After spending two days in Ho Chi Minh City (HCM), Vietnam, it was time for me to move on to my next destination, Cambodia. I traveled from Vietnam to Cambodia by bus. I purchased my bus ticket to Phnom Penh (PP), Cambodia prior to my trip to Vietnam so that I have something to show the airline staff or the immigration officer in case they ask for a proof of onward travel.
My land travel experience has been great. To be honest, I was a little worried prior to the trip because I have read horror stories from other travelers about some bus companies. I didn’t read reviews about the bus company that I booked with prior, so I was worried that it might not be a good one. The bus company highly recommended by most backpackers is the Giant Ibis. But I found that out only after I have already purchased a ticket.
I guess luck was on my side because the bus I booked with, Mekong Express was actually a good one. Let me share with you details of my land travel including a review of the bus so that you know what to expect when it’s time for you to do it.
Where to Purchase Bus Tickets
Bus tickets can be purchased online, in travel agencies in Vietnam or you can ask the receptionist in your hostel/hotel because most are affiliated with bus companies. I purchased mine online, through Baolau. Baolau is a ticket booking service for traveling in China, Vietnam, Cambodia
Booking through Baolau is very easy. You just need to input where you will travel from, your destination, and the date of your travel. Then you will get the result of schedules of the different modes of transportation available from different companies (Giant Ibis Bus and Mekong Express Bus included) and the corresponding price.
My Experience with Mekong Express
From the review that I have read comparing Mekong Express and Giant Ibis Bus, it said that the Giant Ibis bus has newer, better buses. As for my experience though, it was the other way around. I tried the Giant Ibis bus for my travel from Kampot to PP, and the bus didn’t look as nice as that of the Mekong Express I took from HCM. It looked a little old and worn out.
I booked the 8:30 AM trip to PP. My e-ticket says to be at the Mekong Express office 30-60 minutes before the scheduled departure time. I went to the bus office an hour early then showed the office staff my e-ticket. The staff then gave me a bus ticket. A few minutes later, the bus arrived. I placed my giant backpack in the bus compartment then boarded the bus. They gave me a luggage tag but they didn’t check it when I retrieved my bag when we arrived at PP.
The trip from HCM to PP costs VND 330,968 (~USD 14.3 / ~PHP 744 ) with Mekong Express. When you board the bus, they give you free water, a pack of facial wipes and a box of crackers.
Crossing the Moc Bai and Bavet Border
We didn’t encounter any issues while crossing the Vietnam-Cambodia border. A few minutes before the bus reaches the border crossing station Moc Bai, the bus representative will collect your passports. When you reach Moc Bai, you need to alight from the bus and follow the bus representative. There you will be given an immigration card that you need to fill out and submit at the immigration in Bavet, the border crossing station in Cambodia.
I don’t know the process for those who need a visa to enter Cambodia, because I didn’t have to go through that. Filipinos and other Southeast Asians can enter Cambodia visa-free. I saw the other people from our bus give some dollars to the bus representative, as payment for the visa. Also, they were given two immigration cards to fill out. For those who can enter Cambodia visa-free, you don’t have to pay for anything. If the bus staff charges you something, then you are probably getting scammed.
When you get back your passport, go back to your bus. A few meters from Moc Bai, you need to alight again, this time to pass by the immigration at Bavet. You just line up like what you normally do at the immigration. Give your immigration card and passport, have your picture and fingerprints taken and wait for the immigration officer to stamp on your passport. After that, go back to your bus. It’s that easy.
It was almost lunchtime when we finished at the border. About 200 meters from immigration, our bus stopped at a restaurant for lunch. After that, we continued our journey to PP.
Overall the trip to PP was good. Don’t have any complaints with the driving of the bus driver. Also, the bus didn’t make random stops in between to pick up additional passengers or packages, it took us directly to our destination city. Our trip took about 7.5 hours of travel time from HCM to PP.
Hope this post helped you with your queries regarding border crossing from Vietnam to Cambodia. If you have more questions, feel free to comment below.