Con Dao is in a way an unknown place. But I am sure in a couple of years we will all hear about it more often. And If you want to have a 100% local experience, island life without the crowds. Well this one is for you. Island Phu Quoc and beach town Nha Trang definitely have competition. Let me introduce you to the remote islands of Vietnam: Con Dao. Con Dao is a group of 16 islands off the southeast coast of Vietnam.There is only one problem: How to get there? To get to Con Dao is quiet complicated. We say that the harder/longer the trip the better the island. In this article I will present several different ways on how to get to Con Dao. And how you can get to Con Dao on a budget as we did.
There are 3 ways how to get to Con Dao. Most of the travel guides mention only two.
1. EXPENSIVE: TAKE A PLANE
The first option and the most comfortable one is to fly there. Con Son, the main island, has a small airport and there are couple of airlines flying there.
However, the tickets are very expensive and quickly sold out as the planes are very little so only a small number of people can get their hands on tickets. So we crossed out this option.
2.UNCOMFORTABLE AND UNCERTAIN: A LONG FERRY RIDE
Another way is to get there by (a very slow) ferry. In most travel guides, including travelfish.org, it is recommended not to take the ferry but to rather fly. Well, this is true. The ferry takes more or less 12 hours. It departs from Vung Tau on the mainland and it is described by locals as a horrible experience. There are times when the ferry won’t even go because of the weather, so it is also an unreliable option.
THE BEST WAY HOW TO GET TO CON DAO ON A BUDGET:
3. TAKE THE SPEED BOAT (NO JOKE) SUPERDONG
However, we found another way.The best way possible and the cheapest how to get to Con Dao on a budget and without losing a lot of time. We got this information by coincidence. Our friends had a guide for a Mekong River Tour and he told them how to get to Con Dao by speed boat. The company is called SUPERDONG and their ticket office is located in Soc Trang. Soc Trang can be reached by bus from Ho Chi Minh City.
The tickets cost around 14 €. It also includes the transfer from the ticket office in Soc Trang to the harbour where the speed boats depart. The boats run from Tran De (Soc Trang), returning from Ben Dam (Con Dao) and vice versa.
You can check the schedule for Superdong HERE. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the information is only in Vietnamese.
HOW TO GET TO CON DAO ON A BUDGET FROM HO CHI MINH CITY
We arrived in Ho Chi Min City and from there we took a Futa Bus to Soc Trang. The bus ride was really cool. I have never seen anything like that and I have never slept so well in a bus before. Well, the night before we “slept” at Bangkok Airport thanks to AirAsia so we probably could have slept everywhere. But, it was still very, very comfy. The bus is equipped with reclining chairs and allows one to lie down. Europeans cannot not fully stretch out their legs but it is still much better than conventional buses. We paid 5$ for a 5 hour ride and we were the only tourists on the bus.
TAKE A BUS TO SOC TRANG
Somehow I totally forgot that Vietnam is still run by communism and arriving in Soc Trang reminded us of that. There were no other tourists aside from us and this made us very happy as we felt like proper adventurers. I guess not many people know about this city as it is as far as we know not mentioned in any guides. I am pretty sure we were the only 4 Europeans (our 2 friends from Germany and us) in the whole city. Wherever we went, people would be staring at us, smiling and waving. It was a very nice experience. The city was quiet big and polluted with scooters. The only disadvantage is that there are barely restaurants where you can get food. But if you like local food, there are few where you can try local street food. We didn’t try as we didn’t want to risk food poisoning and upsetting our stomachs before a boat ride across the open sea.
TAKE A BUS TO THE HARBOUR
The next day we took a taxi to the Superdong ticket office in Soc Trang. From there we traveled by bus to the harbour. It was just a 1 hour drive (included in the ticket) and again we were traveling with locals. One of them brought a durian to the bus so you can imagine how stinky it was. Not sure if you tried it but I just don’t like it and the smell is unbearable in closed rooms. However, one local girl noticed that I was complaining and gave me a mask as a gift. That was very nice of her.
SUPERDONG BOAT RIDE
The boat ride to Con Son harbour takes 2 to 3 hours and can be REALLY rough. The boat was modern and rather new. I really liked the name. SUPERDONG. I think that kinda made me think that the trip will be super. Well, I forgot that you will cross the OPEN SEA. Here I made one of my worst decisions during our trip which didn’t really make it that super. Rather the most terrible trip of my life. I didn’t take a motion sickness pill. The boat ride was just unbelievable. It was jumping, going from one side to the other up and down. It was like this crazy rollercoaster but 10 times worse. So after 30 mins I got sick. I took the pill, but it was too late. I threw up way beyond the point where there is something to be thrown up and spent the rest of the boat ride at the back of the boat trying to look out of the window. The worst thing was that I wasn’t the only one feeling like sh*t.
ADVICE: IF YOU DO GET SICK ON THE BOAT, PLEASE TAKE A MOTION SICKNESS PILL AT LEAST 30MIN BEFORE DEPARTURE AND YOU WILL BE FINE.
I WASN’T THE ONLY ONE…
At some point I thought it is just me being sick. But then I noticed that there are other people running to the bathroom. Later Nico told me that everyone sitting around them was throwing up. They didn’t even go to the bathroom. The people working on the boat were just distributing plastic bags like crazy. 2 hours of hell and another lesson learned. Locals, I guess, don’t use them and simply throw up.
Once you will arrive on the main island Con San, you can take a local taxi to town.
You can get tickets at the ticket office on Con Son. Go up a short staircase and turn to the right. This time, I did take a motion sickness pill and I was just fine. I was so sorry to see several locals running to the bathroom. This ride was better than the first one as the sea was much calmer. However, it was so funny because it was a little disco club. The music was so loud that even with earplugs you could hear everything. So yeah. Every boat ride is different and you don’t know what is coming for you. A bus took us back to Soc Trang and from there we took a Futa Bus to Can Tho. Of course, you can also easily reach Ho Chi Minh City. You can reach the Futa Bus stop easily by foot from the Superdong Office where you will be dropped.
The trip was definitely worth it and I hope we could help you to find the best way to Con Dao on a budget.