Direct Bus from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Mekong Express

After our unpleasant journey on the bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I made sure to dig in a little bit more this time and find a reputable bus company to take us from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It was more important for this bus ride to go smoothly because it involved crossing a border.

Luckily, a kind gentleman on Trip Advisor had shared his extensive experience comparing the different bus companies that do the trip. We followed his advice and took the Mekong Express Limousine Bus.

My goal used to be “travel as cheaply as possible”, but I take that back. Comfort and service are worth paying a few extra dollars for. Plus $13 USD for a cross border, 230 km bus ride wasn’t exactly breaking the bank.

All hotels/guesthouses in Phnom Penh seem to double as travel agents as well. We asked our guesthouse about a bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City and were quoted $13 USD, but it wasn’t with Mekong. According to the interwebs, Mekong is one of the few companies that does not pay a commission for referrals, so guesthouses would much rather promote other bus companies for kickbacks. You could insist on getting a Mekong ticket, but you could fall victim to the guesthouse pulling a switch on you.

“Oh sorry they were sold out, so we got you this bus company. Same same!”

We tried to go to a Mekong office directly (here’s a link to their branches), but somehow couldn’t find it, so we ended up at a travel agency instead. There were loads of them along the Tonle Sap River. Here’s the one we went to:

Lucky Internet & Travel
#277 HEo, St. Sisowath Quay
Phsar Kandal I, Khan Daun Penh.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel: (855-23) 220 346-7

Lucky Internet

Lucky Internet & Travel

No complaints there, nothing special either. They can also get your Vietnam visa for you (as do all travel agencies and hotels/guesthouses). The price of a one month Vietnam visa was $57 USD, which is actually cheaper than getting it yourself! Unfortunately we had already paid our guesthouse $60 USD to do the same thing. Doh 😦

Mekong Express Bus Tickets to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Mekong Express bus tickets to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

We chose the 8:30 am bus, and waited at our guesthouse for the shuttle to pick us up. As usual, we were a little concerned when the shuttle was late, but no problem in the end.

The shuttle came, the driver and assistant were very polite and put our luggage onto the minivan for us. We proceeded to pick up several other passengers, and were then taken to the bus station at the ORussy Market.

ORussey Market Bus Station

Shuttle dropping us off at the ORussey Market bus station. By the way, I think it’s awesome that Mekong’s logo is a dolphin πŸ™‚

Here, the nicely uniformed attendants checked our bus tickets, made sure we had our Vietnam visa, and tagged our luggage.Β I was quite happy with how organized they were. It is important for them to make sure that you have your Vietnam visa ready, because there is no visa-on-arrival at the border. Some bus companies have been known to leave travellers at the border if they were unprepared.

The bus departed at 8:45 am.

Bus attendant checking our tickets

Bus attendant checking our tickets

Bus attendant checking passports for proper Vietnam visa

Bus attendant checking passports for Vietnam visa

Luggage tags

Luggage tags

Once on board, the attendant gave us an overview of what to expect for the duration of the trip in Cambodian and English. Unfortunately the sound system wasn’t the greatest, so we couldn’t really hear what she was saying. We got the gist of it though. Something about:

  • We will break for lunch
  • We will travel a distance of just over 200 km
  • We will take about 6 hours
  • We’ll be going through [these] provinces
  • At [this] point we will take a ferry boat to cross a river
  • We will drop you off on Pham Ngu Lao street in Ho Chi Minh City (the backpacker street, great location that’s at the centre of all touristy things)

I think she also told us about the border crossing process, and maybe even the weather! But it got more and more difficult to hear as the Khmer passengers behind us began to have a conversation very loudly.

Bus attendant telling us about what to expect

Bus attendant telling us about what to expect

Wet towels were passed out, followed by a snack and a bottle of water.

Wet towel

Wet towel

Light snack of donut and pork turnover

Light snack of donut and pork turnover

Mekong Express brand water

Mekong Express brand water :p

You know what blew my mind though?? There was free wifi on the bus!! It’s not very fast, but it was there and it worked! That was a pleasant surprise for those who are incapable of disconnecting themselves from the grid (aka me :P). The wifi only works while you are in Cambodia however, not that I’m complaining!

