This travel guide shares everything you need to know to explore the beachside town of Vung Tau, near Vietnam’s Southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City. It covers everything that I like to know before travelling to a new destination including the highlights, the best time to visit, how to get there, where to stay and more!
Vung Tau Travel Guide
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Vung Tau is the closest beach town to Ho Chi Minh City making it a is a popular place for both tourists and locals to escape from the busy pace of city-life. It is the capital city of Ba Ria Provence, found 2-3 hours southeast of Ho Chi Minh City which makes it a great side trip to take after spending a few days in the big city.
During the colonial era Vung Tau was a seaside oasis for wealthy French and Vietnamese diplomats and as such it still retains some colonial mansions and European influences. Nowadays Vung Tau is a working beach town with business in fishing and oil.
The weather in Vung Tau closely resembles the weather in Ho Chi Minh City, which is unsurprising considering they are only 95km apart. The best time of year to visit Vung Tau is during southern Vietnam’s dry season. Dry season starts around December and lasts until the start of May.
Dry season is much more reliable – you can expect blue skies, little or no chance of rain and high temperatures (up to 35°C). Outwith dry season you can still expect warm temperatures but also cloudy days and daily monsoon rains, and potentially storms. Vung Tau is on a peninsula and surrounded by ocean on three sides, so it benefits from ocean breezes that make the heat more manageable.
Avoid weekends – Vung Tau is a popular seaside destination for people to visit from HCMC and surrounding towns, which can make the beaches very busy on weekends. If you are looking for a bit of peace and quiet away from the city, then try to visit during the week.
Avoid public holidays – The same goes for public holidays. The first time I travelled to Vung Tau was over a long weekend and lets just say I won’t be doing it again. It was chocka! You could hardly see the beach or find a room to sleep in, and we actually got quite a lot of unwanted attention (think sly photos and lots of stares) from people visiting from smaller towns where westerners are uncommon.
Vung Tau is connected by a well maintained highway, making it quick and easy to get to. There are three main transport options; bus, motorbike/private car and boat. Depending on which transport option you pick, you can get from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau in 1.5 – 3 hours.
The fastest way to get to Vung Tau is by boat; the cheapest way to travel to Vung Tau is via public bus followed by driving yourself on a motorbike.
The bus takes roughly the same time as motorbiking yourself, around 3 hours, and you have the option to take the local public bus or a coach service, like the Futa Bus.
Taking the public bus is the cheapest option for travel between Ho Chi Minh City and Vung Tau. To get the public bus you will need to head to the Mien Dong bus station in Binh Tan district of Ho Chi Minh City. The public bus costs 80k VND (£2.60) and leaves every 20 mins (or so) from 6am - 8pm. The bus terminates at the Vung Tau bus station on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia street.
The Futa Bus is marginally more expensive but you have the ability to book a seat in advance and select a pick up/drop off point. This avoids the need to head to the Mien Dong bus station which isn't in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. The Futa Bus costs 100k (£3.20) per seat. They leave on the hour every hour between 6am - 7pm. You can book online and check out the different times and pick up locations on the Futa Bus site.
The motorbike drive to Vung Tau is not the most scenic of routes but it is a liberating way to travel - perfect if you want to stop on-route. The roads are well kept and easy to travel on, though they are used by cargo trucks and oil tankers so the pollution is pretty bad. I highly recommend getting some AQblue masks* before setting off!
NOTE: If you are driving from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau by motorbike then you need to avoid the toll roads. Motorbikes are not allowed to travel on these roads. When putting directions into google maps click the avoid toll road option. This adds some time onto the journey so driving from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau takes approx. 3 hours.
Read more: Learning to Ride a Motorbike in Vietnam
The express speed boat is is the fastest way to get to Vung Tau, taking around 1.5 hours. The majority of the trip is along the Mekong river so it's a pretty smooth journey. The boats are modern and well equipped, with AC toilets and even wifi/entertainment - you can even reserve seats in advance.
There are a number of different daily sailings spread throughout the day. The prices range from 200-250k dong (under $10). You can book online and check out the different times on the Greenlines ferry operator site.
