Your passport needs to be valid for six months after your departure date from Vietnam and Cambodia. You will need at least two blank pages in your passport for stamps at immigration.
We are restricted on our domestic flights to one piece of hold luggage 20kg/44lb plus one piece of hand luggage.
Visas for Vietnam
British Passport holders don’t require a visa for entry into Vietnam for this tour.
Canadian, Mexican and US and other passport holders do need a visa to travel to Vietnam. You can apply for your visas on arrival.
Vietnam Visa on arrival process summary for Canadian, Mexican and US passport holders:
To get your visa stamped at the airport, each member should ensure they have the following documents:
- Original passport with over 6 months’ validity
- Visa application form (fill it in at the airport on arrival)
- Visa approval letter (you will receive this by email from us and need to print it out and carry it with you)
- Stamping fee (US$25 pp to US passport holders), in cash and in US$
- A passport sized photo
If you want to apply for your visa before you leave home the details of how to do this can be found here: http://vietnamembassy-usa.org/page/apply-visa-person-or-mail
Visa for Cambodia
Everyone will require a visa for Cambodia and for those who haven’t applied for a Cambodian visa prior to travelling will need to have their visas on arrival processed on entry to Cambodia.
The required documents are:
- Original passport with over 6 month validity
- Visa application form (fill it in at the airport on arrival)
- A photo of passport size
- Stamping fee – US$30.00 pp (in cash and in US$)
You will receive your letter of invitation for your Vietnamese visa via a separate email from the office. Please ensure you have this with you for the beginning of the tour. You may also apply for your visa prior to travelling from the Vietnamese embassy in your country of residence.
Visa for Laos
Everyone will require a visa for Laos and for those who haven’t applied for a Laos visa prior to travelling will need to have their visas on arrival processed on entry to Laos.
- Visa application form available at the airport on arrival
- Passport size photograph x2
- A Passport with over 6-month validity and an empty page per visa
- Visa stamping fee in Laos for US Citizens US$35 pp, in USD cash
You may also apply for your Laos visa prior to travelling from the Laos embassy in your country of residence.
Travel protection and medical insurance should be arranged before departure. Please make sure to let your travel insurance company know you will be travelling to two destinations. Write down important information such as the insurance company’s telephone number and your policy number and keep it with a copy of your passport in case of lost documents etc.
Vietnam's length and varied topography combine to make it a challenging country to describe climatically. Our journey covers length of the country and it is likely that you will encounter rain at some point along the way. In most cases rainfall is tropical in nature, meaning short intense storms that clear the air, rather than extended periods of rain.
North Vietnam: Hanoi and the surrounding region are sufficiently far north to have a distinct summer and winter season. Winter is relatively short, from December through to February; during this period Hanoi can be cool with little significant rainfall. Things start to heat up during spring, with the hottest and wettest months of the year falling over the summer months from June through to August. In general, spring and autumn are considered the best time for this part of Vietnam.
Central Vietnam: Central Vietnam, including Hue and Hoi An, remains pleasantly warm throughout the winter months, and it is generally dry and hot during the summer when the rest of the country is encountering tropical downpours. The autumn months from September through to December tend to be wet in this part of the country.
Southern Vietnam: The tropical south, including Ho Chi Minh City, sees less variation in temperatures throughout the year, with winter offering balmy temperatures and little rainfall. During autumn you are most likely to encounter downpours in this region, though these are rarely prolonged or disruptive, and typhoons are uncommon.
What to Wear
Adopt a simple, light colour scheme for your travel wardrobe to reduce the amount of clothing required. Pack, easy-care summer clothing and bring enough underwear and socks so that frequent laundry is not necessary. You may wish to bring a few smart casual outfits. Comfortable walking shoes and sandals are a must and perhaps one pair of dressier shoes. Layering clothing is advisable with a lightweight waterproof and a warm jumper. Dress should be modest with upper arms and legs covered, especially if entering religious premises such as temples and pagodas.
What to pack
A good day pack should be big enough to hold your valuables, camera, and the things you need while you are out and about.
