The best burger in Phnom Penh?

Today’s question: Where is the best burger in Phnom Penh? In my previous post on the best pizza Phnom Penh, I demonstrated why such questions are ridiculous. Different styles, different ingredients, and personal preferences makes the word “best” subjective. In this post, you’ll see my reviews of four burgers by some of the top burger joints in Phnom Penh (according to online research and food fanatic friends).

phnom penh burgers

The 225 gram sous-vide Deco burger.

Unlike most food critics, I won’t bother rating each burger on a scale of 1 to 10, a thumbs up, or even a “highly recommended.” Let’s chill, take it easy, and I’ll describe my dining experience as is. However, for the sake of improving your dining experience, I may throw in a few fast facts and suggestions.

As the head baker of Siem Reap Bäckerei, a microbakery specializing in artisanal sourdough breads, my senses naturally steers itself towards food that’s made with thought, heart, and soul. You know, food that has finesse, character, a personality, a unique profile on its own. So anything resembling fast food burgers (processed cheddar cheese, mass produced patties, etc.) I’ve eliminated from my reviews. That’s not to say I dislike fast food burgers. Sometimes when you’re lazy or hungover, you think to yourself, “I feel like crap. I deserve to eat crap and, gosh darnit, I’ll enjoy it!” Let’s get to it, shall we?

Brooklyn Pizza + Bistro

Oh man, what was I thinking? An Aussie burger at an American restaurant? Wait, what’s an Aussie burger, you ask? Well, you might think it has something to do with kangaroos or crocodiles, and it could, my understanding is that it’s a burger that contains the following ingredients: fried eggs, (grilled) pineapple rings, and pickled beets (beetroot), and possibly a few other things. Of course, this is debatable, but most Aussies agree that pickled beets are essential.

best burger phnom penh?

The Aussie Royale at Brooklyn Pizza: beetroot is not optional.

Back to Brooklyn Pizza + Bistro: I had the Aussie Royale, an Australian beef burger, bacon, grilled onions, pineapple, fried egg, pickled beets, and Sriracha mayo. You know when you have a long, intense craving for something — a dry spell, if you will — and then you finally have it and it feels like heaven or bliss? Yeah, that’s what I felt while chowing down on the Aussie Royale. Nearly seven years ago since I last visited the land down under and had a decent burger with beetroot.

Now here’s a gesture that I rarely encounter: the lettuce, pickles, and tomatoes were separated from the rest of the burger. Neat! Further, two other features caught my eye at a glimpse: there were no “chips” (for the Americans, fries). Instead, they were replaced with hand-cut “chips” (for the British, crisps). The other eye-catcher was their house-made burger buns. The sesame seeds were sparse and evenly distributed on the surface area of the bun. As a bread baker, I know this takes time and a few extra steps, purely for visual aesthetics. So I applaud you, Brooklyn, for putting that extra effort. Other available burgers at Brooklyn include the Royale Double Bacon Cheese, Mushroom Cheese, and Jalapeno Blue.

The damage: $7.95 (Aussie Royale, includes “chips” and condiments)

The Exchange

Who eats burgers at high-end restaurants at ten in the morning? Me, that’s who. I’ve got places to go and business to do. Luckily, you can do just that at The Exchange. Around noon, flocks of businessmen enter the restaurant, wearing leather shoes, sleek trousers, ties pinned to the collars of their buttoned-up dress shirts. What was I wearing? An oversized t-shirt, worn-out jeans, and floppy sandals. Gotta tell ya’, I liked the dirty looks I got from a few them.

burger phnom penh

The Exchange burger: for suits and schlubs alike.

On their menu, they have a small “sandwich” section, featuring one, single burger: the flame-grilled Black Angus Beef Burger. For those of you who don’t know, Black Angus is a common breed of cattle raised in several parts of the world, known for its finely marbled meat. This means that the fat is dispersed more evenly, which creates a more tender, juicy, and flavorful cut of meat. However, not all Angus beef is created equal.

Besides the beef, the Black Angus Beef Burger contained onion confit (onions cooked at a lower temp than deep frying, in fats or sugar syrup), Swiss cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce.
The burger also included chips—crispy exterior, soft interior, and well seasoned. Strange as it sounds, I really enjoyed the ketchup and mayo, served on a separate condiment plate. You know those cheap, Asian brands, where the ketchup is super sweet and the mayo funky? That’s not offered at The Exchange, thank goodness.

