Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

Short Mekong DIY Tour HCMC to Rach Gia for Phu Quoc Ferry advice please

Posted by paulascott on 8/11/2011 at 00:39

Hi All

We are a family with 2 teenagers on an adventure through Vietnam. Wanting to do a 2 night/3 day max Delta stopover on our way to Phu Quoc from HCMC. Would like to get the Ferry from Rach Gia. We would like to do it on the cheap so no tour package, but can anyone give me a few tips on the time needed and if the 2 days would be too rushed and where we should break the journey and overnight etc . What is there to really see & do on our way or are we better to just fly to Phu Quoc both ways given we would only have 2 night stay I guess. Any suggestions and advice on mode of travel, the length of each journey and what there is that shouldn't be missed along the way would be great.
Thanks so much for your help in planning another Travellin' Willies adventure!

#1 paulascott has been a member since 22/9/2006. Posts: 20

Posted by eastwest on 8/11/2011 at 01:10

Hi Paula,

It's pretty simple and easy and 2 nights may be short but you can still get a taste of the delta. Keep in mind that it is possible to reach Rach Gia in 1 day on a decent minibus.
Budget wise an organised tour might not be very expensive and sometimes the no frills tours are even cheaper than DIY. For buses in the delta I'd recommend the Mai Linh buses which are far superior to the "local" buses, only slightly more expensive and far better organised.

If I were you I'd go to Can Tho , which can be reached in 5 hours from HCMC, and spend 1 night there. If you leave HCMC in the morning you would have the afternoon to wander around in Can Tho and organize a boat for the next morning to visit the floating market and perhaps a (fruit) farm. Then in the afternoon you can take an afternoon bus to Rach Gia, spend the night there and take the ferry the next morning.

I hope you are aware that Rach Gia is a big city and I would personally opt for the ferry from Ha Tien which is a far more laid back place to spend a night.


#2 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778
 Send eastwest a private message 

Agoda coupon: Get an extra 7% off selected properties with the coupon code

Posted by paulascott on 8/11/2011 at 04:24

Hi, thanks for your reply - great information. I had thought of taking the ferry from Ha Tien sounds like a much nicer area - is it just as easy to get to as Rach Gia or how much further? If we did decide to do a cheap tour - do you have any recommendations? We generally like to do our own thing without feeling like we are on a group tour, but open to all options I guess if the price is right and it feels right. Many thanks for your info. ... I'm sure we will enjoy!! Also while I'm at it? Have you been to Dalat and is that worthwhile?

#3 paulascott has been a member since 22/9/2006. Posts: 20

Posted by eastwest on 8/11/2011 at 09:47

I have been to Dalat a long time ago and it didn't do much for me. Good mountain scenery and nice change of climate, however the "highlights" I found a little underwhelming. I guess it's more a personal choice as people are divided over Dalat. It certainly is not a "must" in Vietnam.

Ha Tien is about 2 hours further than Rach Gia and you should be able to reach it in 5- 6 hours from Can Tho . The bus passes through Rach Gia anyway.

As for the tours: I don't have first hand experience but many operators offer it in HCMC. I would advice you to do it yourself. Just buy a ticket in any travel agency to Can Tho and tell them specifically you want Mai Linh. Inflation may have raised the price but I thought tickets are roughly $5 per person. Once in Can Tho you can shop around for a decent guesthouse.
Some guesthouses offer local tours and you can also try travel agents. DIY: If you go to the riverfront there are ladies who offer boats for rent for the next morning to visit floating markets. Negotiating is a must with these ladies.

You'll do fine by yourself.

