For many, the idea of someday retiring and making use of all the dollars they’ve saved from decades of working is what keeps them going. There are those who dream of traveling the world, experiencing different cultures and meeting new people, but never stopping at one place for long. This is the time to truly feel alive, they say.
There are also those who dream of a slow-paced life, something they’ve never done when they were working morning till night. A day that starts and ends whenever they want, not worrying about deadlines or business calls.
Whatever your idea of retirement is, the goal is the same: to live the life you deserve.
International Living magazine, the go-to site for people wanting to live, retire or invest in a foreign land, recently ranked the world’s “15 Best Islands To Retire On”. From the tiny island nation of Malta (with its ancient walled cities and breathtaking coastal trails) to the stunning turquoise seascapes of Ambergris Caye in Belize, the islands were handpicked by International Living editors from the thousands of islands scattered around the globe that make for an affordable retirement.
Vietnam’s largest island, Phu Quoc, is at number 15.
“Though it’s only about the size of Chicago, with barely 100,000 full-time residents, Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island. It’s a lovely place for adventurous retirees. Over half of the island is made of protected parks and reserves. Over 20 beaches dot the coastline, with many more on the 27 nearby islands that make up the Phu Quoc Archipelago,” reads the IL blog.
Phu Quoc is home to about 200 expats, a decent size for people who want to meet fellow foreigners but are more interested in building real connections with the locals.
“They come from all over the world, but wherever they’re from, everyone, both local and expat, seem to know each other. Phu Quoc is a laidback place to live, with plenty of small town hospitality and a delightfully low cost of living.”
For British national Georgie Snape, living in Phu Quoc, surrounded by the seas and mountains, is a dream come true. Not to mention romantic — it’s where she and her boyfriend met six years ago.
“When I was looking for places to teach in Vietnam eight years ago, I was looking for a place that’s beautiful, had beaches and mountains, and really nice scenery that was known for having really friendly people and has a good expat community, cheap cost of living and high wages, says Georgie.” And it is safe.
She first visited Vietnam in 2013, came back in 2015, officially moved to Ho Chi Minh City for work in 2019 and then decided to stay in Phu Quoc in late 2020.
“We initially planned to stay for just three months. But nine months later, we’re still here. And we’re not moving anywhere in the foreseeable future. In fact, we’re talking about buying land in Phu Quoc, though there are requirements we have to comply with,” says Georgie.
With about 1000$ a month, Georgie and her boyfriend are living a very good life. “The rent is cheap, we eat out, eat western food and local food and do so many things. I even play tennis.”
Though retirement is not something she’s actively planning just yet (she’s just 30), Phu Quoc, she says, is an ideal place for it.
“What’s stopping me from retiring here is just the proximity to my family. But other than that, this is a great place for retirement. There’s fresh air, the water’s clean and nice and there are lots of things to do like going to different islands. Plus, the weather’s amazing and there’s an abundance of local and western food.”
The island’s accessibility to other places in Vietnam and the rest of Asia is also a big pro, she adds. Phu Quoc International Airport receives direct flights from several Asian and European destinations.
Live better for less
“Phu Quoc offers everything needed in a retirement haven. The island is full of natural beauty, with mountains, trails through lush jungle forests, coral reefs, and intriguing beaches. A leisurely drive around the circumference of the island takes about a day, but discovering its many hidden gems could take years,” writes International Living.
A couple can live here on as little as $1,210 a month. A monthly budget for two people living comfortably in Phu Quoc usually comprises one- or two-bedroom home ($500), electricity (50), gas and water ($5), internet ($6), cable TV ($7), groceries ($200), motorbike rental/gasoline (80), and entertainment ($300) among others.
The island also has adequate healthcare, with English-speaking doctors and translators available around the clock. For complicated emergencies, medical care is easily accessible in Ho Chi Minh City and in Bangkok, with regular flights that take less than two hours.
The roads are better here than you’ll find in much of Vietnam, which makes getting out and exploring a safe and pleasant adventure. A four-lane divided highway runs along the west side of the island and a second highway goes from the southern tip of the island along the coast to the Mui Da Chong ferry dock on the northeast side. Wide, newly surfaced roads connect the international airport to Duong Dong and the interior.
And like most places in all of Vietnam, Phu Quoc’s internet connection is superb especially around the commercial town of Duong Dong, not to mention generally free in cafes and restaurants.
Factor in the photogenic public beaches that expats and locals like to worship, a thriving fishing industry that still operates in traditional ways and ensures fresh seafood at any time of the day, and laidback lifestyle that’s full of small-town charm, Phu Quoc promises an ideal setting where one can live a good life.