Cambodia and Vietnam, exploration and service, mountains and beaches: three amazing weeks in Southeast Asia.
Siem Reap, Cambodia. This is the gateway to the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat and the floating villages of Tonle Sap. For one week, you and your Overland group will combine service work with cultural exploration.
Hanoi, Vietnam. A center of cultural and outdoor activities, you’ll explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter and learn about the city’s rich history.
Ha Long Bay. For four days, you’ll kayak and rock climb around the island of Cat Ba, exploring the magnificent limestone cliffs, clear blue waters and diverse ecology of Vietnam’s first national park. At night, a traditional Vietnamese boat will be our home.
Muong-Hoa Valley Villages. A four-day trek through the rural villages of the Muong-Hoa Valley with local guides will take you through bamboo forest and over limestone slopes with views of Fansipan, the highest point in Indochina, looming on the horizon.
Trip end in Hanoi. After three wonderful weeks of exploration and service, of friendship and fun, you will look back on your discoveries and your adventures in Southeast Asia, a part of the world with a long, rich cultural history and a landscape that is mystical and beautiful.
Once again, I am grateful for the experience of an Overland trip. Jess returned with self-confidence and an understanding of her place in the world and the endless possibilities for her future. I would recommend Overland to anyone.
- Susan Mintzer, Fort Salonga, New York
Days 1: Trip Start and Travel to Cambodia
We will meet at JFK Airport in New York and prepare for our group flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Upon arrival in Siem Reap, our local guides will welcome and shuttle us to our accommodations.
Day 2: Kbal Spean & Banteay Srei
We’ll spend our first full day in Southeast Asia taking a short hike to the river carvings of Kbal Spean, an excellent opportunity to stretch our legs and recover from a long flight. We’ll also visit Banteay Srei, a 10th century Cambodian temple, before heading back to Siem Reap for a cooking class and introduction to Khmer cuisine.
Days 3-5: House Build & Community School
For the next three days, we will spend the mornings helping build a house for a family living just outside of Siem Reap. We’ll explore the surrounding villages, learn more about the local culture and how some communities live with limited electricity and running water. In the afternoons, we’ll engage with children at a nearby community school. We’ll help students in class and play games with them after school.
Day 6: Tonle Sap
We’ll spend the day touring Tonle Sap Lake, also known as the Great Lake of Cambodia. We’ll explore the famous floating villages, schools and markets and learn how these communities live and work on the lake. In the afternoon, we’ll go on a short hike with beautiful views of the surrounding plains.
Day 7: Phnom Kulen
After getting acquainted with the culture and traditions of Cambodia, we’ll head to the Phnom Kulen mountain range to hike and explore. On top of the mountain, we will visit a modern style pagoda that offers stunning views of Angkor.
Days 8 & 9: Finish House Build & Angkor Wat Ruins
We’ll finish our house build and celebrate with the local family we’ve helped. On our final day in Cambodia, we will explore the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage site. From Ta Prohm to Ta Keo, the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King, we’ll have the whole day to learn about this ancient wonder. We’ll finish our tour at the rear gate of Angkor Wat, a temple that took 30 years to construct and dates back to the early 12th century.
Days 10: Travel to Vietnam and Explore Hanoi
After a short flight to Vietnam, we’ll begin the second part of our journey. Upon arriving in Hanoi, we’ll tour the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the One Pillar Pagoda before having dinner at a local restaurant. The next day, we’ll walk through Hanoi’s Old Quarter, famous for its winding streets bustling with small shops and vendors selling traditional foods.
Days 11-14: Kayak & Rock Climb Ha Long Bay
Vietnam’s first national park, Ha Long Bay, with its vertical limestone, coral terraces and sandy beaches is a perfect destination for learning and exploring. We’ll spend four days rock climbing the karst faces and kayaking in crystal blue waters while living aboard a traditional Vietnamese boat.
Days 15: Sapa and the Bac Ha Sunday Market
Taking an overnight train to northern Vietnam, we’ll arrive in Lao Cai in the morning and travel to Bac Ha for the Sunday Market. On Sunday mornings, it is a sea of color as many different local groups from the Flower H’mong to the Black Dao gather to trade. After spending the morning at the market, we’ll head to Sapa to prepare for four days of trekking.
