Photo: Wat Lanka, Phnom Penh.

How to get to and from Phnom Penh

Use the quicklinks below to jump to the desired section regarding transport in and around Phnom Penh.


Air

Phnom Penh’s international airport, going by the name Pochentong and the code PNH, lies around 10 kilometres west of the city centre.

Domestic destinations are limited to Sihanoukville and Siem Reap though there are direct flights to most major regional airports including Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Vientiane, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Yangon. Chinese destinations are well represented and there are also regular flights to Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul and even Hyderabad although, due we assume to runway dimensions, there aren’t at present any longer-haul flights on offer.

On the day we checked there were no less than 8 Siem Reap flights on offer split between Vietnam Airlines, Cambodia Airlines and budget lines Bassaka Air and JC Airlines though there’s likely to be more during high season as well as cancellations during low. As usual prices vary enormously depending upon day and time of travel, how far ahead you book and of course from airline to airline and we saw tariffs ranging from a sale price of $37 on Bassaka up to a $435 “premium economy” seat with Cambodia Airways. (Yes that’s an economy seat for a 40-minute domestic flight at $435.)

With the National Highway 6 to Siem Reap much improved a minibus can do the road trip in not much more than 5 hours so, if you factor in travel to the airport, check-in time, flight, baggage collection and taxi into Siem Reap, you’d be saving around 1 hour 30 minutes assuming there are no delays. Furthermore, your taxi to Pochentong alone is going to be more expensive than a bus ticket all the way to Siem Reap. Ditto Sihanoukville so, suffice to say, we reckon domestic flights in Cambodia are, to say the least, an extravagance.

Ho Chi Minh, with a total of 5 to 6 hours overland travel time, fits into the same category although we’d definitely splash out on a flight if we were travelling to Bangkok. PNH to BKK or DMK (Air Asia fly into Don Muang and Thai Air and Bangkok Airways, Suvarnabhumi) lasts less than an hour with a bus ride taking 13 to 14. (See our international bus travel section for overland details.)

Again, on the day we checked, there were at least 12 flights connecting Phnom Penh to Bangkok’s two airports by Air Asia, Bangkok Airways and Thai. Generally speaking Air Asia are the cheapest and Thai the most expensive and we saw offers from the former for as little as $50 up to $100 while Bangkok Airways’ went from $75 all the way up to $300.

The increasingly busy airport itself was still undergoing a makeover as of mid-2018 but is well-laid out and compared to many others in these parts, well-organised and very user-friendly. Domestic and international departures are in the same terminal with the combined arrivals one immediately next door. We’ve never encountered long queues at check-in or immigration and the arrivals area is mercilessly free of the painful touts you see at Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City. Furthermore, we’ve always found airport cafes, eateries and duty-free surprisingly good value and transport to and from the city is simple and inexpensive.

We’ve listed the major domestic and international operators below but there are of course plenty more.

Air Asia https://www.airasia.com/flights/cambodia
Bangkok Airways T: (023) 971 771 http://www.bangkokair.com/
Bassaka Air T: (023) 217 613, (023) 210 716 https://www.bassakaair.com/
Cambodia Airlines http://cambodia-airlines.org/
JC Airlines T: (023) 989 707;(023) 989 709; https://www.jcairlines.com/
Thai Airways https://www.thaiairways.com/
Vietnam Airlines https://www.vietnamairlines.com/

To and from Pochentong (airport)
You’re spoilt for choice these days when it comes to getting to or from the airport with options including an airport shuttle bus, regular city buses and a train service on top of the obvious taxis and tuk tuks.

In an ascending order of what we’d consider being practical then we’ll begin at the bottom with the rail link. The main pro here is that until 2019 it’s a free service and carriages are comfortable and air-conditioned. While you may think a train would avoid traffic it begins its journey from the terminal car-park to Phnom Penh main railway station by having to cross the hectic eight lane highway out front. Easier said than done!

Next negative point is that while official blurb claims “less than 30 minutes” in reality it can be much slower and you can wait a long time for a train. (We heard of someone taking three hours from arrival at the station to arrival at Pochentong.) Lastly, aside from perhaps the Phnom Penh Hotel, there is very little accommodation near the station so it’s not a useful part of town to arrive in.

With city traffic only looking to worsen in the immediate future and a sensible, automated, flight check-in facility set up at the station, we’d put this new feature down as having potential but not as yet a really viable option.

City buses at 1,500 riel are the next cheapest means of conveyance though with a long and often severely clogged road between the airport and downtown to negotiate this wouldn’t work well outside of say a quiet Sunday morning and that’s assuming your departure or destination point is close to a bus route. The most practical city bus would be number 3 which picks up outside the airport and travels via Phsar Thmei to finish on the riverside opposite the Night Market.

The KK Star shuttle bus has a better choice of in-town destinations and from the airport drops off along a somewhat torturous loop formed by the train station, Wat Phnom, Phsar Thmei, Independence Monument and Nagaworld before doubling back to the Royal Palace and Night Market and terminating outside the Mekong Express office on Sisowath from where it returns in the opposite direction. The same operation also runs a direct Pochentong to Sihanoukville coach departing daily at 13:30 arriving at 19:20 and costing $15. In the other direction, a bus departs Sihanoukville every morning at 09:30, arriving at Pochentong somewhere around 16:00.

A one-way ticket to or from Pochentong is $2 or return $3 while for $5 you can hop on or off all day long and use it as sightseeing transport even if you don’t want to go to the airport. Despite being a full-size coach we were assured that it would depart from either terminal as soon as the first passenger boarded. Elsewhere though we spotted a schedule with departures slated for every 30 minutes during peak times and hourly at off-peak so go figure. We confess we didn’t put this to the test and frankly if you performed the entire loop from say the Night Market to Pochentong you could be on the bus for a very long time.

Returning to the realms of practicality a tuk tuk from a downtown hotel to the airport is the fastest means, apart from a motorbike, and should set you back $7 or $8. If the traffic’s bad they may ask for a bit more. A taxi, which you’re best asking reception to book, will be around $10 to $12 depending upon how much commission if any they add on and which part of town you’re departing from. In the opposite direction you’ll pay a couple of dollars more for the official airport taxis and tuk tuks so $9 for the latter and $15 or so for the former.

For a tuk tuk or taxi we’d allow a minimum of one hour during quiet periods and up to two hours during rush hour. There are KK Star, airport taxi and rail shuttle counters immediately opposite the exit at arrivals behind which are the tuk tuk and taxi ranks. Airport tuk tuks are a beige colour.

Please note that if the corresponding websites below appeared in book form they’d be found on a fantasy fiction shelf and we’re stumped as to whether they indicate how the services were originally intended, or are intended in the future, to be. To be fair both KK Star and the rail shuttle are very new (early 2018) services and while commendable ideas, clearly need some time to bed in.

KK Star T: (023) 688 5858, (078) 948 056 http://www.kkstarbus.com/
Royal Railway Phnom Penh Airport Shuttle T: (023) 992 379, (078) 888 582-3 http://www.royal-railway.com

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Train

After a lengthy hiatus, rail travel is now back on Cambodia’s transport menu and from Phnom Penh’s freshly repainted main station, at the junction of Monivong and Russian Federation Boulevards, you can currently travel on either of two provincial lines in addition to the newly introduced airport shuttle.

The first line connects the capital to Sihanoukville (Kompong Som) via the towns of Takeo and Kampot while the 2nd line, re-introduced in mid-2018, stops at Pursat, Battambang and Sisophon among other places, en-route to the Thai border at Poipet.

The old French-built tracks have been completely replaced; new bridges added and new rolling stock purchased yet rail travel in these parts remains painfully slow. We understand why the beaten up old trains travelling on tracks that had suffered decades of tropical weathering not to mention mines and bombs took over 12 hours to travel between Battambang and Phnom Penh yet we’re not really sure why the new set up is barely any faster. Travel is free as an introductory offer until 1st January 2019 but a cheap enough bus or shared taxi would take less than five hours to cover the same distance. We’ve never seen a goods train on the line either, if that is the main motivation, so we’re not really sure what or who it is aimed at.

When we visited Sihanoukville station there was one caretaker busy chasing a herd of goats out of the foyer. At Battambang—no-one at all—and at Phnom Penh central station we found one employee plus a trainee student, so we’d have to say it’s all a bit half-hearted. Maybe they’re awaiting faster engines or further track upgrades are envisaged but at the moment the only advantage we can perceive over road travel would seem to be safety.

Nevertheless, it is a pleasant and certainly leisurely way to travel and some sections, such as around Kompong Chhnang or between Takeo and Kampot, are very picturesque plus it comes without the non-stop roadside constructions of the main highways. Takeo Town incidentally isn’t on any main bus route either. Carriages are comfortable with air-conditioning, WiFi and electric sockets and needless to say very friendly and sociable places. Indeed, as with the Phnom Penh city boat service, Cambodian trains fit more into the experience than functional travel category so could have easily been placed in our see and do section instead!

Prices for 2019 on the Battambang line have not yet been published and train times are highly variable due to ongoing construction work. Officially, when we checked the (presumably single) train went from Poipet to Phnom Penh one day, returning the next. The Sihanoukville timetable and fares are more reliable and, at the time of writing, were as below. (For details on the airport shuttle link see our to and from Pochentong section above.)

Phnom Penh-Takeo-Kampot-Sihanoukville
Fri 15:00, Sat 07:00, Sun 07:00 & 16:00
Takeo; $5, 1 hr 30 mins
Kampot: $7, 4 hrs 40 mins
Sihanoukville: $8, 7 hrs
Notes:
For Sihanoukville you can also take a bicycle for an extra $2, motorbike for $5 or—which seems like a strange idea—a car for $14.
For large groups you can hire your own private carriage. Additional trains will be laid on during public holidays.

Phnom Penh-Pursat-Battambang-Poipet
Every second day 06:30
Pursat: c. 7 hrs
Battambang: c. 11 hrs
Poipet: c. 14 hrs
Notes:
Above is very approximate and at the time of writing no timetable or prices were available for 2019

Express Airport shuttle
Every 30 minutes, taking “less than 30 minutes”
Free
Notes:
They claim it’s a 24-hour service but excuse us if we’re somewhat sceptical about that.