Once all the snacks were distributed, the attendant came around to collect everyone’s passports. (I believe this was so they could get our Cambodian exit stamps for us all at once, because when we finally got our passports back at the border, the exit stamp had mysteriously appeared.)

Bus attendant collecting passports

Bus attendant collecting passports

Around 10:00 am, we came to the ferry crossing at Neak Loeang over the Mekong river.

Ferry

Ferry carrying vehicles and passengers

Passengers on the ferry. You could probably get off the bus and buy whatever they're offering if you wanted to

Passengers on the ferry. You could probably get off the bus and buy whatever they were offering if you were inclined to do so

At noon we arrived at a restaurant and were given 20 minutes to grab a quick lunch and to use the facilities. Although I must say, the toilet on the bus was quite clean. It didn’t have any water to wash your hands with, but it did have toilet paper.

Shortly after lunch, we arrived at the border. Our passports were returned to us (with our exit stamps) and we all got off to go through the border exit control. This is where they would take a picture of us and scan our finger prints. I’m pretty sure we weren’t supposed to take pictures here, but Adam snuck a few anyway πŸ˜‰

Border Exit Control

Border Exit Control – Leaving Cambodia

Side note: You can see in the picture above that everyone lined up at one window, but you can also go to the window to the left, and to the next booth off in the distance. You cannot however, go beyond that second booth.Β 

Border Exit Control

Border Exit Control

Getting finger printed. All 5 fingers and both hands

Getting finger printed. All 5 fingers and both hands

On our way back to the bus, the attendant collected all our passports once again.Β Another very short ride and we arrived at the Vietnamese customs and immigration building. At this point you were asked to take all your belongings and luggage with you.

Vietnam Customs & Immigration

Vietnamese Customs & Immigration

When we got inside the immigration office, our bus attendant was already at the front of the line with all our passports. We all stood around until the attendant called out our names. Whatever it was that had to be done, she did it for us! So don’t worry about trying to get in line quickly or feel the need to push your way through.

Inside the Vietnamese customs office (definitely shouldn't be taking pictures here)

Inside the Vietnamese immigration office (definitely shouldn’t be taking pictures here)

Getting our luggage scanned

Getting our luggage scanned

One last immigration agent checked our passports again and off we went! But our bus was still being searched, so here’s a tiny bit of down time to contemplate life.

Our bus waiting to be searched

Our bus waiting to be searched

Make sure you don’t get too flustered and hop onto a different bus! Two passengers almost lost their luggage because they handed their backpacks to a bus staff loading a different bus. The bus staff took them without question because he does not know who belongs on the bus. Luckily Adam called out to them and said that our bus was still being searched, so they managed to get their luggage back before this other bus drove off!

It was a perfectly reasonable mistake to make, as it seems that a lot of these cross border busses tend to switch to another vehicle at the border, but Mekong was not one of them.

Everyone back on!

Everyone back on!

We were on our way again at 1:00 pm, and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam around 3:00 pm.Β Be prepared for a swarm of touts as soon as you step off. There’s no such thing as personal space with these guys.

Touts ready and waiting

Touts ready and waiting

The final part of our bus trip was to collect our luggage, and this was where Mekong impressed me the most. All the suitcases and such were being off loaded by a bus staff. When I went to grab mine and made to get the hell out of the tout-zone, one of the bus attendants nearly ran over to me and asked for my luggage tag. She was perfectly polite about it! But I loved that they were keeping an eye on everything to make sure some random person didn’t run off with your luggage.

For $13 USD, our journey from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam was a fantastic experience.

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62 responses to “Direct Bus from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Mekong Express

  1. Hi, you said you bought your visa from a travel agent for $57, did you have to pay a ‘stamping’ fee also at the Vietnam boarder?

    • Nope no “stamping fee”. The bus stewardess person took care of everything for us. She took everyone’s passports as we went through immigration on both sides.

