So we actually visited Phu Quoc (pronouced ‘Fuwoc’ by the locals) over the Christmas period however, I don’t think our experience of it over Christmas was any different to any other time of year! 25th December is just another working day in Vietnam and with it being my first Christmas away from my family, we decided to take a week off and spend it in Phu Quoc. Funnily enough, it seems it’s the place where most expats in Vietnam also spend their Christmas holidays. The island measuring just over 200 square miles is home to some of the most beautiful beaches, amazing resorts and also a great backpacker vibe.
FLY: The island has an airport conveniently placed in the middle of the island with regular flights all over Vietnam. BUS: We decided to save some money, throw on our old backpacks and get an overnight bus to Ha Tien (the ferry port to Phu Quoc). We booked through 12goAsia, it cost us $11 and we left at 10pm from Ho Chi Minh and arrived in Ha Tien at 6am and were able to get the first ferry at 7.30am being at our hotel in Phu Quoc by around 10am. Easy! Once your ferry lands at the port in Phu Quoc, minibuses are waiting to take people to their hotels around the island for 100-200k, we paid 100k each and we were staying on Long Beach. DRIVE: We also looked into this option as we have our own bike. It would take us about 2-3 days with regular pit-stops along the way and an overnight stay, check out this blog for advice if you’re thinking about driving from HCMC.
where to stay?
You’ll find most of the accommodation, bars/restaurants and main source of life is based around this huge stretch of beach with a road called ‘Tran Hung Dao’ running along behind it. It’s where we decided to stay at a gorgeous place called ‘Sirena Phu Quoc’ which I can highly recommend, it has a lovely little pool, is a 3 minute walk from the beach and is super quiet and peaceful. Long beach isn’t a deep beach but its very very long so you’ll always find a space on the sand, and the water is very clean and there are hardly any waves so it’s lovely to swim in. Long beach attracts everyone as it’s at the centre of the buzz – families, couples, backpackers and everyone in between.
ONG LAN BEACH
Ong Lan Beach is much quieter than Long Beach and is home to a few beautiful resorts and lots of little guesthouses. The beach here is a series of white sand bays sheltered by rocks at either end, and the water is lovely and calm. If you’re looking for a more chilled out stay with a few less tourists and backpackers then this would be the place. Ong Lan Beach is about a 25 minute drive from Long Beach, and around 15 minutes from Duong Dong.
DUONG DONG TOWN
You can also stay in the fishing town of Duong Dong which is between Long Beach and Ong Lan Beach. It is a traditional town with lots of places to eat and also home to the night market which has restaurant after restaurant selling their catch of the day! Although staying in the town does mean you’re further away from the beaches, if you’re looking to be more involved in local life then this is the place to stay.
what to do?
HIRE A SCOOTER & EXPLORE
This is one of our top things to do almost anywhere we go in Asia – check out my blog here to see why we encourage you to hire a bike almost everywhere you go and all the places we’ve explored by bike so far. Phu Quoc is no exception, the roads are huge, well-tarmacced and quiet making it the perfect place to explore on two wheels. Hiring a scooter to explore gives you so much more freedom than walking on foot and will save you money on getting taxis everywhere.
VISIT SAO BEACH
It’s famous for a reason, this beach is beautifully stunning! It’s white sand stretches for miles with a gorgeous forest of palm trees as it’s backdrop and crystal blue water as far as you can see. Sao Beach is about a 30-40 minute drive from Long Beach so we hired a bike and made a day of it, it was a lovely drive down with big quiet roads and lots of scenery. If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend packing some water, snacks and Bahn Mi’s for your day. There are beach bars and restaurants but they do take advantage of the fact you’re limited on options with the reflection in their prices. Expect to pay no less than 120k for a meal. Despite this, the sunbeds are very cheap to hire at around 30k each with an umbrella for the day!
THE NIGHT MARKET
On every night from around 6pm, the night market is a stretch of 3 roads formed in a U-shape which are bursting with fresh fish and shellfish restaurants flaunting their catch of the day in order to tempt you in. There are also lots of little stalls to buy souvenirs or just little bits for yourself! Also be prepared to have all different flavours of nuts to be thurst into your hand as you pass various stalls – some are tasty, some not so much.
