Trip 3 - USA, SE Asia 2014-15


August 2014 to March 2015

Orang-Utan in Sumatra, SE Asia
Arches NP, Utah, USA




















Our third trip was a full 'round the world tour' and would have been longer had we not had so many requests from people in the UK asking if we would like to housesit for them over the summer. When we realised we would be able to completely fill our summer in this way it seemed sensible to return and take time to plan our next adventure.

We left the UK in early August and spent three months in the USA, mainly in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, but starting in Boston, Massachusetts, a side trip to Minnesota to visit friends and finished in San Fransico, California, from where we flew across the Pacific to Vietnam. To get around we hired a 'full sized' saloon car after we arrived in Denver from Boston, staying mainly in lower cost hotels, but also rented some cabins on holiday parks and a ski apartment in Brian Head (which was very nice and quite cheap as it was outside the ski season, but very well situated for the Utah National Parks). We also had a couple of weeks staying with friends in Colorado and another couple of weeks with friends in Minnetonka.

We spent two and a half months in Vietnam travelling the length of the country on busses before crossing over by land into Northern Laos to take in many of it's sights, again travelling by bus. From the south of Laos we travelled overland by bus into Cambodia to do a circuit of that country including Siem Reap and Angkor Wat and then flew to Sumatra in Indonesia for a month.

We finished the trip by flying from Padang on Sumatra to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and then a bus to Malacca for a few days before flying back to the UK.

For more details of this trip see below, It's divided into the following:
  1. Boston, Massachusetts
  2. Colorado, Denver and around
  3. Minnesota and trip back through Dakota
  4. Colorado, North to West
  5. Utah
  6. Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Red Rocks
  7. Utah to Arizona & The Grand Canyon
  8. New Mexico including 'Four Corners'
  9. Los Alamos, New Mexico back to Colorado
  10. San Fransico, California
  11. Vietnam
  12. Laos
  13. Cambodia
  14. Sumatra
  15. Malacca, Malaysia
  16. Details of the costs of this entire trip. It includes all expenditure of our eight months away and can act as a guide should you be planning a similar trip. If you would like further details please insert a comment at the end and we will post a reply below your question.
  • Boston, Massachusetts:


  1. Arrive Boston from Birmingham UK, via Shannon, Ireland
  2. Walked sights of Boston:  Boston
  3. Flight to Denver





  • Colorado:

  1. Arrive Denver from Boston, Massachusetts: Denver
  2. Drive and climb to summit of Mount Evans, visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre, stay in Colorado Springs: Colorado Springs
  3. Garden of the Gods and Red Rocks Canyon, rock climbing:  Colorado Springs
  4. Drive to Estes Park, hike with Jane & Roger, rock climb in Boulder: Estes Park, Page 2


  •  Minnesota and trip back through Dakota:


  1. Estes Park to Lincoln, Nebraska: Estes Park to Lincoln
  2. Lincoln to Minnetonka, Minnesota, Duluth and Beaver Bay: Minnesota
  3. Minnetonka, Blue Mounds, Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse: Minnetonka to Black Hills, Dakota
  4. Deadwood, Devils Tower, Cheyenne to Colorado Ranch: Deadwood to Ranch

  •  Colorado (second time):


  1. Ranchsit, Livermore, Colorado: Ranchsit, Colorado, Page 2
  2. Livermore to Dillon via Estes Park: Livermore to Dillon
  3. Dillon to Glenwood Springs via Independence Pass and onto Utah: Dillon to Glenwood Springs





  • Utah:
  1.  Colorado to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks: Arches and Canyonlands NP
  2. Capitol Reef NP, Grand Staircase NP, Cedar Breaks NM, Brian Head: Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase, Cedar Breaks, Brian Head
  3. Brian Head, Cedar Breaks NM, Kolob Canyon, Bryce Canyon: Brian Head, Cedar Breaks, Kolob and Bryce Canyons

  • Las Vegas: Las Vegas, Red Rocks, Hoover Dam:
  1. Las Vegas, Red Rocks, Hoover Dam: Las Vegas, Red Rocks, Hoover Dam