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  3. thank you so much for this blog/information, me and my husband have decided to go to Cambodia and Vietnam next Easter (April 2014) for 2 weeks, backpacking (we both work full time and have teenage children that we are leaving so can only go for 2 weeks) We want to see as much as possible so using this idea of a coach is brilliant, thank you so much

  4. Hello Julie,
    Thank you very much for the above information which is very useful to us as we are planning our next trip in February 2014. Do you have information of the return journey from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh.
    Pauline
    MontrΓ©al

    • Hi Pauline! We didn’t do the return journey ourselves, but I just checked Mekong Express’ website and it looks like they service the return route as well! From Ho Chi Minh City, you have the option of going to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or Sihanoukville.

      I highly recommend Mekong after having been through several less reliable bus companies in both Vietnam and Cambodia. I assume/hope the service will be just as good from HCM -> Cambodia.

      http://www.catmekongexpress.com/schedule.html

      Safe travels! πŸ™‚

  5. Thank you for this report as this is by far the best and most informative one I have seen. Well done! My fiancee and I will both be flying into HCM city in a week and we will be taking the opposite trip from HCM to Phnom Penh. We will be taking the Mekong Express thanks to you! My fiancee is Filipina so thankfully I will only have to pay the Vietnam visa for just me because Filipinos don’t have to have visas to enter Vietnam πŸ™‚ Anyway, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your report and thank you for posting this for us all to see and learn from.

  6. Thank you verymuch, have had several not so good bus trips so far. Thought paying more in Cambodia worth a try after forgetable trip from Siem Reap to Kampot. Also, you pay more through hotel. Phnom Penh to Kampot, do not get the bus that travels to Kep on highway 33 as roadworks all the way and twice as long trip as it should be. Capitol seems to be the best for direct 3 hour trip PP to Kampot and return. Taking your advice and taking Mekong to Saigon
    Richard, Aus.

  7. Hi! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’m about to do the same in December and I was asking myself how long does it take for the agency to provide you the Vietnam Visas? If we just stay one night in Phnom Pehn, is it enough?

    • Hi Ines! In Phnom Penh, it took us one day (24 hours) to get our passports back, so you should be ok with one night in the city, as long as you have a full 24 hours there. I believe there are also express options if you’re willing to pay more. I don’t know how much more is expected though.

      Keep in mind that weekends are closed. Safe travels!

      • Hi Julie!

        We arrived Vietnam some days ago but couldn’t avoid thanking you. Fantastic post, we did exactly as you said and it went great! Mekong Express rules! Our trip from Siem Reap to PP was by taxi but the roads are horrible…. So the experience was not good. Fortunately i fell asleep, which was good given the near death overtakes the driver did… Lol

  8. hii julie. thanks for the information, im planning to go to vietnam from cambodia using the Mekong Express. But i do hv a question about the visa on arrival. because i’m an Indonesian passport holder that seem i got a 30 day of VOA. Can i pass the border without preparing my visa?
    Thanks for Sharing.

    • Hello Lei!

      The internet tells me that as an Indonesian passport holder, you don’t even need a visa and can visit for 30 days! I’m personally not 100% sure of the requirements since we are Canadian, but you can always ask a guest house/hotel/travel agent to be sure πŸ™‚

      Safe travels!

  9. THANK YOU for your detailed info, pictures, and instructions on your transport. I’m doing this in 4 months and will be printing this out to take with me! πŸ™‚

  10. Hi Julie, nice to see you…
    if you dont mind I wanna ask you something, is there a bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Min City start at night?

  11. Hi Julie, really thank you for such a detailed info on your bus trip to HCM. Already bought Asia ticket to PP for 10days and plan to do the bus trip PP-HCM -PP. So far, the BEST post I have ever read, very informative. Will definately follow your advice…thank you! God Bless You!

  12. Great piece! We’re in PP now. Just an update. Lucky Internet & Travel no longer exists, it’s a restaurant now! We got our visas in the Vietnam embassy, $60 each plus $10 express service. We got our visas in approx. 10 minutes. Mekong office is a 7/8 minute walk down the street from where ‘Lucky Internet & Travel’ was. Tickets to HCMC now cost$14

  13. It’s generally much easier to apply once in Vietnam. The service organization will make visa Vietnam visa extension services
    professionally and efficiently. The processing time can delay you
    in the embassies.

