An increasing number of foreigners are now living on Phu Quoc Island, the main island in Phu Quoc District which consists of 28 islands, and for good reason, Phu Quoc is developing rapidly from a once seedy backpacker island to a top tier island city. It has a laid back atmosphere, enjoys a mild climate most of the year, and above all, it is relatively affordable. The island also has an international airport, a WHO recognized hospital, and soon internationally recognized English language centers.
The following Phu Quoc Expatriate / Expat guide helps to demystify some of the questions that you may have about moving to Phu Quoc, how to adjust once you arrive, day to day living, and an overview of the type of expats you will find on the island today.
If you are considering relocating to Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam for work or pleasure and need a “quick start” guide on processes, procedures, jobs, apartments, groceries, living costs, etc. then this Phu Quoc expat guide is for you – written by expats for expats.
Some of the team members at Phuquocislandguide.com have lived and worked on Phu Quoc for over 5 years while others have considered relocating there and as such the following represents both of these perspectives, as well as perspectives from former Phu Quoc expats, about what's it like to be a “Phu Quocian“. To help you make the right decision, we will tell you exactly what to expect on Phu Quoc, both the good and the bad, and will regularly update this page accordingly. Links have been added throughout this page to help you learn more about a certain topic.
Phu Quoc's Tourism & Hospitality Industry
Besides the white sand beaches, fresh seafood, and tropical weather, the major draw for foreigners considering moving to Phu Quoc is the travel & hospitality sector. Tourism is transforming Phu Quoc Island’s economy, which had previously subsisted on fishing and fish sauce production. Major developers are building, or have already built, world class resorts, amusement parks, safari parks, golf courses, etc. In 2017, Marriott International, an American multinational diversified hospitality company, opened the ultra luxurious J.W. Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort, designed by Bill Bensley. Later in 2017 the world's largest overseas cable car (Phu Quoc Cable Car), the Intercontinental Phu Quoc Resort, and a special casino resort, had their grand opening. Clearly the tourism sector is booming on Phu Quoc Island and jobs are plentiful. However there is an extreme shortage of skilled labor on the island, especially foreign language and IT skilled professionals. Phu Quoc plans to be a smart city by 2020 and are in desperate need of technology workers.
As Phu Quoc develops, so does its' expatriate community and the burgeoning Phu Quoc expat community has created a healthy demand for western services, including language schools, lawyers, tour agents, business and investment consultants, property agents, and various expat-interest groups. With the right experience and attitude it’s possible for expats in Phu Quoc to start a business, and many existing foreigners are involved in tourism to some capacity already.
Working on Phu Quoc Island
Most jobs on Phu Quoc Island for expats are in the hospitality industry. You can find details about it here: Phu Quoc Jobs. If you are considering working as an English teacher on Phu Quoc Island you will be required to have the necessary qualifications however at the moment (2017) there are no internationally recognized language schools in Phu Quoc Districts. Other typical expat type jobs on Phu Quoc include: Scuba dive instructor, hotel manager, working at a restaurant, and in the renewable energy industry.
The Vinmec Phu Quoc International Hospital in Ganh Dau Village is a WHO standard hospital that brings quality healthcare to Phu Quoc. The hospital is 19,000 square meters, 150 rooms, and has six floors. This is the go to place for any serious health related issues. There is also a local hospital located in Duong Dong Town as well as many small clinics.
Pharmacies are abundant on Phu Quoc but most do not carry western medicines so make sure you bring your own.
On Phu Quoc Vietnamese is the official while most speak English. Russian and French are also widely spoken.
In the center of Duong Dong Town there is a Sports and Cultural center that has a gym, tennis courts, basketball courts, play center for children, and even a cafe. You can also find dedicated gyms in and around the Long Beach area.
Education & Schools on Phu Quoc Island
There are language schools on Phu Quoc but they are privately owned and lack transparency. If you are a parent and are considering enrolling your child in a language school on Phu Quoc Island, you will be doing so at your own risk as standards are not enforced and its' very hard to gauged the credibility and trustworthy of teachers. Most expats on Phu Quoc either a) home school their children or b) send them to either Hanoi or Saigon to go to school.
Republic of Korea Vocational School
In 2017 A Việt Nam–Republic of Korea Vocational School launched with the aim of training people to serve in the tourism & hospitality sector. The school consists of a new multiple story building used for hands on training, classrooms for lectures, offices, and in-house dormitories.
Vietnam is a relatively cheap place to live in comparison to the west. However, the cost of living is increasing due to a strong US dollar and inflation, which is currently running at approximately 7%.
