Mother Indochina

This document contains essential information that you need to prepare for, as well as information you will need during your holiday with us.

We ask that you read it carefully and that you take the document with you on your holiday. It contains information on visas, vaccinations, spending money, etc, as well as a detailed, day by day itinerary of your trip.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Expert English-speaking local tour guides throughout the tour.
  • Free time to explore Hanoi, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, the temples of Angkor and Bangkok.
  • Local homestay experience in Cambodia.
  • Sightseeing (including entrance fees where relevant): Hanoi; Hoi An’s 'Old Town'; and the Cu Chi Tunnels.
  • Bike ride around Hue and boat cruise up the Perfume River.
  • Free time to explore Hanoi, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
  • Reunification Express sleeper train from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, Nha Trang to Hoi An and Hue to Hanoi.


  • Boat
  • Ferry
  • Private bus
  • Private vehicle
  • Public bus
  • Sleeper train


  • 3 nights Sleeper train
  • 2 nights Homestay
  • 20 nights Basic hotel


  • 4 breakfasts
  • 2 lunch
  • 2 dinners


International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.


  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh’s Museum
  • Hanoi - Taxi to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
  • Hanoi - Taxi to Ho Chi Minh’s Museum
  • Hoi An - Bicycle Hire – Per day
  • Hoi An - Car to My Son Cham ruins
  • Hoi An - My Son Cham ruins
  • Hoi An - Tu Bon River boat trip
  • Nha Trang - Bao Dai’s Villa
  • Nha Trang - Boat Excursion
  • Nha Trang - Mud Baths
    From US$5
  • Phnom Penh - National Museum
  • Phnom Penh - Royal Palace
  • Phnom Penh - The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
  • Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21)
  • Phnom Penh - Wat Phnom
  • Saigon - Reunification Palace
  • Saigon - Taxi to Reunification Palace
  • Saigon - Taxi to War Remnants Museum
  • Saigon - War Remnants Museum
  • Siem Reap - Angkor Pass - 1 day
  • Siem Reap - Angkor Pass - 3-day pass
  • Siem Reap - Flight of the Gibbon (Zipline Eco Adventure)


Visas and Permits


Visas can be organised on arrival, or in advance. If you wish to obtain you visa prior to departure please contact the embassy or consulate and allow approx 3 weeks for the visa to be processed. 
If you are obtaining your visa on arrival at the airport or at a border crossing you can do so for approx USD$25.00 (cost subject to change)- you will need a passport photo if you wish to do this. 
Most countries can obtain their visa on arrival including, Australia, Belguim, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the USA. If your country is not listed above please contact your embassy. 
The above information has been put together as a guide. We do endeavor to update this information as much as possible but it’s also important that you check for yourself as visas are the responsibility of the traveller.


If you are flying into Thailand you will be issued with a 30 day stay on arrival. 

If you are crossing into Thailand via a land border you will be granted a 15 day stay only. However, you can obtain an extension at an immigration office for approx 2000THB, alternatively you can apply for a Thauland visa in advance from your embassy or consulate – this will allow a 30 day stay. Exception– as of 28 Oct 2013 citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan are eligible for 30 day visa at land borders. 

If you are not from one of the following countries please contact your consulate or embassy for more information on visa conditions for Thailand Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom and USA. 

The above information has been put together as a guide. We do endeavor to update this information as much as possible but it’s also important that you check for yourself as visas are the responsibility of the traveller.


You will need to obtain your Vietnam visa in advance. When obtaining your visa for Vietnam you should allow 3 weeks for processing, the cost is approx USD$60 to USD$100.00 (subject to change). Some nationalities are exempt from requiring a visa if their stay is less than 15 days, but if you are planning on staying in Vietnam for longer than 15 days you will need to obtain a visa extension in advance. 

Keep the customs and immigration form you receive on arrival, as you need it to complete exit formalities on departure. 

If your visa application asks for a point of contact, please write: PEAK Vietnam 57A Nguyen Khac Hieu St, Hanoi, Vietnam Ph +84 4 3715 0996. 

The above information has been put together as a guide. We do endeavor to update this information as much as possible but it’s also important that you check for yourself as visas are the responsibility of the traveller.


