Why go to Sihanoukville?
Free shuttles are provided between the port and town center, and there are idyllic beaches nearby
Street hawkers and beggars are in the area and the port is not safe to walk at night
It's an industrial port with tuk tuks and taxis available to the southern beach resorts
Sihanoukville Cruise Port Facilities?
There's really nothing worth walking to from the port. It's about a five-minute walk to the entrance gate, and the few nearby businesses appear targeted to local dock workers. Sihanoukville town is about a 10-minute drive inland, southeast of the port. The beaches are all south and southeast of the port. There's a fair amount of sprawl (casinos, huge wedding banquet halls, budget lodgings) that will likely someday fill in any empty spots between downtown and the beaches.
Good to Know?
At beaches and temples, you'll likely encounter children begging or selling little trinkets. They can be charming and engaging, but international nonprofits advise that you should never buy from them or give them money, because if their begging is profitable, they won't be allowed to attend school. Rather, give to a charity like The Cambodian Children's Painting Project (see "Best Souvenir" section above), which helps kids get an education.
There have been some reports of tourist robberies in the Sihanoukville area. Don't carry a lot of cash, and consider wearing a money belt. Don't tempt drive-by motorbike thieves by carrying a purse.
If you're on foot in Sihanoukville town, be on alert for drivers who don't follow traffic rules, and should you leave the ship for an overland trip, be aware that the road to Phnom Penh (three to four hours away) has seen lots of accidents.
But bad driving doesn't stop at the water's edge. Several tourist deaths have been attributed to unsafe Jet Ski drivers, so be careful when you go for a swim.
Now that we've thoroughly scared you, know that you should also be on the lookout for the Cambodian smile, which is friendly and welcoming -- as are most Cambodians.
On Foot: Nope, don't do it. Cambodia can be extremely hot, and there's noting of note within easy walking distance of the port.
By Shuttle: Free shuttles typically operate between the port and Sihanoukville town; check with your ship's staff for details and timing. The shuttle drop-off point is across from the main market.
By Taxi and Tuk-tuk: There will be a pack of taxi drivers, tuk-tuk operators and motorcycle-taxi drivers waiting outside the port gates. Negotiate fiercely, and make sure you and the driver can understand each other. We got an all-day taxi with an English-speaking driver for $20 (and liked him so much that we tipped an extra $5).
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
U.S. dollars are universally accepted. In fact, when you use an ATM, it surprisingly spits out dollars. Euros and Thai baht are also accepted by many establishments. Just be aware that even a small tear in a U.S. dollar renders it useless, so don't accept any bills as change that are damaged if you intend to use them there. You may receive some small change in the local currency, the riel, so for current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. There are several banks with ATM's along Ekareach Street, the main commercial hub of Sihanoukville town. Near Serendipity Beach, there's also an ANZ Bank ATM in front of the Golden Sands Hotel on Tola Street, plus other stand-alone ATM's in various locations. Higher-end restaurants and resorts generally accept credit cards, but be prepared to pay cash elsewhere.
You'll do fine with English at higher-end resorts and the many local restaurants run by expats. Some enterprising taxi drivers have also studied English. Chat up any potential driver to make sure you'll be able to understand each other. When it comes to shopping, non-English-speaking sellers will likely whip out a calculator or cell phone to propose a price. Children hustling for a handout are some of the most astonishing linguists we've ever encountered, able to hit you up in five or six different tongues.
The country's official language is Khmer, a term which also refers to the country's ethnic majority. In Khmer, "hello" is Sew sadday. To say "thank you," tell someone, Awk koun. Khmer isn't tonal, so it's a bit easier than Thai or Laotian. Written Khmer is based on an Indian script, so it's artistic-looking but indecipherable. Fortunately, most relevant signs in Sihanoukville are also written in Roman letters.