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eb052689 Mar 31st, 2013 10:31 AM

3+ weeks in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia on a tight budget
My boyfriend and I are travelling to SE Asia for three weeks and a few days in July. We have never been to the area, and are not highly adventurous travelers. We are extremely interested in meeting people, seeing the area, hitting important sights, and experiencing the different cultures. We have a very tight budget, and don't want to spend more than $250 total on travel once we are there (*is that even possible? How much will we spend on food and accommodations?)

We are flying in and out of Bangkok and need advice on itinerary! We originally thought we'd go straight to Luang Prabang, then from there to Hanoi, down to Da Nang, then to Saigon, and from there to Angkor Wat/Siemp Riep. From there we were planning to head to a few islands on the way back to Bangkok to fly out. Obviously, this is extremely ambitious, and will cost a fortune if we are going to fly from place to place for the most part (we've been advised- please post your opinions- that trains down Vietnam are not the best idea, and same for getting to Laos from Bangkok...etc.).

That said, please post your thoughts on the best/cheapest/easiest places vs. those that can't be missed in this kind of short, intense 3 week trip. Also interested in all cheap flight finding suggestions. We are completely willing to take trains and buses if they're safe and somewhat reliable, but are starting to think that 13 hour train journeys are not the way we'll rely on to get around for the most part. Willing to compromise certain destinations for a better experience in fewer.

Kathie Mar 31st, 2013 10:56 AM

First of all, you need to limit the number of places you want to visit to even fit it into 3 weeks. Second, choose places that area relatively close together so transport isn't as expensive or time-consuming.

With a tight budget, you also want to consider visa costs. VN requires a visa in advance - approx. cost is $60 per person. You might consider spending your whole time in VN. Easy transport, and you'd only have one visa cost. If you visited all of those countries, that would eat up your whole transportation budget - without even buying a single bus/train/plane ticket.

You can get visas on arrival for both Laos and Cambodia. No visa required for Thailand - you get 30-day visa-free entry on arrival by plane.

Start by deciding what are the most important things you want to do/see/experience? Then go from there. I think you will need to cut way back on your destinations and probably increase your budget to do even part of this trip.

thursdaysd Mar 31st, 2013 05:17 PM

Not sure what you heard about the trains in Vietnam, but I thought they were fine. Admittedly I was in hard and soft sleeper, and I would recommend at least hard sleeper. You can also look into the open tour buses, but you will only meet fellow backpackers on them.

Sounds like you should be checking out Lonely Planet's website - it has suggested costs in the destination section.

For Bangkok to Luang Prabang it is likely to be cheaper to take the train to Vientiane and the bus from there. See for info on trains in SEA. I would save Angkor Wat until you have more money. If you want a beach you could go to Mui Ne in Vietnam.

crellston Apr 1st, 2013 12:58 AM

Is the $250 for travel per person or for the two of you. If it for both of you then it will be very tight, if not impossible if you include visa fees. Reducing the number of countries you visit will reduce costs substantially as will travelling by bus as opposed to plane. Buses are cheap throughout SEA as are trains. Both are reliable means of transport although you do need to keep any eye on you belongings as theft can be an issue on some routes. I have used trains extensively in the region and never had a problem. Personally, they would always be my first choice as a means of travel and a great way to meet the local people and view the landscapes from a different perspective. ( you will miss a lot by flying!)

Accommodation costs largely depend on whether you are happy staying in dorm accommodation or require a private room. Costs start at around $5 pppn and you will get nice, private rooms n most places for $15-20 prpn . is a good place to start looking.

For ideas on where to go, have a look at which has lots of great info on budget travel in the area - sign up for their newsletter which has some great ideas on places other than the usual tourist haunts.

Some places like Angkor Wat, Luang Prabang etc will inevitably take a big chunk of your budget so, if it were me, I would forego trying to cover too many countries and stick to Vietnam and travel the length of the country by bus and train. It is. Hugely varied and has more than enough to keep your interest for three weeks.

If good weather is important to you, then do google for the weather in the various countries in July as it is not the best time for may areas at that tim elf year.

eb052689 Apr 1st, 2013 09:51 AM

Thanks for the responses! We have revised and are definitely going to have to skip Laos entirely.

The thought now is:

Fly to Bangkok, budget airline to Hanoi (this is cheaper than flying straight to Hanoi), bus down the coast (or train!)to HCMC. Then, depending on budget and time, we will go to Cambodia/Siem Riep via bus to see Angkor Wat. I understand this can be one of the more expensive parts of a SE Asia itinerary, but we are really not willing to give it up!

For the poster above, the $250 desired travel budget is per person, not for both of us!

Any other thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

karaki Apr 1st, 2013 10:23 PM

your thought is good. for the tight budget, you may take open bus from Ha Noi with stop at these hit sights: Hue, Da Nag, Hoi An, Mui Ne and to Ho Chi Minh City.

In Ha Noi, you may take open bus to visit Halong Bay
In Ho Chi Minh City: you may take group tour to visit Mekong Delta and other places.

good open trip to you!

offwego Apr 2nd, 2013 07:45 AM

Siem Reap can still be done on the cheap. The bus is not expensive from HCMC to Siem Reap. Look into Siem Reap Hostel or maybe you can swing Horizons in a fan only room. Rent bikes. Eat on the street and at the "silver pot" places along the river. Can do!~

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