Kep to Can Tho – entering Vietnam

Posted from Ha Tien, Kien Giang, Vietnam.

Some people had told me that the southern crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam at the Prek Chak/Xa Xia border was difficult. After reading what little I could find on the Internet I was becoming absolutely paranoid that it would be my toughest day so far, and yet I was stubbornly certain it was the only way I wanted to go. I’ve been trying to outgrow that stubborn side of mine for decades. Just a note – you ABSOLUTELY NEED to prearrange a visa before getting to Vietnam. Do this in Sihanoukville, Bangkok or Phnom Penh (though Phnom Penh just sends them to Sihanoukville.)

I think a lot of stuff online is outdated as it was no where near as difficult or tricky or corrupted as it’s made out to be. (First, you can get bus tickets in Cambodia from Sihanoukville to HCMC or Can Tho. Second, buses can go over the border, but you do have to get out to go through customs.) 

I booked a ticket from my hotel, Bacoma, with Kampot Tours, a little mini-van operation that operates from Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep and onward to Ha Tien. I had read so many things about there not being a direct bus onward, which I guess when you switch countries that’s to be expected, but I’d also read about companies promising you an onward bus once after reaching Ha Tien and no one honouring the ticket. They said to only book a ticket to Ha Tien and get your onward ticket from there. The horror stories were endless.

I had read that before this bus existed people had to take a motorbike taxi to the border, cross on foot at the border and then pick up another motorbike taxi on the other side. The thing about borders is there’s a no-man’s land inbetween and this one was said to be 1km long. But the border is under construction and this was not really the case, though sort of.

The border patrol shack. And the guard shack.

The border patrol shack. And the guard shack.

I’m guessing they wised up to the economic bonuses of tourism and have figured out a few things. My bus picked me up at my hotel about 30 mins late. No biggie. We drove through Kep and down some dirt roads until we got to a town whose roads looked enormously under construction. We passed casinos and stuff, and I realized, we were driving in no-mans land. I’m guessing due to the construction things were a little unusual. Our bus stopped at the Cambodian border shack and our bus driver collected all of our passports. He made sure all our departure cards were filled out and then gave them to the Cambodian border patrol. They stamped our exits and then we all drove through the border in the van to the Vietnam immigration building about 200 meters away.

Some of the on-going construction.

Some of the on-going construction with the Vietnam portal in the distance.

 

We had to pay $1US for the health check (wtf?) and fill out a paper declaring our health. Our driver then took all our passports and brought them to the other border officials and we waited. And waited. And waited. Another van got there just before us and got through rather quickly, but by the time our group got there, there were about four van-loads. It took about an hour to get through.

Walking into the Vietnam Immigration building.

Walking into the Vietnam Immigration building.

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Waiting inside the immigration building.

Next we all walked over to the Vietnam gate and our driver handed our passports to the official there who checked them and handed them back to us each in turn and we got in the van and continued to Ha Tien. We made it to Vietnam!! And it was rather painless. The journey from Kep to the border is only about 30 mins. From the border to Ha Tien about 10 mins.

Getting our passports back and entering Vietnam!

Getting our passports back and entering Vietnam!

Once in Ha Tien I had to hit an ATM. There’s a few in town, and one was close to where the driver dropped us off. He had dropped us at a bus-booking agency. I opted out of getting my ticket here as I figured they would charge me far more for my ticket than regular. I paid a motorbike guy $2USD (more than I thought worth it, but he looked like he really needed the money) to take me to the bus station. I had written down a few key words in Vietnamese the day before so I could communicate.

Once there I wanted to take the Mai Linh buses that I had heard so much about. They are mini-vans, which kinda sucks, but they are express, meaning once they leave the station they don’t stop to pick up more people. You have to switch buses in Rach Gia, but no matter. I didn’t end up taking the minivan. Some shrewd seller at the station convinced me to take the local bus – it only took 45 mins longer and for $3 less. And it was quite comfortable. I got a window seat that opened perfectly to provide my elbow with an elbow rest.

Some locals sitting on stools by the front.

Some locals sitting on stools by the front.

Here’s why my $2 was worth going to the bus station. They pack this bus! We picked up so many people along the way, including the people from the bus ticket agency who were on my bus from Kep. Thing is, some of them had bought tickets in Sihanoukville to get them all the way to Can Tho. So there are companies out there who will honour onward tickets and get you to where you need to go. Things really have improved. Apart from the fact that some people were sitting on stools in the aisle. But only some. But I got that window seat! I was comfy.

So the bus left at 2 p.m. and I got into Can Tho around 7:45 p.m. I took a motortaxi to my hotel – which I pre-booked (it’s nearly Tet and I need to make sure I have a place to stay.) I got my room, went and walked around, bought a floating market tour – actually the hotel kind of sort of arranged it (another story) and got something to eat and went to bed. Floating market tour starts whenever you want, but I went at 5 a.m. to avoid tourists and see the sun rise. But that’s another story.

7 Responses to Kep to Can Tho – entering Vietnam

  1. Hi Sheri, cool site. I see you have experienced some of the pleasures that SEAsia has to offer already.
    Keep on writing. Take care and see you around.
    Cheers, Bert.

    Bert February 5, 2013 at 9:54 am Reply
  2. Thanks SO much – exactly what we want to hear! We are at Bacoma now wondering how to do it , so great to know your story – thank you!

    Adam March 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm Reply
  3. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

    removals December 6, 2013 at 6:39 am Reply
  4. We booking a ticket from sihanoukville to Can Tho. The guy from Be Happy tavel in Otres 2 promised a 7-8 hour trip. Of course the pickup was late by 45 minutes. The drive to Ha Tien included an unexpected 1 hour wait in Kampot so other passengers can be collected. The border procedure till Ha Tien was the same as described in the blog. In Ha Tien we were taken to the local bus which was not the best but reasonable. The whole trip from Otres 2 to Can Tho took 10.5 hours as the local bus stopped many times on the way. We payed 23$ for the whole journey. I think you can do it for less if you arrange it on your own.

    yahalom May 17, 2015 at 10:52 pm Reply
    • I completely agree. My whole journey was to try and do it like a local and for fairly cheap. I bet a private car would only be about $100. But local buses work too. They charge a different rate to tourists. And a lot of locals don’t see why tourists want to travel on the local buses when they have money. But in the end, Can Tho is worth it. Definitely one of my favourite places in Vietnam!

      Sheri May 18, 2015 at 1:56 am Reply
  5. So. What about getting back into Cambodia? Anyone do that?

    November July 5, 2018 at 4:29 pm Reply
  6. Also – anyone go all the way to HoChiMin?

    November July 5, 2018 at 4:30 pm Reply

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