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Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam for 65 year olds

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My husband and I, healthy, and in our 60's, plan on a three or four week trip with two friends from Boston to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia in February/March 2018. We are wondering what are the best airlines and tips on places to go and how to get there and what we should avoid or be aware of as a little bit older travelers. We live in Missoula Mt and assume our best bet is to fly to Seattle and fly out from there. We could also fly to Oakland on Allegiant Air and start from there. We are most interested in tips on how to get there, good airlines, trains, transportation modes, where to land first, where to depart from and how to get from place to place on the journey. We lived overseas and know how to travel lightly but we are not interested in trekking/ backpacking/hostels but also as retired teachers, we would like to travel economically. Thank you!

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    As someone who lives in Seattle, you can certainly fly to SE Asia from Seattle, but you will have more airline choices from LAX or SFO. There are lots of airlines to choose form. You will likely fly to Narita or Seoul and onward to Bangkok from there. BKK is the least expensive gateway to SE Asia. Within SE Asia, again, lots of choices in airlines: Air Asia is usually cheapest, but take a look at Bangkok Air, which has a Discovery Pass that is a great deal. You may be able to get a good deal on a full-service airline such as Thai, if you book it in combination with your trans-Pacific flight.

    Which airline alliance do you usually use? With flights that long, it pays to stick with your usual alliance. We fly Star Alliance, so last trip we flew Asiana across the Pacific, then Thai to Bangkok. On the way home, we flew Thai to Narita and ANA home to Seattle. Other airlines to consider are Cathay Pacific if you fly from Vancouver or SFO.

    You will want to fly from country to country in SE Asia. There are a couple of places where trains may make sense, such as in VN. But unless you are a train buff, I'd fly within Thailand.

    The good news for your budget is that this is an inexpensive part of the world in which to travel. You'll find lodging in nice hotels is much less than domestic travel in the US. Also, hiring a car and driver is an economical way to get places that are relatively close.

    It is hard to give you much specific info as your questions are so broad. You'd benefit from a good guidebook (I like Lonely Planet) to get you headed in the right direction.

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    I would start with to get a baseline on what to expect (price, time, routes). I would avoid flying through China (I've read horror stories about delays).
    Bangkok is probably the best place to meet your friends. Cathay, JAL, ANA, EVA, Asiana, and Korean tend to be my friends top picks when flying to Asia.
    Check into regional airlines for travel within SE Asia (just check their safety record). The distances between places may be small, but the drive may be very long.
    Personally, I would avoid the land boarder between Cambodia and Thailand. It is crazy and confusing (and prey for scammers).

    Check out "cabbages and condoms" restaurant in Bangkok. Good food with a social cause (warning it is decorated tastefully with condoms). In Phnom Penh check out "friends" restaurant. Good food and working on giving street children job skills.

    Look into adding Laos to your itinerary.

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    For my 2 cents worth, fly round trip to Bangkok. From Thailand it is easy to get to nearby countries. Round trip is usually cheaper than one way to Thailand and one way back home from a different country. Do the math!

    Flying between Thailand and either country is not that expensive. Return to Bangkok for a night or two and fly home from there. If you have winter clothing and stuff not needed in Asia the first hotel you use in Bangkok can store some of your stuff. When you return claim your clothing and whatever. Many hotels do this because you spend another night with them.

    There is a big time difference between Thailand and the US. On the flight over bring a sleep mask and some ear plugs. Try to get a little sleep on the plane if you can. My advice is to NOT sleep in the first morning in Asia. Get up at least before 8 a.m. to get your body on Thai time.

    For first time arrival in Asia my suggestion is use an airline that has you arriving in Bangkok during the day or early evening hours. More transportation choices at that time and you actually get more use of your hotel room. From Suvarnabhumi (most flights from the US arrive here.) there is rail service to the city areas. (Airport Rail Link connects with the subway and the Skytrain.) There are hotels you can get to by rail service. But rail service stops at midnight until 0600.

    I am familiar with Bangkok so arrival late is not a big problem for me. Currently using Delta because I inherited a lot of miles with them when Northwest was sold. Last flight to Thailand was overbooked and Delta put me on Cathay. Cathay, to me, was nicer than Delta and got me to Bangkok around 8 or 9 pm vs around midnight with Delta.

    Bangkok has two airports. Don Muang is the older and smaller airport. Flights to nearby countries leave from both airports. Some discount airlines have lower weight allowances if overweight you may pay for those extra pounds. I have booked flights in person from several Bangkok travel agencies to nearby countries with a couple days notice.

    Use Google and do a search for scams to avoid in each country you visit. Know how to get from airport to hotel, know how to use taxis and other local transportation. Google search (use a laptop or desktop for best research) will narrow down some good information you can look over.

    For Thailand change your dollars there to Thai baht for best return. Lots of banks will change dollars to Thai baht (You use Thai baht in Thailand for normal purchases and not USD.) You can use use ATMs for cash withdrawals but there is a big fee so take out the most you can at one time. Have back up debit and credit cards for emergencies that may come up. For using debit cards in ATMs for cash remember to notify your banks you will be using their cards overseas BEFORE leaving on your trip. Don't alarm your bank with withdrawals that suddenly come up from foreign countries.

    For Cambodia and Vietnam US dollars is a de facto currency. But you will still have to change some dollars to their currency so you don't pay a buck for a 10 cent item. Don't leave Cambodia and Vietnam with their currency because no one wants to cash it in a different country. Google search with your computer will give you more details for money in Cambodia and Vietnam. (When you fly out of Bangkok you will have an opportunity to change leftover Thai baht to USD.)

    Good luck.

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    A few random thoughts:

    3 countries in 3-4 weeks sounds like plenty of time but in Asia it really isn't. Count on losing the best part of the day each time you move location. Plan too many locations and you could end up spending most of your time in transit.

    Plan on spending 2, preferably 3 nights in each major location. Sometimes a tour or a car and driver, in some locations can work out more efficient in terms of both time and money. North Vietnam springs to mind. But use local operator not one based in your home country.

    In terms of planning where to no, as Kathie says invest in a good guidebook. Choose one that covers each country individually not a regional SE Asia one which will lack any real detail.

    Stick to two countries and enjoy at a reasonably leisurely pace. Make a short list of locations that interest you and see how they fit with regional flights.

    I know nothing of routings from Seattle, Kathie is the expert there, but within SE Asia, I have always found Air Asia to be the most efficient and cheapest carrier with the widest network. I did recently look into the the Bangko Air Discovery pass and found it to be significantly more expensive than AA and other budget airline. We have been travelling for several months with AA around the region with carry on bags only and have been pleased with service, punctuality etc.

    Within Vietnam, Vietjet and Vietnam Airways are the main carriers but the overnight train is a viable option if visiting the central region, Hue, Hoi An etc.

    As you are going for several weeks, Debit and Credit cards areare your safest bet. USe the debit card for getting cash from ATMs and use either to pay for hotels. Some hotels, esp. in Vietnam will charge 3% for using a card.

    Try to use all your currency for each country before you leave but Vietnamese and Thai currency is easily exchangeable in most SEA at decent rates. Cambodian currency is not but younproably won't see any anyway as the USD is main currency there. If you do get any it will be worth next to nothing anyway!

    For accomodation, we generally use and sometimes Travelling economically is easy. $30 will by a nice double en suite room with break fast in Vietnam and Cambodia, $50 a very nice room. Add 50% to that for Thai hotels, more at the Thai beaches at that time of year.

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