If you are in Ho Chi Minh City and want to extend your stay, you might be thinking of the best and most cost efficient way to do that. The answer: The now infamous ‘Moc Bai Border Run’. It can seem like a daunting task with so many things to think about, but this article will give you all the tips and advice needed to get there and the process once you are at the border.
If you are in Ho Chi Minh City the nearest land border crossing is Moc Bai, about 70km from the city. There are a number of options to choose from to get you there, as usual depending on your budget and convenience it varies.
Taking The Bus
Most people go for the bus option, as it is the most convenient and not expensive if you choose the right company. The simple rule is, the more you pay the more comfort you get, but more importantly the service from the bus company to help you get through the border is also better. The bus station is located in District 1 (See map below). My advice would be to go with Kumho Samco, they are probably the best bang for your buck. Buses are nicely air-conditioned, seats are moderately comfortable and they pretty much do the whole Visa process for you. Don’t be alarmed if they take your passport before you even set off from the bus station in Ho Chi Minh, they are being organised and the bus conductor will take your passport straight to the border officer, but more on that later. Prices are approximately 300k VND one way. So there are cheaper options if you really want to save the pennies.
Taking A Taxi
There is the taxi option, but honestly it’s probably going to cost you the same as a flight to the nearest international destination if you flew, which completely takes away the point of this article. So we will just leave it there.
Going It Alone – Taking Your Motorbike
You will hear people say that riding to Moc Bai is crazy and not worth it, but in my honest opinion it is the cheapest and most efficient option. I live west of the centre of District 1 (The centre of Ho Chi Minh), so it doesn’t make sense for me to go into town and catch a bus just to go back past my house. You don’t even need Google Maps, as the road is just one main road all the way to Moc Bai. Just stay on the QL22 and you can’t go wrong. I have used Google Maps Sat Nav before and actually the App will tell you to veer off the main road and go down small country lanes, so my advice is to look at the map before and not trust Google Maps Sat Nav as it’s not perfect for guidance during this route, so just stay on the QL22 road even if Google Maps Sat Nav tells you to turn off the main road. The journey takes about 2 hours and in total the cost of petrol for your bike will be no more than 60k VND. Then, when you get there follow the signs for a bike parking right next to the security gate, it costs 10k VND to park. The other plus is if you like riding then it’s a nice way to get out of the city and see something different.
The Visa Process
So this is where it can seem complex. So let’s break it down.
First, you need to stamp out of Vietnam, go to one of the border officers at the border gates. If you took the bus option follow the crowd and wait patiently for the bus conductor to call your name and get your passport back, you can then walk through the gate. If you are on your own, get your Visa letter ready and make sure everything is in order, you don’t want any delays especially if your Vietnamese is not up to scratch. My advice: There are plenty of visa fixers waiting for you custom to help you through the gate, this is the best option if you are not used to the border process. Just remember you don’t need to pay anything more than $10USD for their help.
Second, you are now stamped out of Vietnam, so proceed to walk through the ‘No Man’s Land’ between the Vietnam and Cambodian borders. It’s a short walk, but men on motorbikes will ask you if you want to pay 10k VND and get a lift with them, honestly if you have been sat on a bus for 2 hours, you might as well use the time to stretch and get some blood flow back into your legs. Now you have to stamp into Cambodia, the office is just inside the main building and you will see sign posts for it. There you will be in a dark room with Cambodian border officers waiting at the desks. Now it’s time to make sure your Cambodian Visa is ready as again you don’t want any confusion or delays. Once stamped into Cambodia you are half-way through!
Thirdly, you walk outside into Cambodia, now turn left and back around to the exit gate, which is outside. Here you can stamp out of Cambodia, but be prepared to pay the officer, usually they ask for $1USD or 20k VND. Then you can walk back to the Vietnam border along the same ‘No-Man’s Land road’.
Finally, you can stamp back into Vietnam, have your Vietnam visa ready and it should be plain-sailing from here. It’s the same building for the entry gate just in another room next to the exit gate. Get it stamped and double-check your visa to make sure it has been done correctly. Then, you are done! Just like that. When leaving if you are taking a bus there should be a bus waiting 20 metres from the exit, it will always be heading back to Ho Chi Minh, so don’t worry too much about that, just make sure you are getting a fair price back.
So I know it’s a lot to take in, but just follow these steps and you can’t go too wrong. My final tip and maybe the most important of them all. Go early! Do not leave it to later in the day as buses stop running around early evening and you don’t want to be stuck at the border. Also, getting to the border around 9am is perfect, as most tourist buses haven’t reached there yet and the gates are usually queue-free.
I hope this has helped anyone feeling nervous or stressed with the process. Good luck!