Phu Quoc is a destination that is isolated from mainland Vietnam and things need to be imported to the island which makes some goods and services a bit more expensive. Expatriates observe a big difference in the price of Vietnamese and western food here. The local restaurants are extremely cheap and the majority of local people eat out on a daily basis because it is cheaper than cooking at home. The price of western food, however, will largely be on a par with the price of food in the west. Wine is very expensive here but beer and local spirits can be purchased at a very low price.
The cost of food and groceries is relatively cheap on Phu Quoc Island compared to western nations, especially if you buy your groceries from the few wet and dry markets found in and around Duong Dong Town, the largest one being the Duong Dong Market. If you prefer to shop at a “one-stop” grocery store, there are numerous “Mini Marts” located around town (see map).
Surprisingly seafood is relatively expensive on Phu Quoc, especially tuna, cobia, king fish, crabs, shrimp, etc as they are normally shipped to mainland Vietnam, but fresh herring (rich in Omega 3-6-9's), black anchovies, clams, scallops, and squid are relatively cheap. Quality beef and pork is hard to find and best avoided if possible. Chicken is a good alternative meat and relatively healthy and affordable.
Eating from the street is usually cheaper and there are affordable Vietnamese restaurants found throughout the island – Read our “Phu Quoc Street Food Guide” for more information about cheap Phu Quoc street food.
Good coffee is hard to find on the island, especially if you like western coffee, but there are some hidden gems – read our “Top 5 Coffee Shop on Phu Quoc” post. If you need a caffeine kick in the morning, either opt for instant coffee or go to one of the 5 star resorts for an espresso shot.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are affordable, just make sure you thoroughly wash your produce as they are inundated with pesticides. Avoid fruits imported from China if you can e.g. Apples, giant pears, oranges, pomelo, etc. There are a few places that sell organic food but they mainly cater to the fine dining industry on the island.
There are numerous accommodation types available to suit all budgets, from up-market apartments to modest houses and villas. Most expats stay in a hotel upon arrival to Phu Quoc before upgrading their accommodation later if they decide to live here. Some even remain at their hotels/resorts while working here.
The main long term accommodation areas for expats in Phu Quoc are in the alleyways around Duong Dong Town and along Tran Hung Dao Street (see our map). You will see signs that read “Nha Tro“, “Apartment for rent“, “Long term housing” or “House for rent” in these alleyways as well as a contact number, which you should store on your phone. You should be aware that housing is in big demand and the island is currently facing a housing shortage. As such a lot of expats are now living outside of the main town of Duong Dong.
Sample cost of housing:
Learn more by reading the “Phu Quoc Apartment Guide“.
Location: Duong Dong Town
Address: Across the Duong Dong river (see map)
Hours: Dusk until dawn. Ideal time is at 8:00am
Description: This is the best place in Phu Quoc for groceries – e.g. vegetables, fruits, fresh seafood, meat, cutlery, etc. The market is also surrounded by numerous shops that sell a variety of products to make your life on Phu Quoc much easier. Determining prices and communicating may seem like a challenge, but remember that these vendors are accustomed to tourists. Use your smartphone's calculator and let vendors input their prices directly.
Location: Duong Dong Town
Address: 339A – 339B Nguyễn Trung Trực
Hours: 8:00am to 10:00pm
Your go to market for common food items, healthcare products, diapers, maxi-pads (maybe tampons?), alcohol, drinks, snacks.
The Tran Hung Dao located Co-Op Mart in Duong To (Long Beach) was a popular place in the past for groceries but it is now closed. A new co-op mart as well as a Lottemart and Vinamart will be opening soon.
Location: Duong Dong Town
Address: 30/4 Street, near the hospital
Description: Standard convenience store for tourist. Sells beer, wine, liquor, coke, snacks, sunscreen, etc.
Location: Bai Ong Lang
Address: off Hwy DT45 (Ganh Dau – Duong Dong), Cửa Dương
Description: Standard convenience store selling pop/soda, snacks, things imported from Thailand etc.
Location: Duong Dong
Address: Across the Duong Dong River at Ly Tu Trong
Description: A bakery that sells cakes, bread, sweet bread, cupcakes, drinks, and more.
Location: Dương Đông
Address: 8 Bạch Đằng, KP.2
Description: Mainly souvenir food items but also other items useful for expats such as quality salt, instant soups, etc.
Location: Duong Dong Town
Address: Tran Hung Dao near Vo Thi Sao
Description: Imported food, wine, cheese and candies.
Location: Duong Dong T own
Address: 331 Nguyễn Trung Trực, khu phố 5
Description: For iPhones, Samsung, 4G plans, etc.
Most hotels offer a laundry service and there is dry cleaning service available on Phu Quoc as well. Here are a few Phu Quoc laundry / laundromat services on the island.
Ka Sa Laundry
Address: Tổ 1, ấp Gành Gió, Xã Cửa Dương
Description: Inconvenient but it is here if you need it.