Central Railway Station Russian Federation Blvd, Phnom Penh. T enquiries: (023) 992 379; T reservations: (078) 888 582-3
http://www.royal-railway.com

Express Airport Shuttle T: (023) 992 379

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Bus

For domestic bus travel you have a choice between the large, national networks such as Phnom Penh Soriya, Capitol, Paramount, Neak Krorhorm, Virak-Buntham, Kampuchea Angkor Express and Rith Mony or smaller companies such as Mekong Express and Giant Ibis which cater more specifically to foreign visitors. A further choice on the table is between regular, coach-sized buses or minibuses while a final decision lies—for longer distances at least—between day and night buses.

Book your bus online with Camboticket
Phnom Penh to Banlung
Phnom Penh to Battambang
Phnom Penh to Kampot
Phnom Penh to Kep
Phnom Penh to Koh Kong
Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham
Phnom Penh to Kompong Chhnang
Phnom Penh to Kompong Thom
Phnom Penh to Kratie
Phnom Penh to the Lao border
Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville
Phnom Penh to Saigon (Vietnam)
Phnom Penh to Stung Treng

Many of the above two groups also run minibuses while operators specialising in the smaller vans only include Thero Express, Bayon VIP, Seila and the Cambodia Post service EMS. The long-standing big boys such as Soriya and Capitol have the widest networks and cheapest tickets but usually the oldest buses and most basic services. Second tier operators such as Neak Krorhorm and Rith Mony have fewer, but often better, vehicles while Rith Mony again and Virak Buntham are the best bet for the more out of the way destinations such as Koh Kong, Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri. In the tourist specials class the long-standing Mekong Express’s fleet is beginning to look rather ancient while top of the range, relative newcomer, Giant Ibis sells the most expensive seats but provides English speaking hostesses, snacks, WiFi, large seats and English language movies on a widescreen TV.

The latter two drive slower to cater to Western driving sensibilities and safety concerns but stop less frequently as they don’t pick up many locals. Taking Siem Reap as an example, prices range from 31,000 riel with Soriya (just under $8) up to $15 with Ibis for a 6-hour or so ride.

The increasingly popular minibus services are not only faster but often cheaper, with Bayon and Thero (who seem to collaborate) selling Siem Reap seats for $8-$10, Seila $9 and the excellent Post Office Service a mere $8. The latter is actually an express parcel delivery service which happens to take along a few passengers to cover petrol costs and since you can only buy tickets at post offices (or online) rather than travel agents and guesthouses their vans are rarely full. Minibuses are regular, 10-seat, air-con ones and come with WiFi and returning from Kep recently we had the entire bus to ourselves. They don’t offer many departures per day but do cover most provincial capitals. They depart and arrive at post offices while tickets can also be reserved by phone and paid for 30 minutes prior to departure.

Night bus services are on offer for Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville but with around 5 or 6 hours maximum travelling time this seems to us remarkably pointless unless you’re desperate to save on a night’s accommodation. A 5-hour night bus ride is guaranteed to deprive you of a night’s sleep and will likely see you tired and disorientated at a crack of dawn arrival when you’ll be most susceptible to tuk tuk or guesthouse scams. (Soriya’s Battambang night bus gets you in at the absurd time of 02:30 for example.)

Anyway, having made your choice you then have various options to obtain your desired ticket. These are: turning up at the bus company office, paying a small commission to a Street 172 travel agent or hotel reception or, increasingly, booking online. Note that the capital has no central bus station and transport generally leaves from outside of the companies’ respective offices. There is a concentration around the Night Market on Street 106 but they can be anywhere in town. If you’re on one of the busier runs such as Phnom Penh to Siem Reap you may be able to get away with just turning up at the busy Soriya station near Phsar Thmei but for any of the better services or smaller vans it is essential to reserve in advance.

Your guesthouse or neighbouring travel agent may well only deal with certain operators too so you might need to shop around to get the full choice. If they tell you there are no buses to Koh Kong it just means that they don’t have an arrangement with Virak-Buntham. Both of these sources will likely add on a small commission but that’s invariably less than a return tuk tuk fare to the company in question.

Most of these operators have online reservation systems these days and there is a couple of general bus and travel booking sites which we’ve listed below. Some, such as the EMS service we mentioned accept phone bookings too.

Certain of the tourist orientated operators (e.g. Mekong Express and Giant Ibis) include free pick-ups at your accommodation taking you to the main departure point. Since they pick-up from scattered hotels and guesthouses they will require you to be ready up to an hour before departure time. If your accommodation is first on their list then you’ll have a free 45-minute tour of city guesthouses while if you’re last, you’ll sit there for an hour wondering if they’ve forgotten you or not. Seeing as Mekong Express and Giant Ibis’s offices are a 10 minute and $2 ride from most downtown guesthouses we’d quite happily dispense with the free pick-up gimmick and have another 30 minutes kip or an extra cup of coffee.

We won’t burden you with every single company’s schedules and prices so the below are just a few samples gathered in August 2018. We should also point out that this is intended as a rough guide as any resemblance between information written on an office window, given out over the counter inside or published on the transport company’s website is usually purely coincidental!

