Planning a Trip
By Air -- Domestic carrier PMT Air now connects to Sihanoukville from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Six months into their service, they suffered a fatal crash on a Siem Reap-Sihanoukville flight that claimed the lives of 15 foreigners and five crew members. Inquire about quality of service and connection with local tourist agencies or with hotel reception. You may want to wait until more reputable carriers begin servicing this beach town.
By Road -- The U.S.-built Route 4 between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville is a long, straight, smooth ribbon of highway; if this sounds ideal, it just means that people go like the dickens on this road, and accidents are many, as are fatalities at roadside, in villages where the relative danger of this high-speed road is not yet understood. Be extremely careful should you choose a self-drive option along this stretch. Renting a private taxi is your best bet, and the 3-hour ride to or from Phnom Penh goes for about $30 (£17) per vehicle. The cost jumps up to $40-$50 (£22-£28) if you depart Phnom Penh in the late afternoon. Taxi connection with Kampot to the east is $20 (£11) for the 3-hour ride. Contact any hotel or guesthouse front desk.
By Bus -- Frequent, convenient buses connect Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. The 3-hour ride costs $5 (£2.75) (including a snack) in an air-conditioned bus with Mekong Express (tel. 023/427-518) and $3-$4 (£1.65-£2.20) with other budget carriers. Capitol Tours (tel. 023/217-627) and Ho Wa Genting Bus Co. (tel. 023/210-859), among others, offer daily connections to and from Phnom Penh, usually leaving in the morning.
By Boat -- Boat connections with Koh Kong, northwest of Sihanoukville and the last stop before the Thai border, can be arranged at any tour desk. The cost is $15 (£8.35) and it takes about 4 hours. You can arrange road transport for a nominal fee from there on to Had Lek and on to the border and nearby Trat in Thailand (and from there to Bangkok by bus). Better to come overland from Phnom Penh.
By Train -- The tracks are there, but train departures to the south have gone the way of the dodo. Train buffs might check the local schedule at the station in Phnom Penh for the possibility of limited departure on the kind of slow trains where you can even climb up and ride on top.
Sihanoukville is set on a wide peninsular area jutting south and east into the Gulf of Thailand. The peninsula is shielded by islands -- Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sam Leuem, Koh T Kiev, and Ko Ses are among the many. Starting on the north end of the peninsula, find the busy port area, just south of which, tracing the coast, you'll find Victory Beach, Independence Beach, Sokha Beach, and Ochheuteal Beach to the far south. Ekareach Street turns inland at the terminus of Route 4, just past the busy port, and cuts a path across the peninsula to the downtown market area before ending at the Golden Lion Monument near Ochheuteal Beach. Signs point the way from Ekareach to the beaches along its length.
Motodups, the ubiquitous motorcycle taxis, are everywhere in Sihanoukville and your best bet for ferrying to and from the beaches. Bicycle and motorbike rentals are also available. Distances and the many hills along Ekareach Street make hopping a moto or renting one worthwhile, but once at the beach, you can easily walk around town.
Canadia Bank (tel. 034/933-697) and Mekong Bank (tel. 034/933-867) both have convenient branches, with cash exchanges, in the downtown area along Ekareach Street. The telephone code for Sihanoukville is 34, and IDD phone services, as well as cheap Internet phone connection at the Internet cafes, abound. Ocean Mart is in a convenient location close to the major beaches and next to the main traffic circle (beside Golden Lions Traffic Circle) and you'll find terminals aplenty at local restaurants and bars. Emergency services in Sihanoukville are nonexistent, and any major medical issue means evacuation to Phnom Penh or on to Bangkok. The International Peace Clinic (tel. 012/794-269) at the center of town on Ekareach Street offers basic first aid, and the Sokha Beach Resort (Oceanside at Sokha Beach; tel. 032/935-999) has a doctor on call at their own private clinic.