Road to ASEAN

Is this the best way to travel across Cambodia?

Andrea Lo, Dan Tham, CNNUpdated 5th May 2017
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(CNN) — It's one of the easiest ways to get around -- but traveling by bus in Cambodia can be a confusing experience.
With more 60 bus operators in the capital city of Phnom Penh alone, the bus system has often proved difficult to navigate.
That's where BookMeBus comes in.
Founded in 2015, Langda Chea, a 27-year-old Cambodian native, quit a tech job to launch the online ticketing platform after becoming frustrated by the inefficiency of Cambodian bus travel.
"In Cambodia, in order (for people) to buy tickets, they had to go very far and buy their tickets from the counter," Chea tells CNN.
"You can't just (go) to one place and find all the bus companies there ... You have to go to different places in order to buy each bus ticket.
"We are trying to change the way people buy bus tickets in Cambodia."

A game-changer

BookMeBus is a website and mobile app that enables passengers to book bus and ferry tickets, as well as private taxi rides, from more than 30 operators across Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
Users can compare schedules and prices, and book securely using credit cards.
"It's very, very popular in Cambodia to go across the country by bus," Chea says.
"With the bus, you can enjoy the view of the city and the view of the country -- like buffalo, rice fields and rivers."
Around 8,000 to 9,000 tickets are now sold per month on BookMeBus, he says.

Rise of e-commerce

But it hasn't all been plain sailing.
"E-commerce in Cambodia is quite new -- it has just emerged," Chea tells CNN. "Not many local people buy tickets online."
Over 90% of BookMeBus users are foreigners, he says.
“It's very, very popular in Cambodia to go across the country by bus.”
Langda Chea, founder and CEO, BookMeBus
Despite this, Chea says his company now works with 60% of bus companies in the country -- and hopes that Cambodians will embrace the technology.
"We thought it was very hard to sell online, because it is new for Cambodia," Ith Chanda, the manager of bus company Golden Bayon Express -- one of BookMeBus' partners -- tells CNN.
"But foreigners are used to it. Sales are increasingly strong."
"We hope we can enlarge our market by cooperating with BookMeBus."

Where to next?

With the platform already working in multiple countries across Asia, Chea has plans to expand operations further still.
"When we started, we only thought about ... needing to solve the problem for Cambodians, but now we are more and more ambitious," he says.
"So not only do we want to solve the problem in our own country, but we think this kind of model will also help in other countries -- especially in the region."