  • Utah to Arizona: 
  1.  From Las Vegas to Zion NP, Grand Canyon North Rim, Grand Canyon South Rim to Williams, Arizona: Las Vegas to Williams
  2. Route 66, Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert: Arizona




 New Mexico:

  1. Canyon de Chelly, Shiprock, Cortez, Mesa Verde, Four Corners Monument, Monument Valley, Canyon of the Ancients: New Mexico 1
  2. Durango, Albuquerque, Santa Fe: New Mexico 2
  3. Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks NM, Los Alamos, Rio Grand Gorge, Taos: New Mexico 3



  • Colorado (third time):

  1. Red Rocks Park, Colorado Springs, Estes Park: New Mexico to Colorado








  • San Fransisco, California:

  1. Arrived San Fransisco from Denver
  2. Three days sightseeing
  3. Departed for Hanoi Vietnam: San Fransico







  • Vietnam:
  1. Arrive Hanoi on flight from San Fransisco, four days in Hanoi: Hanoi 1, Hanoi 2
  2. Bus & boat journey east to Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay: Cat Ba 1, Cat Ba 2
  3. Bus and boat journey to Ninh Binh: Ninh Binh
  4. Night train to Hue, trip to DMZ: Hue & DMZ
  5. Hoi An via Hai Van Pass: Hoi An
  6. Night bus to Dalat: Dalat
  7. Bus journey to Mui Ne: Mui Ne
  8. Bus journey to Ho Chi Minh City: Ho Chi Minh
  9. Bus journey to Mekong Delta: Vinh Long, Can Tho & Chau Doc: Mekong Delta
  10. Bus journey to Ho Chi Minh City then flight to Hanoi: Ho Chi Minh 2
  11. Hanoi Housesit: Hanoi 3, Hanoi 4, Hanoi 5
  12. Night bus journey west to Dien Bien Phu: Dien Bien Phu
  •  Laos: 
  1.  Bus journey from Dien Bien Phu to Muong Khua
  2. Bus journey to Luang Prabang: Luang Prabang
  3. Bus journey to Nong Khiaw: Nong Khiaw
  4. Bus journey to Luang Prabang: Luang Prabang 2
  5. Bus journey to Vang Vieng: Vang Vieng
  6. Bus journey to Vientiane: Vientiane
  7. Bus journey to Thakhek
  8. Bus journey to Pakse: Thakhek
  9. Bus & boat journey to Don Det island, 4000 Islands: Don Det, Don Det 2
  •  Cambodia:

  1. Bus journey from Don Det in Laos to Stung Treng in Cambodia: Stung Treng
  2. Bus journey to Ban Lung: Ban Lung
  3. Bus journey to Kratie: Kratie
  4. Bus journey to Phnom Penh & the Killing Fields: Phnom Penh
  5.  Bus jouney to Kep: Kep
  6. Bus journey to Phnom Penh 
  7. Bus journey to Battambang: Battambang
  8. Bus journey to Siem Reap & Angkor Wat: Siem Reap, Siem Reap 2
  • Sumatra:  
  1. Arrive Medan on flight from Siem Reap, Cambodia: Medan 
  2. Bus journey to Bukit Lawang & Orangutans: Bukit Lawang 
  3. Bus journey to Berastagi: Berastagi 
  4. Private taxi to Samosir Island, Lake Toba: Samosir Island
  5. Bus journey to Medan, flight to Padang, shared taxi to Bukittingi: Bukittingi
  6. Private car to Harau Valley: Harau Valley
  7. Private car to Bukittingi, shared taxi to Lake Maninjau
  8. Shared taxi to Bukittingi, shared taxi to Padang: Lake Maninjau
  • Malacca:

  1. Arrive at Kuala Lumpur on flight from Padang, Sumatra
  2. Bus to Malacca: Malacca
  3. Bus to Kuala Lumpur, flight to Heathrow airport, UK via Ho Chi Minh City airport





  • Details of costs for this trip:

We've included this section to give other people planning a similar trip some idea of what it may cost. Searching the internet and reading travel books such as Lonely Planet are good at giving an indication of accommodation, tour and meal costs separately, but putting it all together to try to give an overall cost of a trip is hard to do as there are often incidental costs that are difficult to account for. 

The costs below are our real and complete costs and the first figure, the 'Overall total cost' is really everything we spent for the entire trip but, to be relevant to other readers, a comparison has to be made between our expectations and requirements and those of the readers, so this is our summary.

We are a 'middle aged' couple, happy in our own company but willing to meet and interact with others. We're daytime, relatively adventurous outdoor people, preferring quiet nights in, home cooking (where possible) and modest drinking rather than rowdy nights out at expensive restaurants, clubs and bars, they just don't register on our list! When we do go out for meals we are careful on our selection of restaurants and prefer local food and places where 'normal folk' would go rather than 'chic' places, as these not only keep the cost down but give us a more authentic feel for a place.

Our hotel choice is for hotel rooms with private bathrooms, clean, with breakfast and wifi if possible, but not luxury. We are happy in budget hotels as long as it is clean and everything works as it should. We will stay in more basic hotels/campsites if the need arises and we are not afraid of this, but just prefer a bit more luxury these days. Hostels with mixed dorms we would do at a push but this would be very much the exception and only in very remote places with no alternative.

We don't spend money without justifying it, so if it's something we really want to do and it's expensive we will do it, but not very often. Most things we want to see and do cost little: rock climbing, hiking in mountains or amazing wild areas and sightseeing, but occasionally we may want to go whale watching or scuba diving, we balance the costly things against less costly or free things, always keeping in mind our overall cost and budget.

Overall total cost: £16,555.00. Average daily cost (based on 245 days): £67.50

Travel insurance (2 people): We arranged worldwide insurance through 'World Nomads' to include rock climbing and trekking up to 6000m (adventurous sports option) for 275 days (not all used). Cost: £1012.85. Average daily cost: £3.69

  • USA:
For this trip we decided to rent a car and stay in hotels rather than our original plan of renting a campervan (RV) and staying on campsites. RV rental charges were quite high, the vehicles large (and fuel usage high) and the campsites quite expensive. Our calculations suggested car rental, hotels and eating out were cheaper and easier. 

We rented a 'full size' car as Jackie's mother visited us for three weeks and we needed the extra luggage space it provided, so our costs for the car were higher than they otherwise would have been. The larger vehicle did, however, have plenty of power to get us easily up steep mountain roads, something we may have found much harder in a smaller less powerful vehicle. We had no vehicle while in Boston, Denver or San Fransisco. 

A good tip is to buy an annual pass for the National Parks. It cost $80.00 and covered the car and all occupants. Although we were only there for 3 months it would have cost us more than 3 times to pay for each park we visited individually, as well as being much quicker on entrance. Note however, this does not cover State Parks or Indian Reservation parks.
 
Notes: 
  1. All prices from August 2014 to October 2014
  2. All prices are for 2 people
  3. Exchange rate (2014): £1.00 =$1.60
  4. Total days/nights: 88
  5. We spent 2 weeks staying with friends and 1 week on a ranch sit, where we paid no accommodation expenses

Total expenditure: $16730.00  (£10456.00)

Average daily expenditure: $190.00 (£119.00)

Breakdown:

