Cycling in Cambodia is for the more adventurous traveller, but if you’re an experienced cyclist you’ll discover the real Cambodia. Most of Cambodia is quite flat and recently many roads have been upgraded, so road conditions have improved considerably.
Of course you’ll still come across bumpy roads in the countryside, but isn’t that part of the fun? Cycling in Cambodia should only be done during the dry season, from November until March, when the temperatures are not too high. When cycling just after the end of the rainy season, the country is lush and green.
So…, what’s the fun?
Cycling on the main routes (the National Roads linking all major towns) can be a little frustrating as these days there’s quite a lot of traffic, although Cambodian roads are not nearly as crowded as in Thailand or Vietnam. Passing heavy pick-up trucks kick up clouds of dust and fine sand. After a day on these roads, you’ll be looking forward to a shower.
So, what’s the fun of cycling in Cambodia? Well, choose the less explored routes (see the right column). Of course you’ll still have to negotiate parts of the main routes, but the moment you’ve left such a road you’ll enjoy country life and scenery. When cycling around, the country and its people will grow on you, we’re sure!
Scattered around the country are beautiful (and not much visited) old temples, and off the main roads the scenery is remarkably diverse: hills, jungle, waterfalls, rice fields, laid back towns and villages, small rivers and untouched beaches.
Cambodians are one of the friendliest people on the planet, and everywhere you come you’ll be warmly welcomed with a big smile. Kids everywhere will greet you by an enthusiastic “Hello! hello!”. When students are cycling to or from school, they will undoubtedly join you. Especially in the countryside it’s their big chance to practice their English on you.
The charm of Cambodia lies in all these things combined.
There is one downside to cycling through not much visited parts of the country: the food. Although sometimes you can find a real good small restaurant or food stall, most of the food offered alongside roads is of questionable quality. It’s a shame because original Khmer food is varied and tasty, as this website proves.
Whether the knowledge of Cambodian cuisine has disappeared during the years of turmoil, we don’t know. Anyway, along the road your choice is quite limited to fried rice and vegetables, eggs and noodle soup.
So what are the most scenic routes in Cambodia?
For the inexperienced cyclist, the route from Phnom Penh to Kampot is a good starting point. The more closer you come to Kampot, the more beautiful the scenery will become. Cycle around Kampot as well, e.g. to the small beach town of Kep.
From Kampot you can head to the beaches of Sihanoukville for a few refreshing days. Much nicer than via the main Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville road. From Sihanoukville there’s a very scenic road at the edge of the Cardamom Mountains, leading to the town of Koh Kong on the Thai border.
A less traveled route is from Phnom Penh to the Laos border, along the Mekong River. The road now is in good condition. Climbers may head east from Kompong Cham to Mondulkiri province, but be warned: there’s heavy climbing once you come close to the province capital Sen Monorom!
Another nice town is Kompong Chhnang, on the Tonle Sap Lake. Here’s where clay pots are coming from.
When coming from Thailand, don’t go straight to Siem Reap, but head to Battambang surrounded by beatiful landscape and rice fields. To get from Battambang to Siem Reap take the enjoyable boat trip over the Sangker River. Yes, you can take your bycicle along!