This piece is one of the most comprehensive guides to Cambodia you would find on the internet.
- Best Time to Visit Cambodia
- Places to go in Cambodia
- How many days are enough for Cambodia?
- How to Reach Cambodia?
- How to get a Visa in Cambodia?
- Where to Stay in Cambodia?
- How to Get Around in Cambodia?
- Which Currency Should I take to Cambodia?
- Food in Cambodia
- What to pack for Cambodia?
- Budget: The Cost of Backpacking Cambodia
- Is Cambodia Safe to Travel?
- Quick Tips
Cambodia is a SE Asian nation bordering Vietnam to the east, Laos to the north, Thailand to the northwest. It has a famous jewel to its crown; the Angkor Wat, largest religious monument in the world. It is a popular tourist destination having ancient grand temples, stunning beaches, lush mountains and alluring nightlife.
History: Cambodia has in the recent past has suffered traumatic horror in which almost a third of Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge under the dictator Pol Pot between 1975-1979. Khmer Rouge wanted to transform Cambodia into an extreme peasant society by wiping out the currency, eradicating religion, arts and education, abolishing any kind of personal property; a society where all peasants work on the fields in the interest of the state. People were killed for absurd reasons in the most inhuman ways possible. At places people were made to dig their own graves and were buried alive.
Everyone visiting Cambodia should know of this dark history and appreciate the country and its brave people for their sacrifices and the progress they have made. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the “Killing Fields” in Phnom Penh and the “Killing Cave” near Battambang are the reminders of the horrific past. Also, I would recommend you to read/ watch the book/film ‘First They Killed My Father’ that showcases a story from the period of Khmer Rouge reign in Cambodia, to better understand what happened.
Best Time to Visit Cambodia
Cambodia is a popular tourist destination all year round although tourists numbers fall most around September when monsoon is on full swing. Also, it is extremely hot in march and April.
November to February: This is the peak time to visit Cambodia. Weather is cool and pleasant but since these are the busiest months you’ll find heavy crowds especially while exploring the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap.
March to May: Weather is hot and humid with peak daytime temperatures of 33–35°C. This is a great time to visit the coast, although Angkor is extremely hot.
June to Oct: This is the rainy season in Cambodia, although June and July aren’t that wet but September is the rainiest month. The rains fall mainly in the afternoon; mornings are generally dry. Getting around in September and October could become tough with muddy or flooded roads. Hence, it is not a surprise that these months see the lowest tourist footfalls.
Places to go in Cambodia
Cambodia has a number of destinations worth exploring. There are the tourist hot-spots of Siem Reap that houses the jewel Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh – the dusty and lively capital of Cambodia and Sihanoukville- the beach town that has lost its sheen. And then there are the less touristy, more peaceful, more close to the nature destinations including the Cambodian islands of Koh Rong & Koh Rong Sanloem, the beautiful towns of Kampot & Battambang and the beach towns of Kep and Koh Kong.
After visiting all these places if you still have time you can add a few more places that I’ve not covered in this post in detail- Preah Vihear Temple in the North, Mondulkiri Province, Ratnakiri Province and the town of Kratié in the East.
1. Siem Reap
The city holds in it the biggest tourist magnet of Cambodia; the Angkor temples, words can fall short to describe the magnificence of these temples.The nightlife scene is also very vibrant in Siem Reap which makes it the most happening city in Cambodia.
Things to do in Siem Reap:
1. Take a temple tour of the Angkor Temples.
The temples were built between AD 802 and 1432 and are truly an architectural marvel. The biggest and the most famous is the Angkor Wat temple, a true masterpiece. Other major temples include:
- The Bayon temple which has 216 stone-carved faces; this one is the most spectacular among all.
- Ta Phrom which is now under reconstruction with the help from India and the limelight here is the huge tree roots that have clasped over different parts of the temple structure.
- Angkor Thom
You have three options to buy the pass to the temples:
- 1-Day pass costs $37 USD
- 3-Day pass costs $62 USD (valid for 10 days)
- 7-Day pass costs $72 USD (valid for 1 month)
Unless you are into history or architecture, a one day tour is the best option and the most popular one too. For the tour it is best that you hire a tuk-tuk for the day, the right price is $5 -$-6 per tuk-tuk. Also, leave early in the morning to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Take plenty of water, a hat and goggles.
