Getting the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang (or vice versa!) is one of the best adventures you can have in Cambodia. Sure, it is likely to be a long and uncomfortable journey but the peek into authentic Cambodian life, far from the eyes of country counters, is something that should be on every intrepid traveller’s bucket list.
Transforming a four-hour overland journey to a potentially nine-hour boat trip may seem counterintuitive but I promise the extra hours are worth it. Undoubtedly one of my Southeast Asia travel highlights, I’ll share everything you need to know about embarking on this epic voyage, from what to expect, attractions en route and how to buy tickets.
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Boat from Siem Reap to Battambang, Cambodia
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Good to Know!
Siem Reap to Battambang Boat – Quick Stats
- 🕓 Journey Time: 5-9 hours
- 💰 Price: ~$30USD
- 🚤 Operators: Angkor Express and Chann Na (alternate days)
- 🚻 Facilities on Board: Toilet
- 🔴 Number of Stops: One official lunch stop
- ✅ Inclusions: Transport to the pier in Siem Reap from accommodation and boat trip
- 🛻 Pick-up: Your accommodation
- ➡️ Departure Point: Chong Khneas Pier, Siem Reap
- ⬅️ Arrival Point: Battambang outskirts
Best Time to Take Siem Reap/Battambang Boat
August to February is the best time to take the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang. While boats run to and from Battambang all year, the water levels of Tonlé Sap Lake drop massively between February and the end of June, meaning that boats can get stuck and journey time will be longer.
What to Expect from Taking the Boat From Siem Reap to Battambang
Before my water voyage to Battambang, I had read a lot of bad stuff about the boat trip. If you’re in the same boat as me (see what I did there?), never fear. I’ll share exactly what you need to know about this must-do journey and hopefully help you conquer your internet-borne fears!
The journey from Siem Reap begins at the Chong Khneas Pier. This is where boat trips to the Chong Khneas floating village depart. While a day trip here is undoubtedly one of the most popular options offered in Siem Reap, travellers report that visiting feels a bit voyeuristic and a lot like a tourist trap. Far better is a trip to Kompong Khleang, one of the largest communities on Tonlé Sap River.
However, if you really want to see how these floating village communities live without the guise of a tour, hop on the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang. The route weaves its way past the floating villages in Tonlé Sap Lake and through those along the Sangkae River. On the journey, you’ll get to pass through the Khum Koh Chiveang village, where tours are not offered to visitors.
Prepare for a fascinating cultural experience, where children wave gleefully at tourists, the boat transports the local post and the drivers barter over the cost of bags of snakes. If you are concerned that a tour around one of the floating villages is too touristy, skip the curated experiences and hop onboard the Siem Reap-Battambang boat.
Owing to the burgeoning popularity of the slow boat from Thailand to Laos, it would be easy to assume that this is a boat crammed to the brim with tourists. While it is certainly used by travellers, the boats which travel the Battambang to Siem Reap route act as hop-on hop-off transport options for the locals, who use them to journey from floating village to village.
While you’re on board, keep an eye out for crocodiles kept in cages under the houses, exotic birds food crawling on the river banks and traditional fishing taking place just a stone’s throw from your boat. This trip is seriously scenic!
One thing to bear in mind is that while I 100% recommend this trip for anyone wanting to see a less touristy side of Cambodia, it is not the most comfortable journey. You will be sitting on hard plastic seats or wooden benches, exposed to the sun for hours on end. The narrow waterways mean that getting scratched by bushes or dodging incoming debris are part and parcel of the journey. Despite this, if you can endure the discomfort – you’ll be sure to have an amazing experience.
Is the Boat from Siem Reap to Battambang Safe?
After reading as much information as I could get my hands on during my time in Siem Reap, I’ll admit that I was pretty concerned about safety on board these boats. I had read about a systematic lack of life jackets and overcrowding.
Of course, I can only speak to my personal experience but the boat I travelled on was far from overcrowded – in fact, it was quite roomy! Travellers were able to bag a seat on one of the benches or head up to the roof for another perspective. Some people even managed to catch some shut-eye lying down on the benches! Life jackets were arranged at the back of the boat and we had enough to go around all the passengers and crew.
