Planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia should be easy, as the two countries are well set up for travelers with their inmate charms equal to none.
Deciding when and for how long you are to travel, figuring out details regarding visas, accommodation, transportation and sightseeing, there is something that is good to note for a unique travel experience.
Both countries opened up some decades ago, and travelers have been pouring in at increasing numbers ever since. It’s truly a blessing that their God-endowed beauty still remains. Plunging into Halong Bay, climbing up to Pre Rup for a breathtaking sunset in Siem Reap or delving into Hanoi’s alleys for delicacies, enjoy what they can offer while it’s not yet been changed by the tourist inrush.
As Vietnam and Cambodia have always been in the limelight for travelers, many of them have made their second or even third trip back for more. Some of your friends might be in that patch. Make your trip to these amazing countries now, no matter whether it’s the first or second trip, and savour its grandiosity. Next time your friends will spread word about your own unique experience.
Traveling to Vietnam and Cambodia has been made easier and easier, thanks to growing economic development and international attention. Cost has been considerably congenial. They crawl up to the top of the destination list for family vacations, honeymoon and holidays for all palates. We would say they are among the best options for families with young teens and for those expecting an intriguing mix of beautiful landscapes, mind-pounding history and memorable interaction with locals.
When we talk about the best time to travel, we have to weigh up between the best weather and the most cost-friendly spans. Vietnam has a long and winding coastline, while Cambodia is tucked in among forest and a smaller territorial ocean. Both countries are subject to monsoon climate, which brings rain and storms during the summer, while winter is dry, mild and lovely.
Technically speaking, October to March is the relatively best time for traveling to Vietnam and Cambodia. If occasional rain or heat is not a problem to you, come and take the budget-wise and experience-wise perks of traveling in summer time. With that being said, we believe your time is always the best time, provided your plan is logistically operable and expertise-invested.
At the beginning of the year, moms and dads start planning for their family trips during school holidays in the summer, from late May to early September to be exact. Squid fishing with dad on the deck of your Halong Bay cruise junk, following Angelina Jolie's trail at Angkor Wat or picking up some cooking skills with mom in a cooking class in Hoi An – no place else, (at least no place else in Southeast Asia) can offer a better family time like Vietnam and Cambodia do.
Summer travel looks good for your finances; while the last quarter of the year is also a great time to make your trip. Reward yourself with a trip during wintertime and you will be invited to gorgeous landscapes ranging from the calm sea of Halong Bay, white sandy beaches with warm sunshine down the Southern coast of Vietnam, mild weather in Siem Reap and more interesting experiences such as trekking up Sapa or cycling around the countryside of Hoi An.
No matter when you plan to travel, you are advised to start planning at least three months ahead and leave at least 10 days for these two countries for a full-rounded travel experience. At the beginning of your trip planning, it’s all about researching and decision-making, where you want to go and what you want to do; take a couple of weeks, or more wisely one month, to settle details and reservations; spend the last month in exciting anticipation, while packing up for the trip.
Diversity is absolutely one of the most enchanting features of Vietnam and Cambodia. The ball is in your court to decide what you are going to experience. Here are some most-sought experiences that are favored by our customers:
Visiting a local market in Lao Cai and trekking in Sapa, with an overnight at a local homestay
This is a chance for your children to appreciate different ethnic people and their lifestyles. One night away from iPads and Xbox – an overdue chance for family chitchat before bedtime.
Halong Bay cruising with a bunch of on-board activities
Halong Bay is not only known for its heavenly scenery. Swimming in the ocean, squid fishing, learning Tai Chi or fruit carving are all fun times for families.
Cooking class in Hoi An
Private session or join-in experience, both are a great opportunity for learning and sharing some laughter. Your kids might not hate carrots any more.
Phnom Penh history tour
Although sad and even disturbing, some parents claim their teenage children have learnt and grown a lot after a visit to the Killing Field.
Quad bike ride in Siem Reap’s countryside
Time to get dusty on a roaring quad bike; that’s something that you don’t see on the streets of London or Washington!
Visit Angkor Wat with a Khmer Scholar
The local scholar has been waiting to share his rich knowledge with your family, and you get to know the meaning of each hand gesture of those stone fairies.
Besides the experiences mentioned above for families, we have some more fun for you:
Hunt for clean, safe and definitely yummy street snacks in Hanoi
Skirt back into a narrow alley and get a freshly-made Vietnamese sandwich; feast on some worry-free and authentic street food that others don’t know where to look for.
Motorbike riding in Hue, and lagoon lake boat trip to learn some fishing skills
Lazy and slow; never expect anything else from Hue! Strike out of the city on a motorbike, take a boat trip at sunset and cast the fishing net for a try.
Sunrise and sunset at Angkor Wat
Make the first visit in the early morning at the gate of Angkor Wat and get a sunset view at the less-visited temple of Pre Rup – a treat not only for photographers.
