One of the first challenges that expats moving to Cambodia will have to deal with is transportation – indeed, one might say that getting around Cambodia is something of an adventure.
Improvements to the national highway network have made driving easier than it once was, with many dirt roads now surfaced and new highways being built. However, getting from A to B can still be time consuming and dangerous, and expat-friendly public transport options are limited.
Public transport in Cambodia
There aren’t many options for expats when it comes to getting around Cambodia. Many of the local forms of transport are seen as dangerous and there are very few local bus networks in Cambodia, with only a handful of routes in Phnom Penh (which aren’t widely used by expats).
When it comes to travelling from one city to another, often the best option is a domestic flight or a luxury bus service. Within the capital city, many expats rely on taxis.
There are just two lines in Cambodia, both originating in Phnom Penh. The train service is run by Royal Railways Cambodia and stops at Kampot, Takeo and Sihanoukville.
Buses are the cheapest way to get around Cambodia, connecting all major cities and towns. All buses are privately run. Popular bus companies include Giant Ibis and Mekong Express, both of which operate luxury buses on the most popular inter-city routes. Bus fares are generally very reasonable.
Minibuses are the main alternative to buses, at a similar price. They usually serve the same routes as buses, and also go to smaller destinations not served by bus services. They do tend to be slightly faster but can get overcrowded.
Remork-motos are large trailers hitched to a motorcycle and are used throughout rural Cambodia to transport people and goods. Often referred to as tuk-tuks by expats and foreigners travelling in Cambodia, they’re a great way to explore temples.
Cyclos and motos
As in Vietnam and Laos, the cyclo is a cheap way to get around cities. These are Cambodia’s version of the bicycle rickshaw but are becoming less and less common. More prevalent on the roads of Cambodia are the motos. These small motorcycle taxis are a quick way of making short trips around towns and cities. Not many moto drivers and cyclo riders speak English, so expats should know the local name of their destination. We'd also advise that expats settle on the fare with the driver before setting off.
Taxis in Cambodia
Hiring private taxis in Cambodia is getting easier, but there are still very few metered taxis, with just a handful of operators in Phnom Penh. Other taxi options include shared taxis and minibuses.
Uber began offering services in Phnom Penh a few years ago, as did Grab. After a few months, Uber's operations were acquired by Grab, making it the predominant ride-hailing service in Cambodia.
Cycling in Cambodia
Cycling is another option for getting around in Cambodia and bicycles are available for rent and purchase at shops in towns. However, the main hazard is the heavy traffic – motorised vehicles always have right of way and expats cycling in Cambodia may have to veer off the road to get out of the way of speeding cars and trucks.
Driving in Cambodia
Expats who want to drive themselves around Cambodia will need a number of documents. Requirements can be confusing – by law, international driver's licences aren't recognised in Cambodia, yet official sources state that in order to drive here expats will need a driver's licence from their home country, an international driver's licence and a local Cambodian driving licence. In most cases, it's better to overprepare rather than be caught unawares and get a fine.
Cambodian licences can be obtained with relative ease by applying and paying a fee to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. The resulting licence is usually granted quickly, and is valid for one year.
While driving their own vehicle can give expats the freedom to explore Cambodia at their own leisure, there are a number of considerations to take into account. For example, many roads are in poor condition, local driving behaviour can be erratic and dangerous, and finding parking is a challenge.
Air travel in Cambodia
Phnom Penh International Airport is the largest airport in Cambodia, though the country’s busiest airport is Angkor International Airport in the tourist hub of Siem Reap. A number of international and regional airlines operate at these airports, including the national carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air.
►For information about finding a job, see Working in Cambodia
"As there is no public transport within the city, most tourists get around by hailing a waiting tuk-tuk in the street and negotiating a price. City residents tend to use mopeds or scooters, very small cars or even bicycle as the terrain is flat and traffic is not fast. Cars are all imported so even a second-hand car will be more expensive than you’re used to."
Read more of Clare's expat interview about her experience in Cambodia.
Are you an expat living in Cambodia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Cambodia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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