I had the pleasure of traveling between Siem Reap and Battabang on Mekong Express recently, so I thought I’d give a much-needed bus review from the road. Now of course I use the term “pleasure” loosely, as the road between Battambang and Siem Reap is not a pleasure by any stretch of the imagination (but don’t worry, the buses are completely acceptable).
There is no direct road from Battambang to Siem Reap, and all buses instead route through Sisophon and Banteay Meanchey province. National Road 5 has been under construction since 2017 and although it’s said to be finishing soon, in 2019, the current trip takes between 3 and 4 hours and parts are a bit bumpy. Once the resurfacing is complete the trip should take a little over 2 hours.
Mekong Express is a foreigner favorite. They are known for safe driving, without the crazy lane changes and other ridiculous maneuvers that are commonly seen on the roads in Cambodia. Mekong Express has gotten a new fleet of buses for the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap bus trip, and if you wondered where the old buses went, well, they went to Battambang.
Mekong Express run buses twice a day between Siem Reap and Battambang, at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. in either direction. They mostly use mini-buses on this route, but also have one full-size bus that they send back and forth as well. The full-size buses seat 40 and have a toilet on board (this is not a plus, as the smell from the toilets is usually revolting).
The full-size buses are slower and safer and more comfortable, but the drivers stop more often to pick up random deliveries and stray passengers. The mini-buses are faster and seat 18 officially, but there are four extra fold-down seats that they can put into service if they have too many passengers.
Mekong Express promises a lot in terms of amenities, but delivers little. On my recent trips, there was no WiFi on either bus or mini-bus. The promised snack and napkin never materialized, either. Water was given on the mini-bus, but not the full-size bus. This is a short trip so none of these things are really necessary, but I wish they’d stop advertising that they have them when they don’t.
Overall, the trip in both directions was painless. Both the full-size bus and the mini-bus drove safely and slowly, to minimize the bumps from the road construction. We stopped once in either direction at a place that had public toilets and sold drinks and snacks.
The cost was $7 for non-Cambodians ($6 for locals) and tickets can be booked online. If you book online you can choose a seat in advance to make sure you don’t end up in the back. During the winter high season these buses are often sold out on the Siem Reap to Battambang route, so book at least a day or two in advance. If you can’t get a ticket on Mekong Express, the Cambodia Post VIP van is also very good, if not better.
Mekong Express 2019 Schedule
Siem Reap to Battambang: 8 a.m., 2 p.m.
Battambang to Siem Reap: 8 a.m., 2 p.m.