Vietnam & Cambodia in 7 Days Part 5 – Saigon to Siem Reap

The third day of our trip is dedicated solely to traveling to Siem Reap to visit the magnificent Angkor Wat. There are two ways to get to Siem Reap from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), via plane or via bus.

Going to Siem Reap

Since we’re kinda on a budget, our only choice was the 13-hour bus ride, hence the one day trip for traveling. We thought of getting an overnight trip to save on daylight but I doubt if we’d be in the condition to tour after a very long bus ride.

Good thing we didn’t push through with a night trip because one, the border closes at night so we would probably end up sleeping at the border waiting for morning. Secondly, most parts of the road are not lit so buses can’t go fast.

Here’s how our Saigon to Siem Reap trip ($23 each roundtrip) looked like:

  • Saigon to Vietnam – Cambodia border
  • Border to Phnom Penh (change bus)
  • Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Mekong Express Limousine Bus

mekong express limousine bus

We rode the Mekong Express Limousine Bus direct to Siem Reap which we booked via our hotel for $23 apiece for a roundtrip ticket. Call time was 7:00 AM in the morning so we grabbed some snacks at a nearby bakery before getting into the bus which was just outside our alley.

inside the mekong express limousine bus

Don’t be wowed too much by the word Limousine Bus. It’s not a luxury bus but it’s not bad either. The buses look old but still well-maintained. Air-conditioning is cold but can be controlled and doesn’t leak, the bathroom doesn’t stink and there’s ample legroom for someone like my height (5’9”). The onboard entertainment could be a western flick or a Khmer variety show featuring lame dance moves. Hehehe

mekong express snacks

During the course of the trip, we were served snacks and bottled water in the morning and the afternoon. Snacks usually consist of pocket pie or meat breads from nearby bakeries.

What happens at the Vietnam – Cambodia border

The Vietnam – Cambodia border is in Moc Bai where you will exit from Vietnam and Bavet where you will enter Cambodia. It is a 2-hour ride from Ho Chi Minh City.

Before reaching Moc Bai, we were instructed to surrender our passport to the bus conductor so processing would be easier.

Visitors from the following countries are exempted from getting a Cambodian Visa: Laos, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. Other nationalities must shell out $20 for the visa. The bus conductor will also take care of this.

mocbai border

When we get to Moc Bai, we boarded off the bus with our belongings and entered the Vietnam border office where our luggage was subjected to a scanner. After lining up for our passports, we headed out back to the bus.

bavet border

Just a few meters away, we got off the bus again to enter the Cambodian border office. A few minutes later we were back in our bus and on our way to Pnomh Penh.

Lunch Break

15 minutes later and about 10A M we stopped by a nearby eatery for our lunch break. Too early for our stomachs, we opted to stick with our snacks and have our lunch when we get to the next stop. Besides, the food didn’t look appealing at all.

Off to Phnom Penh

crossing the mekong going to phnom penh

4 hours later we arrived at Phnom Penh at around 2 PM. Our bus had to board a ferry along with other vehicles to cross the Mekong River.

Some passengers whose destination is in Phnom Penh were dropped off at the city center. Our bus dropped us off at their office branch there where we will board a different bus along with other people going to Siem Reap.

while waiting for our food at Phnom Penh

Saw some monkeys littering about Phnom Penh while we waited for our food

We had a 15-minute break here before the bus departs for Siem Reap so we looked for a place to eat. We settled for take out rice meal with diced chicken and veggies from a nearby diner. It was expensive at $5 but it was already good for the two of us.

On the main road near the Mekong Express office there’s a KFC branch where you could take out some familiar food.

Off to Siem Reap

It’s another 6 hours from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. After the 4-hour mark, at around 6 PM we stopped by for another meal break at a town called Kampung Thom.

We stopped near the Arunras Guesthouse which has its own restaurant that’s out of our budget at $5 per meal. Other passengers settled to eat at roadside mini-eateries. We had some snacks left so we decided to grab a late dinner in our hotel instead.

After 2 hours, and already past 8 PM we arrived at the Siem Reap bus terminal. Our tuktuk driver was already there waiting to take us to the guesthouse where we were booked.

This is getting long so I’ll just talk about where we stayed in Siem Reap on the next installment. Stay tuned.

Total Cost:

  • $23 for a round-trip bus ticket from HCMC to Siem Reap and back.
  • $20 for Cambodian Visa for countries that are not exempted

You may also like...

32 Responses

  1. Hello Calvin,

    Hope u’ll have the time responding to this. Been checking affordable flights going to siem reap, but it’s pretty hard, though. Prices of different airlines are a total rip off. So, am so thankful when I found your site. Anyways, regarding the hotel that helped you book the direct, two-way bus ride to siem reap, Do you have any idea if they could help us book the bus, buy the ticket eventhough we won’t be stayingnand spending a night in there hotel? We just want their service to help us book the bus ride to siem reap and going back. Also, please advise us as to what time we should start from saigon to siem reap?

    • Calvin says:

      what i would suggest is to go straight to mekong express limousine office. there’s one near the backpacker’s area. do it the day before your trip and you should get the morning schedule (earliest possible). not sure if the hotel would book it for you.

  2. Karen says:

    Hi Calvin –

    Question, what currency mas ok gamitin for Ho Chi Minh and Siem Reap? USD or Vietnam Dong or Cambodia Riel? Dito ka na ba nagpapalit sa Pilipinas ng currencies or doon na? Thanks. :)

  3. Bechelle says:

    Hi Calvin,

    I really find your blog entry very helpful especially since I’m flying to Siem Reap this coming nov and we’re also planning to take the bus to ho chi minh since we’ll be flyinh back to mnl from there. However we’re on a tight sched (5days) so we’re planning on travelling by night to save on time and to maximize our stay too. But since you’ve mentioned that the post office closes during the night, I’m wondering if you would know how long it’ll take to reach the siem reap post office from the city? Maybe we can leave after lunch or in the afternoon? I hope you can reply to this. Thanks.

    • Calvin says:

      hi bechelle, i don’t recall mentioning anything about post office hehehe. but if you’re talking about the border, i think it’s a good 8-hours from Siem Reap since it’s near Vietnam already. you can probably e-mail mekong limousine and ask them if they have night trips from siem reap and the time it will arrive in HCM.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Hi! Calvin…

    i am going to Vietnam this April 2013… i have a question going to Seam reap… since you already mentioned that you book bus ticket… and had 12 hour ride from Ho chi minh city to cambodia… how did you book a hotel in cambodia or you did not na? where did you stay sa cambodia by the way?

  5. Jeffrey says:

    Hi! Calvin…
    i am going to Vietnam this April 2013… i have a question going to Seam reap… since you already mentioned that you booked bus ticket… and had 12 hour ride from Ho chi minh city to cambodia… how did you book a hotel in cambodia or you did not na? where did you stay sa cambodia by the way? because our plan is april 18 going to seam reap, april 19 will tour the seam reap and on the April 20 going back to vietnam .. It is possible ba?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *