Traveling overland from Poipet to Phnom Penh can take up to 8 hours by car and a bit longer by bus once toilet breaks and stops are included. Unfortunately, there is no longer an option to travel by train in spite of reports the rail network was to be refurbished and reinstated. Hence, National Highway 5 is still the most direct route to the capital – the distance between Poipet and Phnom Penh via Hwy 5 is 415 km. Hwy 5 travels south from the Thai border as opposed to Hwy 6 which heads southeast and is used by many buses en-route to Siem Reap. Hwy 5 passes via Battambang and skirts the western shores of Tonle Sap Lake before reaching the capital, thus if Battambang is in your travel schedule you can consider visiting it first before continuing further south.
From Poipet to Phnom Penh by bus
There are two separate stations for the Poipet to Phnom Penh bus at the border, and once you cross to the Cambodian side, a free shuttle bus can take you to the transfer hub. At this point, you will have the option to travel to Phnom Penh by bus or to opt for a taxi instead.
Tip Before entering Cambodia do not speak with anyone concerning any visa or money issues until you reach the designated Thai customs office. Many tourists are conned into changing money and paying visa related fees at this point but rest assured, everything you need to do is direct with officials in the customs office only.
There was a period when no strict timetable was in place for the bus from Poipet to Phnom Penh but this has changed in recent years, and there are now set times for departures from early to mid-morning every day.
These buses are fully air-conditioned and reasonably comfortable although it must be noted the standard of the vehicles on this particular route is not quite the same as Poipet to Siem Reap.
Note Travelling by bus can take a lot longer due to more stops and more passengers. If you are in any great hurry to reach Phnom Penh, it may be best to choose a taxi or VIP minivan.
From Poipet to Phnom Penh by taxi
Although this is not the cheapest way to reach the Cambodian capital, the cost of a shared taxi is more than affordable for some visitors who want to travel with a little more comfort. It will also save time, for there is no need to wait for a busload of tourists to have their visas checked or return from every toilet stop. Taking a shared taxi with four passengers should cost no more than USD25 per person with a shared taxi will cost slightly less, at USD15 per person.
From Poipet to Phnom Penh by minibus/van
Traveling by minivan will set you back a couple of dollars more than the standard bus (from USD12-USD17 per seat), but these are becoming a very popular way to get around Cambodia given they are much faster and far more comfortable. Despite being a lot smaller than the standard bus, a minivan offers more space and comfortable seats while more and more are beginning to offer free Wi-Fi.
If you are unsure concerning the return on your investment, you can always choose the VIP minivans which are without a doubt the fastest, most convenient, reliable and comfortable way to travel from Poipet to Phnom Penh. Thero Express is a good choice in this category.
In Phnom Penh, many of the buses and minivans will stop next to the Night Market on the Mekong River and close to many accommodations providers in Phnom Penh. However, some bus/van companies will drop passengers off at the Central Market in the southwest of the city. If you are unsure concerning your whereabouts upon arrival, there are always many eager tuk-tuks waiting to take you to your accommodation.
Note Most tuk-tuk drivers are extremely friendly and understanding, but you should always take care when seeking advice from locals in any new city. In this regard, if you do not have any accommodation organized, bear in mind a tuk-tuk driver is not always the best person from whom to seek advice on where to stay. Moral of the story: make sure you have somewhere organized before arrival.
From Poipet to Phnom Penh via Battambang
If you decide to split your journey getting off in Battambang, 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/from the bus station costs USD1. To continue your journey to Phnom Penh, note that 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.
From Poipet to Phnom Penh via Siem Reap
Travelling via Siem Reap is not the most direct route to Phnom Penh, but the process is just as easy with direct buses traveling from Poipet to Siem Reap along Highway 6.
This drive should take a little more than 3 hours and given this is the most common route for tourists traveling overland in Cambodia, the buses tend to be a bit more luxurious. Though stopping for a brief break on the way to Siem Reap, they still cover the 150 km between the two in reasonable time as the roads in these parts are well maintained. The scenery en route is a little underwhelming in comparison with most other regions in rural Cambodia.
Why go to Phnom Penh
Where the Great Mekong joins the Tonle Sap River, the capital city of Cambodia is a sublime mix of high-rise buildings and bustling markets next to a leafy tree lined waterfront and some of the darkest history known to man. Yes, this sprawling urban area is moving fast toward the future, but it is also still haunted by a horrific past which can still be seen throughout the city and surrounding region.
S-21 and the Killing Fields are the most notorious reminders of a tragic genocide that all but destroyed the people but make no mistake, Phnom Penh has been rising like a Phoenix ever since and is now a melting pot of shining palaces, impressive museums, busy markets and a vibrant nightlife. Whether you choose to stand at the top of Wat Phnom in the peace of afternoon or sit and marvel at the pure majesty of the Silver Pagoda, there are so many exciting attractions to decide between in Phnom Penh and everything else in between. Where friendly locals invite you into their busy markets and the sights will leave you in wonder, Phnom Penh is full of reminders for a tragic past but make no mistake, the enthusiastic locals and colourful attractions will leave you smiling about its future.
Onward travel from Phnom Penh
The most travelled international route from Phnom Penh is Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It is served by a large number of bus companies and your only decision here is whether to opt for a standard bus or the extremely comfortable VIP minivan.
If you are tired of taking buses in Cambodia, Phnom Penh airport has regular flights to many different parts of Southeast Asia including Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and there are even affordable flights to destinations further away such as Kuala Lumpur in Malasia.
Kampot and the sleepy town of Kep are amongst the most popular places to travel from Phnom Penh, and both are easily reached in a 3-hour bus journey. Costing no more than USD10, these buses are rather basic, but the 150km road in between is well maintained and each destination is worth the effort to be there in the first place.
Another hugely popular destination in Cambodia is Sihanoukville and again, this beach resort is easy to reach with it being a continuation of the above-mentioned route to Kampot. You can expect this journey to last no more than 5 hours and the 240km stretch of tarmac is in excellent condition. Buses from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville depart along Highway 4 from early morning to late afternoon and cost between USD12 and USD14.