Ha Tien is a seaside town in Kien Giang Province in Southern Vietnam. It is at the west end of the Mekong Delta close to the Cambodian border. Although a tourist spot, it doesn't see many western visitors due to its remoteness.
The bus terminal is west of the city centre. There are buses from Ho Chi Minh City's Mien Tay terminal (about 8 hr) as well as from Can Tho and Chau Doc. The connection from Can Tho often requires a change in Rach Soi or Rach Gia from where it is about 1 hr.
The border near Ha Tien (7km to the north) was opened for tourists in 2007. As of late 2010, it is possible for tourists of most nationalities to enter Vietnam via this border crossing without the need for a visa. However it applies only to stays of up to 15 days, and you can only visit the so called "Special Economic Zone", which is essentially the town of Ha Tien, and the area between the town and the border, including Mui Nai Beach. You must not travel further into Vietnam. (The officials at the border will tell you that you cannot go to Phu Quoc Island with the visa and may not issue you a visa at all without a small bribe.) For ventures further into Vietnam, a visa is needed prior to arrival at the border.
To get to the border from Cambodia you can hire a motorbike taxi from Kampot (USD10), Kep (USD7), or Kampong Trach (USD5). The road can vary in condition from paved and bumpy to packed dirt and bumpy, be prepared for a slightly white-knuckled ride depending on the daring nature of your driver and the road can also be very dusty in the dry season. Also, be aware that there seem to be Vietnamese drivers now waiting well inside the Cambodian side waiting to pickup (poach) prospective travellers to take them across the border into town. Your driver may stop here to talk with them and seem to suggest you go with them. A ride to town should be USD3-4 or less (it is only 7 km and the road is well paved on the Vietnamese side.) If you can't agree on a price there you can simply have your Cambodian driver take you to the border where you can cross over and have the drivers on the other side fight over you.
The centre of town is easily walkable with Tran Hau the main commercial street running along the seaside between the big bridge for road traffic (Cau To Chau) and the former pontoon bridge for pedestrians (Cau Phao, removed in early 2007).
Moto drivers are found at various strategic points all over town. Any journey in town is no more than 20,000 dong, e.g., to the ferry port, or bus station. To the border, 40-50,000 dong.
There are also two main metered taxi companies, the omnipresent Mai Linh, and Ha Tien Development Corp.
It is possible to rent motorbikes by the day (approximately USD6) or pedal cycles (approximately USD2) at several locations in town.
Get one of the tourist maps where the locations of the cave temples are indicated.
- Chua Tam Bao is probably the best of the temples.
- Chua Giai Thoat
- Tinh Xa Ngoc Ho
Plenty of small hidden Chinese temples, scattered all over town, often down small back streets. The Mac Cuu Family tombs, set on a sprawling hillside at the end of Mac Cuu Street. At the border with Cambodia (actually in Cambodia) are 6 casinos. Only one sizable one, the others smaller gambling dens featuring mainly Chinese games.
- A nice and easy bicycle ride can be done by first going to Mui Nai then continuing along the Cambodian border until finally ending up in Ha Tien again. On the way there's a barrel-shaped hill with a temple inside (entrance: 2000 dong).
- Ha Tien Vegas, Hà Tiên, Vietnam International Border Prek Chak (Across the border from Hà Tiên in Cambodia), ☎ +84 1688 977 977. 24/7. Hop over to the Cambodian side to visit, this casino/hotel. The entertainment resort has more than 100 slots, over 40 table games, Internet gaming and a Sports Book. For non-gamblers, Ha Tien Vegas Hotel provides a luxury hotel complemented by 24/7 room service, Chinese and international dining venues/cafes. Offers 24-hour shuttle service from the hotel and casino to downtown Hà Tiên.
There are several large markets in Ha Tien on the riverfront. Near the road bridge over the Dong Ho inlet is the fish, meat, and fruit market and also a large new covered market for clothes and household goods. In the evening there is a large night market, which springs up around the old market hall. This is in Tuan Phu Dat, which is opposite the Ha Tien floating restaurant on the Dong Ho inlet. Very cheap good quality clothing, also souvenirs and costume jewellery. Some food stalls in the old market hall also.
- Kayak Rental. Off the 28 near the coast you can easily rent kayaks for 80,000 dong (USD4). It's the best way to gain access to breathtaking views of the area.
- There's a cheap and delicious eatery (around 20,000 dong/dish) on 47 Mach Thien Tich half way between Chi Lang and Mach Cuu. Look for the two woks on the sidewalk. An English menu is available. Try the stir fried squid with cucumber. Dinner only.
