Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cambodia-Vietnam 2015

It was one year ago when Cebu Pacific launched a Php 2 seat sale and I quickly grabbed the opportunity to book the next countries on my checklist - Cambodia and Vietnam. I've roughly researched on a cross-border trip from Cambodia-Vietnam that time and planned to do it during the long holidays in August 2015.

I invited a friend to join me in this trip. Good thing that she responded positively on my plan. Thus, when I arrived back at the office, I promptly looked for tickets still on sale. I finally found a promo fare from August 23, 2015 to September 2, 2015. At last, I booked our 10 nights - 9 days trip from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Hanoi, Vietnam for only Php 4,500 per person.


With almost 10 months to prepare for our first cross-border trip, I first created a draft itinerary to guide us on booking accommodations and transit services. Initial plan was to spend 4 nights - 3 days at Cambodia and 6 nights and 6 days at Vietnam.

Checklist to book included 5 accommodations, 1 night bus and a flight between Saigon and Hanoi. I eliminated the option to take the train or bus due to time constraints. It would take almost 24 hours or more to travel from Saigon to Hanoi. A lot of people in online travel forums suggested to stop by a province between the 2 cities. I would love to do that if I only have more time. I think this is still possible for a 10 day trip since it will depend on your priorities on where to go. But for this trip, we wanted to focus on Saigon and Hanoi. And the only way to maximize the days was to book a plane ticket from Saigon and Hanoi.

I also made a schedule on when to book everything on the checklist. Since we're on a tight budget. we booked one at a time, after our pay day every month. Between booking, we researched on cheap but decent accommodations with free breakfast with the help of reviews from TripAdvisor. I booked all accommodations through Agoda except the one in Phnom Penh. I just reserved through email and paid when we get there.

I believed that Giant Ibis Bus is the only company which has night buses. I read good reviews about its service and it also has an online booking website where you can choose your bed's location.

There are three airlines which offer direct flights from SGN to HAN. Being an avid fan of seat sale, I would probably go with Jetstar or VietJet. However, online reviews of those airlines were mixed on its flights' punctuality. Since we couldn't afford long delay, I decided to book a flight with Vietnam Airlines. Price difference was not much, considering we already have free 20 kg check-in luggage and food per person.

Sudden Alteration

A month before our flight to Siem Reap, I was notified by Cebu Pacific that our August 23 flight was cancelled and we could move it to the next flight which was on August 27.  This was the first time it happened to me so I panicked while reading the message. We're almost done with all the bookings and we're also supposed to be at Phnom Penh on that date, Good thing, I checked other flight dates to Siem Reap and found one on August 22. It's better to add one more day to the trip than to shorten it by 4 days. I immediately called Cebu Pacific and managed to move our flight to August 22.

With our extended trip, I needed to revise our itinerary. At first, I found it troublesome to re-schedule what we have booked so far. But this extension was a great way to spend more time at Phnom Penh. I was a bit worried before that spending only a day at Phnom Penh was a little rushed.

The things I needed to reschedule were the accommodations in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and the night bus. It was easy to reschedule our booking for Siem Reap through Agoda since rooms were still available. I was not just sure if Agoda charged us for moving the booking dates. But it was still a bit cheaper that we even got a refund. For the night bus, there was also no charge to move the booking date. I just sent an email to Giant Ibis Bus' Customer Care to do this. Since we only reserved for our Phnom Penh accommodation, I also just sent an email to add another date on my previous reservation.


Before embarking on the trip, we already spent almost Php 17,000. This included all plane and bus tickets and accommodations mentioned above excluding the hostel in Phnom Penh. Next thing to take care of was how much money should one bring. After completing the final itinerary, I came up with a corresponding budget of almost Php 27,500.

*FOREX I used during budgeting

Please note that this budget depends on places we planned to go. Also, I always overestimate my budget on food which was Php 400 per meal for this trip

I initially planned to exchange my money to USD and VND. However, I was informed that money changers do not sell VND. So I changed all my money to USD. Please ask for smaller bills when exchanging. This will be convenient while transacting in Cambodia.

After 10 months of preparation, we're now ready for our 11 nights - 10 days trip to Cambodia and Vietnam.

Next entries will be detailed accounts of our trip. Please watch out for it!