So I thought I’d do a basic rundown of travel tips in Cambodia. I arrived with little more than a cousin somewhere down south and a 48 hour bout of food poisoning. All I knew was that Angkor was up in Siem Reap, the Killing Fields were in Phnom Penh and there were pretty beached down south.
When I was looking at the best ways to get around the country I heard a lot about how dangerous the roads were; how uncomfortable the trips would be. Ok, so it’s not the smooth tarmac roads of England or Australia, but they really weren’t that bad.
I chose two companies for my long distance journeys:
Known as the most comfortable, safe, and reliable company, as well as being the only one my hostel in Phnom Penh offered, I chose them for my first overnight journey up to Siem Reap.
First point: They have a double berth, and a single berth, where most other companies have two doubles in the same space. So comfort is definitely a winner here. It’s a strange experience if you are travelling alone and you get put in the double berth, because essentially you’re sleeping in bed with a complete stranger. HOWEVER, with Ibis the beds are styled as seats, fully pushed back with an armrest between, giving you some warped sense of personal space.
Second: The trips take a little longer than others – whereas some companies will take 8 hours, GI may take 10 or more. It’s because they drive slower, therefore more safely and subsequently have less accidents.
Third: They offer as much personal comfort as possible. You are given a bottle of water, a blanket and a small pillow for the journey. Free Wi-Fi is available for those who can’t sleep.
Overall, GI was by far the best company I rode with in Cambodia. Even their short mini-van trips were straightforward and easy (I took another trip between Sihanoukville and Kampot).
Giant Ibis night buses run every night between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap at 11 p.m. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased from most hotels and travel agents in Cambodia, or you can pay an extra $1 to book ahead and pick a seat on the Giant Ibis website.
Capitol Tours & Transport, Phnom Penh Sorya Transport, VGS - there are so many different bus companies but most will offer night transport across country, just shop around.
Luxury Night Bus. Otherwise known as “The Hotel Bus”. It’s a special kind of bus. Luxury, and yet really, really not. More of a love nest, with a hint of 'brothel' decor.
NOTE: DO NOT TRAVEL THE HOTEL BUS ALONE or you may end up awkwardly spooning with an ex-military Israli man with dreadlocks and a psychoanalytical tale to tell, in which he can deduce your zest for life and your sexual enthusiasm. Weirdest journey of my life.
It is somewhat cheaper to go by the Hotel bus. It’s also significantly easier in some cases – from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville you often have to change buses in Phnom Penh. But the hotel bus, oh they take you all the way through.
While you’re here, a couple of dollars won’t seem like all that much of a difference for the comfort, but over in Cambodia $5 will get you a room in a hostel and a meal for the day. It makes you reconsider, especially if you’re on a budget!
More regular than in some of the other SE-Asian countries, Motorbike taxi’s were the way forward in Cambodia (didn’t even mean to make that horrendous joke when I wrote this, but I feel like I have to leave it in there). I love this – riding on the back of a motorbike has been one of my favourite experiences of the trip – I’ve done it before but in Cambodia we went everywhere. From hostels to the beach; up and around mountains and national parks; through winding busy cities – it’s a rush of senses.
Whereas in Thailand tuk-tuks are often large bus-type vehicles that are open with a cover over the top, Cambodians attach a carriage to the back of a motorbike, seating up to 4 people. Again, I love these – there’s something about that hit of fresh air against the grim smells of city life that drops you right into the centre of Asian culture.
Longboats are clearly not used to take you around the cities or across country, but when island hopping down in the south, they can be a refreshing, slightly terrifying way of reaching somewhere unique. Just don’t let anyone jump up and run to the front of the boat when waves are coming at you – you may almost lose all of your belongings to the sea/fall flat on your face and cut your toes open (if you’re the one running).