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Phnom Penh to Saigon
Get on a bicycle, off the beaten track and explore the contrast in countries between Cambodia and Vietnam over 12 fascinating days on a socially conscious adventure tour. With an adventure beginning in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and finishing in Saigon, Vietnam, you can truly explore and uncover the mysteries of these two incredible countries. Get ready to cycle almost 500km across Cambodia and Vietnam. From Choeung Ek Killing Fields in Phnom Penh to the mighty Mekong Delta, you will be taken on a journey that will push your physical limits, challenge your ethical values and completely open your mind. You are about to go on a journey that may well change your life. And the lives of others.
- TypeFully Guided
- Duration12 days
- Culture LevelAdventurous
- Skill Level2 - Novice
- Activity Level3 - Active
- Elevation2 - Moderate
- Distance310.7 miles
- Avg. Daily Distance44.1 miles
Where does the tour start and end? What about visas?
The tour starts in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and ends in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam.
Fly into Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) and the tour operator will meet you there with a transfer to the hotel.
Fly out of Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. An airport transfer on departure is not included in the tour price but the tour operator will help you get there and the cost is approximately 10 USD.
In Phnom Penh you’ll need to get your visa (if you haven’t already). It’s easy to do. You’ll see some signs directing you where to go (follow the signs for Visa on Arrival). There will be a uniformed official giving out a piece of paper that you will need to complete. It will ask for your address in Cambodia. Write ‘Mito Hotel‘. Give this completed form and your passport, together with your passport photo to the official behind the desk. This person will take your items and gesture for you to go away and wait away from the line. Your passport and form will be shuffled along a queue of officials sitting behind the desk. When it gets to the end, some ten meters away, your name will be called and your passport waved in the air. Pay this person (the cashier) US$30 and collect your passport with a fresh, full page Cambodia tourist visa stamp.
• Then proceed downstairs to collect your luggage before exiting to the arrivals hall.
• After collecting baggage, you may be asked by customs officials to screen your luggage in a machine before exiting and/or check your luggage tags against the corresponding labels that you were given when checking in, to make sure you have taken the correct bags.
On clearing customs and collecting your luggage, please look for a sign with your name on it. Please do not leave the arrivals hall. If it is crowded, it may take you time to locate the sign. You will be transferred to your accommodation. You can exchange money at the airport but it’s better to change a small amount as the exchange rates are better in the city. You can also get a sim card at the airport. This is probably the easiest and most convenient place to get a sim.
Arrival airport transfer are included in the tour. Somebody will be there to meet you (by car in Phnom Penh). If your flight has arrived early then the transfer driver may not yet have arrived. Please just take a seat and wait a little while longer. You may be approached by someone offering you a taxi – don’t take it, just wait until you see someone with a sign. You will be provided with a phone number to call once you have booked.
On Departure (Vietnam)
• Check-in 2 hrs prior to flight time is ample for all international flights
• There is no departure tax to pay (all taxes are included in ticket prices)
• Fill in a departure card and hand in at passport control counters after going through security
• There are shops and cafes in the departure area near the gates. Boarding announcements are made in English for all flights
How long is the tour? How many days cycling?
The tour is 12 days long and there are 6 days of cycling with an additional 1 day where there's an optional cycle ride available.
What's the food and drink like? What about allergies/dietary requirements?
In a word the food in Cambodia and Vietnam is delicious! The best part is the street food. It’s what the region is famous for and for good reason! The markets are like a walking degustation of stick food! At the group dinners, you’ll order a variety of local specials and eat ‘family style’, ensuring everybody gets to try as much as possible! You will often eat at vocational training restaurants that serve as social enterprises of the NGOs you visit. It makes you feel good, but that’s not why you will eat there. You eat there because the food is fantastic!
Vegetarians and Vegans?
That’s no problem. There’s a huge variety of vegetarian local specialties available and there will always be vegetarian dishes on the table at every meal. If the majority of the group are vegetarian, it will be reflected in the food on the table.
