April 11, 2003

Phnom Penh to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) via the Mekong Delta

Waiting at Vietnamese Immigration
You can take the van/boat combo offered by Capitol Guesthouse in Phnom Penh (Sinh Cafe in Vietnam). Cost is $6, you depart from Capitol GH in Phnom Penh (buy tickets the day before). About an hour out of town by van you board a decent boat (they have a picture of it in the GH at the ticket desk) and travel to the Cambodian border check. You can leave your bags on the boat while getting your passport stamped in a nice hotel garden setting. The boat then takes you to the Vietnam pier where you take your bags with you, get the passport stamped and then board a different boat for the trip to Chau Doc. A guide will help you through the whole process and you can relax in the shade while waiting for your stamp. They were charging 1000 (6 cents US) dong per person (receipt provided) at the medical checkpoint when we crossed. Your boat guide will probably offer to change money with a story about how small notes will get a better rate from him than in town. It's probably true if you accept the first rate offered in town, but we found better rates even for small notes (USD) in jewelry shops rather than with the money changers near the market. We ended up using Jewelry shops most of the trip since they would usually change at the same rate as banks and are open outside bank business hours. You'll need at least $1 worth of dong just to pay the medical check fee so you may want to change a little with your guide if you haven't done it in advance.

Ferry in Vietnam to Chau Doc
In Chau Doc we got a Sinh Cafe tour for $22.50 per person including two nights AC lodging (plus breakfast), 4 boats (floating houses, fish farms, floating market, stork sanctuary, sam mountain hike, incense making, temple visit, rice noodle factory, fruit orchard, etc, etc) and a bus ending up right in the backpacker area of Saigon. The first night was spent in Chau Doc, the second in Cantho before heading on to Saigon with tour activities during both days. Oh, and you get a free t-shirt, yippee!

The boat guide will also provide info about the Sinh Cafe tour and a free ride to the hotel which is probably worth taking, especially if you have heavy bags. Other touts will meet the boat as well. We wanted to check things out for ourselves before getting sucked in so walked to the same Sinh Cafe hotel and checked other tour and hotel options out along the way without finding any better deals.

This album has pictures from the above route.

Posted by Andrew on April 11, 2003

Hi, My interest is doing what you did but from the other direction - Saigon, Chau Doc to Phnom Penh via boat etc. Any ideas on how I go about setting it up. In a about a month I'll be heading out that way, with the over all plan to travel on to Thailand via Sihanoukvill in southeatern Cambodia. Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks, Doug

Posted by: Doug on July 4, 2003

Once you get there you can buy a ticket for the whole trip to Phnom Penh via the Mekong Delta from pretty much any travel agent. Just check around with several before booking to make sure you're getting a good price. I used Sinh Cafe and was happy, but there are plenty of other options that would also work.


Posted by: Andrew on July 6, 2003

Thank's for your tips, it's really interesting and helpfull.
I'm in vung-tau vietnam now and want to visit my friend in Phnompenh. What do you think if I rent a car in saigon and go to phnompenh? How long it will take? It's safe or not?

Posted by: Adam on August 30, 2003


Well, I'm pretty sure that you can't even drive a car you own over the border between Cambodia and Vietnam, much less a rental car. You're probably much better off taking a bus or boat but you could theoretically hire a car to the border and then hire another one on the Cambodian side after you cross if you really wanted a private vehicle for some reason (with driver of course).

Good luck!


Posted by: Andrew on August 30, 2003

Andrew, thanks for all of this info here. I am planning to travel overland from Saigon to Hanoi via Phnom Penh and HCMC. Did you have any trouble getting a Vietnam visa for entry at Chau Doc? Lonely Planet says the only Cambodia to Vietnam entry is at Moc Dai.

Posted by: Eric on November 29, 2003

The Vietnam visas no longer are for a specific point of entry. The information you are looking at is out of date. There are now several entry points between Cambodia and Vietnam which are open to foreigners and you can use the same visa at all of them.