Many governments publish up-to-date travel advice for countries around the world. Information is gleaned from both local and international sources as well as ‘friendly’ governments, and the notices are often on the cautious side. Sometimes there will be conflicting information. For example, the Australian, UK and Canadian governments may agree on the nature of the advice; however, frequently they do not. And sometimes the views expressed by a particular government can be coloured by political considerations. We will monitor these travel advisories closely and may alter itineraries or cancel trips as a result. However, it is also your responsibility to stay informed and form a balanced view. We recommend that you visit the websites or contact the departments listed below. Unless otherwise stated, it is not normally the intention of the relevant government travel advice to dissuade you from travelling. Rather, it is to inform you of where and when you should exercise caution to avoid problems. Please also note that, as a responsible tour operator, we maintain constant links with our ground operators and your safety - at all times - is our paramount concern. You can check your government's latest travel advice at one of the links below:

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
U.S. Department of State New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Border Crossing

Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip:

Day 12 Vietnam to Cambodia 
The Cambodian border is Ba Vet 
The Vietnam border is Moc Bai 
Day 21 Cambodia to Thailand 
The Thailand border is Aranyaprathet 
The Cambodian border is Poipet 

To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website useful: http://www.timeanddate.com



We strongly recommend you visit your doctor to discuss health requirements for your trip. They will advise you regarding the appropriate inoculations. In some places anti-malaria medication may also be required. Some vaccines need to be administered a few weeks before departure so allow yourself plenty of time. Obtain a certificate of vaccination and carry this with you on this trip. A dental check up is also highly recommended


Vaccinations may be required or recommended for this trip so you should consult with your travel doctor to obtain the latest up-to-date information. It is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain any vaccinations or preventative medicines for the countries you are visiting – or any which may be required by your home country upon your return.

For travellers from Australia and New Zealand, we recommend the Travel Doctor-TMVC clinics (see www.traveldoctor.com.au or phone 1300 658 844 for an appointment in Australia). Travellers from countries other than Australia and New Zealand should contact similar organisations or their travel doctor for advice. General health and vaccination information is available to all travellers at
www.traveldoctor.com.au/travelreport. Some vaccines require more than one dose, so arrange for your visit at least 4-6 weeks before you travel.

Malaria: There is no vaccination against malaria, which is transmitted by mosquito bites and is a risk in many less-developed tropical areas in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. Protection against mosquito bites is essential and where the risk is considered high, anti-malarial medications are recommended. Anti-malarial medications should be discussed with experts as there are different medications available and not all medications suit all people or all destinations. Where malaria is considered prevalent in mountainous regions we prefer that trekkers to altitude try to avoid the use of mefloquine (Lariam) if possible.


We recommend that you photocopy the main pages of your passport, your airline ticket, itinerary, insurance policy, traveller’s cheques and credit card. Keep one set of photocopies with you, separate from the originals. Leave one set of copies at home with family or friends. It is also worth taking some extra passport photos with you in case of additional visas, permits or other unforeseen paperwork.


A reasonably good level of fitness is required for this holiday and you should be in good health. Any physical preparation will always be to your advantage. Anyone with respiratory or cardiac problems, or over the age of 60, should fully consult their medical adviser prior to booking and we may require full medical clearance.


General Packing List

Remember - the lighter you travel the better! You may be buying things as you go, so you should not bring too much from home. Many people find a backpack the most suitable type of luggage for our holidays. Medium-sized suitcases can also be used; however, you should avoid the large, bulky cases that are difficult to carry. The lockable suitcases on wheels are the best types to use. Be aware that some hotels in Asia are not over-endowed with lifts (elevators) and there may be occasions when you need to carry your luggage up stairs or along railway platforms, etc.

When packing, consider cultural differences which may mean that some attire that we wear at home is not appropriate in Asia and may be offensive to the local people. Beachwear in towns is not appropriate, nor is 'short' shorts, particularly for women. Light cotton pants are a better option. When visiting sites of religious significance, modest clothing should be worn. Sandals, thongs, flip-flops or jandals are appropriate footwear in the tropics.

When you pack your clothing, consider the climate at the time of year you are travelling and any specific requirements for your trip as at certain times of the year some of the items suggested in the list that follow may not be necessary. Bear in mind that the weather will vary significantly from place to place. The majority of time the weather is warm in South East Asia; however, it may be distinctly cold up in the highlands. If there are specific requirements for a trip, these will be noted in the Trip Notes relating to that trip. Please note that in the last few years, the world’s weather pattern has gone somewhat awry. The effects of ‘El Nino’ and ‘La Nina’ are very real and this has resulted in unseasonable droughts followed by unseasonable deluges. Be prepared for the unexpected! Laundry facilities are available in some destinations.

