The city of Nha Trang actually has two different airports. Whilst the original Nha Trang airport used to serve both civilian and military traffic, today it is a military airbase and normal air traffic is redirected to Nha Trang’s second airport, Cam Ranh International Airport (CXR).
Cam Ranh International Airport had its humble beginnings as a US Air Force base before switching sides in the closing days of the Vietnam war. For the next 25 years, the airport was actually leased by the Russian Air Force as a forward base in the region, before returning it to Vietnam in 2002. Vietnam decided to turn the existing Nha Trang airport into a full military base and direct passenger aircraft to a renovated Cam Ranh airport. The silver lining to all these different handovers is that the airport has seen substantial upgrades and modernization over the years.
The Vietnam government continued to invest in the airport and finished construction on a new second terminal in 2018, as well as a 3 km second runway, finished only in late 2019.
An interesting item of trivia is that of the 10 million passengers who passed through Cam Ranh International Airport in 2019, more were international travelers than domestic passengers, the only airport to have this unique passenger mix in Vietnam.
As such there are plenty of international flights into Nha Trang, and it rivals Da Nang for international destinations. You can fly to most local cities with one or two seasonal routes to Europe. However, there are few long-haul services from Nha Trang and you might have to transfer to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to get true long-haul flights. All of the local carriers operate domestic services to this airport as well.
Terminals at CXR
The airport has two terminals, the first smaller and the older one for domestic flights and the shiny new one for international flights. The terminals are air-conditioned and have free wifi throughout.
For passengers traveling to Nha Trang, you must check your expectations when you arrive as queue times can be horrendously long. For both departures and arrivals, the system for passengers entering and exiting the terminals (immigration and security) can take over an hour, so it is recommended to arrive as early as possible, at least three hours before your flight leaves. Also in a strange design flaw, there are no toilets for arriving passengers before immigration.
Like many other airports in Vietnam, all prices are in US dollars. This can mean that meals are 5-10 times more expensive on the airside of the terminal (after security) than in central Nha Trang. Departing passengers might not be able to spend local currency before they leave the country as it depends on the stores if they accept it.
Speaking of the local currency, for arrivals, there is actually only one ATM in the airport and the currency exchange is quite expensive compared to central Nha Trang. If this is your first stop of exploring Vietnam, you might do better to get the money exchanged in your departure city before leaving.
Transportation at CXR
To get into central Nha Trang from the airport, you have two choices. The local bus and the local taxis.
The local bus will take you right into the center of the city and tickets can be bought in the arrival hall. It can be quite crowded when the airport is busy so if you have a large group or a lot of luggage you might be denied boarding. It will cost around 40,000 Dong (Around $1.70 US dollars).
But for those looking for a bit more luxury, it might be best to take a local taxi. They are pretty obvious to spot, colored all yellow and marked as taxis. Make sure you insist on the meter to get the best deal, or you can buy a prepaid voucher for 290k Dong ($12.50 USD) in the arrivals hall to reach most hotels in Nha Trang.
If you have a local number you can download an app called Grab (an Uber-like app) and hail a private car for half the price of a taxi. However, Nha Trang doesn’t allow Grab cars to pick up passengers at the terminal and you will need to walk out into the carpark.
Nha Trang is a great destination for solo adventurers, couples and families alike and the new airport terminal is a bonus for a rapidly growing destination. Cam Ranh International Airport might have some flaws yes, but as the nation grows this strategic airport has grown with it.