Transportation - Get In
Phnom Penh International Airport is the largest airport in Cambodia, 7 km west of the city.
The new terminal is a thoroughly pleasant and modern facility, and features a post office, bank (including ATMs), restaurants, duty-free shop, newsstand, tourist help desk, and business centre.
Taxis from the public taxi stand at the airport cost a flat USD9, and tuk-tuks cost USD7 officially. If you are willing to lug your bags outside the airport fence you can catch a tuk-tuk into town for USD5. While taxis might be a safer option, it's better to avoid them as the drivers are arrogant and tend to not return change. Tuk-tuk drivers are a lot more friendly and more flexible. For visitors on a budget without a lot of luggage, it's worth catching an official motorcycle taxi for USD2.
Duty-free shop prices in Cambodia are horribly inflated. Alcohol and cigarettes cost half as much at shops and supermarkets in the city, like the Lucky Supermarket, so stock up on alcohol (put it in your checked baggage due to liquid restrictions for carry-on baggage) and cigarettes before you come to the airport. For example, 1 l of Absolut Vodka is USD21 at the airport, and USD11 at supermarkets in the city. Electronics are also overpriced, but at least they're the genuine article.
Cambodia is improving its roads. Since around 2008, asphalt has been blazing trails into unexpected and remote places making for faster, year-round accessibility. The main highways that run on either side of the Tonle Sap from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Battambang, Sisophon and Poipet (for Thailand) are both well-paved and in good condition.
The quality of buses runs the gamut, with the less desirable buses being a few dollars cheaper than more comfortable options. Safety standards are low and crashes (not always reported) are common, both "quality" and "cheapie" buses alike.
- bus station. This chaotic bus station at the southwest corner of the Central Market is the base for buses run by Mekong Express, Phnom Penh Sorya Transport, Capitol Tours, and GST Express.
- bus street, St 106 riverside. This short stretch of street, along the north side of the Night Market near riverside, is the base for several buses such as Giant Ibis.
Tickets are available at the bus station. Guesthouses and travel agents throughout the city will also arrange tickets for a USD1–2 commission.
Some passengers have experienced valuables being stolen from their luggage when stored out of sight.
Borders are not open 24/7. Some night buses will wait at the border until it opens. If entering Cambodia, watch out for visa scams and avoid the Kumho Samco if coming in from Vietnam.
- Bangkok: The first buses directly connecting Bangkok to Phnom Penh (also Siem Riep) started in Feb 2013. The bus service from the Thai capital is run by BKS, The Transport Company. Buses leave Mo Chit Bus Station (buy your tickets at ticket window 22) at 08:15 and the 719 km trip takes 11 hours via Aranyaprathetdistrict in Sa Kaeo. You will do the standard border crossing formalities there. A 30-day tourist visa is USD37 officially (2015). Bus fare to Phnom Penh is 900 baht (2013). Return buses to Bangkok leave Phnom Penh daily at 07:00.
- Ho Chi Minh City (USD10, around 6 hr) no change of bus.
- Pakse (around 14 hr)
- Vientiane (around 27 hr) A generally inconvenient and stressful trip. Contrived border procedures, multiple bus changes, tickets not being honoured, and nocturnal groping should all be expected. Travelling via Bangkok (theoretically also around 27 hr, but with tight connections) should be considered as the 20:00Bangkok-Nong Khai (Laos border, 20 km from Vientiane) sleeper train (13 hr) will be safer and more comfortable than any overnight bus through Southern Laos.
Buses arriving from Pakse enter the city at night (around 19:30-20:00) via Monivong Ave, leaving tired and emotional travellers prone to being preyed on tuk-tuk touts. Watch out!
Phnom Penh is the domestic transport hub and direct buses run to just about every provincial capital, including far flung town like Pailin, Samraong, Banlung and Sen Monorom. The crowded peasant mover Paramount Angkor specializes in out-of-the-way towns. Avoid it for intercity travel as it's the same price as more genteel companies but does not guarantee a seat.
More frequently visited destinations include:
- Battambang (USD5, 4 hr)
- Koh Kong
- Poipet for Aranyaprathet in Thailand
- Siem Reap (USD5-10, 6 hr) Capitol Tours is the only company that runs buses to central Siem Reap. Other companies leave travellers at the mercy of tuk-tuk touts in an out of town bus station.
