There are Mekong Delta tours advertised all over Ho Chi Minh, but they're pretty pricy. If you're looking to get from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh, can it cost around $75 USD for a three-day, two-night tour. That seemed pretty steep, so we opted to do it on our own because we prefer to go on our own timeline. Plus, we would rather choose our own accommodation and food.
Before we start, you need to understand that there are a few cities in the Mekong Delta: My Tho, Vinh Long, Cao Lanh, Can Tho, Soc Trang and Chau Doc. You'll need to research and figure out which cities you want to visit, but if you need to make it across the Cambodian border, your last stop must be Chau Doc. From here, you can take the speedboat to Phnom Penh.
Given our limited time, we decided our route would be Ho Chi Minh - Can Tho - Chau Doc - Phnom Penh. It took three days and two nights to make it to Phnom Penh. We spent one night in Can Tho and Chau Doc.
How to get from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh to Can Tho
You have two options: book a bus ticket with a tour agency or buy it on your own. If you book with a tour agency, make sure that they arrange a taxi ride with the price of the ticket. Our friends got it for 160,000 VND.
If you want to get there on your own, you have to go to Mien Tay bus station. At Mien Tay station, you'll find different bus companies offering tickets at various prices. Tickets will range from 72,000 dong - 150,000 VND. The two most reputable companies are Phuong Trang (Futa) and Mai Linh. I'd probably stick to a company selling tickets in the mid-range for around 100,000 VND.
Since we tried to travel near Lunar New Year, most buses were booked solid. So, we ended up having to buy an inflated ticket at a smaller company for twice the cost.
The bus takes around 4-5 hours to get there with a rest stop for a food and washroom break. Once you get to Can Tho, you should get dropped off at the bus station. Unfortunately, we were dropped off at the side of the road near a mall. From here, you can grab a taxi to your accommodation.
We stayed at Mekong Delta Inn, which is a small family-run hostel. Dorms are $7 USD. We liked it since they take you out to dinner and give you a city tour. We got a hot pot dinner for 45,000 VND, but we didn't really enjoy it. Although, we heard they switch up the nights and the other restaurants were quite good. Since it was close to Lunar New Year, we ended up going to visit the flower and candy market, and then trying a soursop smoothie. You only pay for the taxi ride and dinner costs.
Day 2: Floating Village Tour and Chau Doc
To see the floating villages, we ended up booking a 6-7 hour tour with our hostel for $10 USD/person. You can also try to go to the dock at Hai Ba Trung and bargain a price for the boat, but we heard that it would be pricier that way. Our hostel also offers 3 hour tours for $15/boat. Both tours leave at 5 a.m., so get ready for an early morning.
We went to see Cai Rang Floating Village Market, which is the biggest one in the Delta. It takes around an hour on the boat to reach the market. The market opens early in the morning and closes mid-day. You'll see boats filled up with produce and buyers bargaining prices with the vendors. Some boats will sell drinks, food and snacks. It's amazing to be right in the middle of this chaotic market.
After visiting this market, it'll be another hour boat ride to reach the second floating village. This one is much smaller and I cannot remember the name of it. From here, you'll start to go through the canals before reaching a restaurant for a short break to grab some food or drinks and relax a bit. We had the chance the walk around the garden of the restaurant and see tropical fruit trees.
After the break, you'll wind through more canals before reaching the main river. Your last stop will be a noodle factory where you'll see workers making Hu Tieu noodles. Just note that at the noodle factory, you're expected to give a small donation.
Once your reach the dock, where you'll need to arrange your own way back. You might need to ask someone to call a taxi, because there aren't many around.
Once you get back, you need to take the 2:30 p.m. bus to Chau Doc. It takes around four hours to get there with a break in-between. We booked from our hostel which cost us 140,000 VND including the shuttle to the bus station. In Chau Doc, you'll get dropped off at the bus station. We lucked out, and got a shuttle to our hotel.
We stayed at Trung Nguyen Hotel which was 13 USD for a double room. It's right in the centre of town, so there's tons of places to eat. Try Bun Ca at a local stall for 15,000 VND!
Day 3: Chau Doc to Phnom Penh
Here's to another early morning. We booked our speedboat with Hang Chau Tourist for $25 USD. It leaves every morning at 7:30 a.m. They'll pick you up at 7:00 a.m. in a rickshaw from your accommodation. Just note that they expect a small tip.
On the boat, they'll give you forms to fill out your visa information. You'll hand over your passport as well as $34 USD for the visa to the employees and they'll take care of the process. It takes about half an hour to reach the Vietnam border. Since they have your passport, you can take the time for a washroom break, grab food and exchange your VND to US dollars.
You'll get back into the boat for another 10 minutes before you reach the Cambodian border. This process takes longer. You'll get your passport back and then wait in line to get stamped into Cambodia. Since we had to wait for everyone, we got delayed an hour here. This is your last break, so use the washroom if you need to.
From here, it's a few hours to Phnom Penh. The speedboat gets pretty warm since the windows need to be closed or you'll get splashed. Otherwise, the journey is fine. You'll dock near the centre of town, where tuk tuks will ambush you to take you to your accommodation.