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Phu Quoc Island

Teardrop-shaped Phu Quoc has its capital at the town of Duong Dong, midway down the west coast of the island. The airport is right by Duong Dong and the vast majority of lodgings are within a 5- to thirty-minute motorcycle ride of there. In the past, ferries from the mainland arrived in An Thoi, on the far southern tip of the island. They now land in Ham Ninh, on the east coast. This doesn't change much, though -- it's still too inconvenient to walk so you'll have to catch a lift to get to any of the beaches.

Duong Dong has a few basic internet cafes. The one facing the market is probably the most convenient, though out on the road to the airport there are a couple of larger, cleaner and more comfortable places. Most are used primarily by local kids, so expect to read your emails to the soundtrack of machine guns.

Most major resorts along Long Beach have ATMs. The Saigon Phu Quoc Resort is particularly useful as it not only has an ATM, but it can also exchange travellers' cheques. Several banks in town, including a Vietcombank, have ATMs and exchange services.

There are very basic medical facilities at both Ham Ninh and An Thoi, with the latter being the better, but for anything more serious than a hangover or a paper cut -- head to Saigon.

When to go
Phu Quoc and the surrounding area enjoy a distinct wet and dry season. The best time to go if you're seeking clear skies and warm weather is between eary November and late April. At this time of the year the waters on the west coast of Phu Quoc are often blisfully calm.

The wet season, from May to late October gets moderate to heavy rain throughout -- expect to see at least some rain, most days. However, as with monsoon seasons across the region, rainfall is characterised mostly by a couple of hours of heavy rain rather than all day drizzle. During a previous visit in the height of wet season, we had four days of uninterupted glorious sunshine and not a drop of rain till the last day.

The wet season also sees rougher seas, with Long Beach catching the brunt of it, but the east coast beaches, like Bai Sao are crystal clear and calm. These rougher seas can play havoc with the ferry timetable as the boats don't run in rough weather. One day of very bad weather can see the boats not running for three or four days afterwards, so if you're travelling to Phu Quoc in wet season, consider flying there from Rach Gia or Saigon.

How long in the region
Well, how long have you got?

Given Phu Quoc is a bit out of the way -- it is a full day of travel from Saigon to the port town of Rach Gia -- this isn't the type of destination that is worth visiting for just a night or two. We'd say at an absolute minimum give it three nights.

But if you've got the time, don't hesitate to give Phu Quoc a far larger amount of your time. Dedicated beach lovers -- especially those who can confidently ride a motorbike -- will have loads of beaches to choose from for daily exploratory trips. Then there are the An Thoi islands off the southern tip of Phu Quoc that are popular for snorkelling and diving trips. In the interior there's a waterfall, national parkland (albeit mostly off limits) and interesting fishing villages dotted all around the island's coast.

And don't forget, if you start to run out of time on your Vietnamese visa, Sihanoukville in Cambodia is the closest Vietnamese consulate -- it's a full day of travel from Phu Quoc to get there, but they can issue a new visa for Vietnam in one day -- meaning you could be back on the beach, for another month, in just three days.

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