The first step is to decide when, where and how long you wish to travel; Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An and Siem Reap should be among the must-go list, which requires at least 10 days. Different travel time spans all ask for specific planning. After the first step, take some time to figure out practical details like visa, currency, transportation, accommodation, sightseeing and more.
Both countries are subject to monsoon climate. Average temperature in summertime (late April to September) is around 27-36°C, winter has milder weather, 20-28°C. Typhoons hit the coast from northern to central Vietnam during July to September, and southern Vietnam sees some storms October to early December, yet the major cities are pretty safe from the rain and wind. Cambodia seldom gets shocked by storms, except for Sihanoukville during the typhoon season.
The capitals of both countries are connected with each other. Direct flights fly between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh as well as Siem Reap on a daily basis. Flying from other continents, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have some direct flights, or you can make transit in Bangkok, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. If Cambodia is your first stop, flying from Bangkok is easier and more cost-friendly.
Travelers from most countries and regions are required to obtain a visa for Vietnam before their travel. Do it either via a local embassy or apply online for e-Visa. If you get an E-Visa you need to get your passport stamped at the airports of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang. The cost ranges from USD20 to 35 per person for single entry. Double entry is proceeding with a multiple-entry visa.
For Cambodia, you may apply for an e-Visa online for US$37 before arrival, or you may do it on the spot for Visa-on-Arrival (30USD for single entry). Visa-on-Arrival is not available at the border-crossing from Chau Doc in Vietnam.
With wars and uprisings all left in the yesterdays, both countries are pretty safe to travel. There have never been victims of terrorist attacks, and political stability and unity looks just as good as the one of their neighbor China. However, for independent travelers, it is also important to watch out for traffic hazards and scams.
For dietary safety, it is always wise to drink bottled water, go easy on ice, raw and any other food and drinks if you cannot tell where they are from or what they are made of.
Now let’s get started on the actual planning with some key points. All of the suggestions are based on our exclusive knowledge and experience, as well as feedback from our previous customers.
Once you decide which cities you want to visit, it shouldn’t be hard to connect the dots. As mentioned before, the two countries are connected easily. So the order of destinations, which city comes first and which last, is of bigger importance for your travel experience than the cost. This is especially true when you are traveling with young teens or seniors.
Pleasure comes through toil. What we are suggesting, is an approach from the hardest to the easiest. Cambodia’s cultural attributes demand your comprehensive engagement: Emotions are drawn at the Killing Fields and S21 Museum and a lot of walking is required at the Angkor Wat Complex. On the other hand, Vietnam is relatively relaxing and can be a good compensation for Cambodia.
For school kids’ holidays or your annual vacation, it is critical to get the essence of each destination without wearing yourself out. We suggest the minimum stay as follows:
For getting in and out of these two countries, first option is to go to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, via Bangkok, Singapore, Shanghai, Taipei, Guangzhou, Hong Kong or other major international hubs. International flights and some 1-stop transit plans for your reference:
Los Angles to Ho Chi Minh City via Guangzhou or Taipei, 20 hours, from USD445/person
New York to Siem Reap via Guangzhou, 21 hours, from USD740/person
Toronto to Hanoi via Guangzhou or Shanghai, 23 hours, from CAD490/person
Frankfurt to Ho Chi Minh City directly, 12 hours, from EUR510/person
London to Hanoi directly, 12 hours, from GBP535/person
Paris to Phnom Penh via Bangkok, 15 hours, from EUR480/person
Sydney to Hanoi directly, 10 hours, from AUD640/person
Auckland to Ho Chi Minh City directly, 12 hours, from NZD685/person
For internal flights, Vietnam Airlines is the recommended choice. This state-run and recently upgraded airline company has a good reputation for services, safety and punctuality. As a way to ensure you get the utmost out of all destinations, always fly out to the next destination on an afternoon flight if possible.
With different travel time comes different cost. Still, the biggest chunk of your budget goes firstly to transportation and secondly to accommodation; it is rigid and unlikely to be pruned. This leaves the sightseeing part to your control when budgeting.
Hotels in these two countries cost slightly less than in Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia and India. During the peak season (October to March), put down USD80 to 150 per night per room for a 4-star hotel, USD150 and up for 5-star. During the shoulder season (April to September), great deals are offered by some hotels; it is possible to budget USD50 to 100 for a 4-star and from USD100 and up for a 5-star hotel. However, keep in mind that star ranking sometimes loses its meaning when it comes to boutique hotels and resorts.
Whether you are traveling independently or on a guided tour, there are budget differences. During the peak season, a day of guided sightseeing costs about USD60 to 120 per day per person, but only half during the shoulder season. Dining is pretty inexpensive; put down 10 bucks for lunch per person and USD20 to 50 for a nice dinner.
Traveling is all about experiences. That is the very thing that you cannot cut corners on. Here, we have a list of top experiences that should be considered for your trip to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Everybody is different. However, it is also nice to get inspired by experiences from others. Here, we have designed a 12-Day Cambodia and Vietnam Highlights catering to almost all palates. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, talk to us and get started here: Help Me Plan Now.