I sometimes get incredulous looks when I tell people that one of my favorite ways to travel between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is with the Cambodia Post VIP Van to Phnom Penh. Most people probably assumed I’d be sitting on packages squeezed between sacks of mail, but the reality couldn’t be more different. The Cambodia Post VIP Van, a transport service owned by the Cambodian government and post office, runs minibuses between several cities. I tried out the Siem Reap to Phnom Penh route and thought it was an excellent ride; here’s the full report.
The novelty of the Cambodia Post transport service is that they are actually using the mini-buses to bring mail and packages from one city to another. But they aren’t old, run-down mail trucks as you might expect. Cambodia Post has purchased a fleet of brand-new Toyota HiAces, my preferred model of mini-bus because of their wide, comfortable seats. Buses and passengers are insured by Caminco Insurance, which was reassuring.
On a recent trip, we left from the Siem Reap post office at 7:30 a.m. a few minutes early because everyone was already there. The trip took 5.5 hours and we arrived at the Phnom Penh post office a few minutes before 1 p.m. The driver was young and in uniform and drove well; several times he nosed out and then chose not to pass the car in front of him because it didn’t look safe. He seemed much more cautious — in a good way — than the average Cambodian mini-bus driver. They claim that they use GPS to track the speed to make sure that the drivers don’t drive too fast. I’m not sure if that’s true, but our driver didn’t speed or do anything reckless. That may be because each bus has a sign on the back that says “How is my driving?” with a phone number that dials straight to the Cambodian government.
The WiFi sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, and I am not sure why it does on some trips and not others. If you’re worried about whether or not you’ll have WiFi, I would suggest getting a cheap data package on a Cellcard SIM, which all in can be had for less than $5. But usually you’ll get at least some WiFi on these bus trips.
Usually a HiAce can seat 15 passengers plus the driver, but Cambodia Post has pulled out two of the seats in the back row for mail and luggage. This actually makes the back row less awful — four people back there feels claustrophobic, but two isn’t so bad. Because there are only three seats across the front, seats A1 and A2 (the front window seat, aka “shotgun”) are slightly more roomy. The second row has three seats across, A3, A4, and A5. The third row has a pair of seats, A6 and A7, and then one solo seat, A8. This solo seat has extra legroom as long as overflow baggage isn’t stored there. The fourth row is in the same configuration, with a pair of seats, A9 and A10, and a solo seat, A11. In the back are an additional two seats, A12 and A13, that they hold until the last minute in case they need them for more mail. These two seats aren’t sold online.
During the trip from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh the bus stopped twice, first in Kampong Thom at the Golden Chenla Hotel, and then in Skun at a rest stop that served food. The Golden Chenla Hotel had a menu for Khmers and one in English, with the prices in English double the price for the same dishes on the Khmer menu. I asked politely for the Khmer price and they capitulated pretty quickly — I had a very nice pork and rice for 8,000 riel ($2). Both stops had toilets, and as per usual there is no toilet paper, so bring your own if you need it.
Tickets from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap cost $10. The buses are new, the trip was fast, the driving was cautious, and the food at the restaurant stop was good. I’d pretty much sworn off mini-buses recently, but the Cambodia Post VIP Van has renewed my faith in this mode of transport.
The Cambodia Post VIP Van leaves from and terminates at the main post office in each city. They do not do hotel pick-ups. Most of the other mini-bus companies are forced to do hotel pick-ups because their offices are not in town, but the post offices are centrally located and walkable to many hotels.
Tickets can be purchased online for a small fee of less than $1 and you can see real-time seating charts and pick which seat you want. I got my ticket this way, printed it out and presented it at the Siem Reap post office and had no problem boarding the bus. Tickets can also be purchased at the main post office in each city.
In addition to the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route, Cambodia Post VIP Van goes from Phnom Penh to Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Poipet, Pursat, and Sihanoukville, as well as Siem Reap to Kampong Thom.
Buses run from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap at: 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m.
Buses run from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh at: 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m.
Cambodia Post VIP Van
Wat Phnom Post Office
Street 13 at Street 102, Phnom Penh
T: 012 931 555; 010 778 555; 088 39 93 555
Siem Reap Post Office
Pokambor Ave, Siem Reap
T: 088 8711 807
Book Cambodia Post VIP Van tickets online
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