Want some crystal clear seas, long sand beaches with shallow waters or Phangan-style partying without going to the islands? Sihanoukville is more than happy to accommodate you. Do not expect glittering modern shopping malls and designer boutique hotels, though; what you are likely to find here is a laid-back and relaxed vacation by the sea and the atmosphere reminiscent of the Thai islands of 10 or 20 years ago. That said, unpretentious nightlife venues, cosy restaurants and bars, massage shops and market stalls do not lack. Tour agencies offer trips to the neighbouring islands for snorkelling, and the sea is really beautiful. Though there is not much to do in Sihanoukville, it is still a great place to spend a couple of days doing nothing, tasting freshly brewed Angkor beer (the first brewery of the brand in located in Sihanoukville) and wandering in the shadow of cannonball trees covered with big exotic flowers which are a distinct feature of a couple of Sihanoukville wats.
From Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville by bus
There are a number of operators serving the route between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. Both prices and quality of service vary greatly. 12go.asia collaborates with Giant Ibis Transport for a number of reasons, including the best safety record (road safety is an issue in Cambodia) and the fact that a certain part of the cost of each ticket goes to preservation of ibis which is the national bird of Cambodia. Besides, every passenger of Giant Ibis Transport is covered with insurance and at the moment it is also the only transport company in Cambodia which sells tickets online and in advance.
Travel time between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville is from four hours to 4½ hours (240 km). The National Road #4 is in good condition – forget the bumpy experience you may have had here some five years ago. Currently there are three buses a day heading to the most popular sea resort city in Cambodia: at 8am, 9.30am and 12.30pm. All tickets cost USD12. Giant Ibis’ fleet consists of smaller Universe County buses which are not too spacious. It pays to choose your seat in advance. Try to avoid the first row, if you can, and note that all ‘C’s are jump seats. Apart from the space issue, Giant Ibis Transport buses offer an excellent value, and the service provided on board is usually flawless. They have air-conditioning and serve small snacks or a bottle of water during the trip, too.
Good news – or rather GREAT news: Wi-Fi is available on board of each Giant Ibis bus. Are we sure we are in Cambodia, guys? Well, after you discover you have Internet on board, it looks just natural to have electrical outlets, too. But isn’t it a local wonder, eh?
Note that there are no on-board toilets on Phnom Penh–Sihanoukville route. No bad smell in the bus, either. There is a 10-minute stop half the way between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville to stretch your legs.
In Phnom Penh, Giant Ibis Transport buses leave from the company’s office in 106 Street, close to the night market and the riverfront. If you stay in one of the company’s partner hotels, you can order a complimentary pickup service. Check the list of the partner hotels on the Giant Ibis Transport web site.
In Sihanoukville, Giant Ibis Transport bus station is located on 2 Thnou Street, 200 m from the Golden Lions Circle. It is about 500 m to Serendipity Beach and almost one km to Ochheuteal Beach where plenty of accommodation option of various price range can be found. If you do not want to walk, take a tuk-tuk to your next destination (normally from USD1 to USD5).
Hopping from one beach to another in Sihanoukville is best done by motorbike, be it a motorbike taxi or a rented scooter. Rules regarding renting out motorbikes to foreigners change often, but at present it is possible to get one at about USD5 per day. Many motorbikes for rent are ill-maintained, so drive with caution.
Motorbike taxis charge USD1 for short rides (e.g. between neighbouring beaches or from any beach except for Otres beach to the centre of the city).
Tuk-tuks in Sihanoukville tend to overcharge. Always discuss the cost of your ride before you board the vehicle. Tuk-tuk drivers hanging around the new bus station are especially hard to deal with. Short rides within the city cost USD3.
Which beach in Sihanoukville to choose
It is a rare case when beaches on the mainland have nothing to envy to the islands, but it is the case with Sihanoukville. Some say that the town obviously lacks infrastructure and facilities essential to any modern sea resort; but Sihanoukville feels so delightfully rustic and authentic that it compensates. Thanks to numerous expats who have chosen Sihanoukville as their new home, great Western food restaurants and bars do not lack, and long sweeping beaches of Sihanoukville never feel too overcrowded.
Ochheuteal beach and Serendipity beach
These two are the most popular and peopled beaches of Sihanoukville. The sea is still beautiful and there are plenty of souvenir stalls, beach restaurants and bars, tour agencies and accommodation options from 5-star hotels to relatively budget bungalows there. Serendipity is more on a budget side and has nightlife spots, but the beach itself is not big. Ochheuteal has a long strip of blond sand and free comfy sunbeds (if you buy some food or a drink in one of the beach restaurants), but there are jet skis cruising along the beach which makes swimming quite a dangerous thing at times.
Sokha Beach lies next to Serendipity Beach and right by the waterfront road. There are neither sunbeds nor restaurants there, just a narrow strip of white sand, a couple of wooden benches and some trees with their shadow providing shelter from the scorching sun. Both the sea and the view are beautiful nonetheless. Arguably the most luxurious resort hotel of Sihanoukville, Sokha Beach Resort, is next to the Sokha beach.
The Independence Beach has all the facilities which Ochheuteal Beach offers. On the pro side is the dense shadow from the trees; on the con side – it is obviously narrower than its more popular counterpart.
Hawaii Beach and Victory Beach
These two beaches are definitely not picture-perfect, though they have nice palm trees and a few sunbeds, too. Due to some boat activity at the small pier between Hawaii and Victory beaches, the water does not look as turquois as it does at all the other beaches in Sihanoukville. There are a couple of hotels where package tourists tend to settle and the largest nightclub in town, Airport, is located near the pier.
Otres Beach is voted the best beach of Sihanoukville and rightly so. Otres Beach lies to the southeast of Ochheuteal Beach. Fringed with delicate casuarinas, it boasts endless jaw dropping sea view. There are comfy sunbeds under straw beach umbrellas and simple beach huts, too. The only downside of Otres Beach is its location – no nightlife, no street food, no markets, no convenience stores nearby. But if you are after some peace and quiet on the background of a dream beach, Otres is the place to go.
Further afield from Sihanoukville
From the new bus station in Sihanoukville there are buses to Kampot, Kep, Koh Rong and Koh Kong (the last one is close to the Thai border town of Hat Lek from where you can easily connect to Trat and Koh Chang).