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How to get to Con Dao Island

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1. Getting to Con Dao Island

BY BOAT:

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.

The journey takes 11 hours, leaving at dusk and arriving at dawn. There are some sleeping berths on board, but conditions are rather cramped and there’s the distinct odour of previous passengers whose stomachs didn’t take too kindly to the rough seas. It’s sure to be an ‘experience’ if you have the time, but most travellers would be better off flying. However, I can’t imagine a more romantic introduction to the Con Dao Islands than arriving in the beautiful surrounds of Ben Dam harbour at dawn. Tickets are around $10. Schedule and online ticket booking is on http://vetaukhachcondao.com/

Get-to-Con-Dao-island-by-boat

BY AIR:

Ho Chi Minh City is the nearest international airport and direct scheduled 45-minute flights from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) are operated by VASCO, a fully owned subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines. VASCO booking can be made offline through Vietnam Airlines agencies or online at http://vietnamairlines.com/

There are 5 to 6 flights a day from the domestic terminal of Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat Airport. The dawn flight (leaving Saigon at 5:55am) is great for those with limited time.

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.

Book early to avoid disappointment – especially if travelling on a weekend or public holiday. A nice option, if you’re travelling in the Mekong Delta, is the four times weekly flight from Can Tho. Another alternative is to buy two one-way tickets: Can Tho to Con Dao and Con Dao to Saigon.

Get-to-Con-Dao-island-by-plane

2. Getting around Con Dao Island

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.

Get-to-Con-Dao-island-bike

Cycling: is nice as the roads are all but empty and the scenery gorgeous. Bikes can be hired from most accommodations on the island. However, in my opinion, there’s no point in coming to Con Son Island unless you hire a scooter. This gives you the freedom to really explore the island – find deserted beaches, go down dirt tracks and admire the views from the coast roads. Vietnam in general is best seen on a scooter, and Con Son Island is the perfect place to learn to drive if you don’t already know how. The well-maintained but empty roads give you all the space and time you need to get familiar with driving.

Note that there are only three gas stations on the island: two in Con Son town, the other near Ben Dam port. These gas stations close for lunch so remember to fill up as soon as you get your scooter, and keep an eye on the fuel gauge so as not to run dry on the other side of the island!

Scooters can be hired from all resorts and guesthouses. Prices are around 100-150,000VNĐ ($5-7) manual/automatic per day.

Get-to-Con-Dao-island-motorbike

Boats: to explore the outlying islands can be organized through the National Park Headquarters and some other locals. Try to get a group together as this will spread the cost, which is around $70-100. Note that during rough seas boat trips can be cancelled. This is most likely from November to February.

Get-to-Con-Dao-island-boat 1

Taxi: Con Sơn Taxi (0643 908 908) has a modest fleet of cars that are always available to take you into town, or to the beaches around the island, or (particularly useful) to drop off and collect you at the beginning and end of trailheads.

Get-to-Con-Dao-island-taxi

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