The Exchange Phnom Penh

The Exchange is a members-only club, but the downstairs restaurant is open to all.

The servers here will ask how you want your burger cooked (medium, rare, etc). You may think that’s no big deal, but for a few reasons many restaurants in Cambodia don’t offer such choice. One reason; they’re tired of cringing or curling into a fetal position when a customer orders “well done.” Caution: there’s no air con at The Exchange, just opened windows, fresh breezes, and pedestal (stand) fans. During hot days, expect to get a lil’ sweaty, especially if you’re wearing a suit.

The Damage: $8.50 (Black Angus Beef Burger, includes chips and condiments)

Deco

In terms of elegance, Deco (also refers to an art style from the 1920s to early 1940s) is my favourite restaurant that serves burgers, amongst other things. I love the posters, I love the menu design, I love the liquor display, I love the furnishings. Each component contributes to the restaurant’s refined ambiance. More than that, I love the stark contrast of the manager with a baby strapped to his chest, overlooking the restaurant from the bar, and the servers with untucked dress shirts and baggy blue jeans. Hey, only in Cambodia!

Deco burger Phnom Penh

The Deco lamb burger, served with feta, arugula, and harissa-ketchup.

Judging by how often the servers hustled back and forth from the kitchen and dining area, I’d say Deco is a popular lunch destination for Phnom Penh expats. Glancing around, I saw a mix of people adhering to a semi-formal dress code, apart from the manager, servers, and myself. The classy French folks, a group of gossiping women, men in suits, and a lone woman in a black dress, eyes glued to her iPhone.

Deco restaurant Phnom Penh

Deco’s decor

With only seven items listed on their mains, my eyes locked on the lamb burger: crispy, pan-seared lamb, chorizo (Spanish pork sausage), feta cheese, raw onions, and arugula (rocket), between a sesame seed bun. Additionally, served with harissa-ketchup (hot chili pepper paste, with ketchup), remoulade (French mayo-based sauce), and cumin dusted triple-cooked chips. The fresh, herbaceous toppings counterbalanced the distinct taste of savoury lamb, spicy chorizo, and salty feta. In a few words, that’s how I’d describe the overall flavour of the burger.

Despite the fact that the restaurant was understaffed and exceeded its capacity (some walk-ins were forced to wait and sit in the lounge area), the servers did a top job tending to each customer. Friendly, too. So my suggestion: book in advance, indoors if you enjoy “Art Deco” and air con.

The damage: $13 (Deco Lamb Burger, includes chips and condiments)

Lone Pine Cafe

Opposite to my experience at Deco, dining at the Lone Pine Cafe was a fun, casual, American affair. Upon entry, I was greeted by Mr. Will, the owner and manager of the Lone Pine. We talked about the origins of his cafe, his clientele (mostly American expats, with a mix of Europeans, Aussies, and locals), his former burger cafe in New York, and southern American food ranging from gumbo to ribs, steaks, and burgers.

Lone Pine burger Phnom Penh

Lone Pine burger

Browsing through the menu, with an extensive list of burgers, I spent several minutes contemplating until I settled on the Babe’s Burger. Whoa, look at that! 200g/7oz beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, black beans, chili, ranch dressing, and onion rings. Never have I encountered such a wild and bizarre burger. I mean, how was I supposed to eat this… manifestation? Well, I succeeded. I picked it apart, happily gulfed it down, while working a sweat. (I can’t handle chili too well, but curiosity got the best of me.)

Lone Pine Cafe Phnom Penh

Lone Pine Cafe Phnom Penh

My pet peeves of the meal, however, were the fries and ketchup. The quality just wasn’t on par with the burger. On the upside, the servers, including Mr. Will, were attentive and cheery. Without asking, they filled my glass with water to the brim, time after time, seeing how I needed it.

The damage: $9 (The Babe’s Burger, includes fries and ketchup)

Conclusion

Whoever says burgers can’t be classy or playful are partypoopers. As seen in this post, burgers can be well executed, with solemnity and creativity. People with negative perceptions of burgers are entitled to their opinions, but we must remember: lobsters, salami, goulash, and brown bread were once considered food for the poor. They’ve evolved, making their way into higher class restaurants. So why can’t burgers?