If you have any dietary requirements or allergies, please indicate on the online form you will fill out once you have paid a deposit and booked your place. The tour operator will cater to all dietary requirements as best as possible. Please get in touch if you have life threatening allergies.
What’s the deal with alcohol?
There’s plenty of beers around Cambodia and Vietnam. And a cold beer after a hard day on the bike is pretty inviting! They’re quite cheap too, with some places selling draft beers from as little as 50c. Wine is a little harder to find (good wine anyway) and is closer to Western prices. Cocktails on the other hand are excellent, well made (the places you'll go on the tour) and inexpensive ($5-6). Just be wary that the weather can be a little warm and a couple too many beers or cocktails will knock you about a bit more than usual the next day. Dehydration will have a huge effect and it doesn’t take much to have a hangover. To be honest, most of the time, you'll be in bed by 9pm!
What should I bring? Are there washing facilities?
Everyone’s packing style is different and everyone has their own travel needs so these are only ideas and there will be gaps! These are merely suggestions and not ‘compulsory’ items.
With regards to clothing, the most important thing here is to be comfortable. Both Cambodia and Vietnam are still relatively conservative countries and you should dress accordingly. You won’t see Cambodian people wearing revealing clothing and your clothing should be the same. It is disrespectful to wear short shorts and have exposed shoulders around some temples. The tour operator will guide you beforehand though. Shorts, t-shirts and singlets are all fine to wear for everyday use, but please be aware of sun protection. There is no significant difference between what should be worn for men and women. Many people prefer padded shorts to make the ride more comfortable. It is recommended to wear a Khmer scarf for sun protection. You will be provided with a cycle jersey that has pockets in the back to help you carry your possessions (money, phone etc).
Clothing and washing opportunities:
You will generally live in shorts, t-shirt & flip-flops. You will have a chance to get washing done in Phnom Penh, Kampot, Can Tho and Saigon, so you don’t need to bring a pair of everything for every day
Full sleeve sports top for sun protection (high breathability)
Lightweight full length top and pants
Comfortable (padded) shorts to cycle in
Visor/Caps for under your helmet
Closed shoes (bikes do not have clip in pedals)
Sports water bottle
Lightweight backpack (optional)
Removable padded seat for your bike (optional)
Light Khmer scarf to protect your neck from the sun
Passport & passport photo
Camera, SD cards & chargers
Smart phone & chargers
Tropical strength insect repellant
Gels & hydrolytes to stay hydrated
Adequate prescription medication
Womens sanitary needs
Hat for sun protection
What's the weather like?
The wet season is from June to October. But don’t let that put you off, the wet season brings with it a heap of fun and adventure in it’s own right. The tour operator has done plenty of tours in this time and more often than not, it doesn’t rain at all. And then they’ve done tours in the ‘dry season’ and it’s poured down. It can be really difficult to predict these days and it shouldn’t be an influential factor in making your decision as to when the best time to visit is. The temperature is still in the mid to high 20’s during the wet season, so if it does rain, and you’re riding, you’ll usually just enjoy the shower. If, on the odd occasion, it pours down to the point of low visibility, the guide will pull over until it passes. This has not happened to date. The wet season is more likely to bring with it some mud along the route (if it’s rained in the last 24 hours) and a few more river crossings than the dry season. Other than that, and the late afternoon showers, it’s pretty much the same.
November to February is when most guide books will tell you it’s the best time to go to Cambodia and Vietnam. Although the weather is a couple of degrees cooler (especially at night) and the rain is not as frequent, it can bring with it more tourists, especially in the more popular areas. There is never really a bad time to go! Except maybe for March and April. There’s not a lot of rain, so it can get a little bit warm.
Can you give me some information about safety and medical advice?