  1. Hotels/self catering apartments/campsite cabins: All 'budget', all with private bathroom, all booked in advance and all carefully researched on Trip Advisor, Bookings.com, Hotels.com etc. Generally sorting 'lowest cost first' and then selecting highest rating on various websites and balancing cost against features, location, with/without breakfast and reading previous guests reviews. Note: this takes a long time!                                                                                                                                         Total cost: $3839.00 (£2399.00), average per night (67 nights): $57.00 (£36.00)
  2. Car rental: Total cost: $4253.00 (£2658.00), average daily cost (80 days): $53.00 (£33.00)
  3. Car fuel: $791.00 (£494.00), average daily cost (80 days): $10.00 (£6.00) 
  4. Distance covered: 9110 miles. Average price per US gallon: $3.43 (£0.57/litre)
  5. Daytime expenditure: $937.00 (£586.00), average daily cost (88 days): $11.00 (£6.50)
  6. Evening meals: $1848.00 (£1155.00), average daily cost (80 days): $23.00 (£14.50)
  7. Tours: Total cost: $190.00 (£119.00), average daily cost (88 days): $2.00 (£1.50)
  8. Shopping: $1384.00 (£865.00), average daily cost: $15.73 (£10.00)
  9. Flights: Birmingham, UK to Boston: £986.58. Boston to Denver: £234.15. Denver to San Fransisco: £154.80. San Fransisco to Hanoi, Vietnam: £679.80

  •  Vietnam:
Notes: 
  1. All prices from November 2014 to January 2015
  2. All prices are for 2 people
  3. Exchange rate (2014): £1.00 = 33892VND
  4. Total days/nights: 69
  5. We spent 3 weeks over Christmas on a housesit, where we paid no accommodation expenses

Total expenditure: 67,190,564.00  (£1982.00)

Average daily expenditure: 973,776.00VND (£29.00)

Breakdown:

  1. Visa (To be paid in crisp new $ bills): $90.00 (£56.00)
  2. Hotels: All 'budget' hotels, all with private bathroom, most booked in advance and all carefully researched on Trip Advisor, Bookings.com, Hotels.com etc. Generally sorting 'lowest cost first' and then selecting highest rating on various websites and balancing cost against features, location, with/without breakfast and reading previous guests reviews. Note: this takes a long time!                                                                                                                                         Total cost: 23,608,189.00 (£697.00), average per night (48 nights): 491,837.00 (£14.50)
  3. Daytime expenditure: 10,805,000.00VND (£319.00), average daily cost: 156,594VND (£5.00)
  4. Evening meals: 11,712,000.00VND (£346.00), average daily cost: 169,739.00VND (£5.00)
  5. Shopping: 7,674,900.00VND (£226.00), average daily cost: 111,230.00VND (£3.00)
  6. Transport: 5,781,500.00VND (£171.00), average daily cost: 83,790.00VND (£2.50)
  7. Trips: 2,906,600VND (£86.00), average daily cost: 42,125VND (£1.00)
  8. Flight: Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi: 2,632,000VND (£78.00)

  • Laos:
Notes: 
  1. All prices from January 2015
  2. All prices are for 2 people
  3. Exchange rate (2014): £1.00 =11400Kip
  4. Total days/nights:27

Total expenditure: 11,534,680Kip  (£1012.00)

Average daily expenditure: 427,210Kip (£37.50)

Breakdown:

  1. Visa: 634,000Kip (£56.00)
  2. Hotels: All 'budget' hotels, all with private bathroom, most booked in advance and all carefully researched on Trip Advisor, Bookings.com, Hotels.com etc. Generally sorting 'lowest cost first' and then selecting highest rating on various websites and balancing cost against features, location, with/without breakfast and reading previous guests reviews. Note: this takes a long time!                                                                                                                                         Total cost: 4,555,680.00Kip (£400.00), average per night: 168,729.00Kip (£15.00)
  3. Daytime expenditure: 1,988,000.00Kip (£175.00), average daily cost: 73,630.00Kip (£6.50)
  4. Evening meals: 2,380,000.00 (£209.00), average daily cost: 88,148.00Kip (£8.00)
  5. Shopping: 87,000.00Kip (£8.00)
  6. Transport: 1,440,000Kip (£126.00), average daily cost: 53,333.00Kip (£4.50)
  7. Trips: 440,000.00Kip (£39.00), average daily cost: 16,296.00Kip (£1.50)
  •  Cambodia:
Notes: 
  1. All prices from February 2015
  2. All prices are for 2 people
  3. Exchange rate (2014): £1.00 = US$1.50 (US $ is the preferred currency in Cambodia although they do have their own currency, the Real. There were 4000 Real to $1.00 and we could pay in either currency, but 99% transactions were in US $. Only crisp, new $'s were accepted although we often got change in battered old Real)
  4. Total days/nights:30

