Cycling the Cambodian circuit

by tkos on February 20, 2013

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Cycling Cambodia is simultaneously enriching and depressing. The circuit most travellers go through inevitably include Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and almost always include visits to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng genocide museum. It is the latter parts of this that will cause you to walk somberly through the Killing Fields learning about the atrocities that the Khmer people have been through; the enrichment of the knowledge will depress and drain you emotionally but it is truly an unmissable experience.

The route we chose exposed us to many parts of the country, both rural and tourist populated. Although there is plenty of opportunity, we did not get off the tarmac and kept to the well made highways around the whole country. It’s advisable to stay on the road as live mines are still being found and for this reason, we opted not to camp. Guesthouses can be found in almost every town and despite what we thought, we managed to always find one.

Overall, we loved Cambodia and it is one of our favourite places in South East Asia. We met more cycle tourers here than anywhere else on the trip so far and found the ex-pats and locals super friendly.


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What we loved the most:

  •  The riding surface. With the exception of a couple of hills coming through the Cardomom mountains, Cambodia is dead pan flat and the road quality is not far from excellent. Out of Koh Kong we were forced onto dirt, but other than that, the highways can get you to most places you want to go.
  • Phnom Penh cycling is like cycling in a video game. It’s damn scary and pumps some adrenaline around you but a hell of a lot of fun at the same time. The thing is, nobody stops. Sometimes people slow down but traffic always keeps moving regardless of the direction you are going in. The general rule of thumb is, that if somebody is in front of you, you should give way to them. And don’t stop, even for red lights. There are also more bicycles than cars.

What was like a snapped derailuer:

  • A snapped derailuer on Kimmi’s bike at the tail end of the Cardomom mountains. We were lucky enough to convert to single speed until we got to Phnom Penh and found the only decent bike shop in the country (Giant bicycle) that can fix almost anything for next to nothing.
  • The highway 4 from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh has a sufficient enough gravel track on the side of the highway that you are forced onto due to the speeding trucks, but it’s very dusty and not a lot of fun.

What’s it worth:

  • Cambodian currency is in Riel, but the US$ is more commonly used. There is a fixed rate of 4000 riel to US$1, which is more often than not how you receive your change. ATM’s are common enough not to be a problem.
  • Fried rice or noodles is somewhere between $1.50 and $2 (6000-8000), water is 500 for 500ml or oddly enough, 2000 for 1500ml bottle (harder to find). Accomodation is about $5-$6 for a fan room while some air con is about $8-$12 (outside of Phnom Penh). Getting a broken spoke replaced cost me $1.

Top tips:

  • Angkor Wat is really touristy but well worth doing nonetheless. They are some of the best temples in the world, and if temples are not really your thing, see the best and you never have to see another one for the rest o your life!
  • Whilst in Siem Reap, visit Concert Cambodia. Michael can put you in the right direction if you are looking to volunteer or donate to local NGO’s and he can make sure your time and money is not wasted or scammed.
  • Visit Skun, just outside Phnom Penh to taste crispy fried tarantulas!
  • Read the biography of Pol Pot for an in depth understanding of not just what happened, but how and why.
  • Go to Karuna guesthouse in Pursat and visit the Sao Sary Foundation for a solid understanding in regards to the PREVENTION of child trafficking. See our experience here.
  • Go to Kampot, eat at the Rusty Keyhole and order RIBS. Cannot emphasize this enough.


TownKM'sNightsWhere we slept
Koh Kong1021Guest House
Andoung Tuek1031Guest House
Srae Ambel211Guest House
Kampong Spue1074Sao Sary Foundation NGO
Phnom Penh534Couch Surf
Kampong Chnang951Guest House
Pursat955Sustainable Cambodia NGO
Battambang1052Guest House
Sisophon801Guest House
Siem Reap1075Guest House
Kampong Kdei611Guest House
Kampong Thom901Guest House
Skun911Guest House
Phnom Penh852Couch Surf
Takeo881Guest House
Kampot884Guest House




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