10 Reasons to Book Giant Ibis in Your Indochina Transfers

In the course of planning our Indochina trip, the biggest challenge I had was determining how to go from one city to another. We were covering three countries—Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam—and from our huge list of tourist spots, we had narrowed down our itinerary to 8 major destinations. That part, picking the final eight, was so hard, since I had to take into consideration our transfers in between to make it all possible. After several sleepless nights, I managed to complete our master plan, which I shared in a previous blog post.

Choosing the mode of transportation depends on 3 things: (1) how much time you have; (2) how much money you have; and (3) the type of traveler you are. We were limited by all these three, and we had to make tough decisions. In some parts of the trip, we chose to fly, but because flying is expensive, we couldn’t take that option in all legs of our trip. As for the kind of traveler you are, some people prefer doing it slow, and therefore flying doesn't appeal to them. Fortunately for us—and for you—traveling by land doesn’t mean being stuck in a slow, rickety train or getting scammed in a bus. There’s a way to travel across Indochina that is still quite fast, comfortable, reasonably priced, and hassle-free: Giant Ibis.

This bus company, named after Cambodia’s national bird, is regarded as the safest passenger transport company in Cambodia. Giant Ibis is known to be reliable and efficient—with well-maintained coaches, responsible drivers, friendly staff, and modern amenities that make each trip a relaxing one. Therefore, when we heard all the rave reviews, we wasted no time and booked ALL our transfers with them to and from Cambodia, and within Cambodia. Check out below why we love—and highly recommend—Giant Ibis!


1 | Efficient Online Booking System


If you’re the traveler who likes preparing everything beforehand, you will love the fact that Giant Ibis has an online booking system. There’s nothing more frustrating that arriving at the bus station and realizing that there are no more available trips for that day—this kind of fiasco destroys whatever you have planned for your trip. Since we only had a limited number of days, we wanted to make sure that we stick to specific travel dates and times.

The booking site is easy to use. First, you need to pick the origin, destination, and dates—and select whether you need a one-way or a roundtrip ticket. Afterwards, you will be taken to a page which lists down all available schedules for your chosen route. On the next pages, the site allows you to pick your seats, input the passenger details, and finally, pay using your credit card. You will receive a confirmation in your email—yes, it works just like an airline booking website.


2 | Large, Comfortable Seats and Leg Space

Longer trips—like the 9-hour Bangkok to Siem Reap—have less schedules but use bigger buses. For instance, this route uses a 36-seater—you can be assured that you are seated comfortably. Bigger units also mean larger seats; here, they can be fully reclined (yes, the person in front of me was almost lying on top of me, LOL) but the leg space between rows are also bigger, so that wasn’t much of a problem.

The day buses for shorter routes (6 hours), like Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, are 41-seaters, but the seats are a bit smaller. Night buses are available for some routes, and can accommodate 20 people. For even shorter routes (4.5 hours), only mini-buses are available, which can hold around 15 people (example: Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville).

There are no foldable aisle seats, thank goodness.


3 | Reliable Departure Times

Giant Ibis' station in Sihanoukville

There’s nothing more irritating than arriving early on the transport station and realizing that your trip would be delayed—because the unit isn’t ready yet! We never experienced this with Giant Ibis. The buses arrive on time, and try to leave on time, with only super little delays (only to accommodate late passengers). That 2-hour or even 6-hour delay you experience in Philippine airports? None of that at all.

They understand that you have planned your whole trip beforehand, so you need to reach your destination on the dot. The only time we arrived late in our final stop was in Phnom Penh, because the traffic was horrendous. Aside from that, all our trips were smooth. In addition, if your trip gets delayed because of Giant Ibis’ fault, they will refund your ticket.


4 | Safety

Giant Ibis’ team of mechanics check their units on a daily basis, to make sure the buses don’t break down mid-trip. Yes, they operate like an airline company and I super appreciate their high regard towards passenger safety. They also have a 2-driver policy for trips 6 hours or more—recognizing the fact that exhausted drivers are more prone to getting into a road accident. There are safety belts on each seat.

In addition, there are no random stop-overs, ensuring not only a timely arrival but also passenger safety. We tried a night bus in Chiang Rai going to Chiang Mai, and believe me, it took forever to get there. The bus kept picking up and dropping passengers (EDSA-style!) unlike aboard Giant Ibis where there are only designated stops—usually with partner restaurants and toilet stops. This also means you will be with the same set of people all throughout the trip. I mean, who knows if you’re stopping by the highway to pick up a hijacker, right?


