One of the first challenges that expats moving to Cambodia will have to deal with is transport – 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 the building of new highways and the surfacing of many dirt roads. 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 to get around in Cambodia. Many 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, and they connect all major cities and towns. Popular bus companies include Giant Ibis and Mekong Express, both of which operate luxury buses on the most popular intercity routes. All buses are privately run and fares are generally very affordable.
Minibuses are the main alternative to buses, at a similar price point. They usually serve the same routes as buses and also go to smaller destinations that are unreachable by bus. They 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, these are 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 common. The motos are more prevalent on Cambodian roads. 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.
Grab became the predominant ride-hailing service in Cambodia after acquiring Uber a few years ago.
Cycling in Cambodia
Cycling is another free and healthy option for getting around in Cambodia, and bicycles are available for rent and purchase at shops in towns. That said, 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 avoid getting hit by speeding cars and trucks.
Driving in Cambodia
Expats who want to drive themselves around Cambodia will need several documents. The requirements can be confusing – by law, international driving licences aren't recognised in Cambodia. Yet, official sources state that expats will need a driving licence from their home country, an international and a local Cambodian driving licence. In most cases, it's better to be prepared rather than get caught unaware and issued 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.
Expats may enjoy driving themselves around and exploring Cambodia, but there are certain considerations they need to make. 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. Numerous 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 bicycles 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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