#4 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778
 Send eastwest a private message 

Posted by paulascott on 8/11/2011 at 17:27

Hi East West - thanks - I think we'll see how we go for time and if the kids are up for the extra journey to Ha Tien - we'll take it on!
Hmmm about Dalat -your're certainly not the first to have those thoughts, I have another friend that has travelled throughout Vietnam and she said the same thing - wouldn't go back there!. I am a little torn because we only have 4 weeks and didn't really have the time for Sapa & Halong Bay (due to a few essential beach stops for the holiday). So we decided we would just do from Mekong to Phu Quoc (8 days) to Saigon to Hoi An (4 days) , Nha Trang, ( 6 days) Doc Let maybe (2 days) , Delat (2 days) and Mui Nu (4 days) and back to Saigon (2 days) . We love getting around on Motor scooters etc and just having fun with the kids on the back. But if we miss Delat, and don't do Hanoi and Halong Bay and Sapa or Ninh Binh due to time factor then I'm kind of thinking that the trip will be much the same throughout with not too much variation and maybe just too beachy considering there is no surf.
You have great ideas so please please - tell me what are your thoughts and suggestions for an itinerary given that we live on the coast and are beach type people also?
Many thanks for your info.

#5 paulascott has been a member since 22/9/2006. Posts: 20

Posted by eastwest on 8/11/2011 at 18:07

Hi Paula,

It is a lot of beach yeah. Most difficult thing for me is that I don't know your teenagers and you.
At first I thought Nha Trang was a bit long but when I saw your kids are teenagers I thought it might be the highlight of their trip. That is off course if they want to hang out a little with some "cool" backpackers

I would leave out Dalat and Mui Ne and spend more time in the Hoi An region. Mui Ne has a nice beach but has more that "resort" feel to it. May be you're looking for that but it might be too boring for the teenagers.

Hoi An itself is worth 4 days, at least, and the bonus is that there's beach and culture. Also it has great countryside around it through which you can bike or cycle. If some people are tired of the cultural town you can either leave them at the beach or get them to a tailor.
For surf there is Danang. I am absolutely not a surfer but I recently read there's a good surf in China Beach Danang. Try to find more information on that if they are into surfing. Also a few days Hue wouldn't hurt you and IMO a boat trip along the old palaces along the river is definitely worth it and for me far better than Dalat.

Hope that helps

#6 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778
 Send eastwest a private message 

Posted by oasisbarhatien on 9/11/2011 at 20:05

Posted from within Vietnam.

I would also recommend Ha Tien over Rach Gia as a port from which to travel to Phu Quoc. (but I could be biased because I live in Ha Tien!) The new fast ferry from here takes only 70 minutes to get to Phu Quoc,or there is now a large car ferry which takes longer,but goes to the more scenic north of the island.There are plenty of buses from Can Tho to here,some via Rach Gia.It takes about 5/6 hours,as E/W says.Ha Tien is a much smaller and prettier town than Rach Gia and there are dozens of hotels here from 8USD a night.

#7 oasisbarhatien has been a member since 12/8/2010. Posts: 113
 Send oasisbarhatien a private message   Website 

Posted by paulascott on 9/11/2011 at 20:33

Hi All - Look just want to say a HUGE thank you to all of you that give such great advice. East West - I'm sure my kids would want to hang out with backpackers - my 13 yr old son is already talking about a part time job and "GAP YEAR" LOL!! Both kids are used to travel and love eating the street foods etc - the're just not so much into history, and like all kids would prefer a "flying fox" journey instead! But the trips not all about them either and my hubby's a kid as well! So torn between trying to fit the Honoi/Halong in the 4 weeks we have but need the essential beach stops along the way. I know it's not Thailand, but generally we would throw a bit of culture in and then Island hop for about 16 days out of a 4 or 5 week itinerary. Can't imagine being in such a hot climate with nowhere to swim etc. So you think Hue is more worth it than Dalat then? Where do you get to do the boat trip along the old palaces along the river - is that in Hue? Do many people do the Vietnam trip without venturing to the North??

Oasis, Ha Tien definitely sounds worth it. - so if not flying both ways - will do that for sure.
Would only fly both ways if we were trying to save time and take on the North as well.
Just know that Phu Quoc is a definite 5 nights - - so really taking Phu Quoc out of the equation there's only 21 days to "spread around Vietnam"! ****..... just wish I could get it sorted, and start booking and paying!

Have good day and all thoughts welcome!!

#8 paulascott has been a member since 22/9/2006. Posts: 20

Posted by eastwest on 10/11/2011 at 04:10

Hi Paula,

I didn't get the impression that you still considered the North. It can be done but than something has got to give. Either your budget or some places...

