Battambang is small and the center is easy to navigate by foot. If you want to venture farther afield, motodups are plentiful until after 8pm when you might consider hiring one for the duration of the evening to save the hassle of tracking one down on the dark and leafy outskirts.
The city runs along both banks of the Sangker River north to south. The city center and pretty much everything you need is on the west bank. The only three numbered streets in the city run parallel to the river. These are the blindingly complicated Street 1 (by the river), Street 2 (the first parallel), and Street 3 (the second parallel). All run from the two-lane crossroad near the post office and the Teo hotel to Phsar Nath (the "Meeting Market"). Street 3 is the town's main street with shops (an incredibly high proportion of which are devoted to mobile phones), hotels, and restaurants. Phsar Nath is very much the town hub. Banks and travel agents are all situated around here. There is a cluster of hotels around this area and an increasing number of tourist-focused eateries.
To the south of the central district and largely hugging the river are a number of administrative and municipal offices and some glorious colonial-era villas on leafy grounds.
On the east bank of the river there a number of hotels and restaurants on the old route NH#5, heading toward the main road that takes you to Phnom Penh.
Crossing the river south to north are the "New Iron Bridge" and the "Old Stone Bridge" (which is actually concrete and restricted to motorcycles and pedestrians), both linking up with Old NH#5 taking you to the main Phnom Penh Road. There's also the "Old Iron Bridge" linking the east bank directly to the center of town and the "New Stone Bridge" linking the north end of town to the main road to Phnom Penh via the new NH#5. In reality, it doesn't matter too much where you cross, since most roads on the east side will take you to the Dambong Roundabout and all other roads radiate out from there, and on the west side the grid system is simple to navigate both north and south.
By Plane -- There are no flights to Battambang at present, although the airport is still there and this may change. Until relatively recently there were flights to and from Phnom Penh on decaying prop planes run by a number of fairly dubious outfits. Those companies are no more and it does not seem to be in any airline's financial interest to run the route at present.
By Boat -- Daily ferries leave in each direction to and from Siem Reap at 7am. This is becoming a major tourist draw in Cambodia. The fare is $19 to $25 per person. It's a beautiful, 7- to 9-hour journey across the Tonle Sap and along the Sangker River in the wet season, but can take a lot longer in the dry season due to low water levels -- rarely under 8 hours at any time of year. Passengers also get dropped off along the way and the stops can slow up the trip. Ask about current conditions. The boats are not incredibly safe but it's not far to swim to the bank in a worst-case scenario, and the water is mostly quite shallow. It can become very uncomfortable on the wooden seats after many hours, so bring a cushion. There is no direct boat to Battambang from Phnom Penh.
By Bus -- The road from Battambang to Siem Reap around the west side of the lake is now finally in excellent condition the entire way. It takes about 4 to 5 hours. Bus companies running the route are Neak Krorhorm, Mekong Express, and Rith Mony. There are frequent air-conditioned buses daily. Tickets can be bought from the company offices for $4 or $5, just north of Psar Nath on Rte. 5.
In the past, the 291km (180-mile) journey from Battambang to Phnom Penh on Rte. 5 was fearsomely bumpy -- today it is superb. Several bus companies (including Phnom Penh Sorya, GST, Neak Krorhorm, Mekong Express, and Capitol Tours) run frequent daily buses between Phnom Penh and Battambang. The first bus leaves at 6:30am and the last at 2:30 or 3pm. It costs 17,000 riel to 20,000 riel and the trip takes 5 hours. In Battambang, buses depart from the various different transportation company offices around town.
By Taxi -- From Siem Reap, a private taxi to Battambang costs $40 to $50 and takes 3 to 4 hours. A shared taxi will be $7. From Phnom Penh, a taxi all to yourself costs $35 to $45. A seat in a shared taxi costs 25,000 riel per person and the ride takes 4 hours. Be aware that they cram in the riders.
Making Your Shared Taxi Bearable -- For more comfort, pay double and keep the whole front seat to yourself. You won't regret it.
As with most other towns in Cambodia, your choices include the cheery motodup, renting a car with a driver, or renting out a motorcycle (without a driver). Your hotel can arrange either a car with a driver or a motorcycle. Cars cost around $20 per day and motorcycles rent from $5 to $8 per day. The motodups are everywhere during the day, but seem to evaporate at night. If you are going any distance for the evening it may be a good idea to hire a motodup for the evening at about $5. A ride in town should range 500 riel to 1500 riel, while crossing a bridge to the east bank hikes up the fare. Double those rates at night. Many hotels rent out bicycles for $1.50 a day. There are now tuk-tuks in Battambang, and if there are a few of you they make a sensible alternative to the motodup convoy.
An Evil Harvest
The war may have officially come to an end in Cambodia in 1998, but its legacy lives on and continues to claim the lives and limbs of ordinary Cambodians every day. During the years of conflict, all sides used land mines indiscriminately. They didn't keep maps of where the minefields were laid, and when the war ended vast swathes of the country were left littered with these murderous devices. Most of the minefields are around the border areas with Thailand, where offensives ebbed and flowed throughout the '80s and '90s. Once the war finished, many desperately poor families moved to these areas to claim land and to farm. The fact that the fields presented the ever-present possibility of setting off unexploded ordinance was seen as the lesser of two evils. There have been 63,000 recorded injuries and deaths due to land mines since 1979. Thousands of Cambodians now live as amputees, one of the highest rates in the world. Thousands more again simply have died in the bush, too far from help to make it through. Some 38% of injuries result from people tampering with ordinance, usually to try to get the scrap metal to sell. And 56% of injuries occur when people are trying to earn a living; farming, carrying water, collecting wood, collecting forest products, and so on. The costs of laying mines are low, about $3 per mine, but the costs of removal are very high, up to a $1,000 per mine according to expert estimates. Although the minefields have been cleared around the areas you are likely to visit (particularly Siem Reap and Battambang), the problem should last for decades, even assuming that mines continue to be cleared at the rate they are being cleared now. The situation is improving, with 271 casualties registered in 2008 as opposed to thousands in the mid-'90s (such as 4,320 in 1996). This change is partly due to clearing and partly due to increased awareness and education. If you do find yourself in an environment where you see the little red markers with DANGER MINES! fencing off a specific area, take those markers very seriously.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.