Getting Around Cambodia

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Getting Around Cambodia

By Plane

Domestic departure tax

From both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the domestic departure tax is US$25.

Domestic aviation in Cambodia has improved.

The only airports currently operating scheduled passenger flights are Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Flights to Sihanoukville are now available and cost around $150.

The main operator is Cambodia Angkor Air, a joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, which flies between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam).

The other operator is Aero Cambodia, operating from Phnom Penh to Ratanakiri, Koh Kong, Sihanukville and most other airports. Charter and scheduled service use twin-engine 10 to 70 seat aircraft.

By Road

The Cambodian government has been frantically upgrading roads throughout the country. At the moment about half of Cambodia's roads have been improved, with most main main roads completely paed. 

Longer journeys in Cambodia can be taken by bus, pickup truck or shared taxi. In many towns, whichever of these are available will be found at the local market square. Larger towns and cities will have bus stations. Buses may also serve their companies' offices, which may be more convenient than the bus station: this is particularly true in Siem Reap. Mekong Express has the best reputation for comfort and speed and consequently charges a premium. Sorya (formerly Ho Wah Genting) and GST offer a slightly cheaper no-frills service. Capitol runs between its centrally located offices, making for city centre-to-city centre travel. Ramshackled peasant mover Paramount Angkor Transport is great for accessing more remote places but low on comfort and safety.

Bus safety is a big problem in Cambodia. On Highway 5, between Phnom Penh and Battambang, there are dozens of bus crashes annually, many of them horrendous, with multiple fatalities. There are even bus-on-bus crashes. Drivers are untrained, impatient, and (according to those working in roadside fuel stations) sometimes drunk. Most of these accidents go unreported, but frequent travellers on Highway 5 can typically observe half a dozen bus crashes in a month.

Generally bus travel is cheap, with journeys from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap or Sihanoukville costing around US$5. Bring along something warm if you don't like freezing air-conditioning and earplugs if you don't like Khmer karaoke. There are a few night-time services but most buses leave in the morning and the last ones leave in the afternoon.

Some believe taxis are safer for inter-city travel, but taxis also often go way too fast, and so are involved in numerous fatal accidents. The front seat in a taxi from Phnom Penh to Battambang should cost you about $20.

In cities, motorcycle taxis are ubiquitous. For quick trips across town, just stand on a corner for a moment and someone will offer you a lift - for a small, usually standard, fee of US$1 or less.

Motorcycle rentals are available in many towns, with the notable exception of Siem Reap. Be careful if driving or riding yourself: driving practices are vastly different from developed countries. Local road 'rules' will also differ from city to city.

There are a number of motorcycle touring companies in Cambodia, such as Ride Cambodia Motorcycle Tours, that run single or multi-day trips across the whole country. This is great for those that want to get far off the beaten path and see the places that a tourist bus could never reach.

By Boat

Ferries operate seasonally along many of the major rivers. Major routes include Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Battambang. The Sihanoukville to Koh Kong ferry no longer runs. Boats are slower than road transport, charge higher prices for foreigners, and are sometimes overcrowded and unsafe. Then again, Cambodia's highways are also dangerous, and boats are probably the safer of the two options. The high speed boat from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap costs US$45 and takes about 6 hours, departing at 7.30am, and offers a spectacular view of rural life along the Tonle Sap river.

There is also a few luxury boats operating between Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Saigon. For something around 180$/day including accommodation, food and excursions, it's a good alternative to regular boat service.

The boat trip between Siem Reap and Battambang takes longer (especially in the dry season), and is less comfortable and more expensive than taking a seat in a share taxi, but is favoured by some travellers for its close-up view of subsistence farming (and hundreds of waving children) along the river. Taking the boat late in the dry season (April and May) is not advisable as low water levels mean that you must transfer to smaller vessels in mid-river.

By Train

Passenger trains ceased in 2009 as the state of the rail infrastructure was dire. The entire network is undergoing an agonizingly slow restoration and it may be possible to hitch a ride on the daily cargo train that may still run for 111 km between Phnom Penh and Touk Meas (near Kampot), if you enjoy that kind of thing. The service was reinstated in October 2010 but was reported to have possibly stopped when Toll, an Australian company, pulled out of the Cambodian rail venture in April 2012. There are plans to link the network with the Thai and Vietnamese railway networks. However, don't hold your breath!

By Bamboo Train

While it has been possible to travel considerable distances (Battambang to Phnom Penh) on the existing railway tracks by bamboo train (makeshift lorries run by 40HP engines) this is no longer possible. Because of the improved road infrastructure locals no longer use these and in consequence the tracks are overgrown and sometimes crossed by irrigation canals. In addition parts of the stretch are already under reconstruction and thus blocked. The bamboo train is now merely a tourist attraction on an 8km stretch of tracks near Battambang.

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