With undoubtedly friendly people, spectacular coastal scenery, colonial towns and UNESCO World Heritage sites, a Vietnam Cambodia holiday is a must for the first time traveller to South East Asia. Travellers are gripped by diverse and breathtaking destinations such as the culture-rich Hanoi to a fast-moving city like Ho Chi Minh, as well as heading into the Mekong Delta, before crossing the border into the jungle at Siem to see the world famous temples of Angkor.
A tour to Vietnam and Cambodia is great for travellers who have a little extra time to travel and see the fascinating sights and sounds of these countries and get an insight into the local culture and history.
Exploring the beauty of Vietnam and Cambodia makes a great holiday and gives a perfect opportunity to travel through two of the most intriguing nations in Asia, and includes highlights like:
Tour the beautiful capital Hanoi with its tree lined avenues to see Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, the Temple of Literature, or a must-go place like the old quarter to grasp the city’s culture.
• Pay a visit to Vietnam’s former imperial capital Hue to see the remarkable Imperial City.
• Take a restful trip on a traditional junk boat to explore the outstanding Halong Bay with its beautiful limestone pillars, grottos and floating villages.
• Stop in Ho Chi Minh City (formally known as Saigon) to get a dynamic blend of the old and new, while visiting the enthralling Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong throughout the US-Vietnam conflict.
• Get inspired by the breathtaking countryside scenery with its rice-paddies tended by conical hat adorned farmers with help from gentle buffalo.
• Relax on the mighty Mekong Delta for a full day to view the charming riverside life, unique fauna and flora, and enchanting villages, while sampling exotic fruits and fish.
• Discover the sobering but significant Khmer history in the Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, with visits to the Choeung Ek Memorial and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
• Visit Siem Reap to reach the gateway to the awe-inspiring and iconic Khmer temple complex of Angkor.
Is a holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia right for you?
The climate in Vietnam and Cambodia is quite sticky and hot which is most noticeable in the monsoon season, so make sure to pack the appropriate clothing. Also, it is essential to carry bottled water when sightseeing, and wear a hat and sunscreen, especially when out in a sampan in the Mekong Delta or Halong Bay.
A Vietnam Cambodia tour includes a few long travel stints, such as a 10-12 hour overnight train journey to the imperial city of Hue. But, this type of travel does give an intrepid experience while getting to see the locals and keep travel time to a minimum. Also, passengers may be required to share compartments on the train with other travellers or locals.
A practical form of transportation is the motorbike, and seeing the sights in certain places such as Hue are best achieved on the back of a bike. Motorbikes are safety driven by professionals and can be great fun, but for those that prefer there is usually the option to organize alternative transportation.
The places to stay en route through the countries are mainly simple, clean and comfortable tourist-class hotels (2 or 3 stars).
A 10 to 14-day Cambodia Vietnam tour gives a fascinating overview of the most stunning highlights of these countries while also enjoying a variety of activities. For the travellers that want to spend more time exploring the different destinations, it may be practical to look at a longer trip.
A fantastic highlights tour that travels through and perfectly combines Vietnam and Cambodia can makes one of the best holidays, and includes the most popular destinations en route, such as:
Hanoi gives a wonderful introduction to Vietnam with the city’s past and present easily explored by cycle rickshaw. The tree-lined boulevards, grand public buildings and low-built houses create the look of a gorgeous colonial city. The fascinating old quarter with its narrow lanes helps to establish the commercial heart of the area with its shops with very narrow frontages, pagodas, and food vendors selling stir-fries, snacks and noodles. Plus, there is the ever present hive of mopeds and bicycles. A few of the interesting attractions are the Presidential Palace, Confucius Temple and charming One-Pillar Pagoda. Other sights include the traditional water puppet shows which are skilfully acted with puppeteers telling folk stories with the aid of music and fireworks.
The iconic and UNESCO World Nature Heritage site of Halong Bay is a must-see destination on the Vietnam Cambodia tours. There are literally thousands of limestone islets that rise vertically from the pristine emerald waters to make a truly magnificent seascape to discover on a traditional junk boat or a large cruise liner. By exploring this part of the Gulf of Tonkin, it is possible to see the beautifully illuminated grottoes and caves, while also getting the option to go swimming or kayaking to get a real up close look of the sights in this spectacular bay.
Hue is a quietly impressive place and seen as one of the great religious and cultural centres of the country. Plus, it is listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site. A visit to the Imperial Citadel makes it possible to fully appreciate Hue’s fascinating history. The city is divided by the Perfume River which for centuries has been the inspiration for painters and poets. A leisurely boat trip on the Perfume River is a truly relaxing time, which can also include a trip to the old and serene temple known as the Thien Mu Pagoda. This magnificent seven-storied structure gives stunning views of the local mountains and continues to be a working Buddhist shrine.