Cambodia Post VIP Van (EMS) (Minibuses only)
Battambang via Kompong Chhnang & Pursat: 07:30, $8 any destination.
Bavet: 07:30, $6
Kratie via Kompong Cham: 07:30. $8 & $6
Siem Reap via Kompong Thom: 07:30 & 14:30. $8 & $5
Sihanoukville: 07:30 & 13:30. $8
Svay Rieng: 07:30. $5

Capitol Tours
Battambang via Kompong Chhnang and Pursat: hourly from 06:30-17:30 with minibuses at 07:00, 09:00, 12:00 & 14:00. Bus $7 minibus $9
Kampot: 07:00 & 13:00. Bus $6
Poipet: 6:30, 08:00, 10:00; & 12:30. Bus $11
Siem Reap via Kompong Thom: approximately hourly from 06:30-20:00 plus a night sleeper at 23:00. Bus $7, minibus $9, night bus $9
Sihanoukville: 07:30, 08:30, 09:30, 12:30, 13:30 & 17:30 Fridays. Bus $6

Giant Ibis (Large buses)
Kampot: 08:00 & 14:45. $9
Kep: 08:00 & 13:30. $10
Siem Reap via Kompong Thom: 08:45, 09:45, 12:30 and night buses at 23:00 and 23:30. $15, c 5 to 6 hrs
Sihanoukville: 08:00 & 15:30. $13

Phnom Penh Soriya (Large buses unless otherwise specified.)
Battambang via Kompong Chhnang and Pursat: 06:30, 07:45, 09:45, 11:45, 12:45 & 14:45 plus a 21:00 night bus. 31,000 kip & 40,000 for the night bus. c 5 hours
Kampot via Kep: 07:30, 09:30, 12:30 & 14:45. Both 30,000. c 3.30 and 4 hrs respectively.
Kompong Cham: 07:45, 09:45, 12:45 & 14:45 with a minibus service at 08:45. (The 07:45 and 08:45 services continue to Kratie with the former finishing its journey at Stung Treng.) Kompong Cham 18,000, minibus 19,000, Kratie 28,000 and Stung Treng 40,000
Siem Reap via Kompong Thom: 07:00, 08:00, 09:30, 10:45, 12:30 & 14:30 plus a 22:30 night bus. 31,000 kip & 40,000 for the night bus. c 5 to 6 hrs
Sihanoukville: 07:00, 08:00, 09:30, 10:45, 11:45, 12:45, 14:00, 15:30 & 17:45. 31,000. c 5 hrs

Mekong Express (Large buses unless otherwise specified)
Battambang: 07:30, 08:30, 14:30 & 17:00 (all minibuses). $10-$12
Siem Reap: 07:30, 08:30, 12:30 & 14:25 plus a night bus at 23:30. $8-$10 & night bus $12
Sihanoukville: 07:00, 08:00, 08:30, 13:30, 14:30 & 17:00 (all minibuses). $8-$12
Note: Certain departures are classified “special price” hence the tariff brackets but all buses look the same so we’re not sure why.

Virak-Buntham
Banlung: 08:00, 09:30 & 12:30 plus a 19:30 sleeper. $15
Koh Kong: 07:15 (VIP minibus), 07:45 & 13:45. $7 & $10 VIP
Sen Monorom: 07:15, 08:00, 09:30, 12:30 & 13:30 plus a 19:30 sleeper. $13
Note: Mondulkiri & Rattanakiri are minibuses and Koh Kong full size buses except the 07:15.

International bus services
International destinations you’ll see offered by Phnom Penh transport companies are Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok with a couple of outfits also proposing a Lao trajectory. Ho Chi Minh-bound buses cross the border at Bavet/Moc Bai while Bangkok ones generally travel along Highway 6 via Siem Reap to the border at Poipet/Aranyaprathet. Rides to Lao take you via Kompong Cham, Kratie and Stung Treng to the crossing at Dom Kalor/Veun Kham.

The first route is relatively short and usually painless (unless you hit queues at Moc Bai) with no change of bus at the border required and the 6 hours or so travelling time from central Phnom Penh to downtown Ho Chi Minh pretty much negates the need for a flight. Not so the Bangkok or Lao odysseys and before going into the nitty-gritty we’ll say straight out that we can’t seriously recommend either of them.

Thailand via Battambang is slightly shorter but most companies schedule departures through Siem Reap as they’re able to pick up more passengers en-route so you may then have a change to a larger vehicle before continuing to Poipet. Allowing for immigration procedures at hectic Poipet we can’t see you being on a bus on the Thai side of the border much before nine hours after departure. While certain companies claim otherwise you may well have another change of bus at Aranyaprathet before the four to five-hour drive into Bangkok. (Note that most target the Khao San area while certain but not all may make a halt at the airport as well.)

