Boating on Mekong River, touring on Tonle Sap Lake to visit floating villages or to watch birds, stop-over at Shihanoukville from an international cruise – Cambodia brings you a wide range of boat trip options.
The best time for boat trips in Cambodia falls between late August and November, before the dry season hits and the water of lakes and rivers ebbs out.
You should consider a boat ride for your Cambodia trip, especially if you have more than 5 days in the country.
- Visit the characteristic floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake
- Take a boat ride to go through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
- Have a tour on the river in Phnom Penh during sunset
- Have a different view of the country and its gorgeous nature
- Relax on a boat with all the comforts you need
Why take boat trips in Cambodia
Lakes and rivers are everywhere in Cambodia; water and fishing are a fundamental part of Khmer tradition and economy. So are boat rides.
Taking a boat is maybe the best way to enjoy an atmospheric journey: It takes you away from the crowded streets and gives you the chance to have a more relaxing experience, while enjoying the beautiful natural scenery. Boats run slowly; they are the perfect chance to relax, enjoy fresh fish, take stunning pictures and reach otherwise inaccessible places.
It is really easy to arrange a boat trip. The best thing you can do is to read what follows to get an idea about the different options you have and then choose the one you like the most.
Top boat trips in Cambodia
Boating in Cambodia is a fun thing to do. Different places bring you different experiences. Here are some of the top boat trips in the country, from the floating villages in Siem Reap to a cruise on the Mekong River.
Tonle Sap Lake boat trip from Siem Reap
Only 15 kilometers away from Siem Reap, Tonle Sap Lake is one of the largest lakes in Southeast Asia, home to many floating villages. Almost 3 million people live along the lake's banks, and their main occupation is fishing and agriculture. The villages have everything: schools, clinics, markets, basketball courts…
Take a boat from Siem Reap to visit the characteristic floating villages like Kampong Phluk, a cluster of three villages on stilted houses, surrounded by mangrove forest, or Prek Toal, home of a unique bird sanctuary.
Three thousand people live in Kampong Phluk, and their main activity is fishing. During the dry season, when the water level is low, it is possible to admire the hidden structure of the houses built on top of six meter high stilts.
Kampong Phluk remains relatively untouched by tourism. Visitors have a chance to join in the activities of a typical village — observing local villagers selling vegetables and fruit on the decks, enjoying local food on a stilted restaurant, and exploring the flooded mangrove forest.
If you love bird watching, Prek Toal is the place for you. It is on the banks of the Sangke River, 25km from Siem Reap and 80km from Battambang. Prek Toal is home to many water birds, such as the spot-billed pelican and the milk stork.
From December to February the amount of birds is impressive; when the water starts to dry up, the birds congregate there. Tours usually include transport, entrance fee, guides, breakfast, lunch and binoculars. You can admire the birds from some of the observation towers within the park.
Part of the entrance fee is donated to educational projects to raise awareness about the importance of the birds and of their habitat.
Boating in Phnom Penh
The boat ride goes up the Tonle Lap River and it usually takes 2 hours (pick-up is included).
The tour starts around 5 p.m., and you will be welcomed with a cocktail. After admiring the Royal Palace and the city skyline, the boat will take you towards Tonle Sap Lake for a tour among the floating villages, and then take its course on the Mekong River to admire Phnom Penh from afar.
After sunset, dinner is served on board. Having finished dinner, you will head towards the port. The skyline of the city in the dark is an amazing view, perfect to take some stunning pictures.
Mekong Delta Cruise in Vietnam and Cambodia
Mekong River, the 12th longest river in the world, is home to gorgeous nature and old Khmer villages, still untouched by industrialization.
A 4-day tour will start from Saigon around noon. You will travel on a wooden vessel with your own private and cozy cabin. The first stop is a village along the river, where you can meet friendly locals and try local products.
After spending the night cruising, you will get to Sa Dec for a tour of the city. Back on board, you will head towards the island of Cu Lao Gieng, home to an important Catholic monastery.
On the third day, the boat will stop in Chau Doc, where you can visit a floating fish farm and take a tour of the city.
On the last day you will be transferred to a speed boat for a ride to Phnom Penh.
International Cruise Stopover in Sihanoukville
Located in Southern Cambodia, Sihanoukville is a small city renowned for its night life and beautiful beaches.
Being on the Gulf of Thailand, the best way to explore this area is of course by boat. Outside the city, just one hour away by ferry, there are some amazing islands such as Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Ta Kiev – perfect to relax away from the crowds.
Many international cruises stop in Sihanoukville for one day or more. If you want to go around the city, rent a tuk tuk to explore it yourself or book a day tour with a private guide and car to enjoy the full arrangement. See more information on Sihanoukville shore excursions.
Cross-Border Cruises from Laos or Vietnam
For cross-border tours, we recommend a Vietnam-Cambodia or Laos-Cambodia cruise. Such a cruise will allow you to relax and enjoy the view of the gorgeous nature along the banks of Mekong River.
Some of the best companies are:
- Pandaw: it starts from Saigon and ends in Cambodia, running through wild nature and beautiful countryside. The comforts on the boat and the beautiful itinerary make it totally worth it.
- Avalon Waterways offers you a 20-day tour that starts from Ho Chi Minh and ends in Luan Pratang, going through Cambodia. A unique chance to visit the three countries on a boat.
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How to choose a boat trip
Choosing the right boat trip can be tricky; it depends on your time, the kind of experience you want to have, your budget, etc. Here are some general recommendations that can help you make a decision.
If you are staying in Siem Reap for more than 3 days, we recommend a boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake to the floating villages and the bird-sanctuaries. Kampong Khleang is the most distant village and it is still untouched, so it is the perfect place to have a genuine experience of the floating villages.
For a soft adventure or a special experience, we will recommend a fishing trip in Phnom Penh or a sunset cruise in Siem Reap. The rides don't last too long, and it is possible to have dinner on the boat. The sunset cruises are particularly nice; you will get the perfect sight of the skyline of the city.
Tips on boat tours in Cambodia
- Boat tours are difficult during dry season (March to May) – avoid that period.
- Before getting on a boat, make clear what you expect from the tour (lunch, destinations, prices, etc.).
- Avoid getting on a boat if it seems poorly maintained.
- During peak season, boats can be overbooked or packed with tourists. Plan accordingly.
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