Indochina holiday packages give the ultimate journey through Southeast Asia. From the busy streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to the charming historic town of Hoi An, the limestone islets of Ha Long Bay and saffron-robed Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang, and the famous temples of Angkor, this type of tour is able to give a complete flavour of what Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia is able to offer and easily creates those unforgettable memories.
To fully appreciate Indochina it is necessary to fully immerse yourself in the different countries. Vietnam's cities are urban sprawls that are frantic, yet still friendly and safe to explore with large areas of French style architecture in which to sit and relax. Laos is relatively unspoiled and entrancing; this country still maintains an old-fashioned charm with its well preserved French-Indochinese temples and its shabby riverside settlements with stilted wooden huts. Cambodia not only has the famous temples of Angkor Wat, but is also has an unforgettable spirit, extraordinary food and very welcoming Khmer people.
Best time to visit Indochina
The preferred time to visit Indochina is when the weather is cool and dry which is between October and March. The rainy season can vary with the different countries, but normally starts in April - although for a broader guide on the Indochina holiday, it can usually last from March until September. Even if the weather is wet it can still be a great time to visit. In the central regions of Vietnam, the very dry and warm weather is from April to July, and this is where most of the finest beaches are. For the same period of April to July, the weather in Laos can get very hot and very dry, especially if touring inland. Plus, many cities in the south can start to get quite unbearable because of the heat. But in Cambodia there is more rain during this time, but most of the showers are quite sharp and short and are quite predictable in the mornings and afternoons. This makes it possible to manage the time to tour the attractions.
Plus, it is also worth considering the rainy season can cause distractions to road travel and trips in the region of the Mekong Delta, which has the potential to flood and make ongoing travel difficult.
People and language
Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups with Vietnamese spoken as the main language, whereas Cambodia only has the one ethnic group: Khmer, and 95% of the people are Buddhist. In Laos, there is nearly 130 tribes that are split into four groups that speak different languages: the largest ethnic group is the Tai-Kadai while the least developed ethnicity are the Sino-Tibetan who still have no written alphabet and continue the traditional practice of hunt and gather.
A complete Indochina holiday gives the perfect opportunity to experience the charm and historic lure of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. A well-planned tour with the popular itinerary destinations can include the ancient port town of Hoi An with its pretty streets that are rich in traditional wooden houses and skilled tailor shops, as a well as lantern-lined streets. Cambodia has the iconic site of Angkor Wat which is the largest religious monument on the planet. Plus, Laos has plenty to surprise travellers with a visit to the city of Luang Prabang, which is a recognized world heritage site.
Obtaining a Visa
Generally, a visa is a standard requirement for travellers planning to explore Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – although there are certain exceptions in place, so it is worth contracting a travel consultant before making your final plans to ensure you have the correct paperwork.
A Vietnam visa is easy to apply for before travelling which can simplify matters, or you can organize the visa upon arrival. A single entry visa is the most common type of tourist visa which is valid for a single entry and lasts for up to 1 month. Plus, there is the option to apply for a multiple entry visa.
A visa for Cambodia and Laos is similar to Vietnam and can be organized upon arrival in the country, and costs $25.
Everyday living costs
Indochina travel packages can be relatively inexpensive with the cost of eating out very reasonable, especially on the food stalls that are readily seen throughout the cities. The cost of cyclos, tuk-tuk and taxis are overall reasonable - travellers can check with their guide or hotel to try to find out the average cost to make sure it is possible to get the best rates while travelling between sites. Also, there is the option to haggle to get the best prices and this principle can apply to most purchases such as the variety of tourist souvenirs.
A basic idea of everyday costs is in the region of $25-$50 per person/per day, which is usually more than enough to cover the basic expenses, such as local transport, food and drink and entrance fees. But, it will be necessary to spend more if planning to stay at the most luxurious hotels or visit the upmarket restaurants, as well as to purchase the more significant souvenirs.
Things to do
In the process of organising the travel itinerary for the Indochina holiday it is important to use the right travel options, such as road travel, boating (Mekong River) and overnight trains to get from destination to destination. In certain regions, it benefits to avoid using a lot of overland travel, especially in regions of Vietnam, where the road conditions can be dreadful with travel very long and uncomfortable.
Plus, internal flights are a great option between major cities such as Pakse and Vientiane which is an easy one-hour flight or and an uncomfortable two day bus ride.
However, for those that want to travel the entire region by road this would significantly increase the travel time, with a realistic timeframe of 6 to 7 weeks required to complete the Indochina holiday packages.
Beyond the famous temples of Angkor Wat, there is still plenty in Cambodia waiting to be discovered. Most travellers are delighted with the countries smiling Khmer people that make this a very welcoming place to be. Read our travel guide to Cambodia!
A visit to Phnom Penh on the Indochina holiday gives a unique chance to really discover life in Cambodia with its palaces, museums, magnificent French colonial architecture, crazy tuk-tuk drivers and hectic markets.
Angkor Wat is a jungle clad temple complex that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back thousands of years. It spans a total area of nearly 160 km² and is surrounded by intriguing extras, including many other temples and ruins that are certain to be worth a visit in the Angkor Archaeological Park.
While Siem Reap is well known as a gateway to Angkor Wat, this part of Cambodia still has its own unique highlights. There is the Landmine Museum, markets to explore, streets roaring with tuk-tuks and faded French architecture to admire. Plus, there is a local nightlife scene which is perfect after a day of touring the temples.
Vietnam is a marvel of stilt house villages, unexplored rainforest, glitzy cities, enchanting bays, terraced rice paddies, and straw hated rice farmers. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are urban sprawls, while the Mekong River is peaceful with rural Vietnamese life: floating markets, fishing villages, rice paddies and fruit trees.
Ha Long Bay
One of the most distinctive sights in Vietnam is the dreamy seascape of Ha Long Bay. This recognised UNESCO Site is the largest karst landscape with nearly 2000 limestone islands emerging from the emerald waters. This great attraction is best experienced by hiring a traditional junk boat and exploring the local area, including the secluded caves. Plus, there is a nearby fishing village that can also be explored.
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon)
A marvellous area of roaring motors, temples and markets, Ho Chi Minh City gives a simple opportunity to get immersed in the life of the local Vietnamese. This city has plenty to see and do including the emotive War Remnants Museum, Taoist temples, Chinatown and Ben Thanh Market. Plus, the street food in this city is unbelievably cheap and delicious.
The car-free streets of Hoi An make it possible to instantly step into the past. The crumbling architecture is a visible reminder of its past Portuguese and Spanish settlers, while at night this old town is lit up by lanterns alongside the streets. Artisans and tailors abound; this city is great for locally made ceramics, paintings and tailor-made suits or dresses. Visit a community project, explore the riverside fish market, or walk or cycle the narrow streets throughout town.
Laos has a very distinctive and entrancing old fashioned charm with its architecture that varies between the well preserved French-Indochinese temples and the shabby stilted wooden huts that are frequent sights on the riverside settlements. The river banks are alive with the simple and fascinating day-to-day lives of the local people, while at dawn there are the bright orange robes of the monks travelling in the morning mist. For more information, read our travel guide in Laos!
The Mekong River is a lifeline of Laos and stretches nearly 4909 km through six countries (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Myanmar (Burma). Travelling on the Mekong is perfect way to get around on the Indochina holiday and gives beautiful surroundings of swirling whirlpools, plots of papaya and rolling scenery of forested hillsides.
Vientiane is the capital city of Laos and relatively quaint compared to the frantic rush in other Southeast Asian capitals. It has a variety of beautiful sites, but still retains a small town feel.
Travel tips and safely
There are a few vaccinations that are advised for travellers to Indochina; consult your travel clinic or doctor at least 6-8 weeks prior to travelling.
Malaria is present in some areas of this tour, so it is practical to pack anti-malaria medication. To protect against the mosquito bites, use a high-quality insect repellent and wear long-sleeved tops and pants. Insect repellents are also useful for other illnesses like dengue fever.
Pack prescription medication. Plus, it can be practical to carry a basic medical kit, especially for travellers planning to explore the more remote and rural areas. Other medications to consider include painkillers, rehydration sachets and pills for stomach upsets.
Drink bottled water in place of tap water, which can be seen as unsafe to drink. Plus, it is best to be cautious with unpeeled fruit and vegetables.
Be cautious of the lakes and rivers in regions of Cambodia which can contain a disease like Schistosomiasis (also referred to as bilharzia) that is easily picked up in freshwater.
The most likely health issues to experience on the Indochina holiday packages are those related to diarrhoea or stomach infections. While this is usually mild discomfort, it is best treated with lots of bottled water, plenty of rest, and rehydration satchels to replace lost salts.
Apply sunscreen regularly to protect against the high temperatures that is noticed across Indochina. The strength of the sun is most noticeable when travelling on the water, so in addition to sunscreen also drink plenty of water and wear loose clothing, as well as a wide brim hat.
Even though Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are generally safe places to visit, there is the risk of petty crime much like any other popular tourist destinations, so be sensible when travelling. Try to stay with your group and avoid flashing valuables or cash.
Unexploded ordinances are still common in certain countryside areas of central Vietnam (along the Laos/Vietnam border), Laos and Cambodia. For this reason, it is essential to stay on the marked paths when touring national parks and other rural areas. A local guide is practical to travel with when exploring the less visited areas of Cambodia.
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