A guide to Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

Introduction

The Phu Quoc Island (or Koh Tral as the Cambodians call it) lies 15km offshore from Cambodia and 45km west of Ha Tien and is full of mountains, forest and endless white sandy beaches. The former Cambodian island has a population of around 50,000, is 45km wide, 30km long and has an area of 1300 sq km.
In the past most of the island was controlled by the Vietnamese military, though on our visit in Sep 2007 we encountered very little military presence, even in the north. Phu Quoc is famous for its high quality fish sauce and for the Phu Quoc hunting dogs, which have a ridgeback, curly tail and a blue tongue! Phu Quoc has a great tourism potential, but for the moment it has not been realized. 70% of the island is national park. The rainy season lasts from July to November and many of the guest houses are closed, so the main tourist season is mid winter, when the sea is calm and the climate very hot.  The country code for Vietnam is +84.

 

We experienced some difficulties in finding some English speaking people, even in the hotels and restaurants. The motodubs or guides are often the only people who can understand English.

The Vietnam currency is the Dong,
$1 = 17’000 Dong

Ha Tien Border Crossing

To reach the border crossing of Ha Tien from Kep you can either take a motodub for about $8, a Tuk Tuk for $15 or go with a private Taxi for $25. The trip from Kep to the border is about 40km and takes 1h. The last bit of the road is in a quite a bad condition. The border opens at 7am and closes 7pm. You need a valid Vietnam visa (which can be done either in Sihanoukville or Phnom Penh at a cost of $30 for a 30 day visa).
There are normally motodubs waiting on the Cambodian side of the border to bring you directly to Ha Tien town (8km) at a cost of $2.50 (only two persons per moto are allowed in Vietnam!).

Possible overnight stays

The best way is to stay in Kep and then leave early morning to Ha Tien. If you prefer to stay in Vietnam here are your choices.

Ha Tien

Ha Tien is quite a pleasant sea side city, with an interesting market, some restaurants, a couple of hotels and some nice beaches a bit outside of town. On the way to Ha Tien are a few massive limestone formations with some interesting caves, some have been turned into temples. A good place to stay over night is in the Van Tien hotel, a bit outside of the center, but very quite and in a brand new building, but the English of the staff is very limited. The cost for a standard room is 70’000 dong.  Another possibility is the To Chau Hotel directly at the To Chau river, with some good English speaking staff, but this guest house can be very noisy at night.

Rach Gia

Rach Gia is about double the size of Ha Tien and about 90km further west but never as pleasant as Ha Tien, so it is best to pass through as quickly as possible. The bus from Ha Tien to Rach Gia costs 16 000 Dong (20 000 Dong for the express bus, although the driver reminded us a bit of Michael Schumacher!).

If you have to stay overnight, the Rhuong Hong offers reasonably priced, clean rooms for 80 000 dongs just next to the ferry port. On the opposite side of the hotel there is the Pho 81 restaurant, which has an English menu and the young Toan is a great source of information.

How to get to Phu Quoc

From Ha Tien

From Ha Tien you can take a fast boat which takes about 1.5h and you arrive on the northeastern part of the island. The cost is 150 000 Dong. The boat normally leaves at 8 am but only 4 times a week. You can check what day the boat is departing by calling their office on 077 3959 90 60.

From Rach Gia

The most popular way to go is from Rach Gia by speedboat. We saw 3 different companies which leave daily at 8.15 am and 1.15 pm at a cost of 180 000 Dong. We traveled with the Superdong which is the smallest but the most popular of the boats. If the sea is rough, we recommend you take one of the bigger vessels, which are not so shaky. The trip takes about 2.5h (over a distance of 92km) and you get a small snack and a bottle of water. You arrive in Bai Vong, on the east coast of the island. From there are small buses which will bring you to Duong Dong.

Where to stay in Phu Quoc

Once you arrived in Duong Dong there are plenty of motodrivers waiting for you to bring you to a guest house or resort. The most popular beach with most of the guest houses is the Long Beach south of Duong Dong. Long Beach is several kilometers long, with beautiful white sand and crystal clear water.

The family run bungalows to the south are quite popular. We stayed in the Viet Thanh (077 847 716) place for $7/night (high season $15), directly on the beach. The guest house next door, the Nhat Lan has similar prices and a very good restaurant. More up market guest houses include the Coco Beach (077 848 394) or the Sea Star (077 982 161) for about $30/night. A popular bar is the rainbow bar, just after the Coco Beach resort with BBQ and pool table.
 
The most exquisite resort is La Veranda (077 982 988), which offers rooms from $150 and above. They have a very good restaurant and a bar.

Another great restaurant on the main road along the beach is Carole run by a French-Vietnamese couple. They serve great pizzas and other western and Asian dishes, they also deliver to your guest house (077 848 884). You can also rent a moto, a car or a Jeep there for reasonable prices.

About 20km north of Duong Dong is the Mai Phuong Beach Resort (0918 288 647) situated. It is the only resort for miles, offering very clean and pleasant bungalows and a relaxed family atmosphere. The bungalows cost $10/night (might be higher in high season). The resort has a boat which brings you to a small island nearby, great for snorkeling. They also offer fishing trips.

What to do on Phu Quoc

The main reason to come to Phu Quoc is for sure its beautiful beaches and its relaxed atmosphere. So you just might end up spending your days on the beach relaxing, swimming or reading a good book and getting a nice suntan.

On the southern tip of the island are the 15 tiny An Thoi Islands. You can visit these islands by chartered boat and it is a fine area for sightseeing, fishing, swimming and snorkeling.
On the southern end of the islands are some great diving and snorkeling spots. For diving go see the Rainbow Divers at the Saigon-Phu-Quoc resort.


The lack of cars on the islands are the reason, that the dirt-roads are on a pretty good condition, at least compared to Cambodia, so to rent a motorbike and explore the islands several unspoiled beaches, pepper plantations or small villages make a great day out.

In Duong Dong you can visit the Cau Castle, one of Duong Dong’s main tourist attraction, which was built in 1937.
Furthermore there is the Fish Sauce Factory, which is located nearby the Duong Dong market.

Enjoy this great island as long as it has not been discovered by mass tourism. It won’t stay like this for long!

Should you require more information, please do not hesitate to ask the friendly staff at the Kep Lodge or write us a mail to info@keplodge.com.

Have fun!

Compiled in Sep 2007. Adapted Feb 09. Prices subject to change. © 2009 Kep Lodge