2. Party at night on the Pub Street
Head to Pub Street for partying the night out; the street is lined up with bars and clubs. The best places to party are the Angkor What? and the YOLO Bar, beer is super-cheap here, stick to the draft Angkor beer that costs only $1 -$1.5 in most bars.
3. Visit the Floating Villages
A number of floating villages lies on the the Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Asia lying just outside of Siem reap. The unique thing about these floating villages are the stilted houses built so for the protection against flooding during the rainy season in Cambodia.
Explore these villages with a half day sunset tour, choose the villages wisely so that your tour could help the local community too. In the Kompong Khleang Village and the smaller Mechrey Floating Village the boats are owned by local people and your tour helps them earning a living. Adventure Travel Co. is one company that offers tour to these villages. The tour costs $20 – $25.
4. Enjoy the Cambodian Theater ‘Phare Circus‘
Enjoy your evening watching the theatrical performances including dance, music and theater telling the stories of Cambodian Culture. All profits generated by Phare Circus go to supporting free education and social programs for disadvantaged youths of Cambodia.
5. Walk the walls of Angkor Thom
A hidden 12 km long wall lies amidst the forest around the ancient city of Angkor Thom. The trail lies on the path less traveled by the tourists. This should be a must to do for all culture lovers and offbeat explorers.
6. Visit the Siem Reap’s Museums
The War Museum in Siem Reap town and the Landmine Museum in Banteay Srei District gives an insight into the tragedy of Cambodian life. Most of the guides here are the victims of landmine accidents. The Landmine museum is 30km from Siem Reap located in the Bantey Srei District.
7. Visit Trav Kot Reservoir
Take a tour to the Trav Kot lake located 30 km outside of Siem Reap. The area is very picturesque with beautiful views of the mountains. A half day tour would cost you about $25.
2. Phnom Penh
The capital is known for its beautiful French-colonial architecture, vibrant riverside and buzzing bars & clubs.
Things to do in Phnom Penh:
1. Visit the Tuol Sleng Museum and the killing fields of Choeung Ek
You’ll be shook by what you’ll see. But it is important to know of the brutality the people of this country has suffered during the Khmer Rouge rule under Pol Pot to appreciate the development Cambodia and the Cambodians have made from their dark past.
- The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek is the site of mass graves where thousands of victims, (men, women and children) were senselessly killed in one of the worst genocides in human history.
- Tuol Sleng Museum was once a high school that was converted into a prison from during the Khmer Rouge period to house so-called ‘enemies of the state’ and their entire families. The museum contains thousands of black and white photographs shouting out the stories of victims of the genocide.
It is best to hire a tuk-tuk for the whole day and visit both the Killing Fields and the S-21 Museum. It should cost about $15.
2. Chill at a cafe on the Riverfront
Enjoy your evening at one of the cafes that line up the Phnom Penh riverfront. Relax, observe the hustle and bustle of the city with a pleasing view.
3. Visit the National Museum
Admire the Khmer artifacts that traces the nation’s history through the glorious times of Khmer empire. You’ll get to see the ancient Khmer Art, Hindu sculptures, statues, engravings, etc.
4. Visit the Royal Palace to witness the Khmer architecture and traditional artistry of Cambodia.
5. Shop at Phnom Penh’s markets
Shop at the Russian Market, aka ‘Tuol Tom Poung’ is one of the largest markets in Phnom Penh. You can get pretty much everything here from silk scarves to spices to woodcarvings to designer goods at massive discounts. Many top brands like Levi and CK have factory outlets in Phnom Penh which sell goods with tiny faults.
Shop at the Central Market, located right at the center of Phnom Penh having a huge golden dome; it has literally every item a traveler could need and it is great for shopping souvenirs.
6. Shoot an AK-47
If you sometimes fancy shooting an AK-47 or throwing off a hand grenade, it is possible at the Shooting Range in Phnom Penh. Here, you can fire rifles, machine guns, throw off hand grenades and blow whole lot of other explosives. Of course, it will come at at a hefty price. And, yes there’s a shooting range in Siem Reap too.
Also known as Kompong Som, Sihanoukville is a popular beach town in Cambodia among local and foreign tourists. However, in the recent years a lot of casinos have flocked up in this town and even the popular beaches are now strewn with litter and plastic.
- Serendipity Beach used to be popular among backpackers, but now it is covered with trash and mainly caters the casinos.
- Independence Beach boasts the luxury hotels which have private beach strips and are clean; the public beach is full of trash.
