Saigon to Siem Reap Map

Mekong Delta, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia – Living Ideas


FEBRUARY 2020:



OVERVIEW:

I flew my 2 daughters out from New Zealand to join me in Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Our plan was to tour the Mekong Delta before making our way up through Cambodia to Siem Reap (picking up the best highlights along the way).

This is our route:Saigon to Siem Reap Map

… this is our story …


PLEASE NOTE:

The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (or the ‘VND’). I will refer to them as V$s. At the time of writing, the exchange rates were:

US$1EU€1GB£1
Published Wholesale RateV$23,215V$25,775V$30,156
Effective Exchange RateV$22,538V$25,023V$29,276

You will not get these wholesale rates; expect to lose 3%.


Cambodia has a dual currency system. They use US$s and Cambodian Riel (HKR). You, mainly, use US$s. HKR is used for small change (like coins). US$1 = HKR4,100; in reality, you will get HKR4,000. At the time of writing, the exchange rates were:

EU€1GB£1
Published Wholesale RateUS$0.8859US$0.7664
Effective Exchange RateUS$0.8505US$0.7357

You will not get these wholesale rates; expect to lose 4%.


Over time, these exchange rates will change. Please check the current rates.


SAIGON / HCMC:

GETTING THERE:

My daughters landed at HCMC International Airport.

Public Transport is available from outside of International Arrivals. We caught the #152 to District 1. The price is V$5k each. Sometimes they will also charge another V$5k for each large suitcase. You can also catch the tourist bus #190 which costs V$20k each. Both drop you off at Ham Nghi 4 on the edge of the District 1 Tourist Centre.Ham Nghi 4 HCMC Map

For bus information check out the BusMap website (or download the app).

WHERE TO STAY:

We chose to stay at the Chura Homestay (Wine&Bistro Chura on the map) located about 400 metres from the ‘party area’ around Bui Vien street. We booked 2 months in advance and got a good discounted rate of V$308,750 per night per Studio Room.HCMC - Chura Homestay - Room Entry

For this price, we each got a Double room with kitchenette, Cable TV, aircon, good wifi, and hot water private bathroom.

ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com

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MONEY / ATMs:

In Vietnam, I strongly recommend that you use an Agribank ATM. They only charge V$22k for you to draw out V$3m.

Avoid ATMs that do not tell you what fee they will charge: they don’t display the fee because it is, usually, 2x or 3x the Agribank price.

VISAS:

My youngest daughter travels on a United Kingdom passport. People from the UK (and several other countries) can, now, get a 15 day Tourist Visa On Arrival. This 15 Day Visa is free. Just walk straight through Immigration and get your Entry Stamp.

My eldest daughter (Bridget) travels on a New Zealand passport. New Zealanders cannot get the 15 Day Visa On Arrival. She went to the Vietnam Consulate in Wellington (New Zealand) and got a 1 Month Tourist Visa in advance. This cost her NZ$120 / US$80. With this, she (also) walked straight through Immigration and got her Entry Stamp free.

If you need a Visa in Advance but cannot get to a Vietnam Consulate, get your visa through a reputable agent such as Vietnam Visa.

SHOPPING:

We spent our time in Saigon shopping. We bought most of our ‘designer’ clothes in and around the Saigon 1 Shopping Centre.Saigon 1 Shopping Map

Short-sleeve / sleeveless designer sports tops (such as Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, etc) can be had for V$100k / US$4. Long-sleeve sports tops for V$150k / US$6.


MY THO:

GETTING THERE:

The FUTA bus is one of the safest and most recommended buses for tourists in Vietnam. A bus to My Tho costs about V$100k. A bus to Can Tho V$145k.

For V$180k (which we got discounted down to V$160k) you can buy a 1 day tour. This tour leaves HCMC at 8am and returns from My Tho at 3pm. We just asked to be dropped off in My Tho and to not return to Saigon. No problem.

THE 1 DAY MEKONG DELTA TOUR:

The benefit of the 1 Day Tour is that you get to see a lot of sights around My Tho as well as extras such as a free lunch. It takes 2.5 hours to get to My Tho. You start My Tho sightseeing at the Pagoda.My Tho - 1 Day Tour - 2 My Tho - 1 Day Tour - 11

Then, take a boat trip to some islands in the Mekong River.My Tho - 1 Day Tour - 12

Then, visit coconut and honey making factories before jumping on a speed boat and a sampan.My Tho - 1 Day Tour - 16

And, finish by taking the ferry back to My Tho boat dock.

WHERE TO STAY:

From the boat dock, we walked 400m to our hotel. We booked 1 night in the Minh Tai Hotel. We didn’t book in advance. We just turned up and paid V$250k per night per room. We got a Double Room each with Cable TV, mini fridge, kettle, good wifi, and hot water private bathroom.Minh Tai Hotel Map

We just wanted to find somewhere close to the boat dock … because we were only staying 1 night before leaving for Can Tho in the morning.

ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com

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CAN THO:

GETTING THERE:

Our My Tho hotel helped us to book a FUTA bus from My Tho to Can Tho. The price was V$135k each. The good thing about FUTA is that they provide a free shuttle bus to pick you up from your hotel. This takes you to the main bus. They, also, provide a free shuttle bus at your destination to take you to the hotel there.Can Tho - Tour - 2

Our bus was very comfortable. We each got a bed. It took 3 hours to get to Can Tho.

WHERE TO STAY:

We booked 2 nights in the Motel Thanh Hang. We paid V$200k per night per Double room.Motel Thanh Hang Map

We wanted somewhere close to the Ben Ninh Kieu Wharf.

ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com

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FLOATING MARKET / 6 HOUR SAMPAN:

That same afternoon, we walked down to the Ben Ninh Kieu Wharf and negotiated a 6 hour sampan cruise on the Mekong River for the next day. We paid V$600k each for a private sampan for the 3 of us. Our trip started at 5am. We cruised down the Mekong for about 1 hour to the Floating Market … there wasn’t much happening.Can Tho Tour 4

We cruised for another 30 minutes to a smaller floating market. This was, basically, set up just for tourists.Can Tho - Tour - 7

Afterwards, we cruised some smaller canals.Can Tho - Tour - 10

Stopped for lunch (not included).Can Tho - Tour - 12

And returned to Can Tho where we spent our 2nd night.


CHAU DOC:

GETTING THERE:

We caught another FUTA bus from Can Tho to Chau Doc. We paid V$100k each. This included pick up and drop off from / to our hotels. The trip took just over 4 hours.

WHERE TO STAY:

We booked 2 nights at the Khach San 20. We paid V$920k for 3 separate Twin Fan Rooms for 2 nights each (V$153,333 per night). The room came with fan (no aircon), cable TV, and hot water private bathroom.Khach San 20 Map

We wanted to be near to the Ferry Dock where you catch the speed boat to Phnom Penh.

ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com

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DAY TOUR TO TRA SU CAJUPUT FOREST:

At our hotel we booked a day trip for US$30 each. We negotiated a free Breakfast in that price.Chau Doc - Tour - 2

We each got a scooter and driver. They picked us up from the hotel and drove us for 1 hour to the forest stopping for a ‘bum rest’ and photos along the way.Chau Doc - Tour - 5

We cruised around the Forest in a sampan for about 1 hour and walked the longest bamboo bridge in the World (nearly 3kms long).Chau Doc - Tour - 11

Then, we drove on to Sam Mountain for a view and a rest.Chau Doc - Tour - 16

Before returning home to our hotel via Ba Chua Xu Temple.Chau Doc - Tour - 21


PHNOM PENH:

GETTING THERE:

We bought our Speed Boat ticket up the Mekong River to Phnom Penh at our hotel for US$27 each. This included a tuk tuk pick up from our hotel.Phnom Penh - Bridget Tuk Tuk to Chau Doc port 1

You stop at the Vietnam riverside border to ‘clock out’ and, then, the Cambodian riverside border. At the latter you have to pay US$30 for your 30 Day Tourist Visa PLUS US$5 for the boat to organise it. MAKE SURE that your US$s are pristine with no tears … or they may not be accepted. My one and only US$100 bill had been folded in half (by a previous owner) and it took 30 minutes of hard negotiation before they finally accepted it!Phnom Penh - Chau Doc Ferry 1

You get a free snack bag and small water on the boat. After a total of 5 hours we landed in Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh.Phnom Penh - Mekong River from Bow

From there, we paid US$2 for a Tuk Tuk to take us 700m to our hotel.

WHERE TO STAY:

We booked 2 nights at the Nawin Guesthouse. We paid US$14.50 per night for a Double Room (single occupancy) and US$14.75 per night for a Twin Room. The rooms came with kettle, cable TV, aircon, good wifi, and hot water private bathroom.Nawin Guesthouse Map

We wanted to be near the Ferry Dock and within easy walking distance of the Tourist Centre (found between the Ferry Dock and the Nawin Hotel).

ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com

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A DAY IN PHNOM PENH:

We decided not to do the sadness of the Killing Fields tour … and spent 1 day walking around the sights in the centre of Phnom Penh.


