Wide leafy boulevards, exquisite Buddhist temples and a beautiful riverside promenade – even if Phnom Penh cannot boast a lot of large-scale tourist attractions, it possesses its own special charm. Easily one of the least developed capitals of South East Asia, Phnom Penh is changing rapidly nowadays; new Western-style shopping malls and high-rises make their way to the city, and there are even air-conditioned public buses cruising its streets. You can have a look at the darkest years of Khmer history in Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum or venture further afield to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. But you can choose just to enjoy Phnom Penh’s – alas! – rapidly vanishing French flavour, indulge in world-wide cuisine offered in its fancy restaurants at half the price you pay anywhere else or absorb the local colours visiting markets and people-watching. There is an abundance of worth-seeing places of interest around Phnom Penh, easily explored during a day trip, including Phinom Chisor, a stunning example of the Angkorian period temples, or Koh Dach, the Silk Island, where you can witness the process of silk weaving and buy some of the finest textiles in Cambodia. All in all, architectural wonders, busy nightlife venues and shopping opportunities galore in Phnom Penh. It may not become your favourite city in Asia, but Phnom Penh definitely deserves a closer look.
From Siem Reap to Phnom Penh by bus
There is hardly another city or town in Cambodia – possibly Sihanoukville being the only exception – with such a wide choice of destinations on offer as Siem Reap. Buses to Phnom Penh leave throughout the day from several locations all over the capital; and prices and level of comfort vary a lot. Note that the majority of the operators use the main bus station in Siem Reap located four km out of town. If buying your ticket in a street agency, always inquire where from your bus departs.
Giant Ibis Transport is the best operator serving the route due to many factors, including the excellent safety record, insurance coverage for all passengers, free Wi-Fi and electrical outlets on board. The company uses its own bus terminal in Siem Reap behind the Angkor National Museum. It is located closer both to the Old Market area and Wat Bo Road where the majority of accommodation is found. To get to the Giant Ibis bus terminal, take a tuk-tuk (from USD1 to USD3) or use complimentary pick-up service – inquire in your hotel in advance.
There are at least four (in certain periods up to six) daily buses of Giant Ibis from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. No matter which one you choose, tickets cost USD15. All buses take from 5½ hours to seven hours to reach the Phnom Penh.
Morning buses which leave Siem Reap at 7.45am, 8.45am and 12.30pm, make two pit stops en route: the first one is a short ‘bathroom’ stop and the second one is one-and-a-half-hour lunch stop. Note that there are no toilets on board of the morning buses, and lunch is not included into your ticket price. The buses themselves are standard big buses with air-conditioning and slightly reclining seats, so your trip in general should be quite ok.
Night buses are sleeper buses with two tiers of sleeping bunks. There are reading lights for top bunks, toilets and no entertainment program during your trip – you can have some rest, of course, if you manage to make yourself comfortable on a bunk which is frankly speaking is not an easy task at all! The advantage of taking a night bus lies in saving a few dollars on your hotel room. Besides, the night bus is the most convenient one if you are going to connect via Phnom Penh to other Giant Ibis’ buses to Kampot, Sihanoukville or Ho Chi Minh.
In Phnom Penh, Giant Ibis buses arrive to the company’s own bus terminal in 106 Street, close to the night market and the riverfront. If you have just a couple of hours to explore the capital before your next bus leaves, just go for a stroll along the magnificent riverfront promenade.
Connecting to other Giant Ibis buses
From Phnom Penh, you can connect to other Giant Ibis buses to Kampot, Sihanoukville or Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.
From Siem Reap to Kampot via Phnom Penh
If you buy a joint ticket from Siem Reap to Kampot via Phnom Penh with 12go.asia, the system will offer three options.
10.30pm and 11pm night buses from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh connect to 8am bus to Kampot with a short two-hour stopover in Phnom Penh. The trip to Kampot from Phnom Penh lasts two and a half hours only, so you will arrive early enough to have the whole day ahead of you.
Normally you can get in time for the same 8am bus to Kampot even if arriving with the last 11pm bus from Siem Reap, but if you want to do it, you will have to buy separate tickets, as otherwise the system will offer to take the afternoon bus to Kampot at 2.45pm. This option is worth considering if you wish to spend a few hours visiting the Cambodian capital. You can leave your luggage at Giant Ibis bus terminal, have a stroll and then continue your journey to Kampot, arriving to your destination before dark.
In theory it is even possible to catch 2.45pm bus to Kampot if you leave Siem Reap with the first bus at 7.45am the same day as it normally reaches Phnom Penh at around 2pm; but 12go.asia does not recommend it as in case of even a minor delay you risk missing your next bus.
From Siem Reap to Sihanoukville via Phnom Penh
There are three buses a day by Giant Ibis from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, all of them taking about four and a half hours to reach the seaside resort city. As in case with Siem Reap to Kampot, 12go.asia offers the shortest stopover in Phnom Penh: take any of the night buses from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and then change to one of the morning buses from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, which depart at 8am and at 9.30am. You can as well choose the bus which departs later – at 12.30pm – to have a quick look at the capital. Tickets cost USD15 and USD12 respectively.
If you arrive from Siem Reap with one of the morning buses, you will be obliged to spend the night in Phnom Penh and continue your journey to the coast the next day as there are no night buses between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.
From Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh via Phnom Penh
Important: Visa on arrival service is not provided at land border crossings in Vientam. Before buying your bus ticket to Vietnam, make sure you have already your Vietnamese visa or do not need one. Otherwise you will be refused transportation.
If buying a joint ticket from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh via Phnom Penh, you will be offered to take 10/30pm or 11pm night bus from Siem Reap (USD15) and then change to the first bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh at 8am (USD18). The last 11.30pm bus from Siem Reap connects to the afternoon bus to Ho Chi Minh (12/30pm), though in theory you can catch the morning bus to Vietnam, as well.
Similarly to Siem Reap to Sihanoukville case, you can opt for 12.30pm bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh instead to get a couple of hours for touring the capital. Leave your luggage at the Giant Ibis bus terminal and enjoy your morning in Phnom Penh. Please find more detailed information about the six-hour Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh leg here.
If you have traveled at least a bit anywhere in Cambodia, you may have noticed that the Khmers know no modesty as far as the width of their roads is concerned. This local love for expansions makes Phnom Penh tough for covering on foot. Tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis are ubiquitous and plentiful; they are an affordable and easy way to get around the city. Expect to pay from USD1 to USD3 for a tuk-tuk ride, even less for a motorbike taxi.
Renting a scooter is also an option in Phnom Penh. Daily rates are about USD5. Note that helmets are a must, traffic is chaotic and accidents with casualties are not unheard of. Rent only if you are an experienced rider – we mean with some experience in Asian countries.
There are public buses in Phnom Penh. Tickets cost less than USD0.5 per trip. The most useful route is Line 03 which stops at the International Airport, Central Market and Night Market. Line 01 combined with some walking brings you to the Royal Palace and National Museum.
Further afield from Phnom Penh
Located literally in the heart of the country, Phnom Penh has good transport connections with all the other cities and towns around Cambodia and in the neighbouring countries. Apart from the already mentioned Kampot, Sihanoukville and Ho Chi Minh, some of the destinations which you can reach overland from Phnom Penh, include Poi Pet, Battambang, Koh Kong, Preah Vihear and Mondulkiri in Cambodia; Bangkok in Thailand; Vientiane and Pakse in Laos.