In general, travelling to Cambodia doesn’t come with a set of very specific rules (except, probably, for the visa); it is, in many ways, similar to that in the more developed Thailand or Malaysia. However, there are a few tricks you should be aware of, irrespective of the type of transport you want to pursue.
- Visa application should be solved early, to avoid any bureaucratic issues.
- Travelling by plane to Cambodia and by car in Cambodia (rent-a-car services are available to a certain extent) is definitely the fastest, safest, and more secure combination.
- To keep away from planes and buses stuffed with tourists all you need to do is avoid visiting the country from November to February.
- Keep small change in the pocket for buses and taxis.
- Don’t travel with means of transportation that don’t seem safe or legal.
You can use two main airports, one in Phnom Penh and the other one in Siem Reap. The first one is excellent for international flights and you should choose it if you come from a distant country, because it’s safe, and it has an international feel. In other words, it’s easier for you to get accustomed to the place using such a starting point. On the other side, Siem Reap is preferable if you come from Bangkok. There are regular flights from the capital of Thailand, but beware the season, because at the end of the year this airport can get very crowded.
This is not particularly advisable, unless you’re accustomed to buses and trains in this part of Asia. There are many cultural concerns you may encounter along the way: people who don’t speak English (although in cities most young people can have a minimal conversation with you), a different type of comfort, and even technical problems, like a bus that is late. Border crossing doesn’t run as smoothly as it does for tourist flights and services are rather limited. If such things are not inconvenient for you, you can reach Cambodia from Vietnam (especially in the south), Laos, and Thailand.
Once you’re in the country, you can easily see why buses and boats are so important. The railroad system is practically useless (although they do have a rail system). Travelling by bus is easy and you may take advantage of seeing the real Cambodia, not the one advertised on brochures. Same goes for boats, which are common means of transportation in the Tonlé Sap region and in Phnom Penh. Renting a car is a good solution if you intend to travel from one important location to another. Avoid secondary routes if you’re on your own.
Except for that, enjoy various types of transport, some of which are specific to the area: bicycle, motorcycle, lorry, taxis (very common and cheap in cities), etc. We also recommend:
- Cyclo – This type of rickshaw is fun and cheap. Generally, it’s safe and pretty fast in crowded places.
- Norry – A rail vehicle constructed by local people, also called bamboo train, because you actually sit on bamboo slats. It’s exotic, strange, yet beautiful and intriguing at the same time.