Hanoi-SR-LP ?

Old Oct 13th, 2015, 03:33 PM
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Hanoi-SR-LP ?

We had been on the travel fence, after reading a great trip report here on Fodors I am back in the game. We need to travel this January becausee of kids college and work gaps, traveling from California with three young adult kids. We have between 12-14 nights. This is what I'm thinking.

Hanoi 3 - 4 Nt. I know we will love this city
Halong Bay if we can book the RED DRAGON 1 Nt I was going to pass on it but now think it may be a fun experience?
Luang Phrabang 4 Nt.
Siem Reap 3 - 4 NT.
*Saigon should we pass on Saigon, or is this a mistake? After reading endless trip reports and TA questions I think we will pass Hoi An and Hue, can't do it all.

What is the BEST way to purchase air so that I can choose seats and not have them assigned? I have read that some buy on price line, is that regretable? I have seen flights and prices for Asiana and Korea Air that look great on Google flights and Matrix but have not called the airlines. I really don't like to buy from a third party, to get a better deal is this the only way to do it? I'm concerend about our 26 year old son whos is a big guy 6 1" and 250 Lbs. How best to get our Visa's for three countries? What costs am I looking at ? Also, any ideas of the sequence that we should do this? Vietnam first or last? I know there is a lot to do. Is this too ambitious? Thank you
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Old Oct 13th, 2015, 03:59 PM
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I always recommend that people buy directly from the airlines. You will get the best prices and you have the highest likelihood of being able to choose your seats. Both Asiana and Korean are good airlines. Fly open jaw into your first city and out of the last - it will save you time and money.

In my experience of traveling in SE Asia for yipes! - 30+ years - less (destinations) is more fun. I'm not a fan of Halong Bay - 6 hours each way of a boring drive and it is likely to be cold and rainy at that time of the year. Four nights in Hanoi is just 3 full days - not really enough to see the city, but an ok amount of time for an introduction. Cutting Halong Bay will help make your itinerary better.

4 nights in Luang Prabang is an absolute minimum, IMO, and 4 nights - just three full days is a minimum for Siem Reap Get a copy of Dawn Rooney's book, Angkor: A guide to Cambodia's Wondrous Temples to help you prepare. It takes three full days just to see the major temples.

So if you have 12 nights on the ground in Asia, I'd suggest three destinations for 4 nights each: Hanoi, Luang Prabang, and Siem Reap. If you can add a day or two, add to one of your destinations - despite all of the temptations, refrain from adding another destination.

Visas: The VN visa must be arranged in advance - you can get one from your nearest embassy or consulate. Or, you can et a pre-approval letter and get your visa stamped into your passport upon arrival at Hanoi. The Laos and Cambodia visas you can get on arrival.

This is a fairly ambitious itinerary, but not too ambitious, IMO, especially if you do some preparation in advance on your destinations. You are visiting three different countries with different cultures, different languages, different histories. General, I recommend that people choose one country and concentrate on it, but this is doable.
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Old Oct 13th, 2015, 06:11 PM
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Thank you Kathie, I have been reading you for years! Should we eliminate SR and add to Laos? I am happy to miss Halong bay. Any more thougths? 1. Split between Hanoi and LP total of 12 nights? 2. Hanoi, LP and ? I am not afraid of less destinations.
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Old Oct 14th, 2015, 12:08 AM
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Make sure you've got plenty of blank pages in your passports for the visa stamps.

Your Vietnam Visa approval letter is easy, reliable, and less expensive to arrange online. We used www.vietnamvisapro.com this year @ US$10 for one person (US$18 for two). On arrival at Saigon Airport the visa stamp cost US$45 each. But see for some good news...

http://www.thanhniennews.com/travel/...ism-52402.html

The visa is a full page affair, and Entry and Exit stamps were stamped on a separate clean page. The Cambodian VOA is also a full page stamp.

Once you're past Immigration you don't need US$ to pay for anything in Vietnam. A lot of prices are quoted in US$, but that's simply for familiarity. US$ will be accepted, but I don't think you'll get the same vfm, and in any case change will always be in VN dong. We initially changed GB£ at Saigon Airport, and the rate was only slightly less than in town.

Mercifully there are no coins used in Vn, and the notes 500k, 200k, 100k, and 50k are plastic, and invariably in excelllent condition. A US$ = c22,500 dong at the moment.

US$ are the de facto currency in Cambodia. You'll get change in Cambodia Riel, and their notes are plastic too.

Personally, for a short trip like yours I'd cut out Laos. It's one less visa, less flying and in any case More = Less!
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Old Oct 14th, 2015, 07:54 AM
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Thank you for such fantastic information.The visa and Passport details maybe a bit much. Thinking that we should keep this to Vietnam and Laos. SR could be a watt overload for some of our kids, it seems that there are less choices in SR, you go to see the temples. We are now thinking of Vietnam (how many nights?) and Luang Prabang (how many nights?) Thoughts, if we have the most 13 nights : )
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Old Oct 14th, 2015, 07:55 AM
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Also, I'm happy to miss Halong Bay.
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Old Oct 14th, 2015, 08:31 AM
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Keeping this to VN and Laos makes your flight arrangements a bit more complicated. While SR has international connections to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Incheon (Seoul), etc, Luang Prabang does not. You would have to fly from LP back to VN or onward to a city that has international connections. If you have to fly back to VN to catch your international flight, you'll need a multi-entry visa for VN.

Also, LP is a pretty quiet town. You visit wats and monasteries, chat with novices and monks, etc. While I love LP, I think your kids might find SR more interesting. Do your research - all of you - and see what makes sense for you.

LL has given you good info on visas, etc., but be aware that you passports must be good for 6 months beyond your trip.
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Old Oct 14th, 2015, 03:38 PM
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Thank you, this is helping, and possibly making me think we should forgo LP and keep SR. .
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Old Oct 21st, 2015, 01:27 AM
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Lao Airlines flies from Luang Prabang to Bangkok and has done so for some time.
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Old Oct 21st, 2015, 04:52 AM
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Also 3 days in SR and your kids will go nuts. There are many many kid friendly things to do in LP.
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