As we moved on from Cambodia to Vietnam, we were heading to the Vietnam Delta and so we decided that we’d take a route that we’d done in the past, albeit in the opposite direction. Originally, back in 2014, we’d taken the boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh and we decided to again use the Mekong River as our mode of crossing the border from Cambodia to Vietnam. This is a fabulous way to cross the border, it’s a chilled-out way to travel, and it’s very, very easy. You’ll leave from an easy to get to spot in Phnom Penh and arrive in central Chau Doc, Vietnam. The boat companies that run this route include a guide who speaks enough English to ensure that you and your passport are in the right place at the right time. If you get the chance, take this journey in either direction. Here’s our guide on how to get to Chau Doc from Phnom Penh.
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We’ve had a fabulous week in Cambodia’s capital city, seeing the major sights of Phnom Penh, and once again, visited the Killing Fields of Cambodia. And now it’s time to move on. And as we enjoyed taking this trip when we previously went from Vietnam to Cambodia, we’re doing it again, but this time in the opposite direction.
And this is absolutely the best way to travel from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc. This route takes the Tonle Sap River, then the Mekong River, Keng Xanh, and then the Hau River.
If you’re looking at taking this boat in the opposite direction, then read our review of going from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh here.
Before you book any transport into Vietnam you need to ensure that you have a visa. While Vietnam has a visa-on-arrival scheme that is valid for many travelers, this is ONLY valid at international Vietnamese airports.
Visa on Arrival is NOT valid when going from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc. However, you can use an e-visa for this border crossing.
You need to apply for and get your visa for Vietnam before booking your boat ticket. The boat operators in Phnom Penh will NOT allow you on the boat if you do not have a VALID visa.
How to Get a Vietnam Visa
Getting a visa for Vietnam is easy. You CAN use an e-visa for this border crossing, but you will have to print two copies of the e-visa confirmation and take them both with you. You need to retain the second copy for when you exit Vietnam.
Use the official site – there’s no need to apply via a third party – and the turnaround time is about 3 working days.
Important Note for Getting a Vietnam E-Visa
When you buy an e-visa for Vietnam you have to stipulate which entry point you’ll use. And this is REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT. You also need to include which EXIT point you’ll use (we just opted for Hanoi International Airport for our exit).
Selecting the Vietnam Entry Point for the Phnom Penh to Chau Doc Trip
The Vietnam entry point that you use when traveling on the boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc is
The SONG TIEN LANDPORT.
Yes, I know you’re on the river, but it’s also an entry port on land, so when you get your visa make sure to select SONG TIEN LANDPORT.
The Boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc
There are up to three different companies now running this route, and how many boats are running depends on the time of year and the level of the water in the river. You can book a ticket by going to their offices in Phnom Penh, or go to a travel agent in Phnom Penh. For both of those options, you’ll need to pay cash (usually in US dollars), and if you need change you may get it in Cambodian Riel (not the most convenient of currencies, especially as you are leaving the country!).
You can buy a ticket for the Phnom Penh to Chau Doc boats online here.
Departing By Boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc
The boats that go to Chau Doc from Phnom Penh leave from the dock area by the Titanic restaurant. It’s also called the Passenger and Tourist Terminal. I’ve marked it on the map, so you can find it. You’ll need to arrive at the offices of the boat company about 40 minutes before the departure time (it will be confirmed on your tickets), as the boat company will check that your visa for Vietnam is correct before they allow you to get onto the boat.
Where do boats to Chau Doc leave from in Phnom Penh
The boats leave from the riverside. You’ll see on the map where this is, and you’ll simply walk down to the dock when instructed. There is a small waiting room here, inside, where you can wait before heading down to the dock.
Seating on the boats to Chau Doc from Phnom Penh
It’s free seating on this boat, there are no allocated seats. The boats that travel between Phnom Penh and Chau Doc are long and narrow. There is an inside seating area and a small covered outside area at the back of the boat.
There are two seats on either side of the aisle inside, windows open, and there are curtains on some of the windows.
