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.
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.
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?
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