On the Ground to Phnom Penh

When using ground travel from HCMC to Phnom Penh you will hear a lot of contradictory information. Ticket prices range from US $4-$15 dollars for the buses. The two common types are the ‘slow bus’ for US $5 and the ‘fast bus’ for US $12. But what really are the differences in these buses, and what other options are available?

Visitors take bus to Phnom Penh.

The difference between the buses is that if you take the ‘slow bus’ you have to transfer to a Cambodian bus on the other side of the border, whereas the ‘fast bus’ takes you all the way. However, you will have to exit either bus to go through customs. What makes it the ‘slow bus’ is if they do not have the next bus on the Cambodian side ready to go, which they very well may not. Cambodian “service” can be a bit unpredictable. Otherwise, the bus trip is the same. All the buses depart at 7am or 1pm, have AC, make the same stops, go the same 240 km, and are the same quality. So, depending on the wait time at the border, the journey is about 7 to 8 hours by bus.

One hidden benefit of the ‘fast bus’ is the added comfort. The Cambodian bus service you transfer to on the ‘slow bus’ picks up Khmers free of charge. The Khmer often have the foreigners moved to the back of the bus because they think it’s too bumpy. Then, from a TV mounted behind the driver’s seat, they blast Khmer music videos at top volume all the way to Phnom Penh, which even the loudest ipod cannot drown out.  

If you are traveling with others, an alternative to consider would be to take a taxi. You can negotiate with a Vietnamese taxi driver to take you to the border for US $25-35, and again for about the same from the border to Phnom Penh. If 4 people are going to spend US $48 to ride a bus, why not spend an extra US $5 each to ride in comfort and leave when you want? Or, another alternative is to take the US $5 bus to the border, and if the Cambodian bus is not waiting on the other side, then take a taxi from the border to Phnom Penh.
Whether taking a bus or a taxi, there are a few details to keep in mind. A Cambodian visa costs US $20. If you don’t have extra passport photos, they charge an additional US $2. There is a ferry across the Mekong River in Cambodia that can cause delays. If you take a taxi, remember, the ferry runs less frequently at night. The taxi drivers will ask you to pay them US $5 for the ferry ticket, but it is only US $1. The border is open until 10pm daily.

By Daniel Spero

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