Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh is one of the most well-trodden routes in Southeast Asia – connecting the booming metropolis of Saigon with the up-and-coming capital city of Cambodia. Whether you’re traveling longterm in the region or just combining a visit to Vietnam and Cambodia into a single vacation, you’ll likely need to figure out how to make the journey.
The distance between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh is just 140 miles (~225 kilometers), and despite the international border crossing, it’s a relatively straightforward trip.
The fastest way to travel from HCMC to Phnom Penh is by flight which takes just 50 minutes. Of course, it’s also the most expensive way. And when you consider the time you’ll need to travel to the airport and check-in for your flight, the time savings are actually minimal.
On the other hand, if you decide to travel overland between the two cities the trip will take you 6+ hours due to a rather tedious border crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia. The best options are a tourist bus or a minibus – both cost less than $20 and offer a reasonably comfortable ride. And while hiring private vehicles to carry you from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh is possible, it comes with its own set of complications.
In this article, we’ll cover the pros and cons of each transportation method so you can decide for yourself what the best way is to get from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. Happy travels!
Where are you headed after Phnom Penh? Make sure you read our other Cambodian transportation guides:
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Cambodia Visa-on-Arrival vs. eVisa
Whatever transportation method you take from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, you should research for yourself what type of visa you’ll need to enter Cambodia before your trip begins.
Citizens of all but 10 countries can get a 30-day single-entry visa-on-arrival at the Cambodia border. The process is simple and straightforward – in fact, all you’ll need is $30 US and a passport that is valid for at least 6 months.
Unfortunately, with the Cambodia visa-on-arrival, there have been incidents of tourists being overcharged, especially when crossing the border by land (it’s uncommon when you arrive by air). You can avoid this by having exact change and if the immigration agent asks for a tip just play dumb until they wave you through.
If you want to avoid any issues, you can apply for a Cambodia eVisa in advance. Just like the visa-on-arrival, the eVisa is good for a single-entry and for a stay of up to 30 days. The cost of a Cambodia eVisa is $36 USD.
Be sure to apply well in advance as the e-visa approval process can take up to 3 business days. Don’t forget to print out your eVisa and carry it with you when you arrive at the border. Having an eVisa can give you some peace of mind and can save you a bit of time at the border.
A Word on Visas for Vietnam
If you happen to be traveling this route the other direction – from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City – you’ll need to make sure you have arranged your visa in advance.
Even Vietnam’s visa-on-arrival program requires you to have a letter of invitation from a local travel agency. You can read more about the Vietnam visa process in our article about Vietnam travel tips.Like this post?! How about…9 Incredible to do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The Best Way to Get From Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh
Flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh
Duration: ~50 minutes
Cost: $110+ per person
The fastest and most convenient way to get from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh
is by airplane, assuming it’s within your travel budget. Numerous airlines offer direct flights between these two cities including Vietnam Airlines, Cambodia Angkor Air, and VietJet.
The flight time between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh is just 50 minutes. However, if you include the time you need to travel to and from the airport and the time you need to be there in advance to check-in, it almost equals out to the same amount of time as riding on a bus.
Flights usually start at $110 USD for a direct one-way flight. We prefer the website Skyscanner.com for comparing flights and finding the best deals.
The airport in Saigon is called Tan Son Nhat International Airport (airport code: SGN) and it is located about 5 miles from the city center. The best way to get to the Ho Chi Minh City airport is to hail a ride using Grab (iPhone|Android). It is cheaper and less hassle than using a traditional taxi.
A grab from downtown Ho Chi Minh City to the airport should cost between 80,000-150,000 VND ($3.50-$6.50 USD) depending on the time of day.
If you do decide to hail a cab off the street, you can reduce the likelihood of being scammed or overcharged by using a more trusted taxi company like Vinasun (white cars with red and green writing) or Mai Linh (green cars with yellow and red writing).
With Grab being so cheap in Vietnam, there is really no reason to bother with trying to take a bus to the Ho Chi Minh City airport. However, if you’re on an extremely tight budget you can use the Bus Map app (iPhone|Android) to find the most convenient bus from your location to the airport.
