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Local Transportation in Cambodia

Despite the traces of war which are still visible, Cambodia has a lot to offer, and moving there is becoming an increasingly popular choice among expats. Our guide gives an overview of Cambodia, including visas, expat destinations, and transportation.

Up in the Air

Cambodia has three major airports through which you can enter the country: Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (the largest and busiest in Cambodia), and Sihanouk International Airport. Additional smaller airports (not all with paved runways) allow you to reach even remote areas of the country.

There are two main airlines in Cambodia: Angkor Air and Bayon Airlines. Both airlines offer connections to various Cambodian cities and other Asian destinations, such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Seoul, or Singapore.

Aero Cambodia is a small airline that focuses mainly on freight and charter services. They transport up to 19 passengers and specialize in short microlight flights. Of course, lots of other international airlines connect you to Cambodia as well.

The Convenient Way to Travel: Buses in Cambodia

Taking the bus is currently the most convenient way to travel from one city to the next. Large, air-conditioned buses will take you almost anywhere you want to go. They connect Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Battambang, as well as many other smaller towns.

You can also reach the surrounding towns and villages of Phnom Penh by using local bus services. Many of the staff even speak English, making it easier for you to find the right connection. Provincial routes are usually serviced by minibuses which are mostly used by the local population. While they are cheap, the journey can be very crowded and uncomfortable. The drivers are not always very cautious, and if you are prone to travel sickness, you should avoid this means of transportation altogether.

By Water or Rail: Travel Takes Time

Cambodia is known for its extensive network of inland waterways, which, in the rainy season, is approximately 1,750 km long in total. Historically used for domestic trade, these waterways (including the Mekong and Tonlé Sap Rivers) also play a key role when it comes to passenger transportation. They allow you to reach various islands, as well as different towns along the rivers. In fact, some villages still largely depend on the waterways for transportation. One of the most popular routes is between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, which can take as little as five hours. However, you should keep in mind that boat trips might not be the quickest, safest or most convenient method of transportation.

Train travel is limited in Cambodia. Once an important means of freight and passenger transportation, the railways suffered neglect and major damage in recent decades and passenger services were suspended in 2009. However, in the last few years the system has been restored, and in 2016, passenger services run by Royal Railways were resumed, albeit only with a limited schedule. The current service runs from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, stopping at Takeo and Kampot on the way, departing only on weekend mornings. There are hopes that a full service of passenger trains will be restored in the coming years.

Behind the Wheel: Is It Worth the Risk?

Depending on where you live, you may want to take your own car to work, instead of having to rely on public transportation. While this may seem like the most convenient option, you should keep in mind that the country’s road network is not in the best condition. While driving around Cambodia, you may find other people’s driving erratic and dangerous, and come across stray cattle, or overloaded vehicles without lights. It is not surprising that the country has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents in the world.

If you are brave enough to hit the road, you will first need to secure a Cambodian driving license. International Driving Permits, although helpful as a means of identification, are not accepted in Cambodia. There are two ways to get your hands on a local license:

  • apply for a driver license exam (only if you do not already have a valid license for your home country)
  • exchange your license for a Cambodian driving permit, which will be valid for one year, after which it can be renewed

If you are 65 years or older, you will also have to undergo a medical general check-up to ensure that you are fit to drive.

In order to obtain a local driving license, you need the following documents:

  • a copy of your passport
  • a copy of your visa
  • a copy of your residence certificate
  • 5 passport-sized photos
  • your driving license (including a translation if the document has not been issued in English or French)
  • a medical certificate (if you are 65 years or older)

Recent changes to the Land Traffic Law mean that, should you want to drive a standard motorbike or scooter (under 125cc), you no longer need a driving license.


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