5
Cheers
Toby Keps

Travelled to 12 countries / regions

Written 42 briefs
Visited Cambodia in 2019 and spent 2 weeks in PP

252 views

0 comments


Asia > Cambodia > Phnom Penh > Useful Info
Submitted on Feb 08, 2020 Useful Info

Best ways to get around Phnom Penh for travelers (Complete guide)

Phnom Penh is not a huge city, and the central part of the city where all the interesting parts are is actually quite compact. There are four main ways for travelers to get around Phnom Penh:

  1. Tuk tuks: the most popular way and something I used frequently while there
  2. Motorbike taxi: very cheap but I don't recommend for safety reasons
  3. Walking: Phnom Penh is pretty walkable
  4. Public bus: not used as much as the other options by visitors but it's very cheap and the buses are in fantastic condition

Besides the four main transportation methods, there are some additional ways to get around, including taxi, motorcycle, and driver hire. I'll talk below in more details about how to use each of these transportation options


1. Tuk tuksUser submitted photo of Phnom Penh

  • Tuk tuks are the easiest and most common way to get around Phnom Penh for tourists (it's also used extensively by locals too). Tuk tuks in Cambodia take the role of taxis in other countries. Metered taxis are rare here so the main type of for-hire transportation is tuk tuks
  • Tuk tuks are very easy to flag here. They roam the the streets from around 6am to 10pm. And if at night markets and other late-night spots you'll find tuk tuks even later. If you just go to any main street in Phnom Penh, rest assured you'll have no issue flagging one
  • A tuk tuk can seat 2-4 people. There's no dedicated luggage space, any suitcase will take up seating spots
  • Prices:
  • Most trips in within the city will cost you $1.5-$4USD (6,000-16,000 Riels), and you pay with cash but either Cambodian Riel or US Dollars works. If you pay with USD, however, you can only pay in increments of $1USD because they don't accept USD coins here, and any change will given back to you in Riel
  • After around 9pm the fare will be about $0.5-$1 price increase
  • A trip to the airport should cost around $6USD. A trip from the airport to the city has fixed fares of $10-$16USD for the tuk tuks depending on zone. Read this for more details on airport transportation. A round trip fare to the Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) costs around $12-$15USD
  • You can hire a tuk tuk for a whole day. The cost for an entire day is about $25-$30USD. You can either ask your hotel to arrange it for you, or just find a tuk tuk on the street and negotiate with the driver
  • How to get a tuk tuk: the easiest way is to simply head out to any main street and flag one of the moving ones. You can also have your hotel call one for you, this is something a lot of visitors use for longer-distance trips (like to airport or to the Killing Fields). Finally, you can use one of the taxi-hailing apps (Grab and PassApp are the two main ones in Cambodia) which you have to download and set up ahead of time of course
  • Hours: you'll have no issues finding one like this between ~6am and~10pm. Outside of these hours, you can ask your hotel to arrange one for you, or use a taxi-hailing apps
  • Tuk tuk tips:
  • The main tip I can think of is to always agree on the fare before you get on the tuk tuk. None of the tuk tuks are metered so if you wait until you get to your destination be prepared to get hit with a massively inflated price tag
  • When telling your driver where you're going to, don't bother with street address or street names and numbers. They don't think like that in Cambodia. Tell your driver the name of the place you're going to, whether it's your hotel, a landmark, a shopping mall, a pagoda, or whatever. If you're going to some really obscure place (like your Airbnb maybe), tell them the closest major landmark, and then show them on your phone where your final destination is
  • It's always better to flag a moving tuk tuk than approaching one of the stationary ones outside of hotels or major attractions. The ones that are waiting are usually targeting tourists and they will quote you higher fares and tougher to negotiate down. The moving ones are usually used by locals so the fare quoted to you will be closer to market prices
  • You might want to wear a mask. There are lots of dust and exhaust you'll be breathing in while riding on a tuk tuk (because it's open air). For me it wasn't an issue, but I know it really bothers some visitors


