I actually spent a little over ₱35,000 all-in for this trip because I spent extra on food and bits of pasalubong. To add to that, we fell victims on some of the hideous tourist traps and scams. Reading through this blog will help you prevent committing the same mistake we did. It wouldn’t hurt if you bring extra money, of course.
I will be inserting some photos I took off my Instagram stories for you to familiarize with the places and situations as early as now. Hover on the photos to reveal funny captions, too. Excited yet? You’re welcome. Again! 😀
For all those “budgetarian” travelers out there, here’s what I came up with. Here are some of the FAQ’s I received from you:
Which country do I kick off this Indochina tour?
Our trip route was Manila > Thailand > Laos > Thailand > Cambodia > Vietnam > Manila. We took a flight to Bangkok, Thailand from Manila. From Bangkok, we boarded a sleeper train to Laos. After we toured around Laos, we went back to Bangkok again via a sleeper bus this time; then we directly took a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia. As soon as we’re done with Cambodia, we took another sleeper bus to get to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Our return flight was HCMC to Manila, Philippines. You may also opt to do this in reverse by starting in Vietnam.
When do you book your tickets?
Always be on the look out for seat sales from low-cost airlines. I, myself, am a fan of seat sales. If you get lucky, you can get a roundtrip ticket for ₱3,500 roundtrip for this Indochina trip or even lower. Just to let you know, I pre-book my flights way ahead of my schedule. What happens is, I will only plan my travel as soon as I snag a good airline ticket deal. That way I could plan a more concise itinerary. To check the LOWEST promo fares, BOOK HERE.
Where to stay in each destination?
Since this is a budget travel guide and given that most of the time you’ll just be staying in your room for a few hours to catch some sleep, I would strongly suggest that you book at backpacker hostels. If you are traveling in a group, you may opt to get one of the dorm-type rooms. It is very practical and fun at the same time. Who knows, nandoon lang pala si “forever” mo sa shared room na yun! LMAO! On a serious note, you may also consider reasonable hotel options like what we did in Laos. Indochina region is relatively cheap. Use the search engine below to book discounted rooms.
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Is food expensive?
I will not be including the food expense on this post. We don’t normally compromise on food. In fact, we splurged huge money on food during this Indochina travel. So what I am saying is that, if you love to eat while traveling just like us, you will spend more than ₱15,000. However, for purposes of traveling on a budget again, here’s what I suggest.
Don’t dine on fancy restaurants and coffee shops if you don’t want to spend, of course. Try to eat at local diners available in the area. They will usually have cheap food prices but still authentic and delicious. There are Pho’s along the streets of Vietnam at a very affordable price. If you don’t mind eating at convenience stores and fast-food chains, then you have options there, too.
In Laos, I noticed that their street food is pretty much like what we have in the Philippines. They have barbeques, pork belly on sticks, sausages, etc. If you pair it with rice, then you are good to go! Ginagawa nyo yan sa Pinas, so why not abroad? Don’t me! Joke lang! 😛 There will also be Nutella crepes along the streets, and of course, scorpions, cockroaches, worms, snakes and all those nasty choices in Cambodia! Bring cup noodles. Alam mo yan bes! Hahaha!
Is the cross-country land transfers in Indochina expensive?
Personally, I don’t think it is expensive given the distance from one border to another. Say for example from Thailand to Laos, it will cost you ₱1,700 for a first class sleeper train (it didn’t really look nor feel first class by the way). However, you may opt for just a seat for only ₱680 or a second class sleeper for ₱1,000. Buses are priced fairly as well. Don’t join tours from agencies; they are priced with no mercy.
What will be the other expenses to expect during this trip?
This will eat up a good fraction of your budget for sure- the activities and pasalubongs. My worry in doing this post is whether or not do I include this in the breakdown. Not everyone enjoys ATV rides, countryside biking or even temple hopping. If you don’t, then you are definitely going to save up some cash here! I also suggest that you just select the best temples to go. Most of them look identical based on photos anyways. The Grand Palace was indeed grande, but due to the crazy number of people inside, it might disappoint if you are after photo ops. Talk about expectations VS reality for your photos. There are plenty of that in this Indochina trip. Congrats!
