Ho chi minh to vung tau

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Last updated December 2019 | Words và photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | maps | RELATED POSTS

Taking the fast boat ferry between Saigon (Ho bỏ ra Minh City) và Vung Tau is one of Vietnam’s most underrated journeys. It’s a fascinating voyage from the skyscrapers of downtown Saigon, along several busy rivers, through mangrove forest, và across mở cửa sea to Vung Tau (with a new, optional stop at Can Gio, near the river mouth). What it may lack in natural beauty, it more than makes up for in interest. Indeed, this journey is a more rewarding riverine experience than many Mekong Delta boat tours. What’s more, Vung Tau, especially during the week, is a very attractive, affluent, và peaceful seaside getaway. Even after the opening on an upgraded highway between Saigon & Vung Tau, taking the boat is still far more enjoyable, comfortable, and scenic. Going by bus, taxi, or motorbike is simply a means to lớn an end; going by boat is an experience. Below is my full guide to lớn the Saigon→Vung Tau→Can Gio Fast Boat Ferry.

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The Greenlines website is very clear, well-presented, well-organized, and available in English & Vietnamese. Over the phone, staff are helpful but you may struggle khổng lồ get clear information if you conduct the hotline purely in English (even though staff on the other kết thúc of the line vị have some English, phone conversations are very difficult in a second language). Greenlines have ticket offices at the boat piers in Saigon and Vung Tau (and Can Gio). You can also find current times, prices, và book tickets through Baolau.com. Note: sailing times and prices are subject to lớn change, especially due to lớn weather conditions. Always double check before you leave). 
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Greenlines is the the boat company operating daily ferries between Saigon & Vung Tau (and Can Gio)*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can search ferry times, prices, & make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

Schedules & Sailing Times:The Greenlines fast boat schedule is pretty simple & straightforward: there are four sailings a day in both directions on weekdays (Monday-Friday), with an extra two sailings a day on weekends (Saturday và Sunday). Journey time is 2 hours. :SAIGON→VUNG TAU: 8.00am, 10.00am, 12.00noon, 2.00pm (plus weekends: 9.00am, 4.00pm)VUNG TAU→SAIGON: 10.00am, 12.00noon, 2.00pm, 4.00pm (plus weekends: 1.00pm 3.00pm) Can Gio Extra Stop: Two of the daily sailings in both directions make an additional stop at Can Gio, which is at the mouth of the river as it empties into the sea. Journey time from Saigon to lớn Can Gio is 90 minutes, and from Vung Tau lớn Can Gio is 30 minutes. Below are the two daily sailings that make the additional stop at Can Gio:SAIGON→CAN GIO: 8.00am, 2.00pm (arriving Can Gio: 9.30am, 3.30pm)VUNG TAU→CAN GIO: 10.00am, 2.00pm (arriving Can Gio: 10.30am, 2.30pm) Weather permitting, most Greenlines boats depart/arrive on-time. But sailing times are liable to lớn change without notice if conditions are bad. If the weather has been particularly windy or stormy recently, check by phone or at the ticket office lớn make sure your boat is scheduled lớn leave on time.

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Tickets can be booked online, over the phone, or in person at the ferry piers in Saigon và Vung Tau*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can tìm kiếm ferry times, prices, và make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

Departure & Arrival Ports:The arrival and departure ports in Saigon và Vung Tau have changed since the days of the old hydrofoils. In Saigon, boats depart from Bach Dang Pier, in downtown District 1; in Vung Tau boats leave from the Ho May Tourist Pier, just west of Front Beach (Bãi Trước); and in Can Gio boats depart from the pier northwest of town. Taxis & motorbike taxis meet the boats at all ports:

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SAIGON PORT: All fast boats khổng lồ Vung Tau (and Can Gio) arrive/depart from the Bach Dang Pier in downtown Saigon. Located right in the heart of the city, the Bach Dang Pier should be easy khổng lồ find. However, make sure you go to the Bach Dang Fast Boat Pier (Bến tàu cao tốc trên không Bạch Đằng), not the Bach Dang Waterbus Pier (Ga Tàu Thủy Bạch Đằng). It doesn’t really matter, because the two piers are only a hundred meters or so apart, but that could make all the difference if you’re in a rush khổng lồ catch the ferry. At the ferry terminal, you’ll find the Greenlines ticket kiosk. There’s a decent coffe on the pier where you can wait with a coffee or juice before departure time. From the pier, the views upriver back towards District 1 and Binh Thanh are impressive.
From Saigon, Greenlines boats depart from the Bach Dang Pier in downtown District 1VUNG TAU PORT: Boats arrive/depart from the Ho May Tourist Pier, also known as Hòn rù rì harbour. This port is at the northern over of Bãi Trước (Front Beach), beneath the green slopes of Núi Lớn (Big Mountain) and the grand, French colonial Governor General’s House. Boats dock at the end of a long pier, which doubles as a restaurant and cafe. A handful of taxis meet the boats, or you can walk along the pleasant seafront road khổng lồ the waterfront cafes & hotels. The Greenlines ticket kiosk is located at the port entrance, on Tran Phu Street.
In Vung Tau, Greenlines boats dock at the Ho May Tourist Pier, just west of the Front Beach (Bãi Trước)

CAN GIO PORT: The fast boat ferry port in Can Gio is a 5-minute drive northwest of the main town. It’s a fairly quiet place with a few food và drink shacks & a collection of wooden fishing boats và patrol ships floating on the muddy water, sheltering among the reeds.
Can Gio Port is an inlet off the main river, filled with wooden fishing boats*Please support Vietnam Coracle: you can tìm kiếm ferry times, prices, và make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com search boxes & links throughout this guide. If you make a booking, I receive a small commission. All my earnings go straight back into this website. Thank you.

