Vietnam And Cambodia Itinerary For A Transformative Journey
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If you are here, you are looking for a Vietnam and Cambodia itinerary to start planning your trip. We’ve been there, we’ve spent days crafting the best itinerary for our trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, and we know how frustrating it can be.
That’s why this itinerary is not just a way to put a stamp on your passport but a way to discover two different cultures, histories, and breathtaking natural beauties.
We started from Hanoi and ended in Siem Reap, and our trip was filled with moments of awe, encounters that warmed our hearts, and experiences that enriched our understanding of the world. We discovered that each city, each temple, and each street food stall tell a story, contributing to the rich mosaic of Southeast Asian culture.
This Vietnam and Cambodia itinerary and guide are crafted from our firsthand experiences, designed to immerse you in the essence of Vietnam and Cambodia and inspire you to explore the depth of these countries’ heritage, beauty, and warmth of their people.
Vietnam And Cambodia Itinerary Day By Day
Days 1-3: Hanoi, Vietnam
Your journey begins in Hanoi, a city that captivates with its blend of Southeast Asian charm and French colonial heritage. You can wander the Old Quarter’s labyrinthine streets, where history whispers from every corner. The tranquility of Hoan Kiem Lake offers a peaceful respite from the city’s buzz, while the imposing presence of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum reminds of Vietnam’s storied past. A highlight is the local cuisine with pho and banh mi, which will linger in your memories for very long.
Days 4-6: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay is a surreal landscape of emerald waters and limestone karsts that magically rise from the sea. You can either choose a cruise to Ha Long Bay or do like us and opt for a more quiet one, to Cat Ba Bay. The cruise through the bay is a journey through a dreamscape, with stops at hidden caves and secluded beaches that feel like discovering secret worlds. Kayaking through tranquil waters, you will find a serene connection with nature, a humbling and exhilarating experience.
Days 7-9: Sapa, Vietnam
As you ventur into the northern highlands to Sapa, the landscape transforms into a patchwork of terraced rice fields and ethereal mist, dramatically contrasting Vietnam’s bustling cities. Sapa, renowned for its rugged scenery and cultural diversity, is home to several ethnic minority groups, each with distinct traditions and colorful attire. Trekking through the region presents with the opportunity to engage with the local communities, such as the Hmong and Dao people, offering a glimpse into their daily lives and rich cultural heritage. The natural beauty of Sapa, from the towering Fansipan Mountain to the serene waterfalls, provides a stunning backdrop to your exploration. This leg of our journey is not just a physical trek through mountains but a deep dive into the heart of Vietnam’s cultural and natural splendor.
Days 10-12: Da Nang and Hoi An, Vietnam
In Da Nang, your journey takes you through a city where the future and the past coexist. Marvel at the Marble Mountains, a serene retreat with caves and temples offering panoramic views. Don’t miss the Sun World Ba Na Hills, home to the iconic Golden Bridge, a marvel nestled in the clouds. In Hoi An, time seemed to stand still. The Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, charmed us with its beautifully preserved architecture and vibrant night markets. The Japanese Covered Bridge is a testament to the town’s multicultural history. A cooking class can be a hands-on dive into Vietnamese cuisine, teaching you recipes and techniques you can bring back home.
Days 13-15: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City is a whirlwind of history and modernity. The War Remnants Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels offer profound insights into the resilience of the Vietnamese spirit. By night, the city transforms, with street food stalls and markets that offer a taste of Vietnam’s dynamic culinary scene. The energy of Ho Chi Minh City is infectious.
Days 16-18: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Crossing into Cambodia, Phnom Penh is your next destination, with the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda offering a glimpse into Cambodia’s royal heritage. The harrowing history of the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a sobering reminder of the country’s past struggles. Yet, the spirit of resilience and hope is palpable, especially if you embark on a sunset cruise along the Mekong River, reflecting on the enduring beauty and strength of the Cambodian people.
Days 19-21: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap is a dream and is a gateway to the ancient world. The temples of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm are architectural marvels that speak of empires and spirituality. Each stone is carved with intricate detail, each corridor telling a story of devotion and grandeur. The cultural shows and night markets of Siem Reap provide a glimpse into the contemporary life that thrives amid these ancient wonders.
