Our Indochina trip is the first international trip that most of our friends have (and that includes me by the way). One of our friends acted as the main organizer of the trip while most of us helped out in confirming our accommodations, places to visit and food to try (I volunteered for the food).
Since most of us are first timers, aside from reading blogs on the places to visit and on how to pass through immigration; we also read blogs on how to cross borders. We decided the sequence of our Indochina trip, Vietnam to Cambodia to Thailand. Here I am sharing my personal experience on how we cross the Indochina border.
Vietnam to Cambodia
We usually had free time in our itinerary in between our tours. Hence, we use this time to walk around Ho Chi Minh city and that includes getting tickets to Phnom Penh (you can check my Vietnam blog here). Around the bus station, there are a lot of agencies that gets you from Vietnam to Cambodia. We went to three agencies before we decided on transacting with Loc Hong Tours. We got a 9 USD ticket per person.
At 7:00AM, we went to their office and had a mini van picked us up and dropped us off at the bus station. We initially thought that there was a different pick up point for us for the bus but we were surprised that it is the bus station across the street. Well, I guess that is already included in ticket we paid.
As the passengers started to fill the bus, the conductor collected our passports. I was initially worried but just gave my passport like the other passengers. We left the bus station at around 9:30AM.
The bus was quite comfortable, both aircon and wifi are working. At around 11:30 AM, we stopped for toilet and bought some snacks. We arrived at the Vietnamese Immigration at 12:30PM. All of us got out of the bus and queued in front of an immigration officer. Suddenly, a man told us that we should line up to the immigration officer at the far left. He is a Filipino who is working in Cambodia and initially he thought we were Indonesians because of the words we are using. He is from Luzon and we are from the Visayas and Mindanao. The dialects are different. He advised us we should line-up at the immigration officer as to whom the conductor gave our passports.
After being called by the immigration officer, we had our passports back and went out to ride the bus again. In less that five minutes, we arrived at the Cambodian Immigration. We went out of the bus and queued for the immigration officer to check our passports. They gave us a form and I kept it in my passport holder.
We rode the bus and then the wifi stopped. I guess the connection is only up to the Vietnam border. At around 1:30 PM, the bus stopped for lunch. Once all the passengers have mounted the bus, we took off. We arrived at Phnom Penh bus station at around 5:00 PM.
Cambodia to Thailand
We visited Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. A private van took us from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap for seven hours (you can check my Cambodia blog here). Our hostel was offering a bus to take us to Bangkok but we opted on looking for much cheaper prices. It was around 18 USD. So we scourge the surrounding area if somebody could tell us where the bus station, but they only led us to travel agencies. Initially we wanted a sleeper bus, but it was not available so we just took the day schedule. The ticket costs 12 USD.
The bus picked us up at our hostel at 8:00 AM just in time we had just finished our breakfast. We spent time picking up passengers from other hotels before we started to travel to Thailand.
Actually I cannot remember some of the bus stops because I was mostly asleep the entire journey. We visited Angkor Wat the day before and slept late because we wanted to enjoy the last hours we had left in Siem Reap. Around 3:00 PM, the conductor asked us to get out of the bus for the Cambodian Immigration. As we went out, the conductor would stick red sticker on your shirt.
The conductor seemed confuse as to where he would put the sticker and finally decided to delicately stick it above my chest. No, I didn’t feel violated just concerned. If I had just known I could have stuck it on my own.
We queued in front of an immigration officer. They were asking for the form given to us when we entered Cambodia. Ooops! So we got out of the line, searched for it and filled it up before returning at the back of the line. One of my friends even lost the form, she just asked for another at the separate office.
I was quite unlucky because the immigration officer had a lot of questions to the persons in front of me. I was the last one to leave the immigration office.
My friend, who was the first to finish waited for me, while the others proceed to the Thai Immigration. We dashed off and almost lost our way. There were kind-hearted locals who directed us to cross the bridge before reaching the Thai Immigration. When we got there, our friends have already secured our forms and we filled it up before proceeding to the second floor where the immigration officers are.
Wow! The line is so long. We chit-chat while waiting for our turn. When we came out of the building, we just walked until we found a group of tourists with red stickers on their shirt. Honestly it is easy to get lost, especially I am not so keen in remembering faces of co-passengers. So the stickers, made up for it. We then rode the bus and arrived at our stop in Bangkok at around 8:30 PM (you can check my Thailand blog here).
Indochina trip for first time travellers is definitiely doable. There are just a lot of things to plan especially flights (much more if connecting flights) and itinerary which include bus schedules. I am just glad I am with my travel buddies who are so fun despite our full schedule. This trip won’t be the last travel adventure with these buddies but I guess no more crossing borders next time.