2. Motorbike taxis (moto taxi)User submitted photo of Phnom Penh

  • This is another extremely popular way to get around Phnom Penh, although from what I've seen this is much more popular with locals than with tourists
  • Locals just call it moto. It works exactly like how it's named: you hop on to the back of a motorcycle and your driver takes you to wherever you want to go. Obviously there's no space for any suitcase, but if you have a small bag you can either hold it, carry it, or ask your driver to store it for you
  • Costs: this is the biggest benefit of moto taxis, it's dirt cheap. You can get around from one end of the city to another for 3,000-10,000 riel ($0.75-$2.5USD). Because of the small amounts you're dealing with, payment is usually with cash Riel rather than USD. But you can always pay with USD cash, just make sure you carry a bunch of $1 bills with you and any change will be given back in riels (1 USD = 3,000 Riels)
  • Safety: this is my biggest problem with motos in Phnom Penh. The traffic condition is not the best in the city and it just doesn't seem like a very safe way to travel. Absolutely wear a helmet! Most drivers don't give helmets to passengers, so unless you have your own helmet you're at some serious risk of critical injury if there's an accident (however, if you book a moto through Grab, their drivers are required to supply you with a helmet, so if you must take a moto I highly recommend booking it through Grab). Also watch your leg, some people accidentally get burned by the exhaust pipe while riding on the back
  • How to get a moto taxi:
  • Honestly the best way to get a moto taxi is to use Grab app for both convenience and safety reasons. You can download at https://www.grab.com, and you need to set up the app somewhere you can receive text messages, like while you're still in your own country; you'll also need a SIM card in Cambodia so you have cellphone data to use the app on the go. Fare is fixed by the app so you won't overpay, and you pay with the linked credit card through the app, or you can give cash to the driver
  • It's hard to flag a moving moto on the street because it's not easy to tell who's a driver and who's just commuting
  • If you're at a major landmark or tourist spots there's usually a spot where you see a group of motos parked and the drivers just hanging around. You can just approach them to get a quote. Negotiate and agree on a price before you get on
  • Hours: there's obviously no official times, but from my experience I'd say you'll have a much higher chance of finding moto bikes between 8am and 8pm. Outside of these hours you'll still be able to call one through Grab, but it'll be hard to find one on your own on the street


3. WalkingUser submitted photo of Phnom Penh

  • Phnom Penh is not a super walkable city, with the hot weather, lack of sidewalks, and chaotic traffic, but the downtown area is relatively compact and walking around is a good way to get a feel for the city
  • If you're staying in the city center area, you can get to a lot of points of interest on foot (like the Night Market, Old Market, National Museum, Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Wat Phnom, Riverside Park) within 20-30 minutes
  • Some notable spots are not easily accessible on foot from city center, like the two Killing Fields sites (S21 and Choeung Ek), so to get to these places you'll need to take a tuk tuk or some other way
  • Some tips for walking around Phnom Penh:
  • Dress light. Daytime temperature ranges from 30-35C (86-95F) so it's always hot in the city. Dress code is pretty relaxed in Cambodia so you can wear as light as you want
  • Watch the traffic. Sidewalks are not always available and even when they are they're mostly taken up by parked cars and scooters. You'll end up walking on the streets most of the time so just watch the crazy traffic
  • Hold on tightly to your belongings. Incidents of bag snatching happens from time to time in Phnom Penh, most often at night. Most of them target locals but some of them do target tourists. The risks are higher when you're on a busy street. I'm not trying to make it sound like it happens everyday — it really doesn't, 99% of the visitors don't run into any safety issues — but always be vigilant


