After spending 3 nights in Saigon, we departed for Kep, Cambodia to meet our cousin.
This town wasn’t part of our itinerary but our cousin convinced us to go there. Glad we did!
The Hatien/ Xa Xia-Prek Chak border is the border crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia on the southernmost part of the countries. This is our first border crossing by land.
Only few tourists cross here so you get serviced immediately once you arrive. Immigration officials, though, take their time in processing. For one, they have all the time in their hands. Also, manual processing happens at least in the Cambodian border.
Expect that some personnel might not be welcoming to tourists but it’s fine so long as you get your stamps. It takes time getting used to foreigners anyway even if you have the same skin color. :-)
Border Schedules: 7am-8pm
How to get there:
We booked a bus to Hatien, the Vietnam border town, through one of the travel agencies in Saigon. There are no direct buses from Saigon to Kep crossing the borders.
Hours: 9 hours | Price: $12 each including pickup from the travel agency office
The 9-hour bus ride included a 1-hour ride via taxi pickup from the travel agency to the bus station kiosk in town. Afterwards, a minibus transferred us to the main bus terminal. That’s how far the city bus terminal is from town.
We had a sleeper bus which was comfortable (Kumho Bus Line). The driver and conductor were polite as they handed black plastic bags for shoes. Foot wear should be removed before embarking.
The bus ride included a ferry crossing the wide river from a Vietnam town to another before proceeding.
The bus stopped in the local terminal in Hatien. We negotiated for a moto ride to Kep, stopping on the borders for the formalities. My first long moto ride began!
On the Vietnam Border:
The moto drivers stopped just before the border and told us to walk towards the immigration window located on the left side of the building.
We showed our passports. The immigration officers swiped it on the scanner and stamped our exit. No questions asked.
Do ensure that you get an exit stamp instead of another entry stamp. We got delayed in re-entering Vietnam from Laos due to the technical miss in the Hatien border.
We rode on the motos again and stopped just before the Prek Chak border. Then, we had to walk towards the office.
On the Cambodian Border:
The immigration office is just a small hut with officials waiting for arrivals and departures.
We presented our passports and the official gave us an entry and exit form to fill up. Once done, he manually wrote the details from our passport, clips the exit form and stamped the number of days (14 days).
A health station is located beside the office but we weren’t required to go there anymore.
We met with our drivers and headed off to Kep.
There are no available ATMs nor money exchanges on the two borders as of December 2014.
Bring US$ or Cambodian Riel (KHR) before crossing the border from Vietnam, although it is better if you have KHR so you don’t lose on FX rate conversion since US$1 is fixed at KHR 4,000 in the country except in grocery stores where US$1 = KHR 4,100.
Also note that Cambodia uses both US$ and KHR so sometimes, you’ll find yourself receiving change in the two currencies when you buy anywhere around even if you paid in US$ OR KHR.
Crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam is easier as Vietnam uses Dong as its national currency.
How to get out:
It is better if you get a night bus so you arrive early in the morning.
It takes 20 minutes to get to the Hatien border from the local bus station. According to Lonely Planet, direct buses run from Hatien to the below Cambodia towns at midday and 4pm daily.
- Kep $12 – 1 hour
- Kampot $15 – 1.5 hours
- Sihanoukville $20 – 4 hours
- Phnom Penh $18 – 4 hours
- xe om/ motorbike taxis to Kep: $15 – 45mins. to 1 hour
We took the morning bus from Saigon and arrived in Hatien around 430pm. The only available ride were motos. The drivers initially charged us $17 each but we were able to negotiate for $15, although our cousin informed us that a moto ride should just be $10. By the afternoon, your chances of haggling becomes slim.
If you’re already in Cambodia, you can visit Kep from Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville or Kampot on cheaper rates.
- Scout for the cheapest bus fare possible around the backpacker area in Saigon. But ensure that the bus is one of the reliable bus operators. Kumho Bus Line is one of them.
- Although we didn’t consider stopping, Hatien looked like an interesting place to explore even just for a day. Its candy-colored buildings brighten the riverbank and paved roads lead to the border.
- Casino constructions are ongoing in the Prek Chak border. The moto ride gave us a glimpse of the soon-to-be entertainment place. Once opened, the Hatien-Prek Chak border will soon become a popular crossing.
- The afternoon moto ride to Kep was memorable! For one, it was my first long motorcycle ride. Rice fields dotted the surroundings. Palm trees and mountains also abound and the orange light from the sunset provided dramatic shots.
For information on our other SEA border crossings, you can check the links here.