Absence of a proper train network as well as expensive and limited flights is a challenge for tourists. In this situation bus travel remains the most common choice for budget travellers. Hence, we decided to share CamboTicket team members’ Cambodia road travel experiences. This is first of many blogs that we will publish in this road travel series.
Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh Bus Travel
With total distance being 300 kms it takes around 6-8 hours to make the trip. Multiple daily trips are being made by a lot of private Vietnamese and Cambodian bus companies. Tourists can check some options here.
Booking a ticket
CamboTicket.com prides itself in being Cambodia’s first online bus ticket booking website. It allows comparison of schedules, facilities, prices and availability on a single page. Thereby enabling the customer to make the perfect choice according to their preference. Another option for the traveller is to book through one of the local agents available around Phnom Penh. Many bus operators provide free pick-up till the boarding point for the customers. But in order to avoid any panic or last minute hassles we advice you to make your own arrangements like Tuk Tuk!
On the Road
Road between Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh is fairly good. Most of the buses generally stop once near to the border crossing for 20 minutes for snacks/meal. These stops would mostly include places serving Khmer cuisines, fruits and packaged snack items. With 30 minutes stop at the border crossing the overall trip amounts to 7-8 hours. Most of the buses drop you at one of the two dropping points – District 1, Pha Ngu Lao or District 5. So depending on their itinerary customers can choose a stop preferable to them. Most of the buses offer free WiFi which works for one leg of the journey. Camboticket provides all information related to this on their webpage.
Visa assistant in the bus
As we mentioned above, a visa is required before starting the travel. In all the buses an assistant is present who is responsible for assisting the travelers with the border crossing. The assistant will collect the Passports at the start of the trip to check that everyone has a valid visa to enter Vietnam. If you don’t, you won’t be allowed to continue the journey.On the border, you will be asked to get off the bus and handed over your passports by name calling. You will then head to the Cambodian border exit control for picture and finger prints.
After the process, you will hand-over passport back to the assistant again and board the bus again. You will then be taken to the Vietnamese custom and immigration office in the bus, where you will get down again but will not be handed-over the passport (your assistant will submit it to the Visa officer). Depending on the bus operator, you may or may not be asked to take out your luggage for check-up. The Vietnamese Visa officer will then do the name calling and handover your passport after checking and stamping the visa. The bus company assistant will generally be present around the Visa Officer just to ensure that all the visas are processed smoothly and quickly. After this, the journey starts again on the Vietnamese side and take another 2-3 hours to reach to Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam doesn’t offer a Visa-on-Arrival, hence visa arrangements needs to be done prior to the start of the trip. However, the good news is that there are heaps of travel agents all over Phnom Penh who could get a one month travel visa processed in two days. The agents generally charge between 65$-75$ for the visa. Given the experience of other travelers, we would recommend using a travel agent for Vietnam visa because it saves a lot of time, plus it costs lower as compared to the price you may pay at the embassy if you go directly to them.
Tip: Before you board the bus, it’s recommended to write down/memorize the bus number and memorize the face of the assistant, so that you don’t get confused and board the right bus at the border and the restaurant.