If being on a back of a bike driven by a 61-year-old Vietnamese tour guide on the Cambodia Vietnam border crossing is not a unique travel experience, then I don't know what is. Traveling Mekong Delta to Cambodia will surely remain one of the coolest travel experience stories we'd be sharing from our backpacking Southeast Asia trip. Here below is the breakdown of this journey, including our recommended stops and preferred means of transport 😉
To Help You Navigate
Our reckless planning
Two months travel in Vietnam were coming to an end. We had done everything we had the emotional and financial capacity of doing in the South of Vietnam, now ready to move from Mekong Delta to Cambodia. We had no visa, no idea where the nearest Cambodia Vietnam border crossing was nor how to get there without having to go back to the capital. It wasn’t reckless per se. We knew getting a Cambodian visa on arrival wouldn’t be a problem, but we did feel slightly nervous not being able to find more information on Vietnam to Cambodia border crossing from Can Tho. Hence this post. You’re welcome! 😉
We found that the best way to reach Cambodia Vietnam border crossing from Can Tho is by getting a bus to Ha Tien, Vietnam and then proceeding to Prek Chak in Cambodia. From there it’s only a short drive to the coastal towns of Kep and Kampot.
Can Tho to Rach Gia to Ha Tien
Although WikiTravel suggest there is a direct bus Can Tho to Ha Tien, we could not find any (perhaps due to Tet holidays at the time of our travel). You can, however, book two separate tickets - Can Tho to Rach Gia and then Rach Gia to Ha Tien. You can book your tickets online and then get a paper copy at a service desk at every bus station (bus drivers don’t accept a copy on your smartphone).
FUTA Bus Lines and getting to Can Tho bus station
According to online reviews, FUTA Bus Lines is the best option in terms of reliability, comfort and customer service from traveling from Mekong Delta to Cambodia. Our experience traveling Can Tho to Ha Tien with them was no different.
The company even offers free transfers to guesthouses upon arrival to your destination (granted, within a certain radius). Our host said that since Can Tho bus station is way out of town, FUTA Bus Lines also offers pickups from guesthouses. Unfortunately, we learned about it too late and ended up taking a taxi instead. Not a huge expense of 90'000 VND (3.42€ or 3.87$) but ridiculous in comparison to the intercity bus ticket price of 120'000 (4.56€ or 5.16$).
Scheduling the Can Tho to Ha Tien bus transfer
If you are traveling through Rach Gia on your Can Tho to Ha Tien journey, make sure you buffer in some “anything can happen” time between the two buses not to miss your connection. Alternatively, get your ticket upon arrival at Rach Gia (yes, risking having to wait for a later bus). For us, the following plan worked out perfectly (booked the night before departure):
|08:15 - 08:30||Taxi from the guesthouse|
|09:00 - 12:45||Can Tho to Rach Gia bus|
|12:45 - 14:10||Rach Gia lunch|
|14:10 - 16:00||Rach Gia to Ha Thien|
|16:00 - 16:15||Shuttle transfer to your destination in Ha Tien|
Layover in Rach Gia
The bus arrived to a remote bus station where we were rushed to change to a shuttle bus. We were 75% sure we were going to a wrong place since nobody spoke English and people traveling elsewhere were on the same minibus. We just kept repeating “Ha Tien” (our final stop) while the not overly reassuring drivers waved us on the bus. What do you know, we ended up exactly where we had to be - at the Rach Gia bus terminal.
We had almost two hours to kill in Rach Gia before we could resume our slow transition from Vietnam to Cambodia. We left our backpacks behind the reception desk at the FUTA office and went for a lunch just across the street from the bus station. Besides the “rice or noodle?” question, there was no verbal exchange with the host, but we still felt very welcome.
Rach Gia is a coastal town in the Gulf of Thailand. If you have time to spare on your Mekong Delta to Cambodia journey, consider taking a couple of hours to explore the provincial town, its temples and the beach promenade. You can also catch a ferry to Phu Quoc and other neighboring islands from here.
