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Getting to Phnom Penh & Around

A mixture of Asian exotica, Indochinese charm and Cambodian hospitality await the visitor to Phnom Penh. A small capital city, it manages to retain its charm at the same time as offering a varied lifestyle and many attractive options for entertainment. Situated at the junction of the three great rivers - the Mekong, the Tonle Bassac and the Tonle Sap - Phnom Penh has more than a million residents. It is gaining a reputation for business and also represents a convenient gateway to other areas of Cambodia, good transport links. Among the many attractions in Phnom Penh, you can visit the Royal Palace and silver Pagoda, the National Museum, Wat Phnom, and killing fields and Genocide Museum (as a reminder of what Cambodia went through not so long ago). You can also watch the world go by on riverfront, take a boat down the river, or enjoy traditional Khmer entertainment and dancing; it is possible to get information on all of these sights and any tourism 0ffice office or hotel/guesthouse.
 
Visas

Most nationalities require a visa for entry to Cambodia. Visas on arrival are available at Phnom Penh International Airport and at the Thai and Vietnamese border crossings (although not at border with Laos). Tourist visas are US$20 and valid for one month bur only once. Business visas cost $US25 and can be renewed indefinitely. A current passport and 1 passport photograph is required for both visa types.
 
By Air

On arrival at Phnom Penh Airport, taxis and motorbikes (motodups) can be found outside the arrival terminal. There are no meter taxis, Taxis cost US$7 for the 20-30 minutes ride into the city center. Cheaper, slower and less comfortable, motodups can be hired for around US$2. It is recommended that you arrive at the airport at least one hour before departure.
 
By Boat

There is a daily boat service on the Tonle Sap between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Travel times can vary greatly depending on the season and depths of the river. Average travel time is 5-6 hours and tickets are best purchased through your hotel and guesthouse, usually costing $23. Boats depart daily from both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap at 7.00am.The Phnom Penh ferry dock is located centrally on Sisowath Quay around 1km south of the Japanese Bridge. In Siem Reap, the ferry dock is around 12Km from the city centre. Most hotels and guesthouses will provide a pick-up service at the ferry terminals.

These boats are often crowded and, although safe, they are local transport and are sometimes subject to delays and 'groundings', depending upon the season and river depth. Many travelers prefer to travel on the roof of these boats, as the interiors can become hot and stuffy. Beware of sunburn!

By road from Siem Reap or Sihanoukville Route 6 between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh has been greatly improved and the road is generally smooth, safe and comfortable for travel. Several bus companies run daily service each way, most of them departing from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap between 7.00 and 8.00am. Charges Charge's are around $US4-6 for the one- way trip, which takes around 5 hours. Most buses take to stops along the way-at Skun and Kompong Thom - where refreshments are available.

Phnom Penh can also be accessed from Siem Reap by share-taxi for around $8 per person one way. Taxis are a little faster than the bus but are less comfortable and do not leave at scheduled times. The bus from Sihanoukville is comfortable and fast (4 hours- 10 -12,000 riel), living regularly
 
Overland from Vietnam and Thailand

It is possible to travel between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam. There are two ways to take this trip. The first option is to take the large, aircon bus (tickets available from travel agents) for US$9 per person. Slightly more expensive tickets are available on buses where staff will deal with visa issues at the border. The bus goes through Moc Bai checkpoint, leaving Phnom Penh at 06.30 and 09.00 daily and from HCMC at 06.00. The trip takes around 6 hours and is relatively comfortable. Cambodian visas are available at the border but Vietnamese visas are not.

The second option is to take the boat through Chau Doc checkpoint. Coming from HCMC, You will change to a speedboat at the border and then fly down to Neak Loeung in Prey Veng Province. At this point you will take a taxi into Phnom Penh, guesthouses can arrange this trip around; in HCMC, and touism offices will help. The trip takes around 8 hours; prices vary depending on the mixture of transport you use but can go from US$8 to US$15. Again, Cambodian visas are available at the border but Vietnamese visas are not. For details on road travel from Thailand, see the Siem Reap and Sihanoukville sections.
 
In and around Phnom Penh

Getting around Phnom Penh is fairly simple. The city sits on the west side of the Tonle Sap River, where you will find the biggest concentration of shops and cafes for tourists.

There are a couple of taxi services around, which you can organize through travel agencies or hotels. A car with a driver costs around US$20-30 per day, although shorter trips will be US$2-3. If you fancy motorbikes, this is not the safest way to travel but it can be fun! The costs are 1-4,000 riel per trip, and US$5-8 per day. Prices go up at night. Remember that this is a hard way to make a living, and it is a shame when tourists haggle to such and extent that they underpay significantly. The same goes for cyclos: the traditional romantic way to travel, at around the same cost as motorbikes. Slow and steady, drivers often speak no English but it is a lovely way to see the city.

There is no in-city bus system. If you are keen to have some independence, you can hire motorbikes, 250cc (which is a bit heavy for the slow traffic of the city and better out in the countryside) or 100cc (recommended). Wear a helmet, drive slowly and be ware at all times that traffic can be crazy. Bicycle rental is possible from most guesthouses for around US$1 per day. You can buy a bicycle for around US$50 and resell it latter also.
 
Accommodation

There is a large range of commendation in Phnom Penh, from the high end to the budget. Shop around, have a look on the internet, and read the guidebooks: you are sure to find something to suit you. Most places have tourist agencies or offices within them so you can do everything from the one base.
 
Things to do

As well as the attractions listed above, Phnom Penh is a good place for shopping for souvenirs and other items. You can find all sorts of traditional handicrafts, silks, gems, antiques and textiles. Shop around because prices vary. Try the Russian Market, where you can get the best souvenirs at reasonable prices and a huge variety of cheap DVDs and CDs. The central Market has better selections of clothing and postcards. You can also find a lot of art galleries and shops along Street 178. Once you have finished seeing the sights, and buying till you drop, relax with a cool drink on the river front, and allow this excitable yet relaxing city to work its magic on you while the sun sets.
 
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