Cambodia is a fascinating country, where you will have the chance to experience both sides of Southeast Asia. When you visit the wonderful ruins of Angkor Wat, you might be surrounded by hundreds of tourists (although there are many ways to avoid the crowds), whereas the rest of the country is really calm and you will find yourself almost alone in many places. For instance, the Cambodian islands are not too exploited and you will found much less people there than when you travel in Thailand. In general, we felt really surprised during our travel to Cambodia, since we discovered that this country has many more wonderful sights, not only Angkor Wat, although the latter was the main destination for us, too. Apart from wonderful temples, spectacular landscapes and beautiful beaches, we will remember Cambodia for the charming people we met there. In none of the other countries in Southeast Asia we spent as much time with local people as we did in Cambodia, where people always treated us with kindness and a smile on the face.
We are more than sure that your travel to Cambodia will also be memorable, and not just because of Angkor. In order to help you, we prepared you a brief travel guide based on our travel experience, in which we included lots of useful tips.
How to organize your travel to Cambodia
Cambodia is a relatively small country, hence it is quite easy to travel around. Siem Reap, the city which is found next to Angkor, has direct bus/plane connections to Bangkok and also to Laos. Many people visit Cambodia together with Thailand or Laos, which means that they basically visit only Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and not too much else. Nevertheless, we think that it is worth dedicating a trip to Cambodia itself, since this country has a lot to offer. As the distances are not very long, there’s quite a margin for improvisation, but we recommend you to plan a logical itinerary starting in Siem Reap and finishing on the Cambodian coast.
When to travel to Cambodia
The best time of the year to travel to Cambodia is between November and February, when it rains little and the temperatures are mild. In March temperatures start to rise and in Abril you will already sweat quite a lot. In May the monsoon season sets in, which lasts till September-October. It’s more pleasant to visit Cambodia during the dry season, but generally you can travel to Cambodia during the whole year.
In Cambodia, just like when you travel in the rest of Southeast Asia, it is very important to have a good travel insurance. You can easily get infected by different tropical diseases (when we were there, there was a dengue epidemic, for instance), and to have a good insurance is essential in these cases.
Visa to travel Cambodia
Most travelers need visa to enter Cambodia. The visa can be obtained directly on the border post either you cross one of the land borders or you travel to Cambodia by plane. However, if you cross the border on land, we clearly recommend you to obtain your visa in one of the Cambodian embassies found in the countries where you travel from, since in this way you will avoid being cheated. Especially if you travel from Laos, those who work for the bus company will tell you that you can’t process your visa on the border on your own, and they have to do that, and this way, they earn a nice commission. In the Laos-Cambodia border officers will surely try to make you pay a few dollars more, but if you have your visa already (like we had), you can simply deny paying anything more, and they will let you pass. We obtained our visa in the Cambodian embassy in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and we crossed the border without paying a cent more.
UPDATE: Since we last traveled to Cambodia, obtaining an e-Visa has become available. You just have to apply through internet at least 3 days before your arrival. You need to scan a photo, your passport and fill in the forms.
Vaccines and medicine
There isn’t any obligatory vaccine to have if you want to enter Camboya. Nevertheless, just as in the rest of Southeast Asia, it is recommended to be vaccinated against certain tropical diseases. Vaccines that are usually recommended are: typhoid fever, diphtheria, Japanese encefalitis and hepatitis A/B. As usual, we advise you to visit a travel clinic in your country, where they will provide you with all the necessary information.
In Cambodia there’s very slight possibility of getting infected by malaria, however, the risks of catching dengue fever are much higher. It’s really important to have a good mosquito repellent (min. 50% DEET) especially around sunrise and sunset, when dengue mosquitos are the most active.
Cambodia is found in the UTC + 7 time zone.
The official language in Cambodia is the Khmer. Just as in most of Southeast Asia, around tourist sights you will always find people who can speak some English. As always, we recommend you not to fully rely on English, but learn some Cambodian phrases and show interest to local culture.
In Cambodia the local currency is the Riel (KