It’s your first time travel Vietnam and Cambodia and wondering what to see and do? See our own selection of the very best places to see in Vietnam and Cambodia for first-time visitors, bonus with all the tips on when the best time to visit is and how many days you should spend.
Even though the two countries have distinctive differences, Vietnam and Cambodia are both beautiful with spectacular nature and magnificent cultural heritage.
In Vietnam, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh and Mekong Delta have the most beautiful natural features, while Hoi An and Danang are two best cities to visit and enjoy nightlife.
Visitors to Cambodia shouldn’t miss the architecture masterpiece Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and the pristine islands in Southern Sea
The capital of Vietnam is one of the must-see places to visit in Vietnam, filled with gorgeous French buildings, peaceful lakes and historical landmarks. Hanoi Old Quarter once was a trading and handicraft center of Vietnam, now a hub for travelers from all around the world to come and discover. Don’t forget to try Vietnamese very foods in the very best place to do this job.
You can explore further than just the city center. Ba Vi National Park and Duong Lam village both promise a wonderful day trip from Hanoi.
Halong Bay must have the most spectacular landscape in the whole country. The bay wows visitors with its emerald water dotted with thousands of limestone islands and islets covered in green trees. A cruise is the perfect way to bring you across this one-of-the-kind garden of islands.
Nearby there are Bai Tu Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island that are also worthy of your visit.
Located on over the height of 1000m, Sapa boasts a temperate weather, highland landscape with pine trees, green valleys, silver waterfalls, cloud-laden mountain range and terraced rice fields. Sapa is also home to several ethnic people with the predominance of H’mong culture.
Come to Sapa, you can’t miss taking in the beautiful nature and such authentic culture. Visit one of the local fair market here to learn even more insights into the life of the people.
Just 90km south of Hanoi, you can easily get to Ninh Binh after 2 hours of car ride. Known as the ‘Halong Bay on Land’, Ninh Binh is even more worthy of your trip with vast area of limestone complex of mountains and rivers. Designated as a UNESCO heritage for both culture and nature, there’s so many things to do in Ninh Binh.
Even though you can visit Ninh Binh with a day trip from Hanoi, it’s best to spend two days to explore the place to your heart’s content.
Only 18km away from Hoi An, Da Nang has charms that nowhere else in Vietnam has. Blessed with long coastal line, pristine forest and spectacular bridges, Da Nang is your best place in Vietnam for a city break. Get loose at Ba Na Hills and pose all you want on the famous Golden Bridge, you might not want to leave. Marble Mountains are a wonderful place to return to nature and there are so much, so much more to enjoy in Da Nang.
Used to be the most important port town in not only Southeast Asia but also Asia during 15th – 19th century, Hoi An looks like it’s still living in its heyday. The glimmering town of Hoi An has become UNESCO world cultural heritage and day by day attracting even more visitors with its atmospheric nightlife.
Don’t forget to check out Hoi An Old Quarter, and if you can do that in 14th night of lunar month, it’s even better.
My Son Sanctuary
The ancient ruins are nested among mountains and forests, concealing architecture masterpieces of more than 1600 years old. My Son used to be the sanctuary of Champa Kingdom which rued the Central and the Southern part of Vietnam from 3rd century until 1832. The temple-towers here are constructed based on the conception of Mount Meru – the sacred mountain home of Hindu gods at the central of the university.
There’re mysteries about the construction of My Son which are still undeciphered. My Son is a place that history enthusiasts would love to visit.
Ho Chi Minh City
There’re endless attractions in the largest, most populous city in Vietnam – modernity, historical landmarks, and delicious street foods. Khmer people was the first people who settled in this area, Vietnamese took over in 17th century but until 19th century, French invaded until was replaced by the US and back to Vietnamese people after Vietnam War.
Ho Chi Minh city is the meeting point of all cultures in Vietnam, yet still preserving the indigenousness of the local people. Ho Chi Minh is also the gateway to a vast, compelling area of Mekong Delta.
You cannot enjoy a place in Vietnam like you will enjoy Mekong Delta. It’s a land of coconut trees, fruit orchards, sugarcane fields and labyrinth of waterways. Come to Mekong Delta means that you’ll visit the colorful, bustling floating markets like Cai Be, Cai Rang or Nga Nam…, tasting the freshness of fruits in local orchards and exploring the candy factories. It’s one hell of an adventure that no travelers to Vietnam should miss.
