Sihanoukville, this tiny city in Southeast Asia, is widely known for its casinos and beaches. Many consider it the best city in Cambodia for its lush mountains, amazing beaches, and laid-back tropical atmosphere (in contrast with the congested and chaotic streets of Phnom Penh). More and more vacationers from around the world are getting to Sihanoukville despite that fact that there is still much development to be done.
Getting to Sihanoukville by air is not the most popular route since the city has a small airport with not so many flights coming in. Most foreign tourists fly into Phnom Penh, the capital city, and from there take a bus or taxi. There are daily flights to Phnom Penh from Los Angeles, Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Shanghai, Taipei, Vientiane, and Incheon. The capital city is only four hours away from Sihanoukville by bus. It is a pleasant ride because the roads are decently paved, but since there are many motorists taking this two-lane highway, traffic is often congested.
A faster and more comfortable way to go is by taxi, although it is more expensive (about $40 to $50). Most of the city taxis going to Sihanoukville are parked along the Central Market, known locally as Phsar Thmei. To make the trip a little less expensive, it is common practice in most Southeast Asian cities to share a taxi. This is much less convenient, though, since the driver typically fills the car to the brim by allowing people to take in bags, boxes, and sometimes even chickens, and often stopping along the way to drop off some of the passengers.
Meanwhile, travelers from Thailand take on another route. The most common way of getting to Sihanoukville by land is on a local bus from either Bangkok or Pattaya going to Trat, although this would take very long. It takes about 7 hours or much longer, not really because of the distance but primarily because bus drivers stop almost every 100 meters to pick up or drop off passengers. Taking the mini-bus, express bus or shared taxi could cut travel time down to only 5 hours. At the Trat bus station, tourists would need to travel for another 1 to 2 hours on another mini-bus going to Had Lek at the Cambodian border. The border checkpoint at Cham Yaem is known to be corrupt when it comes to issuing Cambodian visas. Customs officers demand payment in US dollars for the visa processing, and make it almost double what is required in Thai baht.
Once within Cambodian territory, tourists are harassed by a horde of local vendors offering all kinds of native products and services, including a ride to Koh Kong and Sihanoukville. The road to Sihanoukville passes through Koh Kong, which is only 15 km from the border. From Koh Kong, travelers must take another ride, either on a bus or taxi to Sre Ambel, which takes another four hours, and then finally to the beautiful city of Sihanoukville.
If one wishes to experience getting to Sihanoukville by sea, a ferry boat ride is available in Koh Kong. The boat ride, however, is more expensive than traveling by land, and since the roads and bridges leading to Sihanoukville have greatly improved, more tourists prefer taking the bus or taxi. Getting to Sihanoukville from anywhere takes hours, but seeing and experiencing this beautiful city is worth the trip.