Review: Champa Mekong bus, Kep to Kampot to Phnom Penh

In my quest to find a direct bus from Kep to Phnom Penh (hint: there are none), I recently found myself on a Champa Mekong bus from Kep to Phnom Penh via Kampot, and frankly, I wouldn’t do it again.

Champa Mekong Tours and Travel

Champa Mekong is one of the least desirable ways to get from Kep or Kampot to Phnom Penh.

First of all, I thought the bus went direct from Kep to Phnom Penh, but actually it detours to stop in Kampot for 15 to 20 minutes. By car, the trip from Kep to Phnom Penh takes about 3.5 hours, and sometimes less. The 2:30 p.m. Champa Mekong bus was scheduled to arrive at 6:30 p.m., but the bus driver admitted it would be closer to 8 p.m., making for a 5.5 hour journey. On their signage at their office, though, they advertise the trip as 3.5 hours.

A taxi from Kep to Phnom Penh costs around $45, and a $8 ticket on Champa Mekong might just be worth the extra two hours for those on a tight budget or for solo travelers. But the seating configuration is such that people are uncomfortably squeezed into seats that seemed dangerous to my safety-conscious-slash-paranoid self. When purchasing the ticket I was told it was a 15-seat mini bus and the Champa Mekong signs picture a sleek new fleet of mini-buses. In reality the bus was a beaten up 28-seat Hyundai that included seven jump seats making for a crowded and uncomfortable ride. Jump seats are the ones that fold down and allow people to sit in the aisle; passengers seated in them can’t lean back and they are terribly uncomfortable.

Champa Mekong bus

The 28-passenger bus before it was mobbed by sweaty tourists. Note how there are fewer than 28 seats.

There are no pre-booked seat assignments on Champa Mekong as there are on every other transport company in Cambodia, so there was a mad rush when boarding and I ended up in a jump seat in front of the first row facing the windshield. Of course there was no seatbelt, and unsurprisingly the driver was reckless and overtaking other cars by driving into oncoming traffic (which, to be fair, is a standard driving technique in Cambodia). Because of my position on the bus, I knew that if the driver so much as stopped short I’d slam my head into the windshield. Have I mentioned the need for travel insurance while traveling in Cambodia?

Kep to Phnom Penh bus

Packed like sardines, with passengers sitting in jump seats in the aisles.

The bus was packed like a can of sardines, and every seat and jump seat was taken from Kep. Although I am in possession of a comprehensive insurance plan, the combination of dangerous and uncomfortable seats and the longer-than-expected journey convinced me to hop off the Champa Mekong and catch a taxi from Kampot to Phnom Penh. I shared it with three others so had I not bought the $8 Champa Mekong ticket, I would have only spent a few dollars more to take a taxi.

In summary, although Champa Mekong has a convenient Kampot to Phnom Penh route (or Kep to Kampot to Phnom Penh), it is one of the least desirable options. If you do decide to travel with Champa Mekong, you can buy a ticket online with on BookMeBus.

Champa Mekong Travel and Tours

38 Street 90, Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh
T: 015 696 800
Across from Kep Beach, Kep
T: 015 277 279
Ekareach Street, Old Market, Kampot
T: 087 630 036; 016 947 959

9 Responses to Review: Champa Mekong bus, Kep to Kampot to Phnom Penh

  1. Elisa says:

    Agree, avoid it. They’re scammers to say the least. I booked Kampot to HCMC, they put me in a bus with a crazy driver (again, to say the least) whom, within literally two secs, dropped in the middle of the street, at night, 20 km away from HCMC. Didn’t even have the time to ask or say anything as the bus was disappeared in a matter of a secs. Instead, there were 2 men waiting for me, wanting money for a ride. It was past midnight, the road wasn’t walkable at all and, as I was coming from Cambodia, all I had were just 5 dollars. They kept laughing and talking among each others. It’s been just an awful and scary experience. All I hope is for them to fail.

  2. Wayne says:

    Agree on avoiding the champa bus! My ‘two hour’ trip from Sihanoukville to Kep took over six hours. In hindsight I would have been more than happy to pay for a taxi. Do it ONLY if you’re on a serious budget.

  3. Con says:

    Champa Mekong bus definitely one to avoid if you can , have been waiting in Kampot now for what will be over 2 anda half hours to get to Kep, a journey that takes roughly 30 minutes! Fortunately Kampot is great but the bus office not so much, alot of the male staff seem to smirk, just wish they had informed us sooner rather than tell us after over an hour waiting at the office to then say another hour wait… Dreading the return journey to Phnom Penh (budget travels)

  4. Peter G says:

    That reminds me of a bus that I took last time in Siem Reap, back in September 2011. My hotel recommended a bus back to Bangkok. “Goes all the way “, I was advised.

    Normally, I would have taken a taxi back to the THAI border, and a bus to BKK, but, I saw flashing $$$ signs and took the bus. Full of back packers ( not that there is anything wrong with that ). But, we drove all around Siem Reap picking up passengers, and , there were numerous stops on the way to the border. People sitting in the aisles as well.

    We had to change buses at the border, and, in the confusion, I left a pair of Bose Noise cancelling headphone on the bus. I think we got to Bangkok at 5:00PM or so.

    Verdict: Never again. A cheap bus ride cost me a few hundred dollars.

  5. Sally says:

    Fully agree on Champa. But another option would have been Sorya. As far as I know all their busses from PP to Kampot go via Kep and stop there to let passengers get off or on board. Ticket should be no more than 5 or 6 dollars if purchased directly through the bus company. Took me around 5 hours from PP to Kep a couple weeks ago.

    • Lina says:

      If I recall correctly, Sorya goes PP-Kep-Kampot, but then Kep-Kampot-PP, so it’s not direct from Kep to Phnom Penh on the way back. It also takes forrrrrever.

      • Sally says:

        Hm last time I asked at their office in Kampot they assured me they would go from Kampot via Kep to PP, bc I was specifically looking for a bus that wouldn’t go via Kep. But maybe they misunderstood me.

        • Tracy Stettler says:

          It’s direct Kep – PP (w/ the potty stop) and vice versa from PP – Kep on Sorya, but “yes” it does take a good 4.5 hours + most of the time.

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