PHU QUOC


Phu Quoc - Long Beach - South from Duong Dong

2015:



OVERVIEW:

I have provided information about Phu Quoc here.

I have also provided information on how much it would cost 2 GRANDPAckers to visit Phu Quoc to investigate their retirement options here.

On this page, I will focus on Phu Quoc as a Retirement Location.


GENERAL INFORMATION:

No building is higher than 2 stories. The breadth of lodgings on Phu Quoc is quite varied. Seasonal prices and the number of current visitors can drastically ebb and flow and significantly impact on the per-night accommodation price.

By Vietnamese standards the prices may be a bit higher (when compared to the larger urban cities Saigon and Hanoi) but you’ll be getting a grand trip out of the experience.

An unbroken beach stretches for almost the entire length of the island’s west coast, only a small part of it, so far, has been developed.

The mix of isolated and deserted beaches, and a few thriving yet unadulterated Vietnamese villages, make Phu Quoc a rare find indeed.

Local markets, fresh seafood restaurants, sandy beaches and a charming laid-back atmosphere make this a great place to chill out.

Famous for its traditional home-made products of fish sauce and black pepper, until recently, the island was only occupied by local fisherman, but in the last 25 years the population has increased by over 10 times! Go now and see this empty utopia before it changes forever!

When I was in Phu Quoc in November 2015, the island was one big building site.

Phu Quoc - Rach Tram - RoadPhu Quoc - Nha Hang - RoadworksVietnam is preparing the island for mass tourism.

Roads are being built all around the coast (at present they are just dirt tracks) and new resorts are springing up on every beach (replacing the ‘unkempt’ fishing villages).

No doubt, many of the locals will see this change as a bad thing. However, for retirees, it is a good thing.

But living prices in Phu Quoc are already high and costs have been escalating ‘in-line-with’ the amount of development going on around the island.

I met an elderly Frenchman who was married to a Vietnamese lady. He runs 2 resorts at Long Beach. His land does not have beach frontage, but he bought that land 15 years ago for US$5 / sqm. I cannot verify his figures, but he says that his land is now worth US$1,300 / sqm.

Phu Quoc - Long Beach - Rock Sunset Phu Quoc - Long Beach - Rocky SunsetI met another middle-aged Dutchman who now manages 3 resorts (including one new resort on the beachfront). He told me that 2 years ago he bought property inland in the forest about 500m from the beach for US$50 / sqm. It is now selling for US$800 / sqm. He, also, told me that 2 years ago there were only 58 resorts on the island… there are now over 150… in the next 2 years, that figure is likely to double again…

With development still going on in Phu Quoc at an increasing rate, there are still plenty of investment opportunities for expats… and retirees… obviously, without a Vietnamese spouse you will need to be VERY CAREFUL.

The Dutchman told me that the rules can change fast and you can lose it all with one bureaucratic decision against you… and, that even the Vietnamese don’t trust each other. This is not a surprise when this sort of money is involved.

But there may be investment opportunities that can provide a retired GRANDPAcking couple a comfortable income and lifestyle on the island.

Yes, it still lacks the sophistication that you find in, say, Malaysia (such as in Langkawi or Penang). And, yes, this is still Vietnam – so corruption and nepotism are rife. It’s not ‘what you know’, it is ‘who you know’.

Phu Quoc - Rach Tram - Sunset Phu Quoc - Palm Tree - Restaurant NightYet, Phu Quoc is ‘going places’ and year-on-year you will see it develop and mature into a cleaner and more accommodating location for GRANDPAckers.

Phu Quoc is the next Bali. What happened in Bali over the past 25-30 years is amazing.

Once the tourist income comes, the same will happen in Phu Quoc. Vietnam are banking on it.

Tourist dollars will provide what Phu Quoc needs to ‘clean up its act’ and ‘modernise’.


THE EXPAT COMMUNITY:

Phu Quoc has a small but growing expat community. Most expats are in Phu Quoc to run businesses. At present, there are very few retirees.

Phu Quoc - Long Beach - Road Phu Quoc - An Thoi - Harbour 3BUT, over the next 5-10 years, I believe that this will change and that you will see an increasing number of retirees arriving on Phu Quoc.

You don’t get ‘sexpats’ nor a ‘hippy undertone’ in Phu Quoc like you do elsewhere in countries like Cambodia (and Thailand).

As a result, Phu Quoc feels decent. Albeit, perhaps, a bit ‘unkempt’ right now.


WHERE TO LIVE:

Don’t expect to come to Phu Quoc to find GRANDPAcking quality rental homes and apartments… they don’t exist.

If you want this style of living, you will need to build your own place; albeit to Vietnamese building standards. But, to own property in Vietnam, you need a Vietnamese spouse.

You can find good ‘Vietnamese Quality’ rental property which, for many, would be perfectly adequate. I met one expat who lives in Phu Quoc who rents a 2 bedroom house near Long Beach for US$360 / month (utilities included).

However, GRANDPAckers coming to Phu Quoc should expect to stay in a hotel on a long-term room rate.

