I once crossed the borders of Singapore and Malaysia and that episode was a breeze and organized but crossing Vietnam and Cambodia borders were a bit challenging. A prior knowledge of what to expect and what to do can put every traveler at ease.
Here's a guide of what transpired and how we successfully traveled overland and crossed the borders of Vietnam and Cambodia.
We booked through our hotel our transportation from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia via Mekong Express Limousine Bus. They seemed like the most reputable bus company and the one most preferred by travelers coming from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Pehn and Siem Reap, Cambodia.
The 28 USD bus ride including the several stops and eating breaks and one bus transfer took a total of approximately 13 hours to reach Siem Reap. It was long but it was a comfortable ride. I'm glad I brought my neck pillow which allowed me to get some good sleep while on the road.
At 7:30 AM, a van picked us up at our hotel and brought to our Mekong Limousine Bus ride. We showed our tickets and checked in our baggage, in turn they gave us our seat numbers and a numbered stub for claiming our baggage later.
MEKONG LIMOUSINE BUS EXPRESS
A Cambodia embarkation card was provided including a pack of biscuits and a bottle of water.
We left Ho Chi Minh around 8:15am and arrived Moc Bai, Vietnam border in a couple of hours after. Our passports were collected beforehand (don't include the Cambodia embarkation card yet) by the bus guide and instructed us to follow him once he entered the building to have our passports stamped. I don't know the reason why other passengers were asked to carry their baggage while ours were left in the bus compartment. Me and my companions were all just scratching our head for not getting a clear explanation and just mere hand gestures although we're thankful we didn't need to carry that extra weight while waiting.
MOCBAI VIETNAM BORDER
We waited for our names to be called by the bus guide who was the one transacting with the immigration officer. I sneaked in one discreet shot to give you a glimpse inside.The whole process which was a bit chaotic and unsystematic took around 15 to 20 minutes to finish and once called took our passport with us and exited the building and went straight to our bus waiting outside.
BAVET, CAMBODIA BORDER
Not far ahead, 3 minutes after at approximately 200meters from Mocbai, Vietnam border is the Bavet, Cambodia border which we have to pass through to enter Cambodia.
On the Cambodian side, the system is more orderly. Filipinos don't need a visa to enter Cambodia but we were warned beforehand by the bus guide that some officer will try to ask for some visa payment, just politely mention that you are from Mekong Bus Express. It worked as a charm since my friend who was ahead of me in the immigration line was asked for some amount and the mention of Mekong Bus stopped the further inquiry and proceeded to the biometric scanning instead. During my turn, I just slipped in my Mekong Bus ticket on my passport next to my filled out Cambodia embarkation card and everything went smoothly, no more questions asked.
In 10 minutes or so after entering Cambodian border and getting stamped, you'll now be on the Cambodian side taking this shot :D. Time stamped was 11:15 am when we've successfully entered Cambodia, a total of 3 hours after leaving Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
We reached the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Pehn after 3 1/2 hours more and that includes our lunch break stop and the 5 minute bus ride crossing a river on board a RORO vessel.
We alighted at the Phnom Pehn bus station of Mekong Express and transferred to a new bus going to Siem Reap. Another set of biscuit and water were provided. We left at around 3:30pm and what seemed to be a never-ending road trip finally took a halt. Thank God for the experience and now we're in Siem Reap safe and sound at exactly 11:00PM with a driver and a car from our accommodation waiting to fetch us.
Stay tuned for another crossing borders post for Cambodia to Thailand in my succeeding posts. In the meantime you can read more of my Indochina series here :
HOW MUCH I SPENT IN MY INDOCHINA TRIP
HOW I SURVIVED 3 NIGHTS IN HO CHI MINH CITY
OUR HO CHI MINH ACCOMMODATION : HONG HAN HOTEL