Getting Around in Cambodia
In recent years, there have been massive improvements to the roads, making it easier to get around the country. New highways have been built, old dirt roads have been replaced, and a reasonable bus network has been developed. Overall, fares are very reasonable.
Cambodian national airlines rarely last for more than a few years and as such, it is better to fly on another Southeast Asian airline. For example, the Thai carrier Bangkok Airways flies the very popular Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route.
A disgrace to say the least, travelling by train should only be considered as a novelty or checklist item.
The Battambang train runs once a week, with the trip taking anywhere from 18 to 24 hours, departing from Phnom Penh on Saturday and returning the following day. Fares are nominal and you can choose to sit on the roof of the train car.
Local buses and Minibuses
With the recent improvements to the Cambodian road networks, the bus systems have followed suite and are worth considering. A number of private bus companies run to and from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, serving destinations across the country, with the hubs at Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
Shared taxi for long distance travel is another cost-effect option if you have a small group of 3 or 4 people. Keep in mind that a taxi charter is generally priced at 6 passengers, you will have to pay six passengers’ worth of fare to secure the taxi for yourself.
Renting a car to drive yourself is far less common.
Cambodia is awash in motodops – guys with a motorcycle and a baseball cap – who will take you anywhere on their bike for a few dollars. This is a great way to do half-day tours, such as exploring Battambang, but not for longer distances, such as from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.
Larger endure-style dirt bikes can be hired long term from a number of dirt bike rental shops in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Prices are reasonable, but be sure to carefully check the bike, and do not use the chain and padlock provided by the shop to lock up the bike at night – use your own.
Long, with a scenic flat coastline, Cambodia can be a great destination for cyclists. Most Cambodian towns have accommodations, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a room for the night. Make sure to pack a good supply of inner tubes and patch kits as Cambodian bikes are not the best. If possible, bring your own bike.
Only two regular ferry runs still operate in Cambodia – Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, and Siem Reap to Battambang. Boats no longer run north up the Mekong to Kompong Cham and the Ko Kong to Sihanoukville boat now only goes as far as Ko Sdech.
The Phnom Penh to Siem Reap boat ride is worth doing once and once only. It is expensive in comparison to the bus, the middle of the trip is boring (you will be in the middle of a lake with no scenery) and, if you sit on the roof, chances are you will get sunburned. We recommend taking this boat ride one way if you insist, and take the bus for the return trip.
The Siem Reap to Battambang trip is a lucky draw – the quality of the boats varies from one day to the next, overloading is the norm, boats run aground regularly, and occasionally they sink. That said though, the Battambang portion of the trip is spectacular.