Siem Reap, Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam – Preparations and Itinerary

My friends and I can’t help but laugh at all the things we experienced in Vietnam and Cambodia. They may not be a dream destination like Japan and South Korea but overall, everything was indeed an “experience”. You should see for yourself!

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Thanks again to Cebu Pacific’s Seat sale we were able to go on a budget trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. The total air fare (round trip) was 5130PHP (99USD). Our entry point was Siem Reap, Cambodia and exit point was Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

The overall budget for one person for the whole trip 4D5N to Vietnam and Cambodia cost 14,547.983PHP (US$280). This includes airfare, travel tax, hotel, food, transportation, and admission fees to Angkor Wat, Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels.

This is the summary of our trip and budget breakdown.
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*Exchange rate as of Nov 2017

Click HERE (not the photo below) to get a US$3.2 discount when you sign up.

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Preparations:

1. Itinerary and Budget
You can download our detailed itinerary here.

2. Pocket Money
As per our experience, you do not need much local currency both in Vietnam and Cambodia since they accept US dollars. Most items are priced in USD. In Vietnam, when shopping in Ben Thanh market, the vendors accept all kinds of currency. We used PHP and USD in shopping there because we ran out of VND. I think you will only need local currency when you eat at a restaurant or a fast food. Better be prepared with cash. Usually, only big establishments accept credit card as payment. As per my research and experience, the best place to exchange money is BDO. You must have an account first before you can exchange local money with another currency. Usually, they will have it prepared for you in a week.

3. Hotel / Place to stay
Choose a hotel that offers Sleeper bus from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. For us, I chose Happy Guesthouse in Siem Reap. The hotel room rates are very cheap but the actual room is really quite better and so much bigger compared to Hong Kong budget hostels. Also the food is good and affordable and the receptionists are very accommodating. In Vietnam, since the room rates are also cheap we opted to book for a 3-star hotel which is the Dragon Palace II Hotel and it also offers free breakfast. It is very near to the Sleeper bus terminal station. Blue River tour (Tour company) is also right in front of it. There is a money changer beside it. And it’s just a walking distance from the tourist spots especially Ben Thanh market. I booked both of them in Agoda.
Happy Guesthouse – You ONLY need to book services/taxis offered by the Airport (from Airport to any destination, e.g., your hotel). We chose a taxi. The taxi cost 10USD. Happy Guesthouse was just a 15-30min ride from the Airport.
Dragon Palace II Hotel – From the bus terminal, ask the people there (or traffic enforcer) and they will teach you how to go to Dragon Palace II Hotel. Just show them the address. It is so near. You do not need to ride a taxi. If you have a Wifi, just use Google Maps.

4. Tour Company / Tour Guide
In Cambodia, we were offered by the Taxi driver that we booked going to Happy Guesthouse to avail their tour services. The listed price for a Day tour (Temple hopping tour) is 40USD but we haggled for 30USD and he agreed. I think our service was a white Toyota Expedition.
In Vietnam, I recommend Blue River tour. They offer a cheaper priced tour/s than that of any hotel. I think the hotels also coordinate with them and make the price higher. We booked Mekong Delta tour and Cu Chi Tunnels from them. Their email address is airbusboattour@gmail.com. Their service is a van. You will also get to meet other foreign tourists from different countries during the tour if you book from them.

5. Wifi (Optional)
You will need internet to use navigation apps to help get you to your destination but if you availed a tour service, you do not really need one. You may avail one from any shops or agencies that offer budget pocket wifi for tourists. We availed ours from Klook which can be used only in Vietnam (because they do not offer a single wifi that can be both used in Vietnam and Cambodia or a wifi that can be picked from Siem Reap and be returned to Ho Chi Minh).

You may also refer to 10 Tips on How to Plan your DIY Itinerary on a Budget to help you in creating your Itinerary.

Notes and Tips:

1. We opted for Toyota Expedition service rather than a Tuktuk tour service since it was too hot in Cambodia. You will thank yourself if you do. I swear! For only 30USD 🙂
2. In Angkor Wat, don’t wear revealing clothes or short shorts or short skirts.
3. Temple hopping is SOOOOOOO tiring and boring. We only got to 3 temples: Angkor Wat and I don’t remember the names of the other two. The 37USD admission fee is applicable to all the temples.
4. I don’t really recommend the Elephant ride but for your information, the price is 20USD (one way only). I don’t promote animal cruelty. 🙂
5. We booked the Sleeper bus to Ho Chi Minh at the reception of Happy Guesthouse for 21USD. Keep the receipt. You will use it later.
6. A representative of the Sleeper bus company will pick you up from the hotel and will send you where the bus is parked. As per the banner posted in the hotel and bus terminal, there was wifi but there was none. We felt scammed. You know.
7. At the bus terminal, a guy will give you your ticket/s but you have to show your receipt first. The receipt is given by the hotel receptionist. KEEP your Sleeper bus ticket/s and receipt. You will use them later.
8. I am not sure with others but as per our experience with the sleeper bus, it has (tiny) beds inside with two floors. The first sleeper bus is not going directly to Ho Chi Minh. I think, after the 3rd stop (I am not sure where exactly it was but it was still in Cambodia), when everyone is asked to go down, you will have to go down and wait for the next sleeper bus going to Ho Chi Minh. Another representative from the bus terminal will check your previous ticket and will give you another one.
It was really hard to communicate since the driver was not speaking in English. No one bothered to explain. Other foreigners also didn’t know what to do. We really didn’t know when and where we must go down the first sleeper bus since there were several stops along the way. I think you just have to keep on saying “HO CHI MINH” and the driver will tell you when to go down.
This was our time line during the Sleeper bus trip as I remember.
11pm-5am – 1st Sleeper bus going to 2nd terminal (after 3rd stop-not really sure)
5am-7:30am – Waiting time for 2nd Sleeper bus to Ho Chi Minh
7:30am-2:30pm – 2nd Sleeper bus to Ho Chi Minh
9. At the 2nd terminal, just IGNORE those people who will offer a faster ride from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh. Their price is very expensive. I also believe they are SCAMMERS. Besides, the whole trip has already been paid for 21USD. You do not have to pay again at the 2nd terminal. Just show your ticket when asked by the terminal representative. He will provide you another set of tickets.
10. BEWARE of SCAMMERS. They are everywhere especially in Cambodia.
11. I don’t really recommend booking for a sleeper bus because the whole trip going to HCM has been very tiring, long and uncomfortable.
12. I actually did not see any convenience store in Siem Reap. I saw one in HCM on the way to the airport going home.
13. Ho Chi Minh is more like a normal and livelier city than Siem Reap with fast foods everywhere. Siem Reap is kinda remote for me.
14. At first, we also planned to go to Hanoi but as per my research, the trip will be atleast 14 to 20 hours from Ho Chi Minh so we cancelled that plan during preparations.
15. For me, there is not much to do in Siem Reap except for temple visits. I only recommend to stay there for 1 day but it also depends on your preference.
16. Try Pho in Vietnam. We tried a Pho restaurant just beside the Dragon Palace II Hotel. I forgot the name but I think it’s a known Pho restaurant since it has many branches. It does not cost that much though. I also liked their spring rolls.
17. We found it kinda hard to cross streets in HCM since the vehicles weren’t really that “giving” to people. They just won’t stop for you. You should cross at your own risk. It’s just our observation.