- Sihanoukville (USD4.5-10, 3-5 hr)
Ferries connect Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and usually take 6 hr. Tickets for foreigners cost USD32. Many, but not all, of these ferries offer the option of sitting on the roof, which makes for a much more scenic, albeit less comfortable ride than the bus; take sun block, a hat, and enough water to last you for several hours just in case the boat gets stuck. The boat leaves at 07:30.
Fast boats leave every morning around 08:00 from Chau Doc in Vietnam's Mekong Delta and take 5 hr to reach Phnom Penh. The boats make the return journey the same day and leave Phnom Penh around 13:00, arriving in Chau Doc in the early evening.
There are 3 choices of boat to Chau Doc:
- Hang Chau Speedboat (no pick-up, tour guide, water, snack, insurance), leaves at 12:00, takes 4 hr, USD22
- Dalta Adventure, leaves at 08:30, 5 hr, price USD21
- Mekong Tour Slow Boat, leaves at 07:30, takes 7-8 hr, price USD12
There is a limited freight service running from Kampot to Phnom Penh on the Southern Line.
"Bamboo trains" operate in various towns along the line, though the one most pushed to tourists is just outside Battambang.
Transportation - Get Around
Phnom Penh's main streets are in good shape. Some smaller streets and footpaths are rutted and potholed, clogged with garbage, stagnant water, parked motorbikes, sleeping people, and building materials. Many smaller streets bear either no or misleading signage, however Phnom Penh is logically laid out and navigating is not too difficult.
Motorbikes, (but not self-drive cars) can be rented for USD5–6 per day, sometimes through guesthouses. Traffic is chaotic and dangerous, even by SE Asian standards. Wear a helmet and drive carefully. Two rental shops are on Monivong Blvd: Lucky Bike Rental and New Bike Rental. Accept that paying USD1–2 police "fines" is part of driving. Theft is common: park in designated guarded areas and pay a small parking fee or use a lock and chain, which should be provided.
- Motorbike-taxis, (motodops or simply motos) should take you anywhere cheaply. A trip from Sisowath Quay to Central Market costs about 2,000 riel (USD0.50). Fares are higher at night and with more than one passenger. Often little English is spoken. No helmets are provided.
- Taxis, are growing much more common, with more than 100 metered taxis now operating in the city. They can be found in tourist areas such as the riverfront and Street 51 bar area in the evening. Easier, call one of the taxi companies for pick-up. Non-metered taxis still run throughout the city and can be found along the riverfront tourist area and near major hotels. Fares must be agreed in advance. Fares vary; your accommodation provider may help.
- Tuk-tuks (aka remorque moto), consist of a motorcycle with a cabin for the passengers hitched to the back. They are cheap (Per tuk-tuk: USD2-3 for a trip in the city, USD8 to the airport) and plentiful. Driving standards vary. Drivers in tourist areas may speak some English. Drivers generally do not know their way around and may stop to ask for directions.
- Cyclos, are three-wheeled pedal cycle-rickshaws. They are slow, scenic, traditional and romantic, though waning in number.
- Cycling, can extend the horizons of the city. Ride slowly, be visible and predictable by avoiding quick turns. Bicycles can be hired for $1 to $3 per day or if staying longer you can buy a cheap Chinese style bike for $30-$50, new or second hand. A good place to buy is in the area around the top of St105, near St182. Having a bike greatly reduces the amount of annoying verbal ride offers by tuk tuk and moto taxi drivers. There are plenty of repair places in town to fix a puncture, pump up tires or do any repair work at cheap prices. A puncture repair costs $1.
- Walking, can be a challenge. Remember little gives way to big here, pedestrians come last, even on the now cluttered, once grand, wide, French-built pavements! To cross safely, judge gaps in the traffic and proceed with care. Give oncoming vehicles ample time to see and avoid you, or try to cross with the brightly coloured and revered monks. There is almost no street lighting off the major boulevards, and walking at night is not recommended. Traffic signals and pedestrian crossings are generally ignored by drivers.
- Car, Phnom Penh is notorious for its massive traffic jams, and rightly so. In addition, traffic is chaotic and motorcyclists seemingly suicidal. Therefore, most tourists consider driving in Phnom Penh a nightmare, and it is highly recommended that you stick to public transport and not try to drive yourself around.
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