Chilling out in Vung Tau

Andrew Leeson


Vung Tau Port City

The delightful port city of Vung Tau, sits upon a peninsula in Southern Vietnam. Once a sleepy French Colonial town, it has evolved into a highly popular seaside getaway from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chih Minh City, which is only a 90 minute boat trip away. It’s beaches, gorgeous mountain backdrop and wonderfully relaxing atmosphere make it an ideal location to chill out for a week-end, or perhaps a home away from home, for an increasing number of expats. 


The city of Vung Tau covers an area of some 141 square kms. It has a resident population of around 450,000 but this can swell quite significantly during week-ends as the citizens of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) flock to its beaches and fill its hotels. Over the centuries it has been an important port in the region and during the Vietnam War it was a key location for R&R amongst US, Australian and New Zealand troops. In fact it was the headquarters of the 1st Australian Logistics Support Group.

Today the city serves a comfortable short term alternative from the hectic life of HCMC (aka Saigon) or for those looking to enjoy a laid back and highly cost effective lifestyle, it has become a very popular retirement destination. The expat community is estimated to be around 5,000 and its easy to see why this number is expected to grow. A one bedroom apartment set back from the beach can cost as little as $250 to $300 per month, and one with spectacular ocean views from around $500 per month. Food, entertainment, transport and utilities are amongst some the cheapest, not only in Vietnam, but in the whole of South East Asia. For many the cost of living is 50% to 60% cheaper than living in Australia. 

Things to do

The Vung Tau vibe really does vary during the week. At week-ends many of the beaches, bars, restaurants and cafes can become extremely busy, giving the city a buzz. However during the week it takes on a more relaxed and lazy feel, ideal for anyone seeking to slow down and embrace a more leisurely pace.

Beaches and beach life dominate the outdoors, with plenty of water based activities available. Then there are the parks and mountain walks, where stunning views can be captured, such as those from the Statue of Jesus, who looks down upon the city.

Jesus Statue Vung Tau Vietnam

Statue Of Jesus

There are sports facilities, cinema complexes, an excellent range of Western and Vietnamese restaurants and cafes, a small but lively bar scene (a particular favourite amongst Australians is Adam Troy’s Pub at 100 Phan Chu Trinh), a good mix of shopping options, including many local markets. Future plans include the construction of a theme park and shopping mall.

Getting There

Visitors from Australia will typically fly into Ho Chi Minh City, either directly with Jetstar or Vietnam Airways, or through numerous other carriers which serve the city from various alternative South East Asian locations. Popular hubs include Singapore, KL and Bangkok. From HCMC to Vung Tau you can either travel by road for 2 hours via the 51A Expressway, or use the high speed ferry/hydrofoil service, which takes about 90 minutes. Going by sea will set you back around $17. Travel by road will depend on your mode of transport, a standard bus will cost $10, but a more luxurious minibus or car will cost perhaps double that or more.

Healthcare, Visa’s and Money

Healthcare in Vung Tau is modest, but its proximity to good quality hospitals and medical facilities in nearby HCMC make it a genuine option for those considering a long stay. We would suggest however that anyone planning a longer visit (or retirement) in Vung Tau should have health insurance in place.

Whilst Vietnam does not currently have a retirement visa, many expats have become long term residents. The favoured method is to obtain a 3 month multiple entry tourist visa, which requires you to leave the country and re-enter upon its expiry. This is a common practice, and many expats often return the same day. Another alternative is to apply for a one year business visa. Whilst this does cost more to acquire, it removes the requirement to do ‘visa runs’ every 90 days. More details on Vietnamese visa’s will be covered in a future blog.

There are approximately 18,250 Vietnamese Dong (VND) to 1 Australian Dollar (at the time of writing), which is a favourable rate by recent historical standards. Other than VND, the US Dollar is also widely accepted, but expect to pay slightly more for purchases using US Dollars, depending on what rate the shop/vendor gives you. 

Vung Tau Vietnam
Overlooking Vung Tau

A chilled out alternative

Vung Tau offers a relaxed base from which to enjoy the vibrancy of nearby HCMC, the rest of this wonderful country and the region in general. Its cost of living, friendly locals and sizable expat community make it a highly desirable location to enjoy a few days, months or even years.

If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Andrew Leeson

Andrew Leeson

Over 20 years of experience helping people live a better life in SE Asia. Having worked in financial services in Asia I understand the challenges when moving to and living in a new country. I have travelled extensively throughout the region and experienced what SE Asia has to offer to retirees.

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