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Phu Quoc island guide

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Phu Quoc is an island just off the south coast of Vietnam, and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This Phu Quoc island guide includes the top 10 things to do in Phu Quoc, including the island’s best beaches,  plus when to visit, where to stay, and more. 

The ultimate Phu Quoc Island Guide

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Phu Quoc island guide: why you should visit

Phu Quoc is an island that lies to the south of Vietnam, close to Cambodia’s coastline. It’s the biggest island in Vietnam, but don’t let that put you off — Phu Quoc has, without exception, some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Pristine and quiet, with warm, bright turquoise water and blinding white sand.

The only beaches I’ve seen that come close to Phu Quoc’s are on the Cambodian island of Koh Rong (which is very nearby as the crow flies).

Phu Quoc is at heart a beach destination and the island is ringed with beautiful beaches. But if the idea of lying on a beach for days on end makes you edgy, don’t despair, there’s plenty more to see and do. Think temples, markets, villages and the longest cable-car ride in the world. And, of course, this being Vietnam, some fairly epic food.

It also has a sobering history: during the Vietnam War, also known here as the American War, prisoners of war were detained here. Today you can visit Phu Quoc prison and learn more about the realities of the time.

How to pronounce Phu Quoc

I pronounced Phu Quoc embarrassingly incorrectly for a long time. You pronounce it “foo” (as in Kung Fu Fighting) “cwuck” (as in rhymes with cluck). Foo cwock.

Where to stay in Phu Quoc

If you want to be where the action is, on probably the most popular beach on the island, I would recommend staying in a hotel or beach resort on Long Beach. This is a gorgeous beach with great sunset views, and considering it’s one of the most popular areas to stay, it was surprisingly quiet and tranquil.

Long Beach Phu Quoc

If you’re looking for a slightly less touristy area, go for Ong Lang Beach, or my personal favourite, Sao Beach, which is less developed and more pristinely beautiful (more on the different beaches below.)

I stayed in the Long Beach area, but not directly on the beach. I stayed at The Fish, which was absolutely beautifully decorated with a lovely hipstery restaurant area. The bathrooms are shared, but the individual rooms have a boutique beach house vibe. For the price, I’d hugely recommend it. BUT — this hotel is NOT located directly on the beach. You have to walk a little way and cross a busy road to get to the beach. I’d say it was probably a 7-minute walk from the hotel to the beach. The price was great and the room truly lovely, but the next time I visit Phu Quoc I will stay somewhere with direct beach access — that’s why most people visit Phu Quoc after all, so it makes sense to pay a little more if you can for a beach resort stay.

Top 10 things to do in Phu Quoc

1. Sun yourself and sip cocktails on Long Beach

Long Beach Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc is a beach destination, and Long Beach is its most famous beach. Although it’s not my FAVOURITE beach on Phu Quoc (see below) Long Beach is still pretty stunning. It’s a long stretch of sand lined with rustic beach bars and restaurants, with gorgeous sunset views. Rory’s Beach Bar is one of the most popular hangouts on Long Beach. Although some resorts have loungers reserved only for residents on this beach, there are plenty of areas where anyone can sunbathe.

If you plan on spending a lot of time relaxing on the beach in the most popular area of Phu Quoc, it makes sense to stay at a resort in the Long Beach area.

2. Or avoid the crowds at Sao Beach

Bai Sao Beach Phu Quoc

Sao Beach, also known as Bai Sao to give its full Vietnamese name, is my favourite beach in Phu Quoc / the world. It is the most utterly perfect beach I have ever seen. It’s less developed than Long Beach, with only a couple of small restaurants and not much in the way of facilities, and it’s also a lot less crowded (not that Long Beach was at all crowded either when I visited). The sand is blinding white, the water is literally luke-warm bath water hot, and crazily clear and turquoise. Just to top it off there are a couple of rustic swings dangling from palm trees or staked in the water along Sao Beach, as if specifically dotted around for Instagram lovers.

