Getting There & Away
Boat connection is your best option. The 1 1/2-hour trip costs just $10, payable in U.S. dollars or Vietnamese dong (150,000 VND). With two companies sending out boats, there are hourly departures to or from Vung Tau. Boats are rarely full, but departures can be crowded on weekends, so buy a ticket in advance if leaving Saigon on Friday evening or returning from Vung Tau on Sunday; otherwise, you can just show up and see which company has the next departure. Contact Vina Express at their riverside ticketing booth, either at the dock area or across the street from the launch at 2 Ton Duc Thang St. (tel. 08/3829-7892). They have departures starting in the morning at 6am (then at 8:30am, 10:30pm, 12:30pm, 2:30pm, and 4:40pm). Competitor Petro Express (20 Truong Cong Dinh St., in Vung Tau; tel. 064/353-0775) sells tickets at dockside. The high-speed, Soviet-built boats hydroplane across the surface. Tracing the Saigon River, you get a good look at the boom in import/export traffic from the country's largest port area. The ride is smooth until the mouth of the river, where the boat crosses a short stretch of open sea and bounces around a bit. There's a bathroom on board, and attendants provide complimentary water. Connecting by road from Ho Chi Minh is also a quick and easy trip, just 1 1/2 hours by rented car or minivan. Local buses leave Ho Chi Minh's Mien Dong Station in District 3 and take about 2 hours to reach Vung Tau.
The city of Vung Tau is spread out over the wide peninsular area ending to the south with hills and the town's large statue of Jesus. Distances across town are a bit far to traverse on foot, so it is a good idea to rent some wheels: bicycle, motorbike, or car. The west side of the peninsula is called Front Beach; the east is Back Beach. Hotels line the busy western port area. The large statue of Tran Hung Dao, at the terminus of the road by the same name, is a good orientation point -- many restaurants and services surround this central square, and the road that originates here extends north through town. Tran Phu Street runs along the west side of the peninsula and leads to the town's good seafood restaurants and a few sights.
You'll be swamped by taxi drivers when you pull in at the port. Just get it over with and pick somebody. Metered taxis -- the best is Mai Linh taxi (tel. 064/356-5656) -- are available all over town. Motorbikes are for rent right at the pier for 80,000 VND, and motorbike taxi drivers and cyclos are available at negotiable rates (about $1 per hour or 5,000 VND-10,000 VND for short trips in town).
Vietcombank has a branch at 27 Tran Hung Dao St. (tel. 064/385-2309) with ATM service and can exchange currency or traveler's checks (daily 8am-4pm, with a break for lunch). Internet connections are available in a few storefronts along central Tran Hung Dao Street. Try Tom Tin Internet, at 22 Tran Hund Dao (tel. 064/352-5857), which charges 4,000 VND per hour.