If you are traveling between Vietnam (Moc Bai) and Cambodia (Bavet) chances are that you will cross at what is known as the Moc Bai – Bavet border. This is one of the main borders between Vietnam -Cambodia.
There are several ways you can go across the border. One is that you take the bus from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh or vice versa. The other way is that you simply walk across the border. Both of these methods are quite easy and straightforward for you to do.
About Moc Bai And Bavet Border
On the Vietnamese side, the border is called Moc Bai. Moc Bai is in Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam. The Cambodian side of the border is called Bavet in Svay Rieng Province in Cambodia. When at the border you will find a lot of people on both sides of the border that are able to speak both languages.
Surrounding the Moc Bai, Vietnam border there is really not much around the border area except some small Vietnamese towns. But on the Bavet side or the Cambodian side of the border are a lot of casinos that offer a lot of gambling. It is kind of like a very mini Las Vegas.
I am told that many Vietnamese will come to the Bavet side to gamble. There is a bridge and a river there that they call the river or bridge of death as several Vietnamese have jumped off it to kill themselves after losing so much with their gambling.
Travel tips for border crossings
Traveling the border is not the same as flying into a country, particularly if you are coming into Vietnam. Here are a few tips and suggestions:
- Cambodian Visa at the border – You can get a Visa at the border for Cambodia when you go from Vietnam to Cambodia. Right outside the border is a small booth where they give you a visa. You need to fill out a form, pay the visa fee. The entire process is quite easy, quick and straight forward.
- Vietnamese Visa at the border – For Vietnam you cannot get a visa at the border, if you want to enter Vietnam from Cambodia you must have a visa. Many bus companies will even check this in Phnom Penh before you get on the bus. The only place in Vietnam you can get a visa upon entry is at the airports. To learn more about this you can read our blog entitled Vietnam Travel Visa, What You Need To Know Before You Go, by clicking here. If you go to Cambodia and need to enter Vietnam again, then you will need to be sure to get a multiple entry visa.
- Vietnamese stamping fee at the border – The last time we went across the border we had a pay a 1 USD or 30,000 dong fee. We are not sure what the fee was for as there was no receipt and immigration did not tell us what it was for. But this was not just a fee that foreigners had to pay, but also they were charging Vietnamese the same amount. This was the first time we have ever seen this kind of fee or had any money asked for us to pay at the border. Some bus companies may take care of this fee so you do not need to worry and others may not. Be aware of this if you are traveling across the Moi Bac- Bavet border that after stamping your passport and before they will give it back to you they may ask for some sort of fee.
- Prepare USD Cash – For your Cambodian visa you will need to have USD cash, so be sure to have at least 35 USD cash. Just in case it would be better if you had 50 to 100 USD cash as Cambodia will ask for all payments to be made in USD Cash. There is really nowhere to change money at the border nor have I seen an ATM, so you should be prepared and bring the USD cash with you.
The bus between Vietnam and Cambodia
Most foreigners who cross into Cambodia from Vietnam or into Vietnam from Cambodia by land will cross at the Moc Bac – Bavet border crossing. Crossing with a bus company is very easy and relatively straight forward.
There are quite a few bus companies that operate this route between Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh. Many buses leave Ho Chi Minh in the morning and some in the afternoon. There are some overnight buses but usually, that means you get to the border, sleep there and then when the border opens you start into Phnom Penh.
The duration of the ride is 6 to 7 hours. The time can depend on a lot of things as:
- Traffic – Traffic is especially bad in Ho Chi Minh and it just continues to get worse each time I go down there. What used to take 1 or 2 hours can now take 3 or 4 hours. So depending on the traffic it can take time for the bus to get to the border crossing.
- How busy the border is – if the border is really busy this can also add to your trip. If a few buses happen to come in at the same time then it can take the few border patrol or customs people who are working at the border time to stamp everyone’s passport.
- People on the bus – If someone on your bus has a problem of some kind with their visa or passport or luggage it an slow down the entire bus.
Bus Companies in Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh
The major bus companies in Ho Chi Minh that sell tickets to Phnom Penh are listed below. These same bus companies will also run the route from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh.
- Giant, Ibus Bus – This is the more expensive of the bus companies but they are also running smaller buses The cost is about 18 USD One bus leaves at 8 am from Ho Chi Minh and has only 9 seats and another bus leaves at 9:45 am with just 18 seats. The bus also has free wifi. The advantage, of course, is the border should be quicker with fewer people to process on the bus. You can find out more about them and their schedule by clicking here.
- Mekong Express – The Mekong Express bus has a lot of the same amenities as the Giant Ibus but is slightly cheaper at 15 USD. You can find out more about their schedule and their buses by clicking here.
- The Sinh Tourist – This is a larger bus company that runs a lot of routes throughout Vietnam and also in Cambodia. They are cheaper than the other two options at 14 USD. You can find out more about them and their schedule by clicking here.