- For the same reasons, Ochheuteal Beach is a complete disaster.
- Otres Beach is what is now left for backpackers and travelers to have a good time. If you want to go to Sihanoukville, this is the beach to stay and holiday at. However, even otres is also not completely trash free.
This reality isn’t that open on the internet due to old posts. If you looking for a beach holiday I’d recommend you to skip Sihanoukville atleast till the government fixes the trash problem. However, if beach is not your top priority there are plenty of things to do in Sihanoukville:
- Party at Otres or Serendipity: JJ’s Playground in Serendipity is the most popular place for backpackers
- Kayak or Windsurf at Otres Beach: Harmony Home and Hurricane Windsurfing at Otres are two agencies offering these services.
- Scuba Dive – Sihanoukville dive sites are located 1-2 hours offshore by boat and the clear waters make them a good place to scuba-dive.
- Go for Dirt Bike Riding & 4×4 Trips.
- Go for camping trips to Botum Sakor National Park in Koh Kong province.
- Take a tour to Kbal Chhay Waterfalls located amidst the lush jungle.
- Go for a day trip to Ream National Park having vast mangrove forests, isolated beaches and mountains. It is a worthy place to visit for any nature and adventure lover.
4. Cambodia’s Islands
Just a boat ride away from the Sihanoukville lies a dozen gorgeous islands. Away from the dirty beaches and shady scene of Sihanoukville lies the gems of Cambodia. The islands of Cambodia are what Thailand was 15 years ago.
Boat trips depart from Sihanoukville every day and can be booked from guesthouses and travel agents in town. Currently, only Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloeum are the only islands with little development, others are mostly undeveloped and unspoiled.
Characterised with white sand beaches, lush vegetation and clear blue waters, Koh Rong is a gorgeous island located 1.5 hrs by boat from Sihanoukville . The beauty is that it is yet unspoiled from much human intervention as it is in its initial stages of development. It is an island for a true laid back. Wifi and Electricity are unreliable here. There are power cuts in the afternoon and midnight, with no back up except for few businesses which use solar electricity during those times. There are no ATM’s on this island either.
The party scene is low on the island, mostly there are bars which play music till 2 A.M. On the contrary, Full Moon Party is also organised here which is organised on a secluded part of the island, accessible by a ferry.
Things to do in Koh Rong:
- Go on a Boat trip: Swim, snorkel, fish and enjoy the views.
- Kayak: If you know how to kayak, rent the equipment and enjoy kayaking.
- Play volleyball on Police Beach, 10-minute walk from the main beach.
- Visit the Butterfly Farm: Down the path towards Police Beach.
- Diving: Koh Rong Diver Centre offers all kinds of diving experiences. However, Koh Rong is not the best place for diving, because of poor underwater visibility.
- Get an adrenaline shot at High Point Adventure Park where you can try climbing, rope-walking and ziplining. I would cost you $25-$35, depending on the season.
- You could also volunteer for an organization called Friends in Koh Rong. You could teach the kids or help with the environment.
Koh Rong Sanloem
It is just as beautiful as Koh Rong, but smaller, quieter and less developed. You won’t find any tourists here, just a couple of backpackers. Like its brothers and sisters in the gulf of Thailand this island also has white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters perfect for snorkeling. The island is developing fast with many big hostel chains coming in.
Kampot is a town located an hour away from Sihanoukville offering a peaceful holiday away from the heavy tourist crowds found in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. It showcases colonial architecture, has a chilled-out riverfront, and is the gateway to the Bokor National Park.
Things to do in Kampot:
- Laze out on the riverfront
- Visit Bokor National Park: Take a day trip to the Bokor National Park where you can see a Buddha statue at the top, the waterfalls, the old church, a few temples and ruins of the Bokor Palace. It is a national park but most of trekking trails are closed and don’t expect to see much of wildlife. Bokor hilltop was actually developed as a french colonial hill station, all buildings now are reduced to ruins and the area is being redeveloped.
- Visit the Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple: It is beautiful Hindu temple located inside a cave, believed to be older than the Angkor Wat. The path to the temple is a bit rough and narrow which brings the thrill in this little tour. Some kids here would come along with you, guide you a bit without asking and then ask for money in the end, so if you don’t want to pay, tell them that beforehand only.
- Take a boat tour to watch the fireflies.
- Take a tour to the pepper plantations.