The tour operator takes your safety extremely seriously and ensures that all the activities they host have been assessed in regards to health and safety aspects, from cycling routes to where you will eat. Saying that, they’re not there to hold your hand the entire time and you will have to assume general common sense in Cambodia and Vietnam. They recommend exercising a little more caution than if you were back home. For example, they wouldn’t advise getting drunk in any of the cities as you may be vulnerable to assault or theft. They’d recommend you take extra care when crossing the road as a pedestrian (they’ll be there with you when you’re on the bike and direct the traffic around you). The traffic can be a little daunting. If in doubt, cross with a local. Common sense can go a long way here.
What should I be cautious of?
The biggest risk in the larger cities is ‘snatch and grab’ crime, where a passing motorbike may snatch your phone or bag off your shoulder. This is more common in the lead up to national holidays. To prevent or minimise your chance of becoming a victim, use your headphones whilst making a phone call on the street. If you’re using your phone as a camera, ensure you look around first and hold onto your phone tightly. Take your photos quickly and be vigilant of those around you. When walking with your bag, have the strap over your opposite shoulder. Be wary on crowded trains and in markets.
How can I find out more?
Due to the amount of positive experiences the tour operator has had in Cambodia and Vietnam, they admit they can sometimes see it through rose coloured glasses. To keep in check, they refer to the safety guide produced by the Australian government. It is based on fact, not hysteria. Cambodia and Vietnam are both currently rated as green. Which means exercise general safety precautions. Other countries with the same level are New Zealand, Samoa, Canada, UK etc.
Medical facilities in Cambodia and Vietnam are basic, outside of major cities. There are international standard hospitals in all the major cities on route (Phnom Penh, Kampot, Can Tho, Ben Tre and Saigon). The tour operator assumes you are in good health and have a sufficient level of fitness to complete your chosen tour. It is very important that any illness, disability or medical condition that you suffer or are recovering from, have been brought to our attention at the time of booking. Please make sure you have informed your insurance company of any existing conditions to provide adequate cover.
If you are taking medication, please bring your own adequate supply, as you will probably not be able to obtain suitable medication en-route. Each vehicle has a basic first aid kit but you may also like to bring your own small medical supply for minor wounds etc. The tour operator is not permitted to administer medicine or drugs so if you suffer from a bad back, travel sickness, hay fever or headaches etc please bring your own supply of medicine. You may also want to consider including a generic antibiotic such Amoxicillin.
Is the cycling dangerous?
At first impressions, the volume of traffic in the cities looks like utter chaos! It is in fact, a beautiful mess that really works. All the cities in Asia have a much greater amount of motorbikes than they do cars. As a result, the relationship between bikes and cars is very good, unlike Australia for example. There is little to no road rage, and as a result, the riding is a lot more peaceful than it may first appear! The vast majority of the cycling though is on remote back roads between rural villages. You don’t take any highways and never share any roads with fast moving traffic. There will be a support van on hand at all times to give you a ride if there is a particular section that you don’t feel comfortable with. To date, every rider has felt that the riding in Cambodia and Vietnam is safer than the conditions in Australia.
Can you tell me about the bathroom facilities?
Toilets in Asia are generally squat toilets. However,all the hotel rooms we stay in have a Western style toilet and a private bathroom. Local restaurants and homes will all have squat toilets.If you’re not used to this style, it can be a little daunting at first. If you’re really not comfortable with this, or your knees just aren’t what they used to be, it’s worth waiting to the next Western style toilet. Just be aware before you leave the comfort of the hotel!
Toilets On The Road
If you’re on the road and you suddenly near to use a toilet, just let the local guide know and they’ll find a family home that can host you for a few moments. The community lifestyle in rural villages makes this incredibly easy, but the local assistance from the team is essential. Bring toilet paper or tissues with you, but use a bin instead of flushing down the squat toilet, as the system cannot take it and you may end up blocking their drains.
