Border Bureaucracy – Cambodia to Vietnam

Traversing the border from Cambodia into Vietnam is far less manual than the Thailand to Cambodia affair. The key difference is that you can get an international bus. Joy of joys! Instead of making your way to the border on one form of transport and then sourcing onward transport in the next country, you can get a bus directly from Cambodia and into Vietnam. I took a Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City bus run by Sappaco for $12.

My bus departed Phnom Penh at 9:00. By 11:30 we were being stamped out of Cambodia. Marvellous, right? Well it wasn’t worry free. Let me explain my first timer insecurities about the whole process which should hopefully ease any worries you have if you do the same journey.

Firstly, my passport was taken. Not having my passport on my person makes me feel quite unwell unless I know it is locked up somewhere. In this case, it was in the hands of a Cambodian man whom I did not know from Adam. At the time, I was mystified about why I wasn’t clutching my passport but I realised quite quickly what was happening. You are not allowed into Vietnam without a prearranged visa for many nationalities so, the bus company needed to make sure that if you need a prearranged visa that you had one. Otherwise, the bus could arrive at the border with 40 passengers eligible to cross and 1 passenger with a lack of visa problem. Not ideal. UK passports need a visa in advance. I got mine from the embassy in London but I believe you can get one from any Vietnam embassy. Do triple check. Do not leave visas to chance.

Passports were taken on boarding the bus. They were returned just before being stamped out of Cambodia. Once you’re stamped out, it was taken again to check you’d been correctly removed from Cambodia.

To enter Vietnam, you must be carrying all your luggage. Whilst the passengers were getting their bags, the man with all the passports went ahead to the Vietnamese immigration desk and the official began stamping all of the passports through (even though the passport owners were not present for inspection). At the time, I was being shuffled to immigration with my luggage and no passport thinking ‘well this is not going to end well’ until what had actually happened dawned on me, We were simply being herded over the border in the most time efficient manner, plain and simple. As passports were stamped into Vietnam, the bus driver called forward the appropriate passenger, they got their passport back and got on the bus. It makes perfect sense really.

Once we were all aboard again, it was a hitch free drive to Ho Chi Minh. We had arrived by 15:00 and it was pouring with rain.

I can highly recommend taking an international bus for border crossing where they are legitimate. Cambodia to Vietnam is legitimate. I’ll report on others as I find them.


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