Once a colonial trading post and then a bustling regional market town for adventure seekers headed to Laos, or the Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces in the east, the completion of the NH7 from Phnom Penh to the border has led to Kratie becoming a welcoming stopover and a destination in its own right.
Buses and private taxis are the main form of transport to and from the town, with boat trips regrettably dying out as the roads improved. The ubiquitous moto is always on hand for getting around the town itself, although it is easy enough to walk or cycle everywhere.
The town is five-six hours north of Phnom Penh, 350kms from the capital, with a number of buses and taxis plying the route to Kratie via Kompong Cham, and onwards to Stung Treng (140kms) and the Laos border crossing at Dom Kralor/ Voen Kham (190kms).
Kratie’s bus stop is right in the centre of town, opposite the port dock, though some bus companies drop-off outside partnered guesthouses or hotels.
Bus fares have fixed prices, whereas shared taxis and cheap, weather-beaten pickup trucks prices are all negotiable.
Phnom Penh to and from Kratie
All buses between Kratie and Phnom Penh pass through the transport hub of Kompong Cham, 140km north of the capital, and usually have a rest stop here. SPPT, Hua Lian and Rith Mony all run two buses to Phnom Penh every day, with all rides taking five hours and costing US$5. SPPT leaves at 07:15 and 09:00, Hua Lian at 07:15 and 09:00 and Rith Mony departures at 07:30 and 09:30. All three have their offices at or near the main bus terminal on Rue Sumamarit.
The NH7 does not run in a straight line between Phnom Penh and Kratie, instead it makes a wide arc eastwards before heading north, adding an extra hour or two to the journey. Fortunately, most private taxis opt to follow the hard dirt road of the NH73 via Chhlong to save gas money, and thereby offering a fascinating close-up of rural life along the roadside. Private taxis to Kompong Cham cost US$4-$5 per seat, with the trip to Phnom Penh around US$8-$10 depending on your bargaining skills and number of fellow passengers.
Laos to and from Kratie
All travellers entering Laos must have a valid visa, with none issued on arrival, and the border guards are unwavering in their policing of this policy. A Cambodian visa is available on arrival (US$20) when entering from Laos. The Laos border post is a shed manned by one guard and a herd of goats, on the Cambodian side there can be up to a dozen officers all wearily asking for an extra dollar for stamping your passport.
Buses from Kratie
Rith Mony and SPPT both have one bus to Stung Treng, at 13:30, taking two hours US$3, while Hua Lian also has a service at 13:30 that goes direct to the border, four hours, US$10.
Various guesthouses and bus companies run packages from Kratie to Ban Nakasong (for access to Si Phan Don/ Don Khone/ Don Deth) and also onwards to Chmpasak and Pakse. This is the easiest way to get to Laos, as the border crossing is in the middle of nowhere, although services can be subject to demand.
For those heading to the east of Cambodia, Hua Lian also operates buses to Sen Monorom, departing 09:00, five hours, US$10, and Banlung, departing at 07:15 and 09:00, five hours, US$5.
Getting around in Kratie
Kratie is small enough to navigate on foot, although moto rides around the city centre are just 1000 riel, or 2000 riel for the outer fringes. Bicycles are an excellent way to explore the flat landscape and cost US$2 per day to rent – ask at your guesthouse.
For day trips and dolphin visits, moto drivers can be hired from US$5 up to US$10 depending on how far you travel. You Hong and Heng Heng Guesthouses are the best places to find English speaking drivers, as most bus companies send their guests there.
Motorbike and car hire is available, with costs varying wildly depending on the season and the owner. Expect to pay around US$6-$10 per day for a motorbike, and US$10-$20 for a car, complete with driver. The roads in the countryside around Kratie can be tricky, especially in the wet season, so a local driver on any form of transport is recommended.