Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam is easily accessible from Siem Reap, Cambodia via two bus rides. You may choose to fly if you’re not a fan of long land travels, but it will definitely cost more. Since we were on a budget, we went with the bus option and only shelled out around PHP 1,800 per person when we travelled from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh via Giant Ibis last June. Below is a step-by-step guide:
1. Ride a sleeper bus to Phnom Penh.
As of our travel date (June 2017), there are no direct buses that ply from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh. In order to reach the said destination, we had to go to Phnom Penh first via sleeper bus and from there, ride a regular aircon bus to Ho Chi Minh.
We booked our 11:00pm bus tickets a few weeks before our trip through the Giant Ibis website. We chose Giant Ibis even though it was slightly more expensive than a number of other buses because it had the best reviews, and judging only then from photos, they seemed to have the better-looking buses. We also found them more credible because they had a nice website wherein we got to choose our preferred seats. #designerinstincts ?
Quick Tip: Choose the upper bunk! The lower ones seem too close to the floor, and people walking in the aisle may easily disturb your sleep.
On the day of our trip, our choice was proven to be correct and we were happy that we went with Giant Ibis. The bus looked well-maintained and even the toilet was surprisingly clean.
Each bed had power outlets and everyone was given a pillow and a blanket, which was very useful during the cold overnight trip.
Quick Tip: If you’re taking the same sleeper bus, choose to wear slip-ons or slippers because you will need to put your footwear in a black plastic bag that will be handed out by the bus attendant before boarding.
We left the Giant Ibis Office located at 252 Street Sivatha, Sangkat Svay Dangkum (near old market roundabout), Siem Reap at exactly 11:00pm.
2. Ride a bus to Ho Chi Minh.
The Giant Ibis Office in Phnom Penh was still closed when we arrived at around 6:00am. Our bus to Ho Chi Minh was scheduled at 8:00am, so we decided to explore the area and find a breakfast place.
Walking along the nearby Sisowath Quay along the Tonle Sap River reminded us of our very own Manila Bay. Only the former offers a spectacular view of the sunrise, while the latter is famous for sunsets.
Quick Tip: Located just a few meters away from the Giant Ibis Phnom Penh Office is the Bopha Phnom Penh Titanic Restaurant. It was the only nearby restaurant that we found to be open before 7:00am. The food was average and quite pricey, but the breathtaking view of the sunrise was lovely.
Our bus left at 8:00am and we’re glad that we had enough energy to stay awake during the first hour of the trip because it felt like we were on a short Phnom Penh tour. We passed by the National Museum of Cambodia and Royal Palace, to name a few.
Important Note: Upon boarding, the bus attendant will ask all passengers to surrender their passports. This is for them to check and complete everyone’s departure cards.
This made our Cambodian Immigration process a breeze. We just lined up, gave our passports to the immigration officer for stamps, then back we went to our bus. Before we got to our seats, the attendants took our passports once again, in preparation for another immigration stop in Vietnam.
By lunchtime, we were dropped off at a duty-free complex for a quick stopover. We failed to take photos of the place but it had a food court, grocery, and various retail shops. After about an hour, we were back on the bus and off we went to the Vietnamese border.
At the border, the attendant instructed us to bring all our bags for x-ray purposes and to wait for our names to be called in the immigration area. We were honestly confused at that point of our journey mainly because all our passports were with the attendant, and we didn’t know how things will go with the immigration officer once we’re called. However, we trusted Giant Ibis and patiently waited.
We learned that the Giant Ibis attendant took care of everything for us because when our names were called, our passports were simply handed over to us by the immigration officer. After that, we were directed to baggage scanning, then back to the bus.
We arrived at Ho Chi Minh by 3:00pm. From the Giant Ibis Station, we took an Uber going to our Airbnb which was only a few blocks away from the famous Ben Thanh Market.
A roundup of all our Indochina guides can be found here.