The Asian style of toilet does not usually have toilet paper with it. The custom is to use water and your left hand to clean yourself. If this is the first time you’ve heard this, I’d imagine you might be squirming in your seat a little. However, it s commonly considered to be a cleaner method than the Western style. Think of it like this…. if you were sitting in a park and as you sat down on the grass, you put your hand in dog shit. Would you A) wash your hands with soap and water or B) wipe your hand clean with dry paper. It’s obvious, but just another way of thinking. If you’re not comfortable washing, then you’re welcome to bring toilet paper with you.
How much money should I bring? Should I bring cash?
There’s plenty of opportunities to get money out from an ATM in both Cambodia and Vietnam, although you’re likely to be stung with about US$5-6 of fees every time you withdraw cash. It’s pretty much a cash economy in all the places you’re likely to spend money. The only places that take card payments are bigger establishments, such as hotels and bigger restaurants (all of which are paid for as part of the tour).
So the obvious next question is, how much should you bring with you? It really depends on what your movements are outside of the tour. You’ll need to budget (US) $30 for your Cambodia visa & US$50 for your Vietnam visa (if required), another $150 for the NGO donation (optional), and about $50-$100 for any hotels you might be staying in before or after the tour. Meals are anywhere from $5 to $10 and transport is cheap. For the actual tour itself, you should budget around $400 (plus visa, tip and donation). This will cover meals outside of the itinerary, souvenirs and other personal expenses. And you’ll have money left over to bring home.
You can bring in all major currencies. this includes Australian & New Zealand dollars, Euros, British Pounds and of course, American dollars. There are money exchanges in all the major cities but the smaller towns might struggle to exchange anything other that US$.
In Cambodia, they operate on the USD. This is accepted everywhere and is the only currency you need. There is also a local currency, called Riel (KHR). It is always 4000 KHR to 1 USD. You do not need to (or want to) change money into KHR. You will only receive it as change from the US notes. For example, if you purchase a bottle of water for 75 cents, and pay with a $1, then you will receive 1000 KHR in change. The biggest note in KHR is 20,000 ($5). You could think of KHR as ‘coins’. In Vietnam, they do NOT accept USD. You will need to obtain local currency before you cross the land border. The local currency is Vietnamese Dong (VND). It is approximately 23,000 VND to 1 USD. You can change money from Phnom Penh or Kampot before crossing the border.
Tipping in hotels and restaurants in Cambodia and Vietnam is not common. Sometimes there would be a small tip box at the front of some restaurants, should you choose to leave something for exceptional service. The guide and his team work hard to make you’re experience a truly once in a lifetime adventure. If you would like to tip the team, it would be graciously accepted, but certainly not expected. The amount is always hard to suggest as it is always a personal gesture and different amounts mean different things to different people. Previous riders have tipped the team anywhere from US$50 to $150, depending on the length of the tour. You will change teams when you cross into Vietnam, saying goodbye to Hoem at the border and hello to the Vietnam team, so you can generally tip twice.
Tell me about the NGO aspect please?
Your money. Your decision. Based on your experience. So far over 5 countries and 15 NGOs, 202 Riders have donated $ 49,473 via the tour operator's rides.
These numbers change lives. Not only the lives of the beneficiaries involved, but the lives of the riders who have witnessed and learned the complexity of community development in foreign countries. This is your chance to speak to local experts as part of your adventure, as you cycle across the country and gain a true understanding of life outside the tourist bubble.
The tour operator asks for a A$200 minimum commitment from all riders. The money is given directly to the NGOs that are chosen by you. All of it. No bank fees, no commissions. The group from every tour engage in a ‘Donation Debate’ on your last night together. You'll discuss what impressed you, confused you and inspired you. As a group, you’ll make a decision as to how you’ll divide the total money. It’s your money and your experience. It can, and will, go to whatever NGO touched you the most.
On this tour the NGOs you will visit are Friends International, Chumkriel Language School and Mekong Plus. Friends International are leading the charge in the ‘ChildSafe’ movement and the ‘Think Families, Not Orphanages’ campaign. Friends International have an office in Phnom Penh, which makes for a great introduction to Cambodia. Chumkriel Language School is an incredible organisation that go so far beyond teaching language. In Vietnam, the tour operator often visits Mekong Plus, a fantastic organisation that work within community development with a very holistic approach.
