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Nha Trang, Vietnam is one of the best travel cheap to paradise white sand beach bargains in the world. Starting at $11 per day for food and shelter for hostel backpackers and up to $35 per day for private apartment dwellers living it up.
Shelter: When you book online, stay south of the Tran Phu Bridge but within a mile or so of the bridge. That is the walkable part of the Nha Trang Beach. Rent a hotel near the beach on Agoda.com for the first day for about $20-25.00 per night. There are hostels for $5.00 per night. There are several to choose from.
In Vietnam, not all hotels are on the Internet. Once you are there you can find a better place for cheaper. Walk around the beach area and find a hotel within a few blocks of the beach that is clean and nice. You will pay about $16 per night. Just ask to see a room and see if it will meet your needs. If you need Internet, make sure you get the wifi password and test connectivity before picking a hotel. I found a hotel less than a block from the beach with a balcony, AC, and unlimited Internet. It was $16 per night.
After a night or two, when you are sure you like that hotel, and everything works as promised, ask if there is a discount for booking another week or two. You will pay about $14 a night if you book for a week and $12 per night if you book for a month.
Transportation: I rented a scooter for 24 hours for about $6. There are scooter rentals every few blocks. That afternoon I drove north for an hour or so along the coast and then returned. The next morning, I drove south for an hour along the coast and then returned. I also drove through some of the residential areas of Nha Trang. Go slow and steady and wear a helmet. A taxi is about $3 to get around town, but more interesting to just walk. I never jumped on a bus but they cost less than $1. The overnight express train from Saigon to Nha Trang was about $38.00 for a sleeper bed.
Life: Nha Trang is a well known beach town in Vietnam, so it is interesting to get away and see how the locals live. To the north you will find a fishing village but not many English speakers. It is fascinating to drive your scooter down side streets and see everyday life. Chickens running about, hand washed clothing hanging out to dry, all ages looking at you like you are from another planet.
The people are very friendly and I never felt in danger no matter what time of day or night. I must look American, because a few people said with a smile, “Hey America, how are you?”
No fear in any of the faces. Most everyone has a smile for you and they look happy as they are going about their business for the day. In the city, they don’t seem as interested, more focused on what they are doing. The difference between rural and city behavior is the same all over the world.
South of Nha Trang there is an enclave of homes that you would see in the nicest areas of any town in America. Government of any form seems unable to hold the ambitious down.
Food: The Nha Trang beach community has something for everyone. There are ‘feet in the sand’ seaside restaurants with $12 entrees and more local restaurants a block or two off the beach for $2 per meal. There are also a few walking grills that will cook a meal in front of you on the beach for $2-3 per meal.
Exercise: At dawn, the beach is full of people who are swimming and watching the sun rise. I have never seen such busy beaches at dawn. Some people are stretching, not many runners, but a few groups doing some form of Tai Chi. It can be warm in the middle of the day so make sure to get your exercise in the morning or evening. I was running in the high sand for exercise in the morning and walking in the evenings taking pictures because that is when the light is best.
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