Is it safe to travel in Mekong River during the coronavirus threat?
Most cruise companies, including Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, have set restrictions on anyone who’s been in mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau within two weeks — the virus’s incubation period — of the scheduled cruise date.
Some itineraries have also been altered or ports of call canceled altogether. Use caution and take steps to safeguard yourself if you choose to travel to areas where the coronavirus is prevalent.
A cruise on the Mekong visits the rural communities that lie at the heart of these countries that an ocean liner can’t reach.
If you’ve only got three days or so to spare, choose a Lower Mekong cruise where Angkor Wat and the rice bowl of Vietnam await you. Otherwise, we’d recommend going the distance and including an Upper Mekong River cruise too.
Best cruises to the Mekong River
We’ve got you covered on how to cruise the Mekong.
Best for solo travelers: Avalon
Having waved goodbye to the single supplement fee on all of its cruises, Avalon is now more affordable than ever for cruisers looking for a solo adventure. Just like everyone else, you’ll be given a spacious suite complete with a large private bathroom and invitations to attend exclusive events.
No free room service
No free alcohol
No price matching
Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Paypal, Cheque
Let’s face it, with so much to see during a Mekong River cruise, you won’t be spending much time in your room, so why splurge out on a fancy one? CroisiEurope offers great rates on no-frills double cabins that include basic meals, beverages, and some shore excursions, making them one of the most competitively priced companies in the market.
Best for pre- and post-cruise extensions: Viking River Cruises
If you’re craving the sights of Southeast Asia outside of the banks of the Mekong, choose from one of Viking’s extensions and tag a few days onto the start or end of your trip. From two nights in Hanoi’s historic Old Town and a magical night in Ha Long Bay to three nights in the hectic city of Bangkok, anything’s possible.
Room service included
No free alcohol
No price matching
Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover Card, Cheque
Living up to its name, Scenic River Cruises leads you along some of the most breathtaking sections of the Mekong River in true luxury. Every spacious suite is equipped with a private balcony that converts into a sun deck at the push of a button. Packages include unlimited beverages from the in-suite minibar and the choice of five luxury dining venues.
While most cruises focus on Cambodia and Vietnam, a cruise through the Upper Mekong in Laos, China, Thailand, and Myanmar will have you stepping foot on an untrodden path. Pandaw is one of the only cruise lines to offer such itineraries and takes you to tiny riverside villages, where life is simple and just about as authentic as you can get.
After 30 years of eco-friendly cruising, giving back to the community, green practices and animal welfare all come naturally to the people behind G Adventures. During your cruise along the Mekong, you’re guided by local leaders, welcomed into their communities and encouraged to use as little plastic as possible. So pack that reusable bottle.
To give you the most honest information on cruises along the Mekong, we based our research on our own experiences as well as on the opinions of current blogs, trusted travel websites and unbiased review sites.
Having a well-rounded itinerary was crucial to making it to this list. We looked for itineraries that include overnight stops at key ports and offer a variety of shore excursions for exploring. We also looked at onboard facilities including cabin amenities, entertainment and dining, and weighed this against their price point to make sure you’re getting value for money.
When is the best time to go to the Mekong River?
Southeast Asia is ruled by the wet and dry season, with cruises to both the Upper and Lower Mekong offered throughout the year.
Wet season, May to October. It’s almost impossible to avoid a short downpour when you cruise during the wet season, but it is arguably the most beautiful time to go. Rice paddies are green and luscious, the river is at its highest, and blue skies appear once the rain is over.
Dry season, November to April. Considered to be off-season, you’ll find fewer ships cruising at this time, and considerably lower rates. Although not always the case, water levels on the Mekong drop very low during the dry season and can compromise your planned route. While you won’t miss out on any big attractions, you might have to dock early and hop on a bus for a couple of hours to get to your next stop.
What are the must-do cruise excursions on the Mekong River?
These are just some of the many shore excursions you can enjoy during your time on the Mekong River.
Siem Reap, Cambodia. Grown from a simple farming village, Siem Reap has become the gateway town to the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat. Although a day will suffice to see the main ruins, the best cruise itineraries include an overnight stay here to allow more time for exploring.
Luang Prabang, Laos. This is the perfect base for exploring the fairytale-esque waterfalls that pepper the Laos countryside including Tad Kuang Si, known for its cobalt blue waters.
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Often mistaken for Vietnam’s capital city due to its towering skyscrapers and suit-laden streets, Ho Chi Minh is a great place to discover a progressive Southeast Asian city.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Take a day to visit the Killing Fields and the S-21 Museum to learn about the recent and somber past of Cambodia under the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
Yangon, Myanmar. Considered to be one of the holiest sites in the country, hike to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda where a golden boulder hangs precariously on the edge of a cliff said to be propped up by a strand of the Buddha’s hair.
Whether you’ve visited Southeast Asia before, or you’re a newbie to this side of the world, a cruise along the Mekong is a fantastic way to see a unique perspective of these countries. If you’re ready to book a cruise, take a look at these deals and discounts first.
Frequently asked questions
Most Mekong River cruises will start in Cambodia, whether it be from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap or Kampong Thom. If you opt for a longer cruise that incorporates the Upper Mekong, this might start in Laos or even China. All Mekong River cruises end in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Lower Mekong cruises visit key ports in Cambodia and Vietnam, whereas Upper Mekong cruises incorporate stops in China, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
Each country in Southeast Asia uses a local currency, with some accepting US dollars.
Vietnam. Vietnamese dong is the local currency and can be bought before you leave the US. Denominations are large with $1 equating to around 23,000 dong.
Cambodia. The US dollar is widely used by tourists in Cambodia, though notes should be in pristine condition as those with rips, tears and even creases are likely to be refused by locals. Expect to be given the local currency, Cambodian riel, as change.
Thailand. Thai baht are available for purchase at most currency exchange shops in the US.
Laos. Similar to Cambodia, the USD is widely accepted across Laos, though you’ll need some kip for small transactions in local shops. As a closed currency, you can’t buy kip in the US, nor can you exchange it back to dollars when you get home.
Myanmar. Burmese kyat is the preferred currency in Myanmar, but some major hotels and tour agencies may accept dollars too. You’ll find it difficult to exchange any kyat outside of the country itself.
Lily Jones is a travel writer at Finder. She also writes for other titles and manages her own blog, A Lil Guide. Lily graduated with a degree in Russian and Management studies from University College London in 2016. Having discovered her passion for travelling at a young age, she has lived in many cities around the world including St Petersburg, Melbourne and London. Other than travel, Lily has an innate passion for all things food.
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