Vung Tau is a small city by Vietnamese standards so getting around isn’t challenging. Walking isn’t ideal as many of the things to see and do are spread out (not to mention the challenge of walking around in the heat). The most convenient way to get around Vung Tau is to rent a motorbike for the duration of your stay (you’re accommodation should be able to set you up with rental). Taxis like Vinasun are cheap and Grab is common.
1-2 days is the perfect length of time to stay in Vung Tau. All of Vung Tau’s attractions can be squeezed into a full day, leaving another day to relax by the beach.
Read more: How to spend 24 hours in Vung Tau (coming soon)
1. Take in the best view of Vung Tau from the Lighthouse
The Vung Tau Lighthouse must be one of the oldest buildings in the city. It was built during the French colonial period, dating all the way back to 1862… AND it’s still operational 156 years later! You can’t go inside but as the lighthouse is situated atop a small hill you get stunning 360° views of Vung Tau.
The best way to get there is by motorbike or taxi as the walk up the hill is 2.4km (totally fine on a cooler evening but a struggle in the hot sun). Motorbike parking is available at the lighthouse and costs 5k VND.
Where: Ngọn hải đăng Vũng Tàu
2. Eat Banh Khot – Vung Tau’s regional dish
The regional dish of Vung Tau is little deep fried pancakes stuffed with pork and shrimp. They’re called Banh khot and they are a must try food in Vung Tau! (more deets below)
3. Hike up to the Christ of Vung Tau statue
Situated atop Small Mountain (Nui Nho), the Christ of Vung Tau is the largest Christ statue in Vietnam at 36 meters high. Getting to the top of small mountain isn’t too challenging as its all stairs (about 800-steps), and you can get a great view over the city from the top. You can climb up to the top of the statue via a 133-step staircase inside for a small fee.
Where: Thuy Van, Phuong 2, Thanh pho, Vung Tau
4. Relax at front beach
Vung Tau has two main beaches: front beach and back beach, one for each side of the peninsula! Front beach is the best for sunbathing and swimming, with sun loungers and restaurants along the beach that will look after your belongings if you pay for a sun loungers for the day (they’re pretty cheap, around 40k/$2 if I remember correctly).
5. Watch sunset from back beach
The sun sets in front of back beach making it the perfect place to relax of an evening and watch the sunset. There are vendors along the way where you can grab a cool drink, or a local ice cream, and sit to watch the fishermen come in and locals unwind after a busy day.
Find out the sunset times in Vung Tau here! Normally the sun sets around 6pm.
The local regional dish for vung tau is called Banh Khot. Elements of it are similar to the more famous Banh Xeo (savoury pancakes) from central Vietnam. Banh khot are mini fried pancakes made with either pork, shrimp or squid. To eat you wrap the mini pancakes in salad leaves and dip into the dipping sauce of fish sauce, chilli and sometimes garlic.
Apparently the best place to try authentic banh khot in vung tau is at Co Ba Vung Tau (though I tried many restaurants and they were all really good).
Where: Co Ba Vung Tau – 1 Hoang Hoa Tham, Vung Tau
Being a seaside town Vung Tau is also famous for its fresh seafood! Pretty much every restaurant sells seafood in Vung Tau so finding some fresh catch isn’t a struggle
The best area to stay in Vung Tau is on the peninsula, somewhere between front and back beach. Staying here will give you easy access to the main attractions and put you in walking distance to many restaurants, bars and the beaches.
My pick for luxury place to stay in Vung Tau: The Wind Mountain Side Hotel*
- Avoid weekends and national holidays if your looking for peace and quiet
- Take the boat for the fastest transport from Ho Chi Minh City
- You can find Wifi easily in Vung Tau. Most cafes, restaurants and all accommodation offer free Wifi.
If you are a travelling through Vietnam on a time deadline, then I would recommend skipping Vung Tau – it doesn’t have the dreamy, pristine beaches that you can find further north around Quy Nhon!
If you are interested in a combination of culture, beach and small city vibes then Vung Tau is a good place to go exploring. As an expat or someone who is travelling slowly though Vietnam, then Vung Tau is a great place to experience a local Vietnamese seaside town and do some exploring near Ho Chi Minh City.
Are you planning a trip to Vung Tau? I hope this travel guide has answered any and all questions you have!
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For more on Vung Tau:
- How to spend 24 hours in Vung Tau (coming soon)