The Russians are coming

There’s something you notice pretty quickly when you get to the beach town of Nha Trang in Vietnam – everything’s in Russian!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

Updated:

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Walking along the footpath, hungry, I do what I often do. I see a menu displayed outside a restaurant and so I stop to see if it’s the kind of thing that takes my fancy.

There are lots of small street food options in Vietnam but they don’t normally have menus – just simply “Pho” or “Banh Mi” on a sign or a wall. If something is written down on paper, it’s normally for the benefit of tourists and written in English.

Which is why I get such a shock when I start to flick through this particular menu and can’t understand a single world. And that’s not because it’s written in Vietnamese. The whole thing is in Russian!

Russians in Nha Trang, Vietnam

It’s something I come across again and again here in the coastal city of Nha Trang. Menus in Russian, signs in windows in Russian, even entire shopfronts printed in Russian.

It’s clear where the tourists in Nha Trang are coming from.

Russians in Nha Trang, Vietnam

In fact, the Vietnamese coast has become extremely popular with Russian tourists. There are now more than 700 direct flights each year.

When the snow covers the motherland, they can escape to the sun and surf of an Asian playground. Last year, there were 200,000 visitors to Vietnam from Russia.

Russians in Nha Trang, Vietnam

It is noticeable here in Nha Trang and at first I’m not sure what I think about it.

I ponder it for a while, turning it over in my head as I browse all the bottles of vodka for sale in the convenience store and smile at all the unnaturally blonde women wearing too much make up for the beach.

In some respects, it is no different than going to Bali and having everything written in English for Australians, or going to the Portuguese coast where mock English pubs have been built for the Brits.

You would find American chains in Cancun and all across the Caribbean.

Russians in Nha Trang, Vietnam

I guess I don’t notice this as much, though, because I am an English speaker who has probably been brought up with similar Western influences.

It makes me feel more comfortable when I can read the menu or recognise a brand. So I can see how it must feel nice for the Russian tourists to get this sense in Nha Trang.

Russians in Nha Trang, Vietnam

But, on the other hand, signs and menus in English are not necessarily out there just to help native speakers like Australians or British.

English is the lingua franca for travellers and people from plenty of countries know enough to find it useful. It stands out when something is in another language – it feels wrong, I’ve got to admit.

Russians in Nha Trang, Vietnam

Development in Nha Trang

The beach at Nha Trang is nice – much nicer than I remember it from my last trip here about a decade ago.

The sand is relatively clean and the water refreshing. It’s not overly crowded and it’s close to hotels, bars and restaurants.

From the sand, I can see plenty of big developments going up. There’s a rush to get new hotels, even bigger than the ones that exist already, with hopes that more Russians will be coming in the next few years.

Russians in Nha Trang, Vietnam

There is a slight problem – the recent fall in the value of the rouble is making it more expensive for people to travel overseas from Russia. However, Vietnam is so cheap that it’s not expected to have a major impact in the long term, just soften the numbers slightly for now.

In fact, a lot of the Russians who can afford to travel on family holidays – because there are clearly a lot of families here – have a fair bit of money.

You can also see the impact that’s having in Nha Trang. Prices for food in a lot of the restaurants are higher than in other parts of the country and much of the food on offer is at the more luxurious end (think lobster or tortoise!).

Russians in Nha Trang, Vietnam

One morning, I’m sitting down by the beach looking out at the surf (it’s pretty small) when a sunglasses vendor comes up to me. These are the guys with huge boards filled with more than a hundred sunglasses that they carry over their shoulder.

We have a bit of a chat and he tells me about the Russian tourists. While Australians like me travel to a few places in Vietnam and just stay in Nha Trang for a matter of days, he says, the Russians will come here and stay for weeks – maybe even a month.

It doesn’t really bother him who comes and for how many days – as long as they buy sunglasses.

Russians in Nha Trang, Vietnam

And, ultimately, I guess that’s the point. We, us tourists, are all guests here and we can’t expect anything to be any particular way.