Below is a list of equipment and documentation that we suggest you take with you. Please use this checklist as a guide when packing for your holiday.

  • Travel documents: passport, visa (if required), travel insurance, air tickets or e-ticket receipts,
  • Trip Notes
  • Photocopy of main passport pages, visa (if required), travel insurance and air tickets
  • Spare passport photos
  • Money: cash/credit card/EFTPOS card
  • Money belt
  • Small padlocks
  • Metal chain and padlock to secure luggage on overnight trains – additional precaution
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Daypack for use on day or overnight excursions
  • Watch/alarm clock and torch/flashlight (and spare batteries)
  • Electrical adapter plug
  • Toiletries/roll of toilet paper/travel wipes
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen, lip balm, sunhat and sunglasses
  • Earplugs and eye mask (for light sleepers)
  • Extra pair of prescription glasses (if required)
  • 2 strong plastic garbage bags (for laundry and in case of rain)
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Phrase book
  • Warm clothes - when travelling in cooler climates
  • Wind and waterproof jacket
  • Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes with good walking socks
  • Camera and spare film (or recharge for digital cameras)
  • Binoculars
  • Swimwear

Medical Kit

It is a good idea to take a small medical kit with you, and you should consider packing the following items:

Antibiotics, Lip-balm, moisturiser, sunscreen, headache tablets, antiseptic (e.g. Betadine), anti-diarrhoea tablets (for changes in diet and water), laxatives, band-aids/moleskin/dressing strips for blisters, small scissors/tweezers. Note that moleskin is particularly good for blisters and can be obtained from any pharmacy.

It is also recommended to carry a letter from your doctor explaining any less common prescribed medications that you may be carrying.

Diarrhoea Stomach upsets are not uncommon when travelling through new destinations (usually a 24 - 48 hour 'bug') and this may cause diarrhoea, leading to dehydration. Should you develop a stomach upset you should eat only in moderation and drink plenty of fluids. It is a good idea to carry a couple of sachets of rehydrants with you (such as Gastrolite). We also suggest that you carry one of the common anti-diarrhoea tablets such as Imodium.

Sunstroke It can be quite easy to get sun burnt when you are not accustomed to the sun in new climates. You should take sensible precautions such as wearing a hat and using a good UV sunscreen. Finally, drink plenty of fluids - preferably water.

Water In general, water is not safe to drink in the areas through which we travel. Bottled Water is widely available and most travellers prefer to drink this. Your guide can assist you in regards to the relative safety of tap water and the availability of bottled water on each tour. When walking, or in hot conditions, you must make a conscious effort to maintain your hydration, drinking as much water/tea as possible to offset fluid loss.




The unit of currency is the riel. Notes come in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 riel, although notes above 5,000 riel are not common. Coins are very rarely seen, for they are virtually worthless. The US dollar is also a major currency and commonly used in all day-to-day transactions.


The unit of currency is the Thai baht. There are 1, 2, 5 and 10 baht coins. There is a new copper and silver 10 baht coin. Notes are in the denominations of 10 (quite scarce), 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 baht (with the last very hard to change!).


The unit of currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Bank notes come in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 500,000 VND. Polymer notes of 50,000 VND (pink), 100,000 VND (light green) and 500,000 VND (dark green) are now used together with the old paper notes.

Exchange rates

Check out www.xe.com for current exchange rates.

Accessing Money


You can use your credit card in ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines), which are now common throughout the country. These machines dispense cash in US dollars. Money is safest when carried in the form of traveller’s cheques which, along with cash of major world currencies, can also be changed in banks. However, this will entail allowing for a bit of time spent in banks. There is no need to bring lots of cash with you unless you prefer not to use ATMs. There is also no need to pre-purchase Cambodian riel prior to arriving in the country. Most travellers never need to have more than US$10 worth of Cambodian Riel on them at any one time, as Cambodia is a country that widely accepts US dollars for all cash transactions. If you are taking in cash, please check that all your notes are in good condition and not old (US banknotes printed before 2006 and any US$2 bills are generally not accepted), crumpled, marked or torn, otherwise they may not be accepted. Please also be warned that some banks outlets at Cambodian airports may tell you that you will need to change your US dollars cash with them for Cambodia Riel, but this is not true!


