Im planning a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Maybe even one nite in Japan. I was wondering:
- Where is it safe to travel in Vietnam & Cambodia
- Is it cheaper to take a train from country to country or fly?
- Any words of wisdom?
(Weve already been to Thailand)
[ Edit: Edited on Oct 16, 2008, at 1:24 PM by victoria87 ]
Safety - I can only speak for Vietnam, but safety is not an issue at all in that country. You'll be surprised how modern, friendly and safe VN is (especially friendly!)
Train - It is not possible to cross borders in Indochina by train as one can do in Malaysia-Thailand-Singapore. Air is often just as cheap as the train since LCC's have arrived (Air Asia, Jetstar and Tiger). I don't believe Cambodia or Laos have any trains, and trains in Vietnam do not always meet Western standards (the luxury trains between HCMC-Nha Trang and Hanoi-Lao Cai/Sapa are very good).
I was in Vietnam in March, and highly recommend that time of year since it's neither very hot or very cold in all regions, and the high season crowds have disappeared.
Do not be scared off by reports of scams and other minor difficulties - like anywhere, the tourist must use good judgment and common sense. There is a great deal of hawking of wares throughout Indochina, but that's part of travel in a developing country. For myself, a senior American, I'm making my second trip within a year soon because I found the region so great, so welcoming, and so interesting. You will have a fabulous time!
My suggestion is to start reading this forum, Tripadvisor and Thorn Tree. I have found the local travel agencies in Vietnam to be quite good generally, but always get a recommendation first, before financial commitment.
As stated by Johnny, VN is pretty safe. It is a communist country and they run a pretty tight ship. There is still theft from rooms and street scammers, but usually not mugging and robberies.
I suggest you make it difficult for thieves. Use PacSafe if you use a backpack. Your room is the least secure place to leave valuables. Most hotels/guesthouses have a secure place for your: passport, credit cards, air tickets, cash, etc. Use that option rather than your room. Have an undergarmet pouch to store valuables when you are on trains, buses, boats, etc. Your day bag is safer than a bag in the bus storage area, if you keep your eye on your day bag. If it has your camera, MP3, etc, never let it out of your sight.
Cambodia certainly has more per capita crime than VN. But, if you take basic precautions, you should have little difficulty. Like most of SEA, Cambodia is a poor country. Do not flash large amounts of money. Do not walk around at night in Phnom Penh. Riding motos around Sihanoukville at night is not a good idea either. Many have been robbed down there over the years. Use a taxi or tuk tuk at night in both cities. Only have daily cash on you when walking around. Of course this is not possible when you are arriving from elsewhere. Have your PacSafe to secure your backpack, make use of your undergarmet pouch. Nothing visible to tempt theft.
Now trains. You cannot cross from country to country via train. Cambodia does have train service, but it is really not a viable transport option. Unless you have all day and want to see Battambang!
In VN, I would use the open tour bus option. Cheaper and allows more flexiblity than train service. Send me a PM if you have questions.
[ Edit: Edited on Oct 17, 2008, at 6:03 PM by vegasmike6 ]