Cruise to Mekong River

Drone shot of river ship cruising down the Mekong River

Mekong River Cruises: Your guide to sailing Vietnam's rivers

  • Drone shot of river ship cruising down the Mekong River
  • River ship cruising down the Mekong River
  • River ship cruising down the Mekong River

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Frequently asked questions

The Mekong River flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The two main departure points are Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Siem Reap in Cambodia, and most Mekong voyages start or end at one of these two key destinations. 

A classic Mekong cruise might begin in Siem Reap where travellers can marvel at the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat, before heading to Kampong Cham, then the island of Koh Pen and the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. As travellers navigate this wondrous waterway towards Vietnam, the first stop over the border is Tan Chau, and along the way key stays might include Sa Dec, Cai Be, My Tho and then the bustling Ho Chi Minh City.

Ships sail along the Mekong River all year round and each season has something special to offer. The tropical climate of Vietnam and Cambodia means the Mekong has a wet and a dry season, rather than the typical summer and winter. Cruising during the dry season, between November and April, promises minimal rain, less humidity and cooler temperatures. In the wet season, from May to October, water levels will be higher so you may be able to reach more ports. And even during the wettest months of the years, showers are likely to be short and powerful, rarely lasting more than 30 minutes. Whenever you sail, temperatures will be warm and usually stay between 26 and 32 degrees.

Mekong River cruises are generally suitable for kids, though may not be appropriate for very young children. Be aware that these smaller river ships do not have the facilities of larger ocean ships (like kids’ clubs and play areas), however most have swimming pools. Many shore excursions are fun for the whole family, like village visits, market shopping, cycling tours and cooking classes. Some lines also run special itineraries geared towards families during the school holidays. Speak with your travel consultant to see what options are available for your family.

Expect authentic Southeast Asian cuisine onboard your Mekong River cruise. Because river cruise ships are small, generally carrying less than 50 people, they can make use of local ingredients and tailor menus to the regions. That means you will be feasting on fresh fish, fiery curries, Cambodian amok and Vietnamese pho. There will also be an extensive selection of international dishes.

Each country along the Mekong River has its own currency – the Cambodian riel, Vietnamese dong, Laotian kip and Thai baht. You can use Australian and international credit cards in most major cities, however it’s a good idea to have some local currency on hand for smaller purchases, especially at markets or street stalls. Some places may accept Australian or US dollars, so you may want to carry some small bills. You will be able to change money on your cruise ship, but options will be limited. Be aware that ATM facilities in Laos are still limited and the few there are may only let you withdraw around A$100 at a time.

Mekong River cruises start from as little as three days, which will take you between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. To sail the most popular route between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap, you’ll need at least seven days, though many cruises include a few additional days at either end. Longer cruise packages of 10-14 days will include a land component, flying you to Halong Bay and Hanoi in Vietnam.

Cultural performances are a big part of Mekong River cruises. Many ships will invite local performers on board for a special show at each port and you’ll have a chance to chat with them afterwards. These could be live music, dancing or regional traditions like shadow puppets. Cruises may also offer themed nights, informative lectures on Mekong culture and history, and cooking classes.

Standard Mekong River cruises will visit Vietnam and Cambodia, some also visit Laos. Each country has unique visa entry requirements depending on the nationality on your passport. You should always check with your travel expert and check with your relevant government authority to ensure you know which visas you need to apply for in advance.

Yes, some cruises focus on culinary experiences, wildlife watching or historical sites. There are also cruises tailored towards families, generally held during the school holidays, if you want to bring the kids.

Absolutely! If you want to cruise the Mekong in five-star style, a number of ships offer indulgent suites with balconies, swimming pools and butler service. Try Scenic, APT, Viking Cruises or Avalon Waterways.

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