- Go offbeat and visit Wat Ey Sey: This is a hidden and deserted temple about 2 hour hike up the mountain from the road leading up to the rapids. It can be difficult to spot the entrance. You’ll love it if you like to try offbeat things, it is a beautiful spot that doesn’t get many visitors.
- You can also do ox-cart tours, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing in Kampot.
Kep is a quiet, old colonial beach resort town just 30 minutes away from Kampot. It is a perfect for a slow beach holiday. It can also be covered in just a day trip from Kampot. Yo can Chill out on the cafes and bars, try the famous Kep carbs, go island hopping, tour pepper plantations. You can also visit a beautiful little island called Rabbit Island or Koh Tonsay, just a 30-minutes boat ride away.
Battambang is a pretty little town less frequented by the tourists and for this reason it is a beautiful town to escape the crowd and just relax. It is best to explore the colonial French architecture and the beautiful countryside of Battambang on bicycle. Visit the Bat Cave and the infamous Killing Cave of Ek Phnom and Phnom Banan and ride on the unique Bamboo Train ( costs about $5/person for a group, $10 if you go alone ).
8. Koh Kong
Koh Kong, the southwestern province of Cambodia has a long undeveloped coastline, lush mountainous, forested and largely inaccessible interior. Tourism and infrastructure is not as developed here as in the main towns but it is slowly growing. It is a perfect place to explore for nature buffs and offbeat travelers who like to escape the crowd. In Koh Kong:
- Explore the Cardamom mountains for jungle trekking and waterfalls.
- Walk in S.E. Asia’s largest mangrove forest.
- Hang out on the tranquil white sand beaches.
How many days are enough for Cambodia?
This question never has one answer to it, the answer depends on how you travel and how much time you have. You can do a 3-day, 1 week, 10 days, 2 weeks and 3-weeks trip. Yet, the most appropriate choice to cover Cambodia would be 2-weeks or 10-days (if you are short of time). But as I mentioned earlier it depends upon the time you have and the way you travel.
The following para consists of the Cambodian destinations ranked in order of their appeal i.e. number 1 is the must-go and number 9 is the least preferred to go. However, you may modify this ranking depending on your own interests and needs; you may like mountains more than the beaches or quiet islands more than the cities. Also, the ideal number of days required to cover the destination is mentioned along with it. So, depending upon the time you have allocated for the country and using the info below you can extract your itinerary.
- Siem Reap – (3 days)
- Additional day trip to Phnom Kulen – (1 day trip)
- Additional day trip to Tonle Sap Lake – (1 day trip)
- Phnom Penh – (2 days)
- Koh Rong (Island) – (3 days)
- Koh Rong Samloem (Island) – (3 days)
- Kampot – (2 days)
- Kep – (1 day)
- Battambang – (2 days)
- Koh Kong – (2 days)
- Sihanoukville – (2 Days)
Siem Reap – Battambang – Phnom Penh – Kampot – kep- Sihanoukville – Koh Rong- Koh Rong Salolem – Koh Kong.
How to Reach Cambodia?
By Air: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are two international airports which connect Cambodia to other parts of the world by air.
India to Cambodia (For Indians)The direct flights between India and Cambodia are way too expensive, so it is best that you go to Cambodia via another S-E Asian nation which in most cases is Thailand.
By Land: Cambodia shares its land borders with Thailand, Vietnam and Laos and one can enter into Cambodia by land from any of these three countries.
- From Thailand: You can enter into Cambodia from Thailand via the six border crossings that are open from 07:00 to 20:00 and you can get a visa on arrival at each of them.
- The busiest land crossing is at Poipet (Cambodia) on the Bangkok – Siem Reap road. Many companies including Gaint Ibis (big and reputed name) operate bus services from Bangkok (Mo Chit) to Siem Reap. Journey time is about 8 hours including the time for getting visa processed. Other than buses you can get minivans and shared taxis to and from the border on either side of the border.
- Hat Lek/Koh Kong border in the south connects to the Coastal Cambodia and the southern part of the Cardamom Mountains further leading to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh.
BEWARE of scams when entering Cambodia via land. Most common is the inflation of the visa on arrival fee from the official fee, currently US$30. On the Thai side they’ll ask for money much more than the visa fee to get your visa processed, they’ll try to trick you with a lot of lies- Cambodian Visa office is closed, this and that, etc, etc…, just be polite, keep smiling and tell them you’ll get the visa yourself. Similarly, on the Cambodian side in the bus they may ask for $35 or more, keep smiling and get the visa yourself.
