How to pass Vietnam border [by bus]

There are few rules to respect when passing the Vietnam border, and these apply in both cases: if you decide to travel by air or land.


The Vietnam visa rules

Vietnamese visa can be obtained before travelling, or on arrival. This always depends on your nationality, so be advised to check with the Vietnam embassy or consulate in your country (or in the country where you are located) to understand if the visa on arrival is applicable in your case.

You can find here a short summary of the options, and if you need more information you can read my other post about it.


Visa exemption

If you come from one of these countries, you may visit Vietnam without a visa. There are limitations in time, so check all the conditions with the Vietnam embassy or consulate in your country.


Visa on Arrival/E-Visa

If you come from one of these countries, you may be able to request a visa on arrival mainly when you travel by air, and you land in one of the international airports in Vietnam.


Visa on passport

If you travel by land, or if you are not eligible for a visa on arrival, then you need to apply for a Vietnam visa in advance. This has to be done directly with the Vietnam embassy or consulate in your country, or in the country where you are now. We did it in Cambodia.


How to pass the Vietnam border

We were in Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, and had few options to evaluate.

directions cambodia vietnam naturebels

By bus

This is the cheapest way to travel. It takes approximately 6-7 hours, and the bus goes from the city centre of Phnom Pen to the city centre of Ho Chi Minh. The best companies are Grand Ibis and Mekong Express. You travel comfortable, sometimes with wifi onboard, and relatively quick. The bus is the most common transportation used by tourists.

The cost out from 12 $  to 16 $ per person.


By van

This is a more comfortable way of travelling. There are several companies driving up and down from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, and the trip lasts 5 hours. We decided on this solution and travelled with a company called Sapaco.

The cost is around 16 $ per person.

limousine van cambodia vietnam naturebels limousine van cambodia vietnam naturebels


By plane

This was the fastest option, but a way to expansive for our budget. So we didn’t even consider it.


The trip from Cambodia to Vietnam (land)

At 6 am we took a tuk-tuk from our hotel to the Sepaco head-office. The road was empty, so in 15 minutes we arrived there. A secretary was waiting for all the passengers, 8 in total. We were the only Western guys, among other Japanese and Korean citizens.

Few minutes before the departure, the secretary called all of us and collected all our passports saying that the driver will keep them. We felt a bit uncomfortable about that, but it seemed that this was a normal practice there. The driver put the passports on the van’s dashboard so luckily we could keep an eye on them.

We left around 6.30 am.

After a bit more than 3 hours, we understood that we were not too far from the border as we could see the huge casinos built by Vietnamese people in Cambodia territory.

In fact, in a few minutes, we reached the Vietnam border.



Border crossing (on foot)

The van stopped, and the non-English-speaking driver made a sign to get out of the van. We looked at each other and went out. A smiling Cambodia guy came toward us, he took all our passports, and asked us to follow him.

We went with him into the first building, he reached the desk and gave our documents to the Cambodian officer for the “exit procedure”. After 15 minutes, the officer gave everything back to the Cambodian guy, who asked us again to follow him. We went out of the building and got into the van. The passport remained with that guy, who didn’t board the van with us. We were all a bit worried because no one could explain to us what was going on… and we actually didn’t get any explanation before leaving Phnom Penh except the usual ” it’s ok”. Why did the guy keep our passports?

After 50 meters, the van stopped again and the driver made the same sign as before, so we all got out of the van. We followed the crowd inside the second building, and started to relax when, in the distance, we saw the Cambodian guy waiting for us at the “foreign desk”. Ok, our passports were safe and were there!

The guy put us in a line, one by one. The first Vietnamese officer checked our details, picture, and visa. Few meters further, the second Vietnamese officer stamped the passport and the visa and gave everything back to us.

What a relief!

Everything went fine, we got back into the van and could proceed our trip to Ho Chi Minh City!