New Cambodia Travel Guide
Having lived in Cambodia for around 3 years and made countless trips there, I am utterly in Love with Cambodia. I originally went as a backpacker, stayed to look after children and build homes for 3 years and now want to be part of encouraging responsible tourism in this very special country. I really hope I can help you have a life changing trip in the country that always smiles. New Cambodia Travel Guide
Cambodia borders Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. This Southeast Asian gem used to be known for little more than the a country tragically ruined by the mass genocide of the Khmer Rouge, leaving it in a state of poverty not fit for tourism. Despite offering a month long VISA, many still dash to Angkor Wat for the day and then escape as soon as they can.
However, in the last 10 years, Cambodia has worked hard to be known and loved for more, They have regained and grown into their own culture while simultaneously developing for tourism. This has caused some growing pains, but not stopped it from being one of the most fascinating and beautiful countries to visit,
Cambodia has a fascinating ancient history not least that of what you get to learn about through Angkor Wat Temples. Their fascinating history dates back as far as 5000 BC, but the two points that catch most people’s attention are the era surrounding the Angkor Wat temples and the much more recent era surround the Khmer rouge.
Cambodia has some of the most stunning secluded beaches, lush national parks, creative artisan, tasty food and of course impressive temples in the world!
Questions and Comments
PLEASE do ask questions and ask for any advice you think you need in the comment section below, we really do want to help YOU make the most of your exciting adventure around Cambodia. It is a tricky place to travel, so we have tried to get the balance of writing everything you will need but without overdoing it. If you think we have missed something, please just say...
Staying Safe: Although politics are often up and down, the country is reasonably stable at present. The UK Government Site updates frequently. Though theft is quite high, violent crime is rare. The best advice is to make the most of the day time, be sensible, stick with a friend where you can and minimise walking around later at night. Knowledge is power, make sure you’ve read our blog on keeping safe on the road. Also, don’t forget to check out The World Health Site for the latest on health information and risks.
Staying Connected: Call, 3G and 4G are all widely available and generally offer good coverage in most of the places you are likely to visit. Cellcard, Metfone, Smart and Beeline are the main providers to look out for. You can buy tourist SIMS as soon as you arrive in airports and in pretty much every corner shop. The SIM itself should only be a couple of dollars and then prepaid credit ranges from 1 USD to 20 USD. Wifi is great in the tourist spot and nonexistent anywhere else.
Staying Charged: 230 vault, 50 Hz type A / C and some hotels have G sockets. Use the dual flat pin plugs and the dual round pin plugs. Power cuts are becoming less frequent in the main towns, but do still happen.
Staying Clean: You do still need to carry toilet paper with you, especially if you go rural. Laundry is a widespread service and generally very cheap at 1 USD per Kg. Even the cheapest most basic accommodation is improving, but they still have a lot of squatty toilets, cold showers and very simple rooms that won’t feel clean to some. You don’t however have to pay a lot to get some great accommodation.
Staying Healthy: Local tap water is not potable, but bottled is widespread and cheap. If your stomach is reasonably Asia proof you can eat pretty much anything, just apply common sense. Food is generally healthy and fruit is widely available. Check out the Fit for Travel Cambodia for more info and disease and vaccinations.
Staying Classy: It is ok to wear shorts and vest tops in the bigger towns, hiking in the countryside and of course the beach areas. They are however a modest culture, so you do need to wear long pants and cover your shoulders in the villages and temples.
Money: They run a operate with a dual currency. You can both spend and be given both USD and the local Reil. 1 USD is equal to 4000 Reil. ATM’s are in all of the cities and bigger towns and now seem to all charge around 4-5 USD transaction. They typically dispense small bills but sometimes spit out 100 USD notes that can be changed at little money converter stalls all over.
Discounts: Student and OAP cards don’t generally mean anything in Cambodia. Though, they are worth taking to a few museums and sites in Phnom Penh as some do give a discount.
