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Vung Tau – Travel guide at Wikivoyage

Vung Tau as seen from Tao Phung Mount

Vung Tau (Vũng Tàu) is a city in Southern Vietnam, about 125 km from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Its nearness to Saigon and its beauty and fresh air makes it a very popular destination for weekends.

Understand

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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 Bà Rịa and the mainland by a stream called the Co May River. The industrial and commercial nature of the wider city shouldn’t put tourists off visiting as the tourist centre at the end of the peninsula is a world away from the port and oil industry installations to the North.

History

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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 ).

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

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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. There is also a significant Australian community, mainly elderly, drawn to the area after serving in the Battle of Long Tan 35 km to the north of the tourist town. This also accounts for the significant number of Australian-owned restaurants and other tourist-related businesses in town.

Climate

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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.

Get in

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By bus

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Vũng Tàu is connected to the mainland by Hwy 51 (Quốc lộ 51), which runs from Biên Hòa City. The shortest route from Ho Chi Minh city 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.

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It usually takes almost 2 hours from District 1, HCMC, to Vũng Tàu centre by coach/bus.

By car

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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 dong. At the second and third booths, you pay 20,000 dong for the one you reach first and give receipt to the rest, no more charge.

By motorbike/bicycle

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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 dong.

• Bicycles (1 rider included): 1000 dong.

• Pedestrian or extra people on motorbike: 1000 dong.

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.

By car-sharing

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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 at ☏ . For shorter notice, you can pay for a chauffeur car at 700,000 dong one-way, or 1,300,000 dong two-way

By hydrofoil

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“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 1 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.

Adult USD10, child USD5 (age 6-11, under 1.4 m), duration: 75 minutes. Departs at Bach Dang Pier in Saigon, District 1. Not far from the Majestic Hotel (100 m). Lands in Cầu Đá Port, Ben Cau Da, Ha Long St, Vung Tau

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Get around

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Bãi Sau (Back Beach)

By taxi

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Taxis fare is similar to Hồ Chí Minh city, which is 5000 dong for commencement up to the first 500 m, then 12000 dong for each 1 km (4-seat car). 7-seat car fare is up to 16000 dong/km. There are taxis everywhere and drivers have no problem using the meter which starts ticking automatically when the vehicle has been moving for a few metres.

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

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As an ordinary Vietnam urban area, Vũng Tàu has plenty of (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.

By motorbike

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Motorbike rental service can be found in most of hotels or hostels, especially at back beach. Price is 100,000 – 150,000 dong for automatic and 80,000 – 130,000 dong for manual bike. Make sure you have valid driving license and helmets.

By bicycle

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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.

By double-bike

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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.

Walking

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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 crossing roads as drivers usually do not give way, like in most of Vietnamese cities.

See

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Jesus Statue on Summit of Small Mountain

Do

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Beaches

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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, although as of July 2018 the local authority have had a clean up and the beaches are much cleaner and most of the sandy eastern beach has signage about dangerous swimming. There are four beaches near the city center:

Hiking

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  • 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.
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Buy

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Where to buy

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  • 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

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  • Handicrafts are ample at Trung Vuong Square and are ideal as souvenirs.

ATMs

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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.

Eat

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Banh Khot

Banh Khot is Vung Tau’s signature meal. It is a breakfast meal which includes greens and noodles.

Drink

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Bars

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  • Mr Splash Coffee Tea Bar, 81 Thuy Van, +84915677708. Makes amazing coffee, tea and cocktails at very affordable prices. Very professional, and Phú is a proper bartender.

Coffee

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Sleep

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Budget

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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).

Splurge

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Stay safe

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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. Normal commonsense precautions are all that are needed to avoid theft.

Emergency numbers

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  • Police: 113
  • Fire: 114
  • Ambulance: 115

Hospitals

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Connect

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  • 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.
This method is not available with cellphones.

  • Vung Tau Post Office : 45 Lê Hồng Phong.
  • General info service : (064) 1080.

Go next

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  • 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.

This city travel guide to Vung Tau is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.

Xem thêm bài viết thuộc chuyên mục: Traveller

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