I suggest you rent a bike and tour Angkor in 2 days, so to avoid feeling overwhelmed and tired: that’s what we did, ending our trip with 70 km by bike and 40 km on foot. An experience we will never forget!
If you have a few more days to spare, here are a couple of places in Cambodia that you may want to check and eventually add to your Vietnam and Cambodia itinerary.
Venture to Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city, where you’ll find a charming blend of colonial architecture and ancient temples. Known for its artistic community, Battambang offers a unique experience with its bamboo train, local galleries, and vibrant cafes. Explore the Phnom Sampeau hill, featuring pagodas, caves, and a dark history that contrasts with its natural beauty. Battambang’s countryside, dotted with traditional villages and scenic rice paddies, provides a glimpse into the rural life of Cambodia, rich with tradition and simplicity.
Kampot and Kep, Cambodia
Head south to the tranquil towns of Kampot and Kep, where the pace of life slows down amidst natural beauty and culinary delights. Kampot, famous for its pepper plantations, offers tours introducing you to the world-renowned Kampot pepper’s cultivation and flavors. The serene Kampong Bay River is perfect for kayaking, offering peaceful natural moments. Nearby Kep, once a glamorous beach town, is regaining its charm with its pristine beaches and the famous Kep Crab Market, where you can indulge in fresh seafood while enjoying the sea breeze.
Cultural Etiquette and Tips
Respecting Local Traditions
Our travels taught us the importance of respecting local customs and traditions. Dressing modestly for temple visits and asking permission before taking photographs were simple acts that showed our respect for the cultures we were guests in. We found that embracing these practices enriched our experience and opened doors to warmer interactions with locals.
The culinary landscapes of Vietnam and Cambodia were as diverse as they were flavorful. We learned to be adventurous, trying dishes like amok in Cambodia and bun cha in Vietnam, which became instant favorites. Street food, in particular, was a journey through the soul of these countries, offering authentic, mouthwatering tastes that defined our travel memories.
Crossing from Vietnam to Cambodia
Transitioning from the lush landscapes and bustling cities of Vietnam to Cambodia’s ancient wonders and serene countryside is a journey that bridges two fascinating cultures and histories. You have several options for making this journey, each offering a unique experience.
One popular route is by air, with frequent flights connecting major Vietnamese cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Cambodia, offering convenience and speed.
Another enriching option is to take a boat trip along the Mekong River, allowing you to witness the beauty of the river’s life and landscapes, a slower but more scenic choice.
For those preferring overland travel, bus services offer a cost-effective way to move between countries, providing a closer look at the rural heartlands.
Additionally, for a more adventurous or tailored experience, arranging a private car or joining a guided overland tour can offer flexibility and deeper insights into the regions traversed.
Regardless of the mode of transport, transitioning from Vietnam to Cambodia is a passage through time and traditions, enriching your Southeast Asian journey with diverse perspectives and unforgettable memories.
Accommodations in Vietnam and Cambodia
Accommodation options in Vietnam and Cambodia cater to various preferences and budgets, offering everything from luxurious resorts to charming guesthouses and budget-friendly hostels.
In Vietnam, major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City boast high-end hotels featuring exquisite amenities and services for those seeking comfort and indulgence.
Hoi An and Da Nang offer travelers unique boutique hotels and riverside lodgings, where traditional design and modern comforts meet. For the more budget-conscious, both countries offer countless guesthouses and hostels, providing clean and comfortable accommodations at a fraction of the price.
In Cambodia, Siem Reap is home to accommodations that range from opulent hotels, perfect for relaxing after a long day of temple explorations, to cozy, family-run guesthouses offering personalized experiences.
Phnom Penh and coastal areas like Kampot and Kep also offer a variety of accommodations, from luxurious riverside properties to quaint bungalows.
Throughout Vietnam and Cambodia, many accommodations are deeply integrated into the local community, offering guests the opportunity to directly engage with local culture and traditions. Whether you’re after luxury, comfort, or a touch of adventure, you’ll find lodging that meets your needs and enhances your travel experience in these captivating countries.
