How to Travel from Thailand to Cambodia and Vietnam
Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam are three of the most popular countries to visit in Indochina, and as a group tour, make the perfect destinations for travel in this part of Southeast Asia. Once a huge part of the area known as French Indochina, the French colonial area of Southeast Asia, these ancient countries have long and varied histories, and are great places to travel in.
Getting from one country to another, though, does require a little planning, as there are certain things to remember when traveling to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. In order to make your tour of these awesome lands, you need to know how to travel from one country to another, and the rules that apply in each, when traveling from Thailand to both Cambodia and Vietnam.
How to Travel from Thailand to Cambodia
Flying from Thailand to Cambodia is easy, as there are several flights a day from Thailand’s airports to two of the three airports in Cambodia. From Bangkok, there are more than fifteen daily flights from both Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Siem Reap International Airport in northern Cambodia. Flights are run by all four of the major Thai airlines, Thai AirAsia, Thai Smile, Thai Airways, and Bangkok Airways, and take around 1 hour 10 minutes to make the flight. An economy-class one-way ticket costs from as little as 44 US dollars for the flight, making it one of the cheapest ways to travel between Thailand and Cambodia.
Thailand to Cambodia by air
Flights are also available from the Phuket International Airport to Siem Reap International Airport, which take around 1 hour 30 minutes and cost from only 57 US dollars for the economy tickets. However, there is only one direct flight per day, and the rest are connecting flights through Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok.
Flights to Phnom Penh are available from both of Bangkok’s international airports, and take from as little as 1 hour to get to the Cambodian capital. Flights cost from around 50 US dollars for an economy ticket, and are a cheap way to get from the Thai capital to Phnom Penh.
Traveling from Bangkok to Cambodia by bus is the cheapest way to get across the border to the Khmer country, and actually offers a much more flexible route than the airlines, despite flights being relatively cheap. If time is not an issue, this can be the easiest and cheapest way to get to Cambodia.
Multi-stop buses leave from the Mo Chit bus terminal in Bangkok daily, and take around 7-10 hours to get to Siem Reap, and another six hours to get to Phnom Penh. These multi-stop buses pick up passengers at several locations along the route to the Cambodian border, but once across the border, run direct to both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh without further pickups along the routes in between.
Thailand to Cambodia by bus
Only one bus departs direct to Phnom Penh, without stopping at Siem Reap, and it leaves Bangkok at 5:00am every morning, including Sunday, arriving in the Cambodian capital at around 6:00pm the same day. The direct bus takes five hours to get to the border, and another seven hours to get to the Cambodian capital.
Both buses are required to stop at the border at Aranyaprathet/ Poipet, for visa and immigration checks, and the issuance of the Cambodian Visa on Arrival. Local visa “assistants” will board the bus to get your required documents and make the applications for you with the immigration office at the border. While they are not “official” assistants, merely touts adding a few dollars to utilize their services, they do work well with the Cambodian immigration officials, and it is very rare for one to try and scam a passenger.
Fares from Bangkok to Siem Reap start at around 24 US dollars, and from Bangkok to Phnom Penh at around 32 US dollars. The visa fee for Cambodia is 30 US dollars for a 30-day visa on your arrival at the border, and the “assistants” normally add just 1-2 dollars for their services.
At the moment, there is currently no direct train that links Bangkok to Phnom Penh, as work to restore the rail link between the two capitals is still underway in Cambodia. Trains only run to the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet, and from there you will need to make other arrangements.
Trains in Bangkok are not the fastest railway services in the world, and are designed more to carry a large number of passengers than to get anywhere in a hurry. It takes the train from Bangkok Station around six hours to get to the Cambodian border town of Aranyaprathet, although the cost is almost ridiculously cheap. At only around 48 baht (a dollar-sixty). While you can buy a combined train/bus ticket in Bangkok to take you all the way to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, it is best to just get the train ticket, to allow more flexibility in travel.
Thailand to Cambodia by train
Once at Aranyaprathet, you can get a tuk-tuk to Poipet, around 6 kilometers from Aranyaprathet, which costs around 80 to 100 baht, depending on how good you are at bartering with the tuk-tuk driver. Once across the border checkpoint, there is an official free shuttle bus to the Poipet Tourist Passenger International Terminal, the main bus station around ten minutes from the border. From there, you can get a bus to Siem Reap for around nine dollars for the 2 hours 30 minutes journey. To get to Phnom Penh from Siem Reap, the buses take around six hours and cost from around 13 to 15 dollars.
Visas to Cambodia can be obtained through the embassy, but there is little need for that with the Cambodian E-visa and the Visa on Arrival services. An E-visa can be applied for andpaid for online, and you can download the “.PDF” file from the website to print as your visa. Just show it to the officials at the immigration office when asked.
The Visa on Arrival is available at the border at Poipet and at both airports, and requires your valid passport, photo, completed application form, and the 30-dollar fee. One of the easiest ways to get a visa for Cambodia, it is the preferred method for most international travelers.
How to Travel from Thailand to Vietnam
Flights to Vietnam from Thailand run from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket to multiple airports in Vietnam, including Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Lien Khuong International Airport in Dalat, Haiphong, Da Nang International Airport, and Phu Quoc International Airport.