4. Public buses

  • Phnom Penh has a modest fleet of public buses that are all fairly new and has air conditioning. This is the only mode of public transportation in the city. There's no subway, metro, or any other forms of public transit
  • There aren't too many routes, so it's actually not super confusing to use and anyone can fairly quickly figure out which bus they need to take
  • The best part: it's very cheap. It cost just 1,500 Riel, or just $0.35USD per ride. The fare is not based on distance so you can get from one end of the town to the other with this fare. However, the fare doesn't include transfer, so if you need to get onto another bus to continue to journey you will need to pay another 1,500 Riel
  • Bus routes:
  • The best way to see the current bus route map is to use a local bus app. There are two you can use: Stops Near Me app (for Android & iOS), and City Bus Official app (for Android & iOS). Both apps shows you the routes on a GPS map of the city and show you where the closest stops are
  • As a reference, here's the bus map at the time of writing:User submitted photo of Phnom PenhAs you can see there are only 13 bus lines, which means it's not possible to take the bus everywhere, but it does cover most major points of interest in Phnom Penh, including Choeung Ek Killing Fields (take bus 4C)
  • Bus fare: flat 1,500 Riels, or $0.35USD per trip. Payment is cash Riel only. You pay on board by dropping the exact change into the fare box next to the driver. No change will be given so make sure you got exact change
  • Hours and frequency: the public buses starts running at 5:30am and finishes at 8:30pm everyday. Frequency is every 5-20 minutes, depending on route
  • How to take the bus:
  • Use one of the two apps I listed above to get to one of the bus stops.
  • At the stop, have the 1500 riel cash ready to go. Look for the buses coming towards you; they look this this (all with a huge sign on front dash with the route number):User submitted photo of Phnom PenhWhen your bus approaches you, raise your hand to stop the bus
  • Get on the bus from the front door only, then put the 1,500 Riel cash into the fare box besides the driver
  • To stop the bus, push the red button inside to request a stop
  • This is a super helpful video I found with English subtitles to show you how to take bus in Phnom Penh


Other less common ways to get around Phnom Penh

  • Taxi: taxis are actually a rather uncommon way to get around Phnom Penh outside of the airport. Airport taxis are common and a good way to get in town, but once you're in the city metered taxis can only be booked by calling the taxi companies directly, rather than just hailing one on the street. As a tourist, the best way for you to get a taxi in the city is to have your hotel call a taxi for you, or use one of the taxi hailing apps (Grab, PassApp and Exnet are the three major apps; but honestly I don't recommend anything other than Grab). A typical trip in town will cost you $3-$6USD. The major taxi companies are: Global Taxi, Choice Taxi, and Great Wall Taxi. Great Wall mainly serve Chinese customers
  • Motorcycle/scooter rental: this is somewhat common with expats, but is rather rare for short term visitors to do. Legally, you need a local Cambodian motorcycle license for 126cc engine or above (your own country's license and International Driver Permits are not recognized in Cambodia). Scooters with engine 125cc and below, or electric scooter, do not require any license to operate so they'll completely legal for anyone to rent. In practice, this law is rarely applied and you will find lots of shops willing to rent you all kinds of motorbikes. Rental costs is $4-$10USD per day in Phnom Penh (on an unrelated point, bike rental in Siem Reap was much more expensive, at $10-$15USD per day). However, keep in mind that local police specifically target any foreigners they see riding motorcycles to "fine" them for breaking the law if they catch you riding larger motorcycles without a local license. This is one of those unspoken rules in Cambodia, where if you want to ride a large motorcycle without having the proper license, you need to prepare lots of USDs to pay the police. Also there won't be any valid insurance coverage for you so you'll be liable for any damages and medical bills you incur should you get into an accident. You can find these shops all over Phnom Penh, but highly rated and established ones include: 99 Motor Rental (Tripadvisor, Facebook), EMC Motorbike (Google reviews, website), Motoland Cambodia (Google reviews, website)
  • Driver hire: if you really don't want bother with any sort of planning, you can always just hire a driver to take you around town for an entire day or for multiple days. The cost is about $50-$60USD for 10-12 hours, all inclusive. However, you can tip your driver an additional $5USD per day if you're very happy with the service, but this is certainly not expected of you. The drivers usually speaks a fair bit of English and can also act as a tour guide. Legit drivers are not easy to find. The two ways I suggest to find drivers are: 1) Ask your hotel or host to arrange one for you. Hotels usually have relationship with drivers that they refer guests to frequently, so the rates they get can be very good and can be lower than the $50-$60 I mentioned above. 2) Book through a major website like Klook and Viator. Just choose Phnom Penh as your location and look for "Transportation" category