Getting from one country to another by land travel is a very common thing to do especially for backpackers. I created this Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap travel guide to help you with your travel and it contains everything you’ll need to know including my worst experience with the bus company I got my tickets with.
I have been traveling alone to Asian countries for the last year and I have never experienced a worst boarder crossing than this one. It was always easy for me because it’s as simple as listening to the instructions and following the rules. However, this experience is exceptional.
For you not to go down the same road as I did, continue reading my travel guide and I’ll also share my whole experience plus review for the bus line company I traveled with.
What you need to know before your travel (Pre-travel guide and reminders)
You need to know that there are NO NIGHT BUS that travels from HCMC to Siem Reap. WHY? Because the immigration of both countries are closed at night time. This is why the last trip leaves at 3PM in Ho Chi Minh City. Below are reminders that are very important for you to take note especially if you are solo-traveling these countries.
Choose the right bus company
Morning Trip (Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap Travel Guide)
It may be really hard to decide if you will book a morning trip or afternoon trip to Siem Reap given the fact that the travel time will take approximately 16 hours. Booking for a morning trip will just waste a day in your itinerary especially if you are traveling in a time-sensitive trip. Hence, afternoon trips may save a few hours of traveling around the city and arriving in Siem Reap the next morning.
Note this, morning trips are not always the best choice since it’s literally a huge waste of a day in the itinerary BUT the best bus companies are scheduled in the morning. The best bus companies you should eye onto are: Giant Ibis and Mekong Express. Sadly, these bus companies only have 1 schedule in the morning and they do not cater to afternoon trips.
For Mekong Express, the trips are going directly to Siem Reap and no stop-over in Phnom Phen. Giant Ibis on the other hand, you have to buy 2 tickets. The first one will be HCMC to Phnom Penh then Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.
Afternoon Trip (Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap Travel Guide)
Take note that this route is not HCMC to Siem Reap directly. As for me, I did it alone while solo traveling Indochina countries and take note that this specific crossing from HCMC to Siem Reap can be a little confusing compared to other boarder-crossing experience I have ever had.
The bus lines that offer afternoon trips from 1PM – 3PM are not the best choice. Bus lines that offer this scheduled doesn’t have good reviews online and are not recommended for foreigners. First thing you have to know, the bus conductors doesn’t speak English so if you can’t understand their language, you’ll really have a hard time.
Helpful Reminders (Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap Travel Guide)
- Buy your tickets 1 day before to secure your seats and for sure slots
- Be at the terminal 1 hour before your booked schedule
- Walk-ins are not always entertained especially if there are lots of travelers. Be sure to buy it directly at the ticketing counter or online 1 day before
- Exchange all your VND to USD. Take note that VND are non-convertible outside their country. The unused VND will be worthless once you get off the country.
- BEWARE OF SCAMS at the boarder. They will tell you that you need to exchange your remaining VND to pay the necessary visa fees inside the immigration office. Note that for Philippines passport holders, we DO NOT NEED VISA so just be persistent in telling them that you don’t need visa since you are a Philippines passport holder.
- Not all buslines have wifi on board, be sure to buy 4G sim card that works in Cambodia
Step by Step Travel Guide
Below is the step by step guide I created plus the experience I had with Kumho Samco Buslines. Make sure to follow it and leave your questions below in the comment section if you have any. I also accept suggestions and any tips that will help improve this travel guide at any sort.
Step 1: Purchase your bus tickets
You can buy your ticket directly at the ticketing counter or purchase it online with 12GO. Take note that booking it online with travel agencies will cost you more money because they have commission places on the value of your ticket. If your hostel in HCMC is in District 1, you may walk towards the bus terminal and buy it directly there. Alternatively, you can purchase it online below:
- Mekong Express: HCMC – Siem Reap (direct)
- Giant Ibis: HCMC – Phnom Penh – Siem Reap
- Kumho Samco: HCMC – Phnom Penh – Siem Reap
Take note that I booked the 3PM bus trip from Kumho Samco busline. This is because I had no choice since I needed extra time of the day to explore in HCMC. But for those of you who do not need extra time, I highly suggest booking the morning trip with Mekong Express or Giant Ibis.