If you have the budget you can visit the North in 10 days (Hanoi, Ha Long and Sapa) take an overnight train or fly and visit the Middle in 10 days ( Hue (where the river is indeed), Danang and Hoi An) Afterwards you fly from Hue to Phu Quoc. This is obviously more expensive with the flights to Phu Quoc.
I would advise against trying to see all sections of Vietnam by overland travel but if you insist you could consider visiting the North of Vietnam in 10 days, get an overnight train to Nha Trang and then work your way down through HCMC and the delta towards Phu Quoc.

Hope it helps

#9 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778
 Send eastwest a private message 

Posted by paulascott on 12/11/2011 at 15:35

Hi all thanks for the info again. Have decided to do 2 nights in the Delta (maybe Can Tho for the 2??) and then 1 night in Ha Tien for Phu Quoc Ferry. Oasis, I thought you may have been able to offer advice on where to stay maybe in Ha Tien - just need clean, comfy and near to transport for the ferry and local foods I guess - what do you think?
Also has anyone done a homestay in the Delta for one night? Is Can Tho more of a huge Riverfront Town? Just wondering if 1 night in Can Tho would be sufficient or if we should do 2 nights in the Delta area.
Eastwest - Sounds like I'll add some days around Hoi An - the cycling etc sounds great.
Do you know if we are taking a huge risk riding motor scooters in Vietnam - was thinking about Nha Trang, Mui Nu, Phu Quoc at least. Do we get our international licence or is it of no benefit anyway?
Thanks for your help once again.

#10 paulascott has been a member since 22/9/2006. Posts: 20

Posted by oasisbarhatien on 13/11/2011 at 00:17

Posted from within Vietnam.

A couple of points.There are literally dozens of hotels in Ha Tien,largely because it is a very popular holiday destination for Vietnamese people.The only one I've stayed in and can personally recommend is the Hai Van,but you will not have a problem getting a room unless it's Tet or a Vietnamese public holiday.Most hotels are in or very near to the town centre and market.The ferry is a short taxi/motorbike ride away.An A/C room with fridge and hot water will be 10-15 USD equivalent. As far as riding motorcycles is concerned,it's illegal to ride or drive a motor vehicle in Vietnam without a Vietnamese driving licence.An International one is no use. Having said that,it seems to be common practice to hire and ride motorbikes,certainly in Phu Quoc,and you will only have a problem if you are involved in an accident.BUT,it will then be a very big problem.So,be warned

#11 oasisbarhatien has been a member since 12/8/2010. Posts: 113
 Send oasisbarhatien a private message   Website 

Posted by WILLIAMS5 on 14/11/2011 at 15:41

Paula .. just discovered this forum. As I am reading your entries I feel as though I have written it myself. We are a family with 3 teenagers (12, 14 & 16) travelling in Vietnam in January 2012.

Like you trying to squeeze a lot in a self do holiday and trying to narrow down the intinery to key destinations which has some interest for all of us. Am a little nervous that the kids will not engage in the culture and be bored! They have travelled quite a bit but do like to keep busy and be active. Keeping the teenagers amused & happy while still experiencing the culture will be the challenge.

Hearing very mixed opinions about many places. We are a beachy family too however I get the impression that perhaps the beaches don't compare with those here in Aus. We are planning to mix it up as much as possible and finish up in Siem Reap.

Out of interest when are you travelling? We have omitted the northern area as it will be cold in the North in Janaury .. only going as far as Hoi An. What do you all think??

Wanting to finalise our rough plan so would appreciate any in ideas for family travel.