My philosophy: welcome all (ethical) foods, whether you hate it or love it, and let cooks, chefs, and bakers push it over their limits, thus enriching the world with newer, possibly greater gastronomic experiences. Strictly keeping to traditions has its merits, but, think about it…where would we be today if we couldn’t adapt and create?

P.S. Feel free to post or message recommendations on the “best” burgers in PP. I know I missed out on several.

Brooklyn Pizza + Bistro

Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
20 Street 123, Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 089 925 926
facebook.com/brooklynbistro

The Exchange

Open daily, 10 a.m. to midnight
28 France Street (Street 47), Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh
T: 023 992 865
theexchange-cambodia.com

Deco

Open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, 12 p.m. til 2 p.m., and for dinner Monday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. til 10 p.m.
46 Street 352
T: 017 577 327
decophnompenh.com

Lone Pine Cafe

Open Monday through Saturday for lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and daily for dinner, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
14 Street 282, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 078 949 398; 095 949 398
lonepinecafe.com

Review: Dakida Korean Bar & Restaurant, Siem Reap

One of my favorite things about Siem Reap is the plethora of really good Korean food. So it was a sad moment for me when one of my previous favorite restaurants closed; always empty, the place served a few things, of which the highlight was jokbal, or braised pig’s trotters. There are no trotters on the menu at Dakida, but the owner has turned the place into a jumping Korean bar and restaurant that has quickly become one of my favorite places in town.

Dakida Korean Restaurant Siem Reap

Dakida: a truly delicious Korean restaurant that thinks it’s a bar.

My love affair with Dakida started a few days after they opened, when they were still testing the menu. The owner explained that it’s not a traditional Korean restaurant, but rather, is a restaurant that is meant for drinking, so all of the food goes well with booze. What this means, in practice, is that everything on the menu is calorically rich, in a good way. I describe the place as a restaurant that thinks it’s a bar, and indeed, it’s only open for dinner, the lights are dimmed around 9:30 p.m. and the place stays open until 1 a.m.

Siem Reap Korean restaurant

Available for all of your late night barbecue needs.

The menu is small, but offers an array of delicious Korean dishes, of which the best value is easily the pork BBQ set, called samgyeopsal. The set costs $7 per person and is an all-you-can-eat porkfest, with and endless stream of fatty pork belly grilled at the table next to you, served with saamjang, a salty, delicious soybean paste, and lettuce and perilla leaves to wrap it all up in. The meal includes soup, a steamed egg casserole, spicy vegetable salad, several banchan, or small vegetable side dishes, fresh pickles, vegetable crudites to dip in the saamjang, and of course rice and kimchi.

The quality of every component of this meal is excellent, and outshines all of the other Korean restaurants in town who offer a similar but inferior samgyeopsal set. The most outrageous thing about this is that every plate on the table will be refilled until you ask, no, beg, them to stop. Quite frankly it feels criminal to only pay $7 for this much food, so I would highly recommend drinking a lot to help the poor guy turn a profit. If he doubled the price it would still be good value.

Korean restaurant Siem Reap

Did someone say all you can eat pork belly?

The rest of the menu is more typical bar food. One of my favorites is the giant bowl of fish cake soup, a savory broth filled with various types of fish cakes that are usually sold by street vendors in Korea. Apart from the samgyeopsal, the menu is of this ilk, fast food or snack food, including fried chicken, deep-fried shrimp, a Korean take on ramen, French fries and chicken and pork satay.

In the drinks department, Dakida carries local beer (Angkor) and imported Korean beer (Hite and Max, at the moment), and Korean soju, of which several empty bottles will be found on all of the raucous nearby tables packed with half-drunk Koreans. My favorite of the drinks is the makgeolli, a mysterious looking milky white potion that turns out to be a fermented beer-like drink made from rice. The best part about the makgeolli is that it is served not in glasses but in golden bowls. If that’s not a reason to try it, I don’t know what is.

Dakida Siem Reap

No Korean meal is complete without a healthy dose of kimchi.

Dakida has quickly become my favorite Korean restaurant in town, but it’s also a great late-night stop if you’re looking for a snack or trying to avoid seeing anyone you know. The place is popular with the local Korean community, and on weekends, there are always a few tables filled with merrymakers until well after midnight. So head down to Dakida and let me know what you think in the comments section. Do you have any favorite Korean restaurants in town that I should try? (I’m obsessed, obviously).

