If you are doing the reverse banana pancake trail, you will have to cross the land border between Cambodia to Vietnam, which is from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon. There are different ways you can do this. Depending on your travel style, budget, and how much time you have in your backpacking in Vietnam.
You’ll also want to make sure you have all the proper documents required for entering Vietnam.
If you’re moving to Saigon (the old name for Ho Chi Minh City), then you may also want to check out our article explaining the cost of living in Saigon.
You can use the table of contents below to navigate faster:
NOTE: All prices are in US Dollars
LAND BORDERS BETWEEN CAMBODIA AND VIETNAM
Bavet / Moc Bai
The first land border crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia, which was opened to foreign travelers, is also the most popular until today. It is also the most popular among travelers and expats and probably the best option, especially if you are traveling by bus.
Kaam Samno / Ving Xuong
This border is known river crossing between Phnom Penh and Chau Doc. You can get fast and/or slow boats here. Once you get to the border, a fixer will collect all the passports to process the paperwork. You can come if you are feeling uncomfortable giving away your passport.
Phnom Den / Tinh Bien
This border is close to Kampot or Takeo. and is open to foreign travelers. However, it is quite expensive to get transport from here.
Prek Chak / Xa Xia
It is a Cambodia/ Vietnam coastal border and is open to travelers with valid visas. It is only a twenty-minute motorbike ride from Kep, and it costs about $7.
BUS FROM PHNOM PENH TO HO CHO MINH CITY
The most common way to cross the border is to take a bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. Some travelers wonder if they can cross the border from Siem Reap directly to Ho Chi Minh City, but that’s simply not possible. There is a travel agency that offers this, but the truth is, the bus will still have to stop in Phnom Penh, where you can change to another bus.
RELATED POST: Here is our backpacking in Vietnam article which we tackle different topics under it.
How Long is the Bus Journey
The bus journey will be about a 6-hour journey with a 10-minute lunch break before crossing the actual border. Some buses have a toilet, on the bus, some don’t. While other bus companies offer free lunch too. The landscaper during the trip is quite nice, you will see the green fields and country life in Cambodia.
There are overnight buses where the travel time takes about 11 hours instead of 6 hours. This is mostly because of the number of stops and the fact that the border only works during business hours; therefore, you need to spend a few hours on the bus until the border is open. Also, the sleeping berths they have is basically a double-sized bed, whereas you have to share it with a stranger.
How Much is the Ticket for the Bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City
Depending on your budget, it ranges between $12-$18, depending on the time schedule and company.
I personally have tried The Sinh Tourist, Kumho Samco, Mekong Express, and Giant Ibis. The Sinh Cafe was okay but not the best, but it’s the cheapest. The buses are old, and the seats are not comfortable. While the Mekong Express was a little better than The Sinh Tourist, their seats are more comfortable, some buses can be old.
There was a time when water was dripping right on top of me, luckily, the seat next to me was empty. They also offer minivans, which are faster than the big buses. On the other hand, I also tried their new bus, which was great.
Kumho Samco is not bad either, they have reclining seats, which is good, however, their air-conditioner is not the best. Giant Ibis is the tourists’ and expats’ favorite. Spacious, newer buses, great air-conditioning, and their staff speak good English. They are also the most expensive, starting at $18.
Our luggage was not scanned during the crossing, they were left on the bus. Remember to bring your valuables like your passport, wallet, and gadgets.
EXITING THE BORDER OF CAMBODIA
Your driver or conductor will explain to you how to cross the border, get to the immigration office, and find your bus again. Go to the immigration office to get your exit stamp, it’s easy and straightforward unless you have overstayed.
You will hop back into the bus until you reach the border office of Vietnam which is about 2-3 minutes.
ENTERING THE BORDER OF VIETNAM
Depending on your nationality, there is a free visa available at the border. If you need a visa and your country is accepted for a visa on arrival, all you need to do is give your passport and pay the fee.
If you need a visa before entering Vietnam and is not applicable for a visa on arrival, you need to process your visa beforehand. You can do this in Phnom Penh. Check this guide about how to apply for a Vietnam visa in Phnom Penh.
Vietnam visa table info CHECK PRICES FOR YOUR VISA
Your bus company conductor will collect your passport, this is mostly for those who are doing a visa on arrival or simply to fast-track the process, it is common that they charge $5 for this service, on top of the visa fee (which is $35 for those doing a visa on arrival). You can choose to not give your passport and stand in the line and get your own stamp if you feel uncomfortable giving your passport to someone apart from the immigration officer.
You will give your passport to the person in charge (normally, you will see a pile of passports on the desk; just ask if you should add it there). Your name will be called once your passport has been stamped.
Proceed to the exit of the building and hop back on the bus. Enjoy the rest of the journey.
WHERE WILL YOU BE DROPPED OFF
If the bus company has an office on the backpacker’s street (Pham Ngu Lao), you will be more likely to be dropped off there. If you are unsure, ask your conductor where the drop-off will be.
HOW TO GET TO YOUR ACCOMMODATION FROM HERE
You can easily walk to most hostels from Pham Ngu Lao, if you have too much luggage or your hostel is quite a walk, hop on a taxi or book it through the app called Grab (this works just like Uber). You can order a motorbike taxi, a real taxi, or a car.
CROSSING THE BORDER WITH YOUR MOTORBIKE
You can bring your motorbike to Vietnam from Cambodia with you as long as you have the right documents. Here are the expected things you need and then what you need to do when crossing the border with your motorbike:
What you need:
- International driver’s license from your home country
- Valid driver’s license
- Blue card or the document that shows you bought this bike legally
- Cash (much better in USD)
- You can do the immigration first (get an exit/entry stamp)
- Head to customs, ask the personnel around where to go for exporting/importing your motorbike
- Fill out the form
- Give the form and your documents to the person in charge
- Pay – it was said that the fee is $20 and a stamp fee of $1-$2. You should bring enough cash in case there are other fees that you need to pay
Here is an in-depth guide about motorbiking in Vietnam; find out what you need to know before starting your trip.
FLYING FROM PHNOM PENH TO HO CHI MINH CITY
If you prefer to fly or your budget permit, there are direct flights between Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. They are usually carried by Cambodia Angkor Air, Vietnam Airlines, and Qatar Airways with at least once or twice a day schedule.
However, flight tickets are not the cheapest. They range between $75 to $130 for one-way. You can check flights here.
WHERE TO STAY
Whether you are a backpacker, on a full-on holiday, or a family traveler, Ho Chi Minh City can accommodate your needs well enough.
The best is to check out our where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City guide to compare the best ones with one another and see what suits you better.
WHERE TO GO NEXT
From Ho Chi Minh City, travelers would either go to Phu Quoc, an island best for holidaymakers or tourists who love to relax on the beach. Vung Tau, a beach town not far from Ho Chi Minh City (how to get to Vung Tau from HCMC) – also a less travelled place in Vietnam. While most people would head to Mui Ne (here is how to get to Mui Ne from Ho Chi Minh City), another beach town is known for water activities such as kite and windsurfing, sand dunes, and visiting small villages. You can also check this 7-day Vietnam itinerary.
I hope you find this article about how to get from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City has been useful for you. If you have questions, let us know in the comment section.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Chansak Joe.