Photo: Con Dao beach scenes.

Transport

Use the quicklinks below to jump to the desired section regarding transport in and around Con Dao Islands.


Air

Con Dao Airport (VCS) is located on main island Con Son. It is 13 kilometres from town, taking a leisurely 20 minutes to get to or from.

VASCO, a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines, is the only airline to service Con Dao. Several flights run daily to/from Ho Chi Minh City, with consistent pricing. Flight takes an hour and they are often full, sold out a week in advance.

Unless your schedule is very flexible, we strongly recommend you book your round-trip ticket in advance because once it’s full, it’s full. Sort of. Travel agents, tour operators and Six Senses Resort have allotments. The Vietnam Airlines website may show it as sold out and you can call VASCO and they will tell you it is sold out, but it’s actually just on hold for an agent. Con Dao is popular with domestic tourists because of its history and for pilgrimage to martyr Vo Thi Sau’s grave. The government also subsidises the trip for war veterans. What this means, is that one day the website lists five flights available, the next day it will show as completely sold out.

If you’re desperate to get a flight, your best bet is to ask around with big agents like Saigon Tourist. For example, we wanted to fly on a day that was “sold out” and after calls to Vietnam Airlines, VASCO, then a couple of agents, we found one who was positive they could get us a ticket. After they placed some calls, we got a ticket and yes, it was legitimate.

The only other route serviced is a 50-minute flight from Can Tho. It’s cheaper but you don’t want to miss your flight as there is only one a day.

For a great view of Dam Trau beach and the island when you fly in, request a window seat on the right hand side.

The VASCO booking office in Con Dao is at 40 Ton Duc Thang St; T: (064) 3831 831.

There are meter taxis at the airport. Arranging a transfer ahead of time with your hotel can be cheaper; expect to pay around 200,000 dong.

An excellent budget option to get to/from Con Dao Airport is to have your hotel/guesthouse book you onto the shuttle bus. Someone will meet you at the airport with your name on a sign and point you to the bus. It’s great: air-conditioned and only 50,000 dong per person paid directly to the driver. Loud Vietnamese pop music is included in the ride for free!

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Boat

Yes, there is a ferry between Vung Tau on the mainland and Con Dao; no, you do not really want to take it. Though we haven’t personally experienced it, we spoke to plenty of locals and long-time residents who blanched at the mention and strongly advised against it. Travellers who arrive by ferry always decide to fly back.

If you’re a diehard, then you’re up against a few challenges. Only two boats service the island and it’s extremely difficult for foreigners to get tickets as priority goes to locals; despite the horrendous journey, it is popular as it is the cheapest way to get off the island. You could be waiting for days just to get a spot, mitigating any financial savings. When the weather is good, the ferry runs as frequently as every two days; when the weather is bad, like during windy season from November till March, it can be down to once a month. If one boat is cancelled, it creates a backlog for the next boat. Locals have told us they’ve had to wait weeks to get on.

Still interested? It costs around 100,000 to 200,000 dong per person. There are either seats or beds – though good luck trying to sleep with those waves and smell of sick. Boat departs Vung Tau’s Cat Lo Port at 17:00. It takes 12 hours crossing big, open seas and arrives in the early morning at Ben Dam Harbour. The Con Dao ferry ticket office is at the northwest side of the market, across the street from Agribank.

It’s best to check the latest ferry situation and schedule by asking friendly businesses such as Con Dao Dive Center/Bar200.

In case you haven't realised it yet, we recommend you fly.

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Getting around

Con Son town is neatly laid out and very flat, making it a dream to get around by foot or bicycle. The long boulevard Ton Duc Thang along the water’s edge is a pleasant route to stroll, especially as the day winds down. You can easily reach all of the historic prisons, museum, Chua Van Son Pagoda and the beaches close to town by bicycle. Outside of town, the road along the coast is steep and hilly making motorbike or taxi the best option.

If you do need a taxi, try Con Son Taxi: (091) 8076 345.

Guesthouses and hotels rent motorbikes for 100,000 dong per day. There are two petrol stations in town. The PV Oil station on Nguyen Hue St is open all day, while the one a couple blocks west of the clock tower closes for lunch between 11:30-13:30.

Con Dao’s roads are virtually deserted – even in town in the middle of the day – and the coastal road delivers jaw-dropping sweeping views. However, Vietnam shouldn’t be your first time on a motorbike – remember, you’re an hour's flight from a modern hospital. Roads are not lit at night and there are some sharp, blind turns. Dirt trails to the beaches have patches of sand that require finesse to navigate (we witnessed one nasty slip and spill). Cows, dogs and monkeys roam the roads. The bends on the southern coastal road catch wicked gusts of wind and there is often a sheer drop at the edge.

Keep these red flags in mind, have a safe journey and enjoy the ride.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Con Dao Islands? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Vietnam.


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