mainly the local gov – would need more education and less greed to develop better.
January 22, 2018
I couldn’t agree with you more! Instead of Nha Trang, it is recommended that we should go to Phu Yen, Ninh Thuan or some islands off the southern coast like Phu Quy Island. Or if your budget is allowed, go ahead to Con Son Island.
February 27, 2018
The locals are burned out on foreigners and are not particularly friendly. Add to that, an impatience when it comes to paying your bill and watch your change after having paid your bill. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve had issues with this.
July 3, 2018
I was lying at the beach and noticed a lot of rubbish. Also the swimming experience was one of rubbish. And with a little research I found your website, and would like to give some encouraging news. I was with my children and we decided to start cleaning the beach in front of us. What soon followed was other travelers (including russians) joining our effort. This is something I will do now at every beach I go to, lead by example.
The good thing of Nha Trang beach is that the boulevard is squeaky clean and there are plenty of bins around to discard rubbish. Later in the day I also noticed cleaning being done by a paid local. Still it was not enough. More needs to be done to clean the beach.
July 10, 2018
Hi Arthur, thanks for sharing. yes more needs to be done, but I am happy to read some encouraging signs!
August 4, 2018
MY NHA TRANG, MY VIETNAM
Beautiful! Mountain, hill,gorge, valley, forest, plain, lake, waterfall, river, canal, pond, island, beach, sand dune, reef, coral, 4 seasons in the north and 2 in the south.
Beautiful women and handsome men! Women as hardworking and industrious as men and contribute to family rice bowl. Men and women family oriented. Typical family nucleus is 30. Venerate elders and war martyrs. Love children and dogs. Endure hardships and sacrifices. Great ‘can do’ spirit, practical and innovative.
People are no different from anywhere else, generally warm and friendly. If they seem reserved, it’s because not many speak foreign lingo (and not many foreigners speak Vietnamese!). So yes, they do keep away from foreigners not because they are unfriendly.
And how many of us can honestly say that we’re not burned out by too many foreigners and tourists coming to our shores? As they say, let’s get away! Why do many of us prefer to live in the suburbs and commute to work in the cities? We all have our own reasons but cost of living is not the only answer. It gets too crowded, we all need space!
Rich in diversity. Many different ethnic groups continue to maintain their own culures with sustainable development. It’s more than just tourist attractions, it’s a way of living. Just as much as the Kinh have their world renowned Ao Dai, the Jarai men have their loincloth, the Cham have their Ponagar, the Ede have their gongs, et al. 54 ethnic cultures in total and all thriving.
Tet see everybody ‘ve que’. for family reunion like ‘Thanksgiving ‘ holidays. Tet see many people proudly and rightly dtessed in traditional Ao Dai, both men and women. Tet see many family and friends visiting each other, feasting together (like your turkey dinner), catching up with one another, handing out gifts to family members, visiting temples and churches to pay respect to God.
I understand that in the days gone by, maybe as far back as the reign of King Hung Vuong, people used to live under one roof separated only by curtains, regardless of kinship. No, not safety in numbers as I originally thought! But in the true spirit of community. People don’t live like that anymore but the strong bond still exist to this day, stronger than your strongest super glue!
Perhaps this is the main reason how the Vietnamese people survive 2 wars in modern history. How soft power is mightier than bombs! Just as Uncle Ho proved that the pen or typewriter is mightier than the sword! This strong bond can easily be misunderstood by foreigners (myself included initially) that the locals are perhaps xenophobic. Cultural differences yes, xenophobic NO!
5. Local Food
Like any other international tourist destination, Nha Trang has its fair share of foreign restaurants catering to tourists from all over the world. Still, it is perfectly understandable that most foreign tourists will want to try local delicacies wherever they go. These are my personal favourites in alphabetical order, check them out!
1. Banh canh cua
2. Banh cuon
3. Banh xeo
4. Bun bo
5. Bun cha
6. Bun rieu
7. Cha gio
8. Hu tieu nam vang
9. Mi quang
10. Pho xao bo
Depending pn their target customers, many shops and restaurants in the tourist area have signboards in foreign languages, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, English, French, et al.
6. Safety and Security
Yes, better than most places I know. Occasional petty crimes like stealing and snatching, mostly against careless individuals, local and foreign alike. Hardly any violent crime. Most petty crimes are committed by young adults from elsewhere. In fact, some foreigners have committed high tech crimes like ATM violations in Nha Trang!
7. Sustainable Tourism
When I first came to Nha Trang 5 years ago, I was knocked out by its beautiful beach and clean water, clean streets, fresh air, mild winter, polite and soft spoken locals, good food and most important of all, safe environment. And I never stop coming back since!
Nothing much have changed except for more hotels and resorts. And there are now more direct flights to Nha Trang. With the increase in tourists, more efforts are needed o keep the water, beach and streets clean. Yes, there are more trash bins on the streets but they are often quickly filled up and spilled over. Tourists too need to do their part. It’s all about sustainable tourism!
We are all guilty at one time or another of judging others by our own yardstick. I am no exception. There were many instances especially in my early years in Vietnam when I jumped to conclusions without fully understanding the underlying reasons, only to find time proved me wrong. So come back to Vietnam, you’ll love Nha Trang as much as I do!
November 21, 2018
Thank you so much Khiem! I was reading through your comment and first of all, I would like to say that I am really happy that you shared your point of view about Nha Trang. I believe that bringing different opinions really enrich the discussion. Nha Trang was not such a good experience for us but after reading you, I felt like going back and ask you to be my guide! I am sure I will see things differently then. You have such a strong love for your city, and your country, that I feel I will have to write a new article about Nha Trang. Don’t get me wrong though, I didn’t hate Nha Trang, I just felt that mass tourism invaded the place. And that it lost this authenticity that I loved so much about Vietnam. But please don’t hesitate to share more with us, and when we come back to Nha Trang we use your tips to see things differently!