Dakida

Open daily, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Oum Khun Street, Siem Reap [map]
T: 017 640 411

Phnom Penh’s newest backpacker hostels

Once upon a time, it was easy to find (or avoid) the backpackers in Phnom Penh. They would congregate around cheap guesthouses with shared rooms and $0.50 beers. Ten years ago, their hub was the lakeside area at Boueng Kak and Riverside. Then it was Golden Street (Street 278 between 51 and 57).

Phnom Penh hostels

New hostels are springing up all over Phnom Penh, and not in the places you’d expect.

Nowadays, there are a few more areas where backpacker-friendly businesses cluster — for example, on Street 172 to Street 136 on either side of Street 19 and towards the river, where you can find Happy 11 Backpackers, Lovely Jubbly Place, and the Happy House, but there are a few backpacker staples (Mad Monkey, Eighty8) further afield.

Lately, we’ve been seeing new hostels pop up in neighborhoods you might not expect. If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Phnom Penh, consider these five relatively recent additions to the hostel scene:

Aura Thematic Hostel

$10 and up per night

Aura Hostel Phnom Penh

Aura Hostel: It’s brand-new and very affordable.

With the finishing touches on the construction just completed, this brand-spanking-new hostel behind the Royal Palace near the corner with Street 214 has a rooftop bar (Elysium) and funky design touches in all of the rooms. The front desk told us that this month they are offering a soft-opening 50% discount on all of their rooms, which are normally $10 and up. The shared rooms are bright and have bathrooms inside, with IKEA-esque light fixtures and cool graphic accent wall murals. There is a bit of construction outside as new sewage pipes are being installed along the length of Street 19, but the rooms are not facing the street so it shouldn’t be too loud.

Aura Thematic Hostel
205A Street 19, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 023 986 211
info@aurahostel.com
aurahostel.com

Envoy Hostel

$8 and up per night

Envoy Hostel Phnom Penh

Envoy Hostel is a Phnom Penh mansion-turned-hostel with lots of room to spread out.

This mansion-turned-hostel is on a quiet street in BKK near the BKK Market. There is a big courtyard, which leads a comfortable common area on the ground floor and a computer and kitchen facilities (with toaster!). A big Khmer wooden staircase brings you upstairs, where the rooms are named after places in Cambodia, and are priced according to the number of beds; a four-bed room is $12 per person, while an eight-bed room is $8 per person.

Envoy Hostel Phnom Penh

Dorm life at Envoy Hostel.

Envoy Hostel has a very homey feel, with bean bag chairs and bay windows, and since it is in a more expat and residential part of town, it is both less known by the typical Phnom Penh backpacker, and closer to many of the great restaurants in BKK1.

Envoy Hostel Phnom Penh

The glamorous front of Envoy Hostel.

Envoy Hostel
32 Street 322, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 023 220 840
phnompenhbookings@envoyhostel.com
envoyhostel.com

Feel at Home

$7/night shared rooms and $25/night private rooms (except the Hobbit Room, which has a low ceiling and fan only, $18)

Feel at Home Hostel Phnom Penh

Feel at home at Phnom Penh’s Feel at Home Hostel in the Tonle Bassac neighborhood.

Feel at Home Hostel is right around the corner from the very popular Street 308 area, which is an eating and drinking hot spot in Phnom Penh at the moment. This neighborhood has everything from dumplings (Mama Wong’s), to pizza (Luigi’s Piccola D’Italia) and rotisserie chicken (Chicky’s) and Russian (Irina’s), with cheap beer (Red Bar) to $5 cocktails (Bassac Lane) to wash it down. This area is still residential, so bars close at 11 p.m.

The hostel stands out with its bright orange accents, but provides a convenient base for planning your trip around Cambodia and for visiting Phnom Penh. The staff is very friendly and the rooms are comfortable — tall guests please note that the “Hobbit Room” has quite low ceilings and no aircon (which explains its price being a bit lower than the other private rooms).

Feel at Home
17B Street 29, between Streets 294 and 308, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 223 849
reservations@feel-at-home-guesthouse.com
feel-at-home-guesthouse.com

One Stop Hostel

$7 and up per night

One Stop Hostel Phnom Penh

One Stop Hostel in Phnom Penh is a cut above the rest.

