When the Prek Chak / Xa Xia border crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam opened to foreign travellers way back in 2007 it became possible to travel from Ko Chang in Thailand all the way along the Cambodian coastline and into Vietnam.
For beach and boat lovers, this is a great trip as from Ko Chang you're able to visit Koh S'dach, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem (among others), Kampot, Kep, Koh Tonsay, Ha Tien and Rach Gia, before finishing off on the glorious Phu Quoc Island. Here's a step by step guide taking you through the entire trip, commencing in Trat and finishing on Phu Quoc.
Trat to the Thai/Cambodian border
There are direct minibuses that run between Trat and the border town of Hat Lek. The trip takes around an hour and they leave hourly throughout the day. Once you're at the border, it's a short walk to the border facilities. There have long been complaints about the shifty Cambodian border guards at this crossing, but the complaints are mainly related to getting a Cambodian visa on arrival (the officials refuse to accept US dollars and instead level the fee in Thai baht at a crummy rate, pocketing the difference). The easiest way around this is to get your visa beforehand (eg in Bangkok).
Once you've entered Cambodia, take a motodop into Koh Kong town -- it's a five-minute motorbike ride or a 30-minute walk. There used to be a boat service from Koh Kong to Sihanoukville (the very aptly named "vomit comet") but that service faded away as the roads improved. If you've got the time, Koh Kong is worth at least an overnight stop.
Ko Kong to Sihanoukville
There are regular bus services between Koh Kong and Sihanoukville with the trip taking 4-5 hours and costing US$6 to $10 depending on the bus.
Sihanoukville to Kampot
Before you press on from Sihanoukville, be sure to visit the many offshore islands. If you're struggling to decide which island is for you, give our wrap on the best islands in Cambodia a read. Whatever you do, don't just hang out in Sihanoukville.
Once you are done, there are regular buses daily to Kampot -- the schedules can be a bit random but you should be able to bank on at least one morning and one afternoon departure daily. If you miss the bus, share taxis also regularly do the run. Either way takes about two hours.
Kampot to Kep
As with Sihanoukville to Kampot, there's a couple of buses a day from Kampot to Kep, taking about an hour, but you can also do the trip by moto, remorque-moto and share taxi. Share taxi is fastest, coming in around 45 minutes, remorque the slowest -- figure on at least 1.5 hours.
Kep to the border
This road has improved considerably and expect a motodop to the border to cost $10-15. Tuk tuks can also do it, but cost more, as do share-taxis. Note Vietnamese visas are not available upon arrival -- you will need to get your visa beforehand (the closest consulate is in Sihanoukville). See if you can get your moto to take you all the way to Ha Tien bus station.
Border to Ha Tien to Rach Gia
As with Kep to the border, your best bet is a motodop into Ha Tien. There are two daily boat services from Ha Tien to Phu Quoc. From Ha Tien bus station there are both express and slow buses to Rach Gia.
Rach Gia to Phu Quoc Island
In high season there are multiple boats daily, with Superdong being the crowd favourite. In low season and when the weather is bad, boat services may be curtailed -- sometimes for days. There is also a daily flight from Rach Gia to Phu Quoc Island around 08:00 -- seats go fast, so if you're planning to fly, buy the ticket as soon as possible. Once you're on Phu Quoc there are motos waiting to take you to your resort of choice.
Trat to border: 1.5 hours by minibus, leaves hourly throughout the day.
Ko Kong to Sihanoukville: 4-5 hours, a few services daily.
Sihanoukville to Kampot: 2 hours by bus, a couple of departures daily. Share taxi also available.
Kampot to Kep: 1 hour by bus, a couple of departures daily. Share taxi also available.
Kep to border: 30 minutes by motorbike, tuk tuk or taxi.
Ha Tien to Rach Gia: 2-3 hours by bus, regular departures in the morning, fewer in afternoon.
Rach Gia to Phu Quoc: 2.5 hours, 1-2 depatures daily. Twenty minutes by plane, one flight a day.
See -- it's easy!
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.