There are plenty of money changing facilities in Thailand's cities and towns. Authorised money changers generally offer the best exchange rates but it’s worth it to shop around. Thailand also has a plethora of ATMs, which can also be used to get cash advances on credit cards. Look for ATMs displaying Maestro, Cirrus, MasterCard or Visa symbols. Traveller's cheques can be changed at most hotels, banks and currency exchange booths. In large cities there is no problem cashing cheques. You should consider where you are heading to, taking into account any public holidays, and cash enough money to see you to your next major town. Your tour leader will brief you at your pre-departure meeting on the specifics relevant to your particular trip. Credit cards are accepted in many shops, restaurants and hotels, but should not be relied on as your only form of funds. There are currency exchange booths in the arrival hall of Bangkok International Airport which offer the standard rate.


Credit cards have recently become more acceptable in Vietnam and ATM machines are now available in all the major tourist centres, including Saigon, Hoi An and Hanoi. The easiest manner to change money in Vietnam is to carry US dollars in cash as this is widely accepted throughout the country. However, it is not safe to have all your money in cash, so we suggest carrying half in cash and using an ATM card (Cirrus or Maestro). Traveller's cheques in any of the major currencies can be exchanged in the bigger cities, although banks in the provincial centres may take only US dollar cheques. If using traveller's cheques, please carry your purchase receipt, as this may have to be produced before you can cash your traveller's cheques in certain banks in Vietnam. Note that traveller's cheques attract a commission fee of around 3% and are sometimes difficult to cash. It is recommended that you change money through banks, hotels and authorised moneychangers only: it is easy to be short-changed if you change money on the street. You can also change money in banks at the airport, upon arrival in Vietnam.

Personal Expenses

South East Asia

You will need to take money with you to cover sightseeing, entrance fees, meals and drinks. Other costs to consider are drinking water, tips, laundry, souvenirs, additional activities during free time and possible delays. It is much better to come with more than you would expect to spend and to end the trip with a surplus, rather than being caught short! It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies that could happen en route. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the source and be reimbursed later by your insurance company. How Much Money? In our trip notes we have suggested an appropriate allowance for additional meals. This does not include alcoholic drinks, e.g. beer. In addition to this you should carry sufficient funds for optional activities, additional sightseeing, shopping and tips. As a guideline we suggest that you allow $US15-20 per day (or maybe less!) in Asia would allow you to eat and drink reasonably well. Emergency Funds In the unlikely event of an emergency of a personal nature or unforseen changes to the Gecko's schedule, we recommend you have access to an additional US$300 to cover any costs that may arise as a result of these events.

Spending Money

In our brochure we have suggested an appropriate allowance for additional meals ($165). This is for FOOD ONLY and does not include drinks and snacks. As a result of customer feedback we recommend you allow a figure of between US$150-$200 for your DRINK and SNACK requirements, additional to the amount suggested in the brochure for meals. Use a higher figure particularly if you are travelling during the hot season when you will require more fluids.

In addition you should carry sufficient funds for extra sightseeing and optional activities. We suggest that you allow approximately US$65 – US$150 for additional sightseeing tours.

Shopping is a personal thing that, again, varies enormously. On average, people spend anywhere between US$50 and US$200 on souvenirs, art, etc.

Airport Taxes


You will be required to pay airport and departure taxes in most countries. Most of these are added to the ticket price on purchase and you will not need to bother further about them. Others must be paid physically at the airport on departure. All airport taxes in Thailand should now be included in the price of your flight ticket and so there should be no need to pay additional tax at the airport. However we recommend that you check with your travel agent for the latest information.


International airport departure taxes are included in the price of International airline tickets.


If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many of our destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.

The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.

Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$3 per day for local guides.

Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-US$2 per day for drivers.

Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-US$4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-US$10 per day of your trip to cover tipping. At your group meeting on Day 1 your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip.

Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.




On arrival

If you have booked an arrival transfer with us:

On arrival, after collecting luggage and clearing customs, a representative will be waiting at EXIT 6 with a Geckos welcome board

If you have any problems or cannot find our staff, please call the following number: Miss Lyn 081 658 2727 or Klang 081 566 9324 and wait at the Association of Thai Travel Agents. Alternatively ask reception to contact World Travel Idea for assistance.

Emergency contact:

On arrival, after collecting luggage and clearing customs, a representative will be waiting at EXIT 6 with a Geckos welcome board

If you have any problems or cannot find our staff, please call the following number: Miss Lyn 081 658 2727 or Klang 081 566 9324 and wait at the Association of Thai Travel Agents. Alternatively ask reception to contact World Travel Idea for assistance.

