Sihanouk Ville

SihanoukVille is located on the coast of Cambodia, about halfway between Thailand and Vietnam, on the Bay of Thailand. A spread out tourist town for both foreigners and local people from all over the country. Three sides of the town are bordered by tropical beaches and islands. Filled with empty beaches, crowded beaches, seafood, restaurants, bars, Buddhist Temples, casinos, hotels, and more beaches. At several hundred places, English is spoken; and many French and Chinese speakers are here as well. About 40 other languages are spoken at various guesthouses and restaurants.

Ochheuteal Beach is by far the most popular and touristed beach in town with ‘Serendipity Beach’ at the arcing northern end and busy Serendipity Beach Road stretching from the beach to the Golden Lion Roundabout. Restaurants that line Ochheuteal typically offering full bars and food, especially seafood BBQ at sunset. Ochheuteal is also the partyingest beach in town with many of the bars open very late night, with cheap drinks, fire dancing and parties into the wee hours.
 
Accommodations... The area has a good selection of accommodations ranging from mid-range to budget with most on the roads paralleling the beach and Serendipity Beach Road, and a few places tucked up along the headlands.

Restaurants & Bars... On the beach, shack-style seafood restaurants and bars tightly line more than a kilometer of the sand's edge from Serendipity to mid-beach. The restaurants typically offer umbrellas and beach chairs, have full bars and most have food, especially BBQ on the beach at sunset when restaurants put seafood and meats on display and offer inexpensive classic BBQ dinners. 

Just off the beach, they do the same evening BBQ at along Lumhei Phumin Street (23 Tola) where there are more than a dozen places. 

Nightlife... Many of the beach bars are open into the late night, and of course there is fire dancing, full moon parties and events. Some of the more popular late night places are located at the Serendipity end of the Ochheuteal and along Serendipity Beach Road. Just off the beach the bar plazas Sihanoukville Square and Pub Street have hostess bars, pool, a bit of food and are open late.

SihanoukVille is located on the coast of Cambodia, about halfway between Thailand and Vietnam, on the Bay of Thailand. A spread out tourist town for both foreigners and local people from all over the country. Three sides of the town are bordered by tropical beaches and islands. Filled with empty beaches, crowded beaches, seafood, restaurants, bars, Buddhist Temples, casinos, hotels, and more beaches. At several hundred places, English is spoken; and many French and Chinese speakers are here as well. About 40 other languages are spoken at various guesthouses and restaurants.

BEACHES

Ochheuteal and Serendipity Beaches

Ochheuteal Beach is by far the most popular and touristed beach in town with ‘Serendipity Beach’ at the arcing northern end and busy Serendipity Beach Road stretching from the beach to the Golden Lion Roundabout. Restaurants that line Ochheuteal typically offering full bars and food, especially seafood BBQ at sunset. Ochheuteal is also the partyingest beach in town with many of the bars open very late night, with cheap drinks, fire dancing and parties into the wee hours.
 
Accommodations... The area has a good selection of accommodations ranging from mid-range to budget with most on the roads paralleling the beach and Serendipity Beach Road, and a few places tucked up along the headlands.

Restaurants & Bars... On the beach, shack-style seafood restaurants and bars tightly line more than a kilometer of the sand's edge from Serendipity to mid-beach. The restaurants typically offer umbrellas and beach chairs, have full bars and most have food, especially BBQ on the beach at sunset when restaurants put seafood and meats on display and offer inexpensive classic BBQ dinners. 

Just off the beach, they do the same evening BBQ at along Lumhei Phumin Street (23 Tola) where there are more than a dozen places. 

Nightlife... Many of the beach bars are open into the late night, and of course there is fire dancing, full moon parties and events. Some of the more popular late night places are located at the Serendipity end of the Ochheuteal and along Serendipity Beach Road. Just off the beach the bar plazas Sihanoukville Square and Pub Street have hostess bars, pool, a bit of food and are open late.

Otres Beach 

Otres Beach is the next beach south of Ochheuteal. Like Ochheuteal, Otres is a three kilometer crescent of white sand facing southwest, but Otres is further from town and more thinly touristed, offering a more relaxed atmosphere, especially at the far end. Beach shacks and guesthouses line the near (Otres 1) and far (Otres 2) ends with the central section a long, tranquil beach, pleasantly free of rest-aurants, umbrellas and vendors. Behind Otres, the Aquarian back beach enclave of Otres River Village is quickly growing.

The Near End... 

