The travel distance between the two dynamic cities Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City seems insignificant as it is only 150km. However, even though you might be fully equipped with transportation and money, there is still one more challenge you have to conquer: crossing the border at Moc Bai.
The Moc Bai – Bavet Border is one of the three international border gates of Cambodia. On the Vietnamese side, the gate is regarded as Moc Bai Border of Tay Ninh Province. In contrast, across the border in Cambodia, the gate is known as Bavet, which belongs to Svay Rieng Province. In general, this is the most popular gate for people to travel from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. The border gate is open from 8am to 8pm every day.
One of the most common ways to travel through the border is buses. In fact, there are many companies that offer direct bus service between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh for as low as $10, without changing or transiting bus at the border. Having had a good experience previously in Cambodia with Giant Ibis Coaches, I again used them for my border crossing here. The ride only takes about 6 hours from Ho Chi Minh City, so it is actually a good deal to think about if you consider economising for your next trips.
However, the most important thing to remember is that the Cambodian visa on arrival is available at Moc Bai Border, but the Vietnamese Visa is NOT. Therefore, if you wish to enter Vietnam at that point, you have to arrange with the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia in advance of your arrival.
I found things to be much more unprofessional on the Cambodian side of the border. I guess far fewer people travel to Vietnam from here as opposed to vice versa, so there are elements of run-down architecture in the vicinity, although I did spot a casino! I wonder how many people go in there every day (if any)?
Among the things to look out for on the Cambodian side is a whole group of men (and women) who are trying to ply for trade and take your custom. I bet if you wanted a tuktuk ride to Siem Reap or Battambang they would happily oblige – although how long it would take you to get there is anyone’s guess (12hrs?)! We stood around the bus on the Cambodian soil (literally, dirt) for a few minutes to get some photos, and then we were on our way. Soon I would be in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Let’s hope it’s more welcoming than Bavet…