Ok my friend and I fly into HCMC 11/29 and want to travel thru the Mekong on the way to PP but am confounded by the posts and tours. Some posts say independently can be done over a couple of days for ~$50 US but tours priced at 4 times that. We have time to play with and am not trying to do this on a shoestring but am trying to avoid tourist trap like tours but ensure we can actually coordinate transport & accommodations as well as actual touring on our own during The relative high season. Head spinning pls help!
#1 ljdeshayes has been a member since 2/5/2010. Posts: 6
Do it independently, it's always better and a very easy trip. If you're affraid of not getting accomodation, book it ahead, although their are plenty hotels!
#2 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133
We did a 2 day, 2night tour from HCMC to PP in May 2009. Our trip up to that point had been independent but with this being our first border crossing we decided to pay extra for the tour.
We did a 2 day tour that included a day in the delta, night in Chau Doc , boat up the mekong to almost PP then about a 45min minibus to PP where the tour included a hotel for the night.
In reality it was a 1 day tour (which was fine) as the second day was spent on a boat with no guide. The boat ride is a great way to see river life though it is a long, hot day (at least in May)
We booked through Sinh Cafe and just booked it while we were in HCMC. Looking back at our expense spreadsheet it looks like it was $36 each which included 2nights in hotel (Chau Doc & PP) and breakfast & 1 or 2 lunches but no dinners. The tour was mildly interesting but the convenience was great. We couldn't be bothered to organize it ourselves to save a few bucks.
At the border we met a couple of young guys that had chartered a boat to take them from Chau Doc to the border and then were trying to arrange a boat on the Cambodian side. Not sure how much cheaper (if any) it was for them. They had been there a couple of hours when we arrived and were still there when we left a couple of hours later.
I guess the bottom line is for ~$36/pp how much cheaper would it have to be for you to organize it all yourself?
The Mekong delta was my favourite part of the trip, I spent one week there this summer and think it's the minimum on should spend in the area. Go from town to town according to what you want to see. I can't say how much we spent for the whole week, it also depends on the type of accomodation you want, but local transport is really cheap in Vietnam, just make sure you buy your tickets officially and not to the bus driver. Our first leg was HCMC to My Tho and it costed 24000 dong per person, so about 1$! Plus, going with tours you don't get to live the country, in this ride they fitted a motorbike in the bus! These are the things which make up your trip, I think... Another cool thing to do is to have someone driving you on a bike! We did it from Ben Tre to Can Tho, the guys took us through rural roads along rice fields, it was great! From Chau Doc to Phnom P. we took the "speed" boat, it costed 10$ and took 6h, I agree that it's a really nice trip, great scenery.
#4 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133
Please tell me how to book independently? Do you mean I should book from the US or can I arrange in HCMC? Do u use travel agents? Thanks for steering me away from the tour; it was never our favorite option. It's just our 1st trip & we don't quite now what we can book on the ground.
#5 ljdeshayes has been a member since 2/5/2010. Posts: 6
You may not save money going on your own and it will take longer- the local buses can be very slow with lots of stops to load and unload. I like that about doing it myself, one never knows what will happen next and you see far more of the local life.
You book as you go, starting out by going early in the morning (buses seem to take much longer later in the day, if they go at all) to one of the bus depots to catch a bus (different buses go from different depots, though there are a lot of unofficial buses too). You may need to bargain hard not to be charged a foreign tourist price. Some buses will wait around until they fill up and you might waste an hour or two this way (though it's all interesting really). At each town you will need to find the bus depot to move on. I always check what time buses go and what the cost is before I get a xe om into town. The drivers will often tell you that town is a lot further than it is to get a higher fare.
Some towns have only a few hotels (Tra Vinh) some have many, but there will be somewhere. I usually have one in mind but like to have a look before I decide. Often no one will speak English so it is advisable to have a good phrase book- the Lonely Planet one includes the tones and works for me. Restaurants are variable but you can usually get something at the local market, especially around 5pm. Vietnamese mostly eat early.
Most importantly, allow plenty of time because things won't always go the way you think.
#6 violets has been a member since 6/7/2009. Posts: 151
As violets said you buy the tickets as you go. You should buy your ticket officially and not to the bus driver as, according to my experience, it was always much more expensive. If you take a guide with you (Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Travelfish...) you'll have every information needed; bus stations, ticket prices, etc. We did it in a period of one week just going with the flow and never had problems to get a bus regarding the time of the day but as said above nothing is really planned in those countries, they do with it as it fits them. I'll give you the phone number of a guy (Mr Phi) who drove us with another man and woman (we were three) by motorbike from Ben Tre to Can Tho. It's a great ride, you get to see the rice fields and he is a really cool person - 01234. 010 373 (the number is written like this on his card, if you'll want to phone him you'll have to try the combination that works). The Mekong delta was my favourite part of Vietnam, I would have spent there another two weeks, but unfortunately we didn't have that time. The journey can take the amount of time you want, from 3 days to several weeks.
#7 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133
To give you an idea, our first leg was HCMC to My Tho, the bus left at about 6pm and it costed 24,000 dong at the ticket office. The bus driver was asking 60,000.
#8 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133