Bangkok new Suvarnabhumi (pronounced 'Suwannaphoom') International Airport is located in the Samut Prakan District, 30 kilometres east of the city. It is serviced by taxis and buses into downtown Bangkok. If travelling by taxi to your hotel use only authorised taxis and not the touts who frequent the arrivals hall. The meters in metered taxis into town should read no more than 350 Baht, but there is an additional 50 Baht for airport surcharge and 75 Baht for tolls. Allow for a total of just under 500 Baht (approximately US$14). From the arrivals hall in Level 2, passengers should head down to Level 1, where the taxi rank is located. All airport buses, no matter where you get off, cost 150 Baht (approximately US$4) per person. The airport bus is not a recommended option for first-time travellers to Bangkok. Another alternative is the Airport Rail Link that has just been completed. It offers a fast alternative for those wishing to use it. It travels regularly offering a 15 minute express train or a 30 minute journey stopping all stations. It travels (return) from Suvarnabhumi Airport to downtown Bangkok ( Makkasan Station) and offers full check in facilities. It cost 150 Baht per person.

If you have NOT pre-booked an arrival transfer, you must find your own way to the joining hotel.

On arrival at your hotel please check the notice board in the lobby for a note from your tour leader, which will advise you of the actual time of the Welcome Meeting. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to the briefing.

Hotel Check In / Check Out

Generally, your room will be available from around midday as Check In and Out times are midday according to hotel policy. Sometimes it may be available mid-morning but this is in no way guaranteed. If your flight is scheduled to arrive in the early morning you may have to wait until a room becomes available. Alternatively you can book one night's 'pre-tour accommodation' which will ensure that your room is ready whenever you arrive. Please refer to the 'Additional Services' panel in the pricing page of our brochure. When arriving early after an overnight rail journey, it is not always possible to check into your hotel immediately. Please be patient and wait for your tour guide’s instructions. Normally the leader will arrange a day room for guests to share if it is not possible for all rooms to be ready at once. Rooms must generally be vacated by 12.00 noon unless you have made prior arrangements with the hotel reception. If you want to keep your room for longer you may have to pay an additional charge. Please ensure that you settle all bills (eg mini-bar, phone calls) when you check out. If you are sharing a room with someone who is checking out before you make sure they pay their bills at reception or you collect some money to cover their bills as you will be asked to pay upon check out.

Photo etiquette

Please ask first if you want to take someone's photograph. This is just a normal courtesy and if you are refused permission please abide by that person's wishes. At certain ancient sites, and in most museums, photography (video or still) may be forbidden, or may incur an extra charge for camera-use. Do not take photos of buildings, structures and personnel of potential military significance (including airports, bridges, and police stations).

Flexibility and patience

Travelling with us can provide you with some really rewarding travel experiences. Our tours visit countries where travel modes and lifestyles are often not as sophisticated as our own. There is also a laid-back attitude amongst workers and there will often seem to be huge amounts of red tape and bureaucracy when doing the simplest things. You will enjoy your trip much more if you slip into the rhythm of local life and are prepared to take things as they come.

A word on drugs

In most countries even the smallest quantity of an illegal substance is considered a very serious offence and can carry lengthy jail terms. Avoid any contact with illegal drugs. Don’t put yourself and others at risk and never carry bags or luggage for other people. Any person found to be carrying or using illegal drugs will be asked to leave the trip immediately without the right to any refund.

Local Prices


Compared to the Western world, Cambodia is a very inexpensive country, however, it does tend to be a little more expensive than its neighbours. You’ll find that costs are a little higher in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap compared to country areas. You can eat quite well for US$2-US$3 a meal, sometimes less if you eat at local markets. A beer will set you back about US$1-US$2 and a litre of water is around US$1.


Thailand is wonderfully inexpensive. A meal in a restaurant will cost around THB100-THB300, whereas a street snack is only THB30-THB50. A large bottle of Singha beer is about THB80-THB120 and a litre of water will set you back THB10-THB20.


You can eat and drink very well in Vietnam for a very small amount of money, this country is a bargain! A bowl of pho ga or pho bo (chicken or beef and noodle soup) will cost the equivalent of around US$0.60 from a street stall. In a restaurant a meal will cost around US$3-US$7 and if you want to wash it down with a beer, the beer will cost around US$1. A litre of water is only US$0.70 or thereabouts, depending on where you buy it from.


