Vietnam/Cambodia – Practical Considerations and Security

In today’s post, I’ll touch on some of the planning necessary for the trip – some of it obvious and some of it not.

Travel Documents

Of course, there are some required documents that you will have to make sure you have arranged:

  • Passport – must be valid for six months after date of entry and have blank visa pages, if you plan on getting visa on arrival
  • Visa – both Vietnam and Cambodia require visas.  You can do a “visa on arrival” but I prefer arranging in advance and use a company called Travisa.
  • Traveler’s Immunization record – not required but could be needed if you need to prove vaccination for Yellow Fever because you have recently been in an “at risk” country

Savvy travelers make copies of their important documents – the above plus medical insurance card(s), travel itineraries – and leave a copy with someone at home, take two copies with them and store them in different places, and put one copy somewhere on “the cloud” so they can access it from the road, if needed.  These copies will be invaluable should you lose your passport or have your wallet stolen on the journey as they would greatly simplify the process of replacing the original documents.

Register with State Dept. (or your equivalent)

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can register your travel with the U.S. State Department through their Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure you get timely communication in the case of a crisis and that you are “on the list” should something really bad happen in the region you are in.  Even seasoned travelers neglect this or register only when they are going somewhere “risky.”

The problem with that strategy is that a destination may not be high risk and yet have a sudden change of environment.  Egypt was not seen as high risk until all hell broke loose.  Japan was certainly not on high risk lists but the tsunami created a sudden, widespread issue due to both the actual storm damage and the atomic/nuclear risk in the days after the disaster.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, other countries have similar schemes that provide travel warnings, information from local embassies and consulates, and registration services.

The only reason not to register is because you are concerned that the government will know where you are traveling.  Trust me, they already know that information.  Go ahead and register.  It is also a good idea to carry a list of your country’s embassies/consulates where you will be traveling including address and phone number in case you should need to contact them.


Cambodia is easy.  Take US currency that is in good condition.  They do have their own currency – the Riel – but the USD rules.  Go to an ATM in Cambodia and what do you get?  US dollars.

In Vietnam, the currency is the Dong (come up with your own joke).  In fact, I picked up 2.6 million VND recently at my bank.  That is worth about $125 USD.  So, the rule of thumb is that 100,000 VND is about five bucks.

I always like to land with at least some local currency.  You cannot assume that a taxi from the airport will take a credit card and I don’t care to do money exchange at the airport.  The rates are not typically great and you are exchanging money in a very public place.

Crime, Terrorism, and Security

Probably one of the most common questions I get from friends about travel around the world is about the risk of terrorism and crime.  Generally, the world is a pretty safe place.  Both Vietnam and Cambodia have very little serious crime but the normal safeguards and reason you would use at home are appropriate.  Risk of terrorism in either of these countries is pretty low.  Expect some begging and a few tourist scams – which are easily researched on TripAdvisor and the web – and some aggressive touting.  But, none of this is risky.  All in all, these are both low risk destinations.


Passport Lines at London Heathrow

How bad do the passport lines at London’s Heathrow airport have to be for Delta to send out an email to all their SkyMiles members?  For the past several weeks, we’ve been hearing horror stories about the lines at Heathrow and it seems like the problem is here to stay for awhile.  It doesn’t help matters for Delta flyers that Delta recently shut down their Gatwick operations.  I was on one of the last flights into Gatwick and had a conversation with the Purser who had been flying that route for years.  We agreed that Gatwick was the much easier airport to navigate on arrival and the problems at Heathrow only seem to confirm our sentiment.

There is a good summary of the issues at The Telegraph but things don’t look promising this summer.  I’m scheduled into Heathrow in late June and not looking forward to it!