3. Ride the longest cable car line in the world

Phu Quoc cable car: The view from the Phu Quoc cable car

The cable car ride from Phu Quoc to Pineapple Island is the longest cable car line in the world. The ride covers almost 8km and takes around 15 minutes each way — and the views are utterly breathtaking. You soar over green islands covered in forest, and look down on bright turquoise ocean and coral reefs. The sea is so clear as it laps against the beaches that you can literally see the shadows of the boats on the sea beds.

The ride takes you to Pineapple Island, a pretty little island off Phu Quoc’s coast. There’s a nice beach and a couple of (slightly overpriced) restaurants. It’s perfectly beautiful, but not more so than several beaches on Phu Quoc itself. What truly is extraordinary though is the cable car ride itself. In my opinion it’s more than worth the 500,000 Dong (around £16 / $22 USD) ticket cost.

4. Feast at Phu Quoc night market

Phu Quoc’s night market is one of the most pleasant I visited in Vietnam. There’s a lovely buzzy vibe with lots of unusual read-to-eat street food, as well as some sit-down restaurants. But there’s also lots of interesting fresh produce on offer, and it’s interesting seeing totally unfamiliar ingredients and watching locals bargain on price. The market is closed off to traffic (although motorbikes are still allowed to zoom through).

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In terms of food on offer, you’ll notice lot of seafood (Phu Quoc is an island after all) plus all of the Vietnamese specialities you’d expect, like noodle and rice dishes and Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches).

Here’s a 10-second video I made to give you an idea of what the night market is like:

There are also plenty of non-traditional options, such as ice cream rolls for dessert. If you have another 10 seconds to spare, here’s how they make ice cream rolls:

5. Visit Dinh Cau Rock Temple

This is a beautiful little temple perched right on the rocks over the sea in Phu Quoc’s main town of Duong Dong. It’s a temple, shrine and lighthouse in one and absolutely worth a visit. Even though it was teeming with tourists when I visited, Dinh Cau temple was still absolutely beautiful, brightly coloured and unusual, with gorgeous sea views. It’s also a short walk from Phu Quoc’s night market — I first visited the temple for sunset, and then followed it up with a delicious street food dinner at the market nearby.

The shrine is apparently dedicated to the sea goddess, and locals come to pray and burn incense sticks here before setting off on fishing trips.

6. Go on a snorkelling boat trip to Fingernail Island

Phu Quoc is surrounded by smaller islands, many of which are stunning beach, snorkelling and diving destinations. You can’t walk far in any direction on Phu Quoc without being offered a boat tour snorkelling trip, and in this case the islands in question are well worth a day trip.

In addition to riding the cable car, I would definitely recommend taking a boat trip to explore some of the smaller islands in the region. The sea is an astonishingly bright blue in this area, and it really is a beautiful place for a boat trip, although the coral reefs we snorkelled over weren’t particularly impressive. I went on this boat trip with John’s Tours for 22 USD and had a highly enjoyable time. It’s  a budget option and if you’re a seasoned snorkeller / diver you won’t be super impressed, but as a beginner (terrified) snorkeller on a budget I found it perfect.

This is a 20-second video that will give you a bit of an idea of the scenery:

7. Visit Phu Quoc Prison

Phu Quoc Prison was a difficult and sobering place to visit. It was originally built by the French colonialists, but during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s it was used to hold, torture and kill communist prisoners of war.

Phu Quoc Prison

The prison gives a very real idea of some of the horrific things that happened within its walls, with plenty of information and models. I wouldn’t say it was an enjoyable experience to visit Phu Quoc Prison — quite the opposite — but it was absolutely a worthwhile trip and made me more aware of the very real horrors that happened in Vietnam and even on paradise-like Phu Quoc island not very long ago.

8. Go beach and waterfall hopping by motorbike!

Phu Quoc fishing village

Rent a motorbike if you feel confident riding one, or hop on a motorbike taxi and take in Phu Quoc’s (slightly) more off-the-beaten track beaches and waterfalls. Don’t miss Suoi Tranh Waterfall and Ong Lang Beach, and take in some of Phu Quoc’s charming fishing villages.

