Vung Tau is the tourist and commercial centre of Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu (an industrial province in southeastern Vietnam). The city lies on a peninsula which is separated from the mainland by a stream called the Co May River.
During 14th and 15th centuries, the cape that would become Vũng Tàu was a swamp which European trading ships visited regularly. The ships activities inspired the name Vũng Tàu, which means "anchorage". The Portuguese navigators passed Vũng Tàu many times and named it after Saint Jacques. The French invaded Vietnam afterwards and called it Cape Saint Jacques. The cliff of Vũng Tàu is now called Mũi Nghinh Phong (literally means “cape of greeting the wind”).
Vũng Tàu used to be called Tam Thắng ("Three Boats") in memory of the first 3 villages in this area: Thắng Nhất, Thắng Nhị, and Thắng Tam. It was within the province of Biên Hòa under the Nguyen dynasty.
10 Feb 1859 marked the first use of cannons by Nguyen's army, when they fired at French battleships from the fortress of Phước Thắng, 100 m from Vũng Tàu's Front Beach. This marked an important period in Vietnam's war against French invaders in South Vietnam (then called Cochinchina).
In 1901, the population of Vũng Tàu was 5,690, of which 2,000 persons were immigrants from northern Vietnam. Most of the town's population made their living in the fishing industry.
During the Vietnam War, Vũng Tàu was home to the Australian Army and American support units, and was a popular spot for in-country relaxation and recreation for US troops. After the war, Vũng Tàu was a common launching place for boat people fleeing the communists.
On 12 Aug 1991, the province of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu was founded and Vũng Tàu Town became Vũng Tàu City.
Economy and society
The city is in south Vietnam, and is at the tip of a small peninsula. It has traditionally been a significant port, particularly during Vietnam's period of French rule. Today, the city's importance as a port has diminished, but it still plays a significant role in Vietnam's offshore oil industry. Vung Tau is the centre of Vietnam's petroleum industry. Oil and gas exploitation dominate the city's economy and contribute to Vietnam's current account balance.
Vũng Tàu is home to 210,000 people. Roughly 1,250 are Russian specialists working in the oil industry.
Vũng Tàu has two seasons:
- Dry season (Nov-Apr): dry and slightly cooler during the winter months and the Tết Holiday. Gets hotter in Apr.
- Rainy season (May-Oct): rainy, but less so than Ho Chi Minh City. Usually hot from 12:00-15:00. Summer is ideal for seaside frolics.
Vũng Tàu is connected to the mainland by Hwy 51 (Quốc lộ 51), which runs from Biên Hòa City. The shortest route from HCMC is through HCMC - Long Thành - Dầu Giây Highway, exit at Long Thành and join Highway 51.
You can take a bus to Vung Tau from Tan Son Nhat (Tân Sơn Nhất) International Airport (SGN IATA). All buses are parked near the domestic terminal. Look for "JetStar" or "Vietnam Airlines" painted on the bus body.
The fastest way on bus to Vung Tau is by taking a high speed coach from Mien Dong Coach Station (Bến Xe Miền Đông) in HCMC. Comfortable 16-seat buses with air conditioning make trips every 15 minutes. Duration: 2 hours, with a break at the halfway point. To get to Mien Dong Coach Station, take Bus 19 from Ben Thanh Market Bus Station, which will drop you opposite the Mien Dong Coach Station entrance.
It usually takes almost 2 hours from District 1, HCMC, to Vũng Tàu centre by coach/bus.
- Hoa Mai Tourist Buses, Phó Đức Chính St, District 1, HCMC, ☎ . 04:00-17:00. Operated every hour. Seats are reserved by telephone only. If you are in Vung Tau, free pick-up. 85,000 dong.
- 'Mai Linh Express', 292 Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, Bình Thạnh District, HCMC (Miền Đông Coach Station). Reliable inter-provincial bus service in Vietnam, especially southern Vietnam. Operates every 30 min. The journey from the bus depot in Ho Chi Minh City to the bus depot in Vung Tao takes approximately 2¼ hr during the day. A bottle of water is provided to every passenger. Using the toilet at the bus depot at HCMC costs 1,000 dong. 85,000 dong (Jan 2012).