Total expenditure: $2174.00  (£1449.00)

Average daily expenditure: $72.50 (£48.00)

Breakdown:

  1. Visa: $80.00 (£53.00)
  2. Hotels: All 'budget' hotels, all with private bathroom, most booked in advance and all carefully researched on Trip Advisor, Bookings.com, Hotels.com etc. Generally sorting 'lowest cost first' and then selecting highest rating on various websites and balancing cost against features, location, with/without breakfast and reading previous guests reviews. Note: this takes a long time!                                                                                                                                         Total cost: $705.00 (£470.00), average per night: $23.50 (£16.00)
  3. Daytime expenditure: $361.00 (£240.00), average daily cost: $12.00 (£8.00)
  4. Evening meals: $361.00 (£241.00), average daily cost: $12.00 (£8.00)
  5. Shopping: $6.00 (£4.00)
  6. Transport: $123.50 (£82.00), average daily cost: $4.00 (£3.00)
  7. Trips: $110.00 (£73.00), average daily cost: $4.00 (£2.50)
  8. Flight: Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Medan (Sumatra, Indonesia): $428.00 (£285.00)

  • Sumatra, Indonesia:
Notes: 
  1. All prices from March 2015
  2. All prices are for 2 people
  3. Exchange rate (2014): £1.00 = Rp19,000.00
  4. Total days/nights:28

Total expenditure: Rp21,026,857.00  (£1107.00)

Average daily expenditure: Rp750,959.00 (£39.50)

Breakdown:

  1. Visa: $70.00 (£44.00)
  2. Hotels: All 'budget' hotels, all with private bathroom, most booked in advance and all carefully researched on Trip Advisor, Bookings.com, Hotels.com etc. Generally sorting 'lowest cost first' and then selecting highest rating on various websites and balancing cost against features, location, with/without breakfast and reading previous guests reviews. Note: this takes a long time!                                                                                                                                         Total cost: Rp7,947,350.00 (£418.00), average per night: Rp283,834.00 (£15.00)
  3. Daytime expenditure: Rp1,767,200.00 (£93.00), average daily cost: Rp63,144.00 (£3.00)
  4. Evening meals: Rp3,375,500.00 (£178.00), average daily cost: Rp120,554.00 (£6.50)
  5. Shopping: Rp631,000.00 (£33.00)
  6. Transport: Rp1,675,000.00 (£88.00), average daily cost: Rp59,821.00.00 (£3.00)
  7. Trips: Rp2,540,000.00 (£134), average daily cost: Rp90,714.00 (£5.00)
  8. Flights: Medan to Padang: Rp968,807.00 (£51.00), Padang to Kuala Lumpur: Rp1,282,000.00 (£67.00)

  • Malaysia:
Notes: 
  1. All prices from March 2015
  2. All prices are for 2 people
  3. Exchange rate (2014): £1.00 = RM5.3
  4. Total days/nights:3

Total expenditure: RM2910.00  (£549.00)

Average daily expenditure: RM970 (£183.00)

Breakdown:

  1. Hotel: Private bathroom, with breakfast & swimming pool, booked in advance and all carefully researched on Trip Advisor, Bookings.com, Hotels.com etc. Generally sorting 'lowest cost first' and then selecting highest rating on various websites and balancing cost against features, location and reading previous guests reviews. Note: this takes a long time!                                                                                                                                         Total cost: RM265.00 (£50.00), average per night: RM88.00 (£17.00)
  2. Daytime expenditure: RM118.00 (£22.50), average daily cost: RM39.00 (£7.50)
  3. Evening meals: RM106.00 (£20.00), average daily cost: RM35.00 (£7.00)
  4. Transport: RM159.00 (£30.00), average daily cost: RM53.00 (£10.00)
  5. Flight: Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow, UK (via Ho Chi Minh City): RM2,260.00 (£426.00)


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