#12 WILLIAMS5 has been a member since 14/11/2011. Posts: 7

Posted by loumichael on 15/11/2011 at 08:33

We have just returned from an incredible 16 days in Vietnam doing pretty much what you have out lined. We started in Ho chi minh for 2 nights, which were great. Really lovely city, fast paced, clean, vibrant and interesting (kids will love it). The war remnants museum was a harrowing reminder of the past, but interesting, and there is some stunning architecture. We got a malinh express (green bus) to can tho (4 hours) and stayed there for two night. I would recommend staying here for two nights, arriving mid afternoon, wandering around, booking a trip for the next day. Ours cost $30 for two people, we were met at the hotel at 5.30am and had a brilliant day until 1.30pm, seeing all the backwaters, real Mekong life, eating from the floating market and wandering around the walkways on the banks. Obviously and early night is needed after that! We then moved on to Rach Gia (3 hours) with the aim of staying one night and getting the 8am ferry to Phu quoc. I really likes Rach gia, and it was much nicer then people tend to say, its much more peaceful by the ferry port and a good place to stay the night before an early ferry . Phu quoc was brilliant, beautiful, chilled and the relaxing part of our trip. I would recommend the family hotel (lein heip thanh ) about 20 bungalows right on the beach (about $30 for hot water and AC per night for two) – but also about 4 other great small family run places all with good restaurants right on the beach. We did quite a lot of walking up and down long beach and found nothing as nice. Its well worth taking a trip around the island (we hired bikes, but not sure that would be great for the family) on cloudy days and there are some amazing deserted strips of sand and roads. We then flew back to HCMC (about £30 pp) a day before our flight back to the UK. It was the perfect trip, a great combination of culture, exploration and relaxation and would recommend over and over. Have a fab time.

#13 loumichael has been a member since 24/8/2011. Posts: 8

Posted by loumichael on 15/11/2011 at 08:37

Sorry , I meant to say that we did this all independently, and that it was worth the slight more effort when you saw groups of people being hearded about together and were not part of it! So many helpful people out there, go for it!

#14 loumichael has been a member since 24/8/2011. Posts: 8

Posted by paulascott on 15/11/2011 at 15:54

Hi Helen
We are heading to Vietnam for 4 weeks 23 June to 21 July. If we had longer we would do Nth & South, but have decided our plans will be like this: 2 nts Saigon and 2 nights Can Tho and head to Ha Tien or Rach Gia for Ferry to Phu Quoc which is supposed to be the best of the beaches in Vietnam and really laid back which we love. We were thinking of staying 4 nights at Sea Sand Bungalows and 2 nights jungle stay at Freedomland which gets great reviews on Trip Advisor and will be something different. Will definitely hire motor scooters whilst there. Will have to check out LouMichaels recommendation on Phu Quoc - thanks heaps for the heads up info I am real glad to replied!
So 6 nights Phu Quoc then flight to Danang/Hoi An and will do Marble Mountain, My Son ruins maybe for a little history - we'll check out China Beach. Not sure what the other beach is in Hoi An. Will hire bicycles to get around & check the town & sights out and will stay for 6 nights, though 1 of those is a travel day.
From there we hope to get back to Danang and overnight train if possible to Nha Trang . Have sourced some great cheap family accom in Nha Trang and are looking forward to finding some local food to eat away from the tourist trap I guess. But whilst there I'm sure we'll do an Island tour, water park, maybe the fun park for the kids. visit some monkey's somewhere, massages and enjoy the beach and hopefully ladies selling tasty treats on the beach! think we'll hire scooters for here also and will also check out Doc Let Beach 1 hour sth I think and again fairly remote. So 6 nights (though again 1 travel) here and then move onto Mui Nu for around 3 nights and then finish off in Saigon for the last 2 nights before heading back to Newcastle! We have unreal tranquil beaches in Newcastle with beaut surfable waves, so not really expecting too much from Vietnam's coastline, but provided that we have somewhere to swim and escape the heat and the waters are good for swimming, we will be happy I hope! After all, Indonesia's tourist beaches are really not all that nice compared to Aussie and I guess we are really spoilt! I'm pretty sure the kids will hopefully just enjoy the adventurous side to it all and the "unknown" and get into savouring the tastes of Vietnam! . I know they wouldn't enjoy a guided tour and we would all find that extremely "boring!" Anyway - where in Aussie are you from? and what are your plans? We decided that we would spent more time in each place and we'll go back again for the North I guess in a few years. Have decided against Delat - doesn't seem like it's really worth the effort. Though I'm sure others beg to differ.
Lou Michael thanks so much for your info once again.
Anyone that has any great family accommodation options (just cheap, clean & comfy) please let me know!

