Travel in Cambodia – VongVeng
Cambodia is one of the most beautiful and unique places in the world, and the perfect place to escape the banalities of everyday life and explore an exotic and ancient kingdom. Cambodia travel can be difficult if you don’t prepare well beforehand, but if you know what to expect and where to find things, it will be a more than pleasant experience.
To get you prepared, here’s a brief guide to Cambodia travel.
Getting Around in the Cities
Arriving at the airport in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, with lots of people offering to carry your bags and whisk you off to your hotel, so try to decide what mode of transport you’re going take before you get there and don’t be afraid to say no to those many offers that you don’t want to accept.
From the Airport:
There are a couple of options for getting from the airport to your accommodation. If you’re travelling alone or in a small group, getting a tuk-tuk is a good option. The Phnom Penh airport tuk-tuks are beige colored with a green stripe along the bottom, and can be found right in front of the Arrivals exit at Phnom Penh airport. One tuk-tuk will comfortable carry around 3-4 people plus luggage but the drivers are always willing to squeeze on as many people as you want. Bigger groups will need to split up and take a couple of tuk-tuks. These open-sided carriages allow you to take in your first sights and smells and sounds of this unique country; a good start to your Cambodia travel experience.
For families with small children, we think taxi services are the best option and, like tuk-tuks, these can be taken from right in front of the airport terminal. Drivers usually speak decent English and know where most of the hotels in Phnom Penh are located.
Tuk-tuks will cost $7-$9 depending on where you are in the city.
Taxis are more expensive and could get as high as $12.
Keep in mind that Cambodia travel involves plenty of bargaining and you will most likely have to haggle down your driver a little to get a reasonable price, but don’t try to force them too low as this is the way they make their living.
In and Around the Cities:
Cambodia travel most commonly encompasses four main cities: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville. In all of these places, public transportation is easy to find. Tuk-tuk drivers can usually be spotted milling around outside hotels and guest-houses, and many of them have a map of the city’s main attractions stuck on the inside of their vehicles. Simply tell them where you’d like to go and agree on a price. We strongly suggest that you agree on how much you’re going to pay before getting on the tuk-tuk. This varies a lot depending on where you’re going and really depends on if you’re brave enough to do a bit of bargaining, but as a general rule the right price will usually be about $2 less than the first number the driver gives you.
Alternatively, if you’ve decided where you’re going throughout your day, a lot of the tuk-tuk drivers are willing to agree on a $20-$25 fee for being your transportation for the entire day
If you’re going out to more rural areas from the cities, don’t let your tuk-tuk driver just drop you off and leave, as it can be very hard to find another to take you back. Usually the drivers are happy to wait, or come back at a specified time to pick you up, though as you can imagine, this will probably add another dollar onto what you will pay him if you’re going to be more than an hour.
NOTE: The minimum charge for a tuk-tuk is $1, even if you’re not going very far at all.
When travelling alone or with one or two friends, we tend to take moto-dups. These are motorbike-taxi drivers who can usually be identified by their fairly old motorbikes and button-down shirts. This is a much cheaper Cambodia travel option than taking a tuk-tuk, however be aware that while they will know most of the tourist places, their English tends to be not quite as good as tuk-tuk drivers as they are the less popular mode of transport for tourists.
The minimum for a moto-dup is 1000riel (about 0.25USD) and as a general rule, they will cost just a little over half of what you’d pay for a tuk-tuk.
Don’t let their lack of popularity among tourists deter you; Cambodia travel on the back of a motorbike can be a fun and exciting experience around the cities.
Cambodia travel can also be enjoyable via bicycle. In Phnom Penh, there are a few bicycle rental shops located around the riverside area, in amongst the bars and small shops. In Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kep and Battambang, many of the hotels and guesthouses offer bike rental and there are plenty of rental shops around the towns. Some companies, like Grasshopper Tours (Phnom Penh/Siem Reap) and Sokha Bike (Battambang) even offer cycling tours which visit famous locations and local villages to give you a taste of the real rural-Cambodian lifestyle. You can book this here.
Don’t forget that one of the most interesting forms of Cambodia travel is sometimes just going on foot. The smaller cities are perfect places for taking a wander to explore the day-to-day life of Cambodia’s inhabitants. We strongly suggest ditching your tuk-tuk for a few minutes to mosey around the mystical jungle temples near Angkor Wat, or hiking up to the magnificent pagodas at the peak of Phnom Udong, just outside Phnom Penh.
Cambodia Travel Cross-Country
The main mode of transport for cross-country Cambodia travel is by bus. There are a number of bus companies that offer varied schedules to all of Cambodia’s main towns and cities. Most buses leave every hour or at 30-minute intervals.
