Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam- A complete guide!
Phu Quoc is a picturesque island in the south of Vietnam, known for its pristine beaches. It is a lovely beach town which is buzzing with activity, and the perfect destination for a relaxing beach holiday. I loved every minute of my time here, and I hope to be back soon!
How to get there
The easiest & quickest way is to fly in from Ho Chi Minh City. Phu Quoc has an international airport connecting it from locations around the world.
From the airport
Else, take a taxi from the airport. There is no Grab (the Uber equivalent of Vietnam) there. Though I did see the board for Grab in town, I was not able to book it on the app during my time there. I hope they start functioning there soon, which will make the different parts of the island more accessible.
There are kiosks of taxi services at the arrival hall of the airport. I paid VND 140,000 till my hotel which was at the end of Duong Dong road. I was quoted VND 180,000 by one company, and the other which I finally took agreed to VND 140,000 ($6), which was inclusive of the VND 10,000 that we paid before exiting the airport.
There are taxis outside the airport, which might be cheaper, I'm not too sure, because this was the only time I took a cab in Phu Quoc.
On my return to the airport, I found a local guy who agreed to drop me at the airport for VND 80,000 ($3.50) on his bike. The staff at my hotel had arranged him for me for a trip to Sao Beach on one fo the days that I was there, and then I asked him for a drop to the airport.
Where to stay
There are a range of options, from luxury resorts to hostels. Most hotels & restaurants are around Long Beach, so if you plan to eat outside your hotel, staying at Long Beach is ideal. Else, you will have to take a cab (or if you have a motorcycle, it will be fine), to the restaurants.
Where to eat
What I loved about Phu Quoc is the sheer number of restaurants to eat at. So as long as you are staying near the Long Beach area, you will be spoilt for choice!
Try the street food
There are street vendors selling juices, smoothies, banh mi, and other local cuisine, and once you make your way to the night market, a wide range of barbecued seafood, and other delights- you have to try all of it.
Don’t worry about eating off the streets when you are in Vietnam, just look for a stall that seems to have a good amount of footfall if you are worried, and try something from them. I ate at restaurants and from the street, and I didn’t get sick even once-so do try!
*You will also be contributing to the local community by eating from a street vendor, so keep that in mind, and eat everything you see! :)
Duong Dong is the main road that has all the hotels, restaurants, & shops located on it. It is the road running parallel to Long Beach, the most popular and crowded beach on the island. Long beach has one hotel after the other right next to each other, so there is absolutely no privacy, but it has a great vibe. There are plenty of restaurants on the beach as well, so even if you aren’t staying on the beach, you can come and relax here.
Getting around Phu Quoc
The most affordable way to get around the island will be by hiring a motorbike for the duration of your stay. You could get a motorbike for 150,000 VND a day, and if you take it for more than 3 days, the rate will come down to 100,000 VND- just negotiate to get a good deal.
Taxis are easily available, but are quite expensive, and can add up quickly to form a bigger hole in your pocket than you expected!
This golden sand beach is beautiful, but a little crowded considering the number of hotels that are on it. If you have a motorbike, ride down the length of Long Beach which is 20km, to get off the tourist path, and towards the area where the locals live -fishing villages, and pearl farms!
Bai Sao Beach
This is a stunning beach with white sand and clear water. It is located about 25km from Duong Dong near An Thoi Town.
The plastic problem In Vietnam
Though it is one of the most beautiful beaches that I have seen, there is a huge plastic waste problem. The tourists on the beach leave their trash. everywhere, and with every wave more trash from the ocean comes onto shore. (Probably from the aplastic waste that is dumped by both Vietnam & Thailand into the ocean.)
I met a handful of people who were so disgusted with plastic that was everywhere, that they were helping clean up. I helped clean up a small patch of the beach as well, but a woman from the UK who had collected a huge pile of waste was saying to me how the workers at the beach don’t know what to do with the pile that she handed her. She and her friend had collected a wheelbarrow full of waste which the worker went and dumped a little further along the beach.
I also saw a father and daughter collecting plastic bags that were coming towards the shore with every wave. They were standing in the water, as far as they could stand (it is a shallow beach to a certain extent), and grabbing plastic bags as they were coming in.
It was so heartbreaking to see such a perfect beach be dirtied with heaps of plastic & used syringes.
Restaurants on the beach keep their stretch of the beach clean, so all the waste piles up at the end where there are no restaurants.
Other than the waste problem, which I hope will be fixed soon, Sao Beach is stunning. But please be mindful of what you do with the waste you generate when you visit.
An Thoi is a port town at the southern tip of Phu Quoc, which is being developed to rival Duong Dong as the tourist centre on the island. The cable car connecting mainland Phu Quoc to Hon Thom island starts from here.
The Hon Thom cable car is one of the best things to do in when in Phu Quoc. To get to the cable cars at An Thoi, there are shuttles from most hotels, so enquire at your hotel.
The cable car line is 8km long and it travels at 30km/hour. It is the longest non-stop, three way cable car line in the world.
The cable car costs 150000 VND, and takes you over three islands, at the last island there is a water park, restaurants, and a beautiful beach. There are plenty of water activities that you can indulge yourself in here. There are some free beach chairs, showers, and paid lockers available, though they can all get taken quickly, so make a beeline for all this as soon as you get there.
From the cable car stop to the beach and back, there are Free shuttle buses.
Phu Quoc has beautiful reef, which makes it ideal for snorkelling. The water is calm and shallow to a certain extent at most of the beaches here, so bring your snorkel gear with you.
Else, you can go on a snorkelling tour to be taken offshore on a boat to snorkel at islands you otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
Tip: If you are going on a tour just to snorkel (there are many tours that include snorkelling with fishing and visiting inaccessible islands), choose a tour by a diving company. This is a safer, and better option, because you will have certified professionals to tell you how to use the gear, and will help you if at all you need help.