One Stop Hostel is a newcomer on the north end of Riverside, but the great staff, layout and amenities set it apart from the usual offerings. Enthusiastic staff are eager to practice their English with you, and are more than happy to help arrange transportation, laundry, etc. The common room is on the mezzanine level above reception, and looked like a cool place to hang out on cushions and read or chat. The bathrooms are outside of the rooms, but fully tiled and very clean. In the height of hot season, hair dryers might not seem like a useful appliance, but for more polished backpackers or during cold season we can them being really handy.

One Stop Hostel Phnom Penh

Dorm rooms at One Stop Hostel.

One Stop Hostel
85 Sisowath Quay, Riverside, Phnom Penh
T: 023 99 2822; 097 803 5379
info@onestophostel.com
www.onestophostel.com

Packer Choices

$5 per night and up

Packers Choice Hostel Phnom Penh

Down and dirty at Packers Choice Hostel in Phnom Penh.

A stripped down-style hostel very conveniently located behind the Royal Palace on Street 19 close to Art Street (Street 178). This was the most “broken in” hostel on our tour of new hostels: all of the rooms were occupied and many still had residents at noon on a weekday — with the accompanying overflowing backpacks and smells — which is why we don’t have photos of the rooms, but the beds were sturdy and there was sufficient locker space. The staff was helpful and everything seemed to be in working order; the female-only dorm has two bathrooms inside the room, while the coed dorm has its two bathrooms down the hall. The great location means that this hostel often gets booked up — we recommend reserving in advance if you plan to stay!

Packers Choice Hostel Phnom Penh

Common area at Packers Choice Hostel.

Packer Choices
187 Street 19, Royal Palace area, Phnom Penh
T 016 630 323
facebook.com/Packer-Choices-Hostel

Street ramen in Phnom Penh

It’s clear when you see the small kiosk on wheels that appears on the riverside every evening around dusk, that this is the culmination of someone’s dreams. It’s evident they are not in it for the money or the glory; whoever is behind Champion Japanese Ramen is in it for the love of ramen.

phnom penh ramen

For the love of ramen: this street ramen kiosk parts on the riverside every night.

The small stand is much like a Japanese yatai, a petite mobile food stall popular in Fukuoka. This one seats just three people, and even that is a tight squeeze. The street stand is bedecked with the traditional red flags that proclaim “ramen!” in Japanese, and a hanging paper lamp. It’s spotless and simple, but at the same time adorable, probably because it’s so incongruous on Phnom Penh’s seedy riverside.

Supplies at Champion Ramen are limited. Every day they make a small amount of broth, and once they’ve served ten bowls of ramen, they pack up and go home. Bone broth is all the rage in New York and London, but ramen aficionados have long know the delight of a savory, creamy broth made from from long-simmered bones. The most common is tonkotsu ramen, made from pork bones. The broth at Champion Ramen is lighter than tonkotsu — it’s made from chicken bones — but it’s nearly as rich.

champion ramen phnom penh

Champion ramen serves up a bowl with all of the traditional Japanese toppings.

Champion Ramen’s bowls are filled with ramen noodles, cooked al dente so there’s a little bit of resistance when you bite down. Half of a marinated soft-boiled egg is floated in the bowl, and a few thick slices of fatty chashu pork are added. The ramen is then adorned with finely sliced spring onions, and on most days, a type of marinated bamboo called menma. This is, without question, an authentic bowl of ramen, that eschews all of the strange toppings that you’ll sometimes find in what often passes for ramen in Cambodia — baby corn, bok choy, carrots, bean sprouts, and sweet corn, to name but a few.

It’s my firm belief that you’ll never get a good bowl of ramen at a regular Japanese restaurant with a full menu of different items. The best ramen is made by people who make nothing else. At the best ramen places in Japan, you’ll find little more on the menu than a few types of ramen and fried gyoza. So the fact that Champion Ramen serves literally nothing but ramen is a good sign. And their ramen is pretty damn good. Maybe not the best I’ve ever had in my life, but probably the best I’ve had in Phnom Penh. The riverside ambience doesn’t hurt.

Bowls of ramen cost just $3.50, and since they only serve 10 bowls per day, it seems unlikely that the business is very profitable. The very sweet counter guy told us that the owner is a Japanese architect who just loves ramen. If you love ramen, too, you should check out Champion.