The Boats:Unlike the old hydrofoils – which looked pretty worn và forlorn – the new fast boats operated by Greenlines are clean, and, on the surface at least, well-maintained. All Greenlines vessels are painted blue và white. The crafts look quite smart from the outside, with pointy hulls và a speedy, aerodynamic appearance.
Soviet-era hydrofoils on the Saigon-Vung Tau route have been replaced by a fleet of modern fast boatsBoats are boarded at the stern, where there’s a decent covered deck with a bench & also two clean toilet cubicles. If, like me, you love boat journeys, then you’ll probably find that you spend most of the voyage sitting out on this back deck, watching the shipping & scenery pass by. But sometimes staff don’t allow passengers on deck, presumably because of rough conditions.

Best seat on the boat: all ferries have a covered back deck on which khổng lồ sit out và enjoy the sceneryHowever, inside things are just as good. A surprisingly wide, high-ceilinged, bright & clean cabin seats around 50-75 passengers. There are two or three rows of soft, coach-style seats with plenty of leg-room. The cabin is air-conditioned to a reasonable temperature (not freezing cold as on some ferries in Vietnam). The windows are very large so you can enjoy the passing scenery from your seat. There’s even WiFi available. Complimentary refreshments include water, coffee và a cake. As well as that, there’s a little bar at the front of the cabin, selling pot noodles và soft drinks. The majority of passengers are foreign travellers, expats, & Vietnamese holidaymakers. Staff are young, quite friendly và polite. There are electrical sockets khổng lồ plug your gadgets into, & there’s on-board WiFi, but it’s not that strong.
Inside, the cabin is large, bright and air-conditioned, và seating is comfortable, clean, spaciousOn board ‘entertainment’ comes in the form of a TV which shows, depending on the whim of the captain, anything from terrible pop music lớn prank-style comedy to lớn Vietnamese soap operas. But the volume is mercifully low (unlike the fast boats to Phu Quoc Island) so it doesn’t intrude into your headspace. It’s also good lớn bear in mind the reason for this entertainment: it’s not just to pass the time on a 2-hour journey; it’s also khổng lồ offer a distraction from the waves, especially for Vietnamese passengers who commonly suffer from travel sickness.
On board entertainment comes in the form of TV shows và pop music, but it’s at a reasonable volume

Ever since one of the old hydrofoils caught fire on the river in 2014, forcing passengers khổng lồ evacuate onto the muddy riverbank (which was the beginning of the over for those Soviet-era relics on this route), safety has been a major concern, both for passengers và ferry operators between Saigon and Vung Tau. In general, Vietnam has a pretty awful maritime safety record, but things are changing. Also, it should be pointed out that travelling between Saigon and Vung Tau by road is statistically far more dangerous than taking the boat. All Greenlines ferries have life vests under every passenger seat. During the voyage, two engineers are constantly opening up the hatches on the back deck to kiểm tra the state of the engine. The barrier on the back deck is a little low and the latch to the boarding gate could easily come loose: don’t lean on it, and take extra care if you’re travelling with children. Seasickness shouldn’t be a problem for most people, because the majority of the voyage is on placid rivers, but the last 30 minutes crossing open sea can be quite bumpy.
Safety measures include life vests under every seat, life rafts và regular engine checks during the voyageLastly, these new boats are fast. Not 30 seconds after maneuvering out of port, the main engines power nguồn up và the boat ploughs its course, dodging all the other sluggish vessels on the river, churning up a silver-brown wake of river water và water hyacinths behind it.

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The Voyage:The swif-looking Greenlines vessel casts off from the Bach Dang pier right in the heart of downtown Saigon. The gleaming high-rises of Saigon’s District 1 tower above the water as the boat drifts onto the swell of the wide Saigon River.
The Saigon-Vung Tau ferry pulls away from the pier in District 1 with the city skyline behind

