If you are a backpacker who keeps a tight watch on your budget, then taking the boat to Phu Quoc Island is your best bet. Although traveling from Ho Chi Minh City involves lengthy hours of bus rides and transfers to reach the island, either through Rach Gia or Ha Tien, you will be rewarded with fares that could be 25 times cheaper than flying. Shell out a few paper bills at the pier, usually around 200,000 VND (US$9.50) and take the 1.5 to 2.5-hour hydrofoil or boat ride from the two port towns. Most of the ferries dock at An Thoi port at the southern end of the island, although some of them berth at Duong Dong, the main town.
Be informed, though, that Rach Gia is six hours away by bus from HCMC and Ha Tien is an even longer bus ride from the big city by eight hours. This warrants some careful planning to catch the bus and the ferry to Phu Quoc, unless you want to spend the night at either of the two port towns. Usual bus fare from Ho Chi Minh City’s Mien Tay Bus Station to Rach Gia is 105,000 VND (US$5) while the ride to Ha Tien further west is 140,000 VND (US$6.70).
To stave off some stress from such a long ride coupled with ferry transfers, it would be advisable to purchase a ticket package from travel agencies in Ho Chi Minh City, perhaps along Pham Ngu Lao, which takes you on an almost seamless bus and ferry ride between the two points. This means that you get a free shuttle ride from the bus stop in Rach Gia along Tran Phu Street to the port. It also saves you the hassle of dealing with numerous motorbike touts at the bus stop. On the other side, though, motorbike and minibus touts at the port town of An Thoi could sometimes prove indispensable particularly if you arrive on the island without much plans and accommodation.
Five major ferry companies operate the Rach Gia-Phu Quoc route while one boat company ply the Ha Tien-Phu Quoc route. Super Dong Hydrofoil and Bien Xanh leave Rach Gia between 8:00AM and 8:20AM headed to An Thoi while Trameco and Hai Au both depart Rach Gia to An Thoi 1:30PM. From Ha Tien in the mainland, Vietrosko Hydrofoil operates a 3:00PM boat leading to An Thoi. The jump off point at Ha Tien may not make sense if you come by way of Ho Chi Minh, but if you cross overland from adjacent Cambodia, this route will come in handy. For a direct travel to the main town of Duong Dong, where most of the accommodations and commercial activities are, take the Duong Dong Express that leaves Rach Gia at 7:45AM. This will save you some amount of time, although the trip from An Thoi to Duong Dong will instantly afford you a worthwhile peek at the mundane lives of Phu Quoc residents through the 20-kilometer road.
On the flipside, most boats from both An Thoi and Duong Dong leave the pier and sail back to the mainland in the afternoon, starting from 12:45PM at the earliest up until 4:15PM. Bien Xanh and Trameco depart in the mornings, though, at 8:30AM.
Ferry tickets to An Thoi from either Rach Gia and Ha Tien generally cost 180,000 VND (US$8.50) for adults and 120,000 VND (US$5.75) for children. Fares for Duong Dong Express are jacked up to 250,000 VND (US$12) for adults and 170,000 VND (US$8) for children.
In between Rach Gia and Ha Tien is a newly-assigned jump off point from the mainland to Phu Quoc. The seaside town of Hon Chong now ferries passengers to the island. Boat fares usually cost 160,000 VND (US$8).
Another means to travel to Phu Quoc Island by boat is by joining a cruise. Still in its infancy, this manner of traveling to the island is guaranteed to grow as the port at Dat Do Bay gets modernized to receive more traffic and bigger cruise ships. Star Cruises and Costa Cruises have plans to dock at the island in the future. For the meantime, Duong Dong Express can take you on a 7-day/6-night boat excursion passing through Rach Gia in the east to Phu Quoc, Cambodia and westwards to Pattaya and Bangkok.
One irony in the marine travel to Phu Quoc is its inaccessibility from Cambodia despite its close proximity by a mere 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). Such absence of transportation showcases the seeming bitterness on both sides as the island sparked the war between Cambodia and Vietnam in the late 1970s. On the other hand, Cambodia hopes that some of the tourist traffic on Phu Quoc Island will rub off on its coastal towns. In the near future, the status quo will surely change that will facilitate easier travel for tourists. Right now, though, travelers from Cambodia need to cross the border at Ha Tien before hopping on a boat that sails to the island.