Create Your Perfect Vietnam Cambodia Laos Itinerary

Author Carina Klein
Carina
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TL;DR

Customisable Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos itinerary. 1 - 3 months, including all highlights and public transport options.

After our 3 month trip to South East Asia in 2023, we have put together all information you need to plan your own Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos trip.

In this blogpost, we share all the resources you need to create and customise your own backpacking Southeast Asia itinerary.

  • We share all the most known backpacking destinations.
  • We’ll give you all the transport options.
  • We’ll show you how you can customise your personal South East Asia route.

South East Asia Backpacking Route Without Flying

We have travelled from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Singapore comfortably without taking a single flight – and so can you. South East Asia has an incredible public transport network and comfortable sleeper trains and busses connecting all the major tourist hubs.

Backpacking Southeast Asia Itinerary

Here are our suggested backpacking Southeast Asia itineraries for 1, 2, and 3 months. We have allocated a travel speed of 3 days per stop on average which is quite high but manageable.

Country

Where

3 Month Trip

2 Month Trip

1 Month Trip

Vietnam

Sapa

x

Vietnam

Ha Giang

x

x

x

Vietnam

Hanoi

x

x

x

Vietnam

Halong Bay

x

x

x

Vietnam

Ninh Binh/Tam Coc

x

x

x

Vietnam

Phong Nha

x

Vietnam

Hue

x

x

Vietnam

Da Nang

x

Vietnam

Hoi An

x

x

Vietnam

Dalat

x

Vietnam

Ho-Chi-Minh-City

x

x

Vietnam

Can Tho

x

x

Vietnam

Phu Quoc

x

Cambodia

Phnom Penh

x

x

x

Cambodia

Siem Reap

x

x

x

Cambodia

Kampot

x

x

Cambodia

Kep

x

Cambodia

Sihanoukville

x

x

x

Cambodia

Battambang

x

Cambodia

Kratie

x

Laos

Don Det

x

x

x

Laos

Pakse

x

x

Laos

Thakhek

x

x

Laos

Vientiane

x

x

Laos

Vang Vieng

x

x

x

Laos

Luang Prabang

x

x

x

Laos

Nong Khiaw

x

x

Laos

Muang Ngoy

x

Laos

Luang Namtha

x

Laos

Ban Houayxay

x

x

Stops

30

20

10

3 Months in Southeast Asia Itinerary

Our 3 months in Southeast Asia itinerary starts in Hanoi in Northern Vietnam and works its way to South Vietnam where it crosses into Cambodia. After checking out Cambodia's highlights, you cross into Laos in the very south of the country. Here, you work your way to the north. 3 Months in Southeast Asia Itinerary

Picture of 3 Months in Southeast Asia Itinerary
3 Months in Southeast Asia Itinerary

2 Months in Southeast Asia Itinerary

The 2 months in Southeast Asia itinerary follows the same trajectory as the 3 month itinerary but omits some stops.

1 Month in Southeast Asia Itinerary

The 1 month in Southeast Asia itinerary skips South Vietnam for time reasons and crosses over from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Luang Prabang, Laos. In Laos you make your way to the south, ending your itinerary in Cambodia.

Picture of 1 Month in Southeast Asia Itinerary
1 Month in Southeast Asia Itinerary

Vietnam Itinerary

Vietnam has an elongated shape. Most travellers travel north to south or vice versa.

North Vietnam Itinerary

North Vietnam is the highlight for many travellers. You’ll find the capital Hanoi, rice paddies, rugged mountains, as well as the world-famous Halong Bay.

Where

What

How many days

Sapa

Hill tribes and trekking

2

Ha Giang

Ha Giang Motorbike Loop

3-4

Hanoi

Capital

2

Halong Bay

Cruising through limestone cliffs

1-2

Ninh Binh/Tam Coc

Halong Bay on land

1-2

How to Travel Around North Vietnam

In northern Vietnam, you can mix and match most stops as your travels will most likely bring you back to Hanoi at least once.

It makes sense to combine Sapa and Ha Giang if you want to do both.

If you want to travel from Sapa or Ha Giang in the very north to Halong Bay, you have to pass through Hanoi:

Hanoi

Sapa

Ha Giang

Halong Bay

Ninh Binh

Hanoi

-

Sapa

-

Ha Giang

-

Halong Bay

-

Halong Bay

-

Picture of Ha Giang Loop, North Vietnam
Ha Giang Loop, North Vietnam

Central Vietnam Itinerary

Central Vietnam can be overlooked by travellers. Why should you pay a visit? Some of the largest caves in the world are located in Central Vietnam. If you ask us you’ll find the best Vietnamese food here.

Where

What

How many days

Phong Nha

Caves

1-2

Hue

History and food

2

Da Nang

Modern beach city

2

Hoi An

Lantern and history

2

Picture of Hue, Central Vietnam
Hue, Central Vietnam

South Vietnam Itinerary

Southern Vietnam has the warmest temperatures. You can spend some amazing beach time here and visit the metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City.

Where

What

How many days

Dalat

Cool colonial mountain escape

1-2

Ho-Chi-Minh-City

8 mill people metropolitan

2

Can Tho

Mekong Delta

1-2

Phu Quoc

Island vibes

2

Picture of Ho Chi Minh City, South Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, South Vietnam

How to customise your Vietnam Itinerary

Vietnam grants most travellers a 30 day visa.

We have included 13 stops in our itinerary. This means 30 days / 13 stops = 2 days per stop which is very ambitious.

Distances are far in Vietnam and travel times are long. Even with night buses and trains, you will most likely need to make decisions on which places to visit and which ones to skip based on your preferences.

How to get from Vietnam to Cambodia

There are two options for getting from Vietnam to Cambodia:

  1. Bavet border from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh
  2. Prek Chak border from Phu Quoc to Kep/Kampot

We took the bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh which was very straightforward.

If you’re in Phu Quoc, it does not make sense to circle all the way back to Ho Chi Minh City to go to Phnom Penh just to go to Kampot afterwards. It’s just a 40-minute drive from Ha Tien (where the ferry to Phu Quoc leaves) to Kep. There is one easy direct bus per day. We have met several travellers who took this route so the bus seems to be running post-Covid.

Depending on your citizenship, it should be easy to obtain a visa on arrival. E-Visas are currently not accepted at the Prek Chak border.

Cambodia Itinerary

The situation in Cambodia is more complicated. The road conditions and tourist infrastructure is not as good as in Vietnam. You might have to circle back to Phnom Penh, depending on your preferred itinerary.

Where

What

How many days

Phnom Penh

Capital

1

Siem Reap

Angkor Wat

1-3

Kampot

Pepper, Kayak, and Urbex

2

Kep

Crabs and Koh Tonsay

1-2

Sihanoukville

Islands

3-∞

Battambang

Bamboo trains and laid-back vibes

1-2

Kratie

River dolphins

1

Picture of Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Islands Cambodia

The most famous Cambodian islands are:

  • Koh Rong
  • Koh Rong Samloem
  • Koh Ta Kiev
  • Koh Tonsay

The first three islands can be accessed from Sihanoukville. Koh Rong is the largest and most famous island in Cambodia, Koh Rong Sanloem is a backpacker paradise, and Koh Ta Kiev gives you Robinson Crusoe Feelings. It makes sense to spend as little time in Sihanoukville itself as possible.

The laid-back Koh Tonsay can be reached from Kep.

Picture of Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia
Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia

How to Travel Around Cambodia

As mentioned above, you might have to circle back to Phnom Penh.

It’s easy to combine Kep, Kampot, and Sihanoukville in the south.

Battambang could be a nice stopover between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Kompong Cham and Banlung might be good additions to Kratie but the post-Covid bus situation is not back to normal as of writing this blogpost so we can not provide reliable transport information.

Phnom Penh

Siem Reap

Kampot

Kep

Sihanoukville

Battambang

Kratie/Kampong Chang/Banlung

Don Det/Laos

Phnom Penh

-

Siem Reap

-

Kampot

-

Kep

-

Sihanoukville

-

Battambang

-

Kratie/Kampong Chang/Banlung

-

Don Det/Laos

-

How to customise your Cambodia Itinerary

Cambodia grants most travellers a 30 day visa. We suggest a maximum of 10 stops in Cambodia, which should be doable if you don’t stay on the islands too long.

How to get from Cambodia to Laos

No matter if you start your journey in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or Kratie, your first stop in Laos will be most likely Don Det in the 4000 islands.

The border crossing is not frequented as much and you will be expected to pay small bribes to everyone but besides that, you should not encounter any problems. E-Visas are currently not accepted at this border.

Laos Itinerary

Laos, like Vietnam, has an elongated shape. Again, most travellers travel north to south or vice versa.

South Laos Itinerary

Many people skip southern Laos. It’s a shame because this was our favourite part of this country. Don Det was seriously chill and the countryside around Pakse and Thakhek was breathtaking.

Where

What

How many days

Don Det

4000 islands

2-∞

Pakse

Pakse Motorbike Loop

2-3

Thakhek

Thakhek Motorbike Loop

3-4

Picture of Pakse Loop, South Laos
Pakse Loop, South Laos

Central Laos Itinerary

This part is on most people’s Laos radar and hence the most touristy. It’s still worth a visit but you will not do this country justice by skipping the other parts.

Where

What

How many days

Vientiane

Capital

1

Vang Vieng

Party, lagoons, and viewpoints

2-3

Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Waterfall, culture

2

Picture of Kuang Si waterfall, Central Laos
Kuang Si waterfall, Central Laos

North Laos Itinerary

Many people skip this part of Laos to take the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Ban Houayxay / Thailand. We strongly advise you to visit northern Laos as it’s off-the-beaten-path and authentic with stunning nature.

Where

What

How many days

Nong Khiaw

Trekking

2-3

Muang Ngoy

Seriously off-the-beaten-path

1-2

Luang Namtha

Trekking and ethnic villages

1

Ban Houayxay

Gibbon Experience

1-2

Picture of Muang Ngoy, North Laos
Muang Ngoy, North Laos

How to customise your Laos Itinerary

Laos grants most travellers a 30 day visa. We suggest a maximum of 10 stops in Laos, which should be doable if you don’t stay on Don Det too long.

In the case of Laos, we recommend you to visit all the stops we suggest because we loved them all and you easily travel from one to the next. Depending on your travel speed, this will take you 17 to 28 days which is more than most travellers will spend in Laos but not enough if you ask us.

What’s Next?

Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Itinerary

From Houayxay in Northern Laos, it’s super easy to cross into Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand. In Thailand, you can work your way all the way to the south.

Malaysia and Singapore

From southern Thailand, it’s super easy to cross into Malaysia. Our suggested Malaysia itinerary includes:

  • Langkawi
  • Penang
  • Cameron Highlands
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Malakka

Malakka is only a stone’s throw away from Singapore.

This way, you can travel all the way from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Singapore without flying. We did it – and we can 100% recommend it.

Still want more?

Singapore is as far as you’ll comfortably make it without flying. If you still want more, Singapore airport is a major transport hub with amazing flight connections to other destinations in Southeast Asia.

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