Due to the nature of travel, public holidays and unavoidable timetable clashes, you may not be able to visit all of the above NGOs. If there is one in particular that you are interested in, please let us know prior to travel.
Do I need travel insurance?
Travel and medical insurance is mandatory for all clients. It is one of the most important criteria for anyone who travels and in the very unlikely event that an emergency occurs your insurance must deliver.
What having an insurance policy actually means in practise if someone does get sick:
• You can get 24-hour medical support from the insurance company doctors
• If treatment or a hospital visit is required, the insurance company will ensure that this is at the best local facility
• They would provide all necessary assistance (for example, sending someone with you to the hospital to help with any language difficulties).
• You must be adequately insured for medical and health cover – in case of a sudden illness or injury. Your insurance policy should also cover 24-hour emergency service and assistance, hospital fees, lost, damaged or stolen property (the tour operator is not responsible for any loss or damage to personal belongings while on tour). Your insurance policy must cover any necessary extra travel (rejoining tour or repatriation) as well as curtailment and cancellation.
• Insurance provided by standard credit cards does not always provide adequate cover and they suggest that you check your policy. If you do travel with insurance provided through a credit card, the tour operator will need details of the participating insurer, the insurance policy number and emergency contact telephone number. The Bank’s name and the credit card number will not be enough information.
• You must satisfy yourself that your policy covers medical emergencies resulting from any/all of the activities that you propose to undertake during the course of your trip and you should request a full policy document from your insurer if one is not automatically provided.
• If you are from the US and do not usually travel with insurance, you may wish to look at either www.travelexinsurance.com or www.travelguard.com
• Please let us know details of your travel insurance documentation on booking.
This must include:
• The name of your insurance company
• The 24-hour emergency assistance number
• The policy number
Is a bike included?
Yes. In Cambodia and Vietnam, you will use 24 speed mountain bikes. Most bikes have either 27″ or 29″ wheels, whilst some of the smaller bikes are 26″. The front suspension is perfect for the bumps along the road and the wider tyres allow for strong traction when you need it most.
You’re welcome to bring your own saddle if you’re slightly nervous about getting a bit sore, or haven’t had the chance to get a lot of saddle time before the ride. Another good option is to bring along a gel seat (cushion). The bikes are fitted with standard pedals. Again, you’re welcome to bring clip ins should you want them. All bikes are fitted with a water cage. Bikes are fully serviced before and after every ride and there will be So, a trusty mechanic, with the group at all times!
Are families welcome? Is there a lower/upper age limit?
The tour operator doesn’t have a minimum and maximum cut off for age on the trip. Needless to say, minors under the age of 18 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and with this comes a conversation to learn more about each other and expectations from the trip. There is no upper age limit since Judy, who is 81, cycled across Iran with the tour operator in April of 2018. She was inspirational!
However, you are reminded that the trip can be physically demanding and you should ensure that you and any others in your group are reasonably fit to allow full participation. And it goes without saying to see your doctor first if worried!
Are there any travel updates for Cambodia?
Last Updated: March 19th (inclusive)
There is no disruption to the tours to date, due to the low reported cases of COVID-19. However, it is advised to take general safety precaution as always, such as frequent use of hand sanitizer and avoiding direct contact with people suffering flu like symptoms. Airport immigration are taking temperature checks on arrival from all passengers.
Travel Restrictions: There are no flight bans. Currently, Cambodia is accepting direct flights from Hong Kong and connecting flights that have been via South Korea and Japan. Check latest information with your airline for updates.
What the Govt says: Australia recommends ‘exercising normal safety precaution’ and has given Cambodia a ‘green light’, or level 1 (out of 4). The USA Govt has done the same. You can read more from the UK Govt, although they don’t have a ranking system.
Conclusion: Business as usual.