Mondulkiri, one of Cambodia’s northeastern provinces, is famed for its distinctive hilly landscape (‘kiri’ means hill in Khmer), indigenous ethnic minority groups and beautiful, if disappearing, wildlife corridors. With relatively little traffic and smooth, paved roads, the trip from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom, the capital of Mondulkiri province, is a dream compared to a decade ago when the trip could take more than a day. These days, you can get to Sen Monorom in less than 6 hours. In this post, we’ll cover how to get to from Mondulkiri to Phnom Penh.
Express vans to Mondulkiri
The express vans (aka mini-buses) generally complete the journey to Mondulkiri in 5 to 6 hours depending on traffic, allowing you to get settled in Sen Monorom and see sunset on your first day. We recommend returning to Phnom Penh on the morning vans to avoid congestion in the capital.
Express vans usually seat between 9 and 15 people (four in the back, three in each of the middle two or three rows and one or two in the front with the driver) so it’s a reasonable amount of personal space compared with the local vans that pack passengers in like sardines, although we would suggest avoiding the back row which can be a bit crowded.
If you’d like a window or aisle for legroom or motion sickness issues, you can book your tickets and make a seat reservation in advance with TCT Mondulkiri Express for a small additional fee, usually less than $1 per ticket. (The other companies don’t offer real-time seat selection, but you can make seat requests and have them confirmed in advance.)
TCT Mondulkiri Express and Kim Seng Express have buses that leave Phnom Penh at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Virak Buntham has mini-buses that leave at 7 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The schedule is the same going from Mondulkiri to Phnom Penh.
You may see these companies advertise later morning buses (8 a.m. or 9 a.m.) but be warned that these times are not always running and generally are only available when more than two vans’ worth of people have booked in advance and during high season.
The express van companies are much of a muchness, although Virak Buntham has a poor safety reputation, although primarily on their night buses.
You can book express buses online with advance seat reservations from Phnom Penh to Mondulkiri here, and from Mondulkiri to Phnom Penh here. Tickets cost between $11 and $15 plus a small service charge for using a credit card (or, if you’re in Phnom Penh, you can pay in cash). During high season it’s a good idea to book in advance.
Most of the guesthouses are walking distance from the center of Sen Monorom where all of the vans drop off, although Nature Lodge is about 3 km away, so if you are staying there take them up on their pick-up services. This also makes it convenient if you haven’t booked your bus ticket in advance — if one company’s van is full, you might make it on the van leaving from next door!
The express vans are generally pretty new and in good repair, with Kim Seng’s being distinctive for their violet accents. They do not usually have video capabilities, so the worst case scenario is some mild Cambodian music to keep your driver alert on the way, not a full surround karaoke session.
The rest stop is right around the halfway point, where you can get good curries, fried noodles or rice, and snacks, but almost all of the buses will stop at Snoul first (about 30 minutes into the journey) so that riders can pick up the usual traditional countryside snacks — green mango with chili and salt, grilled eggs (which are mixed with fish sauce, salt and black pepper — delicious!), quail eggs, bamboo filled with beans and sticky rice and of course naem (little tasty packets of fish paste, pickled chili and holy basil or another broad leafed herb).
Taxis to Mondulkiri
It’s also possible to take a taxi from Phnom Penh to Mondulkiri. The cost is between $80 and $100 and the trip takes about 5 hours. Cars are typically Toyota Camrys that can seat five, but the trunk will have limited space because there’s usually a large propane tank in there. You can book a taxi through your hotel or ask a local tuk tuk driver — they usually know, or are related to, a few taxi drivers. For your return taxi back to Phnom Penh, be sure to book at least a day in advance.
TCT Mondulkiri Express
168E Street 169, Phnom Penh
Opposite Sen Monorom Market, near Prasac Bank, Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri
T: 017 73 78 78; 081 65 96 66; 097 90 07 878
Kim Seng Express
1 Street 336 (behind the Sokimex), Phnom Penh
Road 76, Near Acleda Bank, Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri
T: 012 78 60 00 (Phnom Penh); 097 57 86 00 (Sen Monorom)
Virak Buntham Mondulkiri Express
Street 199, Olympic Market, Phnom Penh
Street 76, next to Peace Cafe, Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri
T: 017 333 594
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