Battambang Travel Guide 2017
Information for backpackers in Battambang, Cambodia
Why Visit Battambang?
Battambang is an awesome but often-overlooked tourist destination in northwestern Cambodia. It may not have the metropolitan buzz of Phnom Penh or the splendor of Angkor Wat, but it is the country’s second-largest city. Most backpackers who do the typical loop through Cambodia skip it, which makes it all the more rewarding for those who do take the time to venture off the beaten path. If that sounds like your kind of thing, this Battambang Travel Guide will help you start planning your visit.
Battambang was established in the 18th century as a trading centre. At the time, Battambang’s 2500 residents all lived on a road that ran parallel to the Sangkae river. The Abhaiwongse family from Siam governed over the town from its establishment until 1907, when it was colonized by the French.
The French devloped Battambang into an urban centre, complete with structures like markets and villa-style homes that are still standing today. The town has grown into a modern provincial capital. Today this is the most developed part of Cambodia, with great schools and universities. The Battambang area is also known for leading Cambodia in rice production.
The most common way to reach Battambang is by bus from Bangkok or Siem Reap. National highways connect the town to other major Cambodian cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The Battambang bus station is located about 3km away from the city centre. Buses are not allowed to enter any further into the city, but visitors can easily find a tuk-tuk to take them to their hotel or destination. Many companies also offer minivan services to and from the bus stop, if you’re looking to travel in a bit more style.
The great thing about Battambang is that it’s quite compact, so it’s easy to explore on foot. You can also rent a bicycle from your hotel or a rental shop for as little as $1 USD per day. Motorcycles can also be hired, for a bit more. In popular tourist areas it’s also no trouble to find a tuk-tuk. If you’re trying to cross the river at the market front, small boats rent out rides for a minimal fee.
Where to Stay in Battambang
There are many budget accommodation options in Battambang that are perfect for backpackers. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Battambang My Homestay. This guesthouse promises peaceful, welcoming stay that matches the tranquil setting of Battambang itself. It’s located just a few minutes from the centre of town. The owners will go out of their way to help you during your stay. The traditional Khmer breakfast is apparently amazing!
- Hostel BTB Cambodia. This is where you’ll find the other backpackers who’ve made their way to Battambang. The hostel will help you find the lowest rate possible for whatever tours you want to do during your stay. They have a bar and restaurant and an outdoor patio, all great places to meet people.
- Ganesha Family Guesthouse. This family-run guesthouse in the heart of town has both dorms and private rooms. They put on weekly events like a pool tournament and a Sunday barbeque. You’ll be well taken care of while you explore Battambang.
Things to do in Battambang
- Eat. Khmer cuisine blends with French and Western expat influences in Battambang, with some uniquely delicious results. The ingredients are fresh and local, and the vibe is cheap and low-key. Try Jaan Bai, a social enterprise restaurant with delicious, organic dishes, or Jewel in the Lotus, a bar/restaurant/arts venue in a beautifully restored colonial shophouse.
- Ride “Norry,” the famous Bamboo Train. Scheduled trains are rare on the railway line that passes Battambang, but the locals have fashioned a bamboo cart that they use to ferry themselves, rice, and livestock between villages. You can hop on board for a bumpy but memorable tour of the lush Cambodian countryside.
- See the circus at Phare Ponle Selpak. Phare Ponle Selpak, or “The Brightness of the Arts,” is a Cambodian non-profit that helps at-risk children and families through art, education, and social programs. The Battambang circus school is one of those programs, and the most advanced students put on professional performances that will blow your mind. Admission fees are used to support PPS’s programs in the community.
- Rent a bike. Rental rates are quite reasonable (between $1 and $4 for the day), so bicycling is an affordable way to explore the city. Battambang’s streets are refreshingly uncongested (something you’ll appreciate if you’re coming from one of Asia’s busier cities). Once you’ve seen enough of the city, we’d suggest following the river out of town. You’ll pass through smaller villages and see lots of smiling faces.
- Relax! The best thing about Battambang is its chilled-out atmosphere. Spend a lazy day by the water, linger over a meal with locals, or find a hammock and catch up on some reading. Battambang is a great place to slow down and experience the pace of daily life in Cambodia.
Helpful articles and blog posts on Battambang:
We only recommend writers and blogs that we read regularly and believe will deliver substantial value to our readers. The following are our top picks for articles we think are worth reading for you to get more information about Battambang:
- 7 Reasons to Visit Battambang by Olivia Rawes for Rough Guides
- A Weekend in Battambang by Alex in Wanderland
- What to do in Battambang, Cambodia by Travel with a Mate
- Battambang by Nicky Sullivan for Travelfish
- 5 Essential Things to do in Battambang, Cambodia by Emiel Van Den Boomen for Act of Traveling
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