If you are good at geography, you might remember that Vietnam and Cambodia share international borders. In total, there are 5 ‘gates’ you can easily meander from one country to the other and back again.
Sometimes I envy the convenience of belonging to a country located on the mainland. I live in Indonesia, an archipelago country surrounded by sea, and cannot travel by bus to other countries from Kalimantan (Borneo). I always have to go by plane or journey forever on a boat, ferry, or cruise. I wasn’t made for it; I wasn’t meant to be a sailor or pirate. Just thinking about 1 day on a boat, even 1 hour or 10 minutes alone is enough to torture me!
So, I was so relieved to know I could go by bus, not an airplane or boat, to my next destination.
Getting to Cambodia
There are hundreds of travel agents in Vietnam that offer coaches at affordable prices. They also guarantee your journey will be pleasant, unforgettable, and amazing. Yeah, sometimes it happens, the trip is really awful and you can’t stop thinking about it. That's why you should be careful when choosing a bus, where you will spend 8 or 9 hours.
Are you an adventurer and think that going by bus would be boring? You can go by boat, but I don’t suggest it and have heard it was really awful. The boats are not very reliable (normally), the journey takes longer than by bus, and if you can't swim, be prepared to worry the whole trip. But, it's not impossible. Some travel agents have special offers for crossing the border by river. You need to purchase a tour from Vietnam, stay somewhere and continue the journey till the end. This will take 3-4 days I don’t have.
Plane? Sure, but it’s expensive and I won’t feel that safe, even though it only takes a couple of hours.
So, I chose the bus. I chose Giant Ibis because they are reliable, comfortable, cheap and fast. Tickets can be booked in advance through the site or bought directly from the agent. http://giantibis.com/
The ticketing office in Ho Chi Minh is located at this address:
237 Phạm Ngũ Lão, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
+84 120 890 2333
Large buses are usually taken for long journeys, and medium coaches for trips of medium distance (3-4 hours). Giant Ibis offers full service which will help you get your visa or stamp at the border. Check whether you need a visa to enter Cambodia.
They will collect your passport before the journey, complete the immigration forms, and save them until you cross the border. You don’t need to be afraid of losing your passport, because they will give it back as soon as you pass the immigration check.
Besides visa service, they also serve snacks or a meal with a drink during the journey. Passengers are free to bring their own food, as long as it is not durian (I think). In summary, here are the facilities you'll get with Giant Ibis:
My opinion of the bus:
The drivers were careful, so you won’t need to hold your breath like you're watching Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton competing. The AC works well and the food is enough. Remember guys, it’s not a restaurant, so please don’t complain if they don't have much variety in their menu, or they don't serve hot coffee or tea. It costs less than 50 dollars per person, so be reasonable. Before passing the Cambodian border, the bus will stop at a restaurant where you can fill your tummy before continuing the journey.
Arriving in Cambodia
When to go to Cambodia?
The best time to visit Cambodia is from November to March. Even though Cambodia is warm-year round, you should be prepared for a brief shower or even heavy rain if you choose the wrong month. Just keep in mind that May to October is the wet season and November to March is the dry season, so the price is higher compared to the wet season.
Based on my experience, November is a good choice. The weather was fine, although we were interrupted by a brief shower on the second and third day. Believe me, it was nothing and won’t affect your journey.
Where to stay?
Sorry to say, Singapore is the most expensive country in Southeast Asia (correct me If I'm wrong). Cambodia is like the others: cheap and affordable. As a country that is developing their tourism, Cambodia has an overwhelming number of choices of hotels that are spread throughout the big tourist cities of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kampot, Sihanoukville, and so forth. To be close to the main attractions in Phnom Penh, you can try the Sisowath Quay area.
Sisowath Quay is actually a long boulevard located along the intersection of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. Basically it’s the river bank, and is the best place to witness the water festival that is usually held in November. The other advantage of staying in Sisowath Quay is the distance. The National Museum of Cambodia and the Royal Palace are just a stone’s throw away, there are millions of restaurants and cafes (local or international), and hundreds of travel agents if you later decide to visit other cities in Cambodia.
Which currency do they use?
Although the official currency of Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel, most people prefer to use the US Dollar. The Cambodian Riel is used for buying small things, while the US Dollar is for paying at hotels, restaurants or cafes. If you want to try some street food, you can also pay with the USD. So, bringing a wallet full of USD will come in handy. Please keep in mind that most places in Cambodia won’t accept credit cards. But, don’t worry, ATMs are everywhere.
How about the language?
They speak Khmer but in touristic spots, most people can speak English. Cambodians are very friendly, and they won’t overcharge you or try to deceive you, especially if you need to go by tuk-tuk. The most common price is $3 to $6 (if very far from your departure point).
Depends on the hotel. If your hotel has a good internet connection, lucky you. Otherwise, you might need to pray or buy a SIM card which will be quite expensive compared to Indonesia, Malaysia or Vietnam. I have tried Cell Card and had no idea how to use it. The internet service lasted for only one day after I loaded it with $10 (I used it to get a hotspot). To find more information about the card: https://www.cellcard.com.kh/en/
What to bring along?