SAMPLE ITINERARY and EXPENSES
• 2am, Arrival in Thailand
• Airport transfer to Patpong, Thailand
*We took an UBER car from the airport to our hostel.
• Early hotel check-in and leave baggage at Thrive The Hostel
*This is a nice boutique hostel with rustic interiors and is located near a bus stop.
• Take a short rest and ample sleep.
• 6am wake up call
• Take the bus 501 and ask to be dropped off at the Grand Palace area.
*Most buses have signages stating their particular route. Be guided.
• Start of Temple Run tours
*The temples are just near each other and can be navigated by just walking. Most of them are free of charge. The Grand Palace is the main attraction. For some reasons I did not enjoy this because there was just too much crowd. You can barely appreciate the temples so if you don’t want to spend much, skip this one. Most of the temples look identical anyways.
• Lunch time
• After lunch, you may opt to cross the river and go to Wat Arun.
*From the exit of the Grand Palace, you can walk your way to the pier going to Wat Arun. DO NOT take the offers from free agents outside the temple. They are scams! Just ask around for directions.
• Back to Patpong after the Wat Arun tour.
• Night stroll
• Airport transfer via UBER: ₱500/taxi (₱125/head for a group of 4)
Quick boat ride to Wat Arun
• We started our days early at 6am
• Take a cab to Victory Monument BTS Station (Minibus)
*You will notice that there will be lots of agencies offering the floating market tour. Be careful in choosing your poison. Most of them have direct contacts to boat operators at the floating market and they will charge with insane amount of money!
• Take the minibus to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.
*You will be dropped off at their linked agency. Don’t fall for their bait. They charge almost ₱800 pesos each when the boat rental right at the market is only ₱700 pesos which is good enough for 7 people already! What you should do is walk for about a kilometer to the public market and rent a boat there. You may also take a tuktuk if there is one available. I hated Bangkok for this! Tourist trap!
• Haggle for the boat ride at the market
• Start the floating market tour
• By noon, travel back to the city center via minibus
• From the drop off, we walked towards MBK . We had lunch and did some shopping.
*There is an international buffet there to feast on!
• After which, 3 of us went to Hualamphong Railway Station to secure the tickets to Laos.
*The last trip of sleeper trains usually gets full quickly so I suggest that you go there and book in advance than be sorry.
• Back to hotel and pack for Laos.
• 6pm, take the train to Hualamphong Railway Station.
• Dinner at the station. They have KFC. lol
• 8:30pm is the last train schedule to Nong Khai (Thailand-Laos border).
*Take the train #69. You will get a good rest here.
• Taxi to BTS Station: ₱300
• Minibus to floating market: ₱300 roundtrip
• Boat at floating market: ₱700/boat (₱100/each for a group of 7)
SKIP THE ELEPHANT TOURS! It is animal cruelty. Hover on the photo to see captions.
Secure your tickets to Laos first!
• 7am, arrival at Nong Khai (Exit stamps at the immigration)
• Take the train to Thanaleng station, Laos.
*Right at that station, transfer to Thanaleng. This is just a short train ride and you’ll pass by the Laos-Thailand friendship bridge.
• Once inside Laos territory, have your passports stamped by the immigration.
• Take a tuktuk or van to central Vientianne for almost 20 minutes.
• Van operators will offer rides to Vang Vieng upon arrival.
• Travel from Vientianne to Vang Vieng for almost 5 hours via minibus.
• Minibuses are like bigger versions of Grandia in the Philippines.
• There will be one bus stop during this trip where you could grab lunch. They accept Thai Baht.
• Arrive in Vang Vieng at 2pm.
• Check in at a hostel. There are a LOT of cheap options there with the stunning view of Vang Vieng mountains.
• Change your money to Laos currency.
• By 3pm, we did the river tubing activity in Nam Song river. It was EPIC! You may stop over at bars along the river and grab some beer! Again, don’t book with agencies. Look for the rubber tube rental just along the sidewalk in VV.
• 5pm onwards, rent a bike and explore the laidback Vang Vieng.
• Train from Nong Khai to Thanaleng: ₱70
• Van from Thanaleng to Vientianne: ₱150
• Mini bus from Vientianne to Vang Vieng: ₱240
• Room at Mountainview Riverside: ₱350
• Rubber tube rental: ₱300
• TOTAL: ₱1,110
Afternoon arrival in Vang Vieng, Laos
Spent the afternoon entire afternoon river-tubing.
• 7am, start of the ATV tour to the countryside. Prepare yourself for the scenic view. It was one of the most picturesque backdrops I have seen in my life!
• Go to the blue lagoon and waterfalls.
• We did this activity for a half a day since we were scheduled to leave at 1:30pm. It’s 500/hour rental.
• Lunch and pack up for Bangkok again.
• This time, we took the sleeper bus from Vang Vieng, Laos to Bangkok, Thailand. It was a 15 hour ride including transfers and stops. I would suggest you take the sleeper train instead for it is more comfortable. Bad choice for us.
• Vang Vieng to Bangkok via Vientianne transfers: ₱1,700
• ATV Rental: ₱500/hour
• TOTAL: ₱2,200
Travel back to Thailand before proceeding to Cambodia
• Upon arriving at Bangkok bus station, grab your tickets going to Siem Reap.
• It’s another 4 hour ride or so. This day is the most tiring!
• Once at the Thai border, go to the immigration for your exit stamps. It is located somewhere near 7 eleven. Conductors usually guide foreigners so all you need to do is ask.
• After that, you enter the Cambodia border and walk your way to the immigration for entrance stamps.
*There will be lots of scammers here. Just walk directly to the immigration.
• Take the free shuttle to the bus terminal. Yes it is FREE.
• You have the option to either take a taxi, van or bus to Siem Reap. We took the van since we are in a big group and traveled for 2 hours again.
• Check in at a hotel in Siem Reap. Again there are a lot of cheap options there.
• Freshen up and go to the Angkor Night Market.
• Try exotic food like scorpions, frogs, snakes and crickets.
• Party at Pub Street
*If you are a party animal, you’ll probably end up watching the sunrise from there. LOL!
• Bus from BKK to Cambodia border: ₱1,000
• Van from border to Siem Reap: ₱400
• Room at Sok San Hostel: ₱350
• TOTAL: ₱1,750
• 4:30am, pick up time for the Angkor Wat tour. We were offered an affordable van service by our hostel.
• 5am, sunrise watching at Angkor Wat. I suggest you go there as early as possible so you can secure the best spot for the sunrise photos!
• Angkor Wat is the top tourist spot in Cambodia. The temples are breathtaking but it is OVERCROWDED.
• Never lose your Angkor Wat ticket. Get hold of it at ALL times. I wasn’t allowed to enter at one of the temples because I left my ticket inside the van. Bummer.
• After lunch, you may opt to go to the countryside and do another tour or go back to the center.
*Food inside the Angkor Wat premise is expensive for ordinary Filipino standards.
• 7pm, call time for bus pick up going to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
*Just arrange this transfer from your hostel for convenience. Agencies are overpriced!
• 8pm, travel via sleeper bus going to Vietnam. It’s a 14 hour ride, again! Hahaha!
*We took the sleeper bus. However, it looked weird inside. Though you will be lying down, there is not enough leg room. So if you are over 5’9, goodluck! LOL!
• Angkor Wat tour entrance: ₱1,700
• Van service: ₱250/each
• Upon entering the Vietnam border, Filipinos will be asked to pay a minimal amount.
