The majority of visitors to Phnom Penh arrive by air at Phnom Penh International Airport. However, the close proximity of Vietnam to the east and Laos to the north means that ferry and bus crossings are now almost as common. Overland crossings are most frequent to or from Ho Chi Minh City at Kan Samnoor/Chau Doc and Bavet/Moc Bai, or from the southern Laos crossing at Dom Kralor/ Veun Kham.
Getting to Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh International Airport
The Phnom Penh International Airport is just nine kilometres (five miles) from the city centre, but the trip can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Airport taxis charge US$9 for the journey, which is around US$7 by tuk-tuk and as low as US$3 if you want to jump on the back of a moto with your luggage.
There is no central bus station in Phnom Penh, as most operators arrive/ depart from various locations, although the area in front of the Central Market has become the default station. Capitol Tours, GST Express and Phnom Penh Sorya Transport are the three main companies offering bus tickets in and out of the city, including all Cambodian destinations. The Mekong Express handles the six hour bus ride to Saigon.
‘Fast’ ferry boats leave the Vietnamese port of Chau Doc every morning at 08:00, stopping at a riverside checkpoint along the way on the five hour journey. The return voyage from the main terminal on Sisowath Quay leaves at 13:00. A more relaxing and scenic alternative to the bus, some boats even let you sit on the roof.
Getting Around in Phnom Penh
There is no official public transport system in Phnom Penh. However, it is easy to get around in on foot, and once you have mastered the street naming and numbering, then all of the attractions are easily found. The riverfront area around Sisowath Quay and the Royal Palace west to the Central Market and north to Wat Phnom and Boeng Kak Lake is all within walking distance.
Quieter, and far more comfortable than their more well-known Thai cousins, Phnom Penh tuk-tuks are ideal for short trips around town (US$2-$3, US$7 to the airport) or for hiring for a full day of sightseeing (~US$20-$25). More of a motorcycle with a rather romantic trailer/carriage attached than a seated vehicle, tuk-tuks offer a cheap and up-close way to see the city. Keep luggage in the middle to prevent unwanted drive-by bag snatching.
Motorcycle Taxi (Moto)
The omnipresent ‘moto’ is the cheapest, fastest, and most dangerous form of public transport in Phnom Penh. For just 4,000 riel (50 cents) per trip around town, motos are a great bargain best suited to solo, mainly male travellers. There has been one very high-profile assault on a female passenger by bag snatchers, and helmets are rare. The handy moto can also be hired for the day for US$6-$8.
Two companies offer 24/7 on-call, metered taxi services, with Global Taxi and Taxi Vatana also found around major tourist sites and larger hotels. There are also some at the airport although it can be easier to use fixed fare cabs.
Unmetered private taxis, almost always a Toyota Camry, can be booked through travel agencies or guesthouses. Trips around town cost around US$4-$5, full day hire US$25-$35.
The quaint and often dilapidated bicycle rickshaw, the cyclo, is a humble if occasionally hair-raising method of transportation. The romantic shared seat with its wide outlook is ideal for sightseeing and relaxing. Far easier on the nervous system than motos for roughly the same price, the canopy offers welcome relief from the sun.
For seasoned riders, motorcycles can be rented for US$5-$6 per day. Phnom Penh traffic has its own unwritten laws and the city centre can be a chaotic, heaving mass at the best of times, making rentals a challenge. Roads outside the city are notoriously bad and for experienced drivers only.
Not a recommended option without comprehensive insurance but if you do, drive slow, stay right, and let the locals avoid you. Always wear a helmet. The appropriately named Luck Lucky Motorcycle on Monivong Blvd has the best selection of imported Hondas and larger dirt-bikes for the real enthusiast.
Phnom Penh is not easy to get around by bicycle. Most guesthouses have bikes for rent for US$1-$2 per day. Expect an old, Chinese-made, one-speed version. Specialist outfit Khmer Cycling features top of the range mountain bikes for rent, in addition to bicycle tours. They also offer repairs, accessories and safety equipment.