Again, some operators advertise this as a 12 or 13-hour trip but we’d add on a couple more to be realistic. So, a 15-hour journey with potentially two bus changes ought to see most travellers immediately googling budget airlines but for masochists, and or those scraping the bottom of their biscuit tins, the cheapest we came across was Thero Express’s minibus at $20. Soriya have a 06:30 Bangkok departure for $19 or a 21:00 night bus at $21 with both necessitating changes at Poipet. A better option is from Rith Mony who charge $26 for their 06:00 journey via Battambang and state no change at Poipet. Mekong Express offers a $27 ticket, during high season only, while top of the range Giant Ibis rather sensibly propose only Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Bangkok with no through tickets available. (Mekong’s 2017/18 high season schedule had 06:00 and 22:30 departures.)

Ibis are trying to tell you something and if you have exhausted your holiday funds and need to get back to Bangkok on the cheap then try and do it from Siem Reap or Battambang which at least shaves five or six hours off the total journey time. Also bear in mind that, as with domestic routes, you get what you pay for, so while service and comfort may not be such considerations on a two-hour run to Kompong Chhnang, they would be on a 15-hour haul.

Direct Phnom Penh to Lao services are scarcer and not surprisingly less reliable and though we did see tickets on offer for the 4,000 Islands, Pakse and even Vientiane we’d be highly sceptical of these outside of peak season. Rith Mony advertises a Vientiane bus, changing at the border, costing $40 for the 4,000 Islands (presumably Don Dhet), $45 for Pakse or a whopping $70 for Vientiane. By our calculations the border would be around nine hours travelling time with the boat pier for the islands another 30 minutes or so further on. Other services, such as Soriya’s, involve a regular bus to Stung Treng followed by a minibus liaison with the border. With interesting destinations such as Kompong Cham and Kratie on the way we’d strongly advise breaking this journey up by at least a night.

Ho Chi Minh City is a far more practical option and, unless you want to try your chance on the roulette table at Bavet, there are no worthwhile stops to be made before the border. Most bus companies offer this connection and transport is generally direct with no change at Moc Bai. Usual suspect Rith Mony charges $15 while Soriya proposes 06:45, 08:45, 12:45 and 14:45 buses at a mere $10. Mekong Express has a bus for $12 or a minibus at $15. You will come across various other operators but for extra comfort and better service Giant Ibis will sell you a seat for $18 on either their 08:00 or 09:45 buses.

Finally, for amateurs of long-distance bus travel several other Cambodian border crossing points are available. These aren’t connecting routes so you’d have to walk through immigration and see what you can find on the other side. They include Virak-Buntham’s Koh Kong and Anlong Veng services for crossings to Thailand’s Trat and Si Saket Provinces respectively, Rith Mony buses to Pailin, O’Smach (for Surin) or a Chau Doc route, also from Virak-Buntham.

Below are just some of the operators mentioned in our domestic and international bus section but there are many more.

Bayon VIP Co. St 126 & 51, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 966 968;(010) 968 966;(089) 221 919 http://www.bayonvip.com
Capitol Tours 14 St 182, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 724 104;(012) 404 650 http://www.capitoltourscambodia.com/
Giant Ibis Street 106 (by the Night Market), Phnom Penh. T: (096) 999 3333;(095) 777 808 http://www.giantibis.com
Mekong Express 115 Sisowath (Riverside), Phnom Penh. T: (070) 833 399;(099) 933 399;(098) 257 599 http://www.catmekongexpress.com
Neak Krorhorm St 108, Phnom Penh. T: (098) 219 496; (012) 495 249
Phnom Penh Soriya Transport St 217 & St 67, Phsar Thmei, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 210 359;(012) 631 545. http://www.ppsoriyatransport.com.kh
Rith Mony Transport Co. St 106, opposite Night Market, corner of Sisowath, Phnom Penh. T: (015) 818 737;(017) 525 388;(016) 823 885. [email protected]
Seila Angkor Express 113 St 118, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 555 319. http://kh75433.yp.com.kh/
Thero Express 59 Street 51, Phnom Penh. T: (012) 942 234;(016) 574 243;(093) 942 234. http://www.theroexpress.com
Virak-Buntham Express Tour and Travel Street 106 (by the Night Market), Phnom Penh. T: (089) 998 761;(016) 786 270;(099) 628 428.

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Phnom Penh to Banlung
Phnom Penh to Battambang
Phnom Penh to Kampot
Phnom Penh to Kep
Phnom Penh to Koh Kong
Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham
Phnom Penh to Kompong Chhnang
Phnom Penh to Kompong Thom
Phnom Penh to Kratie
Phnom Penh to the Lao border
Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville
Phnom Penh to Saigon (Vietnam)
Phnom Penh to Stung Treng

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Boat

At the time of writing in mid 2018, the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap boat services wasno longer running, meaning the only long-distance river option available is down the Mekong from Phnom Penh to Vietnam’s Chau Doc. Three transport companies provide this service along with the more upmarket alternative of Victoria Hotel, Chau Doc’s own service which potential guests can book on the hotel website.

There’s not really a lot to choose between them but Hang Chau’s is the cheapest at $26 with Lan Anh offering a very similar service for $1 more while Blue Cruiser charges $35. All tickets include snacks and drinks with both Lan Anh and Blue Cruiser even throwing in a simple lunch and free beer plus an onboard guide to assist with border formalities though Blue has rather more comfortable and faster boats. Hang Chau optimistically claims to depart daily at 12:30 though, as it depends upon what time their boat arrives from Chau Doc, we’d count an extra hour, while Lan Anh and Blue publish more realistic 13:00 departures. The latter are the only one to also offer a convenient 09:00 sailing time.