The city’s major waterway is a constant presence if you live in Saigon, but when you are actually on it, as opposed lớn just looking at it, it’s a totally different experience. Saigon appears serene; without the noise, heat, congestion, & pollution that blights it on street level: from the river, this is a calm, controlled, và even beautiful, city. The old ferry between District 1 and 2 used lớn provide a similar experience, but since that went out of service with the opening of the Thu Thiem Tunnel in 2011, the fast boat to lớn Vung Tau is one of the few ways to lớn see the thành phố from the water.
Leaving the city in its wake, the fast boat picks up tốc độ as it begins the 2 hour voyage to Vung TauVery soon after departure, the main engines kick in, the bow lifts up, and the tốc độ picks up. The boats are seriously fast, and if you sit out on the back deck (which I tend to vày for the duration of the voyage, if staff allow it) you’ll be sprayed intermittently by cooling showers of river water.
When the engines nguồn up the boat churns the water white, spraying the back deck with river waterThe Saigon skyline recedes, very quickly, into the distance; disappearing around a bend, reappearing on the horizon, then fading out of sight again as the boat moves through a chicane of meanders. These bends make the journey immediately disorienting: Saigon landmarks, such at the Lotus Building (the bitexco Tower) & the gleaming spire of Landmark 81 keep popping up to the east then to the west; behind the boat then in front of it, then disappearing altogether. It’s impossible khổng lồ get your bearings.


A chicane of meanders on the Saigon River makes the journey immediately disorientingSailing downriver, the skyscrapers of downtown give way lớn the sprawling, apartment-filled suburbs, và the Saigon docks which line the riverbanks for many kilometres. It’s fascinating to lớn watch as the boat dodges all the different kinds of shipping: slipping between the bows of giant container vessels và freight ships, tugs and barges, fishing boats và canoes, tankers & warships.
Watching all the different boats on this increasingly busy shipping lane is a lot of funAfter passing beneath the soaring blade of concrete that is the Phu My Bridge, the boat veers right và joins the wider waters of the Dong Nai River. Continuing southwards into the Soai Rap River, the banks expand ever further apart, until they must span at least a couple of kilometres. Container ships are more numerous here but they’re made khổng lồ appear small on the mighty, muddy river.
Passing under the Phu My Bridge, a soaring blade of concrete over the Saigon River

With Saigon now out of sight, industry takes over. Warehouses, factories, oil depots, cement plants, coal, gas, wood, metal: the brawny industrial arm of the southern hub and all of the boats that supply it. It’s an utterly compelling sequence, so much so that you won’t want lớn sit down, go inside, or take your eyes off it for one minute for fear of missing something.
The brawny arm of the southern industrial hub: ships supply factories along the river banksAt the confluence of the Soai Rap và Long Tau rivers, an enormous new bridge is under construction. The fast boat continues straight ahead, due south on the Long Tau River. From here, greenery begins to lớn colonize the riverbanks: concrete becomes a rare sight, small wooden fishing boats cast their nets into the wide waters, & the sky looms large over the flat expanse of boggy, delta land.
Eventually, greenery takes over the riverbanks and industry fades awayIn order to lớn avoid a detour on the Long Tau River, the fast boat takes a shortcut through a narrow channel lined with mangrove. This is a tight waterway, not big enough for larger ships. The banks are close together and the distinctive splayed roots of the mangrove trees are clearly visible. Suddenly, after all the urbanity and industrial activity of the first half of the journey, it’s now easy lớn imagine yourself sitting on the back of the boat in Apocalypse Now as it winds its way into the jungle, ever closer to Colonel Kurtz. The scenery is exotic và atmospheric. However, I’m not sure how environmentally sound it is. Mangrove are supposed to be one of the major lifelines for Vietnam if it is to avoid sinking into the ocean in the future. Their roots help anchor the land, which, in these swampy, delta regions, is nothing more than mud & silt. The waves from the wake of the fast boats surely can’t bởi vì any good lớn the stability of the mangrove trees.


A narrow channel provides a shortcut through mangrove forests và small fishing communitiesAfter rejoining the meandering arm of the Long Tau River, the Phu My Hills rise to lớn the northeast. The water is brackish here: the colour changes, becomes lighter; the surface becomes ruffled as the wind picks up, & the banks are wider apart. The boat is nearing the mouth of the river. But before reaching the mở cửa sea, the boat may pull into the docks at Can Gio (if you’re travelling on one of the two daily sailings that include Can Gio).
Nearing the river mouth, the water becomes brackish và choppy, & large ships dwarf fishing boatsOut onto the open sea, rainy season clouds mushroom above the waiting container ships, threatening Vung Tau with a storm. The sea is rough and, for the first time, you can feel the vessel rising và falling with the swell. The air is clearer, saltier; the sky is bigger, the light sharper, the humidity lower – it’s hard not to lớn get excited as you approach the rocky promontory under which the trắng structures of Vung Tau glint in the sun.

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Out on the open sea it’s cooler và brighter, và the excitement builds as the boat approaches Vung Tau

Vung Tau seen from the sea is a collection of hotels & houses at the bottom of Big Mountain (Núi Lớn)It’s an exhilarating journey, but when the boat docks below Big Mountain (Núi Lớn) và the engines are cut, all that remains is the searing tropical heat và the sound of the sea lapping the concrete pier. It’s time lớn make your way along the seafront road for a coffee or settle into one of Vung Tau’s harbour-view hotels, lượt thích Leman Cap Resort, for a relaxing mini-break.