First published January 2021 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS
A great boon to travellers, particularly those on motorbikes, the new Can Gio↔Vung Tau car ferry connects two of the most popular destinations near Ho Chi Minh City: Can Gio mangrove forest and Vung Tau beach. This new ferry route is cheap and easy to use, fun and convenient, frequent and fast. The crossing only takes 30-60 minutes, and travel time between downtown Saigon and Vung Tau via the new ferry is just 2-3 hours, depending on the time of day. This is only marginally longer than it takes via the main highway. What’s more, the Can Gio↔Vung Tau car ferry is far more pleasant, scenic, and quiet than taking the main highway as it doesn’t involve the horrible crawl through the industrial suburbs. This new ferry route also means it’s no longer necessary to go via Saigon if you’re travelling between the southern coast and the Mekong Delta.
GUIDE: CAN GIO↔VUNG TAU CAR FERRY
On this page is a complete guide to the new Can Gio↔Vung Tau car ferry. I’ve done my best to explain in detail each aspect of taking this ferry: a route map, sailing schedule, ticket prices and how to buy them, information about departure and arrival ports, a description of the boats and the voyage, and a general overview of the ferry route and why it’s such good news for travellers. Click an item below to read more about it:
- Red line: the Can Gio↔Vung Tau car ferry route
- All other icons: ports, sites, towns, other ferry crossings
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About the Can Gio↔Vung Tau Car Ferry:
Below is a brief overview of the Can Gio↔Vung Tau ferry route, and an explanation of why this new ferry is such a boon to travellers, especially those on two wheels:
The new Can Gio↔Vung Tau car ferry route is operated by Thanh Thoi, the same company which runs ferries from the Mekong Delta to Phu Quoc Island. Ferries sail throughout the day between 6.00am and 5.30pm, and there’s a possibility they may run through the night in the future. The crossing takes between 30-60 minutes depending on the vessel, and ticket prices for passengers and vehicles are very reasonable. For more detailed information on times, prices, tickets, ferries, ports, and the voyage go to the relevant sections on this page from the contents above.
The Can Gio↔Vung Tau ferry route connects the western and eastern headlands at the mouth of the Long Tau River, of which the Saigon River is a tributary. The route is newly opened (it only started operating in early January, 2021) and is creating quite a lot of buzz online. However, whenever I’ve travelled on it, the ferry has been fairly empty. But travellers should expect it to be busy on weekends and public holidays, as the ferry connects two of the most popular destinations for easy excursions from Ho Chi Minh City: Can Gio mangrove forest and Vung Tau beach.
Why Use this Ferry:
This new ferry route is a great boon to travellers, particularly those on two wheels. There are now many ways to get from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to Vung Tau. If you’re in a car or bus, the Long Thanh Expressway connects with Highway QL51 to Vung Tau in just 2 hours. If you’re a pedestrian, the direct fast boat from Saigon is fun, convenient, and takes just 90 minutes to Vung Tau (the fast boat also has limited capacity for bicycles). If you’re on a motorbike, the Cat Lai car ferry from Saigon connects with Highway QL51 to Vung Tau in roughly 2-3 hours. However, the latter is not a pleasant ride as it passes through many pollution-choked industrial zones and truck-clogged roads. But now, for motorbikers, there is a better option: the new Can Gio↔Vung Tau car ferry.
If you time it right, the duration of the journey is roughly the same as going via the Cat Lai ferry and Highway QL51. However, going via the new Can Gio↔Vung Tau ferry is a much more pleasant ride than taking Highway QL51 as it doesn’t involve the horrible crawl out of Saigon and through the industrial suburbs. If you time it perfectly, travel time between downtown Saigon and Vung Tau via the new ferry is just 2 hours: 90 minutes riding from Saigon to Can Gio via the short Binh Khanh ferry crossing and along the wide, empty, scenic Rừng Sác Highway, and straight onto the new ferry for the 30-minute crossing to Vung Tau. However, 3 hours is a more realistic estimation for the journey: 2 hours to ride out to Can Gio (allowing for traffic and a short stop or two), a 30-minute wait for the next ferry, and then the half-hour crossing.
But timing is everything: the ride from downtown Saigon’s districts 1 and 4, and then through districts 7 and Nha Be, and out to the Binh Khanh ferry can be quite congested and frustrating if you hit it at peak hours (6.00am-9.00am and 4.00pm-7.00pm). But if you time the journey so that you ride this section in the early morning (before 6.00am) or during the lunch-break (12.00-2.00pm) or after 7.00pm, it’s absolutely fine. (Note: the Binh Khanh ferry operates throughout the day every 10 minutes or so, and through the night every half hour or so).
And there’s more. This new ferry route means it’s now possible to bypass Saigon altogether if you’re on a road trip between the coast and the Mekong Delta. For example, after taking the new car ferry from Vung Tau to Can Gio, you can then ride 45 minutes due northwest to another short ferry crossing, taking you over the Soai Rap River to Long An Province, from where you can continue on your way to the Mekong Delta without having to contend with the truck-strewn outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. Personally, I see myself utilizing the new Can Gio↔Vung Tau car ferry pretty much every time I want to head east of Saigon towards the Ocean Road and beyond.
Sailing Times & Ticket Prices:
Below I’ve written information about the ferry schedule, duration of the voyage and capacity of the vessels, ticket prices, and how and where to purchase them:
At the time of writing (January 2021), just two ferries were operating on the Can Gio↔Vung Tau route. The two vessels ply back and forth throughout the day from 6.00am to 5.30pm. The schedule changes slightly from day to day, but generally you can expect ten or more sailings in both directions each day of the week, with ferries leaving roughly on every hour or half hour. There’s also speculation that ferries may begin operating at night once the company acquires the permission to do so. The blue ticket kiosk (Phòng Vé) at each port displays the daily sailing schedule on a digital screen.