LONG BEACH:

Phu Quoc - Nhat Lan - Bungalow Bed Phu Quoc - Lien Hiep Thanh - Room OutsideAs the new (and more expensive) resorts and hotels get built around the island, GRANDPAckers should be able to find budget options more easily. Right now, this is most likely to be in the 5 km strip on Long Beach south of Duong Dong.

As with Cenang Beach in Langkawi, the next few years will (probably) see waterfront hotels price themselves out of a GRANDPAcker’s price range. It is already difficult to find GRANDPAcking rooms on the beachfront in Peak Season for less than VDN700k / night.

GRANDPAckers need to target a room rate of no more than VDN400k / night. Right now, you can get Peak Season bungalows about 50-100m from the beach for that price.

In the coming years, expect to be 100-200m away from the beach and, perhaps, on the inland side of the main beach road.

TAKE YOUR TIME:

Even in Peak Season, you can easily find a Double Room with fan, Cable TV, and hot water shower in a reasonable Hostel or Guesthouse within walking distance of Long Beach for VDN400k / night.

For VDN600k / night, you can get something VERY comfortable which includes aircon.

I would go around town and find the nicest room that I can find being quoted at VDN600-700k / night. Once found, I would get out VDN12,000,000 in cash (about US$545), put it in front of the owner and say ‘VDN12m for one month’ (being VDN400k / night). Even better, I would get out US$500 in cash… they may be more tempted with US$s (especially when you consider that the US$ is likely to strengthen over the next few years).

This should get you a nice, clean, modern Double Room with hot water ensuite, nice furniture, good in-room wifi, aircon, flat screen cable tv (with English sports & movie channels), and an outside patio with garden views, table, chairs, and hammock. You may, also, be able to get a simple breakfast and coffee included in that price (especially if you are happy to go a little bit further away from the beach).

Confronted with this option, many owners would take it. Then, you can stay there until you find the right longer term solution that you are looking for.


TRANSPORT:

Sometimes you need to couple where you want to stay with a Transport option in order to make it work…

If you manage to get GRANDPAcking accommodation in or around Long Beach, then you will be able to get by on foot and by renting (or buying) a couple of bicycles.

You should be able to long-term-rent a bicycle for peanuts – target NO MORE THAN US$1 / day. Buying could prove the better option.

Meter Taxis are available and reasonably cheap. However costs can add up when you pay VDN45k each way to go the 5km in and out of Duong Dong from / to your accommodation.

Phu Quoc - Cua Can to Dai Beach Phu Quoc - An Thoi - SabrinaUnlike in Cambodia, the police do not target foreigners on scooters. However, with the best long term scooter rental rate being about VDN100k / day, you may be best to just rent one at VDN120k / day as and when you need one. BUT, make sure that you have an International Driving Permit.

At VDN100k / day for scooter rental, you will need to target VDN300k / day for your accommodation. I would suggest that to get a GRANDPAcking room at that price, you will be quite a long way from the beach or much further out of town. For many GRANDPAckers, this could still be a very good option – especially for those who like a more ‘rural’ and ‘quieter’ lifestyle. It won’t be long before the roads are completed and longer distances are more possible and safer.


IS PHU QUOC A GRANDPACKING RETIREMENT LOCATION? YES.

IT IS STRONGLY SUGGESTED that you come and spend a few months in Vietnam BEFORE making any commitments.

Modern infrastructures are still being built, and you will need to adapt to a different culture and the ways that things get done.

For example, you still get regular power cuts in Phu Quoc (mainly in the afternoons).

However, like Siem Reap and Kampot, Phu Quoc benefits hugely from the growing tourism industry.

Phu Quoc - Palm Tree - Spring Rolls VDN60k Phu Quoc - Palm Tree - Chicken VDN95kBecause you will only have a long-term hotel option in Phu Quoc, it ‘only just’ makes it into my VIETNAM RETIREMENT REVIEWS.

However, because of the ease of Visa renewal, it could still be a long stay option for many GRANDPAckers who want to spend the summer living a beach lifestyle out of a hotel room.

You have a good selection of restaurants and bars to choose from. The place is reasonably tidy, it has much less crime than the big cities, and the ‘seedy side’ is under control.

I think that Phu Quoc will improve as a Retirement Option year-on-year as the place matures.


WHAT WOULD YOUR RETIREMENT BUDGET BE?

THE GRANDPAcking ACID TESTCan a retired couple with no assets live easily, comfortably, and happily here with their only source of income being a standard NZ Married Couple’s State Pension? YES… but only just… money will be ‘tight’.

If you were to retire full time on Phu Quoc, a realistic budget would be:

Phu Quoc RETIREMENT Costs
As a Retirement Location, Phu Quoc benefits from the constant churn of tourists. As such, there are plenty of facilities to service these tourists and, therefore, you.

However, in Phu Quoc, this comes at a price. Phu Quoc is one of the most expensive places to live in Vietnam. For some things you are paying twice the price as elsewhere in the country.

With only 7% of your Retirement Budget available for LIVING, you will need to work hard to get you EXISTENCE costs down below my target figures.


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