Crossing Cultures

When you are taking a tour that covers three different countries, you will be tempted at times to draw comparisons between them. However, you will get the most of your travel experience if you try to understand and respect each culture and the people living there, regardless of whether you preferred the destination you were in previously. There are some cultural elements that do cross over between countries in South East Asia: • Patting someone on their head is considered extremely rude and insulting. • Public displays of affection are not acceptable, especially kissing. • Losing your temper or showing anger and shouting or yelling will lose respect immediately, to remain cool, calm and collected at all times is an admired quality • When visiting temples ensure your shoulders and knees are covered. They are places of worship please treat them as such. • The monarchy is held in high esteem in Thailand & Cambodia, please treat them with respect


At some of the tourist sites and in the cities it is possible you will come across beggars. This can prove an uncomfortable encounter especially for inexperienced travellers. There are many genuine beggars, however there are also those who find the lifestyle easier than working and these people often see tourists as easy prey. As a general rule, if you feel the impulse to give, you should be discreet in the giving. Never make a show of it, as you will attract a crowd, which brings with it its own set of problems. There are often charities that take care of the needy and it may be wise to give to them rather than to individuals begging. We do not recommend giving money to children begging or selling goods on the streets.

Dress standards

In places you should dress conservatively to avoid attracting unwanted attention and so as not to offend the local population. This is especially applicable to women travellers. Dress rules also apply at many of the religious sites.

Local Tour Guides

By employing and training local site guides to lead our group holidays, there is a two-fold benefit. Firstly, we provide employment opportunities for the local community. Just as importantly is the benefit to you, the traveller. Your tour guide’s friendship, humour, passion and intimate knowledge of the region will be key factors in making your holiday a success.

Infrastructure and Tet Holiday Period

Please note that Cambodia and Vietnam are developing countries whose infrastructure may differ from what you expect in your homeland. Expect poor road conditions and be prepared for some inconveniences due to such things as restaurants or tourist sites being closed and our regular transport services not always being available, especially so during the Tet holiday period (Vietnamese New Year) and Chinese New Year.

Tet (Vietnamese New Year) Is a time where most businesses will be closed as Vietnamese people usually spend this period returning to their homes and celebrating with their families. This will involve a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. Even if bookings are obtained, transport services during this period will be overcrowded and heavy delays are to be expected, so you will need to make sure that you pack your sense of humour. In order to facilitate your travels during the Tet period, we may need to substitute your train/plane journey with a private bus trip, if required. Please check with your booking agent when Tet is this year.

This is an 'adventure' trip and we hope to expose you to all aspects of the local cultures. Please be open-minded.

Please note that, on your tour, you may link up with passengers booked on other tours in our Gecko’s Asia program.

Please remember that our tours are of an adventurous nature. Our style of travelling means that it is more desirable to carry a backpack and a day pack on our tours.

Please note that the accommodation facilities here are basic, but provide you with an authentic experience of how these people live. You may wish to bring an inner sleeping sheet for the train journeys and the village stay, but please note that this is not a necessity. For light sleepers, we recommend that you bring ear-plugs and eye-patches for the overnight rail journey and the village stay.

Occasionally it may be necessary to amend this itinerary for reasons beyond our control. Changes to domestic train schedules occur and sometimes with little notice. Expect poor road conditions and be prepared for some inconveniences due to such things as restaurants or tourist sites being closed and our regular transport services not always being available (this can be especially so during the Vietnamese Tet holiday period). Any such changes may necessitate some alterations to your tour.

For some departures the overnight train will either depart late in the afternoon or arrive into cities very early in the morning. On these occasions we will have the opportunity to store our luggage and freshen up in multi share day rooms before either we depart for the early evening overnight train journey or checking into our evening accommodation later in the day respectively. Please note if you have booked a single supplement whilst on tour, it will not apply to these day rooms.

Single Supplements

Due to the style of accommodation on our trips it might not always be possible to book you in a single room throughout the trip. If you book a single supplement it will not apply to nights on the overnight trains and homestays. If you are unsure of where a single supplement will apply please check with your travel agent before booking.

Motorbike, Quad Bike, Jet Ski rental

There have been incidents of scams involving rental of motorbikes and jet skis in areas frequented by tourists and expatriate residents in some regions of Cambodia including the town of Sihanoukville. Due to safety concerns we do not recommend renting motorbikes, quad bikes or jet skis in Cambodia.