WATCH THE SUNSET ON LONG BEACH
So we were in Phu Quoc a week and we had some days when the weather was a little crappy, but on the majority of the days when the weather was good we got some spectacular sunsets. A good spot is sunset bar, aptly named, smack bang in the middle of long beach. Good cocktails, reasonably priced wine and beer and best spots in the house to relax and watch the sunset over the horizon! I don’t want to ruin the surprise but seriously check out how gorgeous the few we saw were below.
VISIT STARFISH BEACH
I’m so sad that I read about this after we left Phu Quoc but basically it’s a beach in the North of the island that is still a little bit of a secret to the tourists who regularly flock to the more famous Sao Beach. But it’s a natural gathering of hundreds of starfish throughout the shallows of this gorgeous beach, definitely not one to be missed – we will definitely be going when we next visit Phu Quoc.
TREAT YO’SELF (TO A FANCY BREAKIE)
Whilst our accommodation was lovely, it didn’t do breakfast and as we were on a budget we regularly opted for the restaurants next door where we could get an omelette and toast for £1 which would set us up perfectly. However, we did indulge in a fancy resort breakfast on Christmas morning, which of course can be done at anytime of the year. We went to Cassia Cottage just down the road from our hotel and it cost $15 for all-you-can-eat breakfast with a great array of everything you could want, plus an egg station and pancake station! I rang a few before deciding to go here and all of the resorts tended to be around this price so definitely one to do if you fancy indulging in a lovely setting.
where to drink? (most importantly obviously)
SUNSET BAR, LONG BEACH
As mentioned before this is one of the best spots to watch the sunset in my opinion and we spent a fair few endings to our beach days at this spot. Comfy chairs all perfectly facing the horizon and a good drinks list – they also do food but it’s a little pricey for the budget-conscious traveller.
RORY’S BAR, LONG BEACH
I read about this bar before we came to Phu Quoc as it’s wildly popular with backpackers and those that like to dance on the tables. It was a really good vibe there with a huge space inside for a good party atmosphere and a more chilled vibe with low chairs and bean bags out on the sand, and usually they light a big fire too. We also went in the day once but it was packed so we didn’t stay long; they do food too.
PINEAPPLE BAR, TRAN HUNG DAO
This was our preferred bar of choice, a little more slow-paced but good music, pool table and shisha (also balloons if you fancy). The menu here is also crazy reasonable for drinks and food, we ate breakfast and lunch here a few times and it was always delicious. If you’re looking for a bar to chill in and drink til the early hours, this is the one.
BITTERSWEET COCKTAIL BAR, SALINDA RESORT, LONG BEACH
Located within the Salinda Resort this cocktail bar has a huge range of cocktails and not too crazy expensive. It has a relaxed lounge vibe and some interesting cocktails to try. We also ate at the Salinda Resort on Christmas Day so I can totally vouch for their service and UHmaaazing food!
SKYE BAR (OCEAN PEARL HOTEL), TRAN HUNG DAO
A nice bar on the 10th floor to look over the whole of Long Beach, the lights won’t be anything like the views in Saigon or Bangkok but it’s nice for a beach side town! Plus you can see all the lights of the boats out on the water on the horizon. Cocktails and food was way more reasonably priced than we thought it would be at around 120k for a cocktail and 100k for a pizza.
RABBIT HOLE IRISH BAR, TRAN HUNG DAO
It’s quite far form your traditional Irish bar so don’t go expecting the smell of guinness, wooden tables and dimly lit rooms. But it does offer a huge drinks list, a pool table, and plenty of screens for sports fans!
the best time to visit?
April – May are the hottest months with temperatures reaching 35 degrees. April – June and late October will provide you with the best combo of less crowds and reasonable weather. Saying all this though, we went over Christmas and found the weather was beautiful most of the week apart from a few days where it rained or was overcast (the temps did drop too on these days) and on the good days it was around 30 degrees and very strong sun!
Hope you enjoyed our travel guide to Phu Quoc, get in touch if you have any questions – we’re always happy to help with travel planning in Asia – or check out our other blogs for some more travel inspiration!