Besides being known for its hot climate, Cambodia’s roads are filled with complete madness. Nothing wrong with a little road-frenzy, in fact, it’s kind of beautiful seeing an outbreak of scooters and tuk-tuk drivers making their own route down the road.
Jaywalk with caution! Most of the time, people will not conform to any rules of the road. Lack of traffic lights, crosswalks, stops signs, and somehow, they still can manage. Can’t compare it to any Western traffic.
One of the main forms of transportation in Cambodia is scooters. You will see thousands of them on the road at once. Some drive against traffic. Some hold four people at a time and some drive on sidewalks. Be extra careful!
Pnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and driving through the city center for the first time is scary and dangerous. I wouldn’t recommend it. They have their own way of getting around and it seems to work. I’d highly advise taking a scooter in Siem Reap instead as the traffic is a lot lighter outside the busy intersections. I took a scooter with my boyfriend to Angkor Wat and it was a lot of fun. Once we drove out of the city center, it was a bliss driving through the jungle to each temple.
You can easily rent a scooter for $5-7 USD/ 1 day. Some places will vary by a few dollars in price, so walk a few blocks each way to find the best deal. Ask them when you need to return the bike by. Usually, it’s around 7 after sundown, but ask to make sure.
Another way of getting around is by taking a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk is a two-wheeled carriage pulled by a scooter. Tuk-tuks are an easy and safe form of transit to get point A to point B. It’s very easy to hail one, if not walk a few blocks and three of them will yell “tuk-tuk? where you go?” in a matter of seconds. Eye contact and a simple nod tells them you’re good to go.
For most tourists, tuk-tuk drivers will ask for American dollars instead of their own currency. One American Dollar is worth 4,000 Riel so you can see why they prefer American. Prices range from $3 to 12$ depending on the number of destinations. Don’t worry about them waiting on you. They are more pleased to stay with you the entire day than to jump from one person to the next.
- A trip across town costs 3$
- A trip from Pnom Penh to the airport costs 6$ might cost less if there is no traffic.
- A trip to Angkor Wat for the day can range from $8-$12. we paid $14 one day because our driver came at 4:30 am to pick us up for the sunrise and then treated us to lunch at his home in one of the neighboring villages.
Try to negotiate before you get in
Bonus points if you bargain in Khmer. You’re a foreigner to them. If they hear you speak English, you automatically get the tourist price. Locals usually get around for free.
In North America, we do not bargain before entering a vehicle. It felt different doing it for the first few times, but it became the norm. Always talk about price, otherwise, you will get ripped off or have a heated argument. I didn’t see this coming when we hopped into a tuk-tuk from the airport to Phnom Penh. Our driver ended up charging us $20. If you do not agree with the price they offer, just walk away. Walking away usually triggers the driver to offer a better deal.
If you plan to travel to each city of Cambodia or outside the country, an inexpensive solution is taking the bus. The ride may take six to nine hours at a time, but for the scenery, it’s worth it. Below I have listed two buses I thought were great. One piece of advice I’d give is to book online. It works for last minute reservations too. Best to avoid spending long hours with a travel agency scrambling to find a spot.
we took the Giant Ibis from Pnom Penh to Siem Reap. It seats about 40 people and takes 6-7 hours. The cost per person is 15$. It costs $1 extra if you book online. The bus makes two stops. One 10-minute stop for the bathroom and the second stop at a restaurant half way. Their staff is professional and speak English. They make announcements when leaving and entering the city. One tip is to make sure your luggage is 100% on board. Staff will attach a tag to your luggage and give you its duplicate. The bus also offers many services such as free Wi-Fi, power outlets, bottled water, and freshly baked pastry for the road. You can’t rely on their Wi-Fi to last. It’s fine for the first 30 minutes before entering rural areas, which is 70% of the journey.
They offer three departure times in the morning and evening:
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap: 08.45am | 09.45am | 12.30pm
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh | 07:45am | 08:45am | 12:30pm
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap Night | 10:30pm | 11:00pm | 11:30pm
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh Night | 10:30pm | 11:00pm | 11:30pm
I really enjoyed my ride on the Giant Ibis. It was safe and quick. They promise the services they offer on their website and unlike most buses, the Giant Ibis doesn’t make any extra stops to pick up people along the way.
Mekong Express Limousine Bus is another decent bus company. My boyfriend and I took their 42-steated bus from Pnom Penh to Ho Chin Minh City, Vietnam. The 9-hour long ride cost us 15$ each. It’s a limousine in a sense that you can recline the seats and take a nice nap. Unfortunately, this luxury lasted for only three hours before we got transferred to the different older bus. I’m not sure why it happened. It is what it is!
The Mekong Express offers similar services to the Giant Ibis. One difference is they have a bathroom on the bus, but no running water to wash hands. That being said, the bus still stops three times for stretches and food.
I chose this bus because they offered better times than their competitor. Overall, the ride was comfortable and on time. Not too much to complain about.
Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh 7:30am | 8:30am | 1:30pm
Ho Chi Minh – Phnom Penh 7:00am | 8:30am | 1:00pm
Buses and planes have their pros and cons. Buses can be headaches. The services they claim to offer aren’t always promising. If you can fly, just fly! Buses are cost-effective when crossing borders, but can take up the whole day. If you’re traveling long distances within the country, flights can surprisingly be very cheap. Check the airlines regularly. Weekdays are cheaper than weekends.