Phu Quoc is an island of Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand, off the coast of Cambodia. It’s Vietnam’s largest island, covering 515 sq km (199 sq mi). To compare, that’s about the same size as Phuket in Thailand, which is 543 sq km (210 sq mi).
Despite its size and paradisiacal qualities it gets no way near the amount of visitors of other islands in Southeast Asia, though word is getting out. At the moment Phu Quoc feels like one of those places that you should see before it changes.
There are some grand development plans on the horizon, with remote beaches being developed for luxury resorts, and the main town will be transformed into a city nearly 10 times its size.
This travel guide features notes of my visit to the island, as well as links to other useful resources.
Best placesto out your head down
Accommodation ranges from backpacker hostels to 5 star resorts. One drawback of Phu Quoc is the accommodation isn’t as cheap as what you will find on mainland Vietnam. For example, the prices for a basic guesthouse are double what you would pay in the beach city of Nha Trang.
The main city of Phu Quoc is Duong Dong, which is more of a working/administrative centre and fishing port. Just south of the town is Long Beach, which is where the bulk of the hotels and resorts are. I stayed at a guesthouse in Duong Dong and at a hotel on Long Beach.
There are of course hotels dotted all around the island, but unless you have your own transport (ie a scooter) or you are intentionally looking to stay somewhere secluded, I would choose Long Beach for convenience, or split your time between Long Beach and another location.
With the prices being a little higher than the mainl.and I would recommend booking in advance as soon as you know your travel dates. Agoda is a good place to find hotels in Phu Quoc..
Attraction – Duong Dong
Duong Dong is the capital and largest city of Phu Quoc. It’s not a large city so don’t expect too much; apart from a few old colonial-era buildings most of it is new.
Southern Vietnam has home to Caodaist religion. These temples can be found throughout the Delta and in Saigon. There is a beautiful example of a Cao Dai temple on Nguyen Trai St.
Attraction – Long Beach
Long beach has an ideal mix of sandy beaches, clean water, lined with beach bars and restaurants.
The great thing about Long Beach is that is really is long, so it never feels crowded. I walked along the beach every afternoon, stopping off at beach bars along the way to rehydrate.
All the usual amenities that you would expect on a beach are here (massages and coconut vendors). There are touts here but they didn’t seem to be as aggressive in their sales pitch as other beaches I’ve been to in Southeast Asia.
Phu Quoc for digital nomads
I heard varying reports about the state of the internet on the island so I went with low expectations. To my surprise I found the internet to be as good as on the mainland.
The main problem was finding a nice public space to work from. I did work from a beach cafe a couple of times but I don’t find them the most productive locations (mostly checking emails and light work).
In Duong Dong I went to two places that were good to work from. Windows Cafe has two levels with breezy open spaces. Buddy Cafe is another good cafe in Duong Dong. This cafe is centrally located and acts as a travel information centre with maps and tour brochures available here. It also has espresso coffee so I was getting my morning coffee fix here.
How to reach Phu Quoc
There are ferry services operated by Superdong (hehe) from Rach Gia and Ha Tien on the Vietnam mainland. Ha Tien is near the Cambodian border which makes for a popular departure point for travellers who have come from Southern Cambodia (Sihanoukville and Kampot). Buses to and from Ho Chi Minh City connect at Rach Gia and you can buy combo bus and ferry tickets.
Phu Quoc opened a new airport in 2012 that has expanded to facilitate international services. Vietnam Airlines fly to Siem Reap and Singapore, and maybe eventually low cost airlines from around Southeast Asia will start serving the airport.
For now the most regular flights are domestic. I went from Phu Quoc to Saigon with Vietjet Air. They have the occasional sale so subscribe to their site if you are visiting Vietnam.
What to eat
Being a tropical island with fishing as a major industry it’s no surprise that seafood is a big deal here. If you are staying at a hotel along the beach you will find seafood restaurants set up on the sand every night. In Duong Dong town the Dinh Cau Night Market on Vo Thi Sau a popular option. I love seafood but I prefer to eat it as a group so we can try many dishes. I was travelling solo so I was interested in eating at local restaurants in Duong Dong. If you’ve just arrived in Vietnam from Cambodia (welcome!) Duong Dong is a good place to try some Vietnamese food. Spring rolls make for an easy snack between meals (or buy a pile of them for a meal in itself). I had these at 3 Nguyen Dinh Chieu in Duong Dong.
One thing I noticed about travelling through the Mekong Delta to get to Phu Quoc – and on the island itself – is the amount of vegetarian restaurants. Vegetarianism is more prevalent in the deep south of Vietnam, so Vegetarians will have an easier time of it here than anywhere else in Vietnam. Just look for restarants with “Chay” in the name or on the sign. I had this vegetarian hu tieu, a dish that is normally served with pork and shrimp.
Bo La Lot is grilled beef wrapped in lolot leaves, which you then wrap in rice paper and add herbs and rice noodles to taste. There is a lady that makes this on Bach Dang St, near the little park at the harbour. Seek her out and experience this street food experience.
One thing I love about Vietnam is that most regions will have their own food specialty. Living in Saigon I’ve tried dishes from all over the country from migrants who come to live in the city. One dish that I haven’t seen before is bún kèn. This is a light and refreshing breakfast meal, a perfect dish for a humid tropical island. This is well worth seeking out as I don’t know if you could find it anywhere else in Vietnam.
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