After a debate on whether to take the Mekong Express or the Giant Ibis, I finally plumped for the big white bird and made my online reservation to Phnom Penh. Giant Ibis have a very professionally impressive website, that this helped persuade me. They are slightly more expensive, but I think it’s still good value for money.
I had an early start and my bus was scheduled to leave at 8.45am (more like 9.10am). The ticket cost me $15 to Phnom Penh, although unlike many other bus companies in Cambodia, the ticket price is the same for people of all nationalities (i.e. no big discounts for Khmers). The journey is scheduled to take around 7 hours, although we made it in slightly less time than that, and were at the Phnom Penh hotel checking in at around 16.15 in the afternoon. There are later buses with Giant Ibis (the full schedule is: 7.45, 8.45 and 12.30 for the day buses, as well as two night buses at 22.30 and 23.00hrs). I don’t think it takes any less time overnight to make it to Phnom Penh, but you would save on a night’s accommodation, so that’s something to think about.
Unlike other bus companies plying the route, Giant Ibis offer free wifi and power sockets in every seat. Now, I didn’t find the wifi to be very good, although it did kind of work. Please remember that you are on a bus in Cambodia, not in a 5 star hotel in Hong Kong, so expect the speed of this [FREE] wifi to represent that!
As a precaution, I would NEVER LEAVE ANY VALUABLES IN THE LUGGAGE HOLD OF THE BUS. This is because some people (though there’s no evidence this happens with Giant Ibis, as they are the most trustworthy bus company in Cambodia, for what it’s worth) will steal goods from the luggage hold, either before the bus departs Siem Reap, or during the rest stop half way through the journey. You do not want to get to Phnom Penh and find that your laptop and camera has been stolen from your backpack. So any valuables need to be taken out of your backpack/suitcase and transferred to your hand luggage which will be right with you on the bus.
The roads between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh can be very bumpy, even though I am told they have improved the quality of the tarmac over the past few years since I first visited. This article describes my first experience of the roads and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, although the state of the Giant Ibis bus went some way to alleviating some of the ‘pain’ some travellers would feel in smaller buses and taxis as they negotiate the numerous potholes of some of the Cambodian highways.
If you don’t fancy travelling by road to Phnom Penh, there is always the option of the slow boat down the Mekong. I am told this is not quite as nice as it sounds, as the boats are usually small and some do not even have windows! You would also likely not have any access to air conditioning or wifi, which at least you are supposed to get on the Giant Ibis bus.
Here is a review of the Giant Ibis bus service between two cities to give you an idea of what you will be booking! Also, check out these guides to compare methods of travel between the two cities, firstly from Two Nomadic Boys, and secondly from Revealing World.