Vung Tau is the closest beach town to Saigon, so naturally it’s a popular city escape for Saigonese. The easiest way to get there is by the fast boat service. This used to be the quickest way before the Long Thanh expressway opened. Now getting a minivan takes about the same time.
There was some confusion over the future of the ferry after the Vina Express hydrofoil caught fire in 2014, and services were suspended.
The service restarted but then the government announced that the Soviet-era hydrofoils used by Vina Express were to be retired by December, 2016. There are now other operators so this isn’t the end of the Vung Tau ferry.
Vina Express was the hydrofoil operator whose service has since been suspended.
When I went on this trip the ferry departed from District 4 off Nguyen Tat Thanh Street near the Ho Chi Minh Museum. In March, 2018 the ferry departure moved back to District 1 at the Bach Dang Speed Ferry Terminal. This is opposite the Riverside Hotel on Ton Duc Thang.
Greenlines Ferry Review
The Greenlines catamaran looks like a little tug boat so I was surprised at how fast it goes.
I’ve been on many ferries in Southeast Asia with narrow and broken seats. It was a welcome relief to see that the seats weren’t crammed into a small space.
The seats are wide and provide plenty of leg room, and they are made of a soft netted/mesh fabric that are comfortable to sit on. The life vests are easily accessible from under the seat as well.
There is wi-fi onboard and video entertainment. They were playing traditional Vietnamese music and it wasn’t too loud, which is usually the case. They also had the air conditioning set at a reasonable level and not set to “freezing”.
Part of the appeal of this trip is putting Saigon in context to the surrounding waterways. While the rivers the boat travels on aren’t part of the Mekong Delta, there are sections that felt like being in the Delta. Being in urban Saigon I didn’t realise how big the ports and waterways were here.
There is a small deck out the back but it’s not really suitable for sitting. This a fast boat service and not a pleasure cruise, so I made do with looking at the scenery from the window. There is a clean western toilet at the back, and there is no snack bar onboard (you get a small bottled water though).
Most of the trip is smooth sailing (so to speak) along the rivers. It is only on the last section where the river meets the sea and the boat cuts across the bay that it gets a bit rough.
The trip take about 90 minutes and the from the jetty at Vung Tau you can walk to the downtown area of the Vung Tau Front Beach.
Saigon – Vung Tau Boat Route
Here is a map of the Saigon to Vung Tau boat route, which starts on the Saigon River, then joins the Soai Rạp River, and finishes in the Ganh Rai Bay.