• Sunscreen and sunglasses, insect repellent, sun hat
• Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair brush, razor, feminine products and cosmetics
• Tissues and antibacterial wipes
• Basic first aid kit: medications for upset stomach, prescriptions, aspirin, antiseptic cream, cold medicine, vitamins, bandages
• notebook or journal
• Prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses;
• Mini flashlight
• Converters, adapters, chargers and power cords;
• Travel umbrella
• Camera and extra memory cards
• medications and prescriptions
Wearing high factor sunscreen, drinking bottled or treated water, washing your hands properly before eating and avoiding insect bites should keep you healthy on tour.
We recommend that you see your travel health centre in person at least eight weeks before you travel, where a health professional can provide you with the necessary health information and appropriate vaccines as well as advice according to your unique medical needs.
If you do need to see a doctor during the tour, please speak to you’re the Big Journey Company representative. Although international medical centres are available in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, it can be expensive for emergency care. Therefore, health and emergency medical insurance prior to visiting Vietnam is required for foreigners.
Medical Conditions and Personal Medication
Please advise us before your departure date if you have any medical conditions requiring special attention during your trip. If you have a specific medical condition, it’s wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you.
Travelling with CPAP or other Medical Machines
Inform The Big Journey Company that you are travelling with such a device as early as possible and well before you travel. This is especially important in places where there may be issues with power supply, such as on safari or small cruise ships. Also,
-Check that you have the correct electrical and voltage adapters for the country and accommodation you are visiting;
-Check with your airline that they allow your device to be carried as additional hand luggage and ensure that your device is easily accessible and properly labelled as medical machinery;
-Always carry a letter from your medical practitioner prescribing its use for you;
-Ensure you have details of your machine separately in case of the need to secure repairs/replacements whilst you are travelling;
-Check with your medical practitioner about the use of tap or bottled water in the event that distilled water cannot be sourced in the country you are travelling to.
Please note, if you require distilled or ionised water, you must inform The Big Journey Company of this at least two weeks ahead of travel so we are able to make preparations with our ground agents. There will be an additional charge for this.
Please let us know prior to your departure date if you have any special dietary requirements (e.g., vegan, diabetic, gluten-free, etc.). We will make every effort to accommodate your request with the resources available to us.
Internet Access Complimentary Wi-Fi internet access is available in almost all international standard hotels in the region should you wish to bring laptops/tablets. Please be aware that there will usually be no access on board boats or in more remote homestay or lodge accommodation.
Most international mobile phones will work in all the Indochina countries, and coverage is excellent, often in even the most remote locations, but you are likely to incur high "roaming" charges. If it is important for you to keep in touch then you may like to consider purchasing a local SIM card on arrival. This is relatively inexpensive and your guide will be able to assist should this be of interest. If you plan to use your own mobile phone then we recommend contacting your phone contract provider in advance to ask about service availability and costs for receiving and making calls whilst abroad.
Currency and Money
Vietnam is still predominantly a cash society - the majority of shops and restaurants, with the exception of international chains and some tourist-orientated places in the big cities, do not accept debit or credit cards, though they can be used in many hotels. The currency in Vietnam is the Dong (VND), and though US dollars are accepted in many popular destinations and attractions, the majority of transactions are conducted in Dong.
Changing cash In general terms the USD is the most widely and easily exchanged currency in Vietnam, as it is in the majority of Asia, with the Euro as a distant second. British pounds, Canadian dollars or Australian dollars are not widely accepted in either banks or hotels, and where they are the exchange rate is unfavourable. There is no longer a significant currency black-market in Vietnam, and most hotels offer roughly the same US dollar exchange rate as banks or exchange-desks, making this often the easiest option. USD cash is also required to obtain a Visa-on-Arrival in Vietnam, Cambodia, so we recommend you bring a cash float in USD or at least Euros even if you intend to obtain most of your currency through the ATM network.
Credit / Debit cards ATMs are now widespread in all but the most remote destinations in Vietnam, and although rates and withdrawal charges will generally be higher than for exchanging cash, this is a reliable and largely secure method of obtaining VND cash.
Traveller's cheques Traveller's cheques will be accepted at major international banks in big cities, but generally not in hotels, and the process may both be more time-consuming and incur higher charges than exchanging cash. These should be USD denominated to ensure the best chance of acceptance, but we would generally not recommend them.
Our local travel service providers are paid well and fairly for their work. However, it is usual for groups to tip guides, rangers and drivers and it would be reasonable for each group member to factor in a contribution per person of around USD12/£10 per day (paid locally in Dong).
Vietnamese food is distinct and unforgettable. The cuisine relies on a balance of salty, sweet, sour and hot flavours, achieved through use of nuoc mam, a fermented fish sauce, cane sugar, the juice of kalamansi citrus fruit or tamarind and chilli peppers. Dishes use plenty of fresh herbs but tend not to be overly spicy, as chilli sauces are served separately. Ingredients are fresh. Rice and noodles are everyday staples. Every visitor to Vietnam should try pho, the Vietnamese rice noodle soup. In Hanoi, French-style bakeries can be found selling fresh bread and croissants.
Religion has exerted a deep influence on Vietnamese culture and the Vietnamese concept of life. Religion in Vietnam is a uniquely Vietnamese fusion of South East Asian beliefs. The attitude towards life, death, and the world beyond bears a deep imprint of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Buddhism. The predominant religion in Vietnam is Buddhism and almost every home and business will have a small shrine to the ancestors.
If you see shoes left outside homes or shops, it is a signal to remove your own. It is an important sign of respect to remove your shoes and cover arms, legs and shoulders at religious sites.
Only drink bottled water. Use bottled water to clean your teeth and check that ice in your drinks is also made of bottled water.
All of the countries in Indochina work on 220v with two round or flat-pin plugs. Plug adaptors are often available at hotels, but we recommend bringing them with you - they are readily available in electronic stores at international airports worldwide.
The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, which is written in European script. English, French and Russian are widely spoken in Vietnam, giving clues to the country’s varied political history.
Important and Useful Information: Cambodia
Visas for Cambodia
Citizens of the majority of countries worldwide require a visa in order to visit Cambodia, with the exception of citizens of ASEAN nations. The standard visa is valid for 30 days from the date of arrival into Cambodia. Multiple entry visas are not available so each visit requires a separate visa.
There are two options available to get your visa:
Apply online for an e-Visa.
Visit the website and follow the application process described. Please note this service is only available for those arriving in to Siem Reap (REP) or Phnom Penh (PNH) International Airports. The service costs USD 30 plus a USD7 processing fee (USD5 more than the standard visa-on-arrival service) but enables you to pass more quickly through the immigration process as queues are often lengthy.
The processing of the e-visa usually takes 3 days but can take up to two weeks, and two printed copies must be taken with you.
Obtain a visa-on-arrival at your designated point of entry into Cambodia.
This is what most of the group usually do to get their visas for Cambodia on arrival at the airport in Siem Reap for a fee of USD 30. You will require the following:
• Valid PASSPORT (validity must exceed that of the visa by at least six months)
• One completed APPLICATION FORM (only obtainable on arrival at the visa-on-arrival desk)
• Two passport PHOTOGRAPHS taken not more than one year ago
• VISA FEE to be paid in US Dollars.
Cambodia is warm to hot year round and the climate is dominated by the annual monsoon cycle with alternating wet and dry seasons. The monsoon cycle is driven by cyclic air pressure changes; as the pressure drops during the summer months (June through October) moist air is drawn in, bringing the monsoon rains to Cambodia. In the winter months (November to May), the air pressure over central Asia rises, driving cool, dry air back across Southeast Asia and introducing a largely dry season to Cambodia. Travel is possible year round with each season bringing its own benefits, however, with rainfall rarely lasting more than a couple hours and the countryside is at its most lush and verdant during the rainy season.
Complimentary Wi-Fi internet access is available in almost all international standard hotels in Cambodia should you wish to bring laptops/tablets. Please be aware that there will usually be no access on board boats or in more remote homestay or lodge accommodation.
