If you want to stay for say two days try the Liberty 4 hotel or the nearby Liberty 3 hotel on Phan Ngu Lao street in HCMC.
I stayed in the Liberty 4 which I liked because it has a good morning Buffet breakfast served upstairs on the 9th floor from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. on weekdays.
Also a night club in the hotel you enter through floor one in hotel. but I didn't try it. Does a live music" show with a Philippines band I'm told at night.
Also do not miss the (extra cost but worth the cost) all you can eat Buffet dinner on Weekends. They grill Shrimp, Prawns, etc. as part of the Buffet dinner. Pig out on the all you can eat.
Don't be put off by the "backpacker" area tag, Liberty 4 Hotel has many Aussie and American Vietnamese expat families returning to HCMC for a visit.
Hotel staff will give you friendly service. Have them get you a taxi to the ferry terminal, they will avoid the ripoff taxi drivers that you may flag down on the street
Ticket to Vung Tau ferry can be bought at ferry terminal, about 15 min taxi ride from liberty 4 Hotel area. About 35K to 50K Vietnamese Dong, Use Mai Linh Taxis who display price list on the taxi dashboard as you enter. Fair and honest taxi rates,
Yes, you can buy a return ticket, but it is possible to get a single journey ticket and buy a return one when you get to Vung Tau ferry terminal.
Best time is between 8:30 a.m. to 11;30 leaving from HCMC and roghly same return time from Vung Tau to HCMC
The 10:30 a.m. is popular because the ferry is a double size ferry and more passenger space. Tickets have numbers on them, so ask seat number if you want to sit next to someone first in case the ferry is full.
Cost for ferry is 200K Vietnamese Dong per trip. Takes about 1.5 to 2 hours HCMC to Vung Tau trip.
Arriving in Vung Tau and exiting the ferry terminal there are a lot of taxi touts who will try to get you to take their taxi,
Ignore them, and walk out to the street, Look down the street and you may see one or two Mai Linh Taxis at the far end of the Taxi queue waiting. Pass the others by and head for those Mai lLinh taxis (Green/white) signs. That extra effort will save you money. Avoid the ripoff touts at the ferry exit gate if at all possible. The touts will try to charge you double or more for the same distance.
If you arrive after 8;30 a.m. ib HCMC and the Breakfast buffet is closed you will get one ticket/voucher for the next days buffet (assuming you book two days, of course), It will be well done to get up early enough for that buffet breakfast in the liberty 4 hotel in HCMC before you check out. Seriously.
In the area of most hotels you will find tours you can book. Bargain if you can, but most tours are honest and a good value because many of the backpackers use these services and there is a constant demand for the tours. Usually reasonable priced because of high demand.
Best coffee in HCMC always comes from those street venders and their push carts. Not let their carts put you off. If you must, Highlands Coffee is probably the Vietnamese equivalent to Starbucks in the U.S,
Expensive, and not the best tasting coffee in Vietnam, but definitely the trendy flash tourist place to go and see or be seen.
But frankly those street vendors and their coffee carts are cheaper and have better coffee.
Edited: 4:31 am, May 04, 2013