Many companies including Gaint Ibis (big and reputed name) operates buses between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Pehn. Other companies include Kumho Samco and Mekong Express. You will face the inflated Visa fee scam on this border as well, bear a smile and try to avoid getting scammed.
How to get a Visa in Cambodia?
All visitors, except citizens of ASEAN nations (excluding Burnei) – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam need a visa to enter Cambodia. The official fee for a tourist visa is $30 (valid upto 30 days from arrival) and $35 for a business visa and citizens of most countries can get a visa on arrival. Staff may try to charge more at some land border crossings, smile and insist it is $30 but don’t get into an argument or tussle. Take a passport size photo with you, although it is not required, the immigration scans the photo from the passport, still you should take one to avoid getting scammed.
Visa on arrival are available at both international airports, all six international border crossings with Thailand, some international border crossings with Vietnam, and at the main border crossing with Laos.
Citizens of most nations can also apply for an e-Visa here online which is a Tourist Visa only but costs $35. The visa arrives as a PDF file by e-mail within 3 business days. Make sure to apply on Cambodian government’s original website, there are various other agent websites that seems like the official websites but are actually agent or even fake websites.
Where to Stay in Cambodia?
Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries in Asia and accommodation here is super cheap! Even in the main cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, you can get the best hostels at just $4 – $5 (INR 300- INR 350) per night and the cheap ones at as low as $2 (Rs.150) per night.
At just $15 – $20 (Rs.1100 – Rs.1500) per night, you can get a big spacious room in an amazing hotel with great service, free breakfast and a swimming pool.
- Hostels: Mad Monkey Siem Reap and Funky Flashpacker – both are an amazing party hostels having swimming pools and extremely sociable atmosphere.
- Hotels: The Golden Gecko Villa and Golden Temple Villa are amazing places to stay.
- Hostels: Mad Monkey Phnom Penh and Onederz Phnom Penh
- Hotels: Grand Waterfront Hotel and De Art Hotel are great places to stay.
- Hostels in Koh Rong are a bit more pricier than other locations in Cambodia. There is a great hostel right on the beach – Nest Beach Club and another right in the center is Coco Boutique Resort, dorms start at $12.
- Tree House Bungalow and Happy beach bungalow are great places to stay.
Koh Rong Samloem:
- There are these three amazing hostels all from the big hostel chains- Bodega Beach Club & Hostel on Sandy Beach, Onederz on the Saracen Bay and Mad Monkey having a private bay where they have ocean hammocks; how chill is that? Check it out.
- Robinson Bungalows and The Lookout Cambodia are great hotels to stay.
- Mad Monkey Kampot from the Mad Monkey Hostel chain will surely give you a memorable experience and Ganesha Kampot will give you these amazing chill vibes.
- The Columns and Mea Culpa Kampot are great hotels to stay.
- There are no hostels in Kep, atleast not that we know of.
- Tree Top Bungalow and Kepmandou Hotels are great places to stay.
- Here be Dragons is an amazing hostel right on the banks of a river and Ganesha Family Guesthouse will give you a quiet & comfortable stay.
- Royal Hotel and King Fy Hotel are great hotels to stay.
- Hostel: If you are looking for a hostel in Sihanoukville Onederz Sihanoukville is your best bet, the only worth staying hostel in the messy town.
- Chez Paou and Mangroves & More are good hotels to stay.
Check out the deals on Booking.com.Booking.com
How to Get Around in Cambodia?
Between the cities
Buses and Minivans are the best way to get around between the cities (Siem Reap/ Cambodia / Sihanoukville) in Cambodia. Other options include taxis, buses, boats and trains.
Ferries operate seasonally along many of the major rivers. Major routes include Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Battambang. The ferry between Sihanoukville to Koh Kong has been discontinued.
Here’s how you can travel between the major Cambodian cities:
Getting Between Siem Reap and Phom Penh:
- By flight: 45 minute flight costs $50.
- By bus: About 7 hour journey, price starts at $10. Gaint ibis and Mekong Express are two reputed companies.
- By Minivan: About 6 hour journey, price starts at $10.
- By Speed Boat: About 6 hour journey costs $35 but provides a unique experience giving beautiful views of the Tonle Sap lake.
Getting to Sihanoukville:
- From Phnom Penh: Most people arrive in Sihanoukville from the capital Phnom Penh which is a 4-6 hour bus journey (depending on traffic), costs $7-8. Trains is also an option but it takes 7.5 hours and runs only on certain days. Tickets can be booked on the Royal Railways website.
- From Siem Reap: A 11-12 hour bus journey costs $15 in economy and a 40-50 minute flight starts at about $40.
Getting to Koh Rong:
To reach Koh Rong take a ferry from Sihanoukville. There is a super fast ferry, which takes under half an hour, a fast ferry, which takes about 45 minutes, and a slow boat, which takes about 90 minutes. The faster the boat, the pricier the ticket.
You can use the Cambodian local travel website CamboTicket.com for booking buses, taxis and ferries online.
Within the City
Tuk-tuks, motobike taxis, bike rentals and taxis are the options available to you to get around Cambodian cities.
- The best way to get around in the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is to use the Grab app (Uber of SE Asia) on which you can book tuk-tuks and taxis as well. In Sihanoukville you can use the PassApp which is also a tuk-tuk/taxi aggregator.
- The second best option available in all Cambodian cities are Tuk-tuks, these are the most common means of local transport and are cheap. Do not shy from haggling with these tuk-tuk drivers; they inflate the prices by a lot.
- Bike rentals are available in many towns, with the notable exception of Siem Reap, where it is illegal to rent a bike other than electric bikes, however you can rent a electric bike for $10 a day without requirement of any licence since it is classified as a bicycle. Be careful if you are driving yourself, traffic rules are seldomly followed in Cambodia.
- Motorcycle taxis are another cheap and convenient option in Cambodian towns. They do not wear any identifiable vests as they do in Thailand and this makes things more riskier. Passengers are required to wear helmets, or run the risk of a USD $3.75 fine but most of these motorbike taxis do not carry extra helmet for the passenger.
Which Currency Should I take to Cambodia?
The Cambodian Riel (KHR) and US dollar (USD) are the two currencies accepted in Cambodia, with Riel most commonly used only for small transactions in place of U.S. coins, which are not accepted anywhere.
The Cambodian Central Bank maintains the riel at around 3,800-4,200 riel to the dollar. In day-to-day commerce, 4,000 Riel per dollar is the generally accepted exchange rate, though at some places such as foreign supermarkets and mini-marts, they accept different exchange rates (typically 4100 or 4200).It’s advisable to spend or donate all of your riel before leaving Cambodia as riel only have value outside Cambodia as souvenirs. No one will exchange them.
ATM’s in Cambodia
You will find ATM’s easily in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville but use the one’s in central locations only to keep yourself safe from ATM frauds. As you move towards smaller towns and villages take enough cash with you, ATM’s won’t be that easy to find. Keep in Mind that many places, especially budget restaurants and accommodation, do not accept credit cards.
Food in Cambodia
Cambodian food in general is spicy, full of flavors and non-vegetarian. You may find barbecued rats, frogs, snakes, bats, dogs and small birds on the menu at a number of places in Cambodia. Veg Options are limited in Cambodian food. However, you can always order dishes without meat.
Must Try Khmer Dishes: You must try Amok and Tuk-a-loc ( Khmer desert ) and the noodles are the best here. Amok is the most well-known delicious Cambodian dish. A spicy coconut milk curried dish full of flavors. Amok is usually made with chicken, fish or shrimp, plus some vegetables. It is sometimes served in a hollowed-out coconut with rice on the side.
Well, truly speaking while travelling particular restaurants are never my focus. I mostly search for ‘best places to eat near me’ on google and pick the one that has a high rating with large number of reviews, I quickly go through the reviews, helps me know if the restaurant fits my budget among other things; this has always worked for me. Still, here are few recommendations:
- Siem Reap: Creative Bar & Eatery is an excellent place to eat and drink, offers Cambodian street food and continental dishes (Budget for 2: $15 – $25). Have a craving for fresh fruits and juices? head to Fresh Fruit Factory – a Fruit Cuisine Restaurant having an excellent menu, Vanakkam India near Pub Street offers great Indian food at very affordable prices.
- Phnom Penh: Namaste India Restaurant BKK offers lip smacking Indian food, Mok Mony is great for Asian and Cambodian food, Bistrot Langka is great french bistrot, Backyard Cafe specializes in health foods and drinks. Veg and Vegan options are available in all of them.