Boats are medium-sized craft with air-con interiors and some coming with a rear deck seating area. Journey time is around 5 to 6 hours including border processing. Boats travel down the main channel of the Mekong until, after the border they take a canal linking up to Chau Doc on the banks of the Bassac River. Scenery isn’t spectacular but it certainly makes a pleasant change from the bus.

The passenger port along with boat company desks is located on Sisowath Quay, next to the ominously named Titanic Restaurant and opposite the Night Market. Tickets are also available, usually for small commissions, from travel agents and hotel and guesthouse receptions as well as online sites.

Blue Cruiser Phnom Penh Passenger Port, 106 Sisowath, Phnom Penh. T: (016) 868 887;(092) 868 887. http://www.bluecruiser.com
Hang Chau Phnom Penh Passenger Port, 106 Sisowath, Phnom Penh. T: (023) 631 4454;(012) 730 744. http://www.hangchautourist.com.vn
Lan Anh Cruise Phnom Penh Passenger Port, 106 Sisowath, Phnom Penh. T: (078) 655 567 http://www.lananhcruise.com
Victoria Hotel Chau Doc, Vietnam. https://www.victoriahotels.asia/en/hotels-resorts/chaudoc.html

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Other

Inter-province taxis and shared taxis
If there are two or three of you travelling together then for longer journeys from the capital a good compromise solution—between standard buses and flights—could be to hire a private taxi. These offer the advantage of picking up and dropping-off at whichever points you desire, at whatever time you prefer and with stops on the way (within reason) of your own choosing. (We say within reason as drivers will demand a supplement if they consider you’re requesting too many, or too lengthy stops.)

Taxis are relatively good value for money in Cambodia and if you don’t overload the vehicle and you have a decent driver then it’s also a comfortable way to travel. Your choice is between a saloon car (generically named Camry after the ubiquitous Toyota model) or an SUV-style ride such as a Lexus or Highlander. Both officially seat up to four people though in the former case we reckon three foreign-sized passengers plus bags is enough. You’ll pay slightly more for the latter. Our second ‘if’ is a big one and while we’ve found most professional drivers to be careful and courteous, it’s not always the case.

You can hire them either through your reception, from one of the taxi apps or an online transport booking service but however you do it, it is essential to insist on sensible driving. (This does need to be kept within a local perspective and driving techniques are never going to be the same as wherever your home is so some compromise will be necessary.) If you do feel driving is unnecessarily reckless then don’t be shy; make your point firmly but politely and bear in mind that generally the promise of a $5 or so tip works. Most hotel receptions will have tried and trusted drivers while if you’ve booked through a company you have recourse to their office number. Yes, a tuk tuk driver outside your guesthouse will certainly have a mate or brother-in-law with a car who’s cheaper but….

There is a certain tariff range but sample online fares we found are as follows;

Camry: Siem Reap $75, Battambang $70, Koh Kong $70, Kampot/Kep $50, Sen Monorom $95, Preah Vihear $95
SUV: Siem Reap $85, Battambang $80, Koh Kong $85, Kampot/Kep $60, Preah Vihear $120


Another system in use in these parts is that of the “shared taxis”. These tend still to be of the Camry variety since any Khmer who can afford a Lexus would much prefer taking nice polite ‘barangs’ on a day out to Phnom Tamao than having six Khmer kids throwing up all over his new upholstery on a five-hour drive to Kompong Whatever. Independently owned minibuses perform the same service.

These leave from set stations around town—and there is a large concentration around the Soriya terminal—although again each destination tends to have a different rank. In this case you pay per seat with the standard passenger compliment being five persons. We’ve often travelled in cars with up to eight—which includes someone sitting on the driver’s lap and two others in the front seat, and once with 13 on a ride from Battambang to Pailin... We’ve seen up to 40 in one of the taxi minibuses. It’s up to you how many seats you pay for so if you get there first and pay double you should be able to guarantee getting the front seat to yourself or if you pay for five persons you can have the entire vehicle. (This doesn’t necessarily prevent the driver from trying it on so if he attempts to pick up anyone else you need to be again, polite but firm.)

Needless to say these taxis are cheaper though invariably in much worse condition and with much more erratic drivers. (They make money from being able to do Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville three times in the same day!) Your hotel’s pet driver possibly speaks a bit of English but these guys are far less likely to.

Also, needless to say, we’re not recommending this means of travel unless you are truly desperate or you book the entire Camry and succeed in bribing the driver not to go too fast. Sihanoukville is $45 for example or Siem Reap around $60 and while your reception may or may not have a number and know where the relevant taxi rank is the tuk tuk driver outside will.