Often known as the ‘sleepy capital’, Phnom Penh can’t be compared to others. As the largest city of Cambodia Kingdom, Phnom Penh doesn’t have a vibe of a busy or bustling capital but instead a slow-paced and relaxing lifestyle. Phnom Penh shines with the light of the old time, with the shining golden roofs on the age-old temples and pagodas.
The scars of Khmer Rouge are still present, lying just outside the town in the killing fields. A trip to these sites would be an experience of significance.
Siem Reap is the star of its own – a vast complex of what was left of the glorious empires. What you’ll find in Siem Reap are not only the beautiful ancient ruins but also the mysteries and stories behind them. The questions about the fall of Khmer Empire are still not answered and when you look at these masterpieces, you can’t help to wonder.
Siem Reap is also worthy of visit for its many colonial and Chinese architecture in the Old French Quarter and Old Market. Come for the museums, traditional Apsara dance performance, cultural villages and more. In Siem Reap, a wide range of tourist services are available thanks to its close proximity to the most popular attraction in Cambodia.
Blessed with pristine, wild and beautiful islands, Sihanoukville is a destination where you go to take a breather, enjoy the nature and stay away from the world. And if you want something more than that, go on a hunt for a magic night scene of bioluminescence on one of these islands.
Top islands to visit in Sihanoukville: Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Rong, Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Thmei.
|See our Best Itinerary for Vietnam and Cambodia in 2 Weeks|
The weather in Vietnam and Cambodia is diverse, varied from north to south and east to west. The best time to travel both country can be quite tricky to determine but it’s not impossible.
Vietnam weather is divided into three main distinct climate zones: North, Central and South. Located in a tropical area affected by annually monsoon season which is the number-one factor in making Vietnam’s weather to differ significantly by the region. North Vietnam suffers a long, cold winter which makes the weather pattern here much more complicated with four seasons a year.
Central and South Vietnam are hotter and only have 2 seasons a year – dry season and wet season but they’re happening in different months. With Central Vietnam’s rainy season happens a bit later than South Vietnam’s.
|More on this, see When Is the Best Time to Travel to Vietnam and Cambodia|
For first-timers, or limited time budget travelers, a 9-day Vietnam and Cambodia tour would be a fantastic experience. Within only 9 days, visitors still can enjoy activities city tour, river cruise, floating market visiting, watching sunrise at Angkor Wat…
If this is your second time to the countries, and you’d like to see more than just the highlighted destinations, a 14-day Vietnam and Cambodia Trip would do it just right. In the course of 2 weeks, you can enjoy all the activities in a leisure pace: city tour, bay cruise, heritage visiting and boat trip…
For those who have a large time budget and want to discover Vietnam and Cambodia in-depth, a trip for 17 days would be a wonderful choice for you. Activities for this trip include trekking to local markets, cruising, city tour, night train, temple visiting and so much more…. Especially, this trip would allow to stay in Siem Reap for 4 days.
First time travelers to Vietnam and Cambodia might be overwhelmed with the amount of information. However, it could be much easier if you know beforehand the key facts and tips.
Citizens who are not on the visa waiver list, can apply for an E-visa, VOA (Visa on Arrival) or a regular visa at a Vietnamese embassy.
VOA (Visa on Arrival):
Citizens who are not in the Cambodian visa waiver program must apply for a visa to enter Cambodia. There are three ways to obtain a Cambodia visa: getting a VOA at the landing or applying for a Cambodia E-visa or applying for a regular visa at an oversea Cambodia embassy.
Vietnam is relatively a safe country to travel to. It has friendly locals, strict gun law and almost no threat of terrorist attack. The rate for serious crime is quite low and less likely targeted at foreign tourists. However, there’re still risks from traffic and petty crimes you can always avoid if you know these things in beforehand:
Cambodia is also a relatively safe country for foreign travelers. Most frequent crimes against foreign tourists are snatching, pickpocketing and other petty thefts. Here are few tips for travelers to Cambodia:
In both countries, conservative clothing style is much more appreciated than exposing, see-through, flamboyant styles. There’re a set of rules when it comes to wearing clothes in sacred places like temples and pagodas.
Much more bustling and developed than Cambodia, Vietnam is a wonderful place for shopping, for both quality and quantity. All major cities in Vietnam can be your shopping paradise, especially Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In Vietnam, the practice of bargain is pretty common and you might find it fun if you can get a hold of it.
Both countries have fantastic food and street food is a major part of the cuisine here. Food in Vietnam and Cambodia is cheap, delicious and various and is a part that can’t be missed during your trip. Here are some tips to stay safe and enjoy the food street food here to your heart’s content:
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Best Vietnam and Cambodia Tour for First Timers
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