Step 2: Proceed to the terminal and exchange the mobile voucher to a physical ticket
To avoid missing your bus and forfeiting the value of your ticket, be sure to be at the terminal 1 hour before the schedule. Again, it is advisable that your hostel is just around District 1. Otherwise, book a grab bike for faster transportation.
At the terminal, exchange the mobile voucher you booked online to a physical ticket. The bus conductors will NOT ACCEPT MOBILE VOUCHERS and will look for a physical ticket. So be sure to exchange it before riding the bus.
Step 3: The bus conductors will collect your passports
The bus conductor will go around distributing the free water and snacks for all passengers and after that he will collect the passports. In my experience, I thought the bus conductor just want to see my passport for validating purposes. But he did not return it to me until we got to the Vietnam Immigration. So I just thought that I needed to trust the process since everyone gave their passports too.
Step 4: Arriving at Vietnam Immigration (Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap Travel Guide)
In approximately 2 hours, the bus will be bound to the Vietnam Immigration. The bus conductor will give you instructions about the process. You do not have to take your luggage with you, just bring with you your personal bags and leave unnecessary things in the bus. The same bus will be waiting for you outside the immigration.
Experince with Kumho Samco Busline
This is where the worst experience started with Kumho Samco busline. The instructions given by the bus conductor wasn’t translated to English. So if you are the only non-Vietnamese inside the bus and you are solo traveling, you are doomed.
Everyone got off the bus and since I did not understand a word the conductor said, I just followed my group inside the immigration without my passport with me. STICK WITH YOUR GROUP is the next best thing to do. Of course, I was really confused about what was happening inside the immigration. So basically, the conductor took all our passports and handed it to the immigration to be stamped inside. You’ll just have to wait for your name to be called and get your passport.
I learned about this after going out to the immigration office and asked the conductor what was happening. He cannot speak in English so he doesn’t understand me when I was looking for my passport. I have crossed boarders in other countries and in my experience, I always have my passport with me before entering the immigration. This experience was different and confusing especially that you have to guess everything that is happening because your bus conductor doesn’t speak English.
Beware of VISA SCAMS
Outside the Vietnam immigration, there will be scams offering you to exchange your remaining VND to USD or Cambodian Riel. Ignore them and proceed inside the immigration. Take note that for Philippines passport holders, you do not need visa and you will not pay anything inside the immigration. Just be persistent in telling them that you do not need it.
Step 5: Arriving at Cambodia Immigration (Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap Travel Guide)
After exiting from the Vietnam Immigration, just wait for the same bus to pick you up. It is important to stick with your group and always look for them when you got out. The bus will take you then to the Cambodia immigration which is just next to the Vietnam immigration. Again, you do not have to take your luggage with you. Just bring the important stuff like your personal bag, passport, wallet and IDs.
Fall in line to the Cambodia immigration. For faster transaction, remove your caps and do not take pictures of the place. Present your passport to the immigration officer and after that you will be given a Cambodia card, DO NOT LOSE IT.
After getting your passport stamped, ride the same bus outside and off you go to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap depending on the busline you chose. For those who booked the morning trip, proceed to Step 7. For those who has a stop-over at Phnom Penh, continue reading Step 6.
Step 6: Stop-Over at Phnom Penh and Change Bus
After approximately 5 hours, you will now reach Phnom Phen. Get off the bus and take your luggage with you. The bus conductor will hire a tuktuk driver to take you to the other bus-line that will now take you to Siem Reap. He will also hand you a ticket for your Phnom Penh to Siem Reap trip. You have to present this ticket to the bus that you will be transferred to.
I have read from other blogs that after arriving in Phnom Penh, you just have to change to another bus. In my experience, I had to ride a tuktuk that will take me to the other bus. Again, this process was very hard for me since the bus conductor and driver cannot speak in English. All that was left for me to do is to trust the process.
When you get to the bus from Phnom Phen to Siem Reap, this is now that time where you can rest your mind and get a good night sleep. The bus that I was transferred to has a comfortable bed and blanket. I was able to sleep well until the bus arrived at the terminal in Siem Reap by 6AM the next day.
Step 7: Siem Reap to your Hostel (Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap Travel Guide)
Arriving in Siem Reap, the easiest way to get to your hostel is hiring a tuktuk. The usual fare cost 1 dollar for the whole tuktuk if your hotel is just around the main city.
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