Global Taxi T: (011) 311 888, (092) 889 962
Grab https://www.grab.com/kh/
Great Wall Taxi T: (010) 310 666

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Getting around

Although the surrounding areas are undergoing a veritable construction explosion, Phnom Penh city centre remains relatively compact and much of it is easily doable on foot. Most of the visitor-orientated accommodation, eateries and nightlife plus several of the major sights are located within a rectangle formed by Street 278, Sihanouk Boulevard and Independence Monument to the south, Monivong on the west, Sisowath Quay (aka Riverside) to the east and Wat Phnom and the French Quarter on the north side. One end to the other shouldn’t take much more than 30 minutes at an average walking pace plus this is also one of the most rewarding areas for a stroll with vibrant street life, local markets and a wealth of varied architecture.

If you don’t want to walk then your choice of public transport would include moto-dop, tuk tuk, taxi or city bus. Although you may see expats zooming weaving in and out of the traffic on one of the ubiquitous street corner motorcycle taxis—and we’re all in favour of going local—we can’t, with a clear conscience, recommend it as either a particularly safe or comfortable means of travel. Rates are approximately half of what one of the equally ubiquitous tuk tuks cost but the latter are already good value for money, more comfortable and above all a lot safer. (They’re safer traffic-wise but also provide more protection from bag-snatching and so-on.)

Lastly you may also still see the odd rickshaw or cyclo around town although they are fast disappearing. They seem most common around local markets such as Phsar Kandal but you may also come across one of the rather tacky, colour-co-ordinated rickshaw convoys taking tour groups on organised rides around the city. Otherwise they’re favoured by local residents making bulky market purchases for whom they’re cheap alternatives to tuk tuks although personally, we reckon they deserve at least comparable fares.

Tuk tuks
At present city tuk tuks are split roughly evenly between the traditional, Khmer-style wooden carriage bolted onto a regular motorbike and the newer, Indian-design integral machines. The former seat four passengers in reasonable comfort (though we’ve seen up to ten locals in one) and usually come with a grill or curtain around the rear seat protecting against the aforementioned snatch or grab merchants. However, you’re not really going to fit more than two people in a cramped Indian tuk tuk and nor is there a lot of room for luggage. They are perhaps slightly zippier in traffic and running on LPG can offer cheaper and more eco-friendly fares though passenger views are more restricted as well.

Generally speaking visitors seem to prefer the old-style ones and locals the smaller versions as those can also be summoned through the low fare booking platform PassApp; a kind of Phnom Penh Uber service which includes tuk tuks, taxis and even moto-dops. Some of the new tuk tuks even come with meters although this seems to be being replaced by the PassApp system. Unless you’re counting every riel we reckon you get a much more comfortable ride in one of the old-style ones.

Drivers of both varieties have set, often jealously guarded, home stations which could include hotels, popular bars and restaurants, bus stations or just a strategic street corner. Establishments in the former cases then do exert a certain control over drivers parked outside and if you’re hiring one for a round trip then they have the advantage of knowing exactly where your hotel or guesthouse is. Otherwise, tuk tuk drivers’ geographical knowledge or map literacy is, to say the least, variable so it’s best to take a business card from your hotel whenever you go out. If you do have a Cambodian SIM then we always find it handy to save a couple of phone numbers from reliable drivers outside your lodgings.

A $2 fare should cover anywhere within that aforementioned central rectangle with another $1 for a slightly more accentuated destination such as Tuol Sleng or the Russian Market for example. Pochentong airport is $7 or $8 depending on which part of town you’re in. While locals may well bargain drivers down from our $2 suggestion we’re not going to spend five minutes haggling over 25 cents and don’t go into fractions for already good value fares. (Being a tuk tuk driver is a tough way to make a living and bear in mind they pay either rental or loan repayments on the vehicle, obviously have fuel costs and sometimes sit outside an hotel for hours at a time waiting for that $2 ride.

Unless you’re going to be in town for a while it’s probably not worth downloading one of the booking platform apps and bear in mind, as we said, they only work with the small Indian-style machines but below are a couple of the most popular ones.

EZGo (tuk tuks only) T: (086) 515 121 https://www.facebook.com/ezgo24h/
PassApp (tuk tuks and taxis) T: (016) 789 123 https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.multibrains.taxi.passenger.passapptaxis&hl=en_US

City taxis
Metered saloon car taxis are an increasingly common sight on Phnom Penh roads however we’ve never tried flagging one down, except at the airport, and are at a loss as to where they all park up while waiting for fares. They certainly don’t seem to wait alongside the tuk tuks on street corners and there are no official taxi ranks as such—though you may see them outside of the larger hotels—so we reckon they mainly rely on phone bookings or transport apps. Any reception can book you a cab for say the airport, Koh Dach or Phnom Tamao but in our experience those are invariably just private vehicles without metres or taxi signs.

Most metred cars have a starting rate at around 4,000 riel or $1 with an additional 1,500 and 2,500 riel per kilometre so if you can be bothered to call or download an app they should work out cheaper than tuk tuks. Drivers’ language abilities aren’t necessarily any better though and note that tuk tuks can squeeze through a lot smaller gaps in jams than saloon cars or SUVs can.

Global, with white-coloured vehicles have a good reputation as do the blue versions of Great Wall but there are several other operations around. The airport taxi desk at Pochentong has a set rate of $15 for most downtown destinations although we’ve always got identical fares directly from any of the drivers on the rank outside arrivals.

