Despite not having much by way of railway transport, Cambodia turned out to be one of the most convenient countries to get around. If you’re looking for a reliable and affordable way to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, or the other way around, I strongly suggest a bus.
There’s no shortage of options that will take you from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. That even includes a ferry. The best part about it is that you can search for and compare prices for buses, ferries, and private taxis all in one place at BookMeBus.com. Not only does this simplify the process of planning your trip, it also allows you to read reviews about specific companies. The only option outside of land travel is flying, but given that the distance between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is about 200 miles, a flight sounds like an unnecessary hassle.
Why going from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap by bus is the best value
Though this will vary according to travel style, we ruled out other options in favor of traveling by bus for a couple of reasons. First, flying is more inconvenient considering you have to deal with airport transfers and security and waiting around to board, and those flights range from $60-100.
A ferry on Mekong River (around $30-40), though scenic and allows you to see the floating villages near Siem Reap, has a lot of downsides. For one, it only runs during wet season, roughly from July to March. It also has horrible reviews that call into question its safety (rickety boat, no life jackets) and punctuality. If it does leave on time, departure is 7:30 am, which did not fit in with the relaxing vacation we wanted to have. And last, but certainly not least, it doesn’t actually drop you off in Siem Reap, but in Chong Khneas, which would still require you to get transportation another 45 minutes into the city.
We knew we were deciding between the bus and the taxi. In preparation for our trip, I contacted the hotel to see if they could arrange a taxi and they quoted us $130. I suppose if you’re going in a group of 4, this would be a decent choice, but it was definitely far more expensive than the private taxis you can book online for $75. While a taxi is way more comfortable and convenient, it still seems like a steep price for driving the same route that a bus would for less than $10 per person. At the end of the day, the difference in price ($65) only gets you a hotel pick-up/drop-off. This is something that can easily be resolved with $3 and any of the million tuk tuks that are everywhere.
Given that you can be very choosy and informed about the best option by searching the online portal, we figured the bus was hands down the best value.
Bus options from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Not all buses are created equal. If you prefer, you can take a giant commuter bus on a company like Giant Ibis or Mekong Express. Offering WiFi, and power outlets, these tickets are $12-15. Another popular option are the vans. There are tons of companies that move 12-person vans back and forth from the two cities. These are typically $8-12.
We went with the van because it seemed like it would have a better chance of getting there on time. Smaller cars can maneuver traffic better and any stops with a huge bus of people would hold us back much longer. We went with Cambodia Post VIP Bus, named as such because the stop both in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is a post office.
The Cambodia Post VIP Bus experience
The small bus was right on time to load up at the pick-up point, which is identifiable on your ticket, and can also be found on Google Maps. The only inconvenience is that it’s a fairly small bus, so I hadn’t taken into account how cramped it would feel. You can choose your seat online. I think sitting behind the driver would give you the most leg room. Nonetheless, the ride was smooth and there was even WiFi. The driving was a little fast and crazy, but all driving in Cambodia is a little crazy. I didn’t see an accident once.
We stopped twice for 15-20 minutes at markets for bathrooms and food, which I thought was excessive for a 6-hour ride. However, if you’re the kind of person that goes to the bathroom frequently, it’s a definite plus. I strongly suggest you bring your own toilet paper, as the stops may not have them. They were also squat toilets so mentally prepare for that regardless of what kind of land transportation you take. There’s a good chance you’ll encounter at least one.
In the end, we arrived in Siem Reap a full hour before our scheduled time, so it took 5 hours instead of 6. For $9 and a fairly comfortable ride, it’s well worth it.