Vung Tau is the tourist and commercial centre of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu (an industrial province in southeastern Vietnam). The city lies on a peninsula which is separated from the mainland by a stream called the Co May River.
During 14th and 15th centuries, the cape that would become Vũng Tàu was a swamp which European trading ships visited regularly. The ships activities inspired the name Vũng Tàu, which means “anchorage”. The Portuguese navigators passed Vũng Tàu many times and named it after Saint Jacques. The French invaded Vietnam afterwards and called it Cape Saint Jacques. The cliff of Vũng Tàu is now called Mũi Nghinh Phong (literally means “cape of greeting the wind”).
Vũng Tàu used to be called Tam Thắng (“Three Boats”) in memory of the first 3 villages in this area: Thắng Nhất, Thắng Nhị, and Thắng Tam. It was within the province of Biên Hòa under the Nguyen dynasty.
10 Feb 1859 marked the first use of cannons by Nguyen’s army, when they fired at French battleships from the fortress of Phước Thắng, 100 m from Vũng Tàu’s Front Beach. This marked an important period in Vietnam’s war against French invaders in South Vietnam (then called Cochinchina).
In 1901, the population of Vũng Tàu was 5,690, of which 2,000 persons were immigrants from northern Vietnam. Most of the town’s population made their living in the fishing industry.
During the Vietnam War, Vũng Tàu was home to the Australian Army and American support units, and was a popular spot for in-country relaxation and recreation for US troops. After the war, Vũng Tàu was a common launching place for boat people fleeing the communists.
On 12 Aug 1991, the province of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu was founded and Vũng Tàu Town became Vũng Tàu City.
The city is in south Vietnam, and is at the tip of a small peninsula. It has traditionally been a significant port, particularly during Vietnam’s period of French rule. Today, the city’s importance as a port has diminished, but it still plays a significant role in Vietnam’s offshore oil industry. Vung Tau is the centre of Vietnam’s petroleum industry. Oil and gas exploitation dominate the city’s economy and contribute to Vietnam’s current account balance.
Vũng Tàu is home to 210,000 people. Roughly 1,250 are Russian specialists working in the oil industry. There is also a significant Australian community, mainly elderly, drawn to the area after serving in the Battle of Long Tan.
Vũng Tàu has two seasons:
- Dry season (Nov-Apr): dry and slightly cooler during the winter months and the Tết Holiday. Gets hotter in Apr.
- Rainy season (May-Oct): rainy, but less so than Ho Chi Minh City. Usually hot from 12:00-15:00. Summer is ideal for seaside frolics.
Vũng Tàu is connected to the mainland by Hwy 51 (Quốc lộ 51), which runs from Biên Hòa City. The shortest route from HCMC is through HCMC – Long Thành – Dầu Giây Highway, exit at Long Thành and join Highway 51.
You can take a bus to Vung Tau from Tan Son Nhat (Tân Sơn Nhất) International Airport (SGN IATA). All buses are parked near the domestic terminal. Look for “JetStar” or “Vietnam Airlines” painted on the bus body.
The fastest way on bus to Vung Tau is by taking a high speed coach from Mien Dong Coach Station (Bến Xe Miền Đông) in HCMC. Comfortable 16-seat buses with air conditioning make trips every 15 minutes. Duration: 2 hours, with a break at the halfway point. To get to Mien Dong Coach Station, take Bus 19 from Ben Thanh Market Bus Station, which will drop you opposite the Mien Dong Coach Station entrance.
It usually takes almost 2 hours from District 1, HCMC, to Vũng Tàu centre by coach/bus.
- Hoa Mai Tourist Buses, Phó Đức Chính St, District 1, HCMC, ☎+84 90 920 0200. 04:00-17:00. Operated every hour. Seats are reserved by telephone only. If you are in Vung Tau, free pick-up. 85,000 dong.
- ‘Mai Linh Express’, 292 Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, Bình Thạnh District, HCMC (Miền Đông Coach Station). Reliable inter-provincial bus service in Vietnam, especially southern Vietnam. Operates every 30 min. The journey from the bus depot in Ho Chi Minh City to the bus depot in Vung Tao takes approximately 2¼ hr during the day. A bottle of water is provided to every passenger. Using the toilet at the bus depot at HCMC costs 1,000 dong. 85,000 dong (Jan 2012).
- Rạng Đông Bus Company, 292 Đinh Bộ Lĩ, Bình Thạnh District, HCMC (Miền Đông Coach Station), ☎+84 85 111 111. 04:30-19:45. To/from HCMC. Departs when bus is full, which is approximately every 20 min. Rạng Đông also serves Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, and Kontum. 80,000 dong (Jan 2012).
- Thiên Phú, 292 Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, Bình Thạnh District, HCMC (Miền Đông Coach Station). The same as Rạng Đông, but with larger buses. Departure every 15 min.