Phnom Penh travel tips & advice: do's and don'ts
Getting There By Air:
Pochentong Airport (PNH)
Tel: (023) 890 890.
Located 10km (6 miles) from the city and one of two international airports in the country, serving several Asian cities including Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Vientiane and Guangzhou.
Airport facilities include bureau de change, duty-free shops, bookshop, post office, café, bar, tourist information, as well as a CIP
Lounge and mobile phone rental.
Taxis wait outside the airport with a fixed fare to the city (there are no meter taxis) for the 20-40 minute ride into town.
Getting There By Water:
Express boats service Phnom Penh from Siem Reap and boats leave from south of the Japanese Bridge on Sisowath Quay at Street 104. Tickets are sold at the dock and should be bought one day in advance. This is quite an adventurous way to get to Siem Reap and occasionally these local ferries break down or become grounded if the water is too low. The best time to travel is during and just after the rainy season, so June to November. There is a regular boat service between Phnom Penh and Chau Doc on the Mekong in Vietnam, operated by Blue Cruise (tel: (023) 990 441). Taxis and motodops (motorbike taxis) always meet the boats.
Getting There By Road:
The roads around Cambodia vary from excellent to very poor, laterite tracks. The road system around Phnom Penh is the best in the country with numbered routes leading out of the city. Route 1 is the main road to the Vietnamese border at Moc Bai, Route 4 takes you to the only port at Sihanoukville and Route 6 to Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor. The further you travel from the capital, the more the roads deteriorate and land travel becomes a grueling experience. It is important to remember that during the rainy season, May to October, even major routes can suffer disruption because of serious flooding. Traffic drives on the right, but cars are both left hand and right hand drive cars, which can account for the rather reckless manner of driving adopted by the Cambodians. Most long distance taxis leave from the north west corner of the Central Market.
Emergency breakdown service: None
Coach services: As the roads leading out of Phnom Penh are good, there is an extensive bus service to places such as Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kampong Cham, Battambang and Ho Chi Minh City. These are operated by the main bus company, the Phnom Penh Public Transport Co Ltd (tel: (023) 210 359) and buses depart from the south west corner of the Central Market, corner at Street 217 and Street 67.
Getting There By Rail:
There are two lines in Cambodia, from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and Battambang. For many years the train was the target of the Khmer Rouge and was very unsafe to use. In recent years the train did run, but was a very slow way of traveling (approx 12 hours to Sihanoukville and Battambang, compared to 4 and 6 hours respectively by road) and distinctly uncomfortable on hard, wooden seats. It also breaks down frequently as it is very neglected. Now, there is only a weekly departure to Battambang and no longer any passenger trains to Sihanoukville. Tickets can only be purchased on the day in person.
There is no public bus service within Phnom Penh.
There are no metered taxis in Phnom Penh, but unmarked taxis wait outside hotels or can be arranged through the hotel. There are a few taxi service companies where you can telephone for a taxi 24 hours a day – Taxi Vantha (tel: (012) 855 000; website: www.taxivantha.com) and Phnom Penh Taxi Driver (tel: (016) 886 544; website: www.phnompenhtaxidriver.com). Their rates are fixed by distance or destination. Motorbike taxis or motodops wait outside the hotels and cruise the streets offering their services to pedestrians. Fares should be negotiated before starting the journey and be aware that the fare is higher at night. Also be absolutely clear about your destination as many of the motodop drivers come into the city from the countryside so don’t know Phnom Penh very well, but are reluctant to admit it. Cyclos also cruise the streets and wait outside the hotels and these are ideal for shorter journeys or leisurely sightseeing tours, but tend to be more expensive than motodops.
Bicycle & Scooter Hire
Many guesthouses hire out bicycles very cheaply for the day. If you are confident on a motorbike, they can be rented from Angkor Motorcycles at 92 Pasteur Street (tel: (012) 722 098) and Lucky! Lucky! Motorcycle at 413 Monivong (near Street 182) (tel: (023) 212 788). It is necessary to leave your passport as security.
It is really only possible to hire a car with a driver. Car hire can be arranged with the taxi companies listed above, by private negotiation with a taxi waiting outside the hotels or through tour operators such as Exotissimo Travel, 46 Norodom Boulevard (tel: (023) 218 948; website: www.exotissimo.com) and Diethelm Travel, 65 Street 240 (tel: (023) 219 151; website: www.diethelmtravel.com) or First Choice Travel, www.cambodiatravel.vn