5 Things that I learned from the bus ride to Siem Reap, Cambodia from Vietnam

About May last year (2014), I embarked on a solo journey to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia with small days in between of seeing my husband and closest friends. They cannot stay with me of course, so I was alone for at least sixty days. From Bangkok, I took a flight to Ho Chi Minh (I was with my husband then), and then from Ho Chi Minh, I took a bus to Siem Reap on my own.

With a journey as long as this, I read and did a lot of research - different people, different perspectives. And besides, information changes a lot through time. At the end of it all, you have your own unique experience. And even if I share what happened to me, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't experience the same thing.

The first thing I needed to know was where the buses are stationed in Ho Chi Minh. They didn't have a formal bus station. But what you have along Pham Ngu Lao (backpacker's street) are the tour operators that will sell you your tickets. I brought mine at least a week before my departure. And I suggest you secure yours at least a couple of days before.

1. The starting point in Ho Chi Minh is in Pham Ngu Lao

Phương Trang Tourist, Foursquare.com

Phương Trang Tourist, Foursquare.com

If you're wondering where in Ho Chi Minh do the buses that run all the way to Siem Reap are, most of them start in Pham Ngu Lao.

Pham Ngu Lao has a lot of tour bus operators. So scout for the best bus and do research. Not all of the buses are nice and comfortable so if it's just adding another five dollars (to the average of $20), I'd say it's worth it. Don't scrimp on the bus. First of all the trip is long and you want a working AC. Its really hot, especially if you're traveling during the summer months of February to June.

Next is the wifi. Some buses come with it, some don't. You will need it if you want to have something to do for more than ten hours on the road.

Then lastly, the comfortable seat. Why wouldn't you want that? This is a must unless you want to travel through a dirt road that's going to bounce you for hours on a wooden seat.

Name:
Phương Trang Tourist
Address:
272 De Tham St., Pham Ngu Lao Wd., Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
TEL:
+84 8 3830 9309
HP:
Official Foursquare.com

2. Travel time is approximately 15 hours

Vietnam – Cambodia Border, Foursquare.com

I took the earliest time possible, which is around 7am. I still arrived in Siem Reap past 9pm. There is not much traffic on the way. The only road factor that will affect your travel time will be the ferry which will take the bus across a lake or river a couple of minutes after you enter the Cambodian border.

Name:
Cửa Khẩu Quốc Tế Mộc Bài (Moc Bai Border Gate)
Address:
Quốc Lộ 22, Bến Cầu, Tỉnh Tây Ninh, Vietnam
HP:
Foursquare.com

3. The border control in between is hassle free

Cửa Khẩu Quốc Tế Mộc Bài (Moc Bai Border Gate), Foursquare.com

Cửa Khẩu Quốc Tế Mộc Bài (Moc Bai Border Gate), Foursquare.com

It depends on which bus company you took because when I crossed the border, the attendant of the bus who distributed snacks and did the talking was the one who collected our passports. Since I'm ASEAN member (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Brunei) I don't need a visa. But if you do need a visa, the bus can assist you in getting it there.

The passports will be collected and when you reach the border from Vietnam's side, you will be asked to go down the bus. You will enter a building and you will wait for your passport to be given out. This is where they will stamp on your passport that you exited Vietnam. You will go back on your bus and then continue to another check point. This is the official entry to Cambodia.

Here, you have to pay a certain amount for the stamp coming in. I do not know if this is true for all citizens, since I did not need a visa. I paid around a dollar in 2014.

They do not bring your luggage out, as I did not see it being scanned or taken out of the bus, but I might also be wrong since I stayed inside the building waiting for my passport to be released.

All in all, the time that we spend in the border area was less than thirty minutes and we didn't encounter long lines even.

Name:
Cửa Khẩu Quốc Tế Mộc Bài (Moc Bai Border Gate)
Address:
Quốc Lộ 22, Bến Cầu, Tỉnh Tây Ninh, Vietnam
HP:
Foursquare.com

4. Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is a dirt road

Siem Reap Bus Terminal, Foursquare.com

I know Cambodia is a developing country. But I did not expect to be on a dirt road for at least two hours on the way to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh. With all the money Siem Reap is making from the tourists, I figured they could at least straighten their roads. But no. So again, if you have a brand new spanking bus, I guess you won't mind bouncing on your seat for two hours. But the Mekong Express bus that I had from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was a really old one, I guess they know the road is going to be nasty so they changed their bus.

Name:
Mekong Express Limousine Bus Station
Address:
National Highway 5, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
HP:
Foursquare.com

5. Be a prepared boy scout/girl scout

Mekong Express Limousine Bus Station, Foursquare.com

Mekong Express Limousine Bus Station, Foursquare.com

The trip is long and arduous. It's hot, if you get out of the bus. And it heavily depends on the bus that you get. The one that I took, which is Mekong Express, stopped for at least thirty minutes in Phnom Penh, where you cannot even get a decent meal and the snacks are overpriced. They also don't have enough chairs and tables and if you decide to abandon your seat, expect that someone else will take it when you get back. I don't know for other bus companies if they stop in Phnom Penh or they do the continuous journey. But if the stopover facilities are not so great, then I would have loved for it to be a straight journey. Oh, and Mekong Express doesn't have toilets in the bus so you would have to hold it til the next stop.

Name:
Mekong Express Limousine Bus Station
Address:
National Highway 5, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
HP:
Foursquare.com

Conclusion

I know I have a lot of "complaints" but if I have known that I had better options, I would've taken them. I arrived in a rainy Siem Reap mid May and was extremely exhausted that I just slept in the next day. I shouldn't have because I had an outstanding invitation to join my seatmate in the bus, who became my friend eventually, on an Angkor Wat tour. Obviously, I wasn't able to show up so that's a loss for me as I definitely wouldn't mind gaining a new friend while traveling alone.

Author

Geninna
5 things I can't live without: coffee, books, my iPod, wifi, and my husband :D Born and raised in Manila, Philippines but I've lived in Qatar, Indonesia, and the UAE. I am currently living in Romania, and I have been on vacations to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam :) And does a stop over in Bahrain and Germany count?