A newly paved Hwy 5 goes all way down from Battambang to Phnom Penh skirting the western side of Tonle Sap lake. 300 km between the second largest city in the country and the capital can be easily covered in 5 hours by car, but buses tend to take longer – up to 7 hours. The railway line, which goes from the border town of Poipet to Phnom Penh via Battambang still remains defunct but rumours say that sooner or later it will see trains travelling its length again. At the moment, though, there is no official confirmation of the date the project will be given the green light, so buses and vans remain basically the main means of transport for travelling to Phnom Penh from Battambang.
From Battambang to Phnom Penh by bus
There are a lot of bus departures before noon and in the early afternoon from Battambang to Phnom Penh operated by different companies. For evening departures check Sorya Company.
In general buses serving the route are very basic compared to those, which ply the road between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, for example. Expect to spend around 7 hours to reach Phnom Penh (USD6-USD10).
Minivans provide a faster transfer (about five hours), but cost a bit more (USD10-USD12). Some even offer free Wi-Fi on board. VIP minivans turn out to be the comfiest and most convenient way to cover the route.
Note that the new bus station in Battambang is located 3 km west of the city centre. All the buses (not vans!) arrive and depart from this bus station. A tuk-tuk ride to the bus station costs USD1. Several large bus companies, e.g. Capitol Tours, include transfer from the centre to the bus station into their ticket price – inquire beforehand if purchasing your ticket at a travel agency.
Minivans still operate from several bus stops within the city centre. E.g. Thero Express picks up passengers at the corner of Road N3 and 119 Street, just opposite May Bank. In Phnom Penh, you arrive to Thero’s office, located rather centrally one block southeast of the Central Market.
Big buses bring their passengers to different locations in Phnom Penh, depending on the company you are travelling with. Sorya and GTS are based close to the southwestern corner of the Central Market, while Mekong Express, Virak Buntham, Giant Ibis and several other companies have their offices close to the Passenger and Tourist terminal by the night market off the Mekong Riverfront.
From Battambang to Phnom Penh via Siem Reap
If Battambang is your first destination in Cambodia and you are also planning to visit Siem Reap and Sihanoukville or Kampot, possibly continuing your journey to Vietnam, it is logical to go to Siem Reap from Battambang first, proceeding then to Phnom Penh over Hwy 6.
Buses take about three hours to get from Battambang to Siem Reap travelling via Sisophon and cost USD6, but there is a much more interesting way to get close to the temples of Angkor. Once a day, at 7am a boat sails from Battambang to Siem Reap with another one departing Siem Reap simultaneously. The boat travels the narrow Sangker River before reaching the expanse of Tonle Sap lake, and after crossing it snails to Siem Reap River. The journey is pretty scenic but the length of it can hardly be predicted – it can take from four to 12 hours depending on the water levels in the lake and the rivers and the weather conditions. If you have time, it is highly recommended. Tickets should cost around USD18.
Why go to Phnom Penh
Wide leafy boulevards, exquisite Buddhist temples and a beautiful riverside promenade – even if Phnom Penh cannot boast a lot of large-scale tourist attractions, it possesses its own special charm. Easily one of the least developed capitals of South East Asia, Phnom Penh is changing rapidly nowadays; new Western-style shopping malls and high-rises make their way to the city, and there are even air-conditioned public buses cruising its streets. You can have a look at the darkest years of Khmer history in Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum or venture further afield to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. But you can choose just to enjoy Phnom Penh’s – alas! – rapidly vanishing French flavour, indulge in world-wide cuisine offered in its fancy restaurants at half the price you pay anywhere else or absorb the local colours visiting markets and people-watching. There is an abundance of worth-seeing places of interest around Phnom Penh, easily explored during a day trip, including Phinom Chisor, a stunning example of the Angkorian period temples, or Koh Dach, the Silk Island, where you can witness the process of silk weaving and buy some of the finest textiles in Cambodia. All in all, architectural wonders, busy nightlife venues and shopping opportunities galore in Phnom Penh. It may not become your favourite city in Asia, but Phnom Penh definitely deserves a closer look.
Getting around in Phnom Penh
If you have traveled at least a bit anywhere in Cambodia, you may have noticed that the Khmers know no modesty as far as the width of their roads is concerned. This local love for expansions makes Phnom Penh tough for covering on foot. Tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis are ubiquitous and plentiful; they are an affordable and easy way to get around the city. Expect to pay from USD1 to USD3 for a tuk-tuk ride, even less for a motorbike taxi.
Renting a scooter is also an option in Phnom Penh. Daily rates are about USD5. Note that helmets are a must, traffic is chaotic and accidents with casualties are not unheard of. Rent only if you are an experienced rider – we mean with some experience in Asian countries.
There are public buses in Phnom Penh. Tickets cost less than USD0.5 per trip. The most useful route is Line 03 which stops at the International Airport, Central Market and Night Market. Line 01 combined with some walking brings you to the Royal Palace and National Museum.
Where to stay in Phnom Penh
For a short-term stay in Phnom Penh, the most convenient area to stay is the riverfront. There is a wide choice of accommodations in all price ranges, all coming with excellent river views and proximity to all the restaurants, cafes and shops Sisowath Quay can offer for a visitor to enjoy the city.
If you are planning to stay in Phnom Penh more than just a couple of days, always check weekly and monthly rates. Many guesthouses offer discounts for longer stays and you can save considerably if giving your host a notice in advance.
For over a month long stay, look for apartments for rent. Many landlords ask for a minimum stay of two month but you can always negotiate. Normally a modest studio with some sort of a kitchen will cost you about USD100 less than a room in a guesthouse for the same period.
Things to do in Phnom Penh
Have a look at the darkest years of Khmer history in Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum or venture further afield to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Savour Phnom Penh’s – alas! – rapidly vanishing French flavour, indulge in world-wide cuisine offered in its fancy restaurants at half the price you pay anywhere else or absorb the local colours visiting markets and people-watching. There is an abundance of worth-seeing places of interest around Phnom Penh, easily explored during a day trip, including Phinom Chisor, a stunning example of the Angkorian period temples, or Koh Dach, the Silk Island, where you can witness the process of silk weaving and buy some of the finest textiles in Cambodia. All in all, architectural wonders, busy nightlife venues and shopping opportunities galore in Phnom Penh. It may not become your favourite city in Asia, but Phnom Penh definitely deserves a closer look.
Onward travel from Phnom Penh
Located literally in the heart of the country, Phnom Penh has good transport connections with all the other cities and towns around Cambodia and in the neighbouring countries.
The riverside town of Kampot luring travellers with its laidback and relaxed atmosphere can be reached from Phnom Penh in 2½ hours (USD9). All the 150 km of the road between the cities are now sealed.
In 4½ hours you can cover 240 km from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. The route is served by both buses and vans with the overwhelming majority of departures leaving before 3pm (USD10-USD12). The Hwy 4 leading to Sihanoukville is paved and in good condition at present.
Out of international destinations easily reached overland from Phnom Penh think Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam (6–7 hours; USD16-USD18) and Bangkok in Thailand (12–13 hours; USD26-USD30), though both are linked to Phnom Penh by flights as well. You can fly to Kuala Lumpur and over a dozen of other international destinations from Phnom Penh international airport, though some of them are seasonal and others are served by charter flights only.