Tour Date: Spring 2025Location: Cambodia

A rail-tour of this fascinating country by private train covering every section of rail.

This tour operated as a great success in March 2023. We are planning a re-run for spring 2025.

A rail-tour of this fascinating country by private train covering every section of rail.

The Kingdom of Cambodia in South-East Asia has recently refurbished its former French Colonial metre-gauge railway, which is now an active freight carrier with a skeleton passenger service.  There are two rail lines, totalling 612km of single-track with passing loops.  One route goes north-west from Phnom Penh the capital, to Poipet, where there’s a connection to the Thai railway network.  The other line goes south-west to the port at Sihanoukville on the south coast.

The mainstay traction for the Royal Railway is a fleet of 10 Indian-built ALCo YDM4 locomotives which the Railway purchased from IRCON in Malaysia in May 2019 after the national carrier, KTMB, declared them surplus to requirements.   The ALCos work anything and everything on the network including oil trains to Sihanoukville, and also passenger trains during holidays, when trains need to be strengthened.

We are chartering a train to give us a week of rail-travel in a program to travel the whole of the Royal Railway network using YDM4 locomotives to haul our train to both Poipet and Sihanoukville. Highlights should include the Docks lines at Sihanoukville and also a day is planned in the Phnom Penh area to cover all the entire available track in the vicinity of station, locomotive shed and wagon repair shops.  On this day it’s planned to use a top & tail formation with locomotives at each end and to change the locomotives as often possible.

Cambodia is full of diversity and offers a variety of interest for visitors.  In the capital Phnom Penh, there are Palaces, Pagodas and, from a dark period in its history, the infamous Kymer Rouge Prison and the Choeung Ek genocide centre.  There’s the magnificent Mekong River, with freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins to the north and the Tonle Sap Lake, containing comprehensive floating villages to the north-west.  Finally, and close to the lake, there’s the world-famous temple-complex of Angkor Wat.  Stay on with us for a few days to experience these national treasures.

Our special train will be formed of fresh-air stock (with opening windows) in which we will have room to circulate during the tour.  There will also be a visit to Phnom Penh Locomotive Shed to for inspection and photos of the resident fleet and of the steam locomotives that are stored.

So, we should “Clear” Cambodia in one go – ride the entire track, see all the rolling stock including stored and plinthed steam locos. Where there are depots or stabling points, we will have time to see everything present.

Each day we do not plan to depart before 09:00 and aim to finish by 17:00. A very leisurely pace for the whole tour is planned.

Cambodia Shovel Loco LowRes

Map (Shutterstock)

shutterstock 449609410

  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
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  • Transport & Accommodation

Part 1 – The Rail Tour

Day 1 – Saturday 

Various flight options but if you want to do it with just one stop-over then you need to fly from London Heathrow. From Manchester and other UK airports you need to fly first to Frankfurt and then onward from there. From Heathrow there are three main options; via Singapore (Singapore Airlines), via Bangkok (Thai Airways) or via Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia Airlines). Journey time is around 15 hours in total and flights are about £850 (Economy). We can arrange a stopover in any of the cities should you wish us to do so. We also recommend, if you have time, to arrive a day earlier so giving more time to acclimatise.

Day 2 – Sunday 

Arrival into Phnom Penh: Road transfer to our hotel for free time to acclimatise, welcome dinner and overnight in Phnom Penh hotel.

Day 3 – Monday 

The first day with our charter train, formed of three carriages with opening windows and hauled by one of the YDM4 locomotives. We will have plenty of photo stop as we travel from Phnom Penh to the coast at the important port city of Sihanoukville. Overnight in Sihanoukville. The town of SihanoukVille is surrounded on 3 sides by the Bay of Thailand.  From the beaches and surrounding hills, many of the bay’s small islands can be seen.  Many of the beaches are filled with grass hut restaurants and bars, some of the beaches are rocky, there are a couple are large resorts, and some are pure sandy beach.