Water: Do not drink tap water in Cambodia. Bottled water is readily available from convenience stores and street vendors and is sold at a much higher price to tourists. A litre of mineral water costs 0.5 cents at most places.
Alcohol: The most popular Cambodian beers brands are the Angkor and Anchor. Draught Beer is available at lot of bars in Seam Reap and Phnom Penh and is really cheap, costs only USD 1 – 1.5.
Drugs: Drugs, including cannabis, are illegal in Cambodia, and penalties can be very severe. Shady-looking young men or even tuk-tuk drivers may approach you in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap , we would highly recommend against taking or trying such substances in a foreign land.
What to pack for Cambodia?
- Packing Cubes: This is an amazing travel accessory, I will highly recommend to everyone. It is quite cheap and makes packing, unpacking and repacking super easy and organised. Take a look on amazon how its like and how much it costs. Using these you could easily take out the smallest item from a 50 litre suitcase literally anywhere super easy and super fast.
- Neck Pillow and Eye mask
- Universal power adapter
- A key or combination lock, Ziplock bags
- LifeStraw Reusable filter water bottle
- Gear (Optional as per needs):
- Go Pro Hero 8
- Canon M50
- Toiletries: 1 toothbrush, 1 tube of toothpaste, 1 package of dental floss, Deodorant, 1 razor/Trimmer, 1 small bottle of shampoo, 1 small bottle of shower gel, 1 towel
Small Medical Kit: Band-Aids, Antibacterial cream (Betadine tube), Paracetamol, any tablet for food poisoning, Hand sanitizer.
Budget: The Cost of Backpacking Cambodia
From India, a 6-N holiday on a budget would cost about Rs.15k-20k excluding the flights. Direct flights to Cambodia from India are expensive, I’d recommend to go via Bangkok.
The per day expenditure including hostel, food and transport should be around $15.
Here is a snapshot of general costs:
- Hostels start at $2/night, a good Hostel like Mad Monkey costs $5/night.
- Decent room at a 3-star hotel costs $10/night.
- Street Food: Local meals like curries, Egg Noodles and stir-fries, Chicken fried rice would cost around $1.5 US or less.
- Western food: Sandwich for $3 US and a pizza for $5 US
- Indian Food: US $3-$5
- Water: 0.5 cents for a litre bottled mineral water.
- Beer: US $1 – 1.5 for big bottle of Angkor beer.
- Angkor 1 day ticket: $37
- Kompong Phluk Floating Village Half-Day Tour: $18
- Phare, The Cambodian Circus: $18
- Killing Fields Tour and S21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Tour : $15
- Sunset Cruise in Phnom Penh by Cambo Cruise: $16
Is Cambodia Safe to Travel?
In general, Cambodia is a quite a safe country to visit as a tourist or as a backpacker. Violent crimes are rare but petty crimes like pick pocketing and bag snatching are more prevalent. I myself am a victim, my smartphone was stolen at a pub in Siem Reap; never got it back. Police has a very cold attitude towards such theft, they’ll register a complaint but won’t do anything. So, you need to be a bit more cautious in Cambodia; here are some Tips to stay safe in Cambodia:
- Do not walk alone in cities after dark, especially in remote and poorly lit areas and especially female travelers.
- Wear money belts to avoid snatching and pick pocketing.
- Don’t get drunk to the point of losing control. Know your limits and stay in your senses.
- Don’t get involved in drugs of any sort. It is common that a shady guy on a road or a tuk-tuk driver will approach you for Marijuana.
- Ask advice from your hostel/hotel to know the areas that should be avoided at night, especially in Phnom Penh.
- Wear a helmet whilst riding a motorbike and preferably even when on a motorbike taxi.
- Don’t venture out into unmarked trails in the countryside because landmines from the Khmer rouge times still exist.
- Don’t stick around in border towns like Poipet for long.
- Buy a travel insurance before you travel to Cambodia.
- SIM Card: Mobitel, Smart, Cellcard are three of the largest mobile phone companies in Cambodia. Pre-paid tourist SIM cards are easily available at very affordable prices starting at $1 US. Prices at the airport are similar to what you’ll find in the cities. Most Tourist plans offer unlimited data and unlimited local calling.
- Dress Code for the temples: Respect the local culture and traditions and make sure to cover the shoulders and knees covered while visiting the temples.
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Happy Travelling !!