* I also find it sketchy that upon arriving at the border to Vietnam, only FILIPINOS were called out and asked to pay a certain amount. What concerns me more is that it was inside the immigration were the bus conductor collected this “special fee” from us. I was able to confirm from other travelers that it was, indeed, one of the scams there. It was a minimal amount but still, nobody wants to be robbed. We are also too tired to raise an argument, then.
• By 10am, you will be dropped off at the Pham Ngu Lao bus station. Walk your way to the city center.
• It is the backpackers area in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. It’s like a meet up place for foreigners around the world!
• Leave your backpacks at a hostel then grab some lunch. Vietnamese food is very affordable.
• Walk your way to the Ben Than Market and shop. Don’t ever miss the Vietnamese coffee!
• Tour around the city’s landmarks like the Notre Dame Cathedral and Europe-inspired postal office.
• Dinner and socials.
• By 8pm, head on to the airport and travel back to Manila the next day.
• We took the airport bus at Pham Ngu Lao station.
• There’s not much “tourist” stuff to do in HCMC. It’s my second time here so I did this as a sidetrip only. Other options would be the tunnel tours and war remnants museum. If you have more time, go to the Northern part of Vietnam or or head to Hanoi.
• Bus from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam: ₱1,290
• Locker rental at the hostel: ₱150
• Airport bus: ₱70
TOTAL Expense for 7 days: ₱11, 285
I edited out the budget for airfare because it is more likely that we’ll have varied airline fares. I got mine for only ₱3,500 roundtrip courtesy of Cebu Pacific! To check the LOWEST promo fares, BOOK HERE. You better be on the look out for seat sales! As for the food, I did not include it here as this usually raises a lot of arguments. Food consumption is subjective. However, it is safe to budget at ₱200/meal in this guide so that sums up to ₱600/day. However, if you are not a breakfast person like myself, then you can save a little here. Again, there are a lot of cheap finds here in Indochina.
- Plan your desired travel dates way ahead. This will give you lead time to wait for promo fares and establish a solid itinerary for this Indochina travel.
- Book your rooms ahead online. There are good deals popping out every day. You may check the rates now thru this website. If you do walk-in bookings, it will cost you a lot.
- Stick with your itinerary. Remember, you can not afford to miss a train or bus if you follow this itinerary. One miss, and everything is effed up. So don’t ever practice that typical ‘pinoy time” during this Indochina trip.
- I read that there are a lot of scammers in Cambodia and Thailand. It is true as there are a lot of tourist traps there. What we did was religiously follow our itinerary and not join organized tours offered by strangers there.
- Shorts and showing of too much skin are not allowed inside temples. Dress accordingly.
- Prepare EXTRA cash for provisions. Bring US Dollars! We exchanged our dollars in every country we went to.
- For your own sake, PACK LIGHT! Indochina is in the tropical region so, iwan mo na yang boots with a fur mo! LOL
SCAMS IN INDOCHINA
- Scammers at the Cambodia-Thai border are REAL! My readers have told me that they didn’t allow it to happen to them and they stood their ground bypassing the scammers (yes that involves people in the immigration vicinity). While I support proper practice of our rights, I also suggest that YOU choose your battles. Don’t ever be rude because they might gang up on you. Remember, you are a foreigner in their country.
- Carry your bags at all times. There’d be people/porters offering to help but in the end, they will charge you off the roof! They’d even show misdemeanor if you don’t pay them. Hideous!
Hep hep!? Hoorayyy! Napagod ako mga bes. Hahaha!!! I hope this will be of big help to everyone of you who’s planning to do this Indochina travel. If you have two weeks or more to spend, please do so! There were a lot of things that we missed out due to time constraints but it was still epic. Don’t hesitate to try something new and interact with your fellow travelers there. Leave something good in every destination you go to. Helping some locals and small businesses is one way of achieving it.
I can’t wait to see photo comments of your trips on my Facebook page. 🙂 And if your Indochina itinerary will be inspired by this blog, it would mean a lot if you give us proper credit. Safe travels and happy wanderlusting!
Indochina just #gotMARKed!
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