Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

Visa, train and initerary

Posted by JoggaPogga on 19/8/2011 at 05:40

Me and my girlfriend are travelling to Cambodia and through Vietnam in december and january. I have a few questions regarding the trip and our initerary?

Getting a visa for Vietnam in Norway is expensive, and we're staying a few nights i Sihanoukville before entering Vietnam, and I've read that getting visas here is cheap and easy through the vietnamese cosulate. Will this be a problem between 23. and 25. december? (If it is, what about 25-27?)

We're planning on entering Vietnamthrough the border crossing between Kep and Ha Tien in the south, and our plane leaves from Hanoi about 3 weeks later, and the plan is to travel this distance mainly by train. Is it easy and straight forward to catch sleeper night trains the same night, or should we book in advance?

Our plan is just a sketch, of course we'll stay longer at places if we love it, and leave sooner if we want to move on, but we'll follow this route, and try to stick to thedates. We're not there to get drunk and party, one of us scuba-dives (while the other sun-bathes), nature and wildlife is the top priority, but generally just see as much of Vietnam as possible. I know a lot of people recommends staying a few nights in HCMC and Hanoi, but we're not fans of huge cities (or cities in general). Any places we should reconcider, spend more/less time in, or skip? (Attractions we just can't miss?)

[li]1. Phnom Penh (21-22, airplane)
[/li][li]2. Sihanoukville (22-27, bus)[/li]
We know this is a long time in a place like Sihanoukville, since we're not planning on spend time partying, but we're meeting a friend who is working in Siem Reap. We'll probably spend some time in Ream National Park too.

[li] 3. Rach Gia (27-28)[/li]
Is it possible and easy to get from Sihanoukville to Rach Gia in one day?

[li]4. Phu Quoc Island (28-01)
[/li][li]5. Through Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh City (01-04)[/li]
Where to spend our time in Mekong Delta and still get to HCMC in 4 days? :)

[li]6. Nha Trang (05-06, night-train)
[/li][li]7. Danang (07-08, night-train)
[/li][li]8. Dong Hoi (08-09, train)
We've heard the railway between Danang and Hue is beautiful and worth taking during the day, and that Dong Hoi is a good spot to split the time spent on the train in pieces, just to visit the caves.

[li]9. Cuc Phuong National Park (10-14, through Ninh Binh by night-train)
Any national parks in Vietnam that are better options?

[li]10. Hanoi (14-15)
[/li][li]11. Ha Long Bay (15-17)[/li]
By ourselves or through some agency?

[li]12? Sapa, if we got time![/li]
The airplane back to Norway leaves Hanoi 20. january, so we got a few days extra. Where to put them if there's not enough time for Sapa?


#1 JoggaPogga has been a member since 19/7/2010. Posts: 5

Posted by eastwest on 19/8/2011 at 09:59

You seem to have a clear idea of what you want so won't comment on that. Just some practical information for points 3 and 5.

You can get from Sihanoukville to Rach Gia in 1 day but I don't see any reason for you to do so. I suggest you go from Sihanoukville (SHV) to Ha Tien in 1 day or even straight to Phu Quoc in 1 day if there are afternoon ferries running. A single busticket can be booked from SHV to either Ha Tien or Phu Quoc. I would also much rather spend a night in Ha Tien than in Rach Gia.
Rach Gia is not particularly beautiful and if you have a special reason for visiting you could take the ferry from Phu Quoc to Rach Gia when you leave the island, spend time there and continue on to Mekong delta and Saigon. Rach Gia is in any case better for onward travel from Phu Quoc to Delta.

4 days is plenty for the delta without worrying about getting to Saigon (from Can Tho it's an easy 5 hours by mini bus). For me Can Tho is the best place to explore the delta from. The delta is not about the towns and cities but about the rivers and waterways and how the vietnamese live there and produce their rice and fruit. Wherever you choose to stay make sure you get out of town on a (motor)bike or tour and definitely hire a boat at least once to see life from the water

#2 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778
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Posted by vietnamrum on 22/8/2011 at 13:30

Posted from within Vietnam.

Sihanoukville - Vietnam Consulate

Drop them an email to confirm they are open.
This is the best place for a visa, friendly and very fast.

If you are traveling overland ensure you read
It is a brilliant site on all information regarding Cambodia.

Sihanoukville is a great spot, several areas all with in 10 minutes drive.
If you want a quiet area/ busy / bars etc.

Easy to get into Vietnam through Kampot/Kep both quiet place to visit, check out the local pepper.