Preparation for Your Trip
Most travelers (not everyone, though) need to obtain a visa before arriving in Vietnam, and you can get one through Vietnam’s e-visa application system. The straightforward process promised a smooth entry into the country’s rich historical tapestry.
Cambodia requires an entry visa that you can request before arriving or upon your arrival. The e-visa service allows you to apply online and receive approval within days. We requested one at the airport, and the process was quite straightforward as you have to pay and get one, prepare to pay cash in USD, and, in general, get ready to pay in USD for everything in Cambodia.
Best Time to Visit
Choosing the right time to visit was crucial for our journey. We opted for the dry season (from November to April), when the skies are clear and the landscapes are most vibrant.
This period allowed us to explore both countries under some of the best conditions, from the misty mornings in Ha Long Bay to the sun-drenched ruins of Angkor Wat, without the hindrance of heavy rains or extreme heat. The Northern part of Vietnam was the hardest because it rained quite often despite being the dry season; it wasn’t a heavy or disruptive rain, but we would have loved not to have any.
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Embrace This Vietnam and Cambodia Itinerary And Start Planning
This journey through Vietnam and Cambodia is more than a trip; it explores the heart and soul of these remarkable countries.
Each day is a new chapter in a story of discovery, connection, and deep appreciation for the rich cultures and histories that define this part of the world.
As you traverse ancient lands, you carry a sense of curiosity and respect for the traditions, environments, and people that make Vietnam and Cambodia so special.
This itinerary, born from our experiences, guides you to an unforgettable adventure in the heart of Southeast Asia, promising not just sights and sounds but a journey that will touch your heart and enrich your spirit.
FAQ: Vietnam and Cambodia Itinerary
Do I need a visa for Vietnam and Cambodia?
Yes, most travelers will need a visa for both countries. Vietnam offers an e-visa option for tourists from many countries, valid for up to 30 days. Cambodia also provides an e-visa service, making applying and receiving approval online before your trip convenient.
What is the best time to visit Vietnam and Cambodia?
The best time to visit is during the dry season, from November to April when you’ll experience less rainfall and more comfortable temperatures, ideal for exploring the outdoor attractions and historical sites.
How many days do I need for a comprehensive visit to Vietnam and Cambodia?
A comprehensive itinerary covering the major highlights of both countries ideally requires at least 18-21 days. This allows you to explore the key destinations comfortably without rushing.
What are the must-visit places in Vietnam and Cambodia?
Don’t miss Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Read our guide to the best places to visit in Vietnam for a more comprehensive overview. Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kampot, and Kep are essential visits for a well-rounded experience in Cambodia.
Can I use US dollars in Vietnam and Cambodia?
In Cambodia, US dollars are widely accepted and often preferred. While US dollars may be accepted in some tourist areas in Vietnam, it’s better to use the local currency, Vietnamese Dong (VND), for everyday transactions.
What cultural etiquette should I be aware of?
Respect local customs and traditions, dress modestly when visiting temples, and always ask for permission before taking photos of people. Learning a few basic phrases in Vietnamese and Khmer can also go a long way in showing respect and building rapport with locals.
Is street food safe to eat in Vietnam and Cambodia?
Street food highlights both countries’ culinary scenes and is generally safe to eat. Look for busy stalls with high turnover, often a sign of freshness and quality. Be adventurous but sensible, and consider any dietary restrictions you may have.
How should I get around in Vietnam and Cambodia?
Both countries have various transport options, from domestic flights connecting major cities to buses, trains, and private car hires for longer distances. Taxis, tuk-tuks, and motorbike taxis are convenient and affordable options for shorter distances within cities.
What should I pack for my trip?
Pack light, breathable clothing suitable for warm weather, a good pair of walking shoes, sun protection, and insect repellent. Also, include a raincoat or umbrella for unexpected showers, especially if traveling around the edges of the dry season.
How can I stay connected with internet and phone service?
Both Vietnam and Cambodia have reliable mobile networks. Consider purchasing a local SIM card upon arrival for access to data and local calls, which is a cost-effective way to stay connected during your travels.