I am very excited because this is my first post on this forum!
I am flying to Kathmandu, Nepal in about 1.5 months on a four-month volunteer program. As much as I would like to stay in that region of the world indefinitely I fear that I don't have the money for it, so I am looking into booking an open-jaw air ticket from San Francisco - arriving in Nepal and then leaving from Hanoi, Thailand. The flights as of now don't look too bad for the dates I need ($1300 round trip).
I am an American citizen (with an American passport) and have never traveled in this part of the world before and, except for Nepal, I am unfamiliar with the visa requirements, access to public transportation locally and going in between countries, etc. for Myanmar, Thailand, Laos (although I've heard getting a tourist visa for Laos for an American citizen is very expensive) and of course Vietnam. Would traveling from Kathmandu, Nepal to the airport in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2.5 weeks via bus/train/plane be a reasonable goal during this coming July?! Can anyone out there think of some awesome sample itinerary of cities to visit along my way?
ANY and all advice appreciated - and if anyone is interested in tagging along, let me know!
Thank you so much,
Anything is possible with time and money, but in the real world you can't get from Nepal to Vietnam by bus via India/Bangladesh - Myanmar/Burma - Thailand/Laos then into Vietnam. The logistics would be insane.
Much better in my opinion to fly directly to Thailand or Vietnam and spend your 2.5 weeks travelling and vegging out before you fly out of Hanoi. (By the way, Hanoi is presently my favourite SE Asia city and it's worth several days all by itself.)
Have fun with your research.
Check out this U.S. State Department Web site for visa requirements of the countries you're planning to visit: http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/english.html. The tourist visa for Laos isn't expensive; but you should check the State Department site for its advice on obtaining a tourist visa for Vietnam. More later.
Logistically it's possible, but not practical, as you don't have enough time. I traveled in November with a Swiss/German couple that planned to cross the border from the Indian state of Manipur to Myanmar. Given your limited time, I suggest you buy an "open jaw" ticket from San Francisco to Kathmandu; and return from either Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur to San Francisco, instead of Hanoi. The price of your roundtrip ticket would be about the same. Returning from Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur would give you more options for visiting elsewhere in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar. Both are gateway cities. For example, you can fly inexpensively from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia (to see the Angkor temples), to Hanoi; or to Yangon and Mandalay in Myanmar. There are a lot more possibilities from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur than from Hanoi. Check it out.
Thanks for all of your advice! It looks like getting a visa to Vietnam might be tricky in my small time frame (although I do live fairly close to San Fransisco/the Vietnam Consulate). There are so many places I'd love to go in SE Asia, I'm not sure where to start. I will call the Consulate and keep poking around this neat ITA software for flight itinerary that I found!
Both Malaysia and Thailand do not require visas of Americans. You can get visas to Cambodia and Laos on arrival. Before traveling, check the State Department's Web site, travel.state.gov, for the latest entry and exit requirements for each country. I still think returning to San Francisco from Bangkok or KL would be your best bet as they are served by more airlines with more flights. Before buying your ticket, check other Web sites besides ITA, which is owned by Google (which also has another site that tracks fares). Before buying, also check the sites of the airlines. Get to know their routes. Play around with a multi-city itinerary and you could discover that the fare won't be much more than you originally planned to pay. Also check using BKK as a hub. Your options will be clearer as you gather more information. Good luck!
Wait, If I buy an open jaw from San Fransisco to Kathmandu and then, say, Bangkok back to SFO, won't I still need to book a flight from Kathmandu to Bangkok? How would that work with an open jaw booking? Or would I just book that flight separately?
Think about what you're asking...
1.) At some point you have a flight from your home in San Francisco to Kathmandu.
2.) At some point - months later - you have a flight from Bangkok back to your home in San Francisco.
It's kinda obvious that you need to get to Bangkok at some point to catch your flight home, no?
[ Edit: Edited on 30-Jan-2015, at 20:15 by CheersT ]
The economies of Nepal and neighboring Bhutan are strongly linked to India's. So the cheapest flights from KTM will be to India's major cities, including CCU, DEL and BOM. From those cities -- and others -- you can buy affordable one-way tickets to major Asian gateway cities, such as BKK, KUL, SIN and HKG -- or wherever you think you want to fly home from. Air Asia, for example, has a bargain fare from CCU to KUL. Jet Airways and Thai Airways both have reasonable fares from BOM and DEL to BKK. Please note that fares from DEL often are higher than from BOM. I won't go into the reasons for this. If you want, you can buy tickets online from the major Indian carriers, such as Jet and IndiGo. The purchase will be priced in rupees, so it helps to use a card that doesn't assess a foreign transaction fee. I flew both Jet and IndiGo in November and December. Both have better on-time records than Air India. So play around with destinations. Then use Web sites, such as seat61.com, for overland transportation ideas. For example, you can take a train from SIN to KUL to BKK, or the other way around. If you plan to travel in India, you'll need to get a visa in advance. It's not cheap. But for Americans it's valid for 10 years. India is a fascinating country. Some people love traveling there. Others hate it. You'll need to see for yourself. I've been to India many times; and was in Madhya Pradesh and Assam on my recent trip, which also included Bhutan. So look at the map; look at where the airlines fly; then consider the possibilities. But don't dawdle. Your departure for KTM is only 1.5 months away. You'll need to buy your air tickets soon; and get any necessary visas.
[ Edit: Edited on 30-Jan-2015, at 21:32 by berner256 ]