Posted by: Andrew on November 30, 2003

hi andrew,

this might sound silly, but its my 1st trip to HCM. Do u know my chances of booking of short package of 3d 2n in mekong delta is high on a x'mas day itself?

i'm going solo & being female, not exactly sure if i should go without package?

tks for your help!

Posted by: Lai Peng on December 10, 2003

I'd be surprised if there would be a problem since there is so much competition between the various tour operators. I don't really know for sure though so if you want a better answer try http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com/ .

Posted by: Andrew on December 10, 2003

Hi Andrew,

I'm thinking of getting from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh via Cambodia. Whats the best way to get from Bangkok to Siem Rep (i've heard nightmare stories about the roads), from Siem Rep to Phnom Penh (i've heard boats are unsafe) and then from Phnom Penh onto Ho Chi Minh. Also, as I will be travelling alone is Cambodia a safe place to be a backpacker?


Posted by: Rob on January 28, 2004


The "best" way largely depends on the person doing the traveling. I wouldn't say any of those routes are particularly easy going, but they are fun if you don't mind roughing it. Check out http://www.talesofasia.com/cambodia-overland.htm for tons of details on the Bangkok to Siem Reap route. From Siem Reap to Phnom Penh you have several options including bus, boat, taxi, pickup and airplane. The bus is the cheapest semi-comfortable option while the boat is probably the most interesting in my opinion. As for safety, the worst boat route is supposedly from Siem Reap to Battambang while the route to Phnom Penh is very well traveled and recommended by many. I don't suppose the boats are any less safe than traveling by road in Cambodia, which isn't necessarily saying too much... From Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh you take the route I wrote about above or just take a bus the whole way instead, although last I heard the road to the border was pretty rough.

There are plenty of backpackers in Cambodia and I wouldn't worry about traveling alone there. Just use some common sense and you should be fine.

Good luck!

Posted by: Andrew on January 28, 2004

Hi Andrew,
Im heading for cambodia, laos and vietnam in the spring. I just want to check if its possible to get a cambodia visa in hcmc, and a laos visa in phnom penh. very helpful website by the way, fine work.

Posted by: john on January 31, 2004


I got my visa to Laos in Phnom Penh and it took a couple of days. I don't think it's a big deal to get a Cambodia visa in HCMC, it might even be possible at the border but I'm not sure. That said, visa information changes all the time so it would be wise to take a look at http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com for more up to date information. Those sorts of questions are usually asked and answered on there every few days it seems.

Posted by: Andrew on January 31, 2004

Hi Andrew - my wife and I are taking three weeks off work and really trying to pack a lot of stuf in.We are trying to see if we can get an express boat trip from Phnom Penh to Cantho (changing boats as necessary) in one day to avoid spending the night in Chao Doc. And we also really want to see the floating markets near Cantho which apparently are best before 9.00am and then get a bus to Saigon the same day. Do you know if either of these things is possible? We woulkd really apreciate your advice

Posted by: Henry on June 6, 2004

PS just read that after I posted it- sorry about all the spelling mistakes!

Posted by: Henry on June 6, 2004


I think your best bet would be to take the same boat mentioned above then change to a bus in Chau Doc. I think that should be possible to do on your own. I certainly wouldn't make any firm plans in Saigon since you never know when there will be delays, but theoretically I think you could visit the Cantho market in the morning then catch a bus to Saigon the same day. Both of these buses would be public buses, not the tour company ones though. Another option might be to stay in Chau Doc and get a 1 day delta tour through a tour company such as Sinh Cafe. If I remember right the 1 day tour ends up in Saigon and includes several stops along the way.

Good luck!

Posted by: Andrew on June 7, 2004

I am thinking of flying in to Ho Chi Minh City and then travelling upto Hanoi. You seem pretty confident about the route up to Phnom Penh. Do you know much about continuing the trip up to Hanoi through Laos. Is it a safe place?
Would you recommend travelling up through Vietnam?

