Phu Quoc Expats
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, food, living costs, etc. then this “authentic” Phu Quoc expat guide is for you. 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.
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.
Expat Guide To Phu Quoc
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.
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 this year the world’s largest overseas cable car (Phu Quoc Cable Car) and a special casino resort, one of two in Vietnam, will also have their grand opening. Cleary 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 professional. Phu Quoc plans to be a smart city by 2020 and are 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.
Phu Quoc Map For Expats – Island Living Guide
A map dedicated to those living and working on Phu Quoc Island.
Living and Working in Phu Quoc
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 you will be required to have the necessary qualifications however at the moment (2017) there are no internationally recognized language schools on Phu Quoc. Other typical expat type jobs on Phu Quoc include: Scuba dive instructor, hotel manager, working at a restaurant, and in the renewable energy industry.
Phu Quoc Expat Demographics
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. However not all “expats” living on Phu Quoc are the same and there is a common misnomer that all expats on the island are friendly, trustworthy and will provide a “wealth of helpful information” to new expats. This is absolutely not true and it is important for all those considering moving to Phu Quoc to be aware of all the risks involved. The first 6 months living on the island will make or break you if you are an independent expat not working in the hospitality industry, in which case you would be shielded/protected by your employer.
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. Trustworthy factor: High.
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. Trustworthy factor: High – Medium High.
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. Trustworthy factor: Low.
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. Trustworthy factor: Low/Dangerous.
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. Trustworthy factor: Medium to High.
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. 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:
- Make friends with people who have verified Facebook accounts or at least use Facebook with their real name.
- It is safer to affiliate yourself with new expats vs old.
- Do not go on “secluded” trips around the island with anyone alone, expat or local. If you want to go anywhere, read our guide and go with your trusted peers.
- Report crimes against young girls and boys, especially against those of Vietnamese descent originating from the Mekong Delta region who are more vulnerable due to their economic situations and do not have a voice.
- Keep track of all threats – online or on the island.
Cost of living on Phu Quoc
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.
- Vietnamese soups: $1.50USD to $3.00USD (Pho, bun mam, etc)
- Baguette sandwiches aka “Banh Mi”: $0.75USD to $1.50USD depending on how much meat/eggs you want
- Beer: $0.50USD (local beer) to $5.00USD (premium imported).
- Motorbike rental: $8.00USD average per day. Long term rates are much cheaper.
- Housing: $250.00USD and up. There is a housing shortage at the moment
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: Prices for a bachelor apartment with a bathroom start at $250US/month, depending on the location and condition and can be as high as $400US/month. 1 bedroom to 2 bedroom apartments with bathroom and kitchen start at $200US and up. You can rent entire homes/villas which start at $400US and up. Water and Wifi is usually included but you do have to pay for electricity, which can be around $25US to $100US per month depending on if you use an air conditioner. Learn more by reading the “Phu Quoc Apartment Guide“.
Food & Groceries
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 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 is shop called “Mini Mart” located in 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. 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. 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.
Phu Quoc Food & Grocery:
Duong Dong Wet & Dry Market
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
Description: Your go to market for common food items, healthcare products, diapers, maxipads (maybe tampons?), alcohol, drinks, snacks.
Co-Op Mart (now closed)
Location: Long Beach
Address: Trần Hưng Đạo, Khu phố 7, Dương Tơ
Description: A grocery store that has basic essentials such as fruits, vegetables, packaged meats, beer, diapers, maxi pads, pots, pans, sunscreen, etc. You can also buy beachwear here.
Location: Ong Lang,
Address: off Hwy DT45 (Ganh Dau – Duong Dong), Cửa Dương
Description: Standard convenience store selling pop/soda, snacks etc.
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.
Laundry Service in Phu Quoc
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
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.