Days 16-19: Trek in Sapa
Sapa sits in the rolling foothills of the Tonkinese Alps and is well known for its hill tribes, rice terraces and lush green vegetation. Starting at the world renowned Bac Ha Sunday Market, we will embark on a 4-day trek through the valley villages and indigenous communities of Sapa. Each night, a local family will welcome us into their home where we will cook dinner together and learn more about the cultures and traditions of the Hmong people.
Day 20: Hanoi and Trip End
We’ll take an overnight train from Sapa to Hanoi where we’ll have one last chance to explore before our final dinner and flight back to New York
1 night on an airplane.
12 nights in guesthouses with access to a private kitchen, bathrooms and showers.
2 nights in private cabins aboard a boat.
2 nights on an overnight train between Hanoi and Sapa.
3 nights in group homestays with access to simple bathroom facilities (no showers).
Things to know
- We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- Linens and pillows are provided at most group accommodations. Students may choose to use their sleeping bag for additional warmth if necessary.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
- Please wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.
- Medium-Sized Duffel Bag or Backpack
3,000-5,000 cubic inch (50-80 liters) backpack or duffel bag.
- Navy Overland Shirt (1)
We will send students an Overland shirt prior to their trip, and we encourage students to wear their Overland shirt to trip start. We highly recommend this for students flying to their trip start location.
- Pants (2)
Suitable for day hikes, travel or walks through towns and cities.
- Shorts (3)
Shorts or skirts to wear while hiking, traveling or exploring towns and cities. At least one pair must be an appropriate length for visiting cultural sites (with your arms at your sides, shorts or skirts must extend beyond fingertips).
- Synthetic T-Shirt (5)
Please consider cultural sensitivity; you will be expected to have your shoulders covered.
- Underwear (6)
- Athletic Socks (pair) (4)
- Hat with Visor
For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover
Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.
- Waterproof Raincoat
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain coats provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. We recommend hoods and breathable materials. Gore-Tex is a well-known waterproof and breathable fabric but there are many other quality fabrics. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer.
- Day Pack
Basic two-shoulder backpack large enough to hold your lunch, two water bottles, snacks, extra layers and rain jacket. Use your day pack as a carry-on for your flight and for daily activities or hikes. A standard school backpack is usually fine (no satchels or shoulder bags).
- Water Bottle
One 1-liter bottle. A Camelbak or similar water carrier is acceptable.
- Headlamp & Extra Batteries
Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
- Bowl, Mug & Utensils
6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
Hiking boots that are low to high cut, depending on your desired ankle support. Choose comfortable boots and make sure to break them in before the start of your trip.
- Sneakers (pair)
Comfortable shoes to wear on daily activities. Shoes should be supportive and have a good tread on the bottom for traction.
- Sandals (pair)
Flip flops or Crocs work well
A passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date
- Passport Photocopies
Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.
- Photo Identification
A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
- Single Entry Visa for Vietnam and Cambodia
More information on how to obtain a single entry visa is provided to enrolled students.
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Large Trash Bags (4)
To waterproof your gear.
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
- Spending Money
$30 per week in local currency or a debit/ATM card (please notify your bank of international travel before trip start).
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera and, if necessary, a charger and large enough memory card to accommodate your pictures (4 to 8 GB).
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- What is the weather like on Field Studies Southeast Asia?
The weather on Field Studies Southeast Asia is warm with temperatures around 80 degrees and high humidity. June through August is the peak rainy season in Southeast Asia, but rains tend to concentrate in the late afternoons and provide a welcome relief from the heat.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child’s trip?
You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from JFK Airport in New York (JFK) at trip start and trip end. Overland will coordinate group flights from New York to Siem Reap, Cambodia and from Hanoi, Vietnam back to New York. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland’s admissions process.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
When we receive child’s application, if the first choice is available, you will receive a phone call and an email containing a link to our Overland Portal where you will find our Admissions Review Forms. We will accept your deposit to hold your child’s place in the program pending a favorable Admissions Review. If the first choice is not available, we will call you to confirm that the second choice is acceptable. If neither the first choice nor second choice are available, we will call you to discuss options. For those students placed on our waitlist, we will notify you as soon as a spot becomes available.
