I travelled to Vung Tau by car (It was already booked by my colleagues in HCMC), and it was long, boring and dangerous (traffic wise) trip in the rainy weather! I decided to return to HCMC with the hydrofoil (against company rules. . . ), so I booked a trip from the hotel, in order to arrive in time to catch the flight back to Europe.
I enjoyed the diesel engines smell and noise of the old boat sold or donated by the Soviet big brother when I walked at the back of the boat to get on the deck.
The travel is definitely faster than by road, more relaxing, comfortable enough. . . . and you arrive relaxed at HCMC after having enjoyed a bit of fluvial landscape.
There are 6-7 departures per day for HCMC. Don’t be surprised when you leave Vung Tau, some hydrofoils leave at Cau Da, near the southern tip of the peninsula, at a sort of a terminal, other leave at Ben Dinh port, in the North of the city; no worries, always go to the Cau Da terminal, a bus takes you from there to Ben Dinh. All goes very smoothly!
The ship from ”Greenlines” was far from being new (picture 1), there are life jackets (picture 2). . . . . at least they are visible. . . . the machinist watches all goes well with the engines (picture 3). . . . . . there are toilets (picture 4), and you see the signs of the Big Brother have not been removed. Now we can leave Vung Tau! I have seen a bigger hydrofoil (“Vina Express”) –the type arriving at and leaving the Ca Dau harbour– in action on the Saigon River when I made a tour on the river in a small boat (picture 5). Seriously, all this looks weird but the trip is safe!
Ho Chi Minh City - Vung Tau
(9 times per day, ticket costs $10 or 180.000VND)
Departure at Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City
Bach Dang Passenger Quay
Add: Ton Duc Thang Str., Dist. 1
Tel: (08) 834 0932
Add:: 1A Ham Nghi Str., Dist. 1
Tel: (08) 821 8185
Departure at Vung Tau
Add 120 Ha Long Str.
Tel: (064) 816 308 - 810 202
Take the Hydrofoil between HCMC and Vung Tau. In 2003, it costs about US$10 (120,000 VND) for a round trip, but as of 2011, the rates are now 200,000 Dong; the trip only takes one hour and 15 minutes. There are about 6 hydrofoils each day. In Vung Tau, they pick up at the pier on the southern end of front beach.
There are two companies operating the hydros: Vina Express and Greenlines. I think their rates are exactly the same (as they should be in a communist country!) and they probably even use the same boats. The hydrofoils have seating for about 120 people--during my trip, maybe 1/4 of the seats were full. There were some locals on board, I think they get a big discount on the fare.
Here's a schedule from the Vina Express website:
HCMC to VT departures
0600, 0830, 1030, 1230, 1430, 1630
VT to HCMC departures
0600, 0830, 1030, 1230, 1430, 1630
Ticketing Booth-Vung Tau
126 Ha Long Str. Vung Tau City
According to Google Maps, the address of the hydrofoil terminal is:
Express Ship Harbour
120, Phường 2, Vung Tau
Ba Ria - Vung Tau, Vietnam
(064) 385 6069
The terminal is located near the end of the peninsula, on the opposite side from the beaches. The terminal is on the east side of the peninsula, the big beaches are on the west side.
We organised a bus to get to Vung Tau. It cost US$5 each. It was in a mini bus and we had the bus to ourselves, along with a hitch-hiking monk.
For the return journey, we took the Vina Express hydrofoil. This cost 70,000 dong each.
Get a private car for your trip to Vung Tau. It's nice to have transportation for sightseeing once you get to Vung Tau. 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. This is for 2days, gas, and toll fees.
Try any of the travel agencies about renting a car once you're in town. If you are not sure about how to do that, feel free to send me an email. I can get you in touch with one of the guys that i use.
There is a ferry terminal in Vung Tau, where you can catch a ferry to Ho Chi Minh city. The ride takes 1 hour 20 minutes and costs VND120,000. Departures are every 1 hour or half-hour depending on the time of the day. There are rides between 6 am and 5pm.
We took the Greenlines Hydrofoil round trip, Vung Tau - Ho CHi Minh City. Price was $16USD R/T. They do take US dollars in payment. The ride took just over 90 minutes each way. Scenery is pleasant but is not overly exciting, really not much to see along most of the river until you get close to Sai gon They have assigned seating, about 120 seats per boat, divided into 3 cabins. There is a restroom (rather crude) and they serve bottled water for free which may or may not be cold. Cabins are enclosed with lots of windows that do not open. Windows are plastic and most were discolored from age. There are open walkways between cabins and you can stand there to take pictures or just to get out of the cabin. The seats are comfortable enough but the interiors are really aged looking. So are the exteriors for that matter, pretty beat up looking. These boats look like they've been "ridden hard and put away wet" to put it in equestrian parlance. Boats are vintage 1960's, Russian built. If you want a good scare, walk by the engine compartment midships, by the restroom. Completely open with moving parts exposed and no guardrails of any sort to prevent what could be a very serious accident. Not a place to let children run free.
This is a good way to travel between Sai gon and Vung Tau. While they are advertised at 'just over an hour' one way, our trips took just over an hour and a half each way. If you are on a Princess cruise docking in Vung Tau email me for more info.
There is at least one other and perhaps two other outfits operating these same class hydrofoils. One is called the Vina Express, and the other may be called the Petro Express but that may just be another name for the Greenlines. We heard from others that the Greenlines were not as well maintained as the Vina Express, that the windows were not discolored, providing a better view.
If you had the time, you could see much of the town by walking, but if you are short on time, hire a motorcycle. Our drivers showed us much of the town including all of the main sights for only a few dollars.
I think we agreed to $1 an hour each, but the drivers whined for a tip so we gave them about $1.50 or maybe even $2.