Cost: 20,000VND per kg
Thanh Kim Ngan Bungalow
Address: Long Beach Village, Near La Veranda Resort
Cost is 20,000VND per kg.
Free Beach Resort/ Viet Thanh Resort
Address: Long Beach Village
Description: Onsite laundry and dry cleaning service
Cost: $1.50USD per 1 kg for laundry, $2.50USD per 1 kg if use dry machine
There is a growing community of expats from all over the world and across all demographics living on Phu Quoc Island. These expats enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery that Phu Quoc has to offer, the relatively low cost of living, and some of the best beaches in all of Asia.
New vs Old
Most expats are new to the island and have come with their families to work in the hospitality sector, however there are some who have been on the island for over 10 years – initially arrived to sexually exploit the young girls and boys of the Mekong Delta region, one of the poorest regions in all of Vietnam. Given that Vietnam borders Cambodia, which is known to be the pedophilia capital of Asia, Phu Quoc Island was a place not frequented by sex tourists since it was “off-the-radar” and a pricey Vietnam Visa was also required – those who did come, had no competition unlike in Phnom Penh and Pattaya. A lot of these sexual deviants managed to stay on the island and start small businesses such as coffee shops, hostels, after hours bars, etc. This older community of expats, consisting entirely of older men, all know each other and are easily recognizable.
The following is a high level breakdown of the different expat personas found on Phu Quoc:
1.) Hospitality/Tourism Industry Expat: This type of expat is new to Phu Quoc and is either working in the hospitality sector or developing a tourism product, e.g. safari zoo, hospital, golf, real estate etc. They are here on the island for career related purposes, are usually under the age of 50, well educated and usually hang out with their colleagues and or spouse. If you want to reach this specific community you can find them here.
2.) Backpacker Expat: The “backpacker expat” is on Phu Quoc for a short period of time usually working at a bar, scuba dive shop, hostel, tour agency, etc. They are young millennial's, 420 friendly, well educated, and active on social media. They are on Phu Quoc for a limited time until they move on to their next adventure.
3.) Long Term Expats: These expats have been living on the island for years, most have Vietnamese spouses/boyfriend or girlfriends, are much older, have a set group of peers or “cliques” who all belong to the same group and usually have a business on the island. Most of these expats do not like the changes that are occurring and have a set way of doing things and often exploit island newbies. Some can even spot “fresh faces” on the island, make initial contact and appear friendly and helpful, and once they have established your trust they will then try to sell you a product or service, ask if they can borrow money, or find a way to exploit you somehow. If you are a new expat who plans on starting a business on Phu Quoc that will compete with an existing business run by an long-term expat, expect aggression, slander, verbal and/or physical confrontations, etc. If you do encounter this, just be patient and document/capture everything on your smartphone/photos/social media and then show these artifacts to the local police, Facebook, and the Kien Giang Tourism Board. Not all long-term expats are bad, but there are enough to warrant extreme caution.
4:) Sexpats: A “Sexpat” is an individual who travels, usually to remote third world countries, to satisfy their sexual urges/fetish usually with minors (boys & girls) – good definition here. South East Asia is well known for the sexual exploitation of minors and Vietnam, nor Phu Quoc, is exempt from this even though prostitution is illegal in the country. Sexpats are harder to spot, older, less social, and have a very small group of peers who know of their activities and/or are Sexpats themselves or are former Sexpats. Some of these Sexpats have sex, alcohol, and/or drug addiction problems as well this demographic includes all nationalities. Given that Phu Quoc is transforming at a rapid rate and it is trying to clean up its image most of Phu Quoc's Sexpat community will either leave on their own or will be driven out.
Note: There is a red light district in Phu Quoc, companion bars, and even sex tours with ecological girls – read this and this. Since the island is very small and gossip is rampant, most of islands long term residents know exactly who the deviants are.
5:) Vietkieus: “Vietkieu's” are Vietnamese who have lived/studied abroad, are well educated, social, technologically savvy, well groomed, and normally come from middle to upper class households. Ages vary and most are on the island for investment/business opportunities.
Usually you can tell who the “good ones” are from the “bad ones” by their grooming habits, style, age, demeanor and if they are trying to sell you something or subtly promoting their own business, so it is best to be vigilant and alert.
Women & Sexual Harassment
Unfortunately women on Phu Quoc Island, and Vietnam in general, are less respected than men and as such single younger women should be careful. Once you live on the island for a few months you will easily be able to distinguish between the above 5 expat personas, as the island is small and if you are reading this you are now aware.
Safety Tips When Interacting With Others:
A map dedicated to those living and working on Phu Quoc Island.
Stay up-to-date with what is happening on Phu Quoc Island. Just click the “Like Page” button below and you are all set. Cảm ơn!