At the northern ‘near end’ of the beach (Otres Beach 1) dozens of beachshack bars and restaurants are squeezed together along a kilometer of sand, some staying open quite late and offering events and music. There are also a dozen-plus guesthouses and bungalow places lining the beachfront road just opposite the sand and ocean.

The Far End... 

The ‘far end’ of Otres Beach has a more secluded atmosphere than the near but still offers beach bars and restaurants as well as accommodations along the beach road including a few of upper mid-range places and fine dining on the beach.

Otres River Village...

A backbeach enclave with an eco-friendly ambiance behind central Otres Beach with an eclectic mix of people, accommodations and drinking places in an laid back environment. Set amongst mangroves along a small lake and estuary.

Otres Market...

The Otres Market is a Saturday market of crafts and food vendors, both local and foreign, in the spirit of the beach markets of Goa - live music, shopping, cold drinks, hot food and good vibes. At time of printing it is the beginning of low season and the market was preparing to shut down until the end of the monsoon season, probably in October or November. Check Facebook for current info. Located in Otres River Village. When running, the market is open every Saturday, 4:00PM until late. 
.
Independence Beach (Brampul-Chann Beach)

Independence Beach is the quieter, more relaxed near-town beach. The beach draws its name from the historic Independence Hotel that sits atop the headland at the north end, called ‘otel pram-pul chann (‘hotel 7-storeys’) by the locals. 

Independence is better than a kilometer long, but more than half had been closed for several years for a development project. A few months ago most of the beach was reopened to the public, but unlike Ochheuteal and Otres Beaches, Independence is not lined with restaurants and vendors. Currently, about a dozen beach front BBQ huts, restaurants and bars are clustered together on a lightly touristed 500 meter strip of sandy beach at the north end. It’s a nice family beach and a good near-town beach to escape the crowds of Ochheuteal. 

The fresh water lake at the north end of the beach serves as the source and reservoir of Sihanoukville's water supply. On the curving road past the northern end of the beach, behind the Independence Hotel, monkeys (macaques) often congregate along the road and beg for food, especially in the late afternoon.

Victory Beach
 
Victory Beach sits at the base of the popular Victory Hill. Victory Beach offers one of the best sunset views in town but unfortunately the beach is partially closed and there are no longer any bbq shacks or other vendors. Farther north along Victory the beach narrows and a few upscale seafood restaurants hug the water’s edge and a couple of casinos can be found on the beach road.

Above Victory Beach, Victory Hill offers a variety of guesthouses, restaurants and bars. Several places, both budget and mid-range dot the side of the Hill overlooking the ocean, some offering excellent sunset views.  

The very top of hill is one of Sihanoukville’s nightlife hotspots. The hilltop road is lined with hostess bars, music and sport bars as well as a few restaurants. After dark the street come to life, some places staying open into the early morning. 

Hawaii Beach at the far southern end of the Victory Beaches is fairly busy these days, and is much more popular with Cambodian beach-goers than foreign tourists. Like the other major beaches, Hawaii is lined with umbrellas and chairs and little beach shack bars and restaurants.

Sokha Beach
Occupying all of Sokha Beach, the Sokha Beach Resort offers luxury accommodation and fine dining. Sokha Beach is a beautiful beach, a crescent of sand about one kilometer long and comparatively wide. The fine pearl white sand is perfectly groomed these days but the beach is fairly quiet, frequented primarily by resort guests. There aren’t any little seafood shacks, but dining gazebos and an up-market beach bar / restaurant run by the Sokha Beach Resort.
 
Other Beaches
These ‘other’ beaches are outside of the town area and are frequented more by fishermen than tourists, though this is slowly changing. Road conditions can be challenging, especially in the wet season. 
 Ream Beach 

A distant beach, 27 kilometers north of town, Ream Beach is long and narrow, sitting at the edge of Preah Sihanouk (‘Ream’) National Park. The beach is largely untouristed and of very average quality. Long but very narrow with a mix of fine and coarse light tan sand.
 
The road toward Naval Base offers a nice little oceanside drive and sections are lined with water’s edge seafood shacks and a thin beach - the kind of places with hammocks as well as chairs and tables, and serving seafood BBQ, steamed and fried fish, seafood soups, fried rice, sates and the like. 
 
From Sihanoukville take National Route #4 18km north to the Airport turnoff road at Ream. Turn right onto the Airport Road, and go straight on 9km to the ocean, passing along the edge of Ream National Park. At the ocean, the road to the right traces Ream Beach, which is largely deserted. The road to the left follows more narrow beach and rocky ocean's edge to the Naval Base.