#15 paulascott has been a member since 22/9/2006. Posts: 20

Posted by WILLIAMS5 on 15/11/2011 at 22:33

Thanks Paula and Loumichael for all the useful info. I will definately follow up on the leads. A few more queries I hope you all can help with...

We are travelling in peak season leading up to Tet (4-22 Jan) should we book anything or is there just so so much accommodation on offer? What about internal flights? This is a last minute plan to go to Vietnam so trying to get a plan happening.

Email - have emailed a few places (as per their address listed in Lonely Planet) and got no response. Is this normal / common?

Hoi - An to HCMC. Is this a scenic route, stopping off at Nha Trang & Mui Nu along the way? Anywhere else worth stopping at? What mode of transport would you recommend?

Dalat .. the brochures give a good impression however I haven't read anything inspiring written via this forum. Any other comments?

Paula we like on the northern beaches of sydney so we are totally spoilt with beautiful beaches too. We were in Newcastle on the weekend at loved it!!

Any recommendations for accom in Hoi An, Nha Trang & Mui Nu. Like Paula we need budget-moderate, clean and comfy .. suitable for family of 5 (2A/3teenagers)

#16 WILLIAMS5 has been a member since 14/11/2011. Posts: 7

Posted by paulascott on 16/11/2011 at 00:30

Hi Helen

I think if you have a look at trip advisor accommodation you get some good useful info. Although I haven't stayed there, I am booking Carpe DM Hotel Nha Trang their email is but can book on line direct with Hotel.

for Mui Nu looking at booking Huang Kim Golden Resort - has pool & cheap.
Not sure on HCMC or Hoi An yet.

that's as far as I have got so far! When travelling with the kids I like to have accom pre booked if possible & try to do as much research over the net. I would at least ear mark a few accommodation options if you are thinking of just walk in status. Just takes a bit of the hassle out of it after long journeys on transport and heat issues etc. Just my opinion tho.

#17 paulascott has been a member since 22/9/2006. Posts: 20

Posted by WILLIAMS5 on 16/11/2011 at 02:26

Yes totally agree. It is different with travelling with hungry, tired & impatient kids .. and having to search out lodgings once arriving in a place. Can spoil a good day in a flash.

I can give you the low-down of our travels once we get back late January. Hopefully with some tips & info that will be useful for your trip mid year. Sounds like we are planning a very similar holiday. Thanks!

#18 WILLIAMS5 has been a member since 14/11/2011. Posts: 7

Posted by paulascott on 16/11/2011 at 04:14

Hi Lou Michael - just wondering if you have any contact email or web add for Lien Hiep Thanh Resort on Phu Quoc. Having trouble finding one. Also did you happen to check out Sea Star Resort by any chance. Anyway would love contact details if possible. Paula

#19 paulascott has been a member since 22/9/2006. Posts: 20

Posted by WILLIAMS5 on 18/11/2011 at 14:00

Hi Paula
I tried follow up this hotel and could only find a direct phone number (077)3847 583. It seems Phu Quoc is almost fully booked for January .. could not get into any of the recommended guesthouses / hotels. Prices greatly inflated during this period. Good luck - should be fine for your travel dates though.

#20 WILLIAMS5 has been a member since 14/11/2011. Posts: 7

Posted by howareyou on 18/11/2011 at 18:13

Posted from within Vietnam.

@WILLIAM: We are travelling in peak season leading up to Tet (4-22 Jan) should we book anything or is there just so so much accommodation on offer? ( Air or Train Tickets during this time from Hanoi to Hochiminh very CHEAP! but the way back not easy to buy and expensive! There are promotion this time for train ticket from Hanoi to Hochiminh 200000VND for saet and 300000VND for Bed using TN train No. )

#21 howareyou has been a member since 17/11/2011. Posts: 1

Please login to add a reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a reply to this post. Please use the button below to log in. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.