If the local Vietnamese businesses choose to make certain nationalities welcome, that’s their right, and it’s actually quite nice in a way (even if it’s surely so they can make a bit more money).

I’ll just have to point at what I want to eat.

There are lots of great things to do in Nha Trang, though, and I would recommend having a look at one of these options:

 

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN NHA TRANG

The biggest range of accommodation is right in the centre of town, near the beach, but there are a few gems further out of Nha Trang.

BACKPACKER

If you’re looking for a clean and friendly backpacker place, Dhome Nha Trang is your best option.

BUDGET

There are so many hotels and the prices change a lot with the seasons. Seaway Hotel often has great deals.

BOUTIQUE

I think the most stylish hotel in town is the InterContinental Nha Trang.

LUXURY

But if you want even more luxury, your best bet is the Mia Resort Nha Trang.

23 thoughts on “The Russians are coming”

    • Yes, it’s true, there is quite a lot to do. I think for most people, though, the beach is the main attraction. I don’t think the other sights it offers are better than in other cities in Vietnam.

      Reply
  1. All fair if the Russians repay the favour and treat them with respect. Unfortunately, my travels in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam revealed quite the opposite.
    Many of the Russian tourists treated the locals (and other non-Russian tourists) with disdain.

    Reply
    • It seems that Russian tourists do have that reputation. And I can say that I’ve come across some poor behaviour myself. But I don’t think it’s fair to judge everyone based on a few experiences. Having said that, I do think there is often an attitude of arrogance from travellers who are wealthy but come from countries where a lot of the population isn’t. They take their status overseas on holidays with them (where it is rather irrelevant!!).

      Reply
      • Russians do not generally demonstrate respect for other people. Russians treat Russians the same way as they treat Vietnamese, British or anybody else. Country’s latest history is the one to blame. People were treated badly by the government for generations. This defensive approach will go the same way it came. Russians are good people. It is vital for them to see another way. And believe me, they take it on board.

        Reply
  2. Russians are the worst travellers by far first rude ,arrogant but they don’t make any effort to learn a new culture or talk with other travellers which is the best part.. How can you learn about new places when you’re head is so far up your ass to see what surrounds you… Ha little Moscow ?? Nah trangh sux because of this am I am pissed I took a 12 hour bus to learn this worst decision I have made traveling.. And yes I do try to talk to them but they just hate it if you’re not Russian… Truth hurts like my bank account after this trip…

    Reply
    • Dont paint everyone with the same brush. I’ve seen plenty of arrogance from Norway, UK and other European countries 20 year olds who come to Vietnam and Thailand thinking these countries​ owe them something. Completely​ drunk, loud, arrogant with buckets in their hands. The whole backpacker scene has brought some ugliness to these places. Let’s face it, once you mix any culture into the local way of life it will change everyone’s experience

      Reply
      • I agree completely with you, Kirill. I have to admit that I have seen some terrible behaviour from Russians but have also seen terrible behaviour from most nationalities (definitely including my own – Australian). It’s not fair to judge people by their race. Having said that, I do find that some nationalities tend to behave worse than others overall in certain places. It’s almost a mob mentality, they egg each other on. The Brits in Spain, Aussies in Bali, Americans in Mexico, etc. Of course, again, that doesn’t mean that everyone is like that but there’s a trend. It’s a shame but it’s probably always going to happen – I think one of the reasons people go in holidays is to have an excuse to behave like that!!

        Reply
  3. I work for over 2 decates as a tour leader in South east asia and i can tell you. Russians are rude , noisy , inpolite and dont care anyone else as themselves. Everywhere i come with groups of European tourists we never have problems with other groups or cultures exept with Russians. Always problems. There are now even hotels in Thailand where no Russians are allowed.
    I read somwhere in the comments” dont paint everyone with the same brush” well. You have no idea what you talkiing about.
    I do. Russians are from nature rude and inpolite, its grown into their culture. So first they have to learn how to behave and respect other people before leaving Russia.
    Or i will stay away from places where Russian go .

