Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Crossing the Cambodian/Vietnamese border


*Crossing the border by bus

My journey went from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. There are about five or so buses that depart a day between these two cities and to make the most of our time in Phnom Penh we decided to take the 2pm bus. The cost of this bus was only USD$11.

This ride was supposedly only 6 hours however from our experience we knew that we should give or take one or two hours, just in case. As part of the bus company we rode with the price of the ticket also included a shuttle van pick up from our hostel (88 Backpackers) to take us to the bus station. On board we were also given each a free bottle of water. This is  a good little drive through the countryside and it was interesting to see the varying styles of housing built, which were between brick two-story complexes to just raised bamboo huts. You also experience being on a five minute ferry ride crossing a river before having a short stop at a roadside restaurant before the border.

Before this stop the driver will explain in both English and Vietnamese the procedures. You are also expected to hand over your passport to the driver’s assistant at this point as well. The bus will stop at the Cambodian side where you then exit the bus as the driver’s assistant calls out your name. You receive your passport, stand in line at a booth where an immigration officer will then stamp in your exit date and you make your way onto the bus again. Again you hand over your passport to the driver’s assistant and it’s about a 5 to 10 minute ride to the Vietnamese border. In-between these two borders the area is lined with casino after casino and locals employed as promoters handing out discount cards to those trying to cross the boundary.
The process is the same again. You wait for your name to be called out to receive your passport. This time you must take your entire luggage with you before you head into the customs building. No matter how much the driver explains what the procedure is at the border it did not prepare us for what to expect here. The best I could describe it was more so of an organised chaos, using the word organised very loosely. There were no lines as such, a lot of people cramped in the building and a lot of waiting around. It is up to the driver to get your passports to a custom official to get all the documents needed before being able to go through security and over to the other side. It also didn’t help that there seemed to be only two custom officials working for the amount of people that were trying to enter the country. There were two lines or booths, one for Vietnamese passport holders and one for foreigners although I don’t think those rules were being followed. I never timed it exactly but I’m pretty sure we waited about an hour or so before my bus’ passports were done. It also seemed like if the driver had slipped over some extra money then our passports would have been pushed closer to the front of the queue, but either way we got through in the end. It was definitely an experience.

Once you received your passport and your bags went through security you boarded the bus once more and it was roughly another hour to two ride to the drop off point in Ho Chi Minh.  With the bus ride and the waiting time at the border I’d say the overall time took about eight hours.

*Crossing the border by plane

If you are limited on time this may be the fastest and hassle-free option. However, having a quick look at flight tickets today from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh you are looking at paying approximately USD$145 for a flight opposed to only USD$11 for a bus. Although, the journey does only take 45 minutes so this is definitely the more time-efficient way of travel. Also, you would expect the normal procedures at immigration like any other airport rather than just a waiting game/who is down to give a little bribe!

No comments:

Post a Comment