Cambodian train track into the distance

Of all the recommendations I have for Cambodia, utilizing the Cambodian train system is likely my biggest. It’s probably fair to assume there’s a lot of other travelers that hate buses as much as I do. So if that’s you, give this a read BEFORE buying the bus ticket that all the other backpackers are buying. The Cambodian train system is relatively new and there’s not much information online to help travelers navigate it. When I was there in summer of 2022, I had no idea it existed. I just threw my route on Rome2Rio and checked whether or not I had any alternate routes. With this post, I’ll give a run down of all the routes available throughout the country and what you’ll need to do to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I did!

Unfortunately, this isn’t what I meant! The bamboo train was previously used as a mode of transportation for farmers to bring goods into the city to sell at markets. Today, it is used for transportation purposes, and you can ride it if you choose to visit Battambang!

Overview

Originally constructed during the French colonial period in the 1930s, the Royal Railways has since struggled to maintain its infrastructural development. With the support of the Asian development bank and AusAID, the Cambodian government were able to get the train running up to its fullest capacity. As of 2019, both the southern and western routes are fully operational, with plans to connect Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City in the future.

By 2030, the government is hoping to expand the Cambodian train line to Vietnam, while also restarting and refurbishing the final connection between Sisophon and Poipet in the west. A new line is expected to be built to connect Siem Reap and Kampong Cham with the rest of the country. The final part of the plan is to further build the line from Kampong Cham to the Lao border and fully connect Cambodia by rail to all of its neighbors. Hopefully, the Cambodian train project runs smoothly and we can expect to skip all buses when traveling around the country in the next couple of years.

Cambodian Train Routes

There’s two main routes that connects Cambodia. The center is in Phnom Penh and the train goes down to the port city of Sihanoukville, while the western route extends all the way to Poipet, at the Thai border. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to access Siem Reap or Kampong Cham by train. However, for most routes and the one I took, you can keep your bus trips to a minimum.

When the train lines are fully complete, I’ll be very excited to go back to the country to visit Kampong Cham and Stung Treng. Plus you won’t be needing to take a bus to see Angkor Wat again. The current bus route takes around 6 hours from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. A couple bus companies even offer overnight buses that arrive around 6AM. I ended up taking the train to Battambang and then a 3 hour bus ride from there to Siem Reap while taking in a long train ride full of scenery on the way.

Southern RoutePriceSouthern RoutePriceWestern RoutePrice
Phnom Penh – Takeo$6USDSihanoukville – Kampot$6USDPhnom Penh – Pursat$7USD
Phnom Penh – Kep$8USDSihanoukville – Kep$7USDPhnom Penh – Battambang$8USD
Phnom Penh – Kampot$9USDSihanoukville – Takeo$8USDPursat – Battambang$4USD
Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville$10USDKep – Kampot$4USD
Kep – Takeo$6USDKampot – Takeo$7USD
Prices
Kilometer 102

Time on the Train

For the distance you’re traveling on each train, it’s fair to say the prices are quite reasonable. To go along with this, the views throughout every train route were immaculate. The sun gleamed on the puddles in the rice fields at sunset, leaving passengers with a peaceful and serene ride. This comes despite the conductor blaring the horn in your ears every ten seconds.

The mountains were endless. All the families came running out when they heard the train coming, waving at all the passengers. The cows dotted the landscape, doing their best to chase after the train as it rolled past. For the longer trips, the train stopped halfway at a market, allowing passengers to quickly hop off and buy lunch or snacks. I always loved Khmer cuisine, but even the simple things tasted amazing. The main dish was a simple sesame-beef teriyaki jerky over rice, but the flavor was definitely there. It was more than enough food for a serving and was covered in a variety of spices.

Prices and Timetables

Check out the two tables to plan out your trip in advance. Some of the trains are quite long, and pretty early in the morning. Give yourself ample time to get to the station ahead of time and pack some snacks! Sometimes you might find people selling snacks at the station or they might run to the train to quickly let passengers buy something before the train gets on its way.

RouteDurationRouteDuration
Phnom Penh – Takeo07:00 – 09:00Takeo – Phnom Penh18:00 – 20:00
Phnom Penh – Kep07:00 – 10:00Kep – Phnom Penh17:00 – 20:00
Phnom Penh – Kampot07:00 – 11:00Kampot – Phnom Penh16:00 – 20:00
Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville07:00 – 13:00Sihanoukville – Phnom Penh14:00 – 20:00
Phnom Penh – Pursat06:40 – 11:15Pursat – Phnom Penh17:30 – 22:30
Phnom Penh – Battambang06:40 – 13:15Battambang – Phnom Penh15:00 – 22:30
Timetable

Logistics

There are two trains that run in each direction everyday. If you miss your train, you’ll be out of luck until the next day. It’s a bit challenging to purchase tickets online or far in advance, so try to buy your ticket at least a day in advance from the station. Royal Railways only accept cash and they can sell out fast, so don’t always think you’ll be assured a seat when you just show up the day of.

I would recommend arriving at least 30 minutes early with your ticket having been bought the day prior. Please make sure you’re on the right train! It’s not always very clear, so make sure to ask someone. I almost ended up on the wrong train and would’ve lost a whole day to get to where I wanted.

Royal Railways at sunset

Resources

Cows in the Rice Fields

There’s three main websites I’ve used to make sure I’m not missing any information. Check out the man in seat 61, Rome2Rio, and the Royal Railways website to make sure you know everything you need to. Aside from these, don’t miss my Cambodia travel guide or my Cambodia arrival guide so you have everything you need to get yourself around Cambodia. The Cambodia train system should be a piece of cake, enjoy!

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