9. Explore Ho Quoc Pagoda

Ho Quoc Pagoda is a modern temple overlooking the sea. It’s quite impressive, sitting on a hill with amazing sea views, and dotted with giant imposing statues.

Ho Quoc Pagoda Phu Quoc

10. Visit a fish sauce factory

Ok, this probably wouldn’t make everyone’s Top 10 things to do in Phu Quoc. But even if you’re not a fan of fish sauce in its raw form or in large doses, chances are you LOVE its effects when mixed into a deliciously fresh Vietnamese dish. Personally, I love fish sauce so much that I even love the way it smells in raw form. In BARRELS. Stacked up in a warehouse like wine in a winery. Phu Quoc is famous for its fish sauce and visiting a distillery is an interesting experience.

Is it worth doing a Phu Quoc island day tour?

It depends on the tour. I did a whistle-stop day tour that took in around 15 “attractions” in a 1-day minibus group trip. These tours are very popular and several tour companies provide very similar tours. While some of the attractions included in these tours are definitely worthwhile, overall I would not recommend one of these action-packed day tours.

The tour I went on included several stops at fake “attractions” that were actually just tourist traps. For example, a “pepper farm” that is actually just a shop selling pepper sauce, next to a small grove of pepper trees. Or literally a liquor store selling overpriced Phu Quoc liquers in gimmicky bottles. Even if you do want to buy some souvenirs, trust me you don’t want to be shepherded around in a hot minbus for an entire day between tourist traps. I understand, and expect, that most day tours include a couple of stops aimed at getting tourists to spend money. But this was not on the same level as any other tour I have been on before or since — the tourist traps far outweighed the actual interesting sights and attractions.

Plus, I was very annoyed because when we arrived at absolutely breathtaking Sao Beach / Bai Sao, we were given hardly any time there. I felt that the time at Sao Beach was cut short to try get the tourists to buy things at still more shops.

If you would like to do a day tour, first have a look at what is included. If you see several stops at “pepper farms”, “honey farms”, “pearl factories”, etc — run. Unless of course you genuinely do want a day out with lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs! 

If I did it again, I’d pay more for a tour that covered the places I wanted to see, without the fluff.

Or, even better, I would suggest that unless you’re on a tight budget and travelling solo, you’ll have a better time hiring a driver or getting taxis and creating your own tour based on attractions you actually want to go to. Arranging a day rate with a reputable motorbike taxi driver, if you’re a solo traveller, is also a good call.

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How to get around Phu Quoc

Unfortunately, public transport on Phu Quoc island is pretty much nonexistent. Apparently there is a bus service, but it only runs every few hours, and I did not see a public bus the entire time I was in Phu Quoc. So although I am usually a big fan of public transport I do not recommend relying on the island’s bus service. Most locals appear to drive or ride motorbikes.

The best way to get around Phu Quoc is to hire a bicycle or a motorbike if you can confidently ride one. Be aware that if you don’t have a motorbike license, your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you if you get into an accident.

If you’re not comfortable riding a bicycle or motorbike, you’re pretty much stuck with walking or getting taxis. Within the main popular town of Duong Dong, it’s easy to walk between the Dinh Cau sea temple and the night market. You can also easily stroll along Long Beach to a cute beach bar or restaurant.

But if you want to go further afield, taxis are probably your best option. As much as I love walking, and despite this being a scenic beach island, the main roads on Phu Quoc are busy and the distances between attractions are not really suitable for walking. Taxis in Phu Quoc are more expensive than elsewhere in Vietnam, but still incredibly cheap compared to prices in Europe, for example.

If you’re a solo traveller on a budget and have a slightly adventurous spirit, motorcycle taxis might be a good call. You literally get on the back of a motorbike and the driver takes you wherever you want to go. It’s a lot cheaper than a regular taxi. I also think it’s much more fun. But of course, it’s potentially not as safe or comfortable, so have a careful think about whether you’re comfortable with it before taking a motorbike taxi, and if you feel in any way uneasy do not get on the bike.

