If you are in Saigon and thirst for vitamin sea or need a quick escape from busy life, Vung Tau is what you are looking for. Located just a 100km south-east of Saigon, this bustling city has ocean on three sides, salty but fresh air, sandy beach and many coastal activities to make this an ideal weekend destination for you. Follow the advice in this article and you will probably want to come back to Vung Tau more than once 😉
Vung Tau in my memory was simply just a tourist trap where the beach is dirty and always full of people, poor services at cheap hotels and vendors ripping off tourists. All of these add a huge minus to my determination to visit this beach again. However, in 2016, the People’s Committee of Ba Ria – Vung Tau province took action to reorganize the city, started with banning people to sell or bring food to the beach and fined anyone who littering. Their vision is to make Vung Tau an ideal attraction for the Saigon’s go-to-beach. Recently, I had a chance to travel back to Vung Tau and I was so surprised to see the magic happened. The water was so blue and clean which makes you want to jump into it to beat the summer heat. The sand is beautiful with colorful umbrella and beach couches lined up. Everything is well-organized like what you usually see on the travel magazines.
Where to go in Vung Tau
There are many places to see and things to do when you travel to Vung Tau, the city even claims to be the first vacation spot of South Vietnam.. You can expect to swim in the jewel blue sea or go hiking to the top of the mountain to catch a glimpse of the beautiful city. Making a decision of where to go can be tough so let us give you a hand. Here are some main places you should put on your itinerary.
The calmness of the sea and and the pleasant weather makes Bai Sau an ideal place for the beachgoers to come and relax. Whenever life in Saigon makes you feel overwhelmed, just come to Bai Sau in Vung Tau and lay on the silky sand to sunbathe while listening to the ocean song of the waves. The warm currents run through the sea which influences the temperatures of the area and the average temperature is around 27.5*C (81.5*F). This is perfect for those who love swimming to spend the whole day in the water. In case you don’t like the sun and need more shades, you can rent the beach benches for around 30,000 VND/couch. Bai Sau is also the place where many restaurants and hotels located.
- From April 2016, BBQ feast on the seashore are banned. Therefore, you cannot bring alcohol and raw seafood to cook on the beach.
- You can bring the cooked food and non-alcoholic drink to the beach. Remember to throw the trash away after to keep the beach clean and nice :).
- It is unsafe to leave your belongings on the sand unattended. So try to keep your eyes on your assets or leave the valuable items at the hotel reception.
Location: Bai Sau (also known as Bai Thuy Duong or Bai Thuy Van) starts from the foot of the Small Mountain (Nui Nho) to Chi Linh area.
Safe time to swim:
April – September: 6 AM – 7 PM
October – March: Before 6 AM and after 6 PM
Together with Bai Sau, Bai Truoc is another beautiful beach of Vung Tau where people usually go picnic on the day and party when the sun goes down. However, because of a ferry port and offshore drilling nearby, the water here is not very clean to swim in. Nevertheless, you can take advantage of the city park for an outing. What the local tourists usually do is buying the fresh seafood at Xom Luoi market and bring it to the green grass on Bai Truoc for a picnic. The lines of palms and coconut trees have create the perfect shade for you to lay down and read a good book.
Bai Truoc is also home to many bars and clubs in Vung Tau. Even though the nightlife in Vung Tau is not crazily active compares to Saigon, the ocean view is the biggest selling point for entertaining locations here. It depends on whether you want to relax and drink a glass of cocktail or rock the dance floor the party goers can check out these cool spots: Tommy’s Bar, Fang Pub, Black Pearl Bar and The Gazebo Beach Front Lounge & Cafe.
- Don’t forget to clean up and throw the trash after your picnic to be friend to the environment.
- Don’t miss taking a walk on the beautiful granite street with your significant other to watch the sunset on Bai Truoc.
Location: Bai Truoc (or Bai Tam Duong) is set between Nui Lon mountain and Nui Nho mountain.