I had read that the boats break down a lot which can massively increase journey time. On our boat trip in December, we didn’t have a single technical issue and completed the journey in around six hours. Despite this, my tuk tuk driver said that someone he had picked up the day before arrived at 3.30 pm, a full hour and a half later than I did due to a breakdown. Factor this into your travel plans just in case.
Top Tips for Taking the Boat from Siem Reap to Battambang
1. Book a Ticket a Day in Advance
It is easy to buy your boat ticket from many of the accommodation options in Siem Reap or online from Angkor Express. If your hostel/hotel advertises bus tickets, they are likely to sell boat tickets too. It is recommended to book the boat a day or two in advance, especially during the peak tourist season.
2. Bring Snacks
Owing to the pick-up time (which is likely to be somewhere between 6.30 and 7.30 am depending on the Siem Reap neighbourhood you’re based in), you may not get time for breakfast. There is a lunch stop en route but this is halfway through the journey. It is worth bringing some snacks for the trip.
3. Use the Toilets on Land When Possible
There is a toilet at the pier and another (rustic squat option) at the lunch restaurant. While there is a toilet onboard the boat, I wouldn’t recommend using it if you can help it!
4. Carry Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitiser
Don’t expect there to be soap or toilet paper in any of the toilets. Bring your own so you don’t get caught out!
5. Sit at the Front
The engine noise at the back of the boat is pretty intense, therefore I recommend sitting towards the front of the boat or bringing earplugs. There is also the option to grab a space on the rooftop to be away from the engine but beware, there are no safety rails and the crew only let passengers ascend the stairs once the boat is moving! If you head up there, prepare to lose your seat downstairs!
6. Lather up the Sunscreen
The boat has open sides and the journey is mostly exposed, especially for the travellers sitting on the roof. Make sure to use sun cream with a high SPF and lather up regularly to avoid burning. It is also worth wearing a sunhat.
7. Don’t Be Late for Departure
You will likely be told that the boat leaves at 7 am but this is not always true, despite what your ticket might say. Pick-up from your accommodation will likely be later than you are told (this is Southeast Asia after all)! The boats offered by Chann Na depart around 8 am. They operate the route on alternate days to Angkor Express (who claim to depart at 7.30 am).
8. Wear Sunglasses
Some of the waterways are very narrow and twigs and bugs will fly into the boat, often with some velocity! To avoid getting anything in your eyes, glasses act as good barrier protection. Trust me, some of these insects slap when they boomerang towards you!
9. Take Water
You might not be doing much but just existing in Cambodia’s extreme heat is thirsty work. Make sure to stay hydrated.
10. Carry Small Change
The boat drops passengers on the outskirts of Battambang city, around 12km away. Unless your accommodation includes pick-up (some do so make sure to check in advance if you already have a booking), you will need to barter with one of the many tuk tuk drivers to get to the centre.
Trips to the centre in a tuk tuk will likely cost somewhere between $3-5USD. If you try to break a big note, either on the journey or in the restaurant at the halfway point, you will likely be unsuccessful – make sure you are carrying some change beforehand.
Alternative Way to Get From Siem Reap to Battambang (Bus)
If you’ve read all of this and are not completely sold on the boat option, I have either failed or you are visiting during the dry season. I am going to choose to believe it’s the latter option. In this instance, you will still need to get to Battambang.
The alternative option for making the journey to Battambang is to travel by bus. Bus tickets can be purchased at most accommodation options in Siem Reap and the journey tends to take around four hours.
Mekong Express and Sapaco Transport both operate along the route and tickets vary from around $8-12USD depending on where you buy them. There are several morning departures available. Check 12Go Asia for the latest timetables and to buy tickets.
Siem Reap/Battambang Boat – Is it Worth It?
The boat journey from Siem Reap to Battambang is not comfortable or luxurious. However, if it was, everyone would be doing it! If you are happy to ‘rough it’ a little, you’ll be rewarded in spades. Smiling children, off-the-beaten-track floating villages and some of the best scenery anywhere in the country make this a journey well worth taking.
Ultimately, no one wants to hear about the time you had a great swim in the hotel pool. They do want to hear about the time your boat driver paused the trip to haggle over a bag full of snakes (and appeared to get a bag of toads thrown in as part of the deal…). I know which story I’d rather tell.
Have you journeyed from Battambang to Siem Reap by boat? We’d love you to share your experience with us in the comments!