- Rạng Đông Bus Company, 292 Đinh Bộ Lĩ, Bình Thạnh District, HCMC (Miền Đông Coach Station), ☎ . 04:30-19:45. To/from HCMC. Departs when bus is full, which is approximately every 20 min. Rạng Đông also serves Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, and Kontum. 80,000 dong (Jan 2012).
- Thiên Phú, 292 Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, Bình Thạnh District, HCMC (Miền Đông Coach Station). The same as Rạng Đông, but with larger buses. Departure every 15 min.
From HCMC, the best route is similar to coach/bus mentioned above. Use HCMC - Long Thành - Dầu Giây Highway, turn right at Long Thành exit and go straight on Highway 51 to reach Vũng Tàu. It takes roughly 2 hours from District 1, HCMC, to Vũng Tàu, depends on drivers and/or traffic. On public holidays or weekends, the roads usually become busier.
Drivers need to remember to follow speed limit as traffic police may present anytime, check speed and give fine. 120 km/h is limit on HCMC - Long Thành - Dầu Giây Highway. On Highway 51, drivers can reach 90 km/h on most of the way outside crowded area. In some crowded towns, it is limited to 60 km/h and prompted by big blue information signs on roadside. There are several other certain limits described by other signs infrequently.
There are 3 toll booths on the way from HCMC to Vũng Tàu. One is on HCMC - Long Thành - Dầu Giây Highway and another two are on Highway 51. At the first booth, fare for up-to-9-seat car is 40,000 đ. At the second and third booths, you pay 20,000 đ for the one you reach first and give receipt to the rest, no more charge.
As motorbikes/bicycles are forbidden from HCMC - Long Thành - Dầu Giây Highway, the best way for drivers/riders is using Cát Lái ferry. The ferry fares are:
• Motorbike (1 driver included): 3000 đ.
• Bicycles (1 rider included): 1000 đ.
• Pedestrian or extra people on motorbike: 1000 đ.
After cross the river, follow the main road to get through Nhơn Trạch district, then join Highway 51, turn right and go straight.
The road quality is acceptable for driving/riding. Just make sure you are on proper lane and watch out for pedestrians especially at busy intersections, where people cross the road irregularly at times. Except HCMC - Long Thành - Dầu Giây Highway, there are many coffee shops, restaurants, gas stations for drivers/riders to take a break. Make sure you know the price before settle down.
ShareCar, a ride-sharing service, offers free pick-up at your place in Ho Chi Minh City and in Vung Tau. A seat costs 220,000 dong one-way, booking must be made 2 days in advance via their website or via phone number: +841692715716. For shorter notice, you can pay for a chauffeur car at 700,000 dong one-way, or 1,300,000 dong two-way
"Tàu cánh ngầm" aka "Hydrofoil fast ferry" in Vietnam is a quick way to get to and from Vũng Tàu. Taking the Hydrofoil is a good way to see the commercial maritime areas as the boat runs through the Saigon River to the sea. After one hour and 15 minutes, Vũng Tàu peninsula appears with its two mountains (conveniently called "Big Mountain" and "Little Mountain") at the waterfront. This is a little more comfortable way to get to Vung Tau rather than taking the bus. It's a little more expensive at 200,000 dong/person. Booking at least one day in advance in recommended, especially at the weekend.
Scam alert: at the ticket counter in Saigon, they may refuse to sell you a return ticket, recommending that you buy it as soon as in Vung Tau. Once there, the lady at the counter will pretend that all the tickets are gone, and you will be immediately approached by local men willing to sell the tickets with a 100% surcharge, with the complicity of the ticket counter employees. Make sure you buy the return ticket in Saigon, or accept to be considered as an ATM.
- Petro Express, Hàm Nghi Road, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. 250,000 dong.
- Greenlines, Hàm Nghi Road, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. 250,000 dong.
- Vina Express, Hàm Nghi Road, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. 200,000 dong.
