Battambang scenery

Battambang, Cambodia

The enchanting Cambodian city of Battambang, pronounced ‘Battambong’, is often overlooked by travellers, who either skip it entirely or briefly visit for a whistle-stop tour. But stay for a few days and you’ll discover the hidden charms the city has to offer. 

Whether you need to recover from the debauchery of Siem Reap’s Pub Street, want to chill and drink Khmer coffee in one of the many cafés, or fancy riding the touristy yet fun Bamboo Railway, Battambang has something for everyone.

Described by good-humoured locals as ‘sticky’, Battambang is a place many people struggle to leave. Strike up a conversation with any ‘barang’ (foreigner) around town and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you the same story: they arrived for a few days and are still here months on, teaching, volunteering or having set up a local business.


Backpacking Battambang, Cambodia – Travel Guide

Battambang Map & Resources

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Best Time to Visit Battambang

The best time to visit Battambang, Cambodia, is from November to January, in the dry season. With average daytime temperatures of 33ºC, it is hot but not too humid. Although Cambodia is not as impacted as other Southeast Asian countries by the burning season, slash-and-burn farming happens in the areas around Battambang during February. If you have any respiratory issues such as asthma, it is worth avoiding this time of year. 

River views, Battambang
Battambang is a beautiful spot year-round.

Also read: When Should I Visit Cambodia?


Where To Stay in Battambang 

Battambang has become increasingly popular in recent years, however, compared to other Cambodian destinations it remains relatively under-visited. The increase in traveller numbers has led to a range of places to stay cropping up, with options to suit any visitor and budget. 

The bustling market, coffee shops and best restaurants are all based on the river’s west bank in the city centre, and this is where several of the most popular hotels are based. 

Battambang
Most people choose to stay in the city centre.

If you’re looking to experience a more local side of Battambang, opt to stay a little further out.  There are a couple of well-rated homestays close to the Bat Cave and around the outskirts of the city. Bear in mind that while these options present a more local experience, they will mean travelling to the city centre via tuk tuk or braving a long walk in the Cambodian sun. 


Best Accommodation in Battambang, Cambodia 

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Pomme Hostel

Incredibly cheap digs which offer private sleeping quarters for up to two people, Pomme Hostel is an example of everything backpacker accommodation should be. The rooms themselves are basic yet clean and come with AC. The bar/restaurant area downstairs is a great place to hang out and Pomme even produces its own craft beer – the IPA is strong and tasty! The hostel offers a range of tours around Battambang which we highly recommend! 

Pomme Hostel, Battambang
An early morning shot of Pomme Hostel before the backpackers wake up!

Top Tip!

When booking a tour through Pomme, go for the inclusive option. It’s a little bit more expensive but includes all entry fees, as well as local food and drink (including beer!) throughout the day. The Banh Chao is a must and we would never have found the restaurant on our own!

O’Hamok Homestay

Located in a residential area of Battambang, O’Hamok Homestay is the place to bed down if you want to see a more local side of Cambodia’s second city. The accommodation comes in the form of traditional Khmer housing on stilts. The kind and friendly French/Khmer owners can help you book tours and show you the ‘real’ Battambang. 

Cambana La Rivière Hotel

Those in search of a luxury stay in Battambang need look no further than Cambana La Rivière Hotel. Offering a range of elegant suites, you’ll stay in comfort here. The outdoor swimming pool is incredibly inviting after a dusty day spent in the back of a tuk tuk and the staff are all courteous and kind. It is located in a quiet area outside the centre, however, you can access the middle of the city either on foot or by tuk tuk. 

The Place Hostel and Rooftop Bar

If you’re looking for a hostel with that ‘Instagram’ feel, The Place Hostel is it. Both the dorms and private rooms are cool and comfortable, and the latter offers plenty of space for couples. The rooftop bar cum restaurant is a definite highlight but the WiFi is pretty lacklustre in most of the building (excluding the rooftop), making streaming your evening entertainment or clocking up hours at your desk a frustrating affair. 

The Place Hostel, Battambang
The rooftop bar at the Place Hostel gets busy in the evenings.

