I'll be traveling on my own through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia from Feb 5th - April 29th, and I'm struggling with the question what route is the best one to follow.
I know there is a countless amount of threads dealing with itineraries and yes I did read them, but I still have a hard time to figure out which one is the best according to my situation, taking everything into amount (budget, time-limit,weather conditions,...).
3 facts are certain: I fly both to and back from Bangkok, for a period of 3months, with a budget of €3500 (maybe more as I'm still working my *ss off for this one).
Flexible: I would very much love to spend my last week(s) on the southernislands of Thailand, in case that's possible.
My initial plan was to head from Bangkok up north, and from there on continue through Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, to finish my trip down south back in Thailand. But then I started to wonder:
- Wouldn't it be better to -not- be in Thailand in February, knowing that it's still high season then and prices will be higher? So just head East first to the other countries where it I guess will be cheaper and save Thailand for April, low season?
- What is the best area to be at during beginning/mid-April (next to the southern islands, where I'll be end April), knowing it will be the hottest period during my trip? Is is it better to be north then or doesn't it matter?
this pretty much covers the cities I'd like to see, even though I'll probably add a tiny bit more to it (research not done yet). But it ends in Northern Vietnam, is it do-able to head from there to the southern islands/Bangkok? Or is there a better alternative?
Note: I'm not asking which cities to visit etc, even though any kind of advice and additional info is always very welcome. This route-question is just bugging me constantly, any tips about the matter are very much appreciated so I can continue my planning with an eased mind. I'm a 23y/o female traveler, it's not my first solotrip but it is the first one so very far away from home, hence all those question marks. So again and I'll repeat times ten, any help is greatly appreciated :)
Looking forward to your replies, thank you in advance!
I can see your dilemma, as you've got 3 big issues to work around: time available, and money available, and weather.
As I'm sure you're already aware from reading other threads on travelfish, that sample itinerary packs in quite a lot (30 places in 4 countries) for a 3 month trip, so it's going to involve a lot of moving from place to place - a fairly hectic schedule to keep up for 3 months, plus moving around a lot adds to the costs.
(You didn't say whether your 3500E budget included flights - I'm assuming so. Once you've subtracted your main flight, insurance, visas, and bank fees, you'll probably be left with around 29E a day. That's a manageable budget, but you will have to be careful of costs.)
That said, I wouldn't worry too much about the high season = more expensive in Thailand thing, because it will be high season everywhere. I'd actually worry much more about the weather.
The way I see it, you've got 2 main options (and I'm guessing these are already the 2 options you're trying to decide between):
1) Cut out Southern Laos, and do a big loop - head North from Bangkok to Northern Thailand - Northern Laos - North Vietnam - Central Vietnam - South Vietnam - Cambodia - Bangkok - Thai Islands. That route will avoid backtracking, and gets you where you want to be at the end of the trip, and gives you a slightly-less frantic pace. BUT it involves visiting Cambodia during the hot, dusty season, as you'll probably be there the first half of April. Reverse the direction of the trip, and you'll be in Northern Thailand during smoke season. Neither is ideal.
2) Keep the basic itinerary as described on that suggested page, but cut out a few places to make for a less frantic trip. That way, as the weather gets really hot in April, you'll be heading up towards Northern Vietnam (cooler than Cambodia/Central Thailand at that time of year). You'll need to fly back to Bangkok to catch your home trip - if you've got time left, you can fly down a week before the end and head over to the Islands for that last week (but you're going to have to cut out quite a few places from that sample itinerary to allow you that extra week in the end - do you really have your heart set on finishing there? Is it worth the extra rush? Only you can answer that one). Remember that you'll need to budget for the additional costs. HAN-Ko Samui (change in Bangkok) will probably cost you about 200E.
So I suppose the main question is: how are you going to feel about traveling during really hot, dusty or smokey weather? If that doesn't bother you, then I'd go for option one and avoid backtracking. But personally, the idea of trying to travel during 35 to 40 degree heat sounds awful. I'd be going with option 2.
This probably echoes exactly what you've been thinking the past few weeks - hope it helps you make a decision. Best of luck!
I'm so grateful for your answer, it really does help me take a decision.
I will go with the second option, decide which cities I really want to see and then check whether the islands are still a possibility or not.
My budget doesn't include my main flight, insurances, nor visa; I calculated I would have around €43/day in general.
That should be ok to be able to afford an extra flight that last week (in case time allows me to), right?
Anyway, thank you thank you thank you!