How long to stay in Phu Quoc

There isn’t a huge amount to “do” in Phu Quoc in terms of tourist attractions — you could tick off the official sights in a day or two. But Phu Quoc island is a beach break destination, perfect for a relaxing week on the beach. So it’s tricky to say exactly how long you should stay. It depends on how long you are happy to lie around doing not much! I stayed in Phu Quoc for a week. During that time I did a whistle-stop day tour taking in the main sites, went on a snorkelling boat cruise day trip, and rode the cable car to Pineapple island. Apart from those three days out, the rest of the time I spent lazing around on Long Beach or pottering into town to the night market or to look at various temples, and I was sad to leave when it ended!

Is Phu Quoc more expensive than the rest of Vietnam?

Unfortunately, yes — the island of Phu Quoc is pricier than every other area I visited during my 6-week trip to Vietnam. It’s a very popular beach resort destination for local Vietnamese tourists as well as travellers from further afield. And that has pushed prices up. There are a lot of “western” style restaurants in Phu Quoc and in some areas it’s fairly difficult to find the kind of cheap and cheerful plastic-chairs-on-the-roadside dining options that you find elsewhere in Vietnam.

I also found that in general, Phu Quoc accommodation is more expensive than hotel prices elsewhere in Vietnam.

That said, you absolutely can still visit Phu Quoc as a budget traveller.  Although Phu Quoc is more expensive than most other areas of Vietnam, it still represents great value for travellers. Even in the nicest areas, hotels in every budget range are likely to be a lot cheaper than you’d pay back home. There are plenty of hostels and budget accommodation options, even in the most popular beach resort area of Long Beach.

You can also save money by eating Vietnamese food at small local restaurants, or even better, by snacking on absolutely amazing street market food at Phu Quoc night market. I had dinner at the night market a couple of times and had some great food for only 1-3 USD per dish.

Are Phu Quoc’s beaches polluted?

I read a LOT of negative reviews and blog posts about Phu Quoc’s beaches, particularly Long Beach and Sao Beach, which said that pollution was a huge problem here (plastic and rubbish in the water, etc). This surprised me because I did not find this to be the case.

Let me be 100% honest: when I visited, these beaches were not totally pristine. I did encounter pockets of rubbish and scum gathered in particular spots, often right at the end of the beaches or in particular areas of the shoreline. As you walk along the beach, you will see at least the occasional bit of plastic. However, the beaches here were far cleaner than other beaches I encountered elsewhere in Asia. And although of course it is very sad to see any pollution at all on such a beautiful natural island, overall I didn’t find it to be enough of a problem to prevent me from enjoying the beaches.

Honestly, I have looked back at the photos I took of Bai Sao, to make sure I wasn’t viewing it through rose tinted eyes, because all of the negative comments were making me doubt myself, and there is not one SPECK of trash in any of the photos.

Bai Sao Beach Phu Quoc

One blog post I found suggested that pollution on Phu Quoc’s beaches may be seasonal. During the different seasons, the sea’s current brings pollution from mainland Vietnam and Cambodia to different sides of the island. I visited in the dry season (November to March), which, according to the information I read, is apparently the best time to visit the popular beaches of Long Beach and Sao Beach.

How to get to Phu Quoc

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There are a few different ways to get to Phu Quoc island. The simplest and quickest way to get to Phu Quoc is to fly. Several airlines, including budget carriers, fly into Phu Quoc from various cities in Vietnam.

If you book ahead and find a cheap flight with a budget airline, it may actually be cheaper than other far less comfortable, and more time consuming, forms of transport.

How to get to Phu Quoc from Ho Chi Minh City

The flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc takes around an hour.You can fly direct to Phu Quoc from Hi Chi Minh city for around £20 / $25 USD with airlines like Jetstar and Vietjet, although this price doesn’t include checked luggage. Obviously, the further ahead you can book your flights, the better your chances of getting a great price.

It is also possible to travel to Phu Quoc from Ho Chi Minh City by taking a verrry long bus ride, a transfer, and a ferry ride to the island. To do this, you would travel by bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Rach Gia (which takes 6+ hours), then get a transfer to the ferry terminal, then take a 2.5-hour ferry to Phu Quoc (and you’re not even at your hotel yet).