BATTAMBANG:

GETTING THERE:

We wanted to cruise up the Tomle Sap lake … but we arrived at the wrong time of the year … water levels were too low and the ferry was not operating.

So, we booked a Bayon VIP bus at a Tour Agent in Phnom Penh. We paid US$11 each for the 6 hour trip. We found out later that we could have booked the same seats online at the Bayon VIP website for US$8 each. This included pick up from our hotel. Drop off was at the Battambang Boeung Chhouk Market.

WHERE TO STAY:

We booked a Double Room (single occupancy) and a Twin Room at the First Hotel. Both were fan rooms. The Double was US$6 per night and the Twin US$7. The rooms came with cable TV, fan, good wifi, and hot water private bathroom.First Hotel Map

We booked the First Hotel because we wanted to be near the market AND because we wanted to safely rent 2 scooters … First Hotel said that they had scooter rentals … but, read on.

ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com

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1 DAY SCOOTER ADVENTURE:

There are several sights around Battambang that we wanted to do ourselves. First Hotel did not rent their own scooters. Instead, we were told to walk 20 metres down the road to the Lucky Hostel. We rented 2 scooters there for US$7 each. We had to leave 1 passport as security. We put US$1 of petrol in each and set off for the day. We needed to top up each with another US$1 of petrol on the way around.

We started by getting out of town to eat Breakfast in a local cafe with a pot of tea: US$4 total for 3 people. We, then, drove to the Bamboo Railway. The tickets are US$5 per person for a 1 hour trip.Battambang - Bamboo Railway

We, then, drove further south to the Green Orange Cafe. They rent kayaks at US$15 each for 1.5 hours. We thought that this was too expensive so drove west to the Kamping Puoy Reserve / Lake. Here we stopped in a small cafe to drink fresh coconuts (US$1 each) and swing in hammocks.Battambang - George Bridge Hammock 1

We drove down country roads.Battambang - George Bridge Open Road

And, over swing bridges.Battambang - George Bridge 3

And, stopped at some temples along the way.Battambang - Bridget George Temple

After the lake, we headed back to the Bat Cave. We were too early … you really need to be there at dusk when the bats fly out in their 100,000s.

A great day out.


SIEM REAP:

GETTING THERE:

We booked a Mekong Express VIP Shuttle for US$8 each. They picked us up from our hotel. The trip took 4 hours and they dropped us off in Siem Reap at their central office. From there, we paid US$2 for a Tuk Tuk to our hotel.

WHERE TO STAY:

We booked a Deluxe Double and a Deluxe Twin at the Garden Village Guest House & Pool Bar (GVGH). I knew it from the last time that I was in Siem Reap. This a young, fun, backpacker place. We booked 4 nights 2 months in advance and got a discounted price of US$10 per night for the Double and US$12.50 per night for the Twin. Both came with aircon, good wifi, and hot water private bathroom.Garden Villas Guesthouse Map

GVGH is an easy walk to Pub Street (the main Tourist Area of Siem Reap). It plays loud music all day around the Pool Area but is quiet at night.

ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com

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We were in Siem Reap for Angkor Wat … I will tell you more about that in my next post.


GENERAL INFORMATION:

Some more useful info …

HEALTH INSURANCE:

I got online and bought a 1-year WorldNomads Backpacker Policy for US$565. I don’t need all of the ‘bells and whistles’ that go with the more expensive policies. I, fundamentally, just need Medical and Personal Indemnity Insurance. Read more here.

CAMBODIA US$s:

Even though the major currency in Cambodia is US$s, the locals are VERY careful. They will NOT ACCEPT any notes that are not pristine: a corner missing, a tear, written on, and (sometimes) folded.

If they have a ‘bad’ note, they will try and bum it off onto you … and you will not be able to use it. Check every note that you receive to make sure that it is OK. If you do end up with ‘bad’ notes, go to the Bank of Cambodia: this is the only bank that will exchange them for good ones.

INTERNET / WIFI:

In Vietnam, buy a Viettel SIM Card with a 1 month 2GB Data Plan for V$140k.

In Cambodia, buy either a Metfone or Cellcard SIMcard with a 15 Day unlimited Data Plan for US$5.

WHEN TO GO:

The climate in the Mekong Delta is:HCMC Climate Chart

The climate in Phnom Penh is:Phnom Penh Climate Chart

The climate in Siem Reap is:Siem Reap Climate Chart

The best time to do this trip is November through April.


CONCLUSION:

Many GRANDPAckers will enjoy this trip.

It is very affordable, varied, easy to do, and the accommodation meets GRANDPAcking Standard.

Meals typically cost US$1.50-US$3.00. Beers typically cost US$0.50c to US$1.00.

TTFN


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