Most international mobile phones will work in Cambodia however connecting to the network can be a bit hit and miss. If it is important for you to keep in touch throughout your stay then you may like to consider purchasing a local SIM card on arrival. This is relatively inexpensive and your guide will be able to assist should this be of interest. If you plan to use your own mobile phone then we recommend contacting your phone contract provider in advance to ask about service availability and costs for receiving and making calls whilst in Cambodia.
GMT + 7
Currency and Money
US Dollars are as commonly used as the Cambodian Riel and even Thai Baht is acceptable in many places. Most hotels and many restaurants and shops set their prices in dollars. Small transactions are generally done in Riel, although within the area’s most regularly visited by tourists (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh) USD is the commonly used currency even for low value transactions, meaning keeping a good supply of small denomination USD is recommended. Please note that worn or ripped USD will not be accepted, so please ensure you bring clean, unmarked bills only. Riel notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000, 50,000 and even 100,000 denominations, but the distinctive red 500 Riel note is the most commonly used.
With USD so readily accepted there is generally no need to actively exchange into Riel - change is often given in local currency so you will accumulate small notes as you go.
ATMs are now widespread in Cambodia in all the major centers (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kampot and Battambang), and these dispense cash in USD, not Riel. Withdrawal charges may be quite high, but this is a reliable and largely secure method of obtaining USD cash. If visiting more remote areas of the country please ensure you have sufficient cash with you to cover necessary expenses.
Traveller's cheques can be exchanged at large banks in the major centres, but generally not in hotels, and the process may be both more time-consuming and incur higher charges than exchanging cash. These should be USD denominated to ensure the best chance of acceptance, but we would generally not recommend them.
Please be sure to bring your personal pin number or security code for your card(s). Prior to your departure, we recommend notifying your bank of your travel plans so they can inform you of any applicable foreign transaction fees and/or restrictions.
Cambodia's food is often all about the contrasts - sweet and bitter, salty and sour, fresh and cooked. It shares many dishes with its neighbours, and you'll find noodle soup similar to Vietnamese phở and sandwiches like bánh mì, Thailand's refreshing salads and sour soups, Indian-inspired curries, and noodles and stir fries handed down from years of Chinese migration. From Cambodia's days as a French Indochina colony, there's a national love of coffee, pate, and good bread. Baguettes are served with soup, made into sandwiches, and sold by men riding bicycles carrying baskets of long loaves. A typical Cambodian meal would normally consist of a soup, a salad, a main fish dish, vegetables and rice. A Cambodian dessert is normally based on fresh fruits and sticky rice.
Drink only bottled water and use bottled water to clean your teeth. Refuse ice if you do not know whether it has been made from bottled water. Bottled water and mineral water are widely available.
Thearavada Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia, practised by 95% of the population. Similar faiths are followed in Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka. Muslim and Christian faiths are also growing in popularity.
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer, spoken by about 16 million people. The Khmer alphabet is descended from the script of ancient India which was used in southern India and South East Asia during the 5th and 6th Centuries AD. The oldest dated inscription in Khmer dates from 611 AD. The Khmer alphabet closely resembles the Thai and Lao alphabets which developed from it.
Safety and Security
Vietnam and Cambodia are not dangerous countries, but the usual precautions regarding valuables should be taken, especially in the bigger cities where pick-pocketing and bag/camera snatching is not uncommon. In Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh particularly snatch thieves are known to use motorbikes to grab valuables and make a quick getaway, so make sure you keep a tight hold of your personal belongings. Keep large amounts of money out of sight and consider using a money belt; in your hotel room keep your valuables locked in the room safe and when out and about keep an eye on your bag and other personal effects.
These countries are also generally safe for women to travel in and there is a low risk of being assaulted in any way, but as always it is best to take sensible precautions and be with another person.
Please be aware that landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) were a significant problem for Cambodia for many years following the Vietnam War and Khmer Rouge era. Much of these countries and especially tourist areas have now been cleared of landmines with a comparatively small portion remaining in more remote areas. We strongly recommend sticking to well-marked paths nevertheless.