Posted by: Rob Thompson on July 13, 2004


You can see my description of the trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi elsewhere on my web site but you probably found that already. I felt safe in these areas but as always some caution is a good idea. I enjoyed traveling in Vietnam and would recommend it for sure.


Posted by: Andrew on July 21, 2004

hi andrew,

i'm going on a backpacking trip in january with a friend for a month, spending most of our time in thailand. we want to take a trip over to cambodia--ankor, go down mekong to siem reap and head over to saigon. is it possible to that in a seven day trip? there seem to be lot's of organized tours, we're wondering if it's just as easy to do it on our own (and cheaper)--through the organization you recommended. also we were wondering how long all the travel took...seems like six hours boat trip from siem to phenom and then you said an hour outside phenom you get on a boat and then you mentioned the two day trip to cantho and Chau Doc and then to ho chi minh. any idea if 7 days is too short to make that work? also wondering if you have any info about possibility/cost of flying bankok to siem and then travel by land to ho chi minh and fly back to bankok from there...anything you know would be helpful. thank you so much, samara

Posted by: samara on November 7, 2004

Hi Andrew, how many hours it takes to travel from Phnom Pehn (Cambodia) to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)? thanks.

Posted by: jun on November 23, 2004

I'm not sure exactly how many hours but you pretty much need to plan on a full day.

Posted by: Andrew on December 16, 2004


I think the trip you describe would be tight but you could probably pull it off. Day 1 bangkok to siem reap, day 2 siem reap, day 3 siem reap to phnom penh, day 4 phnom penh, day 5/6 phnom penh to ho chi minh city via chau doc, day 7 ho chi minh city. You could also go directly from phnom penh to ho chi minh city if you wanted. You'd need to be willing to skip a day somewhere in case of any unforseen delays but it would probably work.


Posted by: Andrew on December 16, 2004

Would you have any Idea what the easiest way would be to go from bangkok to Siagon via Phnom Penh? Would trains be the best option and how long do you think it would take?


Posted by: Elise on February 4, 2005


The train doesn't run the whole way and is very, very slow and certainly not an 'easy' way to travel in Cambodia. Have a look at http://www.talesofaasia.com for info on the route from Bangkok to Phnom Penh via bus/taxi. The info above describes the route from Phnom Penh to Saigon. It should be possible to do the trip in 2 days if you spend the entire time traveling (overnight in Phnom Penh) but I'd allow extra time if possible to see the sights and in case of unforeseen delays.


Posted by: Andrew on February 8, 2005


My name is Lorenzo, and I too had the awesome experience of visiting Vietnam. Once in 95 and the second time in 98. The first time I went, tourism had only been allowed for the past 3 three years and the country was still very new to this idea. My experience during those trips were life altering, the two only material souvenirs I have kept from them were my pictures and the Sinh Café t-shirt, which I lost yesterday. It was a tragedy, my roommate confused it with the bag of cloths that was meant to be sent to salvation army. So, I was basically curious to know if the Sinh Café t-shirts are still the same, with the logo in front and the map of Vietnam in red in the back. Was yours just like that? I was thinking of getting back in touch with the tour agency and see if I could order another one.


Posted by: Lorenzo on June 2, 2005

From your description I think they are the same. You can find the sinh cafe web site by doing a google search if you want to get in touch with them.

Posted by: Andrew on June 20, 2005

We are a mature, but fit, couple planning to spend three weeks in Cambodia & Vietnam in November this year. I came across your website as we are interested in travelling from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Min through the Mekong delta. Is the trip you describe suitable for us with suitcases rather than a backpack? I would particularly like to do the Sinh Cafe tour, is the accommodation OK for us oldies, clean beds, air con etc?