Alternatively, you can take an 8-hour bus ride to Ha Tien and a 1.5-hour fast ferry from there.

Unless you plan to stop off and explore other areas on your way to Ho Chi Minh City, such as the Mekong Delta, I genuinely don’t think it’s worth it to travel by bus and ferry rather than flying. It is a journey that takes many, many hours, and if you book flights well in advance it can also be substantially cheaper to fly. 

I have done a portion of this journey, travelling from Phu Quoc by ferry, getting a transfer and then a bus, and getting off the bus in Can Tho, Mekong Delta. It was a horrific all-day journey with plenty of motion sickness involved. The ferries are low on the water, you’re seated in long rows of seats in an enclosed area with no visible windows, and it’s a bumpy journey. If you get motion sickness you will be very sad. And I should note that this was on the Superdong Fast Ferry, which is reputable. In future I’d book ahead and try to find a cheap flight instead. And obviously, the journey to HCMC would take even longer.

How to get to Phu Quoc from Hanoi

You can fly direct to Phu Quoc from Hanoi for under £50 / $65 USD. This flight takes around two hours. Budget airlines Jetstar and Vietjet both fly this route, or for a little more you can fly with Vietnam Airlines.

How to get to Phu Quoc from Can Tho, Mekong Delta

You can fly direct to Phu Quoc from Can Tho in the Mekong Delta in around an hour, from around £90 / $120 USD.

As mentioned above, you can also travel from Can Tho via bus and ferry. I did this in reverse when I travelled from Phu Quoc to the Mekong Delta by bus and ferry. Unlike flying into Phu Quoc from Ho Chi Minh City, which is served by a great selection of low cost airlines with flights available for very low prices, it definitely is cheaper to get to Phu Quoc from Can Tho by bus and ferry compared to flying. If you are a budget backpacker and cost is very important to you, then it makes sense to go the bus and ferry route. I bought a ferry-and-bus combo ticket for the journey from Phu Quoc to Can Tho for 25 USD from a local tour company on Phu Quoc island called John’s Tours.  

Personally though, after the motion sickness I experienced on the 2.5-hour ferry ride from Phu Quoc to Rach Gia, if I did it again I’d just pay the £90 and fly.

How to get to Phu Quoc from Cambodia

Currently, although Phu Quoc is incredibly close to Cambodia’s south coast, you can’t get there by ferry. There are also no direct flights! Instead, you need to travel into Vietnam as you usually would, by flight or bus, and then travel to Phu Quoc from wherever you are following the instructions above.

How to get to Phu Quoc from Thailand

The quickest and simplest way to get from Thailand to Phu Quoc is to fly. You can fly direct to Phu Quoc from Bangkok in under 2 hours, from around £90 / $120 USD.

Best time to visit Phu Quoc

Temperatures on Phu Quoc are consistently warm, but there’s a wet season and a dry season. The dry season, which is the nicest time to visit if you want to avoid being on the beach in the rain, is between November and May. Temperatures are hottest between March and June, though. So if you want to travel in the dry season, but avoid the hottest weather, the best time to travel is between November and March. This is the most popular time to visit though, so this is also when the island will be most crowded with tourists. If you want to avoid the crowds, it makes sense to travel at other times — for example, if you can handle very hot weather, travelling in April might be nicest.

I visited Phu Quoc in March and really enjoyed my stay. It was very hot, but the refreshing sea air helped, and I found the beaches were surprisingly quiet and enjoyable.

Do you need a visa to visit Phu Quoc island?

Citizens of several countries are exempt from needing a visa to enter Vietnam for up to 15 days — but Phu Quoc actually has more relaxed visa rules than the rest of Vietnam. Currently, depending on where you’re from, you may be able to stay in Phu Quoc without a visa for up to 30 days. Visa rules are subject to change. See more on Vietnam visa regulations at Lonely Planet.

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Phu Quoc Island Guide

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