A day in Ha Thien Vietnam
We didn’t want to rush with the Cambodia Vietnam border crossing the same day and rather opted for staying one day in Ha Tien. Besides preferring slow travel, we still had no clue of how to get to the actual border anyway 😉 Not a very well organized backpacking couple this time. Oh well.
When we arrived to Ha Thien we were pleasantly surprised. Ha Thien is a very charming rivertown with a relaxed vibe and picturesque colorful houses. If, like us, you like off-the-beaten-track destinations and slow travel, you will truly enjoy this town.
Vietnam Coracle - the absolute go-to resource for everything Vietnam motorbike even calls the town “the jewel of Mekong Delta”. Check out their post for more insights into things to see and do in Ha Tien. This should inspire you to prolong your trip from Mekong Delta to Cambodia.
We felt very lucky when we got a big double room with a balcony overlooking the river at 300’00 VND (11.40€ or 12.90$) per night. Even the locals were surprised we’d got such a deal. All other guesthouses we tried were more expensive but of much lower quality. The best was having a cup of tea while watching the sunrise and working on the blog from our balcony 🙂 What a beautiful way to start the final step in our Vietnam to Cambodia journey.
Oasis Bar Ha Tien & Mr Tee
Oasis Bar in Ha Tien is an institution. When in need to organize a transport to the Cambodia Vietnam border crossing, this is seemingly the place everyone goes to. Besides serving a selection of cold beers, (yummy) fruit smoothies and Western food, the friendly expat family running the bar is also happy to assist with any other questions a traveler might have.
Cambodia Vietnam border crossing options
Andy (the bar owner) presented us with the following options for Cambodia Vietnam border crossing. Of course, he may be not entirely objective since he's facilitating some of these services, but it nevertheless gives you an idea:
|Taxi||Expensive. Cars can’t cross the border, need to change to a new vehicle in Cambodia (potential delays)||50$ / car|
|Minivan||Not punctual and take longer as there are usually more people on board. Again, cars can’t cross the border, so need to change transport and oftentimes wait for the second bus||8-11$ /person|
|Motorbike||Fast and cheap, if you don’t have a problem being on the back of a motorbike also transferring all your luggage||12$ / person|
It was a no-brainer and we opted for traveling Vietnam to Cambodia on a motorbike with the legendary Mr Tee. Mr Tee is a sixty-one year old Vietnamese tour guide and biker who has been helping travelers do the Cambodia Vietnam border crossing for years. Next year he wants to retire, but promised he’d find a respectable substitute to continue his mission of providing Cambodia Vietnam border crossing services and unique travel experiences. Mr Tee also speaks fluent English and is up for a chat about Vietnamese history if you have a listening ear.
Ha Tien, Vietnam border crossing
Punctually at 09:30 Mr Tee and his colleague picked us up from the Oasis bar just as we finished our delicious breakfast (and exchanged our last VND to USD). Let the Vietnam to Cambodia adventure begin!
The Vietnamese gentlemen took our backpacks between their legs in front of the bike, while each of us clumsily climbed on the back with our day backpacks and other small items in our hands. The amount of stuff and passengers Southeast Asian drivers can transport on their old motorbikes never seizes to amaze us.
Checking out of Vietnam was very straightforward. There are two windows next to each other - for the incoming and the leaving tourists. The fact that not everyone was following the rules and stood in the wrong queues distressed Mr Tee who really wanted to get us through the customs as soon as possible. He could not let go of the the short yet unpleasant exchange with an Australian family in front of us for the rest of the day and kept repeating that he wasn’t wrong to tell her off. We consoled the sweet old men and promised we would never do such atrocity of cutting in line.
Lucky money at the Ha Tien Vietnam border crossing
Mr Tee suggested we gave a dollar “lucky money” to the Ha Tien border police officer, which we kindly declined.Not only did we not want to contribute to the government corruption, but we also saw absolutely no point in bribing anyone. We were next line and not in a rush anyway. We did however see a couple of passports being passed on with much bigger bills inside. Whatever those were for.
