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Singapore-Vietnam-Cambodia Itinerary Help

Singapore-Vietnam-Cambodia Itinerary Help

Old Oct 25th, 2023, 07:11 AM
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Singapore-Vietnam-Cambodia Itinerary Help

Likely flying Singapore Airlines to Hanoi from SFO which allows a stopover. Never been to Singapore before so we thought we'd start there:
Singapore - 2 nights (what area to stay in?)
Hanoi - 3 nights
Ha Long - 1 night cruise (any suggestions? We tend to like upper end)
Hoi An/Hue 2 nights
HCMC - 3 nights
Siem Reap 3 nights

People have suggested Ninh Binh, but I don't think we'll have time for everything. Would like to take boat from HCMC to Phnom Penh, but again we are stretching the amount of time we have. That said, please give your opinions. Thanks!!
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Old Oct 25th, 2023, 08:22 AM
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I would have a serious rethink on your itinerary. That is very, very rushed.

Three nights is the bare minimum for Hanoi. That will only allow two full days of sightseeing.

I am not a fan o Halong Bay but, if you want to include it, go for Bai Tu Long or Lan Ha Bays and do two nights. It is 3 hours there and 3 back so again, two nights will give one full day of cruising (plus change) . Most cruised run midday to midday.

You need two nights for Hue or Hoi An. You can’t do both in that time so choose one. For me that would be Hue.

Three nights for Saigon and Siem Reap are ok but there is no boat from HCMC to SR. You would need to bus from HCMC to Chau Doc (6 hours) . boat to Phnom Penh. Bus to Siem Reap ( maybe 8 hours) . It is an amazing trip and one that we have done several times but you really need a week! There are direct flights form SAI to SR that take a couple of hours.

IMHO with 14 nights I would just stick with Vietnam or Cambodia or Southern Vietnam + Cambodia. I would just skip Singapore completely.

Most of these places we covered in our blog in some detail which may provide some ideas of what to expect.
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Old Oct 25th, 2023, 06:31 PM
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Between Hue and Hoian, pick one only (Fly Hai Phong (Cat Bi airport) to Danang/ Hoian after cruise).
Fly HCMC to Siem Reap or take a bus HCMC to Phnom Penh and then Siem Reap.
As Crellston said, your plan is rushed.
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Old Oct 25th, 2023, 08:39 PM
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If we get to Hanoi in the morning we'll have 3 full days of touring. Should we do 4 nights?
Why don't you care for Ha Long?
Can you stay in Hoi An and day trip to Hue? Or are you saying pick one and stay there 2 nights?
Think we'll just fly to SR and skip the Mekong boat to Phnom Penh. Not interested in doing a six hour bus and then an 8 hour bus.
The reason to stay in Singapore is that it's a 17 hour flight to Singapore and then another 3 hours to Hanoi. I'd rather be tired in Singapore than in Hanoi. We want to be fresh for Vietnam.
If we needed to we can add a couple of days to the trip. I have this thing called work that expects me to be there. Close to retirement but not quite there.

Thanks VERY much for your input.
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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 08:21 AM
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Work is a real PITA isn’t it? 😂

Unless you arrive in Hanoi VERY early I doubt you will get in a full day of sightseeing. a half day at best. Allow an hour to get through Noi Bai airport, another to get from the airport into the city. If your plan arrived at say 09:00 you could be at your hotel by say 11:00. However that would mean a 07:00 flight from SIN which would require you to leave your hotel there by say 05:00 to account for transfer and check in. I am an early riser but even I would find that challenging.

There is a lot to see in Hanoi. It is an amazing city and an extra day there would certainly be preferable but you have limited time so something has to give. I would be very selective on what you want to see and do. I rarely use tours but this could be one of those occasions where it would be worth engaging a guide. Hanoi Kid are supposed to be good but I haven’t used them.

With two nights in Hue/Hoi An I would pick one. They are very different and need a very full day min for each. Hoi An is the original quaint historic town but packed with tourists, mostly Chinese , from the mega resort hotels up the road in Da Nang ( which sort of detracts from the magic) . Hue is bigger but sees fewer tourists. Most visit to see the Imperial/ Forbidden City and the Imperial Tombs. I prefer the latter but that’s just me! They are around two hours apart and it is quite a nice trip but I can’t see how you could do both even if you could squeeze in one full and two half days.

I forgot to link our blog previously but here it is https://accidentalnomads.com/category/vietnam/ both places are covered in some detail with lots of photos.

