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A Comprehensive Handbook for Your Vietnam to Cambodia Bus Tour

Posted By : Threeland Travel / Vietnam Cambodia Travel Tips

Traveling between Vietnam and Cambodia by bus is a popular option for those looking for a convenient and affordable way to experience these fascinating countries. While taking the bus may not be as fast as flying, it allows you to sit back, relax, and take in vibrant scenery as you journey overland from one destination to the next.

This handbook aims to provide travelers with all the essential information needed to plan and enjoy a comfortable Vietnam to Cambodia bus tour. Whether you're traveling solo or with a group, our comprehensive guide covers everything from purchasing tickets and crossing borders efficiently to suggested stops along the way and tips for staying safe and healthy on the road.

Some key benefits of opting for a bus tour include budget-friendly fares, flexibility to hop on and off at different points, and no extra baggage fees. You'll also find that bus infrastructure in Vietnam and Cambodia tours has improved tremendously in recent years, with modern coaches featuring amenities like WiFi, power outlets, and washrooms on board.

By following the practical advice in this handbook, you can approach your bus journey with confidence, fully prepared to make the most of visits to major cities as well as chance encounters with local life along the route. Our goal is to help you navigate a seamless overland transit between these two Indochinese countries and arrive at your destination relaxed and hassle-free.

Now read on to get started with planning the ideal Vietnam to Cambodia bus tour experience. We wish you an enjoyable and memorable trip!


I. Planning Your Vietnam to Cambodia Bus Tour

1. Deciding on dates and bus route

  • Check public holiday calendars to avoid traveling during Vietnam or Cambodia holidays when buses may be crowded and prices higher.
  • The most direct and popular route is the Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh bus, taking around 6-7 hours. This then connects to Siem Reap.
  • You can also travel between other major cities like Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi to Phnom Penh, or Siem Reap to Hanoi over 2-3 days depending on your stops.
  • Consider how long you want your overall journey to be when selecting entry and exit points.

2. Getting tickets and making reservations

  • Purchase tickets directly from bus stations in major cities for the best available fares, at least 1-2 weeks in advance. This includes Mien Dong in Saigon and Phnom Penh Road 5 in Phnom Penh.
  • Many hotels and travel agencies also sell tickets but may charge a small booking fee. Some hostels offer package deals with tickets.
  • Choose between direct public buses or transfers with a stopover in Phnom Penh depending on your route. For long-haul trips, a stop can help break up the journey.
  • Reserve seats early in the week if traveling during peak season for more space, and a choice of viewpoint, and some buses offer pre-assigned seats.

3. What to pack

  • Comfortable, layered clothing that can be removed on long bus rides in varying climates.
  • Entertainment like books, music players, or magazines to pass the time.
  • Snacks, dried fruits, and bottled water as choices onboard may be limited.
  • Personal medications, first aid kit, antiseptic, pain killers and anti-diarrhea medicine.
  • Camera gear, portable chargers, and power banks to avoid running out of battery.
  • Daypack for items you need during the ride like passport, cash, and medications.
  • Cash in both USD and local currency - VND for Vietnam, Riel for Cambodia. Credit cards are accepted in major cities but not always on buses.
  • Digital copies and 2 photocopies of each passport, visa, and vaccination certs stored separately from the originals.

II. Bus Details

1. Bus companies and recommended brands

  • Mai Linh Express (Vietnam): One of Vietnam's largest transportation providers operating sleeper, VIP, and economy class buses. Routes covered include Saigon to Cambodian cities. Buses are well maintained with periodic checks.
  • Phnom Penh Sorya Transport (Cambodia): Family-owned company serving Cambodia for over 20 years. Most popular for daily PNH-SRR route. The fleet includes basic economy to luxury air-con buses. Well known for punctuality.
  • Mekong Express: Luxurious buses with 38-42 seats playing movies and serving snacks/drinks. Wi-Fi, charging points at every seat. Air suspension for a smooth ride. Minimal stops. Slightly higher fares but worth it for comfort.
  • GST Express: Second largest bus operator in Cambodia with over 100 air-conditioned buses. Reliable services across major routes in Cambodia and Vietnam. Clean toilets. Buses may be crowded during holidays.
  • Virak Buntham: Regional operator with affordable fares and bus options from basic to deluxe models (Visorya, v.tourist). WiFi and water are provided. The longest routes take additional toilet/meal stops.
  • Hai Phong Transport: a Smaller Vietnam-based company serving cross-border routes in basic air-con buses. Cheap tickets but lack amenities. Consider if on a tight budget.

2. Amenities provided on buses (wifi, power outlets, etc.) 

  • All buses have reclining seats, bathrooms, air conditioning, and TV screens showing movies/programs.
  • Deluxe buses have spacious legrooms, individual charging ports, wifi, and attendants offering snacks. Limited on basic buses.
  • Sheets, pillows, and blankets are provided for overnight journey comfort.
  • Water is served regularly. Food/drink sold by attendants if long-distance ride (over 6 hrs).
  • Charcoal air filters help regulate air quality during long periods in the bus.