Essential information: Price: 10 USD/ 1 ticket/ 1 passenger (adult) and 5 USD/ child (age 6-11, high under 1.4m) Duration: 75 minutes Depart at: Bach Dang Pier in Saigon, District 1. Not far from the Majestic Hotel (100 m) Land in Cầu Đá Port, Ben Cau Da, Ha Long St, Vung Tau
Taxis fare is similar to Hồ Chí Minh city, which is 5000 đ for commencement up to the first 500 m, then 12000 đ for each 1 km (4-seat car). 7-seat car fare is up to 16000 đ/km.
These are some common taxis in Vũng Tàu and their phone numbers:
• Taxi Mai Linh 064.3.56.56.56
• Taxi Vinasun 064.38.27.27.27
• Taxi Gili 064.3.85.85.85
• Taxi Petro 064.3.851.851 – 064.3.81.81.81
• Taxi Bình An 064.3.79.79.79
• Taxi Navi 064.3.83.83.83
By taxi motorbike
As an ordinary Vietnam urban area, Vũng Tàu has plenty of xe ôm (taxi motorbike) drivers who are professional. Tourists coming to Vũng Tàu may find out that traffic is slower here, especially during weekdays. All riders in Vietnam are required to wear helmets an this is strictly enforced. As such, the driver should supply you with a helmet. If he doesn't - find another one, as you'll be the one stuck with the fine. Remember: always agree on a price before you set off.
Motorbike rental service can be found in most of hotels or hostels, especially at back beach. Price is 100,000 - 150,000 đ for automatic and 80,000 - 130,000 đ for manual bike. Make sure you have valid driving license and helmets.
Vũng Tàu should be one of the best places in Việt Nam where you can enjoy riding a bike, thanks to low traffic density and picturesque coastal roads. Bicycle rental service is not too abundant but can be found in some hostel at Back Beach. Other options are bringing your own bike from Saigon or borrow from your friends. The best cycling route is along the coast, through Thùy Vân st, Hạ Long st, Quang Trung st and Trần Phú st. With this way, slow pace to breath sea breeze or speedy race are up to you, as road quality is quite nice. If you prefer off-road, some paths up to Small/Big Mountains are good way of practice.
Wearing helmet is not mandatory yet recommended. And do not forget to watch out at any intersection as other drivers tend to not give way to biker.
Xe đạp đôi or double-bike (tandem bicycle) has been popular among youth and teenagers of Vung Tau. You can see groups of at least four riding along the windy and green streets and along the coast. A standard double-bike can carry 3 people in which 2 take the ride. You can rent a double bike at the Bãi Trước (Front Beach) Area beside Nhà thiếu nhi (Children Cultural House) or on pavements along the Bãi Sau (Back Beach) near hotels area.
Vũng Tàu is rather small, so you can walk most places. Recommended ways are: Ba Cu street (the city's centre), Đồ Chiểu street (food centre), Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị Square, Công viên Bãi trước (Front Beach park) and pavements along the coastline. Pedestrians should watch out before cross roads as drivers usually do not give way, like in most of Vietnamese cities.
- Bạch Dinh (Villa Blanche) (Trần Phú St on the slopes of Big Mountain, along Tran Phu St, 50 m above sea level). Built by the French (1898-1916) as a summer holiday house for French Governor-General Paul Doumer. The building was named Villa Blanche after his favourite daughter. The name Villa Blanche accurately describes its appearance. For that season, local people call it Bạch Dinh (White Palace). Later governors used this summerhouse so occasionally so it is also called “Villa du Gouverneur” (Dinh Toan Quyen). Both Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Van Thieu used it for R&R. The outside walls were decorated with beading and Hellenic statues. This was also the location where the French colonialists placed Thanh Thai Kin under house arrest. He belonged to the last feudal dynasty in Vietnam and fought against the French before being exiled to Reunion Island off the coast of Africa (1909-1910). From its balcony there's a panoramic view of Front Beach and opposite the villa at the foot of that mountain is Hai Nguu Islet with a stone rock shaped like a water buffalo wallowing in water. Next to Hai Nguu at the seaside was the helicopter pad. Today Villa Blanche exhibits hundreds of antiques collected from Cau Islet-Con Dao and attracts hundreds of tourists every day.