5 | Free Wi-Fi and Individual Power Outlets

mini-bus to Sihanoukville

Whether you want to watch YouTube while in transit, upload your travel photos on social media, or just chat with someone, you can do so aboard Giant Ibis on your way to your next destination. The connection is relatively fast in most areas, but when you reach dead spots like rice fields or roads in the middle of greenery, expect that reception will get slow or be totally nada. In all our transfers, I noticed that the Wi-Fi would stop working beyond halfway through the trip, then come back once we’re near our final stop.

Please don't expect Wi-Fi signal here.

Travelers—especially those who constantly snap away with their cameras—will be delighted to find working international-style power outlets in each seat. While you rest your tired bodies, you get to recharge your gadgets’ batteries as well. I brought three powerbanks for our trip but I was still thankful for this amenity, since I was hoping I wouldn’t have to use them all—or, at all!


6 | Complimentary On-Board Meals

When I booked our tickets, I didn’t even know that they come with free food. So once we boarded, I was surprised to find the staff handing us pastries and water—including cold towels! In the longest leg (Bangkok to Siem Reap), we had one packed lunch and one snack, along with beverages. I had already bought some chips and bread before leaving Bangkok but I was unable to touch them because of the free food. If you don’t like the food, don’t worry because there are selected stops that actually sell decent grub. But here’s a tip: if you can’t eat those free snacks, stuff them into your backpack because you might need them in the middle of a grueling sightseeing.


7 | Hassle-Free Border Crossing

One hot topic I came across while doing my Indochina preps was the “challenging” process to cross from Thailand to Cambodia. It is, apparently, in this stage where tourists often get ripped off—either in the form of fake bus rides (yes, they exist!), nonexistent VISA fees, or exorbitant transportation prices. To be honest, I found Cambodians to be truly nice, but that was probably because I’m Asian—Western people probably feel differently. In any case, know your VISA information before actually going there to avoid any hassle.

As for us passengers of Giant Ibis, not only did we have a special lane, we also had our guide assisting each of us on the process. For us Asians (Southeast Asians, at least), we don’t need any VISA—we just need to get our passports stamped in the borders. For those who do need to pay, take note that both US dollars and Riel (Cambodian currency) are accepted.


8 | English-Speaking Staff

If you have ever been to Vietnam (like Ho Chi Minh), you would know how difficult it is to find a random person speaking good English (from my experience, to be honest, almost everyone cannot). So if you’re in a bus full of tourists from all parts of the world, it’s good that the guide can speak fluent English and be able to assist everyone. Otherwise there will just be confusion, from validating the tickets to crossing borders, etc. Even the staff from their ticketing offices can converse effectively.


9 | Reasonable Pricing

As an observation, the longer the trip, the bigger the price difference between Giant Ibis and that of other coach companies. For example, the trip from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh costs $16 with Giant Ibis, but only $12 in Mekong Express, another popular choice for travelers. For the 4-hour Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville route, both are priced at $12. However, for the Bangkok to Siem Reap route, Giant Ibis’ price is double ($36 versus $18). My opinion? Pay extra—it comes with food, Wi-Fi, extra safety, and a whole lot more.

Here are the available routes and rates (as of May 2017):
*all prices include credit card processing fee
Route
Bangkok – Siem Reap
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh - Sihanoukville
Phnom Penh - Kampot
Phnom Penh - Ho Chi Minh
Roundtrip available?
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
One-way fare
$36
$16
$12
$10
$19
Duration
8.5 hours
6.5 hours
4.5 hours
2.5 hours
6.5 hours


10 | 24/7 Chat Support

Got any questions? Just go to their website and chat whoever is in that Zendesk chat widget. Based on my experience, someone is always available. Using this utility, you can clarify last-minute details, verify departure times, or whatever purpose you need it for.

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When I do an Indochina trip again, I would probably try the train (for a different kind of experience, you know? Like seeing more of the mountains and countryside), but from what I see, I believe Giant Ibis is the most comfortable, fast, and hassle-free option—and I totally wouldn’t mind booking them again.

We paid for ALL our transfers.


~*~
Giant Ibis


night bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Have you traveled with Giant Ibis? What was your experience?



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