Christ of Vung Tau – Nui Nho Mountain
If you are a mountain type of person and hiking is your favorite activity, the Christ of Vung Tau on Nui Nho Mount should be on top of your list. In the morning, when the heat is not too crazy, you can take 847 steps to the top of the mountain to watch the sunrise. On the way, the lovely smell of blossom plumeria and the breath-taking scenery will help you de-stress and feel relaxed. The giant Jesus statue on top of the mountain is the symbol of Vung Tau. It was built in 1971 with the height of 32 meter and the length of arm arms is 18,4 meter. What make this statue special is you can take the stairs inside of the body to climb up to Jesus’ arms where you can inhale the fresh scent of the ocean and enjoy the magnificent panoramic view of the beach city.
- Mind your steps! Because the staircase inside Jesus’s statue is made for small feet.
- Use sunscreen and wear hat/caps since there is no shade along the way to protect you from the sun.
- Stay hydrated! It could take you at least 30 minutes to climb up to the top of the mountain. You should carry a bottle of water with you.
- Wear clothes that are not too revealing. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to enter the statue.
Location: Nui Nho mountain
Good time to go hiking: 6 AM – 8 AM and after 4:30 PM
Opening time of the statue: 7 AM – 12 PM and 2 PM – 5Pm
The Lighthouse – Nui Nho mountain
This lighthouse is said to be one of the most ancient lighthouses in Vietnam.
The lighthouse is one of the must-visit destinations in Vung Tau for anyone wanting to experience the harmony of the beach and mountain as well as watching the city from a different angle. This lighthouse is said to be one of the most ancient lighthouses in Vietnam. The French built the lighthouse in 1862 on the highest peak of Nui Nho Mountain and rebuilt in 1913 with the purpose of showing the way for the boats at night. To get to the lighthouse, you can either walk or drive motorbike on a beautiful winding road. On the slope, you will smell the sweet aroma of plumera blooming in the wind and see the beach appear in the distance, so phenomenal like an oil painting. The white lighthouse standing on top of Nui Nho Mountain remains the beauty of the French architect.
- Climb up to the balcony via the stair inside to have a better look at Vung Tau city.
- Applying insect-repellant is highly recommend.
- Hike in the afternoon when the heat cools down.
- Eat Co Tien yogurt on the slope near the lighthouse is a must-do for local tourists. The price for a cup of yogurt is 7.000 VND.
Location: From Cau Da Pier, go up north to Ha Long street for about 0.2 km, take a right turn at Be Sau restaurant, turn left at the first 3-way intersection and hike up the hill.
Open hour: 24/7
Best time to go: After sunset and before 10 PM
Pig Hill – Pig hill
Those who love conquering the roads by motorbike will love to drive up to Pig hill (Or doi Con Heo) for a driving skill challenge. The Pig Hill is a hidden gem in this beach city. After going off the small route in alley 222, Phan Chu Trinh street you will reach a rocky and dusty slope. The slope is only about 50 metres, however, to go pass without falling off the bike, you must be an experience driver. All your hard work will be paid off once you reach the top where the romantic view of Hon Ba Island makes this a perfect place to watch sunset and sunrise. If you are searching for a cool theme for your OOTD photos (“Outfit of the day” for you non-bloggers), voila! This is where many Instagramers earning “hearts” for their “into the wild OOTD” theme. the One special thing about Doi Con Heo is the landscape changes in wet and dry season. In the wet season there will be green grass and trees while in the dry season, it becomes the land of stones.
- Go before the sunset because there is no light in this area, it could be dangerous in the dark.
- Get off and walk with your bike through the slope if you are not confident with your driving skill since the sand and rocks makes the road become very slippery.
- Location: Alley 222 Phan Chu Trinh, Ward 2, Vung Tau.
- Best time to go: Before the sunset
Xom Luoi market
If you want to eat seafood at a cheaper price than in the restaurant, don’t hesitate to go to Xom Luoi market, the paradise of seafood lovers. As the locals and tourists from nearby cities usually go here to buy fresh fishes, shrimps, squids, octopus and many different types of snail. If you want to cook by yourself, there are some stalls that have seasonings, stuffings and sauces for you to buy. You can also expect to find BBQ grills here. Otherwise, you can bring the raw food to the cooking stalls within the market and ask them to grill, boil or fry the seafood for you. Later, you can enjoy your yummy dishes at the park on Bai Truoc beach.
