Published/Last edited or updated: 25th January, 2019
An excellent and newish initiative by Phnom Penh transportation authorities, the taxi boat service is really a river bus scheme with scheduled, public boats connecting the city’s southern and northern suburbs to the city centre and it makes for a great way to explore around Phnom Penh by boat.
As with the city bus system, this is another weapon in the struggle against traffic congestion and is primarily aimed at local commuters, students, shoppers and so-on. The route links the northern district of Russei Keo, aside the Tonle Sap River and adjacent to Highway 5 with Takhmao—provincial capital of Kandal Province—to the south of the city on the Bassac. Boats follow the west bank of the Tonle Sap stopping by Phsar Chas (the Old Market) and Chaktomuk (behind the Cambodiana Hotel) after which they turns down the Bassac River with a further stop at Chbar Ampov on the left bank just beyond the Monivong Bridge.
Plans are in place to extend the route further north to Prek Pnoeu (12 kilometres north on Highway 5) and if the scheme proves successful additional routes will be added. One from Chaktomuk up the Mekong to Koh Dach would be perfect!
Since the current Phnom Penh suburban terminals are of very limited interest or use to the casual visitor we’re not proposing the boat service as a practical means of transport in the same way as for instance Bangkok’s Chao Phraya Express is, but what it does make for is an interesting and fun activity. Which explains why we’ve seen fit to place it in our see and do, rather than transport section.
There are at present three, bright-blue-painted, craft plying the route at a leisurely pace and regardless of the direction, you’ll find excellent views are to be had on the way. What’s more, they even allow plenty of time for passengers to embark and disembark and, at present at least, you’re guaranteed a seat. The three craft are all different and while one looks like a converted torpedo boat from the old Siem Reap run the other two newer boats provide open viewing areas fore and aft. Note they are strictly passengers only so no motorbikes are allowed on board.
Being a commuter service the schedule is weighted to early morning and late afternoon sailings and there is a lengthy, boat-less period in the middle of the day. If you take one of the earlier ones then you can either; get out, stretch your legs, grab a drink and hop on the next boat or stay on the same one while it turns around and goes back. One end of the line to the other is only around 45 minutes in total.
On being assured there would be a return boat we took a late morning one to Takhmao. Yes there was a return trip scheduled but some four hours later. As both terminuses have adjacent city bus stops as well, we hopped on the number two heading back to Phnom Penh Night Market and so ended up by doing a rather serendipitous, circular, public transport tour.
The northbound section takes you under the Japanese Bridge and provides some interesting vistas back towards the city centre while the southerly voyage takes you past some rather wild architecture on Koh Pich (Diamond Island) before proceeding down the narrower channel of the Bassac. The contrast on that stretch between extravagant riverside mansions and watery slum shacks is remarkable, though there are also some picturesque views of riverside temples. If you’re only going one way this is probably the best bet plus Takhmao itself is certainly more interesting than Russei Keo.
The so-called Phsar Chas stop is actually opposite the Night Market—next to the large and fancy ice-cream parlour—while the Chaktomuk stop is best reached by walking through the Cambodiana Hotel lobby and gardens. The jetty is a short distance to your right as you reach the riverside promenade. All stops come with bilingual timetables and maps.
After an introductory offer of free fares for 2018, a 5,400 riel flat rate is set from 2019 onwards. A useful transport means for locals then and a fun trip out any city visitor with an hour or two to spare.
Their reasonably accurate, though still not 100% reliable, timetable is as follows.
Takhmao to Russei Keo
Depart Takhmao: 05:30, 06:00, 06:50, 10:30, 11:00, 11:50, 16:00, 16:30 & 17:00 arriving at Chaktomuk, Phsar Chas and Russei Keo 25, 35 and 45 minutes later respectively.
Russei Keo to Takhmao
Depart Russei Keo: 05:50, 06:20, 07:10, 10:50, 11:20, 12:10, 16:320, 16:50 & 17:50 arriving at Phsar Chas, Chaktomuk and Takhmao 10, 20 and 45 minutes later respectively.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Phnom Penh