Saturday, April 8, 2017

SEA Backpacking Series: How to commute from Cambodia to Vietnam Ho Chi Minh via Overnight Bus

There are two main options traveling back and forth between Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. First option is by riding the plane which is the fastest but also most expensive option. Second option is to ride the bus which will take you at least half a day but will be much cheaper than riding the plane. As a budget traveler, we always look for the cheapest option so we took the bus from Cambodia going to Vietnam. But be prepared for the long travel time of at least 12-14 hours!

Here is how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia riding the bus:
1. There are several bus companies that you can choose from but the best option that we were able to find was Giant Ibis which has very good reputation to provide safe and reliable buses. They offer rides to and from Bangkok, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Ho Chi Minh.

2. Decide on whether you want to ride the sleeper bus and spend the night in the bus or you want to travel during the day. We decided to take the night bus since it will save us 1 night of hotel cost and it will not waste time during the day to do other stuff.

3. Book a trip in advanced through their website (to be safe). You need to ride the bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh first before going to Vietnam. So you’ll need to book 2 bus rides (Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh).

4. The ticket from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh costs USD 16 and Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh costs USD 19 which you can pay through credit card online.

5. There are several time options at night: 10:30 PM, 11:00 PM, and 11:30 PM which will all arrive 6 hours and 30 mins after departure. We selected the 11:00 PM time since we were not sure where the 2nd bus station will be and we did not want to risk missing our bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh (since there is only 1 morning bus which is at 8:00 AM). Best time is to take 11:30 PM since you’ll arrive at Phnom Penh early and you’ll need to wait there before the 8:00 AM bus.

6. After booking both bus rides, go to the respective terminal at least 20-30 minutes before your schedule. There is a small terminal where you can show your ticket to confirm if you’re in the right terminal. They will provide you bottled water but feel free to bring snacks for your long ride. 
Giant Ibis bus terminal in Siem Reap

You can leave your luggage below the bus. But we decided to bring our bags inside since we brought only a backpack.
Single Bed inside the sleeper bus
Double Bed equipped with outlets

There is a toilet at the end of the bus since there is no stop over
Arrival area in Phnom Penh. This is where you'll ride the 2nd bus going to Ho Chi Minh.
We arrived in Phnom Penh before 6:00 AM. There were no open establishments so we were initially confused on where the bus station was but we realized the drop off place was already the bus station on where the Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh bus will pick us up.

We tried exploring the area near the bus station but there was nothing to do and all the restaurants were closed. Good thing there was a hotel next to the station that opens around 6:30 AM so we had breakfast there and freshened up before going to the bus station next door before 8:00 AM.
The terminal will open around 7:00 AM
Bus will arrive by 8:00 AM in Phnom Penh going to Ho Chi Minh City
Free coffee!!! There is also an outlet for you to charge inside the bus.
The bus ride from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh will take a long time as you’ll need to cross the Vietnam border. You’ll be asked to give out your passport and depart from the bus through the border and ride the same bus again. There will be someone from the bus who will assist you so you just need to give out your passport and follow instructions. There will also be a couple of stop-overs in a duty free center as there are no toilets inside our morning bus!

We arrived at Ho Chi Minh around 3:00 PM due to heavy traffic going there. We alighted at near a park and near a lot of establishments which later we realized was Pham Ngu Lao which is a famous strip of restaurants and bar. We had to ask around and check our map while getting lost in the process. After 1 hour, we were able to walk towards our hotel. You can ride a taxi going to the hotel after alighting the bus but we decided to walk since we saw in the map that it was near our hotel. 
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