Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

How to go from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh [Vietnam to Cambodia]

Our next stop after a fabulous trip to the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc was to Cambodia and on this particular trip, we only had two stops we planned to make.  We were going to visit Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat, but before that, we were heading to Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh.  And as we’d been on an island, we took a ferry from Phu Quoc to Ha Tien, then a bus from Ha Tien to the Mekong River town of Chau Doc.  And so now, this is our guide on how to go from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh.



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The Best Way to go from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

By far the best way to go to Phnom Penh from Chau Doc is to take the boat up the Mekong. Book early for the best prices.

I love train and boat travel.  And taking a boat on the Mekong River just feels like the right thing to do in this part of the world.  It’s very chilled out and it’s really easy too.  The boats that go from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh leave from a central place in Chau Doc and arrive right in Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh, just a short walk from the night market area there.  It’s a fabulous way to travel.

Add to that the fact that the boat companies that run this route actually provide a guide that helps with the whole immigration side of things (basically pointing you, your passport, and your dollars for the Cambodian visa on arrival, in the right direction).  This is a great journey to take.

If you’re looking for how to do this route from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc, then my guide is here, as we’ve done this in both directions and it’s slightly different.

How to Get a Cambodian Visa

Getting a visa for Cambodia is easy.  For many of the border crossings from Vietnam to Cambodia, you CAN NOT use an evisa at this border crossing. (even in 2023, although this may change)

You will need to take along your US dollars and buy a visa on arrival at the border.  The official rate is US$30, but expect that there will be some form of “processing fee”, so assume it’s going to be more like US$35-40.  Take clean, crisp notes.  Take smaller denominations.  It’s amazing how many places claim not to have change when presented with a US$50 bill or higher.

The Boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

Depending on the time of year that you travel (and therefore the level of the water in the Mekong River) there may be up to 3 different companies with boats running this route, which starts in the Hau River, then takes the Keng Xanh and the Mekong River and finally the Tonle Sap River.

You have a variety of ways to book the ticket for this route.

  1.  Go to the offices of the boat company in Chau doc and book the ticket there.  You’ll need to pay cash.  Vietnamese Dong is accepted.  US dollars may be accepted.  Or may not.
  2. You can go to a travel agent, that you will likely find by your hotel or from following a sign in the street.  Or you can buy a ticket for the Chau Doc to Phnom Penh boats online here.
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Departing By Boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

The boats that go from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh usually leave from near the Victoria Hotel in Chau Doc.  It’s easy to find and not far from most of the places that you’ll stay.  When we did this route we were picked up from our hotel in a rickshaw.

The boats from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh leave in the morning and it’s usually a relatively early start, so you’ll want to stay somewhere close. If you want to be really close, then stay at the Victoria Hotel which is a really nice hotel.  We have also stayed at and can recommend the Trung Nguyen in Chau Doc which is about a 10-15 minute walk from the ferry dock.

Boats from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh take about 6.5 hours, including the border crossing, which is done as the boat pulls up to the immigration stations about mid-journey.

Where do boats to Phnom Penh leave from in Chau Doc

Boats to Phnom Penh from Chau Doc leave from near the Victoria Hotel.  As you make your booking they’ll include a map with the exact location, but if you walk through the grounds of the Victoria Hotel it’s easy to spot the dock.

Seating on the boats to Phnom Penh from Chau Doc

There are no designated seats on these boats, it’s first come first served.  So try to get on and pick which seat you want.  These boats are long and narrow with an interior area.  There are two seats on either side of the aisle.  The windows for this cabin do open. And some of them have curtains to protect against the sun.

Seating on the Boat Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

The seats are relatively comfortable, although the recline doesn’t work too well.

There’s also a small outside seating area at the back.  It does have a sun/rain cover.   

Outside Seating Area Chau Doc to PP boat

If it’s hot (hey, it’s South East Asia, it’s always hot!), then the glass door at the front may be propped open, so you may not only get sun through it but also occasional splashes.  If it’s raining, then you’ll likely get wet too.

