Hopping across borders by land is such a great option for budget travellers in Southeast Asia because often the distances are quite close and the prices low.
But being in this part of the world means there’s always a few quirks and surprises along the way too!
And for me, on this particular journey from Kampot to Ho Chi Minh, it was when I suddenly got dropped at the Cambodia – Vietnam border without explanation after having paid to go all the way across… or so I thought!
That why I wanted to write this post, to make sure you get the Kampot to Ho Chi Minh border crossing right.
After all, it’s a super convenient transition between some of Cambodia’s and Vietnam’s best destinations, meaning if you can get the information to make it easy, you’re onto a winner.
So here it is, my full lowdown on how to make the overland border crossing between Kampot and Ho Chi Minh based on my real, personal experience.
Obviously, you can also make this crossing in reverse…. just start at the end of this article and work backwards!
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All information contained within this post is based on my own personal experience as a British citizen, written in good faith and correct at the time of publication. I cannot be held responsible for any actions taken as a result of this information.
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Booking the Bus From Kampot
There are several companies that operate transit services across the border in Kampot and I opted for Champa Mekong as I’d read good reviews about them online.
If you’re staying in or near Kampot, you can head into their office, which is located in the centre of town, just up the street from the Epic Arts Café and very near the central roundabout.
If you can’t get into Kampot the day before, or you can’t be bothered (also valid in this lovely relaxed town!) then I’d still advise buying your ticket the day before travel, but doing it online via the great website 12Go.
The handy travel website Bookaway is also great for comparing journeys and booking tickets at the best rates from Kampot to Ho Chi Minh City.
I’ve used this site throughout my time in Southeast Asia and love its simple and straightforward process, as well as its secure online payment facilities.
The bus ticket with Champa Mekong all the way from Kampot to Ho Chi Minh cost me $18 USD.
If you have time, try to get some Vietnamese Dong before you cross the border as this will make buying some snacks and water etc when you cross into this new country a lot easier.
And if you’re looking for a great budget place to stay in Kampot, then I highly recommend Ganesha Eco Lodge.
Beautifully set in a stunning, quiet location, the food here is tops and the dorms beds comfortable and quiet.
The perfect place to retreat and relax, which is exactly what Kampot vibes are all about!
The Champa Mekong bus leaves Kampot at 10:30am.
I’d recommend getting to their office, which is the point of departure, around half an hour before the scheduled leaving time.
The journey to the border only takes an hour and you’ll likely be taken in a minivan rather than a big bus.
As such, you’ll probably be glad it’s only an hour journey as you may have your luggage on your lap!
As soon as we reached the Cambodia border however, the driver (who didn’t speak English) signalled for everyone to get out of the minivan, take our luggage and wait.
There was quite a lot of confusion as no one knew if we were meant to wait on the side of the road or cross the border ourselves and pick up a bus the other side.
We’d paid for a transit all the way through, but maybe we had to navigate the border alone?
After waiting for 20 minutes in the blistering sun with no clues as to what we should do, I decided to take matters into my own hands and call the Champa Mekong office in Kampot (+855 33 630 0036).
Luckily I managed to find someone who spoke English and they told me to wait where I was.
No sooner had I put the phone down than a lady wearing a Champ Mekong shirt appeared from nowhere and asked for our passport.
She was obviously the fixer!
Crossing the Cambodia – Vietnam Border
Hooray for the lovely fixer, who promptly took my passport and my Cambodia eVisa exit card (yeah remember that from when I crossed between Bangkok and Siem Reap – you got to have that with you too) and headed into the Cambodia immigration office.
I waited, and eventually she came out with my exit stamps in place, everything organised and told me to walk across the border.
The walk between the 2 immigration posts takes about 5 minutes and once at the Vietnam side, the Champa Mekong lady again organised getting us stamped in.
It’s worth noting that at this point I had to show my vaccination booklet, which I always carry with me.
Those who didn’t have such a booklet had to complete a health form and pay $1 for the privilege. No one looks at the form, they just collect it and put it in a pile , so I think we all know where that $1 is going!
After that farce, you’ll need to put your bag through a scanner and then enter Vietnam officially.
It’s at this point you’ll get your passport back from the Champa Mekong lady and your border crossing is complete.
Ha Tien Bus Station
Once you’ve got your passport and entered into Vietnam, the same lady then tells you to wait at a nearby café before suddenly disappearing as abruptly as she arrived!
Basically, you gotta wait at this café (which is just outside the nearest town of Ha Tien) and it could be a while, so pull up a pew!