We seek to admit students who have demonstrated that they possess the personal qualities and experience necessary to succeed on an Overland trip. While Overland is always supportive and nurturing, an Overland program is unlike a traditional camp in that our small groups–12 students and 2 leaders–travel, live and work as a group, making all of their own meals, helping each other and cooperating in ways big and small, and they do all of this far from home. As a result, every student must be able to thrive in an environment that places equal emphasis on:
1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.
2. Independence and Self-Reliance.
3. Support of Others and Consideration for Others.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers (the exceptions to this are: your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency). If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send him or her with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss to phones, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child; to that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer (outside of office hours our answering service provides emergency coverage). Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
- What vaccinations and medications does my child need in order to travel abroad with Overland?
Overland strongly recommends that families of students traveling abroad consult their child’s doctor and visit a travel clinic well before the start of the program to discuss options for travel-related vaccinations and medications. These are in addition to your child’s routine vaccinations and regularly prescribed medication.
You and your doctor are encouraged to generally review information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization (WHO) or other sources, in addition to the specifics of your selected program, to consider health issues and determine what, if any, travel-related vaccinations and medications are appropriate for your child. Overland will provide a “Travel Vaccinations & Medications” form to assist with this process.
- Can my child get credit for service hours?
You should check with your child’s school about whether or not Overland's service hours meet their requirements. The approximate number of hours of service are listed in the sidebar. We will provide your child with proof of participation after completion of his or her service work.
Explore, volunteer and hike in Cambodia and Vietnam while engaging with local culture.
Students going on Field Studies Southeast Asia should prepare for:
- 4 days of hiking with an average of 5 miles per day
- 5 days of volunteer service for an average of 5 hours each day
- Traveling internationally
- Travel to and from the trip
- An Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for Hiking
Trekking in Sapa is a strenuous physical activity that requires proper training. Your group will be accompanied by professional guides and porters who will carry the majority of your group's gear. You will carry a day pack with additional layers of clothing, water, snacks and lunch.
Before your trip, we strongly advise you spend time breaking-in and adjusting to your hiking boots. Please follow our guidelines as you prepare for your program.
- 4 weeks before your trip: wear your boots for 15-30 minutes a day. Walk around your house or neighborhood so your boots begin to conform to your feet..
- 3 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boots..
- 2 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots..
- 1 week before your trip: take three 1½ -hour hikes or walks in your boots..
Groups typically take multiple breaks throughout the day while hiking—for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust packs, etc.
Preparing for Service
Trips involving service work require a positive attitude and willingness to work hard as a volunteer. You should arrive eager to participate in a variety of service projects. The projects your group work on will depend upon the availability of service opportunities and the needs of the local community. Once your program starts, commit yourself wholeheartedly to your group and all activities.
Preparing for International Travel
International travel requires planning and preparation. You must have a valid passport and the necessary visas, travel vaccinations and travel medications. We will provide additional instructions regarding international travel preparation once we have placed you on a program. More information is also available in the FAQs.
Preparing for Travel to and from the Trip
Families are responsible for arranging flights to and from the designated airport during a specified window (please do not purchase flights until you have received an email confirming our review of your health forms and school reference). Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome you at the start of your trip and to assist with your departure. You may also be dropped off and picked up at the airport. If you are flying to and from your trip, we will have you call home upon arrival and before departure. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed you on a program
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive of your trip mates and your leaders, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. You will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring.
All trips have a range of challenges. You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more difficult, more challenging and longer—in terms of hours hiking or volunteering—than others. Changes occur due to a wide range of variables beyond the control of you, your group or your leaders. Service projects can change at a moment’s notice due to weather or the varying needs of local communities. You, or someone in your group, might develop blisters while hiking or encounter another issue that could delay your group.
Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland program.