I’ve heard a lot of bad reviews from my colleagues and friends about Vung Tau so I was discouraged to go despite of its close proximity from where I live. It was only until I ran out of places to go in Vietnam when I decided to check this place out. To be honest, my Vung Tau day trip wasn’t that bad!
Things to Do in Vung Tau
1. Drive along scenic coastal routes
Probably the first thing that you would like to do is rent a motorbike and take it from there. Vung Tau is a relatively small town and is pretty easy to travel around. Unless you want to hike or walk, a motorbike is a must!
Drive along the serpentine 6-kilometre road hugging Little Mountain starting from Bai Truoc, passing by Nghinh Phong and on to Bai Sau. Another meandering road circling Large Mountain starts from the fishing hamlet Ben Dinh. This 10-kilometre drive passes through Bai Dau and ends at Front Beach.
2. Breathe in the beauty of Vung Tau from the Lighthouse
Vung Tau Lighthouse stands tall on top of the Small Mountain. The paved way up is steep and can be very slick on rainy days so be extra careful when driving. There are couple of good lookouts along the road which offers a panoramic view of Vung Tau. The Lighthouse is more than a century years old and can be interesting for history lovers.
It was quite disappointing though that they have to play some fake sounds of birds and nature over a speaker around the viewing platforms. I thought that was pathetic! Nevertheless, the quick trip to the Lighthouse was good!
3. Hike the 800-step stairs to the Statue of Christ
Try your fitness in this 20-minute hike to the top of the mountain where an impressive Statue of Christ awaits you! My friend and I find the steps up moderately challenging but there are benches and lookouts where you can take short breaks while enjoying the shoreline views. We were soaked both in rain and sweat by the time we reached the top!
Apparently, you can also climb up inside the statue itself for an additional of 133 steps! The stairs will lead to the shoulders of the statue which are balconies that can accommodate 5 or more people. However, climbing inside the statue is closed from 11:30 AM until 1:30 PM and on certain occasions so check before you go! They also prohibit visitors inside if it’s raining or if not appropriately dressed (no shorts allowed!).
Overall, the Statue of Christ is definitely worth a visit!
4. Take a crash course on history at the Old Artillery Range
The Old Artillery Range is located on top of Sao Mai which roughly 20-minute motorbike ride from the center. Drive along Tran Phu St., and turn right on Alley 444. The alley number is easy to find. Google map is also a big help. The road to the top is very narrow and steep, and it’s on the side of a cliff where you can have a good view of the harbour.
The end of Alley 444 is an old French colonial military platform where 6 heavy artillery are located. If you go a little bit further down the road, you will find an underground torpedo which is also an interesting thing of the past. There are more sites to see in Sao Mai which we missed due to the bad weather condition. There is a map at the entrance of the platform that will show you where these places are.
Unfortunately the place is not well-kept. There are rubbish everywhere on the platform and the place stinks a bit. But the place was very quiet as it is obviously not visited by most tourists.
5. Sunbathe in one of Vung Tau’s three main beaches
Today, Vung Tau has several big and modern hotels on its three main beaches. Although Vung Tau does not boast itself with pristine whites and beaches, you can still enjoy the scenery and the sea air that will surely refresh you as you immerse yourself under the sun! Grab a book or a drink to sip as you watch random people go about their activities. I don’t really recommend swimming on the beach but you can also try if parasailing or surfing can make you forget the murky water!
Where to Eat
Arthur and I had a cheap but delicious breakfast at Tommy’s Cafe. They have a wide selection of Vietnamese food including desserts, smoothies and pastries. Above all, it’s clean.
Address: 92D corner Tran Hung Dao and Ba Cu St.
There are many seafood restaurants that you can find around Vung Tau. We chose to stop in a place by the sea called Quan Ngoc Dung and had some sumptuous lunch. We had fried rice with seafood and a fish topped with green mango. Prices start at 120,000 VND and serving is good for two persons.
Address: 77 Tran Phu, Bai Dau
We ended our Vung Tau day trip exploring downtown a bit. There are interesting stuff and local food stalls that you can find along Ba Cu St. Grab a refreshing smoothie before calling it a day!
For your motorbike or motorbike driver needs, here’s the man that does the business right. He rents out motorbike for only 100,000 VND so don’t be afraid to haggle!
Getting there and back
By Hydrofoil Ferry
The shortest way possible to Vung Tau is by taking the ferry. Travel time only takes an hour and a half. For the sake of “experience”, my friend, Arthur, and I decided to try the ferry out to Vung Tau so we booked our tickets online with Vina Express. The trip was great for the first hour as we cruised along Saigon river until we reached the boisterous sea! Needless to say, the last 30 minutes of the boat ride was the worst I ever had (and I’m not exaggerating!).
Bottomline: if you easily get seasick, don’t try the hydrofoil!
If you do want to try it, I suggest taking the earliest trip which is at 8AM in order to enjoy the attractions Vung Tau has to offer.
Ticket Price: 200 VND (Weekdays); 250 VND (Weekends)
Schedule: The ferry leaves every hour, from 8AM to 4PM
Address: Cảng hành khách Tàu biển, Phường 12, Quận 4, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Phone: +84 90 904 39 10
By Coach or Express Bus
The first thing we did once we arrived in Vung Tau was to call a what we thought was a bus company number to reserve our seat back to Saigon. It was a pleasant surprise when a “luxury” coach picked us up at 6PM and had a best 2-hour ride back to the city after such a long day for almost the same price as express buses. The coach service is provided by Toan Thang Company.
Ticket Price: 120,000 VND
Address: 23 Nguyen Thai Binh, District 1, HCMC
Phone: +84 90 812 11 35
Express buses are also an option in getting to and from Vung Tau. You can visit Phuong Trang (FUTA Busline) office in 274 Pham Ngu Lao St (close to Bui Vien, the backpackers’ area).
A piece of advice: Book your return trip beforehand or once you arrived in Vung Tau to avoid getting scammed later in the day when you are left with no other option but to purchase a ridiculously priced ticket!
By Taxi or Public Bus
I know a lot of people who take a taxi to and from Vung Tau. They usually leave the city before the traffic rush and pay a pre-negotiated fixed price of more or less 100 US dollars.
There are also public buses available for those who understand how the Vietnamese transport system works. It costs less than a dollar!
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About The Writer
Melchor is a professional teacher from the Philippines based in Saigon. He loves both teaching and traveling and passionately blogs about them. Melchor enjoys being with nature, hiking mountains, exploring old cities, viewing sunsets and doing some thrilling adventure! Read his teaching ideas and travel experiences in Asia and beyond on his website goviajero.com.