Wise move to skip the delta/boat and fly to SR. I would make sure to schedule in a night in Singapore before your homebound flight just in case of delays and cancellations or make sure to get "connecting" flights.

Re Halong; some love it. I did the first time I went many years ago but over the last decade or so it has suffered from over tourism and pollution. It is spectacular but it is a question of priorities and you really need to allow 2 days to make it worthwhile and go for one of the bays I mentioned above rather than Halong Bay itself as they have suffered less. If you do go, I would look at finding an operator that will drop you back at teh airport for your onward flight. Cruises usually finish around lunch time so I would look for an early evening flight from Noi Bai. Alternatively, I think there may be flights from Haiphong to Da Nang which may work better.

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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 09:18 AM
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So I think we add one more day to Hanoi. I kind of feel like we need to go to Ha Long Bay but go to the areas you recommend. Unfortunately I think we're only going to be able to do a one nighter there. I'll take your advice on Hue. What's the best way to get from Da Nang airport to Hue? Or, can you fly to Hue from Haiphong or Hanoi?

I doubt we'll be flying back home from Singapore. Looking at EVA to go from SR to Taipei and then back to the states. Looks like there are flights.

I'll look at your blog. You've been extremely helpful. I am grateful. Thanks.
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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 04:36 PM
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My husband and i did not care for Halong Bay. I guess I'm glad we did it so we don't have to wonder, but I would never do it again, nor would I suggest it. But that is up to you. As crellston said, some people love it. We found it very overrated and after about 30 minutes, it all looked the same. I would take that time and add it on to Hanoi. I would also cut out Singapore as two nights is not enough, and add it on to Hoi An or Hue. Even three nights is not enough for both. I loved both Hue and Hoi An, they are very different, but I guess if I had to choose, I would choose Hue. For me, three nights in Siem Reap is good, but that depends on your tolerance for seeing temples/ruins. We love temples and ruins, but I could get "templed out" after a while. I prefer to go back there and do another few nights rather than seeing it all at once (which you will never do, even if you had a week there). But that depends on how you like to travel, which is very subjective.
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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 06:39 PM
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The thing I like about Singapore is that we'll have traveled a long way (we are starting in New Orleans) and since our flight goes there anyway, why not try to recuperate there, see a few sights, get used to the time change, and then head over to Hanoi fresh?

Interesting that you and crellston don't like Ha Long. You suggest staying 3 nights in Hue and not doing Ha Long. Have to think about that. I have zero perspective so relying on suggestions from others. Something to consider. If we skipped Ha Long we can fly direct from Hanoi to Hue. I'm assuming that's the easiest way to get there?

2 nights in Singapore, 4 nights in Hanoi, 3 nights in Hue, 3 nights in HCMC, 3 nights in Siem Reap, last night in Phnom Penh. Forget Ha Long. Does that sound more reasonable?

Thanks!
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Old Oct 26th, 2023, 11:23 PM
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As far as jet lag is concerned, it takes me a few days to recover so I would rather get the main travelling out of the way, get to where I am going and deal with it there. I guess everyone has their own way of coping.

Your latest iteration looks pretty good. The only thing I would change is to add a night in Phnom Penh, one of my favourite cities. It is really easy to get around the main sites in a day by hiring a Tuk tuk and driver. Depending on flight times you may even be able to squeeze in a few sights in the time you have. I would mention that some of the sites relating to recent history , the Khmer Rouge etc are somewhat harrowing but worth seeing imo.

Re Halong. It is a my necessarily subjective opinion. Some will love it but it is mainly about priorities. Asia rewards relaxed travel and if you try and pack in to many locations you end up missing much of what there is to see. A cliche I know but less really can be more.