- Sorya Bus – The cheapest of all the bus options are the Sorya bus company. There have been some complaints that people had things stolen on their buses. To learn more about some tips on avoiding this, you can read some of our bus safety tips below. You can find out more about them by clicking here.
Bus safety travel tips
Here are some bus safety travel tips to help ensure that your travel is safe:
- Seat Belts – The better bus companies should have seat belts that work. Many buses in Asia have seat belts but not all the seat belts may work. Wear a seat belt when sitting.
- Valuables – Do not put any valuables under the bus in checked luggage. Many people think because they have valuables under a bus that they are safe, but this may not be the case. Carry them on the bus and keep an eye on them.
- Passport and papers – Also keep your passport and papers safe. I keep mine way down in my backpack. When you go out of the customs in both Cambodia and Vietnam you need to show your passport and the stamp. So get into the habit that as soon as you leave this area you stop and put the passport away.
- Do not leave things on the bus – When you are going in to get your passport stamped and to go through immigration it can be tempting for you to want to leave things on the bus. Never leave anything on the bus, take it with you.
For some more tips about staying safe during your travels, you can check our blog entitled Is Cambodia Safe to For a Solo Female Traveler to Travel Alone? by clicking here.
Walking across the Moc Bai Vietnam and Bavet Cambodian border crossing.
The way we cross the border is to walk across the border. Many people may not realize this but you can simply walk from Moc Bai Vietnam into Bavet Cambodia. For example, if you are visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, that areas is not too far from the Moc Bai border crossing.
The reason we do this is many times we are working somewhere near the border or close enough that it would take us 1 or 2 hours to get back to Ho Chi Minh or 1 hour to get to the border, so we choose to go direct to the border. We will have our driver or taxi drive us all the way to the Moc Bai border entrance.
Once you are at the border there are usually a lot of motorcyclists who want to try to take our bags from us and carry them on their motorbikes for a fee. We just ignore them and keep on walking into the border crossing.
I do not use the motorcyclists because I do not know them and I do not want my bag to leave my side. I just feel like the safest thing for me to do it to have my bag with me all the time and not give it to a random person I do not know.
Once inside the border crossing Vietnam will Xray your luggage and then you go through the immigration. Before you leave the immigration another official at a desk will ask to check your passport and stamp.
Once you are outside then you can walk to the Cambodian side. It is pretty straight forward since all you need to do is to walk straight. You can see the Cambodian style buildings ahead of you which is also the Cambodian border crossing.
You will see some buses but a lot of vehicles are container trucks all waiting to get through to the border. There is a bad sidewalk that you can walk on and it can be fun to go to the actual border area that is marked by both flags and a small monument.
If you are taking the bus across the border they will not allow you to walk the border. You will go through the Vietnamese immigration, get back on the bus and then get out on the Cambodia side and got through Cambodian immigration before getting back on the bus.
Finding your way to Phnom Penh
Most people who cross by walking the border will want to find their way into Phnom Penh and not stay in Bavet at the border. Bavet does have some hotels if you choose to stay there. The Bavet or Cambodian side of the border has more hotels than the Moc Bai side. The reason is that Bavet has a lot of gambling so it is like a very mini Las Vegas.
If you need to stay at the border area I would probably choose the Cambodian or Bavet side as there seem to be a lot more choices for hotels on that side of the border.
Many times when we enter the border area, there are some guys on motorcycles hanging about. Sometimes if we tell them we are looking for a ride to Phnom Penh they will quote us a price. These guys are like an agent and they will help the drivers to find a ride back to Phnom Penh.
Drivers from Phnom Penh may drive up to the border every day. They will drive people to the border to drop them off, so they can walk across the border. We have met a lot of people who will cross the border this way, These same drivers want to get back to Phnom Penh with someone they can bring back with them, so they will wait there at the border for new passengers.
A problem with this can be if you get across the border too late it may be hard for you to find a ride to Phnom Penh as all the drivers have already left with their passengers. Or if there is just one car left he may ask for a lot of money to bring you to Phnom Penh We have found if we get to the border about 3 or 4 pm we can usually find a ride to Phnom Penh and still get into Phnom Penh at a decent hour.
The ride to Phnom Penh is on very good roads, in fact, the roads to Phnom Penh are less congested and better quality than many roads from Ho Chi Minh to the border. Traffic is usually pretty smooth sailing and consistent. The drive usually takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. We usually do not hit a lot of traffic until we are about ready to enter the Phnom Penh area.
The ride itself is quite interesting as you are able to see a lot of the Cambodian countryside and small towns that you would not normally see. The road is just a two-lane highway and so if you are very nervous about your driver having to pass other cars on a two-lane road this may not be the ride for you.
The cost we pay for the ride really depends on the day and the driver but a reasonable amount is between 40 to 60 USD for the entire trip. We will usually give our driver a small tip, especially if he has been very good and given us good service.