The historic and enchanting town of Hoi An still retains its charm from its past life as a busy international trading port in the 17th and 18th centuries. This UNESCO World Heritage town is well-preserved with plenty of buildings that continue to maintain their original look and have architecture that is a fusion of foreign and indigenous cultures. A few of the local attractions include the meeting halls in the Old Town, the Chinese temples and the Japanese Bridge. This lovely town has plenty of shops, restaurants and bars, as well as a few places for buying souvenirs or even tailor-made clothes. Just 4 km from the ancient town is a picturesque stretch of beach that is perfect for a period of quiet time and to get a break from sightseeing.
Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is the vibrant and bustling economic centre of the south. Brash and boisterous, this city has plenty to see including the huge Ben Thanh market, the old French Colonial hotels, the graphic War Remnants Museum, the Reunification Palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Also, there is a perfect selection of culinary choices ranging from Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French, and many more in between. A relaxing evening can be spent on a cruise on the Saigon River.
A visit to the Cu Chi district makes it possible to see first-hand the Cu Chi underground tunnel complex used by the Viet Cong for the duration of the Vietnam War. This amazing complex of tunnels stretched nearly 200 km and included places to shelter and hide out. A limited part of the tunnels is open and specially adapted for the public to crawl through to see the resourcefulness of the Vietnamese. Also, there is a nearby firing range to try out the period weapons.
Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s lively capital city with plenty to see and many French colonial buildings. A city tour makes it possible to visit the Royal Palace, the National Museum, the Independence Monument, and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Other nearly attractions include the abandoned Royal City of Oudong, Chiso Mountain and Silk Island, which is reached by taking a scenic boat ride along the Mekong River. Plus, a visit to one of the local villages makes it possible to appreciate the authentic life of the locals who make a living by making handicrafts like jewelery, painting, pottery, woodcarving and weaving.
The primary reason to visit Siem Reap is the Angkor Temple region and Angkor Wat with the entire area spanning nearly 155 sq km. The glorious carved stone temples, incredible bas reliefs and elegant sculptures that make up the Angkor complex were originally built between the 9th and the 13th centuries and the series of cities had nearly 750,000 people living there in its heyday. Beyond the major temples like Angkor Wat, there are plenty of other minor, but still beautiful temples with delicate carvings. Other temples to visit include the, Takeo, Banteay Kdei, Prasat Kravan and the Bayon.
Also, while in Siem Reap it is possible to visit the nearby lake of Tonle Sap for an interesting tour that includes a floating village and the ability to gain insight into the daily life of the local community.
Vietnam’s most important celebration is Tet or Vietnamese New Year which is held in late January / early February to coincide with the lunar calendar. This is an exciting time to be in the country, but this time of year can get extremely busy with packed transport and tourist sites, and some businesses will be closed. Also, travel on overnight trains and flights are more difficult and it may be necessary to travel by bus during this hectic period.
Similar to Vietnam, the festival and public holiday periods in Cambodia can get quite busy, which leads to increased travel times, extremely busy transport, and businesses may close. Popular festivals include the Khmer New Year in April, the Pchum Ben in October and Water Festival in November. These festivals are not only fascinating to watch, but also a great time to interact with the locals.
For the duration of the wet season, which runs from June to October, there is the likelihood of sudden changes to the type of transport to compensate for the weather.
The dress standards in South East Asia are more conservative than most western countries which should be taken into consideration when packing. To comply with local traditions and to feel comfortable while traveller on the Vietnam Cambodia holiday, it is advised to pack the modest clothing. The preferred clothing shouldn't leave the knees or shoulders exposed. With the hot Asian climate, the long, lightweight and loose clothing is both cool and respectful. The rural areas of the country are the most conservative and clothing like tank tops and singlets are seen as unacceptable. When visiting a temple or other religious building it is essential for women to wear a sarong or long skirt while men should wear long trousers.
Passport and visas
Most nationalities are required to apply for a visa to enter the countries on the holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia. Plus, a passport must be held that has at least 6 months of validity remaining.
A tourist visa can be applied for on arrival or in advance – although there are certain countries (Italian, Spanish, French, German, British, etc) that are except from the standard visa rules, and have the ability to travel for a period of up to 15 days. For the travellers on the tour to Vietnam and Cambodia that are likely to exceed the 15 day time-frame, it is necessary to apply for a visa by contacting a relevant embassy or consulate. Need a visa to Vietnam? Please click APPLY VIETNAM VISA NOW!
Similar to Vietnam, it is a requirement to organize a tourist visa on arrival or in advance for most nationalities. In addition to contacting a local embassy or consulate, there is also the option to apply for an e-visa which is available on any of the government approved e visa websites.