February 21, 2019
I agree with pretty much everything, ESPECIALLY the food. I’m on my 2nd Vietnam trip, just came from Nha Trang and the food was so bad, and expensive too! Tried many different dishes at many different restaurants and they were all very average at best.
Really not worth the stay IMO, I skipped Nha Trang on my first trip to Vietnam because of exactly the reasons you stated, I visited this time because I was curious if they were true, they definitely are.
If you decide to come here and want the best food available, get out of the main tourist trip (closer to the beach) and find smaller hole in the wall restaurants. My rule of thumb would be if the menu has Chinese/Russian on it, get out! If the workers only speak Viet and you see locals eating there and the prices are relatively cheap, the food is likely to be better!
February 21, 2019
Hi Michael, thanks a lot for your comment, yes unfortunately, things are not better now… Visited in 2015, it seems that 4 years later, the problem remains and seems even bigger.
August 7, 2019
I can’t agree more on this article. Visited in month of August 2019. Beach that near to the city center is polluted. Is peak season & you see lots tourists at the beach there and at the same time you would see the water is floated with rubbish. Sorry to say that I can’t swim in such condition. Besides, those snorkeling offering by tour in the town like what 4 islands or 3 islands. It’s not worth it. What Mun island for snorkeling is a crap. You see nothing and the beach there is dirty, sand is rough. Another island those tour included – Robison beach. Don’t waste your time, water is dirty, you see garbage floating too. Although ppl there is try to entertain you but can you really enjoy with such a water condition. Sorry, but not for me. About the food, I really don’t impress much with the food. May be I really don’t know where to find the best food in Nha Trang, those restaurants recommended on the webpage it’s making people doubtful about it. Expect I still could manage find a reasonable price of Vietnamese coffee. They will try to con you at the Cho Dam market when you buying those famous cashew nuts. So, if you think the pricing doesn’t making sense then please forget about it. Nha Trang airport cafe is relatively expensive in which making no sense. All quoted in USD and the price is too much of overrated. This is the place for tourist, too much commercialize in which not to my liking. Beaches are polluted this is what I see. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Correct me if there are really some others beaches in Nha Trang is worthy to go. This is my experience . I’m just telling from what I experience. There is no offense. There is always some people may like this place and some people may not.
August 8, 2019
I cant agree more on this article. I just came back from Nha Trang. Visited in the month of August 2019. Well, it was upsetting experience. The beach near the Nha Trang City Center was floated with rubbish. You see lots of tourist at the beach there swimming , sun bathing & etc, but sorry to say that the water is not clean. If you don’t mind swimming under such condition. Those island tour offering by the agency in town like 4 islands or 3 islands snorkeling day tour are not worthy. Hon Mun island saying best for snorkeling, sorry it is not. sand at the Mun Beach is rough & dirty. the whole place is not well maintain and you don’t really see fishes. Another stop at Robinson beach is disappointing too, water is not clear & you see rubbish floated around. Although the staff over there is try to
entertain you with their local show. But with such water condition, you don’t feel like swim and you could only sit there & relax on the chair. I’m not sure about the diving site whether is it a worthy dive site underwater. August is peak season, Nha Trang is crowded with tourist and all day is sunny day & very hot. Food wise also not impress. searching online on those recommended restaurant but you would definitely doubting about it. This is very personal opinion. Some may like this place – Nha Trang & there are some may not liking this place. No offence. May be there are some other beaches are nice in Nha Trang in which i didn’t ended to. I would like to hear from you if there are hidden gem in Nha Trang I have missed during my trip.
August 29, 2019
HI Syvian, thank you very much for your comments. I really appreciate that you took the time to tell us your experience. I am sorry that you didn’t like Nha Trang, I share the same feeling of disappointment, which is why I wrote this article. I sincerely hope things would change, but I visited in 2015 and you seem to say situation has worsened. So probably no hope for Nha Trang as a must-go destination and for sustainability…. Which makes me quite sad actually… But thank you very much for sharing this, and to give us details about your stay in Nha Trang. For sure, I won’t go back!
November 20, 2019
Most of the above is sadly true. I’ve lived in Nha Trang for close to 10 years & the place has lost its original “vibe” and is now just a classic example of mass market tourism gone wrong.
From the initial marketing to low end budget tourists from Russia to the Zero dong cheap Chinese tour groups it’s been a disaster. The place does not have a friendly vibe anymore.
It’s as though nobody gives a shit about anything. The tour groups arrive for 7 to 10 days on average & the service quality mindset is that “we won’t see them again,,,so serve them crap “
It’s all coming to back to bite them though. Nha Trang is getting a reputation as destination of choice for low end Russian & Chinese tourists. Very little spending in the new shopping malls either. You see more staff than customers. They only go into the malls for heat respite and aIr con.
A business operator complained to me that the tourists aren’t spending. He didn’t know that probably 80/90% of tourists coming here are from places where the average monthly income is only a few hundred dollars. China average income is $300 PM. Regional Russia $500 pm. Ukraine $350 pm……they don’t come here to spend money, since they have sweet fuck all to spend.
The wealthy Chinese & Russians will never come here since it’s well known NT is where the broke asses go for holidays.
Throw is the pollution from all the development, poor infrastructure & a seedy mix of bottom feeder tourists & that’s why Nha Trang has gone down the shitter…..and why I’m leaving.