Last edited by crellston; Oct 26th, 2023 at 11:27 PM.
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Old Oct 27th, 2023, 07:08 AM
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Phnom Penh sounds phenomenal. Looks like we'll have to leave from there to go home so maybe we add one more night to the trip. Or blow off Singapore and head straight to Phnom Penh. Layover is super long though. Wife wants to do Siem Reap at the end of the trip and use it as a time to regroup before heading home. Problem I see is that the date we'll likely arrive is Feb 11 which also Lunar New Year. I was told not to arrive in Vietnam before Feb 13, but could be the same issue in Singapore and Cambodia. Mardi Gras week in NOLA is the best time to go because most everything is shut down (work won't miss me) and the two holidays coincide in 2024. Thinking that the Lunar New Year may be less of a thing in Cambodia, but I really don't know.
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Old Oct 27th, 2023, 01:58 PM
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From what I understand, Vietnam pretty much shuts down for a week during Lunar New Year. Many restaurants and sights will be closed, and while it could be fun to see the festivities, eating and sight-seeing is a major reason to go to Vietnam. Last winter, I applied for our visas right before Lunar New Year and needless to say, nothing came until the end of the holiday. I was getting anxious that we would not have our visas in time. We were in Vietnam after the holiday so we had no problems with closures. For our trip this coming February, I didn't realize when I booked the non-refundable business class flights, we were going to be in Vietnam during the Lunar New Year. A Thai friend gave me the heads up and I had to do some juggling with the itinerary. Originally, we were going to be in Hanoi during this coming Lunar New Year. I realized that would be a bad idea and instead, we are heading to the island of Phu Quoc, to a resort we stayed at last February and were going back to anyway. Since there was no reason to leave the resort last time, we decided it was a good idea to hole up there during the holiday. They will probably have some things going on for the holiday so the best of both worlds.

Phnom Penh is a wonderful place to spend a couple of days. If you have the stomach for it, hire a driver to take you out to the Killing Fields, and also visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the prison in the city where the people were tortured before being brought to the Killing Fields. It's very sobering but very worthwhile. We also found that although the people won't start a conversation about it, if you do, they are anxious to talk about that horrible period of their history. You will come away wondering how what arguably are the gentlest people on Earth could do that to their countrymen, or to anybody for that matter.

Last edited by laurieco; Oct 27th, 2023 at 02:01 PM.
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Old Oct 27th, 2023, 11:35 PM
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The Tet holiday is Vietnam"s biggest public holiday by far. In 2024 the official holidays run from 8th -16th Feb when some business will close and transport gets booked up as many people head out of the cities to their families in the countryside. It is nowhere near as big a deal as it once was when the celebrations and business closures could drag on for the best part of a month. More and more businesses stay open but a few of the museums MAY be closed but that should be easy enough to check online. I think the biggest issue will be the availability of seats on flights, buses and trains which will get booked out very early. I would book as early as possible. As far as accommodation is concerned , some of the smaller family owned business will close but the bigger hotels will probably just reduce the number of rooms to reflect the reduced staff. Room rates are generally higher over Tet. We have been in the north and the south several times over Yet and found that it is a much bigger deal in the north than the south. I recall the first Set we spent in Hanoi which must have been 20 + years ago when it was pretty grim as much was close and we struggle to find places to eat. Things have change a lot.

Nowhere near such a big deal in Cambodia. Being a much poorer country, out of necessity Cambodians seem keen to make a buck regardless of the holidays.

I understand your wife's desire to leave Siem Reap until last but, given your dates, I would consider starting in Cambodia and ending in Hanoi. Alternatively, whilst a little more involved, head to Saigon first , head north to Hanoi and then fly to SR and then to PP.

Finally, plenty of people do travel in Vietnam over Tet. Indeed our nieces will be their at the same time as you. They are on a gap year and will be relying on buses to get around. they are not fussy re standard of seats or date and times because they are there for longer. I have told them to expect NOT to be able to get seats on buses on certain days . For them its no big deal but in your case, I would make sure to book everything as far in advance as possible and make sure that your itinerary is robust and realistic as far as timings are concerned. On our shorter, more complex trip I find it easier to put everything into a spreadsheet showing Accommodation, transport, ARR/DEP times, journey times etc just to make sure it all works and then book everything

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Old Oct 28th, 2023, 06:46 AM
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Now I’m thinking go straight to Phnom Penh and skip Singapore. 2 or 3 nights in PP, 3 nights in Siem Reap, 3 nights in HCMC, 3 nights in Hue, and 4 nights in Hanoi. Reverse the trip, more time in Cambodia. Is Phnom Penh safe?

Cannot thank you all enough for helping to figure out this puzzle.
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Old Oct 28th, 2023, 10:17 AM
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I would be very happy with that trip.

Three nights in PP would be better than two. A good tuk tuk or taxi driver will make the world of difference. You can ask your hotel to suggest one or just pick one up off the street. They tend to loiter around the hotels. They are very cheap but life is quite tough for them so it is one (of the rare ) occasions where I do tip generously. On one visit I ended up writing a paper for an NGO about the economics of running a tuk tuk. I had some long chats with drivers, visited their homes and families. Very enlightening as to the lives they lead.

