When most people think about travelling to an exotic beach, Thailand is often high up on their wish-list. But did you know that next-door Vietnam has some equally spectacular beaches to rival many of those offered by its more frequently populated neighbour?
Boasting a staggering 3260km coastline it is hard to visit Vietnam without a visit to the beach so here is the lowdown on some of Vietnam’s hot-spots.
1. Vung Tau. Best for observing the locals
If you are visiting Ho Chi Minh City for a few days then you should consider a day-trip to Vung Tau which lies about 125km away. The best way to get there is by taking a hydrofoil from the small pier opposite the Majestic hotel. Ferries run regularly and cost about $6 each way. The hour-long journey takes you down the Saigon river where the city skyline disappears onto the horizon and green floating fauna lazily drifts through the murky brown waters.
Vung Tau is a traditional Vietnamese fishing town and you will not find many tourists on the beaches. Vietnamese men and children dive excitedly through the waves while the women stand on the shore watching and gossiping with each other. It is not a common sight to see Vietnamese women in the water and if they are they will be fully clothed. Be warned that if you stroll past them in a skimpy bikini you will be subject to stares and gossip here.
Vung Tau is best enjoyed observing how the locals spend their time off. Sunday is the best day to go for this as Sunday is most people’s day off. There are plenty of coffee shops or you can climb the 133 step ascent to the top of the Christ of Vung Tau statue but remember that if you have shoulders or cleavage on display then you will probably be refused a ticket—modesty is important in Vung Tau.
2. Mui Ne. Best for relaxing, kitesurfing and exploring
If you want a beach where you can model your new skimpy bikini then Mui Ne near the city of Phan Thiet is the place to go. Despite the close proximity of Mui Ne to HCMC (200km), the journey is often a 5 or 6 hour long white-knuckle ride down the treacherous Highway 1. On National days this journey can stretch to 11 or 12 hours due to the high volume of traffic. Phan Thiet currently has no airport so the bus is the best way to get there. Buses are easy to organise through any travel agency, or by booking with the Mai Linh bus operator.
The beach is a long stretch of palm-fringed coastline from Phan Thiet towards tiny fishing village Mui Ne. Generally the cheaper accommodation can be found nearer to Mui Ne but if you fancy something a bit more luxurious then there are some beautiful resorts at the end nearest Phan Thiet. The Sailing Club is a popular resort with a great bar.
Mui Ne is a very popular destination for Kite-surfing and a visit in season will see hundreds of kites soaring over the horizon in the day. By night there are a few bars that are very popular with backpackers so head over to Jibes, Wax and Sankara if you want to meet other travellers, share a bucket or dance on the beach.
If you want to escape the beach for a day then Mui Ne is also home to some spectacular sand-dunes and gorges. A walk in the sand-dunes makes you feel like you are in a scene from Lawrence of Arabia and are well-worth putting on your itinerary.
3. Nha Trang. Best for partying
If partying, booze cruises and cheap food is your thing then Nha Trang will be more your scene. Don’t expect anything like you can find in Thailand, Vietnam has (thankfully) not reached that stage yet, in fact it is quite common for the police to close down late night parties – but you can still have fun in Vietnam’s beach destinations.
Nha Trang’s beach is surprisingly beautiful, with lush green islands rising out of deep blue seas (as long as you can ignore the trashy Hollywood-style Vinpearl sign from the theme park on the closest island) and there is a lot to do there. If you have had your fill of sunbathing then you can visit the aforementioned theme park, take a mud spa or visit nearby temples.
By night the beach comes alive at the Sailing Club (the same chain as the Sailing Club in Mui Ne) before finishing the party at the Why Not Bar. Nha Trang is a very popular destination for both locals and travellers so you are sure to meet some interesting people during your time there.
Dangers and Annoyances
Like anywhere else, travellers must exercise caution when visiting the beaches of Vietnam. People are most off their guard when relaxing at a beach which makes petty crime easy. Here are some of my tips to having a great time.
- Check the price of your hotel carefully before you agree to stay. If you can get something in writing beforehand then do it. Some of the cheap guesthouses have been known to put their prices up during your stay and as, by law, you have to give your passport in at all guesthouses in Vietnam you will have to cough up what they ask for in order to get it back.
- Unless you are actually planning to buy from the beach sellers (mainly Nha Trang) then do not engage in casual conversation with them, just repeat a firm “No, thank you” until they leave you.
- Keep your valuables in a locked safe, or at the very least have a lock on your case/backpack if possible. Most hotels are fine but if you leave a roll of dollars lying around then you give an opportunist an easy opportunity.
- Nha Trang is notorious for petty crime (read my experience), so keep your wits about you.
- Don’t buy sun cream from the beachside shacks, even if it looks like your usual brand. It is often not real sun cream and will not protect you.
- NEVER sunbathe topless or wear G-string/thong bikinis. Vietnam is a modest country and you will offend the locals—bad travel etiquette.
Vietnam has loads more beautiful beaches, this is just a selection. Have you visited any other Vietnamese beaches that are worthy of a mention? Please leave a comment to let me know about it!