Getting there & away
Bus services have improved dramatically with the advent of revitalised roads in Cambodia, and most major towns are now accessible by air-conditioned bus from Phnom Penh. Most buses leave from company offices, which are generally clustered around Psar Thmei or located near the northern end of Sisowath Quay.
Leading bus companies:
Hua Lian (880761; 217 Monireth Blvd) Far-flung services include Ban Lung and Sen Monorom in the northeast, plus Battambang, Kampot, Kompong Cham, Kratie, Poipet, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Svay Rieng and Takeo.
Phnom Penh Sorya Transport (210359; Psar Thmei) Most established company serving Battambang, Kampot, Kep, Kompong Cham, Kompong Chhnang, Kratie, Neak Luong, Poipet, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Stung Treng and Takeo.
RAC Limousine Bus (884179; 81 St 130) Luxury limousine bus serving Siem Reap (from US$10).
Virak Buntham (012 322302; St 106) Buses to Krong Koh Kong via NH48 and Cardamom gateway communities.
Most buses charge a similar price, with the exception of premium services. The following list of destinations includes price, duration and frequency: Ban Lung (US$17.50, 12 hours, one daily), Battambang (US$4, five hours, frequent until midday), Kampot (US$3, three to four hours, several per day), Kompong Cham (US$2.50, two hours, frequent until 4pm), Kompong Chhnang (US$1.50, two hours, frequent), Kratie (US$5, five hours, several in the morning), Neak Luong (US$1.25, two hours, frequent), Poipet (US$7, eight hours, several early departures), Sen Monorom (US$10, 10 hours, one daily), Siem Reap (US$5, six hours, frequent until midday), Sihanoukville (US$4, four hours, frequent until midday), Stung Treng (US$9, seven hours, twice daily) and Takeo (US$2, two hours, frequent).
Most of the long-distance buses drop off and pick up in major towns along the way, such as Kompong Thom en route to Siem Reap or Pursat on the way to Battambang. However, it is necessary to buy tickets in advance to ensure a seat, plus a premium is usually charged for this service.
There are currently no passenger services operating on the Cambodian rail network, but this should be seen as a blessing in disguise, given that the trains are extremely slow, travelling at about 20km/h. Yes, for a few minutes at least, you can outrun the train!
Just for reference, Phnom Penh’s train station is located at the western end of St 106 and St 108, in a grand old colonial-era building that is a shambles inside.
There are numerous fast-boat companies that operate from the tourist boat dock (Sisowath Quay) at the eastern end of St 104. Boats go to Siem Reap up the Tonlé Sap River and then Tonlé Sap Lake, but there are no longer services up the Mekong from Phnom Penh.
The fast boats to Siem Reap (US$20 to US$25, five to six hours) aren’t as popular as they used to be now that the road is in such good condition. When it costs US$5 for an air-conditioned bus or US$20 to be bundled on the roof of a boat, it is not hard to see why. It is better to save your boat experience for elsewhere in Cambodia if you have the choice.
Several companies have daily services departing at 7am and usually take it in turns to make the run. The first stretch of the journey along the river is scenic, but once the boat hits the lake, the fun is over as it is a vast inland sea with not a village in sight.
Express services to Siem Reap are overcrowded, and often appear to have little in the way of safety gear. Most tourists prefer to sit on the roof of the express boats, but don’t forget a head covering and sunscreen as thick as paint. Less-nimble travellers or fair-skinned folk might prefer to be inside. Unfortunately, not everyone can sit inside, as companies sell twice as many tickets as there are seats! In the dry season, the boats are very small and dangerously overcrowded, to the point that one or two have sunk.