Day 4 – Tuesday 

It’s a short day today as we head from Sihanoukville to Kampot and back to Sihanoukville. The line is built on the land between the sea and the Preah Monivong Bokor National Park. The Park is located at the southern tip of the Elephant Mountains near the Cambodia – Vietnam border. Preah Monivong National Park, also known as Bokor National Park, encompasses 982 square miles of evergreen rain forests south of Phnom Penh. It is home to several endangered species. Again, we should have plenty of time for photo stops and also at least one change of locomotive. We return to Sihanoukville and continue through the station an into the docks area. This is only a short branch as we are almost certainly the first passenger train to ever visit it. We should be back in Sihanoukville by mid-afternoon so plenty of free time. Overnight in Sihanoukville.

Day 5 – Wednesday 

With hopefully a different YDM4 loco in charge, we head back to Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s capital and largest city, located at the junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. Temples and museums are part of the cultural and historical attractions of the city. It is easily accessible due to a vast infrastructure catering to visitors, and many believe it to be one of the nicest cities in Asia since Cambodians have not yet grown jaded by mass tourism. We expect to arrive by 4pm to give you free time for your own exploration from our city centre hotel. Overnight in Phnom Penh.

Day 6 – Thursday 

It’s a A longer day today and we expect to start at 9am and complete our journey by 6pm. With a different YDM4 loco in charge we head north-west to the city of Battambang (the 3rd largest, after Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville). Battambang is a classically quaint provincial capital – old-world architecture and even older pagodas set picturesquely along a river, and even though the city is one of the country’s largest, it is still lightly touristed. In town, charming colonial-era buildings line narrow lanes, including the ‘walking district’ near the market where contemporary art galleries, local and foreign cafes, shops and bars inhabit the old shophouses. Again, we will have plenty of photo stop. The railway line lies between the Cardamom Mountains and the vast Tonle Sap Lake. Spanning more than 4.4 million hectares of rainforest in south-western Cambodia, the Cardamom Mountains remains Southeast Asia’s largest remaining rainforest. Inhabited by a swathe of endangered wildlife, the expansive woodland is also home to about 25,000 people, many of whom are ethnic minorities. The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world. Overnight in Battambang.

Day 7 – Friday 

Today, we complete the railway, as we head north from Battambang to the border town of Poipet (Poi Pet). Our train will go beyond the station and right to the Thai border (and possibly into Thailand itself). The line north of here was closed for many years but reopened in 2018. There is a strip of land here between the Cambodia and Thailand border posts. Once the no-go part of Cambodia for tourists, notorious for its squalor, scams and sleaze, Poipet has recently had a facelift. Due mainly to patronage from neighbouring Thais, where gambling is illegal, casino resorts such as Tropicana and Grand Diamond City are turning the town into a Cambodian Las Vegas! After a short break, head south again and back to Battambang for our overnight stay. Again, plenty of photo stops and we expect our day to last from 09:00 to 16:00.

Day 8 – Saturday 

Our final long journey as we return south to Phnom Penh for our overnight stay.

Day 9 – Sunday 

Today, is the final day with our charter train and we plan in the Phnom Penh area, to cover all the available track in the vicinity of station, locomotive shed and wagon repair shops.  It’s planned to use a top & tail formation with locomotives at each end and to change the locomotives as often possible.  In addition to YDM4, we hope to utilize ČKD Bde410 series, ČKD BB1010 series, Alsthom BB1050 series and CRRC Qishuyan CKD6D BB1060 locomotives. We plan to start around 10:00, have a break for lunch, and finish by 15:00. It’s our final night in Phnom Penh unless you’re joining us to see more of the country outside the railway.

Day 10 – Monday 

Today, we head for the airport to return to the UK but, as you will probably only visit Cambodia once in your lifetime we, thoroughly recommend you stay on for a week to see the some of the culture highlights of this fascinating country.

Part 2 – Palaces, Temples and the Mekong River

As well is its re-laid rail infrastructure, Cambodia is full of diversity and offers a variety of interest for visitors.  In the capital Phnom Penh, there are Palaces, Pagodas and, from a dark period in its history, the infamous Kymer Rouge Prison and the Choeung Ek genocide centre.  There’s the magnificent Mekong River, with freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins to the north and the Tonle Sap Lake, containing comprehensive floating villages to the north-west.  Finally, and close to the lake, there’s the world-famous temple-complex of Angkor Wat.  Stay on with us for a few days to experience these national treasures and if you wish anything to be added in the general vicinity of our tour, please let us know.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is Ray.  Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on ray@ptg.co.uk.