Visas and borders: One month tourist visa is now 30 USD. If you get the e-visa, they also charge 7 USD for processing, if get visa on arrival the processing fees vary but never go about 7 USD. You do have to pay in USD at the land and air borders, so make sure you have it ready. There is an boarder crossing with every neighbouring country and several airports.
Language: Khmer is the local language, it is written in sanskrit and they are also developing a Roman alphabet version. English is well spoken in most tourist spots, but almost never spoken in rural villages
Seasons: There are two definitive seasons, simply known as wet and dry. The dryest season runs from December through to April. The rainy season runs from May through to November.
Shopping: Cambodia has some of the most impressive, creative and varied artisan I have ever seen, a lot of which is also ethical and linked to great causes. SIem Reap has the best markets in the country.
Packing Extras: We do have a great Backpackers Packing List, if you’re planning a long term backpacking trip. For Cambodia, make sure you definately take a torch for power cuts and a buff for the dust.
Culture, People and Quirks: People are typically friendly and eager to help, but you have to understand that Cambodia has had a horrific past and has now been thrown into millennial tourism, so it can be a tricky place to navigate. You should probably read Things you must know before you visit Cambodia and Why some travelers hate Cambodia. New Myanmar Travel Guide
The best way to enjoy Cambodia is do what you can to spend some time exploring the beautful and simple villlage life. Cycling through the villages is such a sweet and freeing experience and because so few people really do it, you find that the further in you get, the more friendly and and welcoming the locals are
Angkor Wat is of course truly one of the VERY best bits of Cambodia.
Make the most of the markets, they have seem to have more creativity and variety than most of the market you will come across in Asia. Siem Reap in particular has a huge variety in markets.
Best places to go
Siem Reap - The ultimate hub for connecting with Cambodia and planning and booking the rest of your trip. They have two great lakes, Baray and Ton le sap. Oh and there’s this little set of temples called Angkor Wat!!?? The entrance fee has a new price as of February 2017; it has gone upto 36 USD for a day ticket! Ouch! For a fab travel guide to get you equipped check out how Kate and Jeremy rocked Angkor Wat
Phnom Penh - Many people find the capital to be a big dirty city. But, it does have redeeming features such as the Royal palace and the riverfront. Visiting tuol sleng and the killing fields are also an important part of your journey in Cambodia..
Battambong - Is becoming most famous for the bamboo train, the killing caves and being french colonial. It is more laid back than Siem Reap and is doing what it can be of growing interest to travellers.
Kampot - One of my favourite little places in the south. It is beautiful to explore by bike or river. Make sure you check out the caves, the pepper fields (Kampot pepper is quite famous) and Preah Monivong National Park where you can see Bokor Mountain!
Sihanoukville - White beaches, amazing seafood, cheap drink and cool and quirky places to stay, there is something for most in Sihanoukville. My highlight was the fresh lobster for a ONE dollar from a very sweet lady just wandering the beach. It is know as a party town, which some people love and some hate. If nothing it serves as a great hub for getting to other places around the coast.
Kep - A sweet peaceful coastal town that very few get to. If you want to slow down, and enjoy great seafood, grab your swim stuff, watch out for the tasty grab shacks and go chill in Kep.
Koh Rong - A stunning island with some of the most beautiful beaches you can hope to see in Southeast Asia. Long beach is particularly impressive and there are so many dreamy places to stay in across the Island. Oh and the limited electricity is a good thing, sometimes we should all slow down!
Ream National Park - A coastal national park that has a lot offer. They have a huge diversity in wildlife and the scenery ranges from jungle and waterfalls to beautiful beach. It is an absolute gem that still very few are getting to.
Kratie - It takes quite some getting to, which is what keeps it peaceful. This is the place to see the Irrawaddy dolphins. If you really squint you may believe that these freshwater beauties are indeed pink.
Prasat Preah Vihear - The stunning set of temples on a cliff edge. It is on the Thai Border which sadly is what has caused so much conflict over the years. People typical travel to it from either Siem Reap or Phnom Tbeng Meanche. (Phnom Meanche has other beautiful secluded temples to visit too). Entrance is 5 USD if on a motorbike. This areas is also close to a wildlife sanctuary!