Thanks for the website

Ray (getting soft!) Brooks

Posted by: Ray Brooks on August 18, 2005

thinking of traveling from saigon to ankor/siem rep.
think i will book through a tour 2 days up the river to phnom penh.
can u tell me cost of cambodian visa and vietnam visa on re-entry?
also plane fare ( siem rep-saigon or phnom penh-saigon) for return as i go back to saigon to exit home?
also do u know how long a bus takes phnom pehn- siem rep ; also costing.
is the bus the best way to go on this leg?

thanks trevor

Posted by: trevor on August 28, 2005

hi Andrew,

last week, we toured Ha Tien (Kien Giang) and dropped by the local Vietnam-Cambodia border at Xa Xia. We inquired about crossing over to Kampot province (Cambodia)and we were given information (unofficial though) that at the end of the year, the border will be open to foreigners. There was ongoing work on a building which looked like it was on its finishing stage of constructions. The building looked very nice.


Posted by: mk on September 1, 2005

hi, im planning to go to saigon sometime next month.i will be coming from bangkok, will ride a train from there to phnom penh then another ride to saigon.i need more suggestions as to how i can reach saigon. also, how much money do i need to reach saigon from bangkok?

Posted by: moon on September 23, 2005


Yes I think you would be fine with suitecases instead of backpacks. There were plenty of oppurtunities to avoid walking and/or carrying our own luggage on this route if we had wanted to. Also, the hotel rooms were clean with AC on the Sinh Cafe tour.


Posted by: Andrew on September 27, 2005

Trevor & Moon:

It has been a couple years since I was in SE Asia so I can't really help you with current pricing or travel info except to say that you probably won't be taking a train from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. For one it's not possible to go the whole way by train (at least it wasn't 2 years ago) and for another the train in Cambodia is very, very slow. You may want to check out http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com and/or http://www.talesofasia.com/ for more current advice.

Posted by: Andrew on September 27, 2005


i am going on a cruise from Beijing to Bangkok and we have one stop in Ho Chi Minh City and also one in Nha Trang.

in relation to Ho Chi Minh City we would like to see the cu chi tunnels, if they are worth seeing, but at the same time we have heard the shopping is good and the town is nice to see. unfortunately we only arrive 6am and depart at 8pm.

the boat ports at Vung Tau which is 2.5hrs to ho chi minh city and i think 3.5hrs to the tunnels.

we would really like to see both. can you advise if this could be possible? ie would you know how far ho chi minh city is from the tunnels.

Secondly, we have heard the best thing to do in Nha Trang is to go on a boat and see the islands. is that correct? again, we only have 1 day there. would we need to book the boat in advance or are there plenty about just waiting for passengers?

thanks for your help.


Posted by: kim on October 2, 2005

hi there, i plan to visit phnom penh on 20 of march for 7 days. thus, i hope can go along saigon too. i read your article and felt so confusing. avtually how long do we need to travel by boat from phnom penh to saigon? where is Chao Doc? do we need to pass through that area? i ll be very grateful for your precious advise. thanks

Posted by: suyen on December 30, 2005

Kim & Suyen:

As mentioned earlier it has been a couple of years since I have been in these areas so I can't really good any current advise.

On the cruise I don't think it's really practical to do both the Cu Chi tunnels and the city. If you hired a car to take you around you could probably pull it off but you would be rushed at both places. Regarding Nha Trang I haven't been on the boat ride so can't really comment on that.

Regarding the location of Chau Doc I would recommend looking at a map in your guide book or on the http://www.lonelyplanet.com web site. You don't have to pass through Chau Doc. If you are just trying to travel to Saigon without seeing anything extra along the way the best way is probably to take the bus directly instead of going through Chau Doc. My description above is about an alternate route, not the most direct one.

Posted by: Andrew on February 6, 2006

Due to the large amount of work it takes to keep this comments section free of spam and also due to the fact that I wrote the original article nearly 3 years ago (and therefore can't really provide current information about the route), additional comments on this page are now closed.

Posted by: Andrew on February 6, 2006