Monday

The tour will follow from our rail tour commencing at our Phnom Penh hotel.  We aim to leave at c.9:30 with the opportunity to say farewell to those who are not joining us.  We will travel NW following the Mekong to Kampong Cham – if you wish, we can stop at the Spider Market on the main road and try fried tarantula!  At Kampong we visit Wat Nakor, a 12th century Ankorian temple, and then a fascinating bamboo bridge over a part of the Mekong.  We take our lunch here before crossing the Mekong and continuing to Kratie for our hotel on an island in the Mekong (1N).

Tuesday 

After breakfast, we will go a few km north to the Kampi rapids and take to the water, where we hope to see a shoal of the rare and freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphin this rural region.  We will then transfer to Kompong Thom (1N).  We will break our journey to visit Phnom Srei & Phnom Bros (man and woman mountain) where we can see monkeys.  We will also visit the Hindu temple at Phum Prasat.

Wednesday 

We have time to visit an ancient Angkorian bridge as we travel onwards to Siem Reap (2N).  After checking-in to our hotel, we visit what might be regarded as the pearl in Cambodia’s Crown, the magnificent Angkor Wat.  We can walk around the artefact then stay to watch/photo the evening colours as the sun sets.

Thursday 

A prompt start this morning, we visit the 150km long Tonle Sap, a natural Mekong balancing Lake and take to the water to view one of the unusual Vietnamese Floating Villages with their church.  We return for lunch and in the afternoon, go again to the archaeological area to see the ancient capital of Angor Thom.

Friday 

Today we travel to Battambang (1N) on the opposite side of the lake. On the way, we visit the Puok Village Silk Farm, and discover this ancient craft. Then, we call at the magnificent temple of Banteay Top, followed by the huge 13th century moated temple of Banteay Chmar. After lunch, we can observe the village life of the Khmer people before travel through scenic rice paddies to our detination.

Saturday 

From Battambang, we complete our circle of Tonle Sap Lake to return to Phnom Penh (2N).  We will break firstly at the floating village of Kompong Luong prior to lunch.  At the confluence of the Tonle Lake and Tonle River at Kompong Chhnang, we will see traditional Khmer pottery made.  Our final call will be to the 17th century abandoned city of Oudong, to view the temples and stupas which cover the hillsides.

Sunday 

Our day will be spent in and around Phnom Penh and first we visit Tuol Sleng Museum, the former school in Phnom Penh which the Khmer Rouge used it as their notorious Torture Prison.  Prior to lunch, we visit the ‘Killing Fields’ of Cheung Ek.  In the afternoon we have a leisurely visit to the Royal Palace, and Silver Pagoda.  For those with a thirst for more detail, we can have a final call at the National Museum then after, we hope you will all join us for a sunset cruise and drink on the Mekong followed by our final dinner.

Monday 

This will be our departure day and rooms can be retained for a late check-out.

Prices (per person) – TBC for 2025

  • Full 9-day holiday joining in Phnom Penh: £2,650
  • Full 10-day holiday including flights from London Heathrow: £3,750*
    (via Singapore, with Singapore Airlines)
  • Full 10-day holiday including flights from Manchester: £3,750*
    (via Singapore, with Singapore Airlines)
  • Special trains only: £2,050
  • Supplement for single use of double room: £190
  • Palaces and Temples Add-on: £1,250
  • Mekong River cruise: from £1,600

* with flight price confirmed once tour a definate go

Online Booking

This tour operated with great success in March 2023. We are planning on running the tour again in 2025. Click below to register your interest in joining this tour.

Register Interest in joining this tour in 2025 – nothing to pay until tour is confirmed 

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We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Various flight options but if you want to do it with just one stop-over then you need to fly from London Heathrow. From Manchester and other UK airports you need to fly first to Frankfurt and then onward from there. From Heathrow there are three main options; via Singapore (Singapore Airlines), via Bangkok (Thai Airways) or via Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia Airlines). Journey time is around 15 hours in total and flights are about £850 (Economy). We can arrange stop overs in any of the cities should you wish us to do so.

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