An idea of distances for cambodia. Saigon to PP including going through border is 6 hours. PP to Sihanoukville is 4 hours. PP to siem reap 6 hours.

Personally The old quarter in Hanoi is more interesting than Saigon.
It is easy enough to get around the main attractions in both Hanoi and Saigon so spend a couple of days in both if you have time.

suggest Nha trang for the beach and diving.
Hoi An is a beautiful town, lots of tailors if you want to get clothes made though its getting more of a shopping town. But the architecture is excellent.

Dalat is between Saigona and Nha Trang in the mountains. Brilliant trip my motor bike from nha trang to Dalat.


#3 vietnamrum has been a member since 21/1/2011. Posts: 39

Posted by travellingsarah on 22/8/2011 at 14:20 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Based on your priorities your destinations in Vietnam look well thought through - but it's going to be pretty rushed with one night on a train, one night traveling and so on. So I definitely agree with your flexible route.

I would definitely include sufficient time to visit Phong Nha Caves and the surrounding area - have a look at Phong Nha Farmstay.

Are you stopping in Danang to go onto Hoi An? If not then I would suggest skipping Danang and going straight from Nha Trang to Dong Hoi - adds about 6 hours train time but saves wasting time stopping somewhere you might not want to be.

Also consider combining your beach time and doing either Phu Quoc or Nha Trang. Probably the former.

I've not made it to Cuc Phuong NP yet but from what I've heard, you could cut your time down there a bit. But that's a call you can make nearer the time.

I'd at least book your trains as soon as you can once you get to the place - they do get fully booked at times although I don't think the period you're travelling is particularly busy. Tet is on the 23rd Jan but your last journey is around the 14th so you should be OK.

#4 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 684
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Posted by chaeta on 22/8/2011 at 15:46

Posted from within Vietnam.

Hi There,

It is easy and cheap to do the Vietnamese visa in Phnom Penh(there are other posts on the forum where you can check details regarding this).

If you don't like cities and prefer nature I would consider Hoi An instead of Danang, which is just a medium size city but nothing special.
In Hoi An you can go on the boat for the day and spend time on Cham Islands, which will also you the chance to do scuba diving and snorkelling.
That said, Unfortunately December and January are right in the rainy season in the centre of Vietnam which will cause unpredictable limitations for this kind of activies( here is the website of a good diving centre in Hoi An if you would like to get in touch and get information

Regarding Ha Long Bay, all of the tours are organised from Hanoi so even if you travel by yourself to Ha Long and book the boat from there they will put you with a tour coming from Hanoi without saving much money at all (maybe $5 which you'll have to use for the trip there). Apart from the bay, there is not much else to see or do in Ha Long itself.

Dong Hoi and the DMZ area are definitely worth a trip to visit the caves or just realise that signs of the war on the landscape are still tangible.

#5 chaeta has been a member since 27/12/2010. Posts: 10

Posted by JoggaPogga on 22/8/2011 at 18:26

Thanks for all the replies!
I've sent an email to the consulate regarding the opening times during christmas.
After reading some board posts about Cuc Phuong, I've decided to remove the island from our itinerary. The beaches are apparently not THAT great, and it's obviously not the hidden island where you got kilometres of beaches to yourself anymore. This gives us a few days to spend on other places, and we don't have to rush through the country by train to get to the north. Phong Nha seemed interesting, so we've added a couple of days here.
We've decided to change the plan a little, and not keep dates for every single onwards travel.

Cambodia: 22-27 (Sihanoukville+Ream NP)
Mekong Delta (Can Tho probably) + Nha Trang: 27-06
Phong Nha + Cuc Phuong: 06-13
Ha Long Bay + Sapa: 14-21

There's plenty of time in each place, giving us some days to use on those awesome opportunities that might show up, or extra time in that beautiful place we'll want to stay longer in. The only strict date is the 13. when we travel from cuc phuong to hanoi to see both ha long bay and sapa before we leave!
The only thing I miss is a less touristed small town to relax in a couple of days. When I went to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand last christmas, the highlight of my tour was our days Nong Kiaow and (especially) Muang Ngoi. Walk around during the day, go kayaking, fishing and bathing with some local dude and hammock + Lao Beer in the evenings was amazing. Any accessible places like this in Vietnam anyone would reccommend?
Anyway, the plan looks good, and we're really looking forward to visiting Vietnam! :)

#6 JoggaPogga has been a member since 19/7/2010. Posts: 5

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