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The bus run - Phnom Penh to Saigon

By: Vanessa Vrdoljak Posted: October-25-2010 in
Sapaco Tourist Bus
Vanessa Vrdoljak

For my regular commutes between Saigon and Phnom Penh I usually take the Mekong Express Bus. Yesterday I decided to try the Sapaco Tourist Bus for a change. Finally reaching the safety of home I can now laugh about the journey as I sit here safely ensconced in my familiar surroundings, so unless you are completely barmy, or a thrill seeking nutter, this company should be avoided like the plague.

Both the Mekong Express and Sapaco Tourist buses advertise themselves as offering the same service at the same price; air conditioning, toilet, TV, snack, wet towel and a bottle of water.

Things missed out on the Sapaco Tourist Bus include:
• No hand towel
• No snack
• No rest stop
• No immigration/arrival forms
• No check of passports or tagging checked luggage for security

Not really a big deal, apart from the fact that I am now in Vietnam without any arrival/departure forms which need to be checked and collected by immigration when I next leave the country, and you can survive without a wet towel and snack on a 6 hour journey.

However, I should stop complaining and focus on some bonus features of the journey which are not advertised:
• Septic tank in place of a toilet
• Oodles of friendly cockroaches
• Passengers openly smoking on the bus
• Thrill seeking bus drivers who should be featured on wacky races
• Attempted theft of luggage and fist fight on arrival (free local entertainment)

No company is perfect and I’m sure there are people who have had bad experiences on every bus service out there, however where as your personal security is concerned, Sapaco leaves a lot to be desired.

The Mekong Express Service includes several checks at the beginning of your journey. Firstly, they check your passport to make sure you can cross the border as it is not possible to get a Vietnamese visa on arrival at land borders. Secondly, your luggage is securely tagged so that you, and only you can pick it up on arrival. Thirdly, the staff are clean, courteous and look after you and your belongings at every point during your journey.

I’m not the only one who has had a Sapaco nightmare. Other people’s experience highlighted additional tales of woe which included:
• Being left behind at the border
• Staff openly going through people’s suitcases (make sure your luggage is securely locked at all times no matter which company you are travelling with)
• A hit and run incident involving the bus and a motorbike

Need I say more!

Vanessa Vrdoljak
Financial Consultant
vvrdoljak [at] infinitysolutions [dot] com


Arrival / Departure Card

Cannot find a link online now, but reported in Thanh Nien in September, the arrival / departure card has now been dropped. Your write up is dated Oct 25th, was this trip recent? If so, that's why no a/d card - no need anymore.


I am a mekong express

I am a mekong express boy,always.
They do their best and it is good enough for me.


Did the trip last year with

Did the trip last year with Mekong and it's definitely Mekong for me. Movies, no karaoke. Good brekkie snack. And great drivers.


I also strayed one time from

I also strayed one time from Mekong Express (never again) to use Sapaco on the return journey from Saigon. We got a late start and dusk had settled in long before we reached the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Being a bit concerned about the bus driver's enthusiasm I checked my phone's GPS (which gives a mph reading also) to see he was doing 85mph. Mekong Express please.


Asian Karaoke

I didn't mention the "ear-splitting plinkey-plunkey disco" as I find that it's a given on any bus in Asia, and I find the cheaper the bus, the louder the music! I generally travel well equipped with an ipod, laptop and even ear plugs at times. Mekong Express does have Cambodian Karaoke, but on a few trips they have shown some good movies too. At the end of the day, my major concern is safety. I can deal with travelling in a roach infested spectic tank on wheels with ear-splitting music as long as my personal safety, and that of my belongings, is not being compromised.


The one and only time I used

The one and only time I used Sapaco for the same run, I also got ear-splitting plinkey-plunkey disco whatever the whole way despite the bus boy being asked to turn it down several times by several people. I have often used Sinh Tourist but my latest trip with them was not so good. The bus broke down on the way to HCMC and on the way back, one of the back tires exploded under my butt propelling me into the air and almost giving me a heart attack. Also they have reduced the number of daily trips so their departure times are not so good as they are tied into the passenger transfer from Siem Reap. The reason that I have used them a lot in the past was the safe driving, full service (no toilet but extra stop poss for toilet if necc) and lack of loud music hell. You don't mention any music on Mekong Express so I'm presuming they don't get carried away with it or the TV or any karaoke nonsense. Maybe I'll try them next time. Also a friend just made the trip over on Kumho Samco and said the driving was appalling and mostly on the wrong side of the road even with oncoming traffic.


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