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Baggage on the boats to Phnom Penh from Chau Doc

When you arrive at the boat you’ll need to carry your bags onto the boat, and the crew will stash it in a luggage compartment.  You’ll get it back at the end of the trip.  It’s unlikely that anyone will steal any valuables from bags (as they’re all crammed in together and there’s not really any space for any thieves, no matter how small), but it’s a good practice to keep your valuables with you.

Boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

Snacks and Drinks on the Boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

Your ticket includes snacks on the boat, but no drinks.  There’s an icebox by the captain, where you can buy cold drinks.  They sell beer, 7UP, Fanta, and Coke (as well as Diet Coke).  They’ll accept payment in Vietnamese dong, Cambodian Riel and US Dollars.

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Exiting Vietnam – Vietnamese Border Control on the River

When you arrive at the Vietnamese border control you’ll need to exit the boat.  Your passport and any visa paperwork that you had to enter Vietnam will need to be with it.

There’s a café here and the ability to buy drinks and change money if you want to (the rates are very bad)

After everyone has their passports back you get back on the boat and ride upriver for a few minutes

Entering Cambodia – Cambodian Border Control on the River

It’s everyone off the boat again for Cambodian border control. You’ll need either details of your evisa and your passport or your passport and your money for the Cambodian visa on arrival.  If you don’t have an evisa then the boat guides will have confirmed with you before you get on the boat the price of the visa on arrival and that you have the money to pay for it.  You CANNOT pay for the visa on arrival with a card.

Passport Control Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

Continuing up the River to Phnom Penh

Once you’ve left the Cambodian Border you’ll continue up the river towards Phnom Penh. Most boats leave Chau Doc at around 07:00 and ours arrived in Phnom Penh at 13:30. 

Arriving in Phnom Penh from Chau Doc

Boats arrive at the dock area by the Titanic restaurant. It’s also called the Passenger and Tourist Terminal.   The journey takes about 6.5 hours from leaving Chau Doc, crossing the border, and then arriving at Phnom Penh.

Chau Doc to Phnom Penh Trip Review

Our 7 am pick-up came quickly. Now, this was a new way to travel for us – but it was only a short trip to the ferry, which would take us and our bags, right to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh with the Hang Chau Ferry. We also took this boat in 2023 in the opposite direction (Phnom Penh to Chau Doc) and booked online here.

Chau Doc Pick up to boat

The ferry heads east first of all, to join the main Mekong River, and then north. (to avoid the sun sit on the left-hand side of the ferry until late morning and then swap to the right-hand side.). When the front and side windows are open, there’s lots of air. Unfortunately, mid-trip they closed the windows, and then there was just no air.

Well, ok, there is but it’s very, very hot air. Sitting out at the back was the only option if breathing and not expiring was an option.

After a short, while heading north, there’s about an hour’s stop at the Vietnamese border crossing.

Time to get that last Vietnamese coffee.  To chew on the goodies they give you on the ferry or the last Banh Mi that we’d bought from the market in Chau Doc.  Then we’re back on the boat for a short trip towards Cambodian immigration.

We’d handed over our passports, USD$30, and completed immigration forms when we boarded the boat. Now we troop off to our first port in Cambodia, where staff circulate passing back our passports.

It was pretty easy to pick up someone else’s if you fancied a change. When we left there was still one passport circulating without an owner.  This seems to be a regular thing as it happened when we did this route in the opposite direction too!

Once you retrieve your passport, you line up at immigration, hand over your passport, and your stamped form, get a couple of stamps entering you into Cambodia and then head back to the ferry.

Cambodian Border Control Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

Two hours or so later, we arrived in Phnom Penh at the Preah Sisowath Quay (near Near Klahan).  I’ve no doubt that you have a plan for what to see in Phnom Penh, so make sure you haven’t missed anything – our guide to Phnom Penh is here.

And specifically to see the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng are detailed in our guide to the Killing Fields 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.

Travel Tips for Exploring Cambodia

Final Words on the Chau Doc to Phnom Penh Boat

We took this route on the way from Phu Quoc to Cambodia and it was a great way to travel between Vietnam and Cambodia.  It’s a lovely way to arrive in Phnom Penh and a leisurely way to travel too.  I’d recommend this route for crossing the border, it seems, somehow less hassle than any other Cambodian border crossing we’ve done. 

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