Local Emergency Contacts

In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, the Gecko's Cambodia office can be reached on Tel: +855 92 555 969, Gecko's Vietnam Office can be reached on Tel: +84 903 117 770, Gecko's Thailand office can be reached on Tel: +66 898 103 722.



Mother Indochina

Trip Length

Trip Code

26 days



Countries Visited

Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam


Start City

End City





Day 1: Bangkok

Markets, tuk-tuks, temples. What's not to like?

Arrive in Bangkok and get to grips with this awesome city. There will be a pre departure meeting at approx. 6pm tonight!

Day 2-4: Siem Reap

Angkor Wat is the obvious highlight but you’ll get a real kick out of counting the faces of Bayon and the jungle of Ta Prohm. There’s a bit of temple overload here, so take some free time to haggle for souvenirs at the market or get a pedicure from thousands of tiny fish.

  • Take a bus to Siem Reap (approx 8 - 9 hours)

Optional Activities:

  • Visit the South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Elephant Terrace, Baphoun, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Leper King, Ta Prohm and, of course, Angkor Wat. A sunrise or sunset at the temples is a must
  • Kick back in Siem Reap and just wander around the town, visiting its market, shops and restaurants
  • Depending on the season, perhaps visit Tonle Sap Lake to see local life
  • Get your heart pumping ith the flight of the Gibbon zip line adventures where you can feel like a bird flying through the jungle


Day 5: Kampong Cham

Kampong Cham. Frontier charm, French-colonial character, etc. Hire a bike and pedal to Koh Paen island, if you want, or visit some nearby mountain temples.

Travel by public bus to Kampong Cham (approx 4 hrs) - once an important trading hub and now a laid-back small town

Optional Activities:
Explore the serene 11th-century Wat Nokor
Hire a bike to explore the island of Koh Paen, linked to Kompong Cham by a bamboo bridge (passable only in the dry season, take a ferry in the wet)

Get a better understanding of ottage industries
Perhaps travel further to the twin 'mountain temples' of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei.

Day 6: Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is somewhere you should go at least once in your life, which is good, because you're going there today. Visit the Killing Fields and Choeung Ek Museum. Cambodia puts hardship and horror into perspective so you don't have to.

Optional Activities:

  • Join a bus to visit a reminder of the Khmer Rouge atrocities, the Choeung Ek Museum and the Killing Fields
  • Visit the Central Market, located in an old French colonial building - a good place to look for clothing or sarongs
  • Enjoy the rest of the day exploring Phnom Penh city
  • Perhaps stop by the Silver Pagoda, the temple of Wat Phnom, the National Museum and the French Quarter

Day 7: Homestay

Meals included: 1 dinner

Meet and stay overnight with a local family, who will have you feeling welcome, humbled and lucky all at once. Tuck into a home-cooked Khmer meal. It's ace.

Travel by private bus to rural Cambodia (approx 3 hrs)
Witness everyday Cambodian life and enjoy a traditional-style dinner

Facilities are basic and multishare with mattresses, bedding and mosquito nets provided.

Day 8-9: Sihanoukville

Meals included: 2 breakfasts

Visit the quiet beaches of Sihanoukville or scoot out to the nearby islands on a boat tour. You can even go on a tropical safari in Ream National Park, if you want.

Take a private bus to Sihanoukville (approx 3 hrs) - named for the Cambodian royal family

Sihanoukville is a beach town with warm, welcoming people.

Optional Activities:
Take a boat to one of the nearby islands, perhaps enjoy a barbecue lunch and relax on the beach
Make a trip out to the Ream National Park - home to a variety of animal and bird species

Day 10: Phnom Penh

Meals included: 1 breakfast

Shake the sand off your 'nads and jump on a bus back to the capital. Soak up more reminders of the country's horrific past in Tuol Sleng Museum, or visit Seeing Hands for a massage.

Take a local bus to Phnom Penh (approx 4 hrs)

Optional Activities:

Perhaps visit the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison or indulge in a traditional massage at the Seeing Hands Massage parlour. An initiative set up to support the visually impaired masseurs, who also some of the best in the city

Day 11-12: Ho Chi Minh City

Take a bus to Ho Chi Minh City and submerge yourself in an ocean of motorbikes and madness. Explore this hub of vibrant life, smile at the locals and count yourself lucky for being in such an awesome place.

