We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

Sydney
Level Contributor
6 posts
15 reviews
Save Topic
Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

As I was sitting on a six hour bus ride the other day with nothing to do, I started to ponder this great waste of time. If you are catching a bus to somewhere for the first time, then it's a little interesting, but when you are on a bus ride that you have done countless times, it's just dead time unless you have a book to read, some work to do, or you enjoy watching movies with voice dubbing. It occurred to me however that I may actually have something that few people might share. I have gained an in depth knowledge about most of the bus companies that operate the flat as a pancake run from Phnom Penh to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and back. I do it so often (for work), that I have it down to a routine. So if I was to share some of this knowledge, then it might help others and that is apparently what travel forums are all about. So, here goes:

Plane or bus?

The flight is usually around $165USD minimum and takes fifty minutes or so. It's a monopoly by Vietnam Airlines, so prices aren't going to drop any time soon. By the time you get to the airport, wait for the flight, exit the other end and wait for luggage, you are looking at three and a half hours. The bus costs between $8 and $12 and takes six hours normally, so you are paying $1.02 for each minute of the one hundred and fifty minutes you are saving.

Bus-lines ranked by rating

Mekong Express Lmousine Bus (8/10) $12

Mekong Express were one of the first Cambodian companies to do this run. They have some older Japanese buses (Mitsubishi, Nissan, Hino) that they have painted an attractive orange and white color. The buses, while a little old are kept clean and tidy. They have a toilet on board to the rear of the bus which is the item that causes them to lose a point in my review. Probably because the buses are a little old, the toilet sometimes releases some nasty odors into the cabin. Asides from this though, they are a smooth operation. When you arrive to check in, they are well organised. They tag your bag and give you the number to reclaim it at the other end. They provide seats for waiting. They diligently check to ensure that you have a valid visa. Then when the bus arrives, the well dressed bus guide, will show you to your seat. This guide is usually a good communicator and this is helpful when you are stopping for a meal break or going through the sometimes confusing border procedure. This company is by far the most reliable. You can see the staff getting highly stressed if their departure is delayed by more than five minutes where other companies usually stretch it to try and get a few more customers or wait for some idiot that couldn't arrive on time. The reliability and service may explain why there are often a lot of Cambodians using this bus to travel to Vietnam for medical treatment. The Cambodian crowd that you meet on this bus are usually well mannered and friendly. The bus leaves from O'Russey market in Phnom Penh usually and finishes it's journey in Pham Ngu Lao HCMC. Tickets can be brought through agents and hotels everywhere.

Sapaco Tourist 7/10 $12

This is the Vietnamese equivelant to the Mekong Express. They have newish Samco/Hino buses that are quite comfortable. They have a toilet in the middle of the bus (sunken a little into the floor with steps). These guys do about seven buses every day in both directions and are the first choice for the Vietnamese travelers (mainly business travelers). These buses are often full. Where the Mekong Express staff are adorably over-polite and gentle, the Sapaco staff are usually gruff, but efficient (a cultural thing). There are usually an over-supply of these staff, dressed in blue workers shirts and blue jeans. The English and Khmer language skills aren't very good, and they don't tell you a lot about what is happening or what to expect next. They just sort of grunt and point. They always check your passports for a valid visa and will mostly leave on time. If they don't then they make up for it with the presumably faster, newer bus. The bus leaves from Olympic Stadium area in Phnom Penh usually and finishes it's journey in Pham Ngu Lao HCMC. Tickets can be brought through agents and hotels everywhere.

Malinh Express /Malinh Tourist 6.5/10 $9-10

Malinh are a transport empire in Vietnam. They do everything from micro taxis, to huge buses and everything in between. All these vehicles are driven by staff dressed in white shirts with green ties. They have a strict company charter that prohibits them from trawling for extra customers along the way and they are pretty punctual. The buses are usually nice new Hyundais without a toilet which means that they stop occasionally for a toilet break. The staff don't usually speak much English or Khmer, but they generally try to be helpful by handing you a fake-silk pillow to rest your head on.

The bus leaves from Olympic Stadium area in Phnom Penh usually and finishes it's journey in Pham Ngu Lao HCMC. Tickets can be brought through agents and hotels everywhere.

Kumho Samco 6/10 $11

Strange name, nice bus. I recently discovered this bus company coming back from Saigon. They have newish Samco/Hino buses withe the toilet in the middle of the vehicle. They have reduced the seating capacity to 32people, thereby giving some nice extra legroom and seats that recline a long way. The staff were nice enough, but completely disorganised at the start. They improved when we reached the border. The main downsides where that they left twenty five minutes late because they were waiting for a passenger that was a buddy of one of the staff and also that the volume on the entertainment system was too high. Their taste in voice dubbed movies was also appalling, but hey, nothing new there. The bus leaves from somewhere in Phnom Penh usually and finishes it's journey in Pham Ngu Lao HCMC. Tickets can be brought through agents and hotels in some places. I think this company is poorly managed, but they have nice buses:)

Phnom Penh Sorya 168 Bus Company 6/10 $6-7

You get what you pay for. These guys are OK, they are just a cheapo bus company. Ageing Hyundai buses, sometimes with doors that don't close properly. The staff are usually helpful, friendly, but pretty disorganised. They sometimes have a toilet and sometimes don't. departure punctuality isn't bad, but they are not adverse to trawling along the way for more customers. The bus leaves from Central market in Phnom Penh usually and finishes it's journey in Pham Ngu Lao HCMC. Tickets can be brought through agents and hotels everywhere.

