Vung Tau is the tourist and commercial center of Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu (an industrial province in Southeastern Vietnam). The whole city area lies on a peninsula which is separated from the mainland by a gulf river called Co May river.
During 14th and 15th centuries, the cape that would become Vũng Tàu was an area which European trading ships visited regularly. The ships' activities inspired the name Vũng Tàu, which means "ship's bay" or "anchorage" in Vietnamese. Portuguese navigators who passed Vũng Tàu many times named it Sant'Iago after Saint James. The French, who invaded and took over Vietnam in the mid-19th century named it Cap Saint Jacques (Cape St. James.) The cliff of Vũng Tàu is now called Mũi Nghinh Phong (literally means “Cape of greeting the wind”).
Vũng Tàu was originally referred to as Tam Thắng ("Three Boats") in memory of the first 3 villages in this area: Thắng Nhất, Thắng Nhị, Thắng Tam. It was within the province of Biên Hòa under the Nguyen dynasty, the last imperial house to rule Vietnam.
February 10, 1859 marks the date of the use of cannons by the Nguyen armed forces against the French when they fired at the French battleships from the fortress of Phước Thắng, located 100 m from Vũng Tàu's Front Beach. This marked an important period in Vietnam’s war against French invaders in the Southern most part of Vietnam (then called Cochinchina). Nevertheless, the French succeeded in conquering the southern part of Vietnam by 18 February 1859.
In 1876, according to a decree by the French colonialists, Vũng Tàu was merged in Bà Rịa county, a part of Saigon administration (French: Circonscription De Saigon).
On 1 May 1895 the governor of Cochinchina established by decree that Cap Saint Jacques would thereafter be an autonomous town. In 1898, Cap Saint Jacques was merged with Ba Ria County once again but was divided again in 1899.
In 1901, the population of Vũng Tàu was 5,690, of which 2000 persons were immigrants from Northern Vietnam. Most of the town's population made their living in the fishing industry.
On 4 April 1905 Cap Saint Jacques was made an administrative district of Ba Ria province. In 1929, Cap Saint Jacques became a province, and in 1934 became a city (commune).
The French governor of Indochina, Paul Doumer (who later became President of France), built a mansion in Vũng Tàu that is still a prominent landmark in the city.
During the Vietnam War (called the American War in Vietnam), Vũng Tàu was home to the Australian Army and American support units, and was a popular spot for in-country R&R for U.S. combat troops. After the war, Vũng Tàu was a common launching place for the Vietnamese Boat People fleeing the new regime.
On 30 May 1979, Vũng Tàu town was made the capital of Vũng Tàu-Côn Đảo Special Admistrative Zone.
On 12 August 1991, the province of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu was officially founded and Vũng Tàu town officially became Vũng Tàu city.
Economy and society
The city is located in the southern part of Vietnam, and is situated 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 shipping port has diminished, but it still plays a significant role in Vietnam's offshore oil industry. Vung Tau is the only petroleum base of Vietnam where crude oil and gas exploitation activities dominate the city's economy and contribute principal income to Vietnam's budget and export volume.
Vũng Tàu is home to 210,000 people, of which 1250 are Russians working as specialists in the oil industry.
Phu My Port is a deep-water port able to accommodate ships ranging between 40,000 and 60,000 dwt.Phu My is a commercial port with no towns nearby. A shuttle may be provided to the small town of Ba Ria where you can take a taxi to a larger city like Vung Tau.
Located in Southern Vietnam, Vũng Tàu has only two seasons in a year :
Thanks to recent development in road infrastructure in Southeastern Vietnam, transportation to Vũng Tàu has been much easier. From Ho Chi Minh City, one can get to Vung Tau in three ways.
Tan Son Nhat International Airport (IATA: SGN ICAO: VVTS) located in Ho Chi Minh City, provides the closest air link to Vũng Tàu. The nation's largest airport, the airport has two terminals : an old functional Domestic terminal and a shiny, pleasant International terminal located just 200 metres away. Both terminals have limited food and services offerings. To get to the City centre, passengers can take either a bus or a taxi.
