Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

flying solo in Vietnam and Cambodia

Posted by FlashWanderer on 16/2/2010 at 16:14

Hi fellow TBs,

I'm new to the site and even though I've gone over many postings covering similar we go again.

The initial plan was to book with a tour group for both Vietnam and Cambodia, but after 3+ weeks of full-on-pre-plan-stress over 'ideal' itineraries, budgets, and the pursuit of CLEAN accommodations, I find myself without a tour booking and somehow feeling some semblance of calm about flying solo. How'd that happen?

So in the interest of continuing the state of calm, some questions...

By the time I arrive in Hanoi and am ready to venture out, the sun will most likely have set. I'm not sure whereabouts I'll be based accommodation-wise, but wondering how safe it would be for a female to wander about on a weeknight during the early eve, not past say 9pm. I'm hoping to give my walking shoes a good workout in town, so hoping to not rely on public transportation, if possible.

Would also like to see Halong Bay. And to avoid playing a starring role in one of the many horror stories I've heard about overnight cruise tours to Halong Bay, I'd be willing to go a little over budget for a more upmarket cruise. But I can see it now...upmarket cruise - less chance of other solo travellers, so 7 other couples and then me sitting at the corner table trying to sort out my seafood dinner. So am thinking of just a day trip. Anyone experience any pros about doing a day trip?

I have plenty more queries, but I don't want to strain your eyes too much, so will leave them for another Q & A session.


Wanderer in a flash.

#1 FlashWanderer has been a member since 16/2/2010. Posts: 8

Posted by francesstella on 16/2/2010 at 17:35

Hello Wanderer!

Good call on ditching the tour, I think you'll have a lot more fun this way.

I would recommend staying at Hanoi Backpackers on your arrival (if you book in advance on their website they can arrange to pick you up at the airport too). It's clean, well-organised, the atmosphere is fantastic... definitely a good starting point for your trip. You're bound to make a bunch of friends there & most likely continue on your journey South with them (there are so many solo travelers & loose groups of friends, I wouldn't worry a bit about meeting people). Backpackers organise several tours in Sapa & Halong Bay too. I went on the 2-night Halong Bay cruise last year, one of the highlights of my trip.

I'd say you're as safe in Hanoi as you'd be at night in any big European city. My only warning about Hanoi would be to watch out for taxi scams!

Fire away if you have any other Qs :)

Take care,

#2 francesstella has been a member since 16/2/2009. Location: Italy. Posts: 95
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Posted by daawgon on 18/2/2010 at 09:48

Hanoi 's central city area (Old Quarter, French Quarter and Cathedral Quarter) is very safe - I believe much safer than Saigon. I agree that Hanoi Backpacker's would be a good place for you. I stayed around the corner and that place was always crowded with people - it's in an alley and a very friendly/safe area. I agree with your thoughts about being all alone on one of those cruises - one of the reasons I avoid that type of thing (I'd say book one if you can be included in some group, but otherwise I would avoid it). Don't miss Sapa - one of my favorites and very special. You'll do much better without a tour in this country - I consider tours for travel-shy people, and this country is so easy and friendly it's much more fun to
DIY and experience a few bumps along the way - you'll do very well!

#3 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,152
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Posted by wombatfuz on 18/2/2010 at 15:26

i don't recommend you wandering around on your first night in a city. Maybe get a good look at the city on the 2nd day and then by night you will feel a lot more confident walking around.

But you do have to go out for dinner on your first night. Maybe find a more centrally located guesthouse and go for a stroll after dinner.

There is a very good featured story on choosing tours for Halong Bay and how to do Halong Bay independently.

#4 wombatfuz has been a member since 30/12/2009. Posts: 38

Posted by FlashWanderer on 18/2/2010 at 17:04

Thanks francesstella,daawgon,and wombatfuz,

I took a look at the Backpackers Hostel and it definitely looks like THE place to stay, in terms of meeting people and good accommodations. But I'm not in my early 20s anymore, (though I can sometimes pass for it, and sometimes do act it) so I was thinking of something less frat party. Don't get me wrong, still love to party but, I was thinking less hard party atmosphere, more very social.

I was initially looking into more 'mid-range' places, mainly for the cleanliness and comfort factor, and I'd be willing to spend a little more for it. But the drawback as we know, is that it's not as easy to meet other travellers at hotels. Yes I've got some decisions to make.

A new topic now. The Mekong Delta. It's definitely something I'd like to explore, even if only for a day or two. Truth be told, it's what finally drew me to Vietnam. I finally came across what seems to be (according to TripAdvisor) a pretty good hotel in Can Tho to base myself for the day - the Kim Tho Hotel.

