6 Reasons To Drive from Phnom Penh To Siem Reap, Cambodia

We LOVED LOVED LOVED Cambodia! We loved the people. We loved the country. We loved the Khmer comfort food. And, we loved learning there’s so much more to Cambodia than Angkor Wat (we’ll get to that later) and the Khmer Rouge.

Sadly Cambodia’s cultural heritage was pretty much lost under the Khmer Rouge regime, and I cannot even claim to understand how that felt. However, from the Cambodian people we met on our drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, we did get a sense the country seems to be slowly healing and regaining the gorgeous culture that was stolen from them.

Cambodian royal palace at night
The stunning Royal Palace at night

Many people visit Cambodia and decide to skip Phnom Penh for the more southern regions of Siem Reap or the beaches.  We were excited to explore Phnom Penh and drive to Siem Reap rather than fly, to explore the country.  We arrived after 24 hours of travel to the most vibrant city filled with the most incredible sights, smells and sounds we had ever imagined.

Visit the Royal Palace

The beautiful Royal Palace has been the seat and residence of Cambodia’s royal family since the 1860s. The palace, in central Phnom Penh, is an excellent example of classic Khmer architecture and is a vibrant place of activity for Cambodian people who will often sit and pray for days to pay their respects.

family at royal palace cambodia - great when you drive Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

We were there in November 2012 when the former Cambodian King and Prime Minister Norodom Sihanouk had died a few days earlier, and the streets were filled with Cambodians paying their respects, praying, crying, and lighting incense.  His body stayed in the Royal Palace for a period of time to allow Cambodians to gather and share one last farewell to their former leader.

Sample the Street Food…. or Not!

It turns out that eating bugs is very common in Phnom Penh (and Cambodia in general). The boys were in awe when we visited the local market to find baskets full of deep-fried baby chickens, cockroaches, crickets, plump ants, giant tarantulas and many more.

A popular street food the locals particularly love is fertilized duck embryos; we watched a group of kids sitting around just popping them in their mouths one after the other!

What sort of bug is on the menu tonight?

Cambodia Central Market (Phsar Thmey)

Central Market is a large indoor market filled with a huge assortment of goods, including clothing, jewelry, gems, flowers and souvenirs. There are also lots of stalls selling local  food items such as seafood, spices and vegetables.

Since this market is indoors, it gave us a nice break from the blazing heat as it is properly ventilated.

It Takes 6 Hours to Drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

“Route 6” is a mostly paved highway (I use the word highway loosely) that passes through many rural villages of Cambodia. The driving distance between Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is about 314 km, and it’s all scenic, all the way.

cambodia drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

The quality of the road at this part of Route 6 was exceptional compared to other parts.Cambodian rice fields and paddiesTypical Cambodian house on stilts

Along Rout 6, we were able to catch a glimpse of daily life and saw many houses on stilts to avoid flooding during the rainy season,  “snack” stands on the side of the road selling deep-fried bugs, workers in the rice paddies, and women walking their cow from the market by a leash.

Skun Spider Market on the Drive from Phnom Penh To Siem Reap

We stopped at Skun Spider Market on our drive from Phnom Penh To Siem Reap, and it’s a nightmare for anyone who is even slightly scared of spiders. Or ants. Or roaches.

Stop at skun spider market when you drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

The town is literally crawling with spiders infesting the area for years, and is now a popular spot to stop.

After leaving the bus, we were greeted by a young boy with a handful of tarantulas wanting to put them on the head of my boys. After politely declining, we entered the market to see the most unbelievable displays of tarantulas that were cooked using various methods.

The spiders are caught in fields or holes where they are bred before their venomous claws are removed, then deep-fried in various herbs and oils.  Yum… delicious right?

Chris is eating tarantulas in cambodia on the drive Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
We met Chris and his wife on our travels and Chris was always ready to try anything!

Kampong Kdei Bridge

Driving along Route 6 from Phnom Penh towards Kampong Thom and Siem Reap, we were excited to spot an ancient bridge being guarded at either end by nagas.

cambodia road signs
This bridge located about 60km south of Siem Reap, is also known as Spean Thma or the bridge of stone. It’s one of the few Khmer Empireera bridges to have survived to the modern day.
drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

The bridge was a popular place for Cambodians to wash their laundry in the river when you drive Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
The bridge was a popular place for Cambodians to wash their laundry in the river.

I cannot recommend visiting Cambodia enough. Driving from city to city really lets you see so much more the natural beauty and peaceful countryside. You miss that when flying.

The drive from Phnom Penh To Siem Reap gives you a feel for this beautiful country and the warm, hard-working people trying to rebuild their lives the best they can.

A Few Travel Specifics

How far from Phnom Penh to Angkor Wat?

Travelling from Phnom Penh to the serene, awe-inspiring temples of Angkor Wat is so much more than a road trip, it’s really a dive into the heart of Cambodia’s soul. The distance between Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat is about 320 kilometers (roughly 200 miles). The drive can last about 5 to 6 hours depending on the number of stops you take, but you can’t really go faster on a 2-lane road.

How far is Siem Reap from Angkor Wat?

Once you’re in Siem Reap, you’re on the doorstep to Angkor Wat.  Siem Reap is the gateway to the temples of Angkor. The distance from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat is only about 6 kilometers (roughly 3.7 miles), so  Siem Reap is your base camp for explorations.

Here’s how you can travel from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat?

  1. Tuk-Tuk This is the most charming and airy way to get to Angkor Wat — just hop into one of these loud three-wheelers hold on as you putter through the lush Cambodian countryside. A tuk-tuk ride to Angkor Wat will take about 20 minutes, depending on the enthusiasm of your driver and the chaos of the local traffic.
  2. Bicycle For fitness-minded folks who like to pedal, you can rent a bike and cycle to Angkor Wat. The ride takes about 20-30 minutes (I was told) and provides a bit of exercise and freedom. You can zip from temple to temple as well.
  3. Rental Car or Motorbike You might opt for the same personal freedom but more power, and rent a car or a motorbike or motorscooter. This will give you the maximum freedom to travel, but you will have to learn how to drive like a local.
  4. Tour Bus If you don’t want to drive yourself, you can book a tour through your hotel or find an independent guide and driver. You’ll get the comfort of air conditioning and all the information and history about the temples from a qualified guide. Booking a tour is the most expensive but easiest option for sure.

Have you taken the drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap?
What spots did we miss?

Let me know by leaving a comment below and joining me on Instagram and Twitter!

About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Zac | 21st Nov 17

    A very enjoyable read! Looks like you and your boys had a great time. We’re visiting Cambodia soon, what was yours and your boys’ favourite part?

    • Samantha Kuhr | 22nd Nov 17

      Hi Zac! We loved driving around the countryside of Cambodia. But the true highlight for us was Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. That will be in an upcoming post. When are you visiting?

      • Zac | 22nd Nov 17

        In about a weeks time, can’t wait to see Angkor Wat. I’ll be looking our for that post!

  2. Samantha Kuhr | 22nd Nov 17

    Have a great time! We were there in November too. Bring a rain coat and umbrella as you’ll see lots of rain and look out for the monkeys in Angkor Wat… they’ll run away with your phone if you aren’t careful!

  3. Priyal | 21st Jan 20

    Hi, youve convinced me that driving between Siem Reap & Phnom Penh is the way forward. I was wondering what company you used to book your journey?

    Many thanks,

    • Samantha | 21st Jan 20

      HI, I think you’ll really enjoy it. We have used Gadventures and Gateway Travel for tours in the past and would recommend them both! Check out to see what itineraries fit your needs! Have fun!

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