Hi all you seasoned travelers... please impart some wisdom on us!
My 2 girl friends and I are trying to plan a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand June 23-July 8. We have our ticket there already so the dates can't be changed. We are flying into Ho Chi Minh and flying out of Bangkok. In between those days we want to go to Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh and Chiang Mai as well. Most of the itinerary on this website are for longer travel time, but we can only stay in SE Asia for 15 days. =(
Are we trying to do too much? We thought we would just wing it once we got there with some guide books but going through this website, it seems more efficient to plan out our entire trip.
Unfortunately, we don't know how long we should spend in each place and how long it takes to get to each city. Can we take a plane from either Siem Reap or Phnom Penh to Chiang Mai?
We are flying from Los Angeles, do we need to get visas before leaving? Do we need any sort of vaccinations? Should we get travel insurance? How much cash should we bring? Is it better to bring traveler's checks? Do all places accept credit card?
We would greatly appreciate any tips!
Yes, that's a lot for 15 days. You might consider focusing just on Vietnam and Cambodia this time. Flying would help if you really need to see Chiang Mai.
I just returned from Vietnam. You need a visa from them before you arrive. Check out their web site for info: http://www.vietnamembassy.us/consular_services/visa_info/
I got my Cambodian visa at the border coming out of Vietnam and my Thai visa at the border. No worries there.
Seeing Angkor Wat takes two or three days depending on how much you get into it. My first trip, I took four days to travel from Bangkok, tour Siam Reap/Angkor and return. It felt rushed but that was all the time I had. I spent two days there again and was just as awed as the first time.
I like staying nearer the Old Market (I stayed in Bequest next to Popular) for about $12 a night. The hotel arranged for a taxi to the border. Drivers for Angkor are everywhere. Make sure they speak enough English to be helpful.
If you arrive before sunset, you can purchase your ticket for the next day and they will allow you to see the sunset that evening.
Cambodia: US dollars the common currency but smaller villages do use the Real. I got most of my money through ATM card (in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand), one with minimal charges for non-bank ATM and international fees. Travelers checks were a bit more challenging but I carry some for back-up.
Not all places accept credit cards. Those that do are often more expensive. Entrance fees for Angkor were $40 for the three day pass or $20 for one day. The tuk-tuk driver/guide charged three of us $10-15 per day to tour Angkor.
For a treat, find the Blue Pumpkin bakery in Siam Reap.
There are flights from Siam Reap but I haven't used them so can't offer information there. Google it. Overland by taxi to the border, tuk-tuk to the bus station, bus to Bangkok and taxi from there to your hotel will take most of the day. You can get an overnight train to Chiang Mai (bring warm clothing if you do this and get an AC sleeper). Flying would be more costly and would save time.
You could spend a day traveling from Ho Chi Minh city to Siam Reap (or 4-5 hours to Phenom Penh and another 4-5 hours to Siam Reap)...a day getting to Bangkok....an overnight to Chiang Mai....an overnight back to Bangkok or some combination. Lots of travel in 15 days.
What are your top two or three priorities? I'm not big on cities so spent only one night in Ho Chi Minh city before getting on the boat for a two day tour of the Mekong Delta which continued on to Cambodia. After a night in Phenom Penh, I bused it to the beach in Sihanoukville Cambodia for a couple days before going to Siam Reap (in one day).
You could spend several days in Bangkok seeing temples, markets and that sort of thing. Use the water taxi's in Bangkok where you can as it's cheaper, cooler and faster than taxi's.
wow creativeguy, thanks for that thoughtful reply. You've made me think of so much more now. I didn't even know there were water taxi's in Bangkok. Also, great tip about sunset at Angkor! Oh and warm clothes on the sleeper because I get chilly easily.
Is is safe and convenient to exchange dollars to various currencies there? A friend also suggested we take our ATM cards but we don't want to be paying fees left and right.
As far as our top two/three priorities go:
We know we want to eat Pho in Ho Chi Minh, and of course Angkor and Phnom Penh for it's history. Bangkok for its temples and city life. Chiang Mai for a more jungle/trekking experience. And we want to ride elephants and visit a tiger sanctuary too.
One friend has never been out of the United States. One friend has only been to Japan. I've lived in Taiwan and have travelled through China but mostly with a tour group. So this will be very new to my friends and I.
Thanks again for your help creativeguy!!
Pho is good! There is good hot pot in Cambodia as well. The National Museum in Phenom Penh was recommended to me for history of both Khmer and Angkor Wat history but I didn't have/take the time to visit.
Here's a link to a travelfish map: http://www.travelfish.org/map_detail/thailand/bangkok_and_surrounds/bangkok/khao_san_road/6 The pier is the spot for catching a water taxi to Royal Palace, China Town, Wat Po etc.
Money: I used my ATM card and got slightly larger amounts than I needed to minimize charges. In Cambodia, it spits out US dollars so keep that in mind in case you need to have a stash of US bills. ATM's issue Dong in Vietnam and Bhat in Thailand. Dollars: my taxi driver in Thailand didn't know what to do with a $20 so I had him stop at a bank to change it.
I used my bank card and talked to them about charges before leaving...much less than credit card advance. I read Capital One has lower charges but haven't checked it out.
Jungle trekking in Chiang Mai might be crowded. I've only been there during high season so am not sure about how summer might be. You can ride an elephant in Angkor if you want.
Keep in mind that you might want a couple days in Ho Chi Minh city to decompress from the 28 hours travel to get there. Stay hydrated on the flight. Try "No Jet Lag" as it seems to really help.