Champion Ramen

Open daily, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. (or until the ramen runs out)
Location varies, Phnom Penh riverside, usually across from La Croisette, Phnom Penh
T: 016 510 104
facebook.com/champion.pp.kh

How to get a visa for Vietnam in Cambodia

If you’re headed to Vietnam after Cambodia, you’ll need to arrange a visa in advance. The price of getting a Vietnam visa in Cambodia is far cheaper than in Western countries, so you can save a bundle by getting it here. But don’t be fooled, the embassy is not the place to get it.

Vietnam visa

Heading to Vietnam and need a visa? Skip the embassy and head to a travel agent.

As of July 1st, five more European countries have been granted visa-free entry into Vietnam. The 14 countries who are eligible for these 15-day visa exemptions are: Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

If you aren’t from one of these countries, you can apply for a visa to Vietnam at the embassy in Phnom Penh or at the Sihanoukville consulate or Battambang consulate. However, the fees at the embassy and consulates are the same or higher than what you’ll pay at any of the hundreds (thousands?) of travel agents in the country. Plus, the agents manage to get the visas processed more quickly and with less hassle. The Vietnam embassy is an exercise in frustration and is best avoided.

If you choose to apply for a Vietnam visa at the embassy, you’ll need a visa application form (available at the embassy or you can fill it out in advance online), your planned date of entry, your passport and a passport photo (here’s where to get passport photos in Phnom Penh)

At the Vietnam embassy or consulates, visas cost:
1-month single-entry visa: $60
1-month multiple-entry visa: $95
3-month single-entry visa: $105
3-month multiple-entry visa: $135

Processing time is a couple of days, and the three-month multiple-entry visa takes longer. They offer same-day or next-day processing for an additional $10. Be aware that the consulate is closed for all Cambodia and Vietnam holidays (and there are lots of them) so factor that into your visa planning.

We did a price check with expat favorite for visa and license issues, Lucky! Lucky! Motorcycle Shop. Prices fluctuate and seem slightly negotiable.

For 2-day processing, they quoted us:
1-month single-entry visa: $60
1-month multiple-entry visa: $80
3-month single entry visa: $98
3-month multiple entry visa: $135 (they say this is more difficult, and you’ll need to show an address in Vietnam)

They can have your visa ready in just one hour for an additional $15.

Near the riverside, Cina Travel is also a good choice for getting your visa to Vietnam. For $75, they can even get you a one-month single-entry visa in one hour, provided you bring your passport to them in the morning. Cina Travel is able to get 3-month multiple-entry visas with no problem. Prices fluctuate and may be slightly negotiable.

For 2-day processing, they quoted us:
1-month single entry visa: $61
1-month multiple entry visa: $85
3-month single entry visa: $95
3-month multiple entry visa: $130

Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

436 Monivong Blvd, Phnom Penh
T: 023 726 274
vietnamembassy-cambodia.org

Consulate General of Vietnam in Sihanoukville

310 Ekareach Blvd, Khan Mittapheap, Sihanoukville
T: 034 934 039
vietnamconsulate-shihanoukville.org

Consulate General of Vietnam in Battambang

Road No. 03, Battambang
T: 053 688 8867
vietnamconsulate-battambang.org

Lucky! Lucky! Motorcycle Shop

413Eo Monivong Blvd, Phnom Penh
T: 099 808 788; 012 279 990
E: luckymotorcyclerental@yahoo.com

Cina Travel

129Eo Street 130, Psar Cha, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 023 998 775; 023 998 774
E: cinatravel@cinatravel.com.kh

How to get from Battambang to Phnom Penh (and vice-versa)

Battambang is about 180 miles (290 kilometers) away from Phnom Penh, a distance that can take you anywhere between four to seven hours to travel, depending on traffic, flooding, and how you choose to go. Here are our picks for getting from Phnom Penh to Battambang and vice-versa.

Phnom Penh to Battambang

Getting between Phnom Penh and Battambang is easier than you might think!

Bus

All the bus companies in Battambang are located a few blocks north of Psar Nath, making it easy enough to visit to book yourself, though guesthouses and hotels can book for you as well, although they will often add an extra couple bucks to the price.

