Last updated December 2019 | Words & photos by Vietnam Coracle

INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | map | RELATED POSTS

Taking the fast boat ferry between Saigon (Ho bỏ ra Minh City) and 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, and across open sea to lớn 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, & peaceful seaside getaway. Even after the opening on an upgraded highway between Saigon & Vung Tau, taking the boat is still far more enjoyable, comfortable, và scenic. Going by bus, taxi, or motorbike is simply a means khổng lồ an end; going by boat is an experience. Below is my full guide khổng lồ the Saigon→Vung Tau→Can Gio Fast Boat Ferry.

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The Greenlines website is very clear, well-presented, well-organized, & available in English và Vietnamese. Over the phone, staff are helpful but you may struggle to get clear information if you conduct the gọi purely in English (even though staff on the other kết thúc of the line do 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 & prices are subject to lớn change, especially due to lớn weather conditions. Always double kiểm tra 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 tìm kiếm ferry times, prices, & make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com tìm kiếm boxes & link 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 và straightforward: there are four sailings a day in both directions on weekdays (Monday-Friday), with an extra two sailings a day on weekends (Saturday & 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 lớn Can Gio is 90 minutes, và from Vung Tau to 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 khổng lồ make sure your boat is scheduled khổng lồ leave on time.

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Tickets can be booked online, over the phone, or in person at the ferry piers in Saigon & 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 & liên kết 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 & departure ports in Saigon and 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); và in Can Gio boats depart from the pier northwest of town. Taxis and motorbike taxis meet the boats at all ports:

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SAIGON PORT: All fast boats lớn 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 to find. However, make sure you go to the Bach Dang Fast Boat Pier (Bến tàu cao tốc 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 & 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 rờ harbour. This port is at the northern kết thúc 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 and 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 and drink shacks and 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, & make bookings directly from this page by using the Baolau.com tìm kiếm boxes & liên kết 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 & white. The crafts look quite smart from the outside, with pointy hulls and 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 và also two clean nhà vệ sinh cubicles. If, lượt thích 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 lớn sit out và enjoy the sceneryHowever, inside things are just as good. A surprisingly wide, high-ceilinged, bright và 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 lớn 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 & 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, và Vietnamese holidaymakers. Staff are young, quite friendly và polite. There are electrical sockets to plug your gadgets into, và there’s on-board WiFi, but it’s not that strong.
Inside, the cabin is large, bright & air-conditioned, & 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 khổng lồ Vietnamese soap operas. But the volume is mercifully low (unlike the fast boats lớn Phu Quoc Island) so it doesn’t intrude into your headspace. It’s also good to bear in mind the reason for this entertainment: it’s not just to pass the time on a 2-hour journey; it’s also lớn 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 to lớn evacuate onto the muddy riverbank (which was the beginning of the kết thúc for those Soviet-era relics on this route), safety has been a major concern, both for passengers and ferry operators between Saigon & 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 và 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 và the latch khổng lồ the boarding gate could easily come loose: don’t lean on it, & 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 xuất hiện 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 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 & 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 to 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, & even beautiful, city. The old ferry between District 1 & 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 khổng lồ Vung Tau is one of the few ways lớn see the thành phố from the water.
Leaving the thành phố in its wake, the fast boat picks up speed as it begins the 2 hour voyage lớn Vung TauVery soon after departure, the main engines kick in, the bow lifts up, và the speed picks up. The boats are seriously fast, & 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 power 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 tập đoàn bitexco Tower) & the gleaming spire of Landmark 81 keep popping up khổng lồ the east then to the west; behind the boat then in front of it, then disappearing altogether. It’s impossible to get your bearings.


A chicane of meanders on the Saigon River makes the journey immediately disorientingSailing downriver, the skyscrapers of downtown give way khổng lồ the sprawling, apartment-filled suburbs, & the Saigon docks which line the riverbanks for many kilometres. It’s fascinating lớn watch as the boat dodges all the different kinds of shipping: slipping between the bows of giant container vessels and freight ships, tugs và barges, fishing boats and canoes, tankers and 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 to 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 & all of the boats that supply it. It’s an utterly compelling sequence, so much so that you won’t want to 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 and 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, và the sky looms large over the flat expanse of boggy, delta land.
Eventually, greenery takes over the riverbanks & 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 khổng lồ imagine yourself sitting on the back of the boat in Apocalypse Now as it winds its way into the jungle, ever closer to lớn Colonel Kurtz. The scenery is exotic và atmospheric. However, I’m not sure how environmentally sound it is. Mangrove are supposed lớn be one of the major lifelines for Vietnam if it is lớn 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 và silt. The waves from the wake of the fast boats surely can’t 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 lớn the northeast. The water is brackish here: the colour changes, becomes lighter; the surface becomes ruffled as the wind picks up, và the banks are wider apart. The boat is nearing the mouth of the river. But before reaching the xuất hiện 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 & choppy, và 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 & falling with the swell. The air is clearer, saltier; the sky is bigger, the light sharper, the humidity lower – it’s hard not khổng lồ get excited as you approach the rocky promontory under which the white structures of Vung Tau glint in the sun.
Out on the xuất hiện sea it’s cooler & brighter, & the excitement builds as the boat approaches Vung Tau

Vung Tau seen from the sea is a collection of hotels và 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 & the sound of the sea lapping the concrete pier. It’s time to make your way along the seafront road for a coffee or settle into one of Vung Tau’s harbour-view hotels, like Leman Cap Resort, for a relaxing mini-break.