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Getting to Phu Quoc in Vietnam

Vietnam - getting to Phu Quoc - shrink

You know when you are boring people with your travel plans (picture me doing that fairly often) and they nod along but you suspect they haven’t really got a clue what you’re on about.  Well telling people I was off to ‘Phu Quoc’ was one of those times.  I think my mum thought I holidaying in Korea and my husband probably thought it was another Thai island.  Well my friends, Phu Quoc (or Phuc Qu if you’re already bored of this story) is an island in the Gulf of Thailand, approx. 50 mins flight from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  So yes, fair enough you could be forgiven for thinking it’s Thailand although it’s actually a real life Vietnamese paradise island.

Although Phu Quoc Airport has the word ‘International’ in its name, as far as I can figure out, you can only get there from flying within Vietnam using Vietnam Airlines, Mekong Air or Vietjet.  We booked our flights from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh on Cathay Pacific (using Daryl at Concorde Travel) and he booked our onward flights with Vietnam Airlines to Phu Quoc.  Due to the flight times, we had to spend the night in Ho Chi Minh at a nearby airport hotel.  We chose the Park Royal which was very clean and had a nice restaurant in the lobby.  We requested a baby cot which was already in the room when we got up there (I love it when that happens). Our rate included breakfast but as we were leaving at 6am, they kindly prepared us some goodie bags (about half the buffet!) to take away with us.  The Park Royal will also provide a complimentary airport pick up which we used one way and then hopped in a taxi the next morning which was convenient and cheap.

Lovely room at the Park Royal

Lovely room at the Park Royal

HCM’s Tan Son Nhat Airport has its domestic departures in Terminal 1.  Some tips here, be prepared to queue at the domestic terminal and take food through with you as the selection is pretty poor.  We arrived an hour before our flight which gave us the right amount of time.  The airport is a bit scruffy and the toilets are ok.

Now I don’t think I’ve ever flown Vietnam Airlines before – as a poor backpacker I could only dream of such a luxury as I was hurtling through the Vietnamese countryside on a rickety old bus.  My friend Cath (who we were meeting in PQ) had said to me ‘Do you think it’s going to be one of those scary prop planes?’  I panicked and thought about whether I had any valium left in my ‘just in case’ stash.  So I was pleasantly surprised by the gleaming big jet staring at us as we prepared to board.  The seats were in 3-3 formation and the flight took about 30 mins! Naturally there isn’t a lot of seatback TV activity going on so make sure you bring your own entertainment for the kids.

Vietnam Airlines shiny A321 jet!

Vietnam Airlines shiny A321 jet!

Our return from Phu Quoc was slightly different.  I was quite surprised by how shiny and clean the airport was and there seemed to be more food outlets there than at Ho Chi Minh.  Sadly we didn’t get the big jumbo this time, it was the turn of the ATR72 prop plane.  Seating on this one is 2-2 and warn your kids, those propellers can get very noisy!  If you do get the prop plane, the flight time to and from Phu Quoc is slight longer – 50 mins as opposed to 30 mins.

Not so shiny ATR-72 propellor plane

Not so shiny ATR-72 propellor plane

Tips on flying domestically in Vietnam

  • Vietnam Airlines can be unreliable.  Don’t leave yourselves with a tight connection.  Also, don’t rely on your original itinerary, our flight times got changed several times prior to our trip.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time get through Immigration when departing Vietnam.  Please see my previous post on entering Vietnam and what you need to do about getting a visa.
  • Similarly if you are moving between Terminals at Ho Chi Minh (Tan Son Nhat Airport), allow yourself plenty of time to walk, especially if young children are involved.
  • Tan Son Nhat International Airport is ok, nothing special.  Domestic flights go from Terminal 1 (definitely bring your own food) and international from Terminal 2 (food/drink choice a bit better).  Don’t rely on buying the basics at the airport – I ran around trying to find a nappy as I had run out (she’d decided to un-potty train herself) and I ended up having to take one from a fellow passenger.
  • Arrange an airport pick up for an easy, hassle free experience (check with your hotel to see if they provide a complimentary airport pickup)

    Waiting for our car to the Park Royal

    Waiting for our car to the Park Royal

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