Review: Giant Ibis buses, Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice versa)

The trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap by bus has improved by leaps and bounds during the time I have lived in Cambodia. The once bumpy road is fully paved now, and in 2019 the trip now takes between 5.5 and 6 hours. But between the view of the Cambodian countryside, the smooth ride, and onboard WiFi, this is one of the best ways to travel across Cambodia.

Giant Ibis bus Cambodia 2019

We took this gleaming Giant Ibis bus in 2019 and it’s still a great ride.

Giant Ibis at a glance…

Giant Ibis Transport

Giant Ibis Transport began operations in 2012 and offers a variety of services that will appeal particularly to visitors. Their fleet of buses is new, the seats recline, they offer free WiFi, power outlets, a bottle of water and a pastry and their staff speak English. They are also the only full-size bus company in Cambodia to offer seat belts. Best of all, they offer online booking and seat reservation, thus eliminating the 30-odd minutes one would usually have to spend at a Cambodian travel agent’s while they call the bus company and laboriously write out a ticket.

The trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap takes about 6 hours give or take about thirty minutes. It’s a nice way to see a bit of the countryside; along the way you’ll see traditional Khmer homes, family gardens, rice paddies, flocks of ducks, and water buffalo being led home. The 38-foot buses seat 41 passengers and while there are no toilets on board, the bus stops at the 1.5 and 3.5 hour mark. The first stop isn’t always the same, but always has a relatively clean Western toilet. The other stop is a restaurant contracted by Giant Ibis called Banyan Tree on National Highway 6 near Kampong Thom.

Banyan Tree Giant Ibis restaurant

Don’t worry, you will stop for lunch.

While on one hand, it does feel like a bit of a hustle to be forced to sit at a bus company-contracted restaurant, there’s no way of avoiding this. Every bus company in Cambodia stops at places that pay them for the business, and it will even happen when you take a private taxi. The plus side of Banyan Tree is that they have the same prices for Khmers and foreigners, which is not typical. The food is ordinary, and prices are higher than you’d expect in Cambodia, but still not very expensive (dishes are priced between $3 and $5). They serve Western and Khmer food, such as hamburgers or Khmer curry, and they are efficient enough to make sure everyone has ordered and eaten in less than 30 minutes. And while Giant Ibis doesn’t own the place, they do hygiene inspections to make sure that everything is up to their standards. Moreover, the toilets are clean and usually have toilet paper. So overall, I can’t really complain.

On board, Giant Ibis offer movies in English, which are generally family-friendly action movies–anything that was once a comic book seems to be fair game. Seats have individual switches for the speakers, so the noise is not too loud for those who aren’t interested in watching the movie, and as time progresses they have been lowering the volume, and sometimes skipping them entirely, perhaps recognizing that no one watches the movie anyway.

WiFi is offered onboard, using 3G and 4G. This means that the connection is available when there’s a 3G/4G signal available, which is more than half the journey. It doesn’t work in the more rural parts of the trip, but there’s no avoiding that; this isn’t the fault of Giant Ibis, there is just no mobile service there. The latest exciting addition are individual power outlets on all of the buses between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. They’re international-style plugs that feature inputs for most standard plugs from around the world.

inside a Giant Ibis bus

Interior of a Giant Ibis on the Siem Reap to Phnom Penh route. Still looking good!

This isn’t the only thing that sets Giant Ibis apart from the other bus companies in Cambodia. One of my favorite things about the journey is that it does not involve multiple pickups and dropoffs along the way–previous expat favorite Mekong Express often takes an hour just getting in and out of Phnom Penh due to the extra stops.

The best thing about Giant Ibis, though, is safety. They have a maximum speed of 95 kph/60 mph, and management is alerted automatically if drivers go over this speed. The company has ten full-time mechanics and their dedication to safety seems very genuine. They are also more reliable than the local airlines that ply this route, who often cancel flights if they deem them not profitable enough, leaving people stranded and with little recourse other than to wait an extra day.

Of course everything on Giant Ibis is not perfect–the seats are narrow enough that it’s unpleasant to sit next to a large stranger, but they have more legroom than any of the mini-buses, and the ride is smoother and more comfortable than on a mini-bus.

Currently, buses run from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap at 8:45 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., the schedule is the same in the opposite direction, with buses from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh at 8:45 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. as well. They also have a night bus service in both directions at 11:00 p.m. and and 11:30 p.m which I’ve taken many times and was pleasantly surprised.

Tickets on the Giant Ibis Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route cost $15, and prices are the same for locals and foreigners. You can buy tickets online and choose your seats in advance.

Giant Ibis buses drop off in Phnom Penh at the new Giant Ibis terminal near Wat Phnom on Street 90 [map] and at the Giant Ibis bus station in Siem Reap [map].

Giant Ibis

Buy tickets online

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85 Responses to Review: Giant Ibis buses, Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice versa)

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  1. Joshua Chiang says:

    I would have to strongly disagree on the safety part. While the big coach bus is generally safe and comfortable, like many bus companies in Cambodia, when profitability is involved, passenger safety is thrown out of the window.