For details, read Ho Chi Minh City#Get in
Direct transfer to Vung Tau
A number of chartered bus companies offer direct transfer from Tan Son Nhat Airport to Vũng Tàu. This is very useful for Vũng Tàu locals. However, tickets must be booked in advance.
Vũng Tàu is well-connected to nearby provinces via the National highway network. If you have your own wheels, there are various options to travel to Vũng Tàu. From Ho Chi Minh City, one can get to Vũng Tàu via Route 1 (Quốc lộ 1) and Route 51 (Quốc lộ 51), about 125km or 2 hrs 30 mins. Alternatively, you can take the other route via Cát Lái Ferry and Nhơn Trạch District of Đồng Nai Province before connecting Route 51. In addition, the newly-inaugurated Ho Chi Minh City-Long Thành-Dầu Giây Expressway for a shorter ride.
CautionItalic text : Although road condition is no longer a problem due to effective renovations, the speed limit is still in force in several parts of the Highways (Routes 51, 55, 56) and the Expressway. According to Ministry of Transport Circular no. 13/2009/TT-BGTVT, vehicles with less than 30 seats must not run faster than 40-50 km/h in urban areas (including residential areas along the highway) and 70-80 km/h in the countryside.
From Ho Chi Minh City
1. Through Expressway: the fastest and most comfortable ride which takes about one and half hour. start from Ben Thanh market, get through the Thu Thiem river tunnel, than take the HCMC-Long Thành-Dầu Giây Expressway before connecting to Route 51 in Long Thành Town. It is 30 km shorter than option 2 and the view of the remote countryside is very gigantic.
2. Ho Chi Minh City to Vũng Tàu via Biên Hòa: The most traditional and convenient way to get from Ho Chi Minh City to Vũng Tàu before the Expressway was launched. Take Hanoi Road (Xa lộ Hà Nội) and Route 1 (QL 1) towards Biên Hòa. After crossing Đồng Nai Bridge, turn right at the first major roundabout (Ngã ba Vũng Tàu). Follow Route 51 all the way to Vũng Tàu. It's 125 km long, about 3 hours.
2. Cát Lái Ferry shortcut: If you're riding a motorbike, or want to have more cool breeze from the countryside forests in Đồng Nai, consider taking this route. Leave the City centre via the Saigon River Tunnel (or Phú Mỹ Bridge in further south of the City). Connect to Đồng Văn Cống Road, and Nguyễn Thị Định Road towards Cát Lái Ferry Terminal. Allow 10 mins for the ticketing, queueing and crossing the river. When your arrive on the Đồng Nai side, follow Provincial Route 769 (ĐT 769), Trần Văn Trà, Quách Thị Trang and Tôn Đức Thắng Roads before connecting to Route 51 (QL 51, AH17). Turn right at the corner.
This takes between 1.5hrs and 3 hrs to get to Vũng Tàu, depending on the weather. Also, due to the Expressway's inauguration, most cars have bypassed the Ferry, and long queues have disappeared.
From nearby provinces
There are several bus stations and companies which handle short-distance and long-distance bus services to Vũng Tàu.
Warning, there are many small vans that travel from HCMC to Vung Tau and back but they can be dangerous. I recently took three trips back and forth using Thien Phu Company. All the drivers were texting and constantly on their cellphones. One driver had to be woken up twice and was doing Red Bull to try and stay awake. Additionally, they are delivering mail and packages along the route that can add 30 to 45 minutes to the trip.
Miền Đông Bus Station
The main terminal for coach services heading Northern and Central Vietnam. To get there, take metro bus no. 19 from the Central Metropolitan Bus station (opposite Bến Thành Market). The whole journey takes 25-35 mins, depending on traffic conditions. The bus will drop you at the metro bus parking in front of the Main door of the terminal building.
Previously known as Rạng Đông Company, the firm is now co-shared by Kumho Samco Joint-ventures. Here is the website . When you enter the bus station's main door, the Kumho Samco booth is on the right side. Comfortable 16-seat cars with air-conditioners, 45-seat buses are put in use on weekend. New trip runs every 15 minutes. It has one rest stop on half-journey. Duration : 2 hours. Water bottle and wet tissue provided.
