Hello, I am planning a trip to backpack throughout SE Asia this summer with one other person. We have just started planning it and I would like some advice. We would ike to visit Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. My first question is what country would be cheapest to fly into from the US? Thailand or Vietnam? Also, what cities in each are the cheapest to fly into? We would like to start with one of those so that then we can work our way either left of right. What are some websites where I could find cheap asia flights? We were thinking for the three countiries we would like to be gone for two and a half to three weeks.. will this be a sufficient amount of time? Also, as far as traveling between countries goes, am I able to take a bus or train ,or would flying be best? I would prefer to take a train, as it would be cheaper. These are just a few of my initial questions, and I'm sure I'll have much more...any advice would be well appreciated, thanks!
It is much cheaper to fly into BKK than HAN from the US. Many more flights means better prices. My last trip to SEA in '08, it was cheaper to fly LAX-SIN than LAX-BKK. Since I have friends in SIN, I flew there first. My blog covers that and my time in VN, Cambodia & Thailand. My photos covers all 3 countries as well. Try several big search engines for your airfare. Try 'momondo', 'kayak' 'airfare', 'priceline'. I joined 'skyauction', free to join, bid on the flight you want. Be sure to add the extras because a $600 airfare can jump to $900 with extra charges. Once you get a decent quote, go to that airline's website and see if they have an online discount.
I don't think 2-3 weeks are enough to hit all 3 countries. Most TP members spend 2-4 weeks in either Thailand or VN. Not try to do both plus Cambodia. I would decide on either Thailand or VN for 2 weeks and save 7 days for Cambodia. If you choose Thailand, I would spend 1 week to hit culture: say a Chiang Mai trek and Ayutthaya. Then head south for beach time. I would pick either the Phuket-Krabi side, but you might decide on Koh Samui & Phangan side. I would not book anything beforehand. The weather might be much better on the opposite side if you pick one before arriving in Thailand. Don't stress about finding a room in your price range. You will find an acceptable room on arrival.
If you choose VN, compare flying into BKK and taking an Air Asia flight: BKK-Han. This way you can use 2 weeks going from HaNoi to HCMC, into Cambodia for Phnom Penh & Siem Reap for Angkor and use 1 day to get back to BKK for your flight home. If you fly into HAN direct, you have to fly VN Airlines back to HAN for your flight home. This is usually an expensive flight. Check some dates for prices: REP-HAN. Then you will have a better idea what is best for you.
Send me a PM if you have questions. Good luck with your planning.
I'm sure you realize how hot SE Asia is in the summer? I think the ideal itinerary would have you flying open-jaw into Hanoi and then return from Bangkok. Usually the cheapest fare is a simple roundtrip, but these days the rules have all been torn up and anything goes. I've been there 3 times, and my cheapest flight from San Francisco was the last one in Oct/Nov '09 - I paid $706. total for a roundtrip SF to Saigon on EVA Air, and it was an excellent deal with an excellent airline (new B777-300ER via Taipei). Prices will change with supply and demand, and demand is usually fairly high in summer.
I warn you not to fly on a US carrier - the service is poor, they charge for drinks - I flatly refuse when Asian airlines are so very good and so cheap. If you like EVA, I urge you to join their FF Evergreen club and you will get even better deals.
3 weeks for 3 countries is not really practical, IMHO. I would suggest 3 weeks for Vietnam alone. Vietnam is cheaper than Thailand, and slightly more expensive than Cambodia. I have not been to Cambodia, but of the other 2 countries, I far prefer Vietnam.
These websites are rather good for planning and buying air travel:
Expenses in Vietnam are very low by American standards. I'm an old fart and need a little more comfort than you kids, so I spend about $50. a day for everything. I'm sure you 20-somethings can get by on $40. with no sweat at all. Hostels start under $10. a night and nice inexpensive hotels about $15. Vietnam is safe, friendly and amazing! You will have a hard time returning to the States as so many of us have experienced.
[ Edit: Edited on 27-Jan-2010, at 22:08 by Daawgon ]