The seats inside are pretty comfortable, although the recline on the seats may be a little broken on some of them.
At the front of the boat, there’s a glass door that may or may not be propped open. It’s great for airflow if it is, but if it’s raining it will be closed. You’ll want to take a look at where the sun is before picking your seat if you have a choice. (The front seats got a lot of sun for the first couple of hours and there’s no curtain).
Luggage on the boats to Chau Doc from Phnom Penh
You get on the boat at the back and hand over your larger items of luggage (keep your valuables with you), and they are stashed in the storage hold, you’ll get them back at the end of the trip.
Snacks and Drinks on the Boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc
You’ll be given a snack pack for your journey. It includes sealed snacks. If you want to buy drinks, then there’s an icebox near the captain. You can pay in US dollars, Cambodia Riel, and Vietnamese Dong. In 2023 there was Coke, Diet Coke, Beer, Fanta, and 7UP. The price was the same for all drinks and was 20,000 VND, 4 Riel, or US$1. Someone had previously even paid with Euros (that the captain was able to exchange for US dollars with a group of Italians on our boat)
Book tickets on the boat to Chau Doc from Phnom Penh here.
Exiting Cambodia – Cambodian Border Control on the River
You’ll arrive at the Cambodian border control on the river after about 3 hours on the boat. Everyone needs to get off the boat. Take your passport and valuables with you. The guide on the boat will make sure that everyone is in the right place, but to be fair it’s hard to go wrong.
You’ll line up with your passport and wait to get stamped out of the country. There’s not really any rush to be at the front of the line as the boat won’t leave until everyone is stamped out. The guide will most likely then take your passport off you once it’s been stamped. You’ll get it back after you’ve been stamped into Vietnam.
Our boat was full and the leaving Cambodia part of the trip took about 25 minutes in total. Once everyone is stamped out, everyone has to get back on the boat and the boat then goes down the river a little further to the Vietnamese border crossing point.
Entering Vietnam – Vietnamese Border Control on the River
The boat continues a few minutes downriver to the Vietnamese border control at Song Tien Landport and your guide will be the first one off the boat, taking all the passports into Vietnamese border control.
There are a couple of steps here to get up to a small coffee and souvenir shop. There’s also a money changer here. The rates are (ahem) pretty bad, but if you’ve only got a few Riel left, then it’s easier to change it here than anywhere else.
The process of stamping into Vietnam with our full boat took about 20 minutes and once the passports were stamped the guide will bring them out and call out your name for collection. Listen carefully, someone else tried to pick my passport up!
Continuing down the River to Chau Doc
Once you’ve left the Vietnam border control you’ll continue down the river towards Chau Doc. Most boats leave Phnom Penh at around 13:00 and ours arrived in Chau Doc at 18:30.
Arriving in Chau Doc from Phnom Penh
Boats arrive at the pier at the back of the Victoria Chau Doc Hotel. The journey takes about 5.5 hours from leaving Phnom Penh, crossing the border, and then arriving at Chau Doc.
Map of Phnom Penh to Chau Doc on the Mekong
You can see the full map of with pick up and drop off points here.
Popular Routes Around Cambodia
If you’re traveling around Cambodia, then check out these popular routes that we’ve taken and written up. You’ll also want to read our guide to transportation in Cambodia.
- How to Go from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc (Cambodia to Vietnam by Boat)
- Go from Kampot to Phnom Penh
- Going from Phnom Penh to Mondulkiri
- How to Go from Sihanoukville to Kampot
- How to go from Mondulkiri to Siem Reap
- How to Go from Siem Reap to Battambang
- Going from Battambang to Phnom Penh
- How to go from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
- Here’s how to go from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh – Vietnam to Cambodia
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Final Words on the Boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc
We’ve taken this journey in both directions, once from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh, and then again, more recently from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh. Chau Doc is certainly bigger than it was 9 years ago, but it still feels like an easy place to wander around and to find onward travel. There’s some great Vietnamese food here, and some good places to stay before you begin your travels onward into the Vietnamese Delta.
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