It's great to find such a forum when planning a trip. I'm looking into backpacking Vietnam and Laos for three weeks next november, but I'm still not shure about my itinary. I will be arriving at Hanoi, that's almost shure. But I don't know if I should head south through Vietnam and Laos, back to Vietnam and take a plane back home from Saigon. Or go from Hanoi to Laos and then head for Bangkok. Hanoi, Saigon and Bangkok should be the places where to or where from I should take a plane, as till 10 september I can get good prices on those tickets.
This will be my first time in Asia so any advise is welcome!! Is it also realistic of covering such a trip in three weeks time. I'm not afraid of long train or bus rides, but I don't want to rush too much either.
Any suggestion on routes are welcome. But for this trip I'm most interested in going to Vietnam and Laos.
flying into or from bkk would be probably cheaper, although i don't know where u're flying from so maybe it's not.
if u're mainly interested in vietnam and laos and have 3 weeks only, u may skip thailand and, if u arrive in hanoi, head south, just to have a continuing experience of vietnam. on the way u can stop in hue, hoi an, mui ne etc. then get somehow to laos. there u might check luang prabang, the plain of jars, vang vien, vientiane.
i loved the 4000 islands but i don't think u can make it, it's on the border with cambodia.
BUT, considering ur interests and the fact that u haven't decided where to fly to/from, i'd fly to hcmc first, go north, arrive in hanoi, maybe visit the northern tribes of vietnam, then cross the border into northern laos and travel along the mekhong. i don't remeber exactly where the crossing point is, but there's one in mid laos that goes into vietnam again, so u can either fly back home from vientiane, or get back to hcmc through the crossing point and fly out from there.
if u need any more details or info write again!
If you can I would also suggest flying into Saigon and making your way up... in any event you have probably booked tickets already. You should spend some time around hanoi and I would recomend taking the bus or train down to saigon and then head to laos. Definately take the time to see all the places mentioned by rolla. I didnt (in laos anyway) and in all liklihood will be back there in february to fill in the gaps from my last trip. You can see quite a bit in the 3 weeks you have, but yes alot of it will be from the seat of a bus. My advice would be to do your research in advance, decide where you definately want to go and just make sure you get there. Transport around vietnam is pretty hassle free (its an adventure but quite reliable). Laos is also pretty easy to travel round. You might consider taking some domestic flights within vietnam (in particular) and laos if this fits into your budget. They are not overly expensive and it will save you quite a bit of time and obviously your time is limited.
Good luck... you will have a great time!
just remember in your 3 weeks you wont see everything, but make sure you see everything you want to.
I don't think it matters what your point of entry is into Vietnam, but if you fly into Hanoi, head south and leave through Saigon or vice versa. I would suggest 2 days in Hanoi, overnight train to Sapa and trek for 2 days before getting the overnight train back to Hanoi, and then head to Halong Bay, spend the night at sea on a boat and then head down south the next day. I would then do a day or 2 in Hue and Hoi An before heading to Saigon, maybe do 2 days sightseeing in Saigon, have a day on the mekong delta and then you will be ready for Laos. Of course you can start in Saigon and do it the other way round too.
If you book a few flights from BKK at the same time it might work out fairly cheap. I spoke with a girl the other night and she booked 5 flights (Chang Mai - BKK - Saigon - Nha Trang - Saigon - Bkk for about £150). Lots of the buses here are overnight buses so you don't waste too many days travelling if you choose the bus option.
Thanx for the great advise!! I think it's indeed a good idea to fly into Saigon, make my way up north to Hanoi at the speed I want, then I can decide if I have enough time to make it to Laos. I really want to visit Laos, but I don't want to do it at the cost of missing out on things in Vietnam as there is a lot I want to see and taste.
Since this is going to have to be a budget trip, could anybody give any advise on airplane tickets? I'm from Belgium, but as it seems right now I will be flying out from Paris. The cheapest tickets to Vietnam I have found are around €630. Does anybody know anyway to get it cheaper. I can fly out from Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt.
And where should I look into for flight between Hanoi or Saigon and Vientiane?
Thanx a lot! I'm off counting down the days I still have to work 'till I can finally leave ....
I know vietnam airlines flies from hanoi to vientiane. These flights might be quite expensive though as there is not much competition for flights in and out of vietnam. My advice would be to see what sort of deals you can get from travel agents around vietnam and plan the laos leg as you go through vietnam. You may have to backtrack through thailand for better flights to laos. I found that the agents I used in thailand were able to get me quite a good deal for multiple destinations. Just as an example, in Jan/Feb this year, I flew from Bangkok-Vietiane-Luang Prabang- Chiang Mai for about $300 Australian Dollars (approx 180 Euros). Cant give you any idea's regarding flights to/from vietnam as I had already incorporated this into my ticket before departure. If you could fly through bangkok on your way to vietnam, it would make fitting in Laos much easier...
Good luck with it all! you will have a great time regardless but I hope you find the time to visit Laos!
I popped into a travel agent this afternoon in saigon to find out some prices for you. It's not good reading:
Saigon - Vientiane one way is $230 US, double that for a return
Hanoi - Vientiane one way is $180 US, double for a return again.
I just asked in one place, so this is just a rough guide, but as AlexT has pointed out, there is very little competition on this route so prices are high.
An open bus ticket from Saigon - Hanoi is $20 US and you can stop at places like Dalat, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue and Mui Ne on your journey.
If you don't make it to Laos and have to fly home from the same airport you land and you don't want to bus the whole length of Vietnam twice then a single air ticket from Hanoi to Saigon is about $100 US.
You need any more info just give me a shout because i'm in Saigon at the moment and i will find out what you need to know if i can.
twoism... I was just having a scan around on the laos airlines website and I noticed that they have a number of excursion passes which are reasonably priced and would suit your needs given your lack of time. Might help in getting from hanoi to laos. Also it might eb worth checking out their normal fares as they are not overly expensive...
Thanx for you great input. If we ever happen to run into eachother, remember me to buy you a beer, guys!
But all this info is giving me more questions. Those Laos Airlines prices are really interesting. I'm especially looking at either Hanoi-Vientiane-Bankok or Luang Prabang-Vientiane-Bankok (how fast can you get from Hanoi to Luang Prabang overland?). But this means I'll have to go through Vietnam in a week an half tops to get to spend a reasonable time in Laos and a couple of days in Bangkok. But ... I want to travel!!
I have some more question, but I think I can find the answers in a guidebook I'm gonna buy soon.
From Hanoi to Laos Laos Airlines depart everyday. the fare arround i check with Laos booking office is about175 USD/way
Another way to Lao is to join open bus depart at 7 P.M arrival Laos about 4 P.M the next day.