Mini-buses seem to be the preferred method of travel between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh for expats and upwardly mobile Cambodians who are willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort (and safety, they drive fast!) to shave an hour off the trip. Seila Angkor is popular mini-bus company that does the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route. I’ve taken them several times and have been pleased with their services.
The trip takes between five and six hours. With the current road conditions, in order to do the trip in five hours the drivers need to take some hair-raising liberties, and occasionally they can drive faster than I’m comfortable with. Most of the time, though, the trip takes six hours and the drivers go at a reasonable pace.
Seila Angkor run 16-seat Ford Transit vans, and all seats come with a removable head/neck rest, a small bottle of water and a moist towelette. It’s good to understand the seat setup before you book, because you can reserve seats by number. Seats 1 and 2 are a pair of seats next to the driver, with 1 being in the middle and 2 next to the window. Seats 3 and 4 are the second row. These seats can be hit or miss because there is often baggage piled up in the front, reducing the leg room. The third row is a pair, seats 5 and 6, and then a solo seat, 7. 7 can be the best seat in the house when there is no baggage because it has the most legroom. When there is a lot of baggage, though, it can be just as cramped as the others. The fourth row is a pair, seats 8 and 9 and a solo spot in seat 10. The back row are seats 11, 12, 13, and 14. The whole back row is very crowded, and seats 12 and 13 are particularly heinous, especially if you are traveling alone. If you are alone, go for 7 or 10, the only solo seats on the van.
I’m not sure if it’s just my bad luck or Seila Angkor is particularly popular with mothers of young children, but two of my most recent three trips have featured young kids without seats of their own, which adds to the tightness of the quarters.
The bus stops twice along the way, once for a toilet stop and once at Stung Sen Restaurant. Stung Sen is a popular spot for buses to take a rest because they pay some of the highest rates around to buses that stop there. They then, in turn, pass this cost along to you, the foreigner customer. The food at Stung Sen is mediocre and overpriced. Fried rice costs $3 a plate (7,000 for Khmers) and offers very little in the way of vegetables, meat or flavor. They have different menus with different pricing for Khmers and foreigners and are so blatant with their price discrimination that they will charge different prices to people at the same table who have ordered the same thing. All that said, this is still a good bus company so I’d pack a sandwich and avoid Stung Sen altogether.
Seats between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap cost $8 for Khmers and $10 for foreigners. They will give expats the $8 rate if you book directly through them, although it did require a little bit of friendly banter on the Phnom Penh side. If you book via a travel agent or your hotel, the price is always $10. While I heartily disapprove of the two-tiered pricing model in Cambodia, I always appreciate it when companies that do it are willing to offer the local price to expats, so for this reason Seila Angkor Khmer Express is one of my favorite mini-bus companies.
You can book tickets for Seila Angkor in advance online at BookMeBus.
Buses run from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap at 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m.
Buses run from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh at 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m.
Seila Angkor Khmer Express
#63 National Road 6 (across from Samaki Market), Siem Reap
T: 077 888 080
Bus tickets purchased through links in this post to read more here.