Prek Treng Beach

Another distant beach, Prek Treng is a long, wide crescent of brilliant white sand a few kilometers north of town, offering comparatively warm shallow waters. The beach is in good shape, groomed and landscaped, but is usually all but deserted. Picnickers do show up on the weekends and sometimes during the week, but there are rarely more than a few groups there. Sometimes a couple of food shacks stand open at the near end. To get there follow Hun Sen Beach Drive north a few kilometers past the port area. Best to bring along some of your own drinks and snacks.

ISLANDS

Koh Rong

The largest and most developed of the islands is Koh Rong (map), located 40-50 minutes by express ferry or 2.5 hours by standard ferry (see page 72.) This island is one of the most beautiful in the archipelago, with miles of white sand beaches, gently swaying palms and tropical fruit orchards. It also has one of the most ‘developed’ beaches - Koh Toch - at least in terms of the number of bungalows, guesthouses and restaurants.

Koh Rong offers guest houses and bungalows and bungalows and more are springing up every day, ranging from dormitories and inexpensive home stays to flashpacker accommodations and fancier, well-appointed family-sized bungalows. 

KOH TOCH BEACH at the southeastern tip of the island is where most of the accommodations are situated, and it's the busiest part of the island, with nightly beach barbecues, music and fire dancers into the wee hours, not to mention the Full Moon Parties. If this isn't your cup of tea, there are more secluded options located around the island including Long Beach on the sunset side of the island offering a few rustic bungalows. 

For those looking for something a little more luxurious, just off of Koh Rong are two private islands known as SONG SAA (‘sweethearts’) that are home to an all-inclusive five-star resort, the first of its kind in Cambodia. 

Koh Rong Sanloem (Samloem)
Koh Rong Sanloem (or Samloem) is the somewhat smaller and more tranquil of the big two islands. While offering a wide variety of accommodations and restaurants, especially on Saracen Bay and M’Pay Bay, the island has a generally more tranquil and peaceful atmosphere than Koh Rong and Koh Toch Beach. 

Saracen Bay on the land side of Koh Rong Sanloem is the busiest beach, sporting several restaurants and accommodations from cheap and cheerful to upscale bungalows. Saracen Bay (and M’Pay Bay) is also where the Sihanoukville ferries docks, and is the place to pick up boats to other beaches on island and to Koh Rong. A few guesthouses dot the beaches on the west side of the island, which is a moderately easy 1km walk across the island from Saracen Bay. M’Pay Bay village on the northern corner of the island also has several guesthouses and a couple of good restaurants. 

Getting to Koh Rong Sanloem is easy. There are several daily speed ferries and slow boats from Sihanoukville and from Koh Rong. By speed ferry it is a 40-50 minutes ride from Sihanoukville and only about 10 minutes from Koh Rong. The slow boat takes about 2.5 hours from Sihanoukville.

Besides lounging in the sun there’s plenty to do on Koh Rong Sanloem - most of the usual island activities - snorkeling, trekking, mountain biking, inexpensive boat cruises, fishing and some pretty good scuba diving opportunities. There are a few foreign-run dive outfitters on the island that offer fun dive and certification, including The Dive Shop with an office on Saracen Bay.

There are no banks or ATMs on Koh Rong Sanloem and very few places accept credit cards. Bring the money that you will need. And though there is phone and internet, it can be spotty. .
 
Other Islands
 
Closer to shore than the big islands and completely undeveloped, Koh Ta Kiev is a lovely island with come-and-go beachside camping and simple treehouse accommodation. Lovely yellow sand beaches dotted with pine trees offer the perfect spot for reading and relaxing. The kind of ‘forgotten island’ that will not last in the face of expanding development. The island also offers many bird-watching and snorkeling opportunities.  

Located off Ream National Park at the eastern edge of the archipelago is Koh Thmei, an island on the brink of development but is still blissfully quiet. Flanked by mangrove forests and home to more than a hundred species of birds, the island offers splendid sunset views and the chance to stay in a compound of ecologically minded bungalows that are set up with solar power and a special water filtration system. (Koh Thmei Resort.) Otherwise Koh Thmei is as yet still almost completely untouched and receives very few visitors.

Koh Russei used to be favored by backpackers. Very basic bungalows hugged the shore. Alas, that is all finished. The island has been slated for development and is currently undergoing the first stages. There are no accommodations (even camping) on the island.
 
Further offshore are Koh Tang and Koh Prins, which are only reachable by boat, a trip that can take as much as eight hours. These islands offer what are said to be the best diving opportunities in Cambodia, but visits must be chartered or arranged through a diving outfit.