New Cambodia Travel Guide
TOP TEN COMING SOON! ...
Cambodia is creeping up in price, but you can still travel on a small budget. Two of the big game changers are in price of visas going up to 37 USD and`Angkor Wat being hiked up to 36 USD
Everything else has only crept up and is still remarkably cheap.
You may get a lucky deal if you’re flexible but typically dorms are now all starting at 5 USD (3.5 GBP) per person to per night. You can spend as little as 4 USD (3 GBP) per person a day for food and drink (including bottled water). The chances are, you will however spend more as there is so much tasty food around, great fruit shakes, cheap beer (so you’ll probably spend more than Europe!) and VERY cool places to stay. Backpackers are typically now spending an average closer to 20 USD (15 GBP) per day.
Day buses average around 5 USD (3.5 GBP) and the long distance overnight sleeper buses averaged at 15 USD (12 GBP) per journey. You are likely to only do one or two overnight buses and around 4 or 5 shorter day buses. Note, the government buses from the boarders do hike up the price to around 10 USD for short day journeys! Grrr!
TOP TIP: Taking a night bus means you can save on accommodation!
Another way to save money and have a liberating hard core day is to rent a bicycle for 1 USD to cycle around Angkor Wat for the day, rather than paying 12 - 15 USD for a tuk tuk.
Massages start at 1 USD, but by the time you’re paying for a good 1 hour massage, expect to pay around 6 USD.
The night markets are awesome and full of bargains.
REMEMBER Barter Barter Barter for everything, even accommodation, food and transport, as well as trips and in the markets. Most things are cheaper in person in Cambodia!
Very few people give Cambodia more than 3-5 days. Everyone has different time budgets, but if you can give Cambodia at least 2 weeks, please do!! You will see it in a totally different way and there really is so much more to see than most people realise. In 2 weeks you could see the temples, all the sites of Phnom Penh, help out for a couple of days at the charity Trailblazer, ride the bamboo train in Battambang, explore some jungle and even chill on a beautiful beach. 2 to 3 weeks would mean doing it at a really enjoyable pace.
New Cambodia Travel Guide
If you want to barter to hang your hammock somewhere, you’re probably best doing that in person. BUT, if you’re looking to get a great deal on nicer hostels, guest houses and hotels, then you do have to book in advance. Like so many places now, the best deals are online. We’ve found that Agoda is great for having a wide range and massive discounts across all styles of accommodation.
Book your stay in Siem Reap HERE (Explore the Angkor Wat Temples)
Book your stay in Phnom Penh Capital City HERE (See the Royal Palace and Killing Fields)
Book your stay in Battambang HERE (French colonial town. Ride the bamboo train!)
Book your stay in Sihanoukville HERE (Great hub for beaches and Islands)
Book your stay in Kampot HERE (Sleepy riverside town close to the caves)
Book your stay in Kep HERE (Sweet little beach town away from the crowds)
Book your stay in Kratie HERE (Peaceful town close to the Irrawaddy dolphins)
Book your stay near Preah Vihear HERE (Cliff edge temple close to a wildlife sanctuary)
Style: Cambodia has generally upped its game with accommodation. This still means simple rooms, occasionally cold water showers and squatties at the cheapest end of around 5 USD per person. But, OH MY, if you want to splash out, the sky’s the limit in style and luxury. Beautiful, clean creative, oriental meets funky artistic designs, usually with a swimming pool and often smelling of lemon grass. It is that impressive I am writing a whole blog on it. In the meantime just browse through Agoda and you will get the idea.
Availability: Erm, yes! There is never a shortage of places to stay in Cambodia, there are always new places popping up and giving great deals. They tend to offer much better deals online then if you just rock up in person. Unfortunately, because everyone is now doing this, you kind of have to join in if you want your first choice of places to stay.
