When I heard about CityLink, the newest luxury bus between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, it seemed like the sort of tall tale that gets passed around on the schoolyard that is expat life in Cambodia. “They have personal TVs!” “The chairs massage you!” “The seats are first class!” And most of it is true — get the details in the review below.
CityLink Cambodia bills itself as a luxury bus company, nay the luxury bus company, traversing the long road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. CityLink has full-size buses and mini-buses going between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. It’s the full-size bus that everyone is talking about, so I bought a ticket and took it for a spin.
The Phnom Penh Post reported that the CityLink buses are new, the seats are modern, and they go to international locations. None of these things is actually true. The bus is old, but clean. The toilet is not modern; it is a squat toilet, but it is also clean. And CityLink only does domestic routes, at least for the time being. The bus is a double-decker with only 17 seats. The lower level is for luggage and the toilet, which is a nice layout because most buses with toilets tend to smell like urine, air freshener, disinfectant, or some combination therein. By housing the toilet below deck, CityLink escapes this fate.
17 seats on a bus really isn’t very many, which means that the seats are massive. There are two aisles, with one seat on either side, and a row of three in the back. Because of the single-row seating, this is a great bus to take if you are traveling solo and don’t want to sit next to anyone. The seats are similar to first class recliner seats on domestic flights in the 80s or 90s; they are wide and padded, with a adjustable leg rest and considerable recline. There is, as rumored, a massage feature on every chair.
Each seat has a personal TV that shows programming in English, Mandarin, and Khmer. There is no headphone jack, but the speakers are housed in the headrest so the volume does not need to be very loud to watch a movie. Surprisingly, despite the fact that there were several people on my bus watching movies, the volume in the cabin was lower and less annoying than the standard movie sounds on other buses.
There’s also a Super Nintendo-style video game controller and a selection of games, including one called Hero Pika that appears to be a counterfeit Mario Brothers, and a possibly legit Popeye. I must confess that I spent more time that I’d like to admit playing phony Mario, but that’s what long bus trips are for, right?
The CityLink staff are also very friendly; there’s a “flight attendant” on board who spent five minutes explaining how I could get my chair to massage me, and when my TV didn’t work, she immediately moved me to another seat. There’s even a buzzer on the armrest in case you want to summon the attendant back to your chair. The WiFi worked like a charm, and because there are so few people on the bus, is much faster than the usual bus Internet speeds. It even was able to maintain a connection when my Cellcard 3g failed me.
That said, my first TV didn’t work, and in my second seat, a large screw fell out of the ceiling and into my lap, which doesn’t inspire confidence. Happily, the driver drove safely and slowly for the entire journey. I am always worried about the bus maintenance and upkeep, though, because most Cambodian bus companies do not seem to place great (or any) emphasis on this. CityLink brough to mind Mekong Express, who despite having an excellent safety record, seem to have buses break down on the side of the road with alarming regularity. There were also quite a lot of stops to pick up and drop off people along the way, although they were speedy.
Overall, it was a very comfortable ride. Although I suspect that Giant Ibis is more reliable, I would still recommend CityLink, particularly for solo travelers who don’t want to sit next to anybody. Tickets cost $16 (or $14 for the mini-bus) and the trip takes around six-and-a-half hours. Tickets can be purchased from the CityLink offices in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. I bought mine in the ticket office and would recommend avoiding that particular headache and book online.
In Siem Reap buses arrive and leave from the CityLink office across from Psar Samaki on Road 6. In Phnom Penh, the office is on Street 215, but they will make a quick stop to let people off by the railroad station before dropping off at their office.
CityLink Big Bus Schedule:
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap: 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh: 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.
CityLink Mini-Bus Schedule:
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap: 7 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m.
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh: 7 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m.
#7E Street 215, near Street 156, Phnom Penh
T: 023 939 939; 095 470 470; 0968 470 470
#148Eo National Road 6, opposite Psar Samaki, Siem Reap
T: 063 968 568; 085 470 470; 010 470 470