Duration & Capacity:
The voyage takes between 30 minutes and one hour depending on which vessel you’re sailing on. This is because the two ferries that are currently used on the route are different crafts: Thriving 11 is a newer and faster ferry which can make the crossing in just 30 minutes, but can’t accommodate trucks (only cars and motorbikes); Thriving 6 is an older and slower ferry that takes an hour to make the crossing, but can accommodate far more vehicles, including trucks, buses, cars and motorbikes. However, the majority of the daily crossings are made by Thriving 11, the faster of the two ferries. Both crafts are operated by Thanh Thoi, the same company which runs the car ferry routes between the Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc Island.
Tickets & Prices:
Buying tickets for the ferry is quite simple and easy to do. In general, there’s no need to book in advance: just show up at the port, go to the blue ticket kiosk (Phòng Vé), and purchase your tickets for the next sailing. The price list (bảng giá vé phà) for passengers and vehicles is displayed on a board beside the ticket kiosk (see below). Prices are very reasonable: for example, a motorbike and passenger costs just 120,000vnd. (Note: foreign travellers will usually need to present their passport at the ticket office in order to purchase a ticket):
Departure & Arrival Ports:
Below is a brief description of the ferry ports at both Can Gio and Vung Tau:
Can Gio Port [MAP]:
Located just north of town, Can Gio ferry port is at the mouth of a small tributary as if flows into the large swell of the Long Tau River. A sheltered spot on the edge of mangrove forests and the huge gaping estuary, you can clearly see the taller structures of Vung Tau beneath the hills on the opposite side of the river mouth. Can Gio port is quite easy to find and navigate around. A blue ticket office (Phòng Vé) sits at the entrance to the car ramp leading to the ferry. There are decent public toilets, a covered waiting area, and some local stores selling snacks and drinks. In fact, Can Gio port is a fairly pleasant place to be for 15-30 minutes while waiting for the ferry. There’s always a nice breeze off the water, the ships in the estuary chug back and forth, there’s a small fishing fleet of wooden boats in the harbour, and the vast sky makes a good backdrop. (Note: this is the same port where the fast boat passenger ferry to/from Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City arrives and departs: for more information, read this guide.)
Vung Tau Port [MAP]:
The city of Vung Tau sprawls along a peninsula jutting into the East Sea (Biển Đông). Vung Tau has many ports: the one used by this car ferry is situated at the northern tip of the peninsula. The port is on the excellent Vung Tau coast road which rounds the entire peninsula. Rising up behind the port are the steep, temple-studded, green slopes of Núi Lớn (Big Mountain). The port itself is a bit more prosaic: a blue ticket office (Phòng Vé) sits on the roadside at the entrance, beyond which a lane leads to a broad platform with a sheltered waiting area. There are several good, local seafood restaurants (quán hải sản) surrounding the port, and stores selling snacks and drinks. Vung Tau’s sizable fishing fleet moor in Ben Da harbour just to the south where’s there’s also a huge oil and gas port surrounded by shipping.
The two ferries currently operating on the Can Gio↔Vung Tau route are fairly chunky vessels with a wide loading bay at the back and a superstructure at the front with a large cabin featuring rows of coach-style seating. These are the same ferries that Thanh Thoi uses for their Mekong Delta↔Phu Quoc Island routes. And, as with the Phu Quoc routes, there are two kinds of ferry in operation: a fast ferry (Thriving 11) and a slow ferry (Thriving 6). However, despite the difference in speed (the fast ferry takes 30 minutes for the crossing; the slow one takes an hour), there isn’t much to choose between the vessels in terms of comfort and amenities. Both crafts are purely functional in design: essentially huge loading bays for cars, buses, trucks and motorbikes (although the slow ferry can accommodate far more, and far larger vehicles). The soft chairs in the large air-conditioned cabin are fine and comfortable, and there’s plenty of outside deck space on the loading bay or above the cabin from which to watch the scenery go by. Both vessels have decent toilets on board, life jackets under every seat, TVs playing Vietnamese pop music videos (at a mercifully low volume) and a generally acceptable standard of cleanliness. Unlike the ferries to Phu Quoc, there’s no snack bar on board (although this may change in the future). But it’s a short voyage so this shouldn’t be an issue, and you can always bring your own food and drink with you.
For me, of all journeys on all kinds of transportation, ships are the most exciting and romantic: even short ferry crossings such as this. I enjoy the buzz of departure and arrival, the thrill of being out on deck watching the swell of the wake trail behind the vessel, and the land-, sea-, and sky-scapes shifting slowly as the boat sails on. The Can Gio↔Vung Tau crossing is particularly interesting as it connects two headlands at the mouth of a wide river delta. This means your departure and destination ports are always within sight as you sail between the two. What’s more, the voyage passes straight through one of Vietnam’s busiest shipping lanes. Vịnh Gành Rái (Ganh Rai Bay) is the entrance to Saigon’s many port facilities: container ships are constantly plying to and from the ports loaded with cargo. This makes the bay a rich ground for ‘ship-spotting’. But Vinh Ganh Rai is also an unexpectedly attractive location: framed by the mountains of Ba Ria and Vung Tau to the east, with the endless flat, dense mangrove forests of Can Gio to the west, and the open sea to the south. Dawn is especially spectacular and dusk is very pretty too (both times of day are also the busiest periods for shipping). Conditions on the estuary are generally calm, but the swell can get surprisingly choppy on approach to Vung Tau if there’s any wind.
Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free & independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like this ferry route & I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements here