Whilst I have visited Phnom Penh several times since living in Siem Reap, I have always overlooked taking the night bus in favour of flying as I like to get from A-B as quickly as possible in order to maximise my time there as opposed to being stuck on the road.
However with passport issues (its full!) and limited time off, taking the night bus to Phnom Penh and returning to Siem Reap the following night was more convenient to my schedule than flying and so I decided to give it a go.
Cambodia’s road safety record is not the best and I was keen to ensure I chose the safest bus possible. My friends were all pretty unanimous in their recommendations for Giant Ibis; whilst there are other bus companies available and most, if not all of them are cheaper, safety always trumps value in my book and so I logged onto their website http://www.giantibis.com/ to make my booking.
I was pleased to see that not only are the busses equipped with seatbelts (it must be said I did not notice these on the night bus I was on, but maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough) as well as on board wifi and electrical sockets so I wouldn’t have to worry about arriving in Phnom Penh with a dead iPhone battery. They also offer complimentary water, cold towels (and snacks on the day busses) as well as having air conditioning and toilets (on the night bus only ) and a percentage of all ticket sales goes towards the preservation of the Ibis, Cambodia’s national bird. Perhaps most importantly, they hold passenger liability insurance.
There are 3 nightly busses from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh; one at 10:30pm, one at 11pm and one at 11:30pm and in order to try and maximise my chances of sleep I decided to book in on the 11:30pm bus. They advise that you should be at the bus station 30 minutes before departure which gave me plenty of time to have dinner and drinks after work before hopping in a tuk tuk and making my way to the bus terminal.
Confusingly the Giant Ibis website states that all buses leave from behind the national museum when in fact they depart from Nº 252, Phum Viheachen between Road to Angkor Inn and the Boomerang Guest house, not far from the Old market. The return journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap did however end at the bus depot on Khmer pub street not far from the national museum. Either way, you would have to be extremely unlucky to get a tuk tuk driver who doesn’t know where the night busses leave from so its really nothing to worry about.
The set up is very well organised and the bus pulled up just prior to the scheduled 11:30pm departure. You are given a plastic bag to put your shoes in as you are boarding the bus so you may want to consider wearing socks (something that had slipped my mind)
I had pre booked via the Giant ibis website, choosing a single top bunk at the front of the bus both for security and the wish to be as far away from the toilet as possible. It’s worth mentioning whether you want a single or double bunk if you are booking through an agent as there were several men who weren’t happy at the prospect of sharing a double bunk with another man (I noticed all the solo ladies seemed to have been smart enough to book the single bunks like I had) although luckily people were happy to swap seats and everyone seemed to end up happy. All bunks are equipped with a pillow and a decent sized blanket, I was pleased that the aircon was also in good repair and the bus was a pleasant temperature throughout the journey.
After a short speech from the driver we were handed a bottle of water and the lights were all switched off leaving me to fall into a pretty deep sleep until the bus pulled up at the bus station, next to the night market, by the riverside in Phnom Penh at exactly 6am the following morning.
All in all I was very impressed with Giant Ibis for $32 (or $16 one way) it was great value and (aided by several stiff drinks before boarding) I slept very well on both journeys.
I cant believe I left it so long to try the night bus, I am kicking myself at the thought of all the fun days off I could have spent in Phnom Penh over the past 15 months and am already planning my next trip!