Getting there and away
Plans do exist for a rail upgrade though there are no services at all at present – well, except for the bamboo variety. For onward travel you have a choice of bus services or taxis, with the extra option of boat travel in the case of Siem Reap.
Note that Battambang does not as yet have the swish services with attendants and WiFi that the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route does and you are limited in choice to the standard regional providers such as Capitol, Soriya and Ponleu, though some are now bringing in minibus alternatives as well. All are pretty basic services and there's little to differentiate them in terms of quality or price.
Plenty of buses leave throughout the day for both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and all points enroute, with a more restricted service to Pailin as well. There are some direct buses for Poipet, otherwise it's easy to change in Sisophon. Times vary with road and weather conditions but normally allow six hours for Phnom Penh, and three or four for Siem Reap. Count on approximately 1.5, two and three hours to Sisophon, Pailin and Poipet respectively. You can shave off an hour for Siem Reap or the capital if you're using a minibus but bear in mind you don't necessarily get the same seating space as in a large bus.
Some places will offer tickets to farther destinations such as Sihanoukville, Bangkok or Saigon but unless it's an urgent journey we reckon it's much better to break up your journey in Phnom Penh.
There is a semi-official bus station by the boat dock but most buses depart from the northern end of 102 Street near the Asia Hotel and adjacent streets where their respective offices are located. Check when you buy your ticket since this may vary. As usual your hotel can obtain tickets for you and the service charge generally works out the same as taking a tuk tuk to the company office.
Times for Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are more or less hourly throughout the day and cost around $6 or $8 for minibuses.
Daily boats do the scenic journey up the Sangkar River and across the Tonle Sap Lake to Siem Reap, leaving from the port at around 07:00. Arrival times can vary enormously depending upon which boat is in use and water levels -- indeed during the dry months of March and April services may be cancelled due to low water. We've also seen services interrupted by infestations of water hyacinths blocking up the waterways so do not take departures for granted and please check ahead. At best in September and October when the channels are full the trip will take seven hours while during the dry season it can take anything up to 10 or 12. Note boats will generally make only one stop – at a grocery store in Bak Preah floating village – and otherwise there is nowhere to buy any snacks or drinks, so go prepared.
Boats can get very crowded in high season, but the scenery is fantastic. Prices are around $20 a ticket give or take a dollar or two depending upon where you purchase your ticket.
As with bus services, shared taxis depart Battambang for Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Pailin and Poipet and all stops along the way and as per usual in Cambodia you can either pay for a taxi for yourself or buy a seat (or two) in a shared vehicle. The usual arrangement is four passengers in the rear and two in front so if you want the front seat to yourself you will have to pay for two places. Your hotel can call to book a car or seat(s) for you and tuk tuk drivers will know the departure points for the various routes.
Standard rates are as follows:
Phnom Penh $60 for a car or $10 p/seat.
Siem Reap $40 and $7 respectively
Pailin $30 and $5.
Battambang has both tuk tuks and motodops, with a tuk tuk ride within town costing a dollar or so, though the drivers may ask for more if there are several passengers. Longer rides to say Sampeu, Phnom Ek and so on are open to negotiation as would be day or half-day rental. We paid for instance $6 for a half-day sightseeing around town and $10 for a half -day to Phnom Banan and Phnom Sampeu. Your hotel or guesthouse should be able to advise on prices, find drivers and even suggest routes for you. Again, as usual, if you want an obliging, happy driver don't try and beat him down to his last 50 cents of profit! We got lunch for our driver, gave him a couple of dollars tip and got several extra and interesting stops thrown in in return that we hadn't asked for and didn't even know about.
Gecko Cafe has motorbikes for hire at $7 per day, ($5 for a half-day) and bicycles at $2. Several hotels and guesthouses will offer similar services at similar prices such as Soksa and Today Tours (only $1), both on 1.5 Street, Sunrise Cafe near the main market, and BTK Bikes on Street 2.5 have proper mountain bikes for $5 or 6 per day.
Note while traffic is very light in Battambang compared to Phnom Penh or even Siem Reap, this can mean that speeds are higher so do be careful!
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