For longer rides such as Sihanoukville or Siem Reap you can check taxi fares and book online on the bookmebus site. Finally, note that Uber no longer functions in Cambodia and, if we followed events correctly, has been taken over by the similar Singapore-based platform Grab.

Global Taxi T: (011) 311 888, (092) 889 962
Grab https://www.grab.com/kh/
Great Wall Taxi T: (010) 310 666

City Bus
With a fleet of spanking new buses courtesy of the Chinese government, Phnom Penh’s municipal bus service has expanded from its original three routes in 2014 to include five more suburban and downtown lines. Being regular-sized buses they are of course much more susceptible to traffic then a motorbike or even a tuk tuk but at least you can suffer the jams in air-con and WiFi comfort and with a flat fare of 1,500 riel, they’re cheap too.

It’s probably best to forget them during rush hour periods or if you’re in a hurry but on a Sunday afternoon we travelled all the way from Takhmao in the distant southern suburbs to Wat Phnom in less than 30 minutes. Being Cambodia we were also framed in several selfies and probably talked to at least half the people on the bus.

As with the new public boat service this is aimed at commuters, students and so-on but unlike the former their routes do manage to include most city sites of interest to visitors such as the aforementioned Wat Phnom, the Silk Island (Koh Dach) ferry, the Russian Market, Central Market, railway station and even Pochentong Airport.

Below we’ll give approximate route outlines while the subsequent links note routes in more detail as well as including a Phnom Penh city bus app no less. Buses run daily from 05:30 to 20:30. (Change isn’t necessarily available so now you know what to do with all those small notes.) Stops range from regular-style shelters with benches to just a pavement post but all should come equipped with a bilingual route map.

With the city traffic it wouldn’t be fair to hold the service to any accurate timetable while more popular and well-established runs such as routes 1,2 and 3 see more frequent buses than say 7 or 8. Furthermore, we’ve come across varying versions of some of these routes so precise itinerary details may be subject to change.

Route 1: Chbar Ampov to Russei Keo. This runs from south of the city centre, across the Monivong Bridge on the east bank of the Bassac, travelling along Monivong Boulevard past the railway station, French embassy and Calmette Hospital before turning north onto Highway 5 after the Japanese Bridge and terminating on the west bank of the Tonle Sap River at Russei Keo. Both ends of this route are also public boat stops.

Route 2: Takhmao to the Night Market. This route takes you from close by the Takhmao boat jetty in the southern suburbs along Norodorm Boulevard before finishing by the riverside Night Market. On the way it passes the Independence Monument, Streets 172 and 154 and Wat Phnom.

Route 3: Night Market to Pochentong. Another useful route links the riverside quay, Sisowath, close to the Night Market and passenger port to Pochentong Airport via Phsar Thmei.

Route 4: Night Market (we think) to Highway 3 south of Pochentong. Running east-west through the city this bus passes Wat Phnom, Phsar Thmei and the Olympic Stadium.

Route 5: Aeon 1 to Aeon 2. Number 5 links the large Aeon Mall on Diamond Island (Koh Pich) with the second mall in the western Phnom Penh district of Tuol Kork. On the way it passes along Mao Tse Tung Boulevard including a stop just north of the Russian Market.

Route 6: Pochentong to the Koh Dach ferry. Another east-west route, bus 6 travels from Pochentong Airport into the centre past the station and French embassy before crossing the Japanese Bridge and heading up Highway 6 to finish close to the Silk Island (Koh Dach) ferry.

Route 7A & 7B: Highway 5 to Aeon Mall 1 or Chbar Ampov. Official blurb has this route setting off from Highway 5 (so we’d assume the large bus terminal at Russei Keo) and cutting southwest through Tuol Kork to the University of Phnom Penh. From here 7A continues past the Olympic Market and Independence Monument to Aeon Mall on Koh Pich while 7B takes the Monivong Bridge to Chbar Ampov. (Again, note that both Chbar Ampov and Russei Keo are also boat stops.)

Route 8: Silk Island (Koh Dach) ferry to Russei Keo. The rather outside of the box line 8 begins close to the Silk Island ferry, at the same terminal as route 6, before cutting an arc through the new eastern suburbs, past the site of the projected 2023 SEA Games and the Garden City golf course and crossing the Tonle Sap by the Prek Pnoeu Bridge. From here it heads south on Highway 5 and finishes at Russei Keo.

Express taxi boat service
The new (as of 2018) city, public boat service is fast, comfortable and up until 31st December 2018, free. That’s the good news. Bad news for casual visitors at least is that it doesn’t actually go anywhere useful. Aimed primarily at commuters trying to avoid the city’s horrendous traffic jams, the service links the northern and southern suburbs, at Russei Keo and Takhmao respectively, to the centre with a choice of stops opposite the Night Market or behind the Cambodiana Hotel. (These are officially named Phsar Chas (Old Market) and Chaktomuk in that order. From 2019 onwards the route will extend northwards to Prek Pnoeu, 12 kilometres north of the city centre where a new jetty is currently under construction.

Unless you have a penchant for exploring obscure Phnom Penh suburbs then the service is of little use as a means of transport but it is a lot of fun as an activity and provides some great riverside views.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Phnom Penh? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Cambodia.


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