- Đài Liệt Sĩ (Martyr's Memorial), Lê Hồng Phong St. A stone obelisk on a hilltop, on the way to the sea, the Martyr's Memorial Hill is said to incorporate the biggest traffic circle in Indochina. A cool hangout for lovers.
- Đình Thần Thắng Tam (Thắng Tam Local Gods Communal House), Thắng Tam Ward (From the Front Beach, follow Truong Cong Dinh St to Tran Hung Dao Park. Here take Hoang Hoa Tham St to Thang Tam).
- Jesus Statue (Small Mountain summit). The enormous 28 m figure of Jesus gazing to sea with outstretched arms is at the south end of Small Mountain. Built in 1971, this giant Jesus rests on a 10 m high platform. The interior of the statue is hollow and contains a spiral staircase of 129 steps, ascending from the foot of the statue to its neck. The two shoulders of the figure are balconies, each able to accommodate up to six people, which offer a splendid view of the surrounding landscape. This is the largest sculpture in southern Vietnam. Recent construction of a pathway has made the 30 min hike up the mountain more pleasant and the panoramic view from various vista points along the way is magnificent. A must-do!
- Pagodas (Small Mount summit). Niết Bàn Tịnh Xá and Thích Ca Phật Đài are most popular among the pagodas and temples in Vũng Tàu.
- 1 Vũng Tàu Lighthouse (On top of Small Mountain). First built in 1907 on the lower peak of Small Mount, it burned kerosene in its lamp. In 1911, it was rebuilt to 3 m in diameter and 18 m in height, and moved to the higher peak where it stands today. The Vũng Tàu Lighthouse projects light as far as 65 km (35 mi) and is equipped with telescopes to follow and direct ships at sea. Next to the platform, 4 old French cannons (weighing several tons) were once used to defend the area from naval attacks. The lighthouse affords a panoramic view of the whole of Vung Tau. 4,000 dong.
The seaside makes Vung Tau a nearby paradise for Saigon visitors. Well-travelled foreigners may be underwhelmed. The beach is not too attractive with litter lining the coast, and most of the sandy eastern beach has signage about dangerous swimming. There are four beaches near the city centre:
- Bãi Dâu (Mulberry Beach). Small beach on the west side of Big Mount.
- Bãi Dứa (Pineapple Beach). Small beach along Hạ Long St, by Small Mount.
- Bãi Sau (Back Beach). Also known as Thùy Vân Beach. The only standard beach for tourism in Vung Tau. It is 3 km long and stretches from the Small Mount to Paradise Park. All beaches here are free. You must pass through some "water parks" to get to the beach. There are places to stash your belongings, usually 15,000 dong for each person. A beach umbrella is 30,000 dong, a chaise longue, 25,000 dong. Fresh water showers cost 8,000 dong. Sea parachuting and canoeing available all day.
- Bãi Trước (Front Beach) (Centre of Vung Tau between Big and Small Mount). Restaurants, kiosks, and hotels are close to the beach. Front Beach is connected through a small park called Front Beach Park. As this lies near the tourist centre of the city, most people come here to visit the park and view the sunset.
- Hike to the Lighthouse on Little Mount. The entrance is at in Phan Chu Trinh St, about 1 km from the beach.
- Hike to the Jesus Statue on Little Mount. This is a very nice short hike.
- Hike to Big Mount. The trail starts on Tran Hung Dao St. The top is very flat, and there are a of couple restaurants on top.
Where to buy
- Chợ Vũng Tàu (Vũng Tàu Market), new central market built in 1985. Vietnamese day meals start with market. Goods in markets are cheaper and fresher than in shops and that's why a market is very familiar with every Vietnamese, esp. housewives.
What to buy
- Handicrafts are ample at Trung Vuong Square and are ideal as souvenirs.
ATMs are plentiful in Vung Tau. Most of them are located on commercial streets such as Lê Hồng Phong, Ba Cu and Trưng Vương Square. Visa and MasterCard are accepted with a minimum fee of 50,000-70,000 dong for each withdrawal.
