Travel in Cambodia is an adventure and generally an unforgettable experience. There is so much out there from the temples at Angkor in Siem Reap, the beaches and beautiful islands, such as Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloeun, that lie off the southern coast near Sihanoukville, not to mention the former hill station at Bokor Mountain by Kampot.
With something to explore in nearly all of the country’s provinces the only question left is how to get there. Here is Cambodia Begins at 40’s guide to travel in Cambodia.
Travel in Cambodia by Road
It used to be that many parts of the country were impassable during the rainy season, and four-wheel drives were de rigeur, but the vast improvement to the road network in the country has made this very much a thing of the past.
Here are our favourite routes.
You can now drive from Phnom Penh to the coast either along Highway 4 to Sihanouville and the islands to the south, or on Highway 3 to Kep and Kampot. Both journeys take around three hours, so long as you avoid the gridlock leaving the capital. The new expressway to Sihanoukville is due to open in March 2023, and this should alleviate bottle necks.
Alternatively you can branch off Highway 4 near Sre Ambel and take Highway 48 towards the Cardamom Mountains. This really is one of the most unpoilt areas of wilderness left in Southeast Asia, and comes well recomended. Stay in one of the many CBET homestays in the area, camp in Kirirom National Park or at the award winning Cardamom Tented Camp, or go upmarket at the exclusive – and also award winning – Shinta Mani Wild luxury jungle camp. The really adventurous can take the slow boat past Ta Tai to Koh Kong.
The other main route is Highway 6 that takes you around the north of the Tonle Sap lake to Siem Reap, via Kampong Thom. The southern route is along Highway 5 via Battambang. Both roads eventually meet and lead off to the Thai border at Poipet.
A third route is to take Highway 7 north from the capital to Kratie, for the river dolphins and up to Stung Treng and the Laos border, stopping off at idyllic riverside Kampong Cham en route. Nowadays you can even take the north east loop from Stung Treng along Highway 78 to Banlung in Ratanakiri province, and then down through Mondulkiri province to Monorom with its excellent Mondulkiri Project Elephant Sanctuary, along Highway 76. This eventually links up back with Highway 7 for your return to the capital.
The fourth route takes you along Highway 64 from Siem Reap to the ancient temple of Preah Vihear and then along to Stung Treng from where you can either join Highway 7 back to the capital Phnom Penh, or if you are feeling adventurous contine along the northeast loop.
Finally, you can always go from Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese border along Highway 1 to Bavet.
To examine these routes in more detail – and how they all link up – check our Cambodia map on our home page.
Bus or Taxi?
If you have your own form of transport nothing could be simpler. A motorbike, which you can easily rent in the capital would even allow you to venture off-road through the small villages in the country.
Otherwise, depending on your route and destination, you can either rent a taxi – much cheaper than in the west – or take the bus.
Giant Ibis runs routes to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kampot, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok with some night routes available. Giant Ibis buses are probably the most reliable and clean. They offer a pick-up service from many hotels and guesthouses. Their Phnom Penh office is located by the Night Market just off Sisowath Quay (The Riverside).
Since 2002 Mekong Express has enjoyed a fairly solid reputation in Cambodia. Offering both bus and VIP van services with WiFi and complimentary snacks the Mekong Express currently services Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Poipet, Sihanoukville, Ho Chi Minh City, Battambang, Bangkok and Banteay Meanchey. Their main office is located in Russey Keo not far north of Phnom Penh’s Japanese bridge.
Sorya bus company runs a service almost every province in the country. Their main office / bus terminal is conveniently located next to the Central Market in Phnom Penh. We advise you go directly to the office to book your ticket in person. Although you will be pleased with their budget prices, do not expect a VIP service .
Trains in Cambodia
Cambodia does not exactly have an extensive rail network, but there is a service that runs from Phnom Penh Railway Station.
The main train departs from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville via Takeo, Kep and Kampot at 7am arriving in Shanoukville at 12:20pm. Further details can be found here.
There has long been talk of re-opening the line to Battambang and other expanded lines through to Vietnam but this has yet to show any real substance.
Boat in Cambodia Siem Reap
There used to be a boat from the Mekong Delta in Vietnam to Phnom Penh, as well as a boat service along the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap. Currently these serivces are not operational, but hopefully they will resume. You can also take a cruise along the Tonle Sap from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.
Flights in Cambodia
If you are pushed for time you can take the plane from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Details of domestic flights in Cambodia can be found here.
Main image Nathan Horton Photography.