A rather late post as this has been lounging on my drafts folder for awhile. But better late than never, and here’s my impression of the train service from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.
I’m a train buff! I love traveling by train and when they announced last year that train service from Phnom Penh -Kampot-Sihanoukville will be operating soon, I bugged Sen to go. We just waited for a long holiday weekend and off we went.
Booking Tickets: Best to book in advance at the train station. Call 078 888 583 (8am-4:30pm on weekdays, 6am-12nn on Saturday and Sunday) for more info. Passenger train service is only available during weekends. Getting tickets was easy for us. Cost was $7 from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. We belatedly decided to bring a car, but when we went to book a ticket for the car, well it was already fully booked. So yeah, if you plan on bringing your car along, best book ahead too. Note: car costs $14 from PP to SHV.
We were traveling on a Saturday and made it on time 7am! which was just a crazy early time for us, especially with a baby in tow! But the excitement of taking the train ride probably drove out the zombie feeling out of us. Of course, the kids were really giddy happy. And when we got to the station, there were loads of people already, with majority of them taking selfies! I mean, how can one resist the retro chicness of all these?
The carriages were surprisingly clean, air-conditioned and comfy enough with a very 60’s vibe. And since my bladder is always screaming for a break, I was thankful the toilet was clean and has the all important bidet! They also had a personnel on hand on each carriage as well as a lady with a food cart.We left on time, and it was actually a smooth, sleep-inducing ride, my little boy actually spent about 5 hours sleeping (and me singing halleluia in my head over and over again!). Most of the passengers were large groups and typical of Khmers, they proceeded to make the whole ride something like a community picnic. A lot were playing cards, some were glued to their gadgets, while a good majority (like us!) just ate and ate and ate. I seriously cannot recall just how many cups of iced milk coffee I drank. There’s also food on the train station stops, I recall my husband actually buying grilled dried fish with pickles and ate about two servings of steamed rice. Ha!
A big con for us – train carriages are difficult for those who have mobility problems as the stairs were really steep. I’ve seen a lot of elderly passengers requiring assistance from two or more persons just to alight the carriages. I hope they have addressed this now.
Taking the train is a WHOLE lot slower than traveling by bus or car. So what makes this ride worth it? The scenery, hands down! It’s a whole new way of enjoying Cambodian countryside and a lot of these picturesque scenes you can barely appreciate while on a faster vehicle. The train stations were not new, almost decrepit, but certainly held a lot of charm and made me think of Cambodia of the past.
If you’re not pressed for time, and want to enjoy a slower pace of travel, I’d recommend trying this out. Check out the Royal Railways website for more info.This Facebook group – Train Cambodia is also very useful for latest updates and other train experiences.