3. Luggage policies

  • One 65-75L sized check-in bag (not exceeding 15kg) is stored below in luggage compartments.
  • In addition, carry small daypacks, laptop bags, handbags, and jackets on your seat.
  • Ensure valuable items are on you and check-in luggage padlocked to prevent theft during stops/transfers.
  • Porter service is available at stations to assist with luggage for a small tip.

4. General trip duration and timing

  • Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh is 6-7 hours with 1-2 stops for meals, and bathrooms.
  • Add 2 more hours for Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route usually done as a combination ticket.
  • Buses depart early morning (6 AM - 8 AM) and evenings (4 PM - 7 PM) when possible.
  • Confirm timing 1 day before to avoid rushed starts or missing the bus.

III. Border Crossing Process

1. Vietnamese visa requirements

  • Check visa requirements for your nationality by visiting Vietnam immigration website
  • E-visas are convenient but only available 30 days before the travel date and processed within 3 working days
  • Apply at a Vietnamese embassy/consulate for a letter of approval if outside the e-visa timeframe
  • Tourist visa (for 1-30 days stay) cost ranges from $25-50 depending on processing method and nationality
  • Business & other visa types have different costs and requirements - details on Vietnam immigration site

2. Crossing the Vietnam-Cambodia border 

  • The joint checkpoint is located in Dong Xoai town, about 45km from HCMC
  • Buses will stop for passengers to disembark with hand luggage only
  • Vietnam immigration will check passports and visa pages first
  • Then board a smaller shuttle bus to the Cambodian side which is a 5-minute drive
  • At Cambodia entry, have $5-30 entry fees in USD based on nationality
  • Passports are checked and an entry stamp is issued
  • Sometimes health declarations or currency exchange forms may also be checked
  • Processing can take 30-60 minutes depending on the volume of passengers
  • Once cleared, reboard your international bus which will continue to Phnom Penh

3. Required documents

  • Original passport with at least 6 months validity beyond the trip return date
  • Printout of e-visa approval (if applicable) or visa approval letter
  • 2 passport photos - sometimes asked for at checkpoints
  • Proof of onward/return travel such as bus/flight tickets beyond Vietnam/Cambodia
  • Sufficient funds for your stay - min $500 per person suggested
  • Vaccination certificates for yellow fever/others if required
  • International driving license if renting vehicles
  • Keep documents handy in your carry-on for quick verification

4. What to expect at immigration

Processing can take 30-60 mins depending on traffic. Most trips continue directly to Phnom Penh but some may require changing buses. Food and shops are available during transfer stops.

IV. Major Stops Along the Vietnam to Cambodia Bus Tour

1. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam  

Ho Chi Minh City will be the starting point for most routes traveling from Vietnam to Cambodia via the Moc Bai border crossing. Upon arrival in Saigon, travelers have the opportunity to spend a day exploring some of the city's most iconic landmarks. Top attractions include Notre Dame Cathedral, the ornate Central Post Office, and the chaotic yet vibrant Ben Thanh Market. 
For a taste of local cuisine, sample traditional dishes like pho, bun cha, and banh mi in District 1. History buffs will enjoy the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace, which provide insightful perspectives on the Vietnam War. When time allows, wander through luxury shopping malls along Nguyen Hue Street.

2. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

As a major transfer city between Moc Bai and Siem Reap, Phnom Penh will likely serve as a stopover point when buses break their journeys around 10-11 a.m. This provides travelers time for a quick meal before reboarding. Top attractions include the ornate Royal Palace complex and Silver Pagoda, along with the informative displays at the National Museum. Be sure to spend time walking along the riverfront and exploring cultural shows at venues like Phare, Cambodia's famous circus. In the evenings, dine at Phnom Penh's charming riverside restaurants. Consider a half-day trip to destinations like Udong or Kompong Cham for a respite from the capital city.

3. Siem Reap, Cambodia

The ultimate destination for many travelers is Siem Reap, the gateway to the iconic Angkor temples. Upon arrival, purchase a multi-day pass to explore Angkor Archaeological Park's many intricately decorated temples, like Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, and Preah Khan. Popular ways to get around include hiring a tuk-tuk or bicycle. 

At night, relax along the bustling Pub Street where an array of dining, drinks, and live music entertainment can be found. Be sure to also visit the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake and shop for souvenirs at Old Market and Psar Chaa. For a cultural performance, catch a show at Phare, The Cambodian Circus.

V. Activities and Places to Visit

1. Suggested places to visit when stopping in cities

While in major cities along the route, take time to visit some of the top attractions. In Ho Chi Minh City, consider the War Remnants Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral. Phnom Penh offers the Royal Palace complex and the National Museum. Of course, Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap should not be missed, with must-see temples like Angkor Wat and Bayon.

