Tips for a successful bike tour in Cambodia

Cambodia is not as popular for bike touring within the SE Asia region as other places like Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. A large part of the reason for this is that Cambodia is less developed in comparison to their neighbours due to the genocide that took place in the 1970s. 

My advice is to not skip Cambodia while on your bike tour. Even if you don’t spend too much time, the people in this country are absolutely amazing and deserve the chance to show you the best parts of their country. 

Every country has differences in the culture which can pose various challenges to bike tourists, but that usually aren’t evident until after some time. Hopefully these tips can help other cyclists so that they are prepared when they roll across the border.Enjoy!

Tip #1 - Avoid the main roads in and out of Phnom Penh as they are generally in terrible condition

Cambodia is in a constant flux of construction, with lots of Chinese money being spent on road improvement. However, when this work is being done the roads are extremely rough, akin to roads which in Canada would say 4×4 vehicles only. They are also extremely dusty, which makes them unsafe because you can never be sure if people can see you when driving.

One such road is Hwy 4 & 41 to Kampot which the last time I was there were in the process of a complete make-over. Apparently this has been in the works for many years, so I’m still not sure if it has been finished. A better alternative is to take Hwy 2 out of Phnom Penh and then Hwy 31 towards Kampot. it is a much nicer route and way less busy. See my blog post Cycling the Coast to Kampot.

Hwy 6 which follows the north side of the Mekong River is a very busy road as it is the main route for people heading to Siem Reap. Although it does typically have wide shoulders there are many busses on this road to deal with. A better alternative is to cross the Mekong from the Kampong Chamlong Phnom Penh Areiy Ksatr with a short and cheap ferry, and then ride through the small villages along Rd 380 and 381, following the south side of the Mekong River. See my blog post Along the Mekong: To Kampong Cham

Tip #2 - Mind the turning cars

Don’t ride too close to the shoulder when in the city, because people will always be pulling out in front of you. In my experience living in Phnom Penh, drivers pull their cars half-way out into the intersection when they pull up to a stop sign and start to turn automatically. If you ride too close to the shoulder you are likely to get hit. People make a noticeable effort to not look, otherwise they would be obligated to stop.

Tip #3 - Careful with accidents

While living in Cambodia, I was told that you should be very careful in situations where there is an accident. If you stop to help someone that is injured, you may be held responsible for any injuries they have sustained. It’s not like in Western countries where being a good samaritan keep you free from liability.

In the event that you do witness an accident, call the police (117) or the ambulance (119).

Tip #4 - Street coffee is where it's at

While Cambodian coffee chains are not over expensive in comparison to Western countries, they are by no means cheap. On top of that, Cambodians have amazing street corner coffee stalls

Coffee Stall
Black coffee: $1
Iced coffee: $1
Cappuccino: $1.25 
Espresso: $1
Frappe: $1.75
Passon Soda: $1

Coffee Chains (Amazon/Browns)
Americano: $1.25 ~ $3.65
Iced coffee: $1.75 ~ $3.75
Cappuccino: $1.60 ~ $3.85
Espresso: $1.25 ~ 1.85
Frappe: $2.00 ~ $4.25
Iced Lemon Tea: $1.75 ~ $3.75

Tip #5 - Don't skip the markets

Every Cambodian city and village has a fresh market where you can stock up on fruits, vegetables and meat at really good prices. It’s much more economical for you to go to the markets than to the big grocery stores. If in Phnom Penh, the Russian Market is a trendy area for expats full of bars, cafes and restaurants. Obviously there is also a good sized market with fresh foods on the outside and clothes, bags and more on the inside.

When touring around small towns you may notice food stalls on the side of the street cooking up crickets and frogs. Give em a shot. You’ll be surprised at how delicious they are.

Dragonfruit: $1 (large one)
Mangoes: $2/kg
Bananas: $1 (big bunch)
Baby pineapple: $0.25 each
Watermelon: $1 and up

Steamed buns: 2500 rial
Eggs: 400-500 rial per piece
Fresh coconut: 2500 rial

Tip #6 - Skip Sihanoukville

While Sihanoukville was once a secret gem in the world of backpackers and tourists going into Cambodia, it has since been taken over by Chinese national investment which led to a massive construction boom, and the city is very dusty as a result. Furthermore, many of the beaches are polluted and no longer nice to go to. In these last few years, many expats have relocated to Kampot and Kep. If you are looking to go to Koh Rong, you will need to go to Sihanoukville to get a boat.

Tip #7 - Wild camping

 So long as you are outside of the city, there are tons of places where you can wild camp for a night. Many farm areas have little huts on stilts that have been built to protect the workers from the sun during the hottest part of the day. These make excellent places to set up shop for a night. Just be ready to have people staring at you in the morning, curious to watch you eat, pack and get ready for another day of touring. Another great option are Buddhist pagodas as they are very welcoming to foreigners. Best practice would be to arrive later in the day and seek out the head monk to ask permission to set up a tent. There is also a good chance that the next morning, locals looking for blessings will have brought food for the monks and you will be invited to share food with them. It’s a really great way to partake in their culture and traditions.

Tip #8 - Paying for water

There are lots of options as opposed to paying for bottled water while touring around Cambodia. Many restaurants are more than happy to allow you to fill up your bottles, especially if you are eating food at their establishment. Typically, restaurants boil huge pots of water to use throughout the day. If not, they use big jugs of potable water that they buy. In Cambodia, gas stations are manned by an attendant and they offer full-service. This means that there is usually a big jug or two of water at the gas station which the attendant drinks, and if you ask nicely, they are likely to let you fill-up. Lastly, when in Cambodia, make sure you have a water filter so you can fill-up everywhere.

Tip #9 - Beware the border guards

Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams run by the border services on tourists entering Cambodia and Loas. The usual trick is to tell people they need to pay a stamping fee when crossing a land border, usually trying to charge between $2-$5. Although it is not much money for the average tourist, the problem is endemic to increases in corruption in other areas of life as well. Just think of how much money they get in 1 day if just 200 people go through. ($400-$1000 in black money)

Most people pay without a second thought. Ask to see an official document which states you need to pay a stamping fee. Always be polite and kindly refuse to pay. They will let you through eventually. I’ve known people to start setting up their tent inside the building and saying they weren’t going to leave until their passport is stamped and they are let through.

Tip #10 - The people

Cambodia as a country has had to recover from a terrible past but this hasn’t stopped the people in the country from being some of the most generous and kind-hearted. The people are very friendly and take great pride in what they have. They are a great country and if you take the time to get to know them, you may even make lifelong friends. Welcome to Cambodia.


Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.

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