Family Bat Cave Homestay

If you are looking for a rural base surrounded by rice fields and jungle, the Family Bat Cave Homestay is a great option. You’ll stay with Saro and his family who can introduce you to the real Cambodia! Stilted wooden huts provide accommodation which feels a world away from the tourist-centric hostels in the centre. It is around a 30-minute drive from the middle of the city, however, the Bat Cave and the Killing Cave are accessible on foot. 


Things To Do in Battambang:

1. Explore on Two Wheels

Whether you want to meander through the countryside on your own or join one of the many bike tours on offer, Battambang is best seen by bicycle. Several places rent bikes for a couple of dollars a day, or you can hire slightly more rugged mountain bikes from Kinyei coffee shop on Street 1 1/2 (one road up from the river, just south of the market) for approx. $5USD a day.

Cycling in Battambang
The roads make cycling a great way to experience the city and its surroundings.

If you want to learn more about the countryside, both Soksabike and Pomme Tour offer guided bike rides, where you will get the opportunity to learn how the locals live, sample locally produced food and drink, and get out into the countryside.

2. Visit the Killing Caves of Phnom Samphou 

About 11km outside Battambang town centre is a mountain, home to the Killing Caves of Phnom Samphou, and the Bat Cave. The Killing Caves, an execution site used during the Cambodian Genocide, are about two-thirds of the way up the mountain.

Killing Cave memorial
A visit to the Killing Cave is emotional but important.

While it is possible to get here independently, it is well worth visiting with a guide who can explain the history of the caves and provide more information about life under the Khmer Rouge. Expect a visit with a local guide to be harrowing and personal. 

3. Marvel at the Bats 

Battambang’s Bat Cave is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area. Every day around dusk an estimated seven million bats leave the cave, forming a continuous ribbon that weaves through the skies against a sunset backdrop. 

Bat Cave, Battambang
This nightly spectacle is an absolute must!

While it is possible to observe the spectacle from the bottom of Phnom Samphou with a beer in hand, it is far better to head to an observation point. There is a great one marked on maps.me which offers countryside views. If you are visiting as part of a tour, your tuk tuk driver will likely know the place. Entrepreneurial locals head up the mountain to sell ice-cold beers to waiting backpackers. 

The whole spectacle lasts somewhere between 30-45 minutes. It is touristy but well worth seeing – especially for nature enthusiasts. Don’t forget your mosquito repellent!

4. Visit the Human Gallery

Run by humanitarian photographer Joseba Etxebarria, the Human Gallery showcases a range of photographs taken by him during his 12-year cycling trip around the world in aid of human rights (60,000 km, 35 countries, 4 continents). 

Prints of many photos are available for purchase with 20% of the proceeds directly financing the Wing for the Future project. This charity provides several of the children in the local area with access to education to keep them from being exploited.

Visitors to the gallery are greeted by the photographer himself who has a truly inspiring story to share. Prints make ideal gifts for those back home. Alternatively, you can leave a donation in the box. 

5. Watch a Circus Performance at Phare Ponleu Selpak 

Battambang’s circus school, Phare Ponleu Selpak offers training in circus skills, art and music to local students. Performances (with an art exhibition) take place three or four times a week, showcasing the exceedingly talented performers’ skills. Many students go on to perform in the Siem Reap Phare circus and even internationally when they leave. 

Circus, Battambang
The circus will leave you open-mouthed!

Visit the official website for up-to-date show times. Tickets cost around $16USD per person (for foreigners) and are well worth it. In my opinion, this is one of the best things you can do in Cambodia!

6. See a Traditional Khmer House

The village of Wat Kor is home to several traditional Khmer houses, built in the early 20th Century. Located south of Battambang town along the river, the houses are a little hard to find so it can be easier to get here by tuk tuk if you don’t have a local guide.

Traditional House
The traditional houses are designed to be cool at night.

The only English-speaking owner in the village is called Yee Sarith, who will explain the history of his home, which was built in 1906 and finished in 1907. Some traditional houses in Wat Kor also offer homestays, which can be arranged with them directly. Donations are asked for from visitors.