In Siem Reap you will need to do the same. Some people opt for a car and driver plus a guide ( the zircon seems to be an attraction in the often excruciating heat. Personally , I prefer the gentle breeze of a tuk tuk . For some reason getting in and out of zircon seems to make me feel hotter! The standard approach is to start visiting Angkor early and head back to the hotel during the hottest part of the day and out again in the late afternoon. The car option is usually with a qualified guide, tuk tusk are more informal. Sometimes the guides can get a bit tedious as they tend to want to give chapter and verse on every site.

When you hire a driver, taxi or tuk tuk you get them for the whole day so you could for instance get them to take you to a restaurant for dinner.

In Hue, your hotel will be able to help you out with tours if need be though it is quite easy to DIY. I would allow a day for the Citadel, markets and the perfume River and another to visit some of the tombs (a lot more interesting than they sound!). On our last visit to Hue we visited three or four by bike. A nice way to get around but boy, it was hot!

In HCMC it is pretty easy to visit the main places of interest by your self. Most are fairly close together and we tend to walk a lot (although we tend to do that wherever we go!). Two full days is enough to cover all the main sights. NB many places close for lunch so do check - usually places like the Reunifcation Palace close between 12 and 2 ( I think) . Fortunately there are loads of amazing places to eat at all levels so it is not time wasted.

Phnom Penh is safe. The days of people having to check in their machine guns at the door of The Heart of Darkness club are long gone! SE Asian cities are generally pretty safe though you need to take the usual precautions re pickpockets and valuables. (I felt a lot safer in PP than I did in LA and San Francisco last year!

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Old Oct 29th, 2023, 06:09 PM
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Well, we booked our outbound flights to Phnom Penh! Now a new question. What if we skipped HCMC and either spent more time in the north or add Hoi An to our itinerary or both? Reading about HCMC, it sounds like any other big frenetic city. What do you all think?

Thanks!
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 12:07 AM
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HCMC is certainly big and frenetic. Some people love it some not so much. It has certainly changed massively since I first visited some thirty odd years ago. Back then there were no cars, no motorbikes, no street lights. Only the odd taxi and cyclo to get around town. Now it is one of the busiest cities in Asia. I love the city and have spent a lt o of time there on many visits. I think it would be a shame to miss out the places . It has a lot of interesting sites, many related to its recent (20th century) history. It would be a "natural stop " on your journey from PP.

I wouldn't swop time there for Hoi An but I suppose you could drop a night in HCMC . Two nights and one vvery full day would be enough to cover the major sites and get a flavour of the place. You could then add a night in Hue and do a day trip to Hoi An.
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 03:52 AM
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Ok, so we’ll leave HCMC in! Not making anymore changes. I’m not going to feel like dealing with the airport after just 2 days so 3 nights in HCMC. Now onto booking flights home and finding hotels. Then getting guides and figuring out what we want to see and do.

Cannot thank you enough!
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 05:10 AM
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You are very welcome BKD. any further questions , ask away.
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Old Nov 1st, 2023, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by BKD
Ok, so well leave HCMC in! Not making anymore changes. Im not going to feel like dealing with the airport after just 2 days so 3 nights in HCMC. Now onto booking flights home and finding hotels. Then getting guides and figuring out what we want to see and do.

Cannot thank you enough!
Crellston is one of the best commentators on Fodors IMHO. Hes a treasure trove of pertinent information. No wonder he gave you good advice!!

Last edited by jacketwatch; Nov 1st, 2023 at 01:53 PM.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2023, 06:36 AM
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Singapore-Vietnam-Cambodia Itinerary Help

Thank you for sharing your travel plans and itinerary ideas. It sounds like you have received some excellent advice from other experienced travelers on optimizing your time and covering the highlights in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Singapore.

I agree with the suggestions to skip Ha Long Bay and add more time in Hanoi, Hue, and Phnom Penh. Given you'll be traveling over Tet, starting in Cambodia and ending in Hanoi as crellston recommended makes sense. Your revised itinerary of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Hanoi looks great.

Since you've already booked flights to Phnom Penh, I wouldn't make any more changes. Focus now on hotels, guides, and planning what you want to see. Be sure to book transport and accommodations well in advance due to Tet. Have an amazing trip! Southeast Asia is a wonderful destination with so much to offer. Please come back and share highlights and tips after your travels.
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