Vietnam to Cambodia: crossing the border by land and bus

I had read a lot about the border crossing from Vietnam to Cambodia and heard a lot of stories. The Cambodian border crossings are renowned for ripping you off and scamming you- finding different things to charge you lots of money for and making you wait, missing your bus on the other side if you do not pay. Thankfully we had read up about the usual process on the buses from HCMC to Phnom Penh so there were no surprises and our crossing was the smoothest and quickest we have had the whole trip.

We chose to travel to Phnom Penh with the Sinh Tourist as we had had decent service and standards of buses throughout our time in Vietnam. We paid 209 000 dong to travel the 6ish hours to Phnom Penh. When the bus arrived we realised that the Sinh Tourist didn’t actually travel into Cambodia, it is purely a Vietnamese company so the tickets they sell are actually to travel with Long Phoung bus company. The bus was perfectly fine, with air con and ample legroom. As British citizens we were able to get a visa on arrival at the border for $30. When we set off on the bus the bus attendant came around and asked for everyone’s passports to see if they had visas or not (you can get them online 3 days in advance). For those of us that didn’t the bus attendant asked us to give him $35 for our visa on arrival and he kept our passports. We had read this was normal and the easiest way to get a visa without paying too much over the odds so we gave him our money and passports willingly. I can see if you hadn’t looked into this process though that you would be very sceptical and probably unwilling to do this. During the journey the bus attendant filled in the relevant entry paperwork for everyone- very limited information just names etc that could be obtained from the passports. When we got to the Vietnamese border we followed him off the bus to where we needed to get our passports stamped out. He gave all the passports to the diplomatic officer so we were stamped out really quickly and just had to collect our passport when our name was called and get back on the bus.

Once everyone was back on the bus we travelled two minutes down the road to Cambodian immigration where we got off the bus again handed our passports to the officer waiting outside the bus. Then we literally walked straight through Cambodian immigration to the otherside where we got back on the bus when it came through. We didn’t speak to any officials for them to confirm our identities, the length of time we wanted to stay or where we were going. At this point there were a few people really uneasy as the bus moved away without our passports. However we knew that it stopped just a couple of kilometres for a lunch break and then we got our passports back from the attendant when we got back on the bus.

So for $5 extra which is still definitely a scam but it made it 10x easier to get through the border without hassle. If you argue with the bus attendant about paying the extra money we have heard of them getting quite aggressive or kicking people off the buses. Also if you choose to do it yourself to save yourself $5 we have heard lots of stories of the officials at the border charging extra for fees or plainly just charging you more. If you then refuse to pay then they just wait until you decide its not worth it anymore and just pay anyway. This process has been known to take a long time and the buses don’t wait the otherside of the Cambodian border if you choose to go it on your own. If you are lucky you can find a motorbike taxi to take you to the lunch stop if not your stuff is on its way to Phnom Penh without you. For $5 it’s probably just easier to go along with the scam for less hassle.

Alex

p.s sorry no photos for this journey!

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