7. Ride the Bamboo Train

Battambang’s most touristy tourist attraction, the Bamboo Train is an old-fashioned railway track complete with moving bamboo platform. Reaching speeds of up to 15kmph, there is only one line so incoming trains will need to be dismantled to let others pass before being reassembled – a surreal experience.  A return trip takes around 40 minutes. 

Bamboo train 2
It might be touristy but it sure is fun!

It costs around $5USD to ride the Bamboo Train, however, if you are visiting on a tour this cost may be included, make sure to double-check exactly what the inclusions are beforehand. Be aware that the store owners where the train terminates are quite persistent when it comes to selling their wares. 

To Tour or Not to Tour?

While many travellers like to visit the main attractions of a place independently, this is the most expensive way to do things in Battambang. A half-day tour via tuk tuk is likely to cost around $15USD (prices are for tuk tuk hire, not per person), however, it is worth bearing in mind that this is unlikely to include entrance fees, drinks or food. Attractions include the Bamboo Train, Killing Cave, Killing Fields and the opportunity to see how rice paper is made. The same tour through an agency which includes entrance fees, food and drink (often beer!) will cost around $30USD per person. You’ll also be paired with an English-speaking tuk tuk driver. 

8. Join a Yoga Class

The Fringe offer yoga classes five times a week in their upstairs studio. Bag your space in advance via their Facebook page. They sometimes offer special deals on food for those who have just attended a class. 

9. Do a Cooking Class

If you’re yet to embark on a Cambodian cooking class, don’t miss Nary Kitchen. Costing around $12.50USD per person and lasting around three hours, you’ll learn how to cook four Cambodian dishes and take a trip to the local market to buy ingredients. Vegetarians and vegans can be catered for and participants get a cookbook in English/French as a souvenir.  Organise at your accommodation or just turn up. 

Food in Khmer Kitchen Siem Reap
Fancy your hand at trying out a few local recipes?

10. Enjoy Sunset at the Classy Hotel

The best place to see the sunset in town is from the Classy Hotel and Spa alongside the river. While the hotel itself is expensive, they welcome outside guests as long as they buy a drink in the rooftop bar. What can we say… it’s a hardship!

City views Classy Hotel
We had one too many drinks and forgot to photograph the sunset…

11. Volunteer at an NGO

There are several NGOs in and around Battambang which accept international volunteers. Khmer New Generation Organisation is a popular option who are always looking for teachers to assist with their English language classes. Bear in mind that you will need to commit for at least a month. 

12. Temple Hop

There are loads of temples in and around Battambang which vary in levels of splendour. If you embark on a full-day tour of the city, you will likely be taken to a few of them. Wat Damrey Sar Temple is the most famous of these. Keep an eye out for the signage which tells you how much each family has donated to get a pillar or stupa in their honour.  

Temple sights 1
One of the many temples in Battambang.

13. Maybe Don’t Visit the Crocodile Farm… 

Tuk tuk drivers will constantly offer you the opportunity to take a trip to the nearby crocodile farm. Located a few kilometres to the north of Battambang, this farm is home to hundreds of crocodiles which are all tightly packed in. For a price, they also let visitors hold baby crocs. If you love animals, avoid this place. 


Food and Drink in Battambang

When it comes to street food in Battambang, there are plenty of places to try the local cuisine. There are two night markets packed with food stalls; the original sits on the northeast corner of Psar Nath and the new night market is across the road next to the river. If you’re exploring the surrounding countryside, keep an eye out for the local vendors selling local savoury treats – like barbecued rats. Yum!

Battambang has one of the most thriving coffee shop cultures you’ll come across in Asia. Many restaurants and coffee shops are also either part of an NGO or a social enterprise, providing training and qualifications for those who work there. 

Pomme Hostel – The bar/restaurant located on the bottom floor of this popular hostel offers a selection of Western and Asian dishes at reasonable prices. They also hold nightly events such as a BBQ evening and pub quiz throughout the week. Don’t miss the craft beer here. 

