We bought our tickets online from giantibis.com after it was recommended by a friend and local Phnom Penh-er who has done the trip many times. The website gives you a drop down menu of various hotels and hostels: if yours is there then select it and Giant Ibis will pick you up from your door!
Price: US$18/£14.50 (+ $2 service fee)
Scheduled times: Depart Phnom Penh at 08:00, arrive in Ho Chi Minh City at 14:30.
Actual times: Departed Phnom Penh at 08:00, arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at about 15:30.
Bus station addresses:
Phnom Penh: Giant Ibis Office
7E0, Road 106, Sangkat Doun Penh, Khan Doun Penh
Ho Chi Minh: Giant Ibis Office
#237, Pham Ngu Lao St. Dist. 1, HCM City, Vietnam
If we learnt anything from our bus journeys in Cambodia, it was to add a minimum of 3 hours onto any time we were told. If the bus timetable said we’d arrive at 6pm, we’d pack enough snacks and ration our phone usage, eking out the battery, to last us until 9pm.
So I was really surprised when our bus left on time and we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City only an hour later than expected.
Even more surprising was the service on the bus. As soon as we boarded our passports were taken from us so that the bus crew could check we all had the relevant visas etc. Once we were on our way, Blue Pumpkin pastries were handed out (Blue Pumpkin is a lovely, small cafe chain in Cambodia with great ice cream and coffee!). There’s nothing like free food to keep your customers happy, especially this customer. We stopped midway to the border for a short break: I obviously saw this as an opportunity to get more food, trying some sort of chicken-tofu-sausage on a stick. Whatever it was, it was delicious.
Back on the bus, we had free water, free coffee and wifi (although no toilet). Pretty luxurious, by anyone’s standards.
We arrived at the border at around midday, our passports were handed back to us so that we could walk through the Cambodian border to get our exit stamp, then it was back on the bus for a 2 minute drive to a restaurant and duty-free shopping centre in no-mans land. After a quick lunch it was back on the bus again for another short drive to the Vietnamese border. The bus crew had taken our passports again and had already got all of them stamped so all we had to do was take our bags, put them through the x-ray machine and show our passports to a guard as we passed through. And that was it. We were in Vietnam!
There was a noticeable difference crossing the border here. Buildings changed from wooden houses on stilts to squat, brick structures. The writing changed from the indecipherable but beautiful Khmer, to the less artistic but still mysterious Vietnamese Latin script. The roads became even smoother and pavements – which had become something of a rarity and novelty for us since leaving the UK – started to appear. The ubiquitous conical hats, which I had previously thought were part of an outdated stereotype, left me in no doubt that I was in Vietnam. Wooden signs offering pho tempted us through the bus window.
We were dropped right in the midst of the backpacker area of Ho Chi Minh City. The bus journey itself was hassle-free so we arrived ready to enjoy whatever the city had to offer. There were plenty of taxi drivers waiting to take us to our next destination but our first stop was Highland Coffee for the strongest coffee I have ever had in my life. I knew, from the first sip, that I was going to enjoy Vietnam.