Take a local bus to Ho Chi Minh City (approx 6-7 hrs) - a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West

  • Spend free time visiting all the city’s restaurants, bars, nightclubs and most interesting sights
  • Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, Notre Dame Cathedral and the adjacent Gustav Eiffel designed Central Post Office are all within walking distance of each other
  • Consider hiring a ‘cyclo’ (bicycle rickshaw) for touring the city sights

Day 13-14: Mekong Delta - Ho Chi Minh City - overnight train

Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Take a boat down the Mekong River. It's an experience that will fill you with joy, as will staying with a local family in the evening.

Head down to the Mekong Delta and visit Ben Tre

On arrival, board a private boat and cruise along the waterways to visit local cottage industries. 

Head to our overnight homestay along the water.

Sleep on simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic.
Rise early and enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding the boat, and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Board an overnight train to Nha Trang - conditions are basic, but this is the best way to travel long distances in Vietnam. The berths sleep 4- 6 and you may be sharing with locals and different genders

Day 15-16: Nha Trang - overnight train

Top up your criminally bad tan lines on the beaches of Nha Trang, take a boat to some islands or go for a mud bath (it's like a regular bath, but in wet dirt). You'll be chowing down on a seafood feast this evening.

  • Enjoy plenty of time to worship the sun during two full days in Nha Trang

A great optional excursion (at additional cost) is a day to cruise around the islands where you spend stacks of time swimming and snorkelling and indulging in a lunchtime feast of freshly caught seafood

  • Board an overnight train to Danang

Day 17-19: Hoi An

  • Words like "untouched", "enthralling" and "atmospheric" get thrown at Hoi An all the time. They're not wrong, but we reckon "one of the best places you'll ever visit for reasons that are too complex and at the same time too perfectly simple to summarise in a tiny box of text such as this", is a much more accurate description.
  • Enjoy free time - there’s such a broad choice of things to see and do, and they can all be experienced without difficulty
  • Perhaps join an optional Vietnamese cooking class?
  • Perhaps rent bicycles and set off to explore the surrounding countryside, take a boat trip on the river, relax on the nearby beach, enjoy the cuisine on offer at some of the town’s numerous cheap cafes or have some clothes made up
  • Why not venture further afield to Vietnam’s world famous ‘China Beach’ and the adjacent Marble Mountains
  • An optional visit to the Kingdom of Champa, the ancient ruins at My Son, can be completed in half a day

Day 20-22: Hue - overnight train

Time for Hue. See ancient imperial ruins. Eat degustation-style Vietnamese cuisine. Take a cyclo tour. Sleep well. Repeat.

Travel across Hai Van Pass to the fishing village of Lang Co. After a quick stop, continue on to Hue (approx 5 hrs including stops).

Enjoy some free time, perhaps visit the Dong Ba market

Check out the Forbidden Purple Palace and some royal tombs

  • Take a ‘Dragon Boat' cruise up the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu pagoda
  • Perhaps cycle out to one of the Royal tombs such as the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, one of the best remaining examples of its kind
  • Board overnight train to Hanoi

Day 23: Hanoi

  • Take an orientation walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter. Then go shopping (we recommend the Pho Hang Gai or Don Xuan Market). A water puppet show is a must for those who have an aversion to land, but a fondness for puppetry.
  • Take a walking tour of the Old Quarter,
  • Visit the Dong Xuan market, and stroll through the ancient '36 streets'

Day 24: Halong Bay

Meals included: 1 lunch

Visit an initiative that supports local people with disabilities, head out to the limestone karsts of Halong Bay, sleep on the jungle-clad Cat Ba Island (with a massive smile on your face).

Drive through the Red River Delta to Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs), stop on the way for refreshments at a handicraft village run by disabled people
Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the water
Board a boat and cruise the bay with its limestone karsts rising from the clear emerald waters

Enjoy a seafood lunch on board, explore some of the limestone caves in the area and go swimming during the warmer months
Stay on Cat Ba Island. The foreshore is a great place to have a drink and watch the sunset

Day 25-26: Hanoi

Head back to Hanoi and spend time doing whatever the hell you want, unless it's illegal. Doing illegal things here can get you in the kind of trouble you'd rather avoid. Eat, shop, drink and relax. What more could you possibly want to do anyway!?

  • Enjoy some free time, wander around town and check out the lifestyles of Hanoi’s people
  • Perhaps visit One Pillar Pagoda near the Soviet-inspired mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh
  • Or walk to the Temple of Literature - Vietnam’s first educational institute
  • The trip ends in the morning on Day 26


The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact us. We are here to help you!

Last Updated

4th April 2014

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