Craft beer Pomme
It’s beer o’clock!

Kinyei Café – The baristas here are some of the best in Cambodia, proven by the national awards they have won over recent years. Try their specialty, the ‘street latte’. Free WiFi is available here and they are no stranger to remote workers. The light bites are also tasty. 

Lan Chov Khorko Miteanh – Known locally as ‘Chinese Noodle’, this is the place to get your dumpling and noodle fix in the city. Offering Lanzhou cuisine, the hand-pulled noodles are delicious and there are plenty of veggie options. 

The River – This alfresco riverside restaurant is very popular with the locals. They offer a range of Khmer dishes at affordable prices and have an English menu. The Lok Lak was my personal favourite. Avoid the salad dishes which have likely been washed using tap water. Travel belly is a real thing and can ruin your trip!

Lok Lak
Trust me when I say, this was delicious!

Getting Around Battambang

Battambang’s city centre is very walkable, meaning that high-quality food and drink are just a stone’s throw away. If the sun is beating down too hard, tuk tuks are available for short journeys. 

Most of the famous sights in Battambang e.g. Bamboo Train, Bat Cave etc. are located out of the city centre. The best way to access these is by tuk tuk or remork (bike with trailer also called tuk tuks), however, you will likely find it works out better value for money to hop on a half day or full day tour instead. 

Bicycles and motorbikes are also popular ways to travel around the city. Bicycles are available from Soksabike located in Kinyei coffee shop and cost around $2USD a day to rent (mountain bikes cost around $5USD per day). Countless places across the city rent scooters, including many accommodation options. Costs vary depending on where you go but you’ll usually pay in the region of around $7USD per day. Prices usually include a helmet. 

Tuk tuk
Tuk tuk is the best way to travel around the city.

How to Get to Battambang

Buses leave for Battambang from Phnom Penh regularly and take between 5 and 6 hours (cost approx. $10USD). Minibuses are also available for a quicker and more comfortable journey. We recommend Virak Buntham. 

If you’re coming from Siem Reap, you can catch a bus (journey time approx. 4 hours, costs approx. $8-12USD). They leave several times a day. 

For a more adventurous journey, jump on the Siem Reap/Battambang boat. While more expensive than the bus at close to $30USD for a one-way trip, the journey showcases incredible scenery through the floating villages of the Sangkao River and Tonlé Sap Lake. Journey times can vary from around 5-9 hours depending on the season and the number of breakdowns en route. Only for adventurous travellers!


Where To Go Next:

Siem Reap: Home to the jewel in Cambodia’s crown, Angkor Wat. This epic religious complex is the largest in the world and no trip to Cambodia is complete without it. Once you’re templed out, head to Pub Street where you can relax with a few cheeky beers. When it costs less than a dollar for a glass, it would be rude not to!

Koh Kong: While some hostels offer bus tickets to Koh Kong, there is currently no direct route using public transport, meaning you’ll need to transfer in Phnom Penh. However, if you’re travelling with your own wheels or happy to split the cost of a taxi, it is possible to travel on the new road via Osoam. Koh Kong is the gateway to the Cardamon Mountains and amazing trekking awaits you here. There is also a beautiful off-the-beaten-track beach escape if you’re looking to escape the hustle for a few days.

 Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s capital is just a 5-hour minibus ride away. Head here for visa extensions and to learn more about the country’s harrowing history with a visit to the Killing Fields or S21 Prison.


Contributors:

South East Asia Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank…

🙏 Bopha and Jonny | Pomme Hostel
🙏 Brian Stone
🙏 Mr Tony Tuk Tuk
🙏 Kaleigh Vic
e
🙏 Brenda Conybeare
🙏 Staff | Noni Tree Hostel

Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South East Asia Backpacker + Winging The World

Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind Winging The World, a blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks. In recent years, Sheree has also taken on the role of editor at South East Asia Backpacker.

Find her on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

4 thoughts on “Battambang, Cambodia”

  1. BCause you been to the new one, next to banan temple…
    Ask for The traditional, it is better and the money goes to the village around…

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