Perhaps you have seen this new red bus around Phnom Penh. I spotted it on Street 278 across from Artillery. Is it true? Does The Charming City have its own hop-on, hop-off tourist bus?
Well, yes and no.
The service started just two months ago, so is getting it’s sea legs during low season. Currently, the bus is running like a typical city tour every other day — pick up from hotels, ten stops comprising major Phnom Penh points of interest, with time at each to explore (and then some), a bottle of water, and drop off back at your hotel. On non-City Tour days, the bus runs to the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum. It is expected that during high season (November through March) that it will do a more typical hop-on, hop-off service with buses on the route every hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. starting and ending at the Night Market.
For now, for $15 you get picked up, given a bottle of water and taken by air-conditioned bus to the following sites:
- Night Market (if you catch the bus from the office there)
- Wat Ounalom and Kandal Market
- National Museum* / Art Street
- Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda*
- Independence Monument / King Norodom Sihanouk Monument
- Toul Sleng Genocide Museum* ( S21)
- Central Market
- Wat Phnom*
- Russian Market
* Entrance fees for the sites is not included. This will add another $11 or 12 to your trip.
The journey is accompanied by a driver and an English-speaking attendant, who can tell you a bit about the main sites, but is not a licensed tour guide. For the City Tour, Hop-On, Hop-Off recommends you hire a guide for the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace. There are also tour guides available at Toul Sleng and an audio guide available at the Killing Fields.
The off-season city tour is good value — $15 is about the price of a tuk tuk for the day, and although the city commentary is nothing extraordinary, tourists and first-time visitors may find it interesting and useful to be able to ask the attendant questions. I plan on recommending the service to our visiting friends and family when I need to get rid of them for the day.
The brochure boasts “28 Attractions,” including the “Cruise Terminal” and “BKK,” which are not really attractions, nor are they stops on the tour, although you do drive by. The brochure also says that there is an English audio recording providing commentary on the drive. I didn’t get to hear this, but our attendant added some points of interest and brief history of Independence Monument, Russian Market, and Wat Phnom.
There was only one other passenger when we took our city tour, so the trip was tailored to what we wanted to see and how long we wanted to spend at each site. If there are any sites you’ve already seen, the driver and attendant are happy to take this into account. Our bus tour did not stop at the French Quarter and Old Post Office, even though that is listed as one of the stops, but we made all of the other scheduled stops which allowed more than ample time for shopping (markets) and taking photos and exploring.
I imagine this service will get pretty popular during high season, and am interested to see how the tour-style bus route transitions into a traditional hop-on, hop-off bus. Let us know in the comments about your experiences!
You can book the Hop-On, Hop-Off City Tour and/or Killing Fields Tour through most hotels in Phnom Penh, or by calling their phone number: 016 745 880.