  14. Hey there,
    First start off by saying what. Fantastic article. I am planning to travel from Vietnam all the way through to Burma. Is there buses or trains that would allow me to cross the boarders?

    Thanks

    • Hi Henrietta!

      That sounds like a great trip!! I’m afraid I’m not familiar with any busses or trains to Burma though.

      Good luck with your search!

  15. Hi Julie
    I’m planning on going to Vietnam next month, and I’m thinking of visiting a friend near Phnom Penh first, and then taking the Mekong express to Ho Chi Minh City. I’m only 19 and blonde and very obviously a foreigner though and I would travel by myself. I have to admit I’m kind of scared because I’ve never been to any of the countries. I’m meeting another friend in Ho Chi Minh City so I would only be alone during the bus ride and I was just wondering if you think that it would be safe for me to travel alone from PP to HCMC?
    Thanks in advance πŸ™‚

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  17. Hi, Do you have any “must checkout” places in Ho Chi Minh? My friend and I are going in October 2015 and are renting motor bikes when we arrive to explore on our own. Any bike rental shops that are the best and reasonably priced?

    • Hi Aaron,

      Just having the experience of scootering or walking around the city will be the best thing to do there. Although there are a lot of ‘recommended’ places to visit, we found that stumbling across random buildings with impressive architecture, hopping’ little restaurants or the numerous markets was the most rewarding.

      All the bike shops we came across were more or less the same, and you shouldn’t be paying much more than $5-$10 american per day, and avoid giving them your passport at all costs.

      Let us know how your trip goes!

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  19. I took the morning 8.30am Mekong Express Bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh.But the bus that I took today they had a few stopped at the half way to pick up some passengers from the road side.They spent at least an hour to pick up the passengers from the road side. This is not an express bus company.Departure from 8.30am and we are still at the Vietnam boarder immigration which is 2pm now.

  20. Hi Julie,
    Enjoyed reading your post. It is very informative, it is really helpful as I am planning a Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh trip in 2016.
    Am considering Mekong Express and Giant Ibis.

    Regards,
    Wah from Singapore

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  23. Fantastic!!!!! Thank you so much πŸ™πŸ»
    This was exactly the info I was searching for, great!

  24. Fantastic blog – very interesting as we are planning to make the same journey and will def use the Mekong Express – with dolphin logo πŸ™‚

  25. A really comprehensive blog on the Mekong Express bus ride. I am planning to do the trip in Sep and am truly grateful for the very useful information.

  26. This is no the best option ! Vietnam embassy is very close, just 40 minuts walk from phnom penh center, so u dont need to pay 57 dolllars bc at the embassy just pay 40 dollars and u have the visa next day. It is very easy !
    The ticket to Ho chi minh is 9 dollars at the agency just you need to ask !! I write this bc I am tired to read travel blogs and they say ” oh everithing is fine , everithing is cheaper an fantastic , is very easy and the people is friendly!! ” if u want something u need to go for yourself and dont believe in blogs !

  27. Thank you Julie for the very informative blog, me and my sons will be visiting Cambodia and Vietnam by next month and surely be guided by this info of yours. Hope we could find a nice ride from Siem reap to Phnom Penh then HCM(Saigon) and Hanoi.. as our entry is in Siem reap airport then going to PP-HCM(saigon) from where we expect a long ride to Hanoi airport back to the Philippines.

  28. Hi. Evisa for vietnam is allowed if you are traveling from cambodia to vietnam in a bus? Or do you recommend to get the visa done by the bus agency itself?

  29. Hi Julie – great post!
    How many days do these companies need to process your visa? I am an American planning to visit PP for a few days before taking the bus to Ho Chi Minh – should I worry about securing a visa before I leave the states, or just get this handled in Phnom Penh?

    • My memory is fuzzy, but I remember it being very quick. I want to say 2 days? But it may have been even quicker than that, overnight even.

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