But do you have any tips on how to get myself to Can Tho? Now that I've checked out the Mekong Eyes cruise, maybe it's more worthwhile, or just plain easier to do a cruise.

I'm heading to Phnom Penh after the Mekong Delta, so it would be great to go directly from there, if possible and just save myself from having to go back to Ho Chi Minh City for another night. I was planning on taking the Mekong Express bus. I love sailing, but I heard the boat from HCMC to PP was quite choppy, and that means sea sickness for me. Renting a taxi would be great, if I could split the cost with someone though.

Thanks again!

#5 FlashWanderer has been a member since 16/2/2010. Posts: 8

Posted by francesstella on 18/2/2010 at 17:30

Hello again!

I understand your concerns about the Backpackers. Maybe I was particularly lucky with the crowd when I visited - it's always possible - but I have to say the atmosphere was more one of "let's get to know each other" than "let's get pissed". Admittedly it was mostly young-ish backpackers but there were several 'older' people (if Terry reads this he'll have my scalp!) and you can choose to stay in your own room rather than dorms. As I said, the advantage of this place is that they make it really easy to meet people with which to continue your adventure.

I booked a tour in HCMC that took me through the Mekong Delta & straight into Cambodia by boat. It was a good trip but a bit rushed, we spent most of the time on boats & buses, I would have liked at least 2 nights and in hindsight I would have paid a bit more for a better tour that included more interesting stops.

Going without a tour might be a better choice if this is your main attraction & I'm sure it's feasible. I hope someone can give you more advice.

Good luck!

#6 francesstella has been a member since 16/2/2009. Location: Italy. Posts: 95
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Posted by laus on 19/2/2010 at 02:23


I will travel alone in Vietnam too, I will arrive in Hanoi on march 7th and end my vietnamese adventure on march 18th in HCMC.
I was planning to stay at Hanoi Backpackers or Central Backpackers and do some tours there.
If anyone will be there during those dates just let me know



#7 laus has been a member since 16/2/2010. Posts: 5

Posted by nasmej11 on 20/2/2010 at 16:41

hello there!

you can try to buy the e guide here in travelfish. im travelling to vietnam for 3 weeks nd cambodia for 1 week next year, so im starting to read about the countries. maybe you can get some useful info from the e guide. i may also be travelling solo. looking forward to reading about your adventures in vietnam. how long are you doing it for? hostelbookers is very helpful, ive used everytime i travel. so far its been great.

#8 nasmej11 has been a member since 16/12/2009. Posts: 35
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Posted by FlashWanderer on 22/2/2010 at 05:34

Francesstella, I'm now leaning towards staying at the Backpackers hostel, or at least another hostel. So thanks again for the tips.

Hey Laus, my travel dates are almost on par with yours. I should be arriving a day after you and plan to be in HCMC/the Mekong Delta at the same time. As mentioned above, I think I'm gearing towards booking a hostel. I checked out the Central Backpackers and it looks pretty appealing as well. I guess I'll have to make that decision sooner than later, as the date is drawing near. If you get a chance, let me know which one you decide to go with and/or maybe we'll run into one another at breakfast. I'm pretty sure I'll be going for a private room. As for tours, I think I'll try to navigate the city by walking (without an organized tour) and go for the one day Halong Bay tour. But who knows, maybe I'll spring for the overnight cruise. Guess I'll sort it out when i get there.

Nasmej11. I'll try to be diligent about posting reviews and blogs. Reading others' reviews and blogs have been really helpful.

FW. :)

#9 FlashWanderer has been a member since 16/2/2010. Posts: 8

Posted by laus on 22/2/2010 at 19:32


Yeah, I havent decide the hostel yet, Ill let you know
Right now Im in Cambodia, Seam Reap.... its really hot in here, in 3 more days Ill travel to Thailand and there to Vietnam.
Maybe we will see at the hostel.



#10 laus has been a member since 16/2/2010. Posts: 5

Posted by KazAussie on 26/2/2010 at 14:04

Re getting to Can Tho, there are heaps of public buses for next to nothing. If you want something a bit more organised, book it in Saigon, there are heaps of Meekong trips advertised 1, 2, 3.... days etc.

#11 KazAussie has been a member since 18/7/2009. Posts: 221

Posted by FlashWanderer on 2/3/2010 at 17:05

Thanks for the tip KazAussie!

#12 FlashWanderer has been a member since 16/2/2010. Posts: 8

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