All direct flights, the flight from Bangkok to Phu Quoc takes just 1 hour 45 minutes and costs around 167 US dollars, while the flight to Da Nang from Bangkok takes around 1 hour 50 minutes and costs from 60 US dollars. Flights to Haiphong from Bangkok take 1 hour 55 minutes and cost from around 50 US dollars, and to Dalat from Bangkok it costs around 4 US dollars for the 1 hour and 45 minute flight.
Thailand to Vietnam by air
Flights to Ho Chi Minh City run from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. From Phuket, the flight takes 2 hours 5 minutes and costs from around 51 US dollars. From Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, the flight takes two hours and five minutes, and costs from around 50 US dollars, while the flights from Bangkok’s two airports take just 90 minutes and cost from around 46 US dollars.
Flights to Hanoi run from Chiang Mai and Bangkok, with the Bangkok flights costing around 56 US dollars for an economy ticket flight that takes around 1 hour 55 minutes, while from Chiang Mai, the flight takes around two hours and costs around 108 US dollars, making it the most expensive option for flights to Vietnam from Thailand.
With such cheap flights, unless you are on a strict budget, there is little to stop you hopping across the border to save time in your travels between destinations.
Getting a bus from Thailand to Vietnam means crossing the entire country of Cambodia, north to south, and will require you to get a visa on your arrival at the Cambodian border, even if you have no intention of staying anywhere in Cambodia on your way to Saigon. The same can be said of the route that takes you to Vietnam through Laos, which can cross the small narrow country of Laos at several points, which are good for getting to Hue, Hai Phong, and Da Nang.
To use the borders with Cambodia to get to Saigon, you can get a bus that takes you from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City that takes around 29 to 34 hours. Only one bus company runs this direct route from Bangkok to Saigon, Mekong Express, and their coaches are all VIP class buses. Prices, however, are not too expensive, costing around 35 to 50 US dollars for the entire trip, stopping for breaks in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh along the way, and providing their own conductor to handle the paperwork at the Cambodian and Vietnamese borders.
Thailand to Vietnam by bus
If you want to take the cheaper option, you can get a bus to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh for around 32 dollars and then cross the border on a local bus or boat for as little as a few dollars. Buses take around four hours to get to Saigon, while the boat takes around six hours.
If you are thinking of traveling through Laos, then you will need to have your visa for Vietnam before you leave Thailand. There are two main routes to Vietnam from Thailand, via the border crossing into Laos at the Thanaleng Border Crossing in Udon Thani, which takes you into northern Laos, and then across the country to the Nam Can Border Station, from where you can get the local bus to Hanoi. Bangkok to Udon Thani is a long nine hours bus ride, and once across the border into Laos, it takes around six hours to get from Vientiane to the border crossing near Phonsavan at Nam Can. From the border into Vietnam it is then around eight hours to get to Hanoi by bus, or just four hours to the large town of Vinh.
If you are planning to head for central Vietnam the best route is from Bangkok to the town of Sakon Nakhon, in northeast Thailand, which takes around ten hours by bus. From there, you can get a local bus to the border, which takes around two hours, and crosses the border at the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge No. 2, at Savannakhet. From there, a bus to Dansavanh on the Lao Bao border takes around five hours, with the bus from Lao Bao to Hue taking around six hours.
Taking the train from Bangkok to Vietnam means taking a train as far as the border town of Aranyaprathet, on the Cambodian border, and then taking the bus the rest of the way. Cambodia has almost no train tracks, and while there are trains in Vietnam, none of them run into or across Cambodia, making it impossible to ride a train all the way from Thailand to Vietnam.
The visa for Vietnam must be obtained either at an embassy or via their online pre-approved visa service before traveling. Vietnam has no Visa on Arrival service, and travelers that get to the Vietnamese border without the pre-approved visa slip or a visa from an embassy will be turned away to return to Cambodia or Laos at their own expense.
Cambodia, on the other hand, has a great E-visa service, as well as an excellent Visa on Arrival service, which means that getting the visa can be done at any time during your tour, or even when you get to the borders with Cambodia from Thailand or Vietnam.
The Most Suggested Thailand Cambodia Vietnam Tour Itinerary
A combined tour of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam is a trip that really requires a well-planned itinerary, and this should be one of the first things to do before you do anything else.
The ideal itinerary should start in Bangkok and end in Hanoi, with a kid of circuitous route from Thailand to Cambodia, traveling through Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Then on into Vietnam at the border crossing to the south of Phnom Penh, which takes you to Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.
In Vietnam, it is best to travel from south to north, heading up the coast visiting the areas you want to see, such as the historical cities of Hue and Hoi An, or the port of Da Nang. The idea is to end the tour with the time to explore the stunning scenery of Halong Bay, which really requires more than just a day or two, and then end with Hanoi, the unified Vietnamese capital, and one of the most historic cities in the country, where you can get the flight out to your next destination.
If you are planning a trip that includes all three countries, then intense planning is the key. Once you have made your itinerary, stick to it, and try not to vary it too much or you will find yourself missing places you planned to visit. If you want a little leeway to head off on the spur of the moment to somewhere else, then include a little additional time within the schedule for unplanned excursions.
A tour of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam gives you the best of the Indochinese nations all in one package, exploring three different lands that have three different cultures, but all of whom have many things in common. This really is the adventure of a lifetime.
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