Capitol Tours is the best option of the big buses. The ticket costs 24,000 riel ($6) and takes between six and seven hours (don’t be fooled by the website saying it will get you there in five). There will be frequent stops to let people on and off the bus and you’ll be treated to Cambodia karaoke videos for the duration of the ride.

Siem Reap Battambang Capitol bus

Capitol Tours runs big buses between Phnom Penh to Battambang. Prepare for karaoke videos.

The Battambang bus station was recently moved just outside of town along National Road 5, but if you arrive at the Capitol office twenty minutes before your bus, they’ll take you to the station.

In Phnom Penh, the buses arrive and leave from Capitol Guesthouse near Orussey Market.

Capitol Tours schedule:
Battambang to Phnom Penh: 6:30 a.m., 7 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:15 p.m. (Friday only), 4:15 p.m., 5:30 p.m.

Phnom Penh to Battambang: 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 2:45 p.m. 4 p.m. 5:30 p.m

Mini-bus

Mini-buses offer complimentary pick-up if you book at a guesthouse or a hotel in Battambang. They take between four to five hours to reach Phnom Penh, make one stop for a meal in Pursat, and occasionally another stop for a brief bathroom break or to refuel.

Golden Bayon Express Battambang Phnom Penh

By mini-bus is the fastest way to get from Phnom Penh to Battambang.

Regardless of which mini-bus you take, book a seat closer to the front of the bus rather than further back, as there are some rough spots on the highway where the ride in the back of the bus is quite bumpy.

As you enter Phnom Penh, there may be a few stops to let some Cambodian people off on the side of the road.

As you enter Battambang, there is usually one stop on the east side of the river before crossing the bridge to the west side, where the bus company offices are.

At $12, Mekong Express is the most expensive but also the most comfortable of the mini-bus options. It offers the most leg space, so tall people should consider Mekong Express if they often feel cramped by other options. Note that they will play karaoke videos for the duration of the trip.

In Phnom Penh, Mekong Express drops you off at its office close to Orussey Market, which is convenient for avoiding the worst of Phnom Penh’s traffic. If your guesthouse is somewhere close to the river, however, it will still be a bit of a tuk tuk ride to get there.

Golden Bayon Express charges $10 per person (sometimes you can go to a travel agent on Riverside in Phnom Penh and get that down to $9, but when booking in Battambang to go to Phnom Penh it always seems to be $10), and usually leaves on time.

Though not as spacious as Mekong Express mini-buses, their buses are clean and relatively comfortable, unless you are squished in the back row with three others (again, ask for a seat closer to the front). It also features free WiFi in their buses that sometimes works, but more often doesn’t.

Golden Bayon Express Phnom Penh

The interior of a Golden Bayon mini-bus between Phnom Penh and Battambang.

Their office in Phnom Penh is close to Central Market, a bit more centrally located than Mekong Express’ office.

We’ve received a reader report that Mean Chey Express has recently upgraded to all new 16-seat mini-buses that are “consistently clean, on time efficient, includes cold water and doesn’t blast karaoke.” The trip takes less than 5 hours and costs $8 or $9, depending on how far in advance you book.

Mekong Express schedule:
Battambang to Phnom Penh: 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m.,11 a.m. 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m.
Phnom Penh to Battambang: 5:30 a.m., 6:20 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. 1:30 p.m.

Golden Bayon schedule:
Battambang to Phnom Penh: 7:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m.
Phnom Penh to Battambang: 7:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m.

Mean Chey Express:
Battambang to Phnom Penh: 7:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m.
Phnom Penh to Battambang: 7:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m.

Taxi

A private taxi costs around $60 and takes about four hours. You can hire a private taxi through a hotel or guesthouse. Keep in mind the trunk may not be empty, as the driver may be transporting something to Phnom Penh. Taxis are usually Toyota Camrys that can seat four passengers, although it can be a tight squeeze.

Share taxis depart from northwest of Boeung Chhouk market, on National Road 5, and are usually $10 per seat. Note that the front seat beside the driver is considered two seats, so if you want to have that seat to yourself you’ll probably have to pay $20.

