How to Plan a Trip to Vietnam & Cambodia

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Planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia requires careful planning. Lying on the Indochinese Peninsula, these two nations are close neighbors with common ties and visitors often will pair the two together in one trip, which is a smart way to see both countries.

Once the center of the ancient Khmer Empire, Cambodia is an amazing place to visit, filled with ancient Buddhist temples, stunning landscapes, and the most famous temple complex in the world at the Angkor Archaeological Park, where thousands of ancient temples lie in various states of ruin and disrepair.

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

In comparison, Vietnam is a long and thin country, with a varied topography that runs from the mountainous northern region to the stunning plains of the south and the 100-islands region. A country that has undergone a tragic history, Vietnam has grown its tourist industry over the last two decades to be one of the premier destinations in Southeast Asia.

When planning a Vietnam and Cambodia trip, there are many things to take into consideration, not least of which is how to get there, how to get in, and what to see and do.

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

Visa Requirements

Cambodia and Vietnam have very similar visa requirements, as do many of the nations around the world that require visas for all its tourists. However, the difference comes in how you obtain those visas, and for these two countries, the methods are very different.

As with most visas, you will require a valid passport with two blank visa pages and at least six month’s validity remaining. You will also need to provide a completed visa application form and one or two passport-sized photos.

Cambodia

There are three ways to apply for a visa to Cambodia, through an embassy in your home or resident country, by making an application for a Visa On Arrival (VOA), or by using the online using the E-visa service.

For those traveling to the country from within Asia, a common method of obtaining a visa is through the Visa On Arrival Service, which can be done at all the major Cambodian international airports and several of the overland border crossing checkpoints. There are a lot of online services you can use. Just Google it and you’ll find plenty.

Vietnam

The requirements for a visa for Vietnam are complex, and are constantly changing, so it is always best to check the current requirements before making an application. A standard, single-entry tourist visa for 30 days costs just $20, while a multiple-entry visa for three months costs just $70US.

how to get around Hanoi

How to Get There

You’ll likely want to start your journey in one of the big cities in Vietnam, as they are easiest to get to from International destinations. There are six international airports across the country, which are located at Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hoi An, Nha Trang, and Phu Quoc. The two major airports in Cambodia are in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

If you are already in Asia, you can travel overland or by air between the two countries and you’ll have a choice of a lot of domestic airports that go to smaller destinations. Domestic flights can be as low as around US$ 50 for a single economy flight.

Travel via Air
Travel via Air

Traveling overland between Cambodia and Vietnam can be done at one of five border crossing points, including crossing the border by boat. Bavet to Bai Moc is the oldest of all the border crossings between Cambodia and Vietnam, and is the most popular crossing point for foreign tourists.

Close to both Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, it takes around six hours to cross from Phnom Penh to get to Ho Chi Minh. Buses run the route between the two cities and are relatively cheap.

Mekong River cruise
Mekong River cruise

The most delightful way to cross the border is by boat, and the Kaam Samnor to Ving Xuong crossing follows the Mekong River between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. The luxurious river cruise takes around six to seven hours, and there is a regular service that runs several times a day.

What to See in Vietnam

Vietnam is home to alluring landscapes, vibrant culture, bittersweet history, warm-hearted people, and the world-famous Pho. There is more to Vietnam than food, however the country’s cuisine does make Vietnam a popular destination not only for adventurous travelers but also for food enthusiasts.

Vietnam is known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities. Hanoi, the capital, is a great place to go for food lovers, while Ho Chi Minh is always full of energy and excitement. Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s top tourist draws thanks to its unique limestone peaks.

halong bay
Halong Bay

The best place to find great food in Vietnam are at bustling street markets, roadsides cafeterias, and nondescript-looking restaurants. Be sure not to miss Banh Mi, a baguette filled with meat, pate, cucumber, coriander, pickled carrots, and radish, combined with chili and mayonnaise and the delicious Pho noodle soup. 

Try Bun Cha, a dish of vermicelli noodles dipped into bowls of ground and whole pork soaked in a sauce made of fish sauce, sugar, and vinegar. Vietnam’s wine culture may not be as extensive as its cuisine; however, it does have a few remarkable locally made wines. 

Tours to book:

What to See in Cambodia

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Cambodia is a land of incredible contrast. Thick forest, mountains and pristine rivers compliment amazing white beaches. When you get down to it, however, travelers know Cambodia for two things, Angkor Wat and the capital city of Phnom Penh.

The highlight of Cambodia is visiting Angkor Wat, an architectural masterpiece constructed in the jungle in the early 12th century, surrounded by hundreds of other temples. These are the sacred remains of what was once a bustling center glorifying the Khmer kings. It’s stunning.

Near the Thai border, two to four hours’ drive north of Siem Reap is the Preah Vihear temple that’s perched on a clifftop at 625m elevation. It’s easy to get to on a day trip from Siem Reap.

Tours to book:

Hoi An
Hoi An, Vietnam

Best Time to Go to Vietnam and Cambodia

When to go to these two beautiful countries is a question that is often asked, and one of the main concerns is usually the weather. But Vietnam and Cambodia are sub-tropical monsoon countries, so knowing which season is which is essential.

Best Time to Visit Vietnam

Vietnam has a varied climate, and being over 1,000 kilometers from north to south, has three separate micro-climates within the country. A great year-round destination, the country has a different place for each season.

In the north, the best times are usually the shoulder seasons from February to April and August to October, while in the south March to June and September to October are the more favorable months.

The peak season for tourism runs from October to February, and the weather is dry and cool, compared to the low season during the monsoon, when the weather is mainly hot, wet, and humid.

Best Time to Visit Cambodia

Cambodia has one of the simplest weather systems in the world, and the climate is the same across the country. The dry season in Cambodia runs from October to April while the wet season is from May to late September. March to April is the most humid and hottest time of year, and should really be avoided unless you like the intense heat.

The monsoon from May to September is also not the best time to travel, as roads to the outlying areas can be drowned and muddy, making travel impossible. November to March is the most popular time, and the peak season for tourism, due to the clear skies, cooler weather, and bright days.

Final Thoughts

Using this information, you should have no trouble planning your Vietnam and Cambodia trips. Then you can spend your time instead planning the perfect vacation, rather than searching endlessly for visa information. We hope you have a great trip to the area!Like this post? Why not share it on your Pinterest board? Just hover over the image below to pin.

How to Plan a Trip to Vietnam & Cambodia

2 thoughts on “How to Plan a Trip to Vietnam & Cambodia

  1. Ryan Biddulph says:

    Good stuff Laura! Love both Vietnam and Cambodia. I also love how easily you can get the Cambodia “Business” Visa LOL. At least as of years ago, back in 2012 when we visited. Maybe more strict these days but asking for it with no proof of business was enough to stay in the country for months. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

  2. lina says:

    Thanks, Laura, I was planning to visit Vietnam and Cambodia and pretty confused about their Visa requirements. But your blog has resolved all my questions and provide me with a helpful stuff. Love it 🙂

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