Battambang is easily reached by road. All other options are either defunct or involve a high degree of difficulty or discomfort. The roads to and from the city to all major tourist destinations have been upgraded in the past couple of years, making this the most practical and affordable option. Local buses are wonderfully entertaining, and a great way to meet and interact with the welcoming Khmers.
Shared taxis are faster and more expensive, and theoretically more comfortable, although unless you have your own group, usually four people, you might find yourself squeezed in with half a dozen smiling locals. The iconic boat trip to Siem Reap, especially in the wet season, is the most attractive journey in all Cambodia. The boats are hardly up to international safety standards though, and can be cramped and slow. Avoid during the baking hot summer season when they frequently become grounded in low water.
Flights to Battambang
Forget it. Battambang technically does have an airport but at this stage there are no flights to or from the city, as no locals will pay for airfares when buses are so cheap.
Trains to Battambang
Despite persistent claims to the contrary, there is no train service between Battambang and Phnom Penh. There once was one train per week that took anywhere up to 24 hours to make the 300km journey, but this was discontinued in 2007.
Siem Reap to and from Battambang
The boat trip between Battambang and Siem Reap is the most beautiful in the country. The scenic journey along picturesque waterways offers an up close and personal view of traditional life on the magnificent Tonle Sap. Passing floating villages and imposing cantilevered fishing constructions, you will also come, literally within touching distance of the locals.
The trip takes anywhere from four to 12 hours, and is best avoided from March – May when the low water means trucks are required to complete the trip. The seats are not comfortable and the roof-top offers an open-air but scorching option. Take a hat and sunscreen.
There are three companies that make a couple of trips each day to Siem Reap – Rith Mony, Phnom Penh Sorya and Neak Krorhorm. Buses depart in the early morning to avoid the afternoon heat. Tickets are available from all hotels and guesthouses, or at the bus company offices or stations, which are little more than a carpark north of Psar Nath.
The former ‘dancing road’ between Siem Reap and Sisophon has been mercifully upgraded in recent years, meaning road travel north to and from Battambang is now smooth and fast. Morning journeys are best, after dark can be terrifying.
Private taxis can be chartered for the two-and-a-half hour journey to Siem Reap for around US$30-$40. This is the best way if there is a group of you that can split the costs. Shared taxis can be found at the northern taxi stand with a seat costing around US$5-$6.
Phnom Penh to and from Battambang
The National Road #5 which runs 300km south to Phnom Penh is in good condition, with the journey taking four to seven hours. The now sealed motorway is incredibly scenic, especially in the wet season where road skirts the bulging Tonle Sap past traditional farming towns and fishing villages.
A private taxi is worth the extra money and leg room if you can afford it. The four hour trip is cheap (around US$5) but solo travellers may find themselves cramped into one vehicle with a number of locals. The taxi stand is near the bus stations in the northern end of Battambang.
Cambodia’s main bus companies, GST, Capitol Tours, Neak Krorhorm and Phnom Penh Sorya, all make several departures each day to the capital beginning at 07:00, with the last bus at 15:00. The trip takes five to six hours including a meal break. All of Battambang’s bus depots are in the northern part of town near the Ta Damboung roundabout. Tickets are available at the respective stations or from your hotel.
Pailin to and from Battambang
The trip west to Pailin is for the real action seeker, with the road starting out on a hard base and rapidly deteriorating into atrocious. Shared pickups and taxis leave from out front of Psar Leu when full, with the journey normally taking up to three hours along a bumpy road. In the wet season this can be more than double this.
Sisophon to and from Battambang
Sisophon is essentially the half way point to Siem Reap (turn right) or Poipet (turn left) and the Thai border. Shared taxis leave the northern taxi stand when full. The trip takes around one-and-a-half hours and costs US$3.
Getting around in Battambang
The city is easily navigable on foot, while most guesthouses offer bicycle hire for around US$1-$2 per day. The moto is the most common form of transport, but Battambang is relatively free of traffic so not nearly as hair-raising as similar journeys in Phnom Penh. Moto drivers tend to hang out in front of the Royal and Chhaya hotels, although most places have good, reliable drivers that they recommend who double as local tour guides.
These can be hired for US$12-$25 per day and are the best way to see the attractions outside of the city, with most of the guides speaking decent English and unlikely to try and rip you off like the other tourist destinations. Motorbike hire is available but not recommended due to lack of street signs and questionable roads outside the town. Private cars can be hired from US$20 per day from any guesthouse or hotel.