Although we managed to stick to our morals this time, getting a Cambodian visa in Prek Chak was a different story.
Prek Chak, Cambodia border crossing
Together with our Vietnamese guides we officially crossed Vietnam to Cambodia in Prek Chak on the back of their bikes. Not going to lie, it did feel very cool. We were cool.
Just a minute after leaving Vietnam we saw a characteristic Khmer architecture. Cambodia, here we come!
At the customs Mr Tee followed us along every step we made. It was reassuring having the Cambodia Vietnam border crossing guru on our side, should any of the weird stories we had read about online came to life. Although we were prepared for the encounter, (almost disappointingly) the infamous doctor who measures your temperature and charges a dollar or two if you don’t have your vaccine pass, wasn’t there.
Cambodia Visa Fee & other useful information
Cambodia visa fee for the single entry visa we were applying for should have been 30$. According to Tourism Cambodia, this is the official price. However, already at the Oasis Bar Ha Thien Andy warned us that we would need to pay 5$ extra if we wanted to avoid any discussions and unnecessary delays. When at the Prek Chak border we weren’t presented with much choice, Mr Tee strictly instructing us to pay 35$. The Chief sticking a visa into my passport looked bored. It seems 35$ is the standard Cambodia visa fee in Prek Chak.
Although frustrated on the inside, we paid the Cambodia visa fee with the bribe and said nothing. Looking back we feel we should have been vocal. If we all continue paying fake doctors and distributing “lucky money”, the bribery and the tourism mafia will never cease to exist. We will always need to rely on Andys and Mr Tees to do the most basic thing such as getting a stamp in the passport. Hopefully next time we do better.
To avoid any further delays and frustrations, make sure you have a 4x6 passport picture and a filled out Cambodia visa on arrival form. If you are traveling Mr Tee, he will provide you with the form the night before your departure.
Prek Chak to Kep
Can’t tell you what it is, but the moment we got on the road from Prek Chak to Kep, we could physically feel we were out of Vietnam. The road was different, the signs were different, even the air felt different. Cambodia reminded us so much more of Laos than it did of Vietnam which had just left. Since we hopelessly loved Laos, we were very excited to start our Cambodia discovery.
On the way to Kep, Mr Tee took the scenic road and drove us past the salt plantations the region is famous for. If there was any bad aftertaste left from the Cambodia Vietnam border crossing in Prek Chak, it evaporated instantly as we made our way through the rocky red soiled roads. The whole trip was worth this moment. It was beautiful and it was fun.
We did a quick stop at the seashore, looked at the map and agreed on the drop off point before launching on the very last leg of our Mekong Delta to Cambodia journey.
Can you do the Cambodia Vietnam border crossing by yourself?
Of course you can. The question is the amount of time and money you are willing to spend. Mr Tee transportation and assistance services cost us 12$ per person. We were told taxis and bikes at the border in Prek Chak charge insanely inflated amounts to take you to the nearest town of Kep. You can probably walk a bit further and try negotiating a better deal if you have time and good bargaining skills. All in all, you can probably save a couple of bucks.
How to contact Mr Tee
If you're backpacking Southeast Asia and are trying to get from Mekong Delta to Cambodia, you have gotta meet Mr Tee. Mr Tee doesn't have a personal website nor email. You can however reach out to Oasis Bar Ha Thien via [email protected] and arrange your transfer there.
|Taxi to Can Tho bus station||90'000||3.42||3.87|
|Can Tho to Rach Gia bus||120'000||4.56||5.16|
|Lunch at Rach Gia (for two)||60'000||2.28||5.68|
|Rach Gia to Ha Tien bus||70'000||2.66||3.01|
|Hai Yen (Ha Tien) hotel, DBL excl breakfast||300'000||11.40||12.90|
|Motorbike transfer Ha Tien to Kep||270'000||10.26||11.61|
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