    Reply
  4. I’ve not been to Vietnam yet so cannot comment on that but I have been to many other countries all over the world and seen tourist behaviour in many forms. On my most recent trip to Thailand, I was totally appalled at the behaviour of many, many of the Russian tourists; they were unbelievably rude, just in their general day to day behaviour and when they had drink taken, they way they treated their Thai hosts was disgusting.

    Reply
  5. Love this story. It’s so perfectly on point. I’m here right now and have been feeling pretty disappointed. I signs up for a tour of Vietnam so that what I was expecting. If I wanted to see russians and there cult ire I would of gone to Russia. Can’t wait to get out of this town!!

    Reply
  6. My partner and I are currently staying in Vinpearl in Nha Trang – and we’ve never felt so homesick before! I honestly thought that I was just being petty over little things… not saying thank you when my partner holds the door open for them, not waiting till I was done rinsing sand off myself at the open showers by the beach, pushing to line up to the speed boats and not smiling when you walked pass are only just a few things… And what was worse was that we were getting the same attitude from Vietnamese people, but I understand that it reciprocates from them hosting Russians. In comparison to when we went to Thailand (they had the most beautiful people)- the Russian culture has ruined this trip for me. We’ve tried to remain positive, but it’s disheartening! I do hope it changes, because we love our pho noodle soups!

    Reply
  7. Russians have to be the rudest most arrogant and aggressive tourists I’ve ever encountered in my travels. They unfortunately seem to have invaded Cuba like the plague. No more peaceful cheap vacations to Cuba.

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  8. i dispute the comment about Russians staying a month, yes some do but rarely, most are package tourists and stay a week or 10 days drink themselves to death from morning to night on the beach and go home after. Thats fact.

    Reply
  9. Thank you for the story, so did you find some good restaurants with English speaking waiters or waitresses or menu? Need some good recommendations please.

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  10. My wife and I are in Nha Trang now for a month. We’ve been here so far for a week. Russians are everywhere, but the majority of tourists are still ‘Asian’. We haven’t noticed anything more about the Russians other than they don’t smile. Nha Trang is still a beautiful destination with great food. You may even run into the odd Australian? We’re the ones that smile a lot 😉

    Reply
  11. I am currently in Nha Trang now and everything you say is true EXCEPT that the beaches are clean. I wish I could send a picture showing how disgusting the water and beach is because it full of plastic, bottles, trash, dead fish etc. I literally did not want to get in the water !!

    Reply
    • And someone comment about the Thais are so lovely.. i know Thailand very well, lived there for years had a few Thai GF’s, still have some friends there. It is the tourists that change the locals. In every city in the world, in Amsterdam you buy fake cocaine (i am from there) and in Phuket or in all other tourists places in Thailand many Thais are not friendly and rude, and in Roma around the Trevi fountain you wouldn’t find the authentic Italian hospitality.. Nha Trang is no difference. GROW UP PEOPLE!

      Reply
  12. Spot on! I am from The Netherlands and I found all these ‘Russian Mafia are taking over Nha Trang’ posts. In the ‘west’ we expect everything to be English or ‘local’. Great post!

    Reply
  13. My family & I spent a week holiday inn in Nha Trang in May 2018.
    The Russian presence was strong. They did their thing, we did ours.
    Until the day my 7yr old grandson in the blink of an eye decided to travel down the escalator in a shopping centre like a child on a banister on a staircase.
    He quickly started to lose control on the moving hand rail.
    Leaving my son & his partner helpless to reach him in time an heroic Russian man on the escalator abandoned his shopping & plucked our boy to the safety of his arms delivering him to my son moments later at the bottom.
    The Russian man spoke no English. The only way my son could communicate hie gratitude was with a very firm handshake.
    We will always be grateful to this man. Our brief experience with a Russian while on holiday in Vietnam will always be remembered with much gratitude & appreciation.

    Reply

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