Van Rec Co 5/10 $6-7

Ageing buses that they drive like fighter planes. Good if you are in a hurry. Starts? lands? I flagged it down on the bridge over the Bassac river. It stopped in an area of HCMC that I am unfamiliar with. I just got onto a motorbike taxi.

Paramount Angkor Express 2/10 $10-12

These guys suck. I have tried them a couple of times because they have double deckers with heaps of space for cargo (which I sometimes have a bit of) where they have removed seats. The first time I tried them, their bus left fifteen minutes ahead of schedule and I had to argue for a refund. The second time, the staff spent the whole time cackling their heads off so you couldn't hear yourself think. Then we arrived at the border and they realised they hadn't checked their passengers visas. Two young girls didn't have them (thought they could get them at the border). So they turfed the girls out and said "find a taxi". My final attempt with Para-pathetic Angkor Express failed at the border. The guide was so hopeless at getting the passports stamped, that I fled the scene. I already had mine and I could hear that he had lost a few of the arrival forms. After thirty minutes, I walked and grabbed a public bus on the Vietnam side.

So, there it is folks. I hope my knowledge on this obscure matter will help someone in their quest for a smooth bus ride between these two cities.

BL

231 replies to this topic
sydney
Destination Expert
for Cambodia
Level Contributor
17,230 posts
81 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

Many thanks blinkylinky

do vietnamese drivers have their hands welded to the horn as we experienced on the Kep > PP trip we did in April? All I can say is thank god for ipods!

cheers

helen

Kurashiki, Japan
Destination Expert
for Kurashiki, Cambodia, Myanmar
Level Contributor
16,057 posts
95 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

Thanks for that detailed information. (And I am thankful that I can afford to fly!)

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
2,488 posts
142 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

Thanks for your insight Blinky on the buses - we went with Sapaco from Saigon to PP and the young attendant was so helpful - spoke little English but had this great smile that just lit up everytime he spoke.

We were the only non locals on the bus so he made sure that we were well informed (with his broken English) about what was going to happen at the border spots,.

We did a few more bus trips around Cambodia - up to Siem Reap and then back to PP. From Kep back to PP to catch the ferry. However the worst bus trip we did was from Chau Doc to HCMC. Our plans changed that day and we tried to get to Rach Gia to get on a flight but was booked out.

Anyway organised a ticket and got on the bus only to have our bags removed and told to get off the bus and two chairs were put out and we had to sit down and wait. Everyone was staring with no one speaking English. Anyway a young man came up and told us that we had sat is someone else's seat - no allocation on ticket so we just assumed free rein with seats. Anyway sorted it out and we ended up right on the back seat where the airconditioning does not reach so had a bit of a hellish ride for a few hours.

Arrived safely in HCMC amidst a tropical downpour and the bus company kindly arranged a van to take us to the airport free of charge.

You could almost write a book about bus travel in Cam and Viet - meet some interesting characters and really just have to go with the flow.

Sydney
Level Contributor
112 posts
1 review
Save Reply
4. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

Hi

I will visit Cambodia then go to VN in 2 week time.

Can you tell me if MaiLinh bus will pick you up at your hotel?

Do you have any experience with Capitol bus service?

Thanks

QuocBao

Sydney

Kurashiki, Japan
Destination Expert
for Kurashiki, Cambodia, Myanmar
Level Contributor
16,057 posts
95 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

"Can you tell me if MaiLinh bus will pick you up at your hotel?"

Yes, they do that.

"Do you have any experience with Capitol bus service?"

Yes, I've used them. As good as the others, IMO.

Sydney
Level Contributor
112 posts
1 review
Save Reply
6. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

Hi Kurashiki

Many thanks for the info

BTW, can you recommend a -good- but at reasonable price hotel in Sihanoukville.

Cheers

QuocBao

Sydney

Kurashiki, Japan
Destination Expert
for Kurashiki, Cambodia, Myanmar
Level Contributor
16,057 posts
95 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

Lots of places on Serendipity beach (which was veyr pleasant for me), mostly in the $20 range. I stayed at Coaster's, charming bungalows with a lovely sea view, $25 for a huge ensuite double.

Sydney
Level Contributor
112 posts
1 review
Save Reply
8. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

Thank you to all who answered to my questions

QuocBao

Sydney

Manchester, United...
Level Contributor
240 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

brilliant advice as i am finding it expensive flying to pp from manchester uk and thought i might go via hcmc by air but now may consider the bus many thanks

NYC
Level Contributor
637 posts
50 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst

We used the information in the great #1 post ........ and from reading the forums.

We went with Mekong Express from Saigon to PP, and again from PP to Siem Reap ....... all good, no complaints.

Reply to: Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh Buses. The best and the worst
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted