Let’s face it, long bus journeys in Southeast Asia are unlikely to be the most fun part of traveling in the region. When a land border crossing is added into the mix, it becomes even more unpleasant, but is something of a right of passage. Luckily, Giant Ibis takes the pain out of crossing the Cambodia-Vietnam border, with a six hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to HCMC.
Looking for more options? Read our detailed review of the many ways to get from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City including plane, bus, mini-bus, taxi and even boat.
Several bus companies cover the popular Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) route. Of all the Cambodia bus companies, Giant Ibis is the best, unless of course you are looking for the kind of experience that includes blaring Khmer karaoke, lack of air-con and cramped seating. Giant Ibis buses all come with powerpoints, free WiFi and fairly spacious seating even for a larger person. They also offer a snack when you board the bus and the capable staff make you feel as though if something were to go wrong, they might be able to do something about it.
If you are headed from Phnom Penh to Vietnam, remember that you need to get your visa before getting on the bus. The exceptions is that citizens of Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK may enter visa-free for 15 days. Several other Asian countries are also eligible for the visa exemption. If you’re not on the list, here’s how to get a Vietnam visa in Phnom Penh. On the other hand, if you are headed from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, you can get a visa at the border.
From Phnom Penh it’s 170 km to the border and takes about four hours. It is important to be aware that when you board the bus in Phnom Penh the Giant Ibis rep will take your passport to check whether or not you have the correct visa, and ask you to fill out your Cambodia exit card. The rep will keep the passport and get everyone stamped out of Cambodia at the same time.
There’s a brief stop between the borders at a strange restaurant and giant duty-free complex (with ridiculously cheap booze) where you can have lunch and browse the shops while they process the visas. While you are shopping, the Giant Ibis rep will be busy getting everyone’s visas stamped. You can change money but the rate is extortionate, so get Vietnamese Dong in Phnom Penh before you leave.
Then it’s back on the bus to the Vietnamese border. Once at the border you will get your passport back and cruise through immigration (because you’ve already been stamped in). Then you’ll get your luggage x-rayed and back onto the bus. It’s important to note that they are currently in the process of building new (huge) border crossing offices, so this process may change somewhat in the future.
Once you are through here, the Giant Ibis bus will be waiting for you. Once everyone is back on, it’s another two and a half hours to Ho Chi Minh City. When you arrive in Ho Chi Minh City the bus drops you one street over from Pham Ngu Lao, which is the main drag for backpacker restaurants and bars. The traffic is notoriously faster and even more chaotic in Ho Chi Minh than Phnom Penh so be careful crossing the road, and the office can be hard to spot.
On the return journey, you can get a Cambodia visa at the border as long as you’re from one of the approved countries. Tourist visas cost $30. Overall, it’s a surprisingly easy bus journey and border crossing without any of the scams that are usually seen at overland borders. The Giant Ibis staff will give you the option of paying $5 for them to process your visa, or you can do it yourself. Many tourists choose to let the staff do the work for them so as to not have to deal with immigration officials. It’s not a scam, it’s just a way to speed the process along and it is optional.
Tickets cost $18 and for an added fee of less than $1, you can book online and reserve a seat in advance.
Giant Ibis schedule:
Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh City: 8:00 a.m.
Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh: 8:30 a.m.
3Eo Street 106, next to the night market, Phnom Penh
T: 023 987 808
37, Street 7 Makara, Behind Sokimex Gas Station, Kampot
T: 023 999 333
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