TRANSPORTATION

There are a few ways to get around town.  While many tourist walk, there are also motorcycle taxi's and Tuk Tuks (carts pulled by a motorcycle) on every street.  To get to SihanoukVille, you can take a car or bus from Koh Kong, near Thailand.  From Vietnam, Kampot or Phnom Penh, a bus or car. And cruise ships and Naval ships regularly dock at the port in town.  Flights arrive at Phnom Penh and then it's a 3 to 5 hour countryside ride to town from the airport by private taxi or by bus from downtown.  Flights also arrive at the SihanoukVille Airport from Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) and now a few times a week from Phnom Penh.

THINGS TO DO ARROUND
Boating, touring around, mini golf, scuba diving and snorkeling, island trips, drinking, passing out, discos, eating and more drinking.... and a few other things.

Beaches and Islands
Yes we have beaches. White sandy beaches. With blue water and green islands off shore. Most guesthouses and beach places offer boat trips to the islands, with snorkeling and meals, starting at $15 for a day trip. Not a bad deal. You can also take a boat out yourself (with captain) from many beaches.

Eating
Food everywhere. On Every street corner, food comes driving down the street, walking down the street, on the beach, on rooftops and at your hotel.  Cheap food, expensive food, good food, and some bad food (fried spiders? grilled dog?)  If you're not used to Asia, best to keep away from some of the street side places, and always drink bottled water. (available everywhere for 12 cents a half liter)

Boating & Fishing
Many types of boats are available for rent - personal watercraft, charter and group fishing and sailing boats, yachts, and party boats.

Underwater
Several foreign owned scuba diving and snorkeling companies are found here.  Most have the PADI designation, and have training courses, day trips, and overnight trips.  

Dance Baby Dance
A few discos in town offer late night music and dancing. They usually open after 9pm and go until late morning.  Not many are "family oriented" and some get quite rowdy. They're all fun.   Several Karaoke joints as well.  Most of these are between downtown and Ocheteaul Beach.  Not much dancing, but LIVE music at several bars in town.  Also, a few late night places on the beach with all night parties.

Motorcycles and Bicycles
Motorcycles and bicycles are rented everywhere here, and bicycles are from $1 a day.  Mountains, beaches, downtown, bar hopping.  All favorite destinations.  You can get a tour outside of town with Stray Dog Adventures Dirt Bike Tours.  A list of Dirt Bike Tours and Off-Road Adventures in SihanoukVille.  You can rent a 100cc motorcycle at over a hundred places in town for about $5 a day.

What else????
Mini Golf, Casinos, Waterfall, Day trips, touring around town, work out, sauna, walking tours, massages, shopping, sleeping, ping pong, resting & relaxing. horseback riding, Ping Pong, and learning to speak Khmer.   Volunteer your time to help Cambodia's poor children at Help the Cambodian Children.  Yoga at the Temple or Yoga (with Greg), Movies, Playstations & X-Box, or 3D Movies, Boule.  Run a Marathon.  Shoot some fireworks.  Health Shakes and Work Out.   Ride on the beach or jungle in a Fun Buggy, take your kids here on vacation,  Listen to Live Music.  Zipline and Rope Bridges,gambling, football (soccer) and that's about it.   SihanoukVille was a small resort town, but now is growing quickly.  Get here while you can!

 And don't forget shopping at the Central Market downtown!

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Money
The two official currencies of Cambodia are the Riel and US Dollar. Most small purchases are made in Cambodian Riel, and larger amounts (over a few dollars) are made in US currency. The current exchange rate is about 4,100 Cambodian Riel to one US dollar. You can exchange Thai Baht and Euros in some places as well. The banks all have VISA and Master Card withdrawal services, but check on withdrawal fees first if possible.   And then there's Western Union in an emergency.  Money can be transferred by phone within the country for a 50 cent or more fee.

Dollars, dollars, everywhere, but you can't spend them all. Be careful when accepting large bills, as there are a few counterfeits out there. Also be warned: U.S. dollars ($5 and up) with small rips, writing on the bill, or too old will not be accepted anywhere. Don't accept it from anyone, don't expect other people to take this money from you either. Cambodian currency, the Riel, can be torn, taped, or look like it was printed at Angkor Wat 1,000 years ago, and it's OK to use. Check out UCB Bank downtown. Also, Mekong Bank, Cambodian Public Bank, ACLEDA, Canadia Bank.  Cambodia Asia Bank is the only bank opened on Sundays, nights, and holidays.  
Next to them is Maybank, with the only no fee ATM in town.  You can find them downtown.  Some of these banks also have Western Union services. Recently, there've been a lot of ATM machines going in all over town as well.  Banks charge a fee up to $4 for ATM withdrawals.  Some charge 1%, or 2% fee, with a minimum of $2, and some charge more......so watch out.