2. Things to do during the bus ride

To make the most of bus travel time, come prepared with books, music, or magazines. Watch movies or Download shows and movies beforehand. Play travel games to pass the time with fellow passengers. Consider using the bus wifi to work, and catch up on blog posts or messages. Try to sleep on overnight journeys.

Look out for rural scenery and daily village life passing by bus windows. Be open to chance encounters - someone may strike up a conversation. Brief stops offer photo opportunities for colorful markets. Try local bus station snacks like Vietnamese coffee or fried banana. Small interactions provide meaningful cultural insights.

3. Meal and bathroom stop details

Buses will typically stop every 3-4 hours for bathroom breaks lasting 15-20 minutes. During these comfort stops, consider stretching your legs at rest areas which have basic shops and toilet facilities. Major meal stops occur around 10-11 am and 2-3 pm, allowing 30-45 minutes to purchase snacks from vendors.

VI. Safety and Other Considerations

1. Personal safety tips

  • Avoid displaying expensive cameras/jewelry or large sums of cash
  • Keep luggage and valuables closer when in crowded areas
  • Beware of potential scams or overcharging from unfamiliar transport
  • Only take registered taxis from trusted hotels or airports
  • Be alert yet friendly with locals and respect conservative customs

2. Recommended precautions

  • Photocopy important documents separately from originals
  • Consider travel insurance to cover medical costs or lost baggage
  • Drink only sealed water to avoid stomach issues
  • Use mosquito repellent and cover skin at dusk to prevent insect bites
  • Have emergency cash stashed separately from the wallet
  • Consult a doctor about necessary vaccinations 4-6 weeks before travel

3. Emergency contact information

  • Save important Vietnam/Cambodia helplines to your phone
  • Provide an itinerary to family or hosts with bus ticket numbers
  • Carry contact details of your hostel/hotel and your embassy
  • Consider installing a geolocation/SOS app like SafeTrek for assistance

4. Health considerations

  • Minor ailments can be cured with first aid kits but seek medical help if fever, diarrhea, or infection persists
  • Stay hydrated, eat freshly cooked food, and peel all fruits and vegetables
  • Use contact lens solution made specifically for contact lenses
  • Get comprehensive travel insurance with medical evacuation included
  • Consult a doctor about necessary vaccinations 4-6 weeks before travel

VII. Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the best time of year to travel between Vietnam and Cambodia by bus?

A: The dry season from November to March is ideal, with warm temperatures and less rain. April to May and September to October are also good options. June to August sees heavy rain.

Q: How many bags can I bring on the bus?

A: Most buses allow one check-in bag (max 15-20kg) that goes in the luggage compartment. You can also bring a daypack and a small laptop bag on board with you.

Q: Can I purchase tickets at the bus station or do I need to book online?

A: You can buy tickets at major bus stations but it's best to book 1-2 weeks in advance, especially during peak season. Online booking is convenient but you may pay booking fees.

Q: What is the border crossing process like between Vietnam and Cambodia?

A: Buses will stop at the joint checkpoint for passport stamping and occasionally health checks. Ensure you have the proper visa and allow 30-60 mins for clearance.

Q: Do wifi and power outlets work consistently on buses?

A: Facilities depend on the bus company and class. Premium buses aim to provide consistent wifi and charging but there can be lag due to traffic or infrastructure issues. Always carry backup chargers.

Q: Can I break my journey and continue on another bus?

A: Yes, common routes allow hopping off in major cities like Phnom Penh. Rebook individual tickets or packages to your next destination.

VIII. Conclusion

With the right preparation using this comprehensive handbook as a guide, you now have the necessary information to plan and enjoy a comfortable Vietnam to Cambodia bus tour. Buses offer incredible value compared to flights, allowing opportunities to absorb diverse scenic landscapes and interact with locals along the way.

Major stops like Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap provide a wealth of cultural attractions and experiences to discover. From iconic temples and palaces to bustling markets, vibrant street food scenes, and more - this overland journey truly encapsulates the heart of Indochina. We hope the insights shared have you looking forward to creating treasured memories across multiple destinations.

Whether traveling independently or seeking additional support, Threeland Travel is here to help every step of the way. Our team of local experts has meticulously crafted Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos tour packages bringing together the perfect blend of included transport, top attractions, and high-quality accommodations suited to your travel style and budget.

You can also customize your itinerary with add-ons like cooking classes, hiking, cycling, and special interest tours. Book with confidence as all services come with 24/7 support, refund protection, and safe Vietnam Tours or Cambodia Tours.

To start planning your tailor-made trip through the lands of Vietnam, Cambodia, and beyond, click here or contact one of our travel consultants today. We look forward to welcoming you to this enchanting region!