On regular tours (like the one I took) they give you the equipment, though they themselves don’t know how to use it, and tell you to jump in the water, and just snorkel.
I took a tour to Fingernail Nail island & May Rut island by John's tours, which included fishing and snorkeling. The experience wasn’t the best, because they picked me up from my hotel at 8AM followed by pickups of the several others who had booked the same tour. Then we finally get on the boat (which thankfully had a nice deck with sun chairs, where I sat with my book throughout the trip) which takes more than an hour to get to a spot where they stop to let us fish (which I and many others weren’t interested in, & didn’t participate in), after which they took us near Fingernail island to snorkel. I jumped into the water from the boat, swam in fairly strong current for a bit, but was unable to snorkel for long. I wasn’t sure if I was using the equipment as I should, and the guide on the boat had no clue. But it was fun, since it was the first time I was jumping into the ocean- and I did that thrice, since I went back into the boat to get rest, and then when I was ready, jumped back in. It would have been helpful, if we were given a little bit of guidance, which would have made the experience a lot better.
We were served lunch on the boat, and then taken to May Rut island to relax for about an hour, after which we were taken back to the mainland in our boat. We reached the mainland around 5pm.
How this experience could have been better
If the pickups in the morning weren’t so time consuming (there were about 40 people on this trip!)
-If the ride to the island to snorkel didn’t take close to 2 hours
-If the fishing part which was a complete waste of time according to most people on the boat, was eliminated
-If the guide was more knowledgeable about snorkelling to help those who needed the assist.
-If we were taken to shore on Fingernail island on a smaller boat, we could have snorkelled without any trouble, as we would be in shallow water, and not struggling to keep our head above water while swimming to shore in choppy water.
*But being up on the deck, I didn’t mind, as I was cruising along blue waters all day long.
*Having said that, I wouldn’t take a tour like this again.
**If you want to have a similar experience but not go through the hassles I mentioned above.
There is a similar tour on a speed boat, which will get you everywhere faster, meaning you have more time everywhere versus, being on a boat all ay long. Also, the speed boat will be able to take you to shore, which will be ideal to snorkel.
**Else, choose to go with a diving school, and you will have assistance with using the gear and snorkelling right.
May Rut Island
It is a stunning island that has two restaurants for the tourists that visit every day. Tourists have access only to the beach that they arrive on, and exploring the rest of the island is not encouraged.
The water is blue and clear, and the sand is white and soft, and it is maintained well, with no trash floating along the beach. The trip here was definitely worth it! There are some swings & hammocks on the beach where everyone goes for a photo op. The beach chairs are not free, but are available for an hour at a nominal fee.
An uninhabited island near which snorkelling is popular. It has a smaller beachfront than May Rut island, and is not commercialised at all. This island too has clear water and white sand.
Diving is a popular activity in Phu Quoc, because the reef is so beautiful! There are many diving schools that take people out to either North/ South Phu Quoc every day. The price for a dive ranges between $85-$100.
All the diving schools have their offices on the long stretch of Duong Dong- walk down the road & enquire at each office for their prices to find one that fits your budget.
There are PADI certified schools which will be a little more expensive, others that I enquired at had instructors some of whom were PADI, & others SSI certified.
It is possible to get an open water diving certification in Phu Quoc, if you have 4-5 days to spare for it. Enquire at the offices or find their information online.
I dived with a PADI certified company called Flipper- they were really good.
I went to Flipper Diving School's office on Duong Dong road at 8AM, and was driven to the Duong Dong harbour which was about 10 minutes away. It took 1.5 hours to get to North Phu Quoc, near Turtle Island where we were to dive. During that time I was on the deck of the boat taking in the views, and reading my book. I chose to do a ‘Try Dive’, which meant I would get to dive for 20 minutes to a depth of about 7 - 12 metres. Since I had dived once before, I didn’t feel the need to take the ‘Discover Scuba Dive’ which will take you through a lot of theory before attempting to dive.
We dived at 2 spots near Turtle island. I had an instructor with me the whole time, which was really helpful, since during both times, my goggles filled with water, and we had to go back up to fix it. I was taken down only to 7metres, as there were strong currents as we were going down, & the instructor didn’t feel confident taking someone who wasn’t certified further down.
The reef was beautiful, with colourful coral and fish- unfortunately I don’t know the names of any that I saw.
It was a really good experience, but I hope for calmer waters for the next time, as I was struggling to keep my head above water when we were at the surface.
I hope to go back to Phu Quoc to dive in the South, as it is supposed to be very different from the North.
I’m still undecided on whether to get an open water certification. Maybe I will, let’s see! :)
After the dives we were served lunch on the boat during our ride back to shore. We reached back by 2 PM.
What to buy in Phu Quoc
Since pearl farming is prevalent in the island, there are several outlets along the Duong Dong road to buy pearls. You might get a good deal for high quality pearls, so check out the shops.
There are home grown beauty brands selling handmade soaps, and other skincare, pepper from the local pepper plantations, and a lot of other island treats, that are unique to Phu Quoc.
Phu Quoc night market (Dinh Cau Night Market)
I loved Phu Quoc night market, and was disappointed that I waited till my last night to go check it out. It is a crowded market that sees a mx of locals and tourists. The main draw at this market is the food. There are barbecue stalls every 15-20 metres selling barbecued seafood, and pork sausages- these are an absolute must try. There are also souvenir stalls selling shorts and other memorabilia, packaged food stalls selling pepper, cashews & different flavoured peanuts, and a whole lot of other food.
There is so much more for me to explore in Phu Quoc. Other than diving in South Phu Quoc, I want to explore its national park, waterfalls, and the other beaches that I didn't have time for, so I will be back here soon!