Medical services
Medical services are very basic in SihanoukVille, and a bit better in Phnom Penh. Malaria is common in the jungles, but not in SihanoukVille.  Most all drugs can be purchased over the counter at dozens of pharmacies in town.   Chamroeun Chanlida Pharmacy has 2 locations and is the most Western in town.  The SihanoukVille Hospital is also open 24 hours, as are a couple dozen other clinics and hospitals.... Or you just might want to work out at the Fitness Resort and stay healthy!

Customs and Culture 
Cambodia is a Buddhist country.  Monks walk around in the morning, collecting food and money to maintain the Wats (Buddhist Temples).  Most people light incense in their homes and businesses in the evenings.  The Cambodian people are generally very polite and respectful, and expect the same in return.  The also joke a lot.  The Buddhist religion is very tolerant of all views.

If you have any problem or disagreement here, best to smile and speak quietly and politely.  Showing anger or disrespect is only likely to cause more trouble.

Holidays
Every week or three comes a yearly holiday.  Banks and government institutions are closed, but most other places are open for business.  In SihanoukVille, holidays (holiday schedule) are usually crowded with tourists from Phnom Penh.  If you see a holiday comes on a weekend, expect the following Monday to be a holiday as well.  Khmer's like to party like the rest of us.  Maybe even more!

Visas

You can get your Cambodian Visa at most overland borders and at the 2 international airports, (for citizens of most countries), if you don't have one already.  A tourist visa cost $30 (plus whatever else they can get out of you if you come in by land), and you must have 2 photos.  It's good for 30 days and can be renewed once, while you're in the country, for another 30 days at around $55.
 
Also, in SihanoukVille, you can get a visa for Vietnam within a day, and at the best price in the world.  Stop by Ana Internet & Travel for more information.

Electricity
The islands of SihanoukVille are primitive and unspoiled (for the moment).  There's no public electric here.  The bungalows and restaurants on the islands usually use a generator a few hours or more in the evening.   220 Volts.

Most businesses in town have a backup generator, and electricity works about 98% of the time here.

Police 
Police are everywhere in Cambodia.  But it's usually hard to find one when you need help.  Remember, if you want service, the $60 monthly salary of police doesn't cover all their cost.  If you need help, expect to pay for it.  

Telephone:
When calling Cambodia from overseas, the country extension is 855. Any phone number starting with a "0", you should not dial the "0" when calling from overseas.  When calling from within Cambodia, you can find public phone stands in a few places, and calls are usually 8 to 12 cents a minute.

You can get a tourist SIM card for about $2, and calls are 8 cents per minute, (less for international calls).  You can also get internet cards for 3GB of 3G data per month for only $5

Otherwise, calling overseas from Cambodia can be done a most internet shops. Calls usually are 12 cents and up per minute. Or just call from your internet phone on Wi-Fi, which is free in over 1,000 places here.

Driving
Tourists can drive bicycles, small 100cc motorcycles, big dirt bikes.  Traffic travels on the RIGHT side of the road, except when it doesn't, and there are very few laws that are actually enforced.  #1 is don't turn your headlights on in the daytime.  #2 seems to be if your a foreigner, you'll be stopped and ticketed.  Cambodian driver's licenses cost about $40, take 3-5 weeks (you do get a temporary license after a weeks), and require paperwork and a half dozen photos.  You'll also need your original driver's license.  While Cambodians don't seem to need licenses starting at 8 years old, foreigners are required to have one.  International Drivers Licenses apparently don't count.  Also, you must wear a motorcycle helmet when you're driving a motorcycle.  Beware of stopping at a red light, as you might get hit from behind.  Beware of going through a green light, as you might get sideswiped.  If the light is red and green at the same time, WATCH OUT.  If the stoplight is not working, it very well could be working in the other directions.  There are no stop signs here (there're 2 now, although one is installed backwards).  In general, BEWARE!  As a foreigner, you're at fault in almost every accident, regardless of who caused the accident.  And then there's the medical services (or lack thereof)

UPDATE! Watch out for the traffic light downtown that has green lights in both directions, then changes to no light in both directions.  Not funny!


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