- Best time to buy seafood is around 4 – 5 PM. This is when the fishing boats get back to the mainland and bring their hauls to this market.
- Bargain to your advantage 😉 You should negotiate the price down 10.000 – 20.000 VND from the asking price
- The language barrier can make it harder for you to get what you want here because this is not a tourist market so the sellers do not speak English. Ideally you should ask a friendly local to help you communicate.
- Location: On the intersection of Phan Boi Chau and Nguyen Cong Tru street
Open time: 24/7
- Best time to shop: 4 – 5 PM
How to get there
To arrange your trip to the nearest beach of Saigon, transportation is one of the most important things to consider. Depending on your time and purpose, you can choose between the hydrofoil, express bus, private car and motorbike.
This is the most effective time-saving way to reach Vung Tau. The ferry port in Hochiminh City is Nha Rong port, located on Saigon River. It takes you 1 hour and 20 minutes on boat to reach the Express Ship Harbour on Bai Truoc, Vung Tau.
Ticket price: 250,000 VND on week day – 250,000 VND on weekend.
Open hour: 6 AM – 5 PM, departs every hour.
Greenlines Express Hydrofoil
Phone number: 08. 38215609 (HCMC) – 064. 3810202 (Vung Tau)
Vina Express Hydrofoil
Phone number: 08. 38297892 (HCMC) – 064. 3856565 (Vung Tau)
Petro Express Hydrofoil
Phone number: 08. 38213650 (HCMC) – 064. 3515151 (Vung Tau)
Read more: An Insider’s Guide to The Saigon River
Beside hydrofoil, express bus is another convenient transportation you can use to go to Vung Tau. It will take you 2 hours and 30 minutes on bus to reach the destination. There are many bus express options you can leave from in the East Bus Station (Ben xe mien dong); Hoa Mai Express is the most popular one among the locals.
Ticket price: 80,000 – 125,000 VND
Business hour: 4 AM – 7 PM
Hoa Mai Express
Business hour: 4 AM – 7 PM, departure every 20 minutes
Phone number: 08. 38218927 (HCMC) – 064. 3531980 (Vung Tau)
Price: 80,000 – 125,000 VND
Open hour: 4 AM – 7 PM, departure every 20 minutes
Phone number: 08. 35116861
Price: 80,000 VND
Thien Phu Express
Open hour: 4 AM – 7 PM, departure every 20 minutes
Phone number: 08. 38984893
Price: 90,000 – 110 VND
Private car/van is a good choice for group travel. As the modern Long Thanh – Dau Day expressway is opened for traffic, the travel time is shortened to just 2 hours. Another advantage of travel by your own transportation is that you can be flexible in term of choosing the attraction to visit and going around the city. Last but not least, the cost of travel could be cheaper when you share the cost with friends.
It is a fun experience to go to Vung Tau on the motorbike by yourself or with a group of friends. The way from Saigon to Vung Tau is pretty safe and there are many stops for food and photos. It will take you about 3 to 4 hours on the bike to reach the beach. The ideal departure time is early in the morning, when the heat is not too high so that you won’t lose too much energy (and…, maybe, temper). On the other hand, you shouldn’t drive in the evening or at night because it could be dangerous when you go pass the rubber forest.
If you live in Saigon or have a week in Saigon, you should spend a day or two to get away from the city and visit Vung Tau to swim in the sea, climb up the mountain or simply just have a picnic with your friends in the shaded park while listen to the love song of the ocean. Let mother nature soothe your soul.
But we’re not done yet! Vung Tau is not only a good place for people who love sightseeing and playing with the water it also a great gem for the F-type travellers, who travel for FOOD. What are the must-try dishes in Vung Tau besides fresh seafood? Read on to find out: Food in Vung Tau! So let us know how your weekend goes 😉
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