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Getting There

Once reached only by chartered helicopter from Vung Tau, Con Dao now connects with Ho Chi Minh City by regular fixed-wing flight. Vasco Airlines (Vietnam Air Service Co.), a division of Vietnam Airlines, flies a 30-seater Russian Antonov 38, a twin-engine turbo prop plane left over from years when Russia and Vietnam shared both technology and ideology. The ride itself is part of the adventure of visiting Con Dao. The operation is reliable, however small-time it may look when you are boarding. Flights leave from Ho Chi Minh City's Ton Sa Nhat Airport early every morning (one-way flights cost 761,000 VND).

Buy tickets through any Ho Chi Minh travel agent for a fee, or contact Saigontourist at 49 Le Thanh Ton St. (tel. 08/3827-9279), just adjacent to the People's Committee Building at the city center. You can also contact Vasco directly by phone to their offices at 114B Bach Dang Rd. (tel. 08/3844-5999 or 3842-2790), and they can drop off a ticket at your hotel for cash payment.

There are regular boats that connect Con Dao and Vung Tau, but they leave at 5pm and take 12 hours for the overnight ocean crossing (costing just peanuts). Not recommended.

Be sure to arrange transport from the airport to your hotel before arriving on the island. If you arrive without prearranged accommodations, you'll be refreshingly free of the pushy taxi drivers and hotel touts who crowd your arrival in most tourist areas of Vietnam, but you'll realize how much easier these guys make travel in-country. Prearranging your accommodations from Vung Tau means perhaps paying a higher price, though, so if you want to try to save some money, arrive without a reservation, hop on one of the buses loaded with Vietnamese tourists going to the port area, and go to a hotel front desk to negotiate, or walk to the next hotel. Car or motorbike connection from the airport is 20,000 VND.

Orientation

The airport is on the far southern tip of the island, and a 15-minute ride by van -- arrange with your hotel before arrival -- brings you to the central town area with its crumbling prisons. The growing town is set around the old prisons. A commercial port sits on the north end of the island, and a few beaches are along the rocky coast.

Fast Facts

There are no banks on the island, and Visa is the only credit card accepted -- for a room only -- at the Saigontourist Con Dao Resort. Bring cash. There are a few little Internet cafes, but the connection is so slow it's just not worth it. The post office is at 48 Nguyen Hue (tel. 064/383-0226) next to the radio tower.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.