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Monday, March 2, 2015

VietBodia 2015: How To Plan a Trip to Vietnam and Cambodia

For the past month(ish) I have been planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia with one of my friends! We will be leaving later this month for a 16 day, 4 city tour of these two countries so I thought I’d make a series of it on here. So welcome to #VietBodia2015! Hopefully “VietBodia” isn’t offensive, but who knows.

I’ve got roughly ten posts planned out, starting with this one. Five before the trip and five after. Since I’m leaving in 20-something days, I am going to try and get a post out every four days!

Here is a list of posts I am hoping to make over the next few weeks, I’ll add links to the posts as I make them for easy access!
1. Early stages of planning a trip (what you’re currently reading!)
3. Traveling between countries and visa processes.
4. Places I want to visit in Vietnam and Cambodia
5. Packing: Is “backpacking” really possible?

There are five post-trip posts I have planned, but I can deal with that later. J

The early stages of planning a trip are always the most exciting for me. I decided randomly that I wanted to travel in April, as I have the entire month free of work. After I acquired a traveling buddy, I began my fervent planning process. I love planning things. Sometimes I feel like I missed my true calling when I get into planning, but then I remember just how all-consuming and how much of my entire life it takes up and I realize that doing this every day for the rest of my life would easily kill me.

The first step of any trip is deciding how long the trip should be. It was originally going to be a Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand trip of roughly three weeks, but due to some outstanding circumstances my travel buddy wasn’t able to have as much time off as originally expected, so we cut Thailand from the trip. Vietnam and Cambodia have places that I must see, whereas Thailand doesn’t (plus she’d been there before).

Once a rough outline of days (two weeks) was picked for the trip, I began researching the places that I wanted to visit. This involved Excel and lots of googling. The site was a great resource for learning about different sites and their locations. So I recommend it if you’re traveling in the Indochina area! Japan has a similar site ( that I’ve used for planning trips in the past. Lonely Planet ( is always a good choice, but I prefer sites that are focused more on the area I am visiting. Googling things like “top places to visit in Vietnam” or “must see spots in Cambodia” are also great ways of finding the things that you can’t miss out on when traveling. Later you can go in and add little places to visit once you see how much time you will have.

This is my actual Excel sheet.
Now, because I love planning, I take this spot a step further. I like to open Google Maps and type in all these places and see which ones are located where, and then decide a rough daily schedule based on these locations. Things that are closer together get seen on the same day. Places which close early get seen early in the morning. While this may sound time consuming, it really isn’t, and it gets me super excited for the trip as I get to actually see where it is I will be going. This daily schedule also makes me see how much time I really need to dedicate to each thing and finalize the number of days that would be best for each city I am going to.

We’ve decided on four nights in Hanoi, a flight to Ho Chi Minh and a bus to Phnom Penh that same day. Two nights will be spent in Phnom Penh followed by an overnight bus to Siem Reap with a four night stay there. Finally an overnight bus back to Phnom Penh and a bus back to Ho Chi Minh with a two night stay there. This may sound kind of crazy, but a round trip ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh was very, very cheap and this is the easiest way to do that!

Now that the dates have been decided, it is time to book the flight! This is where I got in trouble with my friend. We waited far too long to actually do this, as it took time to finalize the amount of time we would have free. Due to this, we missed out on the perfect flight by hours. When I checked it at school it was there and when I got home that evening it was gone. We booked the tickets almost exactly a month in advance, and that was cutting it really close. I strongly suggest booking it earlier than that. The prices didn’t change much over the span of the weeks, one of the flights we needed just got full so we couldn’t get the days we wanted. We ended up pushing the trip back two days (because that makes sense…) to get a much cheaper flight, which just meant that I needed to take a couple of my last days of work off. Oh well!

We are flying via Korean Air from Sapporo, with a six hour layover in Seoul before landing in Hanoi late at night. This sucks, but can’t be helped. It’s part of traveling overseas. You’re going to lose a day no matter what. I’m sure if you book well in advance and are willing to dish out more money for premium flight times you could spend only half a day flying from Japan to Vietnam, but we aren’t those people. The flight back is similar, flight from Ho Chi Minh early in the afternoon to a 10pm flight from Hanoi to Seoul. Landing in Seoul at 5am and a five hour wait until our flight back to Sapporo. At least I can say I’ve been to Korea!

These are the early stages of planning. Once all this had been decided it is time to move onto the next exciting part, deciding where to stay! My friend and I have decided on staying at some hostels in each city, because they’re cheap and I love staying in hostels when traveling. Look out for the next blog post where I go into detail about hostels!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it is helpful (or inspirational) to your travels! I’d love to hear how you plan trips, so leave your methods in the comments!

Here’s some questions for you:
Have you ever been to Vietnam or Cambodia? What do you suggest doing there? If not, have you ever wanted to go?

How long does it take you to plan for trips and what are the things you do early on in deciding how the trip will pan out?

Click here for part 2 about hostels!

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