Before arriving in Vietnam to live for six months, we’d acquired a three month tourist visa back home in England, knowing we would have to do a border run when that three months was up. With it being my first border run, I was slightly nervous and wanted to make sure everything was right, but it actually turned out to be one of the easiest and most stress-free processes ever – which aren’t words you usually associate with visas! Here’s how we did it.
Contact an agent
Prefarably one you’ve either used before, been recommended by someone you know or read a good review about, to make sure everything goes smoothly. We were recommended Jane Snvi who has a Visa Company in Thao Dien (45 Duong So 2, Thao Dien, D2) by friends who had used her for their border run. I contacted her on Facebook (link to her page here) a month before our first visa ran out to explain what we needed and ask what we needed to do. Turns out I was three weeks too early and she told me to contact her again a week before the visa ran out – I’d still recommend contacting her early just in case you need to sort specific things.
You then visit the shop with your passports, passport photos and money to give some details and fill out some forms. You’ll decide the day you want to do your visa run and to which border, and then you come back a few days later to collect a letter from the visa company which states the approval for the visa you require. Jane then helps you fill out all of the forms you need to for the Vietnamese visa and she also changes VND to Dollars if you need that service too.
FYI she’s also great at sorting over-stays and other visa mishaps so contact her if you’re unsure about anything.
getting to moc bai border
We decided to go to the Moc Bai border with Cambodia as it was the closest one and we knew it can easily be done in just over half a day. You get the blue #703 bus (with aircon thankfully) from the bus station near the 23/9 park and Pham Ngu Lao (it’s the one with a load of green and blue buses in it, you can’t miss it). Find the 703 and jump on, its 40k one way and then 40k back, you pay once you’re on the bus. These buses depart every hour I believe so there are plenty going. The journey takes about 3 hours so settle down and get engrossed in a good book or film. Just a note, we got the first bus out at 6am because we wanted to get it done early, and we got back to HCMC around 1.30pm so this is a good way not to waste a whole day! The last bus from the border leaves at 5pm so bare this in mind if you’re not an early riser.
Other options include getting yourself there by motorbike, which will be a long hot ride with the issue of having to park your bike somewhere whilst you enter Cambodia, or a shared shuttle bus which is more expensive than the #703 and can be sorted through a travel agent.
from the bus to the vietnamese border
The bus will drop you and everyone will get off and it will feel like you are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by trucks and lorries. There will be moto taxis waiting once you get off the bus to take you to the border for around 20-40k, but the walk is only 5-10 minutes. We walked, so what you do is walk down the left side of the traffic (everyone will be walking this way or moto taxis will be going this way so you can follow them), then you go through a gate on your left, walk across a huge car park to a gate the opposite side, then turn right and follow the road for around 200 metres until you reach the Vietnamese border. Go in, get stamped out, officially leave Vietnam!
from the vietnamese border to the cambodian border
This is a strange 200 metre walk of ‘no man’s land’ until you reach the Cambodian border ‘Bravet’; FYI there will be moto taxis waiting again to take you this very short trip – but no one’s that lazy surely. Once here you go to a small booth where you will pay your $35 dollars each for a Cambodian border and fill out a form. There will often be locals here who are overly helpful, as they will be hoping for a tip, they will try to take your forms for you, help you fill them out etc, if you don’t want their help simply tell them you have no money for them – they will either continue to help or leave you alone knowing you won’t tip. You take your completed form and your passport back up to the booth where it is stamped then you go into the adjacent building to ‘enter cambodia’. When you enter the building, on your left will be some tables and chairs where you have to fill out the arrival card before queuing up to officially enter Cambodia. Then go across to the exit building, and get your stamp out of Cambodia.
and back to vietnam once again
Once you’re out of the Cambodian exit building, you’ll be back on the same ‘no man’s land’ strip that you were 20 minutes ago. Simply walk back down to re-enter Vietnam. This is the part where you will need your dollars to pay for the Visa, your visa letter, your completed forms (from the agent) and your passport. Enter the building, but before queuing up, there is a booth with a small window where you will pay for your visa and get it put in your passport before queuing up to get it stamped. Hand your forms and passport to the man in the booth, then he will ask for the money and after a couple minutes he will give you back your passport with your new, shiny visa inside. Queue up, get your visa stamped, enter Vietnam and Voila! You’re back in Vietnam with a new visa and it should have only taken you 1.5 hours at most (bare in mind we were at the border at 9am so this helped a lot).
Back to the bus
The bus will be waiting close to where it dropped you off and will be one of the only blue buses around. Simple reverse the route you took to get to the Vietnamese border in the first place, back along the road and through the car park. Jump on the bus and wait for it to leave. All being well, you should be home by lunchtime!
- Take some VND with you, occasionally the officials will ask for an extra tip around 100k (no more), so make sure you have this on you just in case. Plus there are lots of drink and food stalls where the bus waits so you can grab some food here.
- Have the right denominations of dollars so that you don’t get caught out needing change, usually they will give you change but it does depend on the official that day.
- Take some extra clothes because the air-con on the bus can be pretty chilly when you’re on it for 3 hours!