Popular routes include the #109, #72, and #152 buses. These buses are usually air-conditioned and run from various points in downtown Ho Chi Minh City to the airport. The trip to the airport should take you about an hour and cost ~$1 USD or less depending on your starting location.
Transportation from the Phnom Penh Airport
Upon arrival at Phnom Pehn’s International Airport (airport code: PNH), you can take a bus, a train, a taxi, or tuk-tuk into the city. The airport is about 7 miles from the city center.
Our prefered method is to use either Grab (iPhone|Android) or PassApp (iPhone|Android) to call a ride. Both of these rideshare apps will get you to downtown Phnom Penh cheaper and with less hassle than a traditional taxi or tuk-tuk.
If you’re on a super-tight travel budget, the cheapest option is to take a bus, which will cost less than .50 cents. Bus route number 3 will take you straight to Phasar Thmey Market, ending at the Night Market on Street 106.
There is also a train that will take you directly from the airport to Phnom Penh Railway Station in the center of the city in about 30 minutes. The train ticket costs ~$2.50. Tickets can be booked online at the official Royal Railways booking website.
If you are determined to take a taxi rather than using a ride-share app, then you should visit the transportation information counter in the arrival terminal of the airport. From there you can arrange a ride and ask about the flat-rate price. The total cost will range from $7.00 to $15.00 depending on your final destination. Like this post?! How about…Complete Guide to Angkor Wat: The Best Temples to Visit
Bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh
Duration: ~6.5 hours
Cost: ~$12 – $21 per person
If you’ve decided not to fly, then the most common way (and our prefered method) to travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh is to take a tourist bus. Taking a bus is not only the most affordable option, it is relatively quick, comfortable, and convenient.
The bus trip generally takes ~6.5 hours, but can take longer depending on traffic and how busy the border is when you arrive.
There are a few bus companies that offer this route including Giant Ibis, Mekong Express, Sinh Tourist, and Sorya. We recommend Giant Ibis – it’s our favorite bus company that runs this route because they are super reliable and always comfortable.
The price of a bus ticket ranges from $12 – $21. There are a few buses in the ten dollar range, but it’s definitely worth paying a few dollars more to go with a reputable bus company.
As previously stated, we recommend Giant Ibis – a ticket is just $19. They have reasonably comfortable buses with functioning air-conditioning. The buses are relatively quiet without the absurdly loud music or movies that many Southeast Asian busses insist on playing. And if you’re lucky, you may even have an outlet for charging your electronics! They often advertise free Wifi, but it rarely works.
Pretty much all of the tourist bus companies depart Ho Chi Minh City from Pham Ngu Lau Street which is the northern border of the backpacker area surrounding Bui Vien Street.
If you want to take the Giant Ibis bus it is important that you book your ticket a few days in advance as they only have one departure each day.
We prefer to book our bus tickets online at Bookaway.com. You can compare all of your options and they make it easy to change or cancel your ticket if your travel plans change.
|Bus Company||DEPARTURE TIMEs||Departure Point||Ticket Price||Book Tickets|
|Giant Ibis||8am||Giant Ibis Office – 237 Pham Ngu Lau (Map)||~$19||Book Tickets|
|Mekong Express||7am, 8:30am, 1pm||Mekong Express Office – 275F Pham Ngu Lau (Map)||~$12.50||Book Tickets|
|Sinh Tourist||6:30am, 8:30am, 11:30am, 3:30pm||Sinh Tourist Office – 246 De Tham (Map)||~$14||Book Tickets|
|Sorya Bus||6:45am, 8am, 11:30am,||Sorya Bus Office – 301 Pham Ngu Lau (Map)||~$12||Book Tickets|
|Vietnam Transports||8am, 9am, 11:30am, 1:30pm||221 Pham Ngu Lau (Map)||~$21||Book Tickets|
|Phuong Heng||6am, 8:30am, 3:30pm||Phuong Heng Office – 291 Pham Ngu Lau (Map)||~$12||Book Tickets|
Many bus companies offer a free pick-up service, although if you’re staying close to Bui Vien Street this just means a bus company employee will walk with you from your hotel to the bus stop. You will probably even have to carry all your luggage which kind of defeats the purpose of a free pick-up.
It’s best to clarify what the free pick-up entails when you make your booking. And if you’re staying close to the bus company’s office just walk over yourself or catch a Grab (iPhone|Android) so you don’t have to show up so early.
Two companies – Travel Mart and Virak Buntham – have night busses that run this route but we strongly recommend against taking them. If the Immigration Offices are still closed when your overnight bus arrives, you’ll have to wait for the border to open. Because of this the nighttime bus often takes 12 hours or more – twice as long as the daytime route.
Also, some of the night buses have shared sleeping cabins, so if you are traveling solo you may wind up sleeping next to a complete stranger which is pretty weird.
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Crossing the Vietnam-Cambodia Border by Bus
Crossing the border from Vietnam to Cambodia is a relatively easy process though it can be confusing at times.
First, you’ll stop at the Vietnamese border where you’ll receive your exit stamp. After your passport is processed, you’ll get back on the bus and continue to the Cambodia side of the border. There you will receive the visa-on-arrival and entry stamp. As previously noted, the visa-on-arrival costs $30 USD. You’ll need to pay for it with US Dollars and it is best to have exact change as well as new bills without tears or writing on them.
For most tourist buses, the bus attendants will assist during the immigration process. And some bus companies, like Giant Ibis, will collect your passport and process the paperwork on your behalf. You’ll be taken to a nearby restaurant where you can use the restroom and grab a bite to eat while you wait for the bus attendant to procure everyone’s visas.
Bus companies generally charge an extra $5 for this visa processing service. In our opinion, it’s worth it to avoid the hassle of waiting in line for your visa. And potentially having to argue with a corrupt government official who is trying to shake you down for a “tip”.
You shouldn’t have to change buses or take any checked luggage off the bus during the immigration process. However, make sure to keep any valuable belongings with you. Of course, border procedures can change at any time, and buses are occasionally selected for random inspection.
Arrival by Bus in Phnom Penh
In Phnom Penh, most buses will stop near the night market. There will be several tuk-tuk drivers ready to take you to your hotel or guesthouse. It should cost you less than $5 USD unless you’re going a very long way.
Overcharging and various other scams are common, so if you have a Cambodian SIM card, you’re better off arranging a ride via Grab (iPhone|Android) or PassApp (iPhone|Android).Like this post?! How about…The 15 Best Things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Minibus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh
Duration: ~6 hours
Cost: ~$15 – $18 per person
We actually prefer taking a larger coach-size bus to a minibus because we find it to be more spacious and comfortable. Especially if you book with more high-end companies like Giant Ibis or Mekong Express.
That being said, some travelers prefer minibusses or “VIP Vans”. One advantage of taking a smaller bus is all the passengers can get their paperwork processed faster at the border and this can shave ~30 minutes off of the trip.
If the border crossing goes smoothly and you don’t hit much traffic along the way, the whole journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh should take you just 6 hours (keep in mind this rarely happens in Southeast Asia).
There are a handful of minibus companies to choose from including Mekong Express and Sapaco. Of the two, we prefer Mekong Express.
All of the minibus departures are from Pham Ngu Lau Street on the north side of the Bui Vien backpacker neighborhood in Ho Chi Minh City.
|Bus Company||DEPARTURE TIMEs||Departure Point||Ticket Price||Book Tickets|
|Mekong Express||6:30am, 3pm||Mekong Express Office – 275F Pham Ngu Lau (Map)||~$15||Book Tickets|
|Sapaco||6am, 6:30am, 7am, 2:30pm||Spaco Office – 221 Pham Ngu Lau (Map)||~$18||Book Tickets|
When you arrive at the border, the bus staff will often assist you during the immigration process. It should take about 30 minutes to an hour to get everyone’s visas arranged and then the minibus starts the second leg of the journey to Phnom Penh.
When you arrive in Phnom Penh, the minibus will drop you off at the company’s office rather than at a central bus station. You’ll then need to hire a taxi or tuk-tuk to take you to your accommodation. If you’re able to get internet or have a local SIM card you can use Grab (iPhone|Android) or PassApp (iPhone|Android) to hail a ride.