Banh Khot is Vung Tau's signature meal. It is a breakfast meal which includes greens and noodles.
- Bà Hai's Restaurant, 42 Trần Đồng St, ☎ . 06:30-11:30. A small bánh khọt restaurant run by a family. Not all tourists know it due to its location on a busy street. 18,000-20,000 dong.
- Bayview Takeaway/Cafe Grill, 144 Ha Long St, ☎ . Hamburgers, sandwiches, fish 'n chips. Eat in, takeaway or delivery. Cold beers and soft drinks, big Aussie breakfasts.
- Bia Tuoi, 4 Le Loi St (Off of front beach near the Pacific Hotel). Dawn to last customer. A cheap beer garden frequented mostly by locals with snacks and seafood. Breakfasts too. Food starts at 12,000 dong; beer 4,000 dong.
- 1 Bistro Nine, 9 Truong Vinh Ky, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 06:00-22:00. Bistro style, open early for breakfast until late for dinner. Large wine cellar, bakery, house-made excellent bread and charcuterie. Nice place to chill out for coffee or dinner. Sandwiches, wood oven pizzas, meats, fish, great ribs. Sandwiches from 50,000 dong. From 20,000 dong.
- David Pizzeria, 130 Ha Long St, ☎ . 10:00-14:00 and 17:00-23:00. Italian restaurant with a wide selection of pasta, wood-fired pizza, seafood, wine, and Italian desserts. They also have fresh bread, coffees. Delivery available. Pizza from 150,000 dong.
- Ganh Hao Restaurant, 03 Trần Phú, P.5, ☎ . Lovely restaurant by the sea. High quality fresh seafood. From 45,000 dong.
- Gốc Vú Sữa, 14 Nguyễn Trường Tộ, ☎ . 06:00-12:00. An ideal place to enjoy your breakfast "bánh khọt". The restaurant is always crowded on weekends. 35,000 dong.
- The Great Aussie Pie Shop, 144 Ha Long St (Opposite the Ferry Terminal), ☎ . 07:00-22:00. Popular pie shop is home to Australian beef and chicken pies. Cold beer and soft drink with a terrific view of Vung Tau Bay. Building under construction as of July 2015, closed?
- Hotpot Restaurants, Trương Công Định St, ☎ . Till 23:00. An area of four adjoining restaurants. Come here to enjoy the Vietnamese hotpot in different styles. Hotpot is a must at every Vietnamese party. Beer is encouraged.
- Kozak, 06-07 Nguyen Tri Phuong St, ☎ . Till 23:00. Ukrainian restaurant, decorated with Ukrainian stuff. Restaurant offers traditional beverages: Ukrainian liquors, borsht, vareniki, kvass.
- Rodstarz Fast Food, 30 Quang Trung 1 and 244 Thống Nhất (Across from the beach), ☎ . 06:00-22:00. Western dishes with a slight Asian twist. The restaurant carries an expanded menu ranging from 100% Australian beef burgers, cheese burgers, shrimp burgers, burritos, pork kababs, fried squid rings, waffle dogs, ice cream and beer.
- Quán 95, 36 Trần Hưng Đạo, ☎ . 08:00-23:00. Well-known mid-range restaurant for Vietnamese meals and variety of seafood. Tiger Beer and Pilsner Urquell available.
- Vườn Bàng, 37/4 Nguyễn Thái Học, ☎ . 08:00-23:00. Large indoor restaurant, ideal place for parties. Special foods include shashlyk (Russian fried pork) and Russian salad.
- Matildas Pub, 6 Nguyen Du (Behind the Grand Hotel), ☎ . 09:00-late. Laidback Aussie pub. The cheapest beers/drinks in town. Very affordable meals, including breakfast. Happy hour every day from 09:00-18:00. Very friendly staff. An excellent place to enjoy a relaxing beer or meal. Standard beers 25,000 dong; 5 for 100,000.
- Nine Cafe, 9 Truong Vinh Ky, ☎ . 06:00-22:00. Espresso, cappuccino, fresh juice and home made 100% natural French ice cream. Happy hour from 15:00-19:00. Indoor-outdoor.
