Phnom Penh has a notorious history. The good thing about history, however, is that it is in the past. Today, Phnom Penh and the rest of Cambodia are fast-rising major tourist destination in Southeast Asia. More and more people from around the world are getting to Phnom Penh and wanting to experience that exotic Cambodian vacation.
The capital city of Cambodia is located on the southern region of the country and there are several ways to get there. Getting to Phnom Penh by land involves different bus lines from different parts of the country and all the way from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Since Cambodia has upgraded its major roads, the number of bus lines has dramatically increased as well as the quality of service. First class air-conditioned buses now travel to several major towns and destinations. Here are just a few of the major bus companies and important information about their services. Capitol Transport, GST and Neak Krohorm service passengers to major Cambodian towns such as Battambang (Cambodia’s prime city by the riverside), Poipet (near the Thailand border and known for its casino), Siem Reap (known for its tourism) and Sihanoukville (popular for its white-sand beach), and Sisophon (near Angkorian Temple); Mai Linh and Mekong Express go to the same cities but continue all the way to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Mekong Express is a first class bus line; passengers are treated well by in-bus hostesses; and Huan Lin goes to the far-away northeastern towns of Ban Lung and Sen Monorom. There are no centralized bus systems, so it is important to know these different companies and the routes they serve.
A more scenic and exciting way to travel to the capital city is by boat. Since it is at the confluence of three major rivers, which are Tonle Sap River, Bassac River and the popular Mekong River, getting to Phnom Penh by river is a common and practical way. Every day, travelers take ferries from Tonle Sap, but the more adventurous tourist might want to make that three-day trip on the Mekong River all the way from Ho Chi Minh City.
The ferry boats from Tonle Sap are fast (5 hours) and the trip is generally pleasant, but it is a bit on the expensive side at US$20 to US$25. This makes it hard to compete with the air-conditioned buses that only cost US$5. Another downside is that the boats are always crowded and with hardly any safety gear available. In fact, there have been two reported cases of sinking recently.
Getting to Phnom Penh by air is what the majority of people do. International travelers arrive at the very busy Phnom Penh International Airport. Daily, international flights get in from Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Shanghai, Taipei, Vientiane, and Incheon. Most American tourists take the Singapore or Kuala Lumpur route. The airport is about 9 km away from Phnom Penh proper, and getting there takes about 30 minutes by taxi for about $9 or 50 minutes by a tuk-tuk for $7. A tuk-tuk is a modern motorized version of the rickshaw. It is the most common form of transport in Cambodia, Thailand and other countries in the southeast. Getting to Phnom Penh through the airport is free but tourists should know that getting out requires an airport departure tax of US$6 for domestic flights and US$25 for international flights.