This is the most common form of transportation among travelers. There are numerous bus companies operating in Cambodia. They go to different towns / cities within Cambodia and to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. I took Sorya bus company but some expats suggest Giant Ibis.
I asked a traveler from Chile who had tried Giant Ibis and he commented, ‘it’s more expensive than other bus companies but I don’t see the reason. The bus I took to Kampot was old and the seats were worn out.’
I guess all the buses are the same. The prices are quite similar. Giant Ibis is indeed the most expensive one cos according to some expats, their bus fare includes insurance so everything is priced in the fare. By the way, the local Cambodians don’t trust insurance.
You can check with your hotel / motel / hostel etc. to see if they can help you book a bus. Some can recommend good ones which may not be Giant Ibis or Sorya. As for the insurance cover? If you have bought travel insurance before you leave your own country, I think that should be enough.
For me, I had an interesting experience. I once took Sorya bus from Kampong Cham to Siem Reap but when I went to Sorya bus ticket office in Siem Reap to buy the ticket back to Kampong Cham, they said, ‘we don’t do that route.’ Huh????!!!! In the end, I bought a ticket from another bus company.
Note: Some local people like to open the windows when the air-conditioner is on.
Within Phnom Penh
In recent years, Phnom Penh city started having buses. You can see new and air-conditioned blue buses with logos on the sides saying ‘Japan Aid’ or ‘China Aid’ running in the city. Each trip costs KHR1,500 per person (the local currency is called ‘Riels’. The exchange rate fluctuates between USD1 to KHR4,000 and USD1 to KHR4,100. There is no coin.) so it costs much less than USD1 per trip per person. But you need to make sure you have the small notes in Riels with you as the drivers won’t give you any change.
Some people have a local bank account and pay the bus fare by scanning a QR code. This will give you a huge discount – KHR300 per trip per person! But bear in mind, not all buses have the QR code. So, in the end, you still need to make sure you have the exact change.
If you need to change to another bus line, that counts as another trip so you need to pay another 1,500 Riels. Still, it will only cost you 3,000 Riels in total which is not even USD1.
The City Bus App got so much better a few months before I left. You can check where you can find a bus stop and if you are close to any of them. Also, if the bus is coming, you can see that on the map. I really enjoyed looking at the little buses moving in the App. They looked cute. LOL! But the problem is, you need to know which bus route and number you need to take. You can use the App to help you or you can look for the bus routes map on the internet. It’s easy to find.
A few types of people can ride the buses for free. They include monks, the elderly, teachers (with a card) and students (with a card). After school hours, you can see numerous of students hopping on and off the buses and they can be pretty noisy. 😛
I once had a bad experience when I was taking a bus with a volunteer. We got on the bus at the bus terminus. We then found out we didn’t have exact change. There was no other passenger but there was a staff on the bus who distributed bus tickets to the passengers. I asked him if he had any smaller notes. As he reached into his pocket, the driver stopped him. In the end, we got off the bus before it departed the bus terminus and went to a shop nearby to get our money changed. We hopped on another bus. (Learn how to say ‘I have no money’ in Khmer here: https://learnxtravel.com/2020/02/16/learn-khmer/)
In later months, I stayed in an area close to the Phnom Penh international airport. I used to take no. 8 bus all the time but the waiting time was very long. However, if you stay in the city centre, you’ll probably take No. 1 or No. 2 most of the time and they are more frequent than other bus lines. No. 3 bus takes you from/to the international airport to/from Central Market.
The operating hours of the buses are from 5:30am to 8:30pm. But don’t trust it. I once was waiting at the No. 8 bus stop at around 8pm and then found out on the App that the last bus had left – no more little buses moving in the App.
My strategy in the end was to take the bus during day time cos it was too hot anyway and take the bus back to my lodging before 7pm. If I couldn’t make it before 7pm, I just walked or took PassApp.
If you are spending a few days in Phnom Penh, try it out. The drivers and the passengers in general like to see foreigners taking the buses. They will smile to you. It is also a good experience for you too, especially during day time. Everything looks nicer when you are in an air-conditioned place. 😛
One tip for you if you are really trying the new city buses: Old Stadium (close to the French Embassy) is where most (not all) of the buses stop and that’s where I usually changed the bus lines if I went to the city centre. You may want to check that out.
Note: City Bus only operates within Phnom Penh city. Other provinces like Kampong Cham don’t have them yet.