- [dead link] Offshore Bar, ☎ . Vibrant environment with friendly staff. Branded drinks along with local drinks that are reasonably priced.
- Bạch Dinh, Trần Phú, near Bãi Trước. Till 23:00.
- Ô Cấp (Along Bãi Dứa). Till 23:00.
- Rin Cafe, 241 Nguyen An Ninh (Near Paradise Golf Course), ☎ . All day. Serves a decent cup of strong, dark, and rich aromatic coffee. Said to serve only coffees that are grown directly from Vietnam highland provinces. The beans here are kept fresh and are ground only on order. Popular for to go orders among locals and tourists alike. 10,000 dong.
- Saigon Ice Cream, Lý Thường Kiệt St. Till 23:00. Little ice cream spot with soft music. Well-known for 20 years.
Vung Tau may have the cheapest guesthouses and hotels in Vietnam. Rooms range from fan-only with shared bath to air conditioned with hot water. All on Thùy Vân St, in front of Bãi Sau (Back Beach) at the foot of Small Mount. Lowest prices from 120,000 dong/room (on weekdays) to 200,000 dong (weekends).
- Tháng Mười Hotel, 151 Thùy Vân (In front of Bãi Sau), ☎ , fax: . 92 comfortable bedrooms with cable TV, air conditioning and minibars. Just a short walk to the beach. 300,000-500,000 dong.
- Valley Mountain Hotel (Sleep), 102/6 Trần Phú, Ward 5, ☎ . Not large, but designed to high standards. Attentive service. From USD45.
- Cap Saint Jacques (Back Beach). With private beach. 200 m to the Paradise golf course and 5 minutes access to the central city. Offers 133 guest rooms and suites with air conditioner, satellite TV, IDD telephone, high speed Internet, minibar, dressing table, bathtub. USD35-101.
- Mỹ Lệ Hotel, 57-59 Thùy Vân, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. USD39-115.
- Palace Hotel, 01 Nguyễn Trãi, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 94 guest rooms. Casino. USD65-165.
While pickpockets are not common, theft (usually snatching bags or purses) is an increasing problem. Visitors should not carry valuables in bags and try to avoid carrying them as much as possible at night, especially in the city centre or along the front and back beaches. Bags or purses have been known to be snatched off bicycles and even motorbikes as well as pedestrians. This is sometimes followed by violent pushing or hitting to distract the victim and anyone who may be with them, to help the perpetrators get away. This is not as common as it is in Ho Chi Minh City, however, thefts increase in the lead up to the Tet holiday.
- Police: 113
- Fire: 114
- Ambulance: 115
- Lê Lợi Hospital, 22 Lê Lợi St. Tell the taxi driver "benh vien" and he'll understand.
- High-speed Internet is available in all streets in Vung Tau. They are called in many names e.g. "Internet cafe", "Game Online" or "Chat". Pay 3,000-4,000 dong/hour. Most stores provide Internet dialing cards, so it's advised that you use it to make international calls.
- Use 171 and 178 with your calls: Make you domestic and international calls with 171 or 178 as following, you'll save up to 40% of bills
171 (178) + 00 + National code + Area code + Phone number. Note : This method is not available with cellphones.
- Vung Tau Post Office : 45 Lê Hồng Phong.
- General info service : (064) 1080.
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Bình Châu Hot Stream : in Xuyên Mộc District.
- Côn Đảo Islands - archipelago in the southern sea. Best known for Côn Đảo Prisons, Côn Đảo National Garden. Hydrofoil fast ferry costs 350,000 dong, sets off at Côn Đảo Port (April 30 Rd).
- Long Hải Town - a seaside town in nearby Long Điền District about 20 km north of Vung Tau. The beach here is smaller, but the town owns a local goddess temple called "Dinh Cô" which holds an annual cultural festival called "Dinh Cô Festival". It is one of the three well-known traditional festivals in southern Vietnam. The town also features Minh Đạm Tunnel, a former hideout of the Viet Minh during the wars.
- Long Sơn: for the wooden Nhà Lớn Long Sơn complex dating from the 19th century.