Was wondering if anyone could help?
I'm planning to travel around these countries with a friend for just under 3 months.We are arriving in Bangkok sometime in september and plan to make our way up to Chiang Kong into Laos then head on to Louang Phabang and up to Hanoi. Once in Hanoi we are hoping to get the train down to Ho Chi minh stopping in quite a few places along the way although not too sure where yet? From Ho Chi Minh, we'd like to travel into Cambodia before heading to southern thailand. I know this is quite a bit to answer however I'd be really grateful if someone could give us just a few pointers as to what they found interesting/worthwhile along the way.
Get a Lonely Planet Travel Guide for South East Asia. Read up on these areas, check out a map so that you can organize and tighten up some of your travel plans.
Thailand does not require a visa for stays of less than 30 days. If you plan to leave Thailand for another country do it before the 30 days are up and you will not have to pay for a visa.
When you re-enter Thailand from another country your 30 day window starts all over. Plan accordingly.
Most of the Communist countries do require a visa that you pay for. You have to figure how you will handle that task.
You don't have to buy a lot of travel guides, sometimes you can use the travel guides in your town library.
Next you have to figure out how you will handle carrying your money, TC's, ATM's, cash - all have their particular problems and benefits. Not all countries are the same as far as the value of their currency. When in Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam change your money back into your home currency or spend it down. No one wants those currencies after you leave there. U.S. dollars accepted pretty willingly in Cambodia and Laos and easily converted into any currency you want.
Got some planning to do before you leave home. Avoid taking anything of great value with you if you can. Otherwise you will be crying big crocodile tears if that item became lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep it simple, pack cheap.
travelfish.com has a lot of good info about SE Asia and they will create a travel guidebook for you for free with country info, places to stay and eat, internet cafes, and so on. I'll be in SE Asia at the same time, starting from China so going the opposite direction. Maybe we'll cross paths. I was in Thailand last Christmas and would definitely reccommend staying in Ao Nang for a few days to a week. It's pretty cheap and there's a ton to do. I'm planning to end my 3-month trip there doing some climbing and relaxing this November. If you and your friend are climbers let me know. katie
BTW- I took travellers checks with me to Thailand and felt a lot safer and got a better exchange rate than cash. Not sure why, but I would definitely reccommend TC. Thailand's not that bad, but I've heard of a lot of people being robbed in other SE countries, esp. Vietnam. You can put the cancellation info. in an e-mail to yourself in case you need to cancel them.
Al and Katie have givien you good advice. I second travel checks. I also got a better rate in Pattaya with TC rather than cash. I had cash/TC/passport in a pouch under my clothes, better than trusting your room. Use the lock boxes if offered, but the cheap places I stayed did not have them.
I would use the open tour bus in VN. Cheaper and more convenient than the train. I just did Hanoi-Saigon with Hanh cafe open tour, PM me if you need details.
Cambodia: visa can be obtained at the airport. Make sure you have a couple of passport photo with you. Cost: I paid US$20 the last time I was there.
Laos: can be obtained upon arrival. Costs US$30.00.
Vietnam: visa should be obtained prior to arrival. Cost: the last time I checked was $US60.00 (why too high??). It's the most expensive of the four countries in question.
The Vietnam visa seems to have no fixed price. It is between $25-30 and anything above that is greed or graft. I paid $28 in Phnom Penh several times, $45 if you get it from San Francisco before leaving the US. I also tried once in Singapore and was quoted $75 to get it in 1 day. I passed. Get your VN visa in BKK or PP if possible.