The talesofasia guide to Sihanoukville and the south coast
by Jack Stephens
Updated September 8, 2006
Sihanoukville/Kampot Guide index page
This can be a bit of a drag in Sihanoukville, but only if you let it pan out that way. The cause of the problem is Sihanoukville’s notoriously nasty moto taxi drivers, so the simple solution is to avoid them completely – by walking, hiring two or four wheels, or bringing your own transport. If you don’t want to be steering yourself around during your trip (and with good reason if you’ve never ridden a motorbike, or know you’ll often be over the limit) then try to get hold of a moto taxi driver who’s been given the thumbs up by a business owner or can be vouched for by someone whose word you trust.Moto taxi madness
I find motos here to be the worst in Cambodia – and by a country mile – they demand silly prices, regularly change the agreed fee on arrival, are often aggressive, and many are ‘yabba’-freaks so, like most methamphetamine addicts, should be avoided, especially if you’re entrusting your safety and the enjoyment of your trip to a psychotic and forceful driver. Best to avoid them altogether. Many folk find Sihanoukville’s unregulated gangs of moto taxis the worst thing about the place.
Bear in mind that distances are considerable from one side of Sihanoukville to the other so fares in a day do mount up. Add more for night time journeys and in heavy rain. Foreigners will usually incur a demanded fare of a minimum of a dollar even for a short hop – be sure to negotiate prices beforehand.
So that leaves us with the two options: to hire or bring your own.
HiringMotorbikes – there’s an impressive range available in Sihanoukville, from the standard 100cc step-throughs, dirt bikes and even 1100cc street machines. The smaller the better for most folk – they’re cheaper, lighter, designed for anyone’s granny to be able to ride and use less fuel. These bikes are very versatile and you’ll often see locals way out in the boonies with 3 or more aboard or a huge pig strapped to the back, which shows that you don’t need a dirt bike to get to the farther out places. Expect to pay around $3-5 a day for a Honda Dream or Daelim or equivalent. Many guesthouses rent them, or try one of these rental shops: As with all bikes, check tire wear, the brakes, the lights (or you won’t find out till you need them after dark), and take a lock – theft is not unheard of, then your passport will suddenly have a bounty on its head of over $500.
Dirtbikes in Sihanoukville are a mixed bag, but the standard of maintenance does seem to have improved. Whilst this can be a fair place to learn (smooth wide streets, little traffic most of the time), beginners should note that accidents do happen more often when stoned and/or after ‘only’ a few beers and/or in the teeming rain and/or with the unpredictability of your fellow road users. Any longer trips will mean hitting Route 4: it is a pretty narrow strip of tarmac and can be a bit scary for newbies with 18-wheelers haring down on you with water spraying and buffeting you, and then there are the weekend warriors from Phnom Penh who treat the trip to the seaside as a ‘don’t touch the brakes’ speed test.
The larger bike rental shops have 250cc offroaders and bigger available. Give them a thorough once over before letting them hold your travel document to ransom.
Bigger boys can find bigger toys in Sihanoukville, but it’s best not to get too big for your boots on one of these powerful beasts – good medical services are far, far away, so it makes sense to stay within the limits of your ability and experience. Die hard flip flop wearers should find seek the sturdiest available for riding these machines.
Bicycles are available from a number of guesthouses. A buck a day should cover the rental of a single speed shopper bike with front basket. The hills of Sihanoukville town and anywhere further afield deem a bike with gears a much better option, preferably a mountain bike with fat tyres. More on this soon.
Cars can be hired with a driver for $20-35 a day depending on where you plan to go, your bargaining skills and how much commission a middleman creamed off. Self-drive is less common, though I did see one of those ‘my first car’ Tico’s going for $10 a day. Taxi drivers may be persuaded to let you driver their vehicle. Go easy out there though – many other drivers seem less than fully conscious, and doing the unpredictable is common.
Bring your own
This has to be the best option if you’re serious about your travels and like to be your own pilot. Stop where you like, investigate any turn-off you fancy (left turns, for some reason, often unveil some real gems), move on whenever you choose.
Spares of decent quality for dirtbikes are rare outside of a core of specialist shops Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and you’ll find good replacement parts for mountain bikes even harder to come by.
Knowing how to fix some standard problems is sensible, meaning you could oversee repairs if not carrying all the tools yourself. Punctures can be fixed at roadside stalls for a nominal fee.
Extra fuel and water may sound overkill around Sihanoukville, as there are frequent stalls, but on longer trips (say, over the hills to Koh Kong) it might pay dividends.
Again, best to drive defensively and in sobriety to minimise your repair and/or medical and/or crematorium bills.
Sihanoukville/Kampot Guide index page
Getting Around Sihanoukville
Drive Your Own
Eating and drinking
Other Ways to Spend Time and Money
restaurants, tours and more
The text appearing on this page is © 2006 Jack Stephens. For the rest of the website, unless otherwise noted, all text and photographs © 1998 - 2008 talesofasia.com. Commercial or editorial usage without written permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.