- Along the waterway on Tran Hau there are numerous open air eateries serving various fresh seafood every night. Squid, snails, and other seafood/shellfish available here.
- Pho 66 is a recommended Pho place on the east side of town on To Chau just south of Chi Lang.
- Ha Tien Fresh Seafood. Right on the beach is a great local seafood restaurant with a very private upstairs area overlooking the coast.
- Metro 88. Poolside entertainment.
- Oasis Bar, 42 Tuan Phu Dat Dong Ho, ☎ +84 77-3701553. 09:00-21:00+. Expat running the bar serving cold beer in cold glasses for less than 20,000 dong each. Also the only place where you can get cocktails, spirits and gin + tonic. They also serve coffee. 4,000-40,000 dong.
There is no shortage of options for accommodation in this town. It seems that every other building is either a Khach San (hotel) or a Phong Tro (a place that has rooms to rent). The epicentre of sleeping options can be considered the area delimited by Tran Hau, Mach Thien Tich, and Chi Lang Streets.
Bao Tam near the central market has air-con/hot water rooms/TV for 170,000 dong. Very clean.
- Hai Yen, 15 To Chau, has probably the best rooms in town for the price. The superior rooms (200,000 dong) are huge, have balcony and a good view onto Dam Dong Ho (the bay). From 150,000 dong.
- Viet Toan, 74 Chi Lang, is one of the best budget places. The staff is very friendly and one of them even speaks some English. The rooms are decent and come with TV (lucky if you get anything in English though), fridge, private bathroom and fan or air-con. From 80,000 dong for a fan room.
- Crossing the border into Cambodia is very easy as you can get a 30 day tourist visa on the spot for USD20. However, the visa official will ask you for USD25 but will quickly back off if you just keep saying that you know it's USD20. The health official next door will also ask you for a USD1 fee, but again, just keep saying that you know there is no fee and he will also back down.
- Kep, Cambodia is the first town over the border in Cambodia. The quickest and easiest way to get there is by motorbike - it shouldn't cost more than USD6-7 to hire a motorbike that will take you to the border crossing, wait for you to get the paperwork and stamps, and then deliver you to the guesthouse of your choice in Kep - this will take about 1.5 hours in total. Note that the motorbike guy may try to take you to certain guesthouses where they get a commission. The other way to get to Kep is via minivan - you can buy the ticket at the Tourist Agency-which has now moved to the premises of "Oasis Bar" at 42 Tuan Phu Dat (This is the street opposite the floating restaurant,alongside the Old Market Hall-which is now a mini-supermarket) for USD12 per person. The minivan departs at 12:00 every day.
The Ha Tien Travel Co operates from 1-3 Tran Hau next door to the Hoa Mai Hotel. There are buses and minivans to all the usual places from here. The scam of overcharging for visas and adding a "service charge" is alive and well here for those travelling to Cambodia, with charges of USD27 common for the USD20 visa. Do not fill in the visa application or hand over your passport, simply organise the passport yourself on arrival at the Cambodian border.
- Kampot, Cambodia: it takes around 2 hours via motorbike. You can take a minivan - you can buy the ticket at the Tourist Agency at "Oasis Bar" for USD12 per person. The minivan departs at 12:00 every day.
Buses to Phnom Penh require one change of vehicle in Cambodia.
- Mui Nai is a seaside resort that has a tiny but sandy beach on offer (2,000 dong entrance fee)
Ha Tien is one of the two ports that serve Phu Quoc Island. There are currently (Jan 2011) two boats daily leaving Ha Tien at 08:00 (cost 230,000 dong) and 13:30 (cost 190,000 dong) Boats take about 2 hours to make the crossing,and arrive on the east side of the island. Two boats daily from Phu Quoc to Ha Tien, leave at 08:00 and 14:00. In Feb 2011 these two ferries were joined by a large car ferry. This takes slightly longer than the small fast ferries, and berths in Phu Quoc in the NE corner. Costs 165,000 dong and 100,000 dong for a motorcycle. Stories on the web about these boats being unseaworthy are outdated,the boats are now reasonably modern purpose built fast ferries.
Be aware of a bus company called M@ttos. The fare to Can Tho is 180,000 dong/USD9, distance 210 km. Bus was in very bad condition, reckless driver who honked the entire time on board, very rude ticket seller who threw tourists off the bus in the middle of nowhere and made them pay and take another bus in even worse condition to the destination. Apparently some individuals do this in Vietnam for their dislike of tourists. Avoid this at all costs and try to travel with a trustworthy bus company.