From Phnom Penh to just about all locations there are plenty of bus companies operating throughout the day. The main bus stations are at the Night Market (multiple companies), Central Market (Sorya buses) and O’russey Market (Capital buses). There are options of the slightly safer regular buses or mini-buses which are more popular among expats but can sometimes get up to hair-raising speeds.
Leaving from Siem Reap, bus stations are dotted around in different locations but tuk-tuk drivers know where the stations are located and can get you there on time.
When travelling long distances by bus, for example from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap/Battambang, we recommend you take the night bus. The night bus is a comfortable way to spend a night of Cambodia travel instead of wasting an entire day just to reach your destination. The way a night bus is set out depends on the company you go with.
Giant Ibis is the bus company we would recommend when travelling between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. All Ibis’s night buses have comfy reclined seats, free Wi-Fi, and complementary snacks and water. Though the Giant Ibis bus to Sihanoukville is a day bus, it is just as comfortable and makes for a pleasant, scenic trip.
Ibis night buses from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap leave at 10.30pm, 11.00pm and 11.30pm. You can book this here.
Going to places like Battambang and Poipet, you can take the Virak Buntham hotel bus. This is a night bus with fully reclined bed-like seats, pillows and blankets, and complimentary bottled water. The buses themselves vary in their overall condition but many are fairly new and clean, and make Cambodia travel a bit more comfortable. Take note that, although this company advertises free Wi-Fi and an on-board toilet, the Wi-Fi sometimes only works when parked at the station and there is certainly no toilet, though the bus makes a couple of bathroom stops on the way.
Virak Buntham hotel buses usually leave every hour or half-hour from 8.00pm to 12.30am. If you’re travelling to Battambang as a family, you may want to take the 8.00pm bus, arriving at around 2.00am, then take a tuk-tuk to your accommodation and sleep until morning. That way, kids can get some rest and are ready for the next day.
Travelling with Children
We usually find Cambodia travel is safe enough with young children, as long as you’re smart about it. Tuk-tuks can be a great way of seeing the sights in a bustling city, but take care to hold onto wriggly toddlers or sit them between adults or older kids, as tuk-tuks are open-sided except for small arm-rests.
A note on cross-country travel, most bus companies do not charge for children under 6yrs old if they are sitting on a parent’s lap, but if you want an individual seat, tickets are full-price.
During Cambodia travel with your children, don’t forget it can get very hot, and for little ones it will feel even hotter. We recommend always making sure to use plenty of sunscreen, wear hats and drink plenty of water. If you’re running low on water, there are small stalls all over the place, in the cities and the rural areas, where big orange cool-boxes contain bottled water for sale, at 1000riel. Most of these are safe to drink as long as the bottle seal is intact. However, if you’re concerned, reputable water brands available at most stands and shops are Vital and Hi-Tech.
For families travelling with babies or toddlers, be aware that you’ll likely be hard-pressed to find changing facilities in most of Cambodia, but supermarkets like Lucky Supermarket mart-style shops do stock Western-quality baby formula/food, diapers and other necessities.
Though Phnom Penh doesn’t have too much for kids to do, there are some excellent family-friendly activities and attractions in Battambang and Siem Reap. Battambang City is home to the famous Cambodian Circus School which puts on regular circus performances each week in Battambang City. Tickets can be booked here.
In Siem Reap, as an alternative to the long walks around the Angkor Archeological Park, kids and adults can go on a horse-riding adventure to see some of the main temple attractions and the surrounding countryside, from the Happy Ranch. The ranch has great horses and trails for riders of all skill levels to experience a more unique form of Cambodia travel and it is a great way to get kids interested in Cambodia’s rich history without exhausting their little legs.
Domestic Flights in Cambodia
If you’re not up for the long, sometimes quite bumpy bus rides, taking a flight is a much faster and more comfortable form of Cambodia travel. There are three main airports which make domestic flights possible around Cambodia.
Cambodia’s three airports are located in:
- Phnom Penh
- Siem Reap
Currently only one airline offers direct flights between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. Cambodia Angkor air is a relatively new airline, and Cambodia’s national airline. Flights are less than an hour in length and tickets are reasonably priced but do tend to get a bit more expensive during the height of the tourist season so try to avoid the peak time if you want to get a good deal. We recommend booking your domestic flights as early as possible since these flights can get fully booked fairly quickly at certain times of the year.
Domestic flights can be booked here.
As mentioned above, Cambodia travel can be a little bit confusing or frustrating if you don’t know what to do or what to expect. But Cambodia travel can also be one of the most enriching and enjoyable experiences of your life, so be smart with your planning and where possible book ahead of time. Cambodia is a place full of rich history and a vibrant, friendly culture, so we recommend that you choose the mode of Cambodia travel that’s best for you.