It’s at this point that those travellers heading to Ho Chi Minh city (me) and those travellers heading to Phu Quoc Island (everyone else!) split.
The latter get into a red minibus, while Ho Chi Minh bound folk needed to wait for a blue minivan which came around 1pm.
I don’t know why they run 2 separate minivans, because they both take travellers to the Ha Tien Central Bus Station, which is just a short ride up the road… but there we are!
Once at this central bus station, you’ll hopefully have some time to kill because I recommend a toilet break and lunch stop at this point if you can.
Also buy snacks and water for the long bus journey ahead.
If you have time, there is a nearby ATM you can walk to quite quickly, otherwise there may be some unofficial currency exchange people you can hustle with here too.
Getting to Ho Chi Minh
The bus that departs Ha Tien is a big sleeper bus.
It departed at 1:45pm when I got it and be prepared, it’s a big old journey to the capital!
This ride will also get you accustomed to the Vietnamese sleeper bus, which are double decker, require you to take your shoes off and have zero room for hand luggage – you have been warned!
Honestly, try to put as much stuff as you can in the main luggage compartment, below the bus.
Then find your allocated seat and settle in for at least a 7 hour ride!
The bus didn’t have a toilet onboard when I made this journey and only made 1 stop for bathroom, water and food, which is why I advise making full use of the facilities in Ha Tien if you can!
Blankets are provided on the bus, but you may want to bring a pillow and a jumper / socks, because they love to crank the aircon.
The bus also crosses the Mekong River near the town of Long Xuyen as part of your journey from Kampot to Ho Chi Minh (they drive the whole bus onto a huge ferry) which is quite fun!
This happens around 6pm.
You then continue through the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam until you reach Ho Chi Minh around 9pm.
Despite saying we would be taken to the centre of the city, the bus actually dropped us at an outer station and we were then piled into a minivan which took us to District 1.
Have your google maps / maps.me at the ready so you can either be dropped off when they near your hotel, or pile out when most of the others do and hail a taxi if your accommodation is not nearby.
Don’t forget Grab ride-sharing app works across both Vietnam and Cambodia and is a great option for finding an affordable taxi ride and navigating any language boundaries.
And when it comes to places to stay in Ho Chi Minh, I highly recommend Da Blend Hostel, which has 24-hour reception, super friendly staff, loads of roof terraces, a guest kitchen and a top location in a very local area!
It’s not in District 1, but is just a short taxi drive away and well worth it for the authentic feels.
READ MORE: Top 17 Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City
Cambodia & Vietnam Mini Travel Guide
When to Visit Cambodia & Vietnam?
The best time to visit Cambodia is during the dry and cooler season between November and April.
Once you start getting into May, the humidity really starts building and after that, the rains definitely don’t make the country as fun to travel in.
How Long to Spend There?
I think 10 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Cambodia, while Vietnam needs 2-3 weeks!
How to Travel to (and Around) Cambodia & Vietnam?
If you’re arriving into Southeast Asia from further afield, then it’s likely you’ll arrive into a main international airport.
As always, I use Skyscanner to get the best deals on flights.
Alternatively, if you’re in a neighbouring country such as Thailand or Laos, you can use buses to arrive into Cambodia or Vietnam.
To book bus tickets across borders, as well as for travel within the country, I highly recommend the secure and easy to use 12Go, who I relied on heavily throughout my time here!
Secure, easy and with lots of options, 12Go is definitely the best and most convenient way to grab your bus tickets in this country.
Travel Insurance for Cambodia & Vietnam
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
5 Packing Essentials for Southeast Asia
#1 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The Cambodia Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful for any trip to this part of the world with lots of top tips and useful information including good places to eat.
#2 Birkenstocks – A good pair of sandals are king here and I love my Arizona Birkenstocks which are perfect for keeping my feet cool, supported and for kicking on and off easily when you visit temples or hit the beach. Literally wore them all day every day!
#3 European & British Power Adapters – Cambodia and Vietnam use a mix of European and British power outlets, so make sure you come prepared with a Skross world adapter.
#4 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, which was ideal for capturing these crazy and beautiful countries.
#5 Sarong – A great multi-purpose travel item that can be brilliantly used as a beach towel / dress , a pillow / blanket on bus rides and for covering shoulders when you visit temples. A good sarong is a Southeast Asia travel must-have in my book.
Travel Money in Southeast Asia
When it comes to paying for things in Southeast Asia, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Grab yours here.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
And there you have it, my complete lowdown on crossing the Kampot to Ho Chi Minh overland border.
Have you made this trip lately?
Do you have any updated info to add?
Please help other travellers out by posting any news in the comments box below…