Cost: You can still get some fan dorm beds for 3 USD, or you can stay at Song Saa Resort for 1,200 USD. It just depends on you are your budget is. The standards you prefer will of course affect what you spend and Cambodia really does offer the full range. A clean private AC double for 2 people should start at around 12 USD for the room. A similar room in an impressive guest house with a pool will cost closer to 30 USD. Note: If you go somewhere quiet rural you may actually pay more because there’s less options and competition.
Style: Local transport tends to be tuk tuks, motorbikes or cycling. You can take boats to all the main Islands. Day and sleepers buses are the most typical way to get between the big cities. You can take the local buses with fan and little suspension that stop a lot along the way. For a little more, you can take AC minibuses. The overnight buses tend to be mostly great quality now … although this is Cambodia, I’m not guaranteeing anything!
Availability: Buses are widely available and just about everyone wants to sell you a ticket. You can buy them in your guest houses, or save some money and buy at the little stalls. There is very little in the way of real bus stations and where they do have them they’re not always cheaper.
Cost: Check a few places out as you meander around to make sure you get the best possible prices, you can also play agents off against each other, sometimes they will do anything to beat the competition. Journeys lasting around 4 to 6 hours, tend to cost around 6 to 10 USD and as mentioned most overnight buses are around 15 USD. Expect to pay around 20 USD for a return ticket from Sihanoukville to most of the islands.
Amok is the national dish of Cambodia and is a creamy coconut chicken or fish curry, often served in a Banana leaf.
Style: In the big cities, You can get absolutely every local or international food you can think of in Cambodia, it’s crazy! Aside from all the delicious asian dishes you can get (Amok, prahok, tom ka, Ton le sap soup) you can also get Italian, Korean (south AND north!) Indian, Mexican, German... you name it, Cambodia has is somewhere!
Availability: Food is everywhere, it is a big part of the culture. Local food places in markets and on the streets do however tend to close during the afternoon (nap time). Early morning and early evening are the best times for local food. International places are open from as early as 6am, through to 11pm
Cost: You can pick up rice and noodle dishes in the markets for around 1 USD. An average tasty sit down meal costs between 3 and 5 USD. Of course you can spend 15 to 20 USD is some places. (Probably more than that if you really wanted to!)
TOP BUDGET TIP: If you are on a really tight budget, you can buy little bags of rice in the market for 1000 Riel (0.25 cents) and pick up a few bits of fruit there too for similar prices.
Style: It’s easy to get bottled water, fresh coconuts (my favourite!) fruit shakes, milkshakes, canned drinks, great coffee beer cocktails and of course mekong whiskey.
Be warned they often water the draft beer down! If you’re stomach is pretty Asia-proof, you’ll probably be ok, but if not, it’s best to stick to bottled.
Availability: All the main towns and cities have lots of great options. Villages and more rural areas tend to just tend have water, canned drinks and coconuts.
Cost: A 1.5 litre water bottle should be no more than 0.50 cents at the street stalls. You can pay between 0.75 cents and 4 USD for a fruit shake. Canned drinks are between 0.50 cents and 1 USD depending on where you buy them. A big fresh coconut should be around 0.75 cents,many in the tourist towns charge 1 USD. Last but not least, beer starts at 0.50 cents! Cocktails come by the glass or bucket and so rage from 1.5 USD to 10 USD.
TOP BUDGET TIP: Temple exploring is thirsty work! Buy your drinks before you get into Angkor Wat as they really hike up the prices! You can always treat yourself to a cold one on site in the afternoon.
New Cambodia Travel Guide
First Time in Cambodia ??
Up-to-date blogs (like this one, ahem!) will be a great source of info for exploring Cambodia. But If it's you're first time visiting, you will probably want to grab a travel guide too. I always think you don't need more than a 'Rough Guide' as it is about making it your own adventure! They have a pretty cheap kindle copy as well as the actual book.
Safety has to be number one whatever you Adventure!
Check out TOP TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE ON THE ROAD>>>
For top tips on how to pack and what to pack:
Check out our ULTIMATE PACKING LIST FOR BACKPACKERS >>>
If you're still preparing for your trip we have a great well throughout checklist:
New Cambodia Travel Guide
New Cambodia Travel Guide