Tips about finding a car and driver to take you to Phnom Penh at the Bavet Cambodia border.
Most people who are going across the border usually go from Vietnam to Cambodia, so a lot of what I write here will apply also if you are going from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh.
Here are a few tips to help you get a car and driver to take you to Phnom Penh:
- Agent – If you are going to use an agent to help you find a driver, then make sure the agent is doing their job and they can actually speak English to help you talk to the driver. Many of the drivers will not speak English and so you may need someone who can help you.
- Cash – Be prepared to have USD cash. You will need to pay the driver in cash. Normally the driver will pay the agent, but there may be circumstances they do not. Understand beforehand, who is going to pay what and what you must pay. Please note the driver will not accept credit cards.
- Sim cards – You can get a Cambodian sim card at the border. If for some reason you cannot get one there, then ask your driver to stop in Bavet to help you get one. If you need a phone then you will have one you can use.
- Car Safety – We have always been safe in the cars and on our drive, But before you get in a car you may want to take a quick look at the car itself to make sure it looks safe. You would want a car that has working seat belts and also is relatively new so it will not break down on the way.
- Dropping off at the hotel. – Make sure before you get in the car that you let the driver know you want to be dropped at your hotel and not just taken to Phnom Penh where you will need to take another taxi. If your hotel is far away, you may need to consider to have the driver just drop you off and you then get another taxi. Depending on where your hotel is and how the traffic, this could also add to the cost. If the traffic is really bad it could take the driver another hour to get you to your hotel once you reach Phnom Penh. This should all be negotiated and decided before you get in the car.
- Have the address you want to go handy – Phnom Penh can have really confusing addresses and many of the hotels are small boutique hotels. So it is best you have not only the hotel address but also the phone number as sometimes it can be really tough for these drivers who mainly drive between Phnom Penh and the border to find out the location of your hotel. This can also be true on the Vietnamese side in that many of the long-distance drivers may not know the city locations very well.
Why cross the border this way?
There may be many who ask, why would you ever want to cross the border this way? If we are working in Ho Chi Minh or outside the Ho Chi Minh area crossing the border may actually be the same amount of time or just a bit more than if we have flown in by airplane.
Here are some of the reason why we cross the border this way:
- No delays – It is not uncommon for flights to be delayed in both Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh. Many times the check-in lines and the security lines can also be very long so you may need to be at the airport at least 1.5 or 2 hours before a flight. The flight between Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh is only 45 minutes, but if the flight is delayed then time-wise it could be similar.
- Traffic – Traffic in both Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh can be unpredictable. Sometimes from the Phnom Penh airport to my hotel can take over an hour. Also in Ho Chi Minh, the time can be similar. So if you are working or visiting out near the border and you need to get into Phnom Penh, it may just be easier to walk across the border than to try to go back to Ho Chi Minh to fly out.
- Cost – When we travel there are usually 2 or 3 of us that are traveling. Taking the taxi to the border is usually cheaper than if we purchased three flight tickets.
- Time – When you arrive into Phnom Penh or Ho Chi Minh you still need to go through the border patrol and immigration. The last time we flew into Ho Chi Minh from Phnom Penh just to get out of the Vietnamese customs took us over an hour. I did not even need a visa, so I imagine those foreigners who were getting visas at the border had to be in there at least 1.5 to 2 hours. The last time we crossed the border from the time we left the Vietnamese side, walked to Cambodia and got our visa, the entire process took us just under 1 hour. We even stopped to go to the toilet and get a sim card and something to drink. It was all pretty easy and pretty smooth.
It is relatively easy to cross the Vietnamese Moc Bai and the Cambodian Bavet border crossing. You can very easily take a bus between the two cities or you can walk across the border. It is also an interesting way to see some of the countrysides of both Vietnam and Cambodia.
What tourist sites are close to the Moc Bai Vietnamese border?
There are several tourist locations not too far from the Moc Bai border. The Cu Chi Tunnels are about 38 kilometers but as the roads are not very fast roads it will take you about 1 hour in a car or taxi to get to the border gate. The Tan Son Nhat Airport is about 2 hours away if there is not a lot of traffic.
Also in the area is the Tay Ninh Holy See or the (Cai Dai Temple); That temple is about 30 kilometers from the Moc Bai border or about a 48-minute drive.
You could get a car from Ho Chi Minh to take you both of these places in the morning and then to drop you off at the Moc Bai border.
How can I get a Vietnamese Visa in Phnom Penh?
If you plan to cross at the Bavet border into Vietnam, you will need to get your Vietnamese Visa before you cross into Vietnam. A Vietnamese visa is not available at the Moc Bai border crossing. The best place to obtain the visa would be directly from the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh.
The Embassy of Vietnam in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is located at
436 Boulevard Monivong, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Embassy is open Monday through Friday, except for public holidays. To find out more about the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, please visit their website by clicking here.