Manila-Phnom Penh via Ho Chi Minh City

This would be a long, word heavy post. A rarity for me, I know.  I was actually at a loss on what to post about and has been discussing which motorcycle gps would be the coolest to use with hubby and neighbors when it suddenly occurred to me, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the easy and affordable way to travel Manila-Phnom Penh and also about the overland travel between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh. So why not post about my recent trip?

Ever since we started living here in Cambodia, my usualy way when going home to Manila would either be Phnom Penh-Singapore-Manila, or Phnom Penh-Bangkok-Manila or Phnom Penh-Kuala Lumpur-Manila. I preferred this route because I usually traveled with a child. I know of some Pinoy friends who suggest going by bus to Ho Chi Minh then taking the PAL or Cebu Pacific flight to Manila. I got the chance to try the route when I traveled last May alone.

It was a really straight forward, hassle free trip. From Phnom Penh, I simply bought a Mekong Express bus ticket. I took the morning trip (8:30 am) coz I wanted to get to Saigon while its still bright, mainly coz I’m alone and scared. Lol. This is actually my favorite bus to ride when going to Ho Chi Minh. For just $12 you get a comfy seat, a bottle of chilled water and a croissant and a wet towel. They also have an English speaking guide on board who would assist you. Before you get onboard, the staff would check your passport/visa, then if you have luggage to deposit, they will be tagged properly. The trip was smooth going and without hassles. The bus has a restroom but I didn’t try using it. They will stop once for lunch very near the Bavet border, the rest-stop place is clean and has good food options. Then the guide would assist you on crossing the border. The process would take about 30 mins and you have to get your luggage and have it screened when you get to the Vietnam immigration. Before 2 pm I was already in Ho Chi Minh. Travel time is about 6 hours including immigration checks.

Got down in Pham Ngu Lao area, walked around a bit. When it was time to go to the airport I simply hailed a Vinasun {Innova} taxi, fare amounted to 140,000 Dong {about $7}. When in Ho Chi Minh, I would recommend using just Vinasun or Mai Linh taxi as taxi scams are well-known in the area. And do ask insist to use the meter. Then I took the Cebu Pacific flight to Manila which leaves at around 1 am.

Now that I’ve tried the route, I think this is a really economical route. You get to save one leg of flight and pay just $12 + taxi fare. Cebu Pacific fares are also cheap so I think I’ll be going by this route more often. The connecting times are also good. If you leave Phnom Penh at around 1:30 pm, you’d be in HCM at around 8pm just the right time to head over the airport and check in for Cebu Pacific flight. If you’re taking PAL, the flight sched is at 2 pm so you’d have to get yourself a hotel for an overnight stay. Which is not a problem too as hotels in HCM are really cheap.

On our trip back from Manila, I was with hubby and Chinks. We arrived in Ho Chi Minh around 1 am, we decided to spend a day there. We stayed in a hotel in Pham Ngu Lao which is ideal since its very near ticket counters of buses going to Phnom Penh.  The next day we decided we’ll try out Sapaco Tourist Bus to Phnom Penh. We wanted to compare how it would fare against the Mekong Express. It’s cheaper! Tickets costs just $10 {200,000 Dong} and we got ourselves the 9 am bus. The staff courteous enough but they speak very very very little English. Thankfully, hubby could understand a bit of Vietnamese so we got by. Luggage was properly tagged and we were given a bottle of  water. While the bus was clean, it was also packed to the hilt with assorted goods. I didn’t have any place for my carry on luggage and I can’t even stretch my feet since the space under the seats was all filled with goods. I have no idea why they do these, but they should also be mindful of the comfort of their passengers. Also, they have a restroom but the space in front of the restroom door was packed with stuff, then I really wonder how we’d squeeze ourselves to get inside the door.

The immigration stop was a little chaotic as you’re on your own. The bus conductor { who speaks no English} would get your passport, bring it over to the immigration and you wait for your name to be called. We got a bit lost here since the conductor didn’t say anything, thank God we had the good sense to follow the group ahead of us. Anyway, we still got to Phnom Penh at around 4 pm.

Comparing the two bus companies, I would definitely ride the Mekong Express again. But then again, I’m up for a little adventure, maybe I’ll try to ride the other bus companies plying the route, then I promise to do a review..

Mekong Express Limousine Bus

#87 Sisowath Quay Phnom Penh – +(855) (0)23-427518

#275F Pham Ngu Lao Ho Chi Minh – +(84)(8)383733917 / +(84) 935507894

email: mekongexpress@online.com.kh

Sapaco Tourist

#307 Preah Sihanouk Blvd, Sangkat Veal Vong, Khan 7 Makara Phnom Penh – +(855) (0)23 210300 / +(855) (0)23 210324 / +(855) 12 696688

#325 Pham Ngu Lao St. Ho Chi Minh – + (84) (8) 39203623 / + (84) (8) 39206920

email: sapacotourist@vnn.vn

website: www.sapacotourist.com/

6 Comments

  1. Tom

    July 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for the information. I’m looking forward to have my own bus trip from Ho Chi Minh city to Bangkok.

    Tom from Saigonstay

    1. Lui

      July 22, 2011 at 3:40 pm

      Tom, you’re welcome. im glad you found the info useful. Good luck with the trip :))

  2. Mumsified

    July 21, 2011 at 10:06 am

    When we went to Saigon almost two years ago, we took the Mekong Express too. It was hassle free and very comfortable =)

    Mukhang malaki savings pag ganito ang route going to Pinas. We’ll try this next time.

    1. Lui

      July 22, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      @Mumsified, oo i usually use Mekong Express. First time ko to fly out of Saigon. Ok naman sya and big savings talaga.. And the flight time was short and perfect timing if you’re flying from Manila to province after. I didn’t have to go out of the airport, 3 hrs wait lang ang waiting for the flight to Legazpi..:)

  3. chi revilla

    February 20, 2012 at 10:19 am

    hi lui..
    me, hubby and our 2 kids will be flying from manila to ho chi minh and then bus to phnom phem, planning to stay overnignt and then siem reap. can you help us to aarange itinerary and choose hotels or motels on those locations.
    thank you.. chi

    1. Lui

      February 20, 2012 at 11:12 am

      hi chi, please check out http://www.canbypublications.com for some recommendations re: itinerary and hotels. If you’re also traveling from April onwards, there is also now a direct flight from Manila0-Siem Reap. :)) If you’re taking HCM-PP bus, I would recommend Mekong Express. Thanks.

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