Similar to Kumho Samco but with larger cars. New trip every 15 minutes. Thiên Phú is a privately-owned firm. Offer 16-seater cars with slightly larger foot rest.
Reliable inter-provincial bus service in Vietnam, esp. Southern Vietnam. Operates every 30 minutes. The journey from the bus depot in Ho Chi Minh City to the bus depot in Vung Tau takes approximately 2.25hrs during the day. A bottle of water is provided to every passenger. Mai Linh provides free shuttle from its private stations in Miền Tây Bus station, mid-city Lê Hồng Phong Street and Phạm Ngũ Lão Street.
City centre and Phạm Ngũ Lão
New bus departs every 10 mins. Comfortable 16 seater bus. Seats are reserved by telephone only. If you are in Vung Tau, you are picked up wherever you want. Most buses run via the Expressway. It takes approximately 1 hr 30 mins.
Beginning in December 2014 Hydrofoil re-started service to Vung Tau on a limited basis. You can go on-line and search Vina Cruise for more information.
"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 commerical 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 VNĐ/person (US$10). On the weekends, be sure to get your tickets at least a day early. You will be lucky to get a ticket if you wait till the day of.
At the ticket counter in Saigon, the cashier sometimes does not want to sell you the return ticket, instead recommending that you buy it when you get to 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, possibly with the complicity of the Ticket counters employees. Make sure you buy the return ticket in Saigon, or accept to be considered as an ATM to the hucksters.
Essential information: Price: 10 USD/ 1 ticket/ 1 pax (adult) and 5 USD/ child (age 6-11, height under 1.4m) Duration: 75 minutes Depart at: Số 5 Nguyễn Tất Thành, District 4. Ticket booth is at the beginning of the street, follow the signs to the pier (located just north of Elisa restaurant ship).
Saigon-Vung Tau Hydrofoil Service to End in December
The four hydrofoils currently plying the route from Saigon to Vung Tau will stop operations when their permits expire in late December 2016.
Increased competition from bus companies has severely hurt the hydrofoil business, especially since the HCMC-Long Thanh-Dau Giay Expressway opened early 2015. It takes about 90 minutes to reach Vung Tau via hydrofoil and tickets cost at least VND200,000, while bus trips take just under two hours and cost less than VND100,000.
As of November, only GreenLines is operating. Terminal at Ho Chi Minh is at Nha Rong Harbor. Terminal at Vung Tau is at Bến tàu cao tốc, near the cable car station.
If you want to get in Vung Tau from Ho Chi Minh airport, you should arrange a private transfer [read more]. It's faster and cheaper if you take the hydrofoil, but the cost of taxis will actually make having your own car a better idea. Plus having a driver will be helpful in getting where you want once you get there. You can get a car and driver for a little under $100
Taxis are rather expensive in Vũng Tàu. Prices are 30% higher than Saigon companies, especially along the beaches. Major companies are Vietnam Airport Transfer Gili Taxi, Petro Taxi, Vinasun, and Mai Linh. Petro Taxi by the hydrofoil port will charge five times more than a VinaSun taxi. Be careful of taxi scams where taxis will drive in circles to increase the fare. Also, the meter on Vina Sun and Mai Linh taxis starts automatically. If the driver tries to press any buttons when you get in the car, this will speed up the meter. Ask for the driver to pull over and get out of the car right away.
As an ordinary Vietnam urban area, Vũng Tàu has plenty of xe ôm (motorbike) drivers who are professional (and unfortunately seek out foreigners). Tourists coming to Vũng Tàu may find out that traffic is slower here, especially during the week. As of December 15th, 2007 all riders in Vietnam are now required to wear helmets an this is strongly 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.
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 in size, so don't hesitate to take a walk. Recommended ways are : Bacu street (the city's downtown), Đồ Chiểu Street (food center), Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị Square, Công viên Bãi trước (Front Beach park) and pavements along the coastline. The only drawback; foreigners are constantly sought after by motorbike drivers, especially if walking alone.
Next to the platform, 4 old French cannons (about 10m long and 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 and is a really interesting site. No ticket is needed, but tourists are required to pay 4,000 VND per visit.
The sanctum is roofed with yin-yang tiles and is in the shape of “a couple of dragons joking upon the moon” and the pillars are engraved wit the shapes of dragons. This commune stores twelve pieces of sanction of Nguyễn dynasty.
On the right of Thắng Tam commune is the Whale tomb where there is a set of great bones of whales picked up from 100 years ago and on the left is Ngũ Hành Temple (5 elements of the space: metal, wood, water, fire and the earth).
Seaside status makes Vung Tau a nearby paradise for Saigonners. However, for well-travelled foreigners, expect a bit less. The beach is not all too attractive with litter lining the coast, and most of the sandy eastern beach has signage about dangerous swimming. There are four beaches in the city center located in different positions.
Bãi Dứa and Bãi Dâu are actually beaches along Mountains, thus you must go downstairs to get to the waterfront. There's less sand and no safeguard.
Vung Tau's landscape is suitable for climbing mountains, few of the hikes in Vung Tau are
There is also a cable car to the top of the big mountain where there is a small amusement park. Pricey at 300,000 VND a ticket for the cable car ride and entrance to the park.
Where to buy
What to buy
Almost all banks' ATMs are available in Vung Tau. Most of them are located in commercial roads such as Lê Hồng Phong, Ba Cu and Trưng Vương Square.
Visa and Mastercard are also accepted with a minimum fee of 50,000 VNĐ to 70,000 VNĐ for each withdraw.
Fast Food Restaurants
Banh Khot is Vung Tau's signature meal, it is an all breakfast meal which includes greens and noodles.
A small bánh khọt restaurant run by a family. Not all tourists know it due to its location in a busy street but they find tastier fish sauce (nước mắm).
'Warning- taxi scam' If you take a taxi and ask to go to Ganh Hao or one of the other well-known reputable seafood restaurants, the driver may take you instead to a place called Thuyen Chai. The seafood here is decent if dull, but the prices are outrageously inflated, and are not clearly indicated to customers. You will pay significantly more for lower quality food, and this restaurant only survives by scamming tourists. Insist on being taken to a named restaurant with good reviews, of which there are many in Vung Tau, and avoid Thuyen Chai.
Well-known midrange restaurant for Vietnamese meals and variety of seafood. Tiger Beer and Pilsner Urquell available.
Largest indoor restaurant, ideal place for parties. Special food include ssashlyk (Russian fried pork) and Russian salad.
An area of four pavement restaurant beside each other. Come here to enjoy the Vietnamese hotpot in different styles. Hotpot is a must in every Vietnamese parties and group meetings (with 3 people and more). Beer is encouraged.
Mediteranean Restaurant with French and Italian Specialities .Price start at 24.000 vnd . Colonial House and tropical garden with a great view on the golf . Home made delicious Ice Cream and a very large selection of imported wines . Wood pizza oven and home baked french bread . Pizzas from 129,000 vnd , BBQ , Fish , Imported Meats . Home delivery .Free Wi Fi access .
Italian restaurant with a wide selection of pasta, wood fired pizza, seafood and wine and Italian desserts. They also have fresh bread, coffees. Home delivery available.
A cheap beer garden frequented mostly by locals with snacks and seafood. Breakfasts too.
Little icecream spot with soft music. Well-known for 20 years.
Vung Tau features the largest number of inexpensive guesthouses and hotels in Vietnam. Rooms range from electric fans and communal bathrooms to air-conditioned with all the amenities. Located largely along Thùy Vân Street, in front of Bãi Sau (Back Beach) at the foot of Small Mountain. Lowest prices range from 120,000 (weekdays) to 200,000 VNĐ (weekends).
Situated in front of Bãi Sau, Tháng Mười has 92 comfortable bedrooms with cable TV, airconditioners and minibars... Just a few walks to the beach. Prices range from 300,000 VNĐ - 500,000 VNĐ.
While pick pockets are not that common, theft (usually snatching of bags or purses) is becoming 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 center or along 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 the level of theft increases in the time leading up to the national holiday of Tet, as locals brace for the financial crunch of the holiday.
171 (178) + 00 + National code + Area code + Phone number. Note : This method is not available with cellphones.