Capitol Tours

capitolkh.com
Ticket Offices: La Hte Street (at Street 103), Battambang [map]
T:053 953 040; 011 956 105; 012 991

14AEO Street 182, Phnom Penh [map]
T: 023 724 104; 023 217 627

Mekong Express

catmekongexpress.com
Book tickets with CamboTicket

Ticket offices: Corner of Road 3 and Street 111, just north of Psar Nhat, Battambang
T: 088 576 7668

Booking office outside Orussey Market, Phnom Penh [map]
T: 012 787 839; 098 833 399; 023 427 518

Golden Bayon Express

goldenbayonexpress.com
Book tickets with CamboTicket

Ticket offices: Street 101, between La He St and Road 3, Battambang [map]
T: 070 968 966; 089 279 909

3Eo Street 51/126, Psar Thmei, Phnom Penh [map]
T: 023 966 968; 089 221 919; 010 968 966

Mean Chey Express

Ticket offices: Street 115, one block west of Psar Nath across from Holiday Hotel, Battambang [map]
T:095 992 111; 098 992 111

48 Street 289, near Psar Toul Kork, Toul Kork, Phnom Penh[map]
T: 011 992 111; 068 992 111

Review: Seila Angkor mini-bus, Phnom Penh-Siem Reap

Mini-buses seem to be the preferred method of travel between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh for expats and upwardly mobile Cambodians who are willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort (and safety, they drive fast!) to shave an hour off the trip. Seila Angkor is popular mini-bus company that does the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route. I’ve taken them several times and have been pleased with their services.

Seila Angkor Khmer Express

Seila Angkor’s Ford Transit vans transport you in style.

The trip takes between five and six hours. With the current road conditions, in order to do the trip in five hours the drivers need to take some hair-raising liberties, and occasionally they can drive faster than I’m comfortable with. Most of the time, though, the trip takes six hours and the drivers go at a reasonable pace.

Seila Angkor run 16-seat Ford Transit vans, and all seats come with a removable head/neck rest, a small bottle of water and a moist towelette. It’s good to understand the seat setup before you book, because you can reserve seats by number. Seats 1 and 2 are a pair of seats next to the driver, with 1 being in the middle and 2 next to the window. Seats 3 and 4 are the second row. These seats can be hit or miss because there is often baggage piled up in the front, reducing the leg room. The third row is a pair, seats 5 and 6, and then a solo seat, 7. 7 can be the best seat in the house when there is no baggage because it has the most legroom. When there is a lot of baggage, though, it can be just as cramped as the others. The fourth row is a pair, seats 8 and 9 and a solo spot in seat 10. The back row are seats 11, 12, 13, and 14. The whole back row is very crowded, and seats 12 and 13 are particularly heinous, especially if you are traveling alone. If you are alone, go for 7 or 10, the only solo seats on the van.

Seila Angkor Mini Bus Interior

This is what the next six hours of your life could look like with Seila Angkor.

I’m not sure if it’s just my bad luck or Seila Angkor is particularly popular with mothers of young children, but two of my most recent three trips have featured young kids without seats of their own, which adds to the tightness of the quarters.

The bus stops twice along the way, once for a toilet stop and once at Stung Sen Restaurant. Stung Sen is a popular spot for buses to take a rest because they pay some of the highest rates around to buses that stop there. They then, in turn, pass this cost along to you, the foreigner customer. The food at Stung Sen is mediocre and overpriced. Fried rice costs $3 a plate (7,000 for Khmers) and offers very little in the way of vegetables, meat or flavor. They have different menus with different pricing for Khmers and foreigners and are so blatant with their price discrimination that they will charge different prices to people at the same table who have ordered the same thing. All that said, this is still a good bus company so I’d pack a sandwich and avoid Stung Sen altogether.

Seila Angkor Siem Reap

The Seila Angkor office in Siem Reap, across from Psar Samaki.

Seats between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap cost $8 for Khmers and $10 for foreigners. They will give expats the $8 rate if you book directly through them, although it did require a little bit of friendly banter on the Phnom Penh side. If you book via a travel agent or your hotel, the price is always $10. While I heartily disapprove of the two-tiered pricing model in Cambodia, I always appreciate it when companies that do it are willing to offer the local price to expats, so for this reason Seila Angkor Khmer Express is one of my favorite mini-bus companies.

Buses run from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap at 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m.

Buses run from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh at 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m.

Seila Angkor Khmer Express

#63 National Road 6 (across from Samaki Market), Siem Reap
T: 077 888 080

#13B, Street 47, Phnom Penh
T: 023 697 1888; 012 766 976; 077 697 672
seilaangkor.com