    Below is an account of my experience that first appeared on TripAdvisor review-

    DOES GIANT IBIS BUS COMPANY CARE ABOUT PASSENGER SAFETY ANYMORE?

    So I’m writing this at 6pm on a minibus from Larryta bus company on my way back to Phnom Penh from Siem Reap. My wife and I should be on the 2:30pm bus from Giant Ibis instead.

    We had almost ridden exclusively on Giant Ibis buses because they were the safest. Like the company website wrote: they always have two drivers for long journeys, and all their buses come with seatbelts. And we always take the big coach buses despite their slower speed because of safety.

    So what happened?

    Let me take you back to 2pm on the same day when we arrived at the Giant Ibis bus depot. We realized immediately that there would only be six other passengers on the journey.

    Shortly after, the bus attendant arrived and said apologetically that the coach bus (typically a thirty-seater) meant for the journey had broken down and we would be going on a small minibus.

    Coincidentally of course, it happened on a trip where there are only eight passengers.

    Nonetheless we boarded. And when we sat down, we noticed there were no seatbelts. Or more accurately there were webbings, retractors, latches, but no buckles. Which makes the contraceptions practically useless. Understanding that sometimes buckles are tucked away at the back of the seats or something, I asked the bus attendant if she knew where the buckles have gone and she replied there were no seatbelts. Which made some of the other passengers worried too, and they too started protesting.

    After reassuring us unconvincingly that she is also going on the journey with us too, she relented and decided to look for other solutions. One of which involved driving us in two separate cars. Now remember, they were supposed to have two drivers. But that solution got tossed aside because the other driver was apparently with the broken-down coach bus.

    Which means that Giant Ibis was prepared to take passengers on board a bus without seatbelts with one driver for the entire journey in spite of what it says on its website.

    (Now the attendant did offer to refund 50% of the fare but the point lost on her wasn’t the money but that passengers like us were prepared to pay more for the assurance of safety)

    So a second solution came up. There was a coach bus arriving in half an hour’s time from Phnom Penh. If we could wait that could be arranged. So some of us were happy with the arrangement. So Liwen and I got off with our luggage and sat down in the waiting area.

    What happened next really took the cake.

    The bus attendant alighted and asked us to board the bus again. Her reason was that the other passengers didn’t want to wait. A claim which we could neither prove nor disprove.

    But my suspicion was that someone at the top was making decisions based on dollars and cents. Why would you want a thirty-seater ferry eight passengers if you can persuade them to take a fifteen seater?

    So we asked to speak to the manager. A call was made to the office in Siem Reap and we took turns speaking to a certain “Mr Ka”. He insisted there were seatbelts on the minibus and simply refused to listen to any solutions we had to offer. We couldn’t take the night buses either because they were fully booked.

    While all this was happening, another employee came along and told the minibus driver to drive off. And two minutes later after the minibus left, the big coach bus, full of passengers from Phnom Penh arrived.

    So we could all have been on the big coach bus as promised if the bus attendant had just told the passengers to wait a few minutes longer. A point which we made to Mr Ka.

    And then Mr Ka changed his story. He asked Liwen rhetorically if it made sense for a coach bus to ferry two passengers only. All the while insisting there were seat belts on the minibus and cutting us off when we said otherwise.

    To cut a long story short – we did get a full refund back at the end, but they didn’t think that us having to possibly incur costs for an extra night’s accommodation was their problem and refused to offer anything more than one free ticket. There was absolutely no effort made to help us find alternative safe modes of transportation by other bus companies, and a higher manager we spoke to, “Siew Ping” even said he couldn’t check the availability of seats on the night bus for the next two hours because he was in a meeting. Nevermind that we informed him that my wife had to attend a training tomorrow morning.

    He also claimed that there were six working seatbelts on the minibus, which if it were true, would also mean that there were less than half the available seats with seatbelts.

    Well there had never been a need for me to check on the reviews for this bus company because we’ve always had good experiences up until now. But when we finally got ourselves tickets on a Larryta bus with seatbelts and I had time to check, it turned out that amongst the negative reviews the most common remark was that Giant Ibis used to be good. But now it’s “just like any other bus companies”.

    You can add one more review that has the same opinion I guess.

    (Postscript: And Giant Ibis, if you’re reading this because I’m making sure it gets to you, make sure you make your bus safe for your attendants too. Having them sit in the front next to the driver on a foldable stool without seatbelts and unattached to the floor of the bus is a surefire way to turn them into human missiles if a collision, even a moderate one, occurs )

    • Lina says:

      Hi Joshua, I have taken Giant Ibis literally a dozen times with fewer than 6 people on the bus. In fact, I once took their bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap when my partner and I were the only ones on the bus, and that is a long, expensive trip. So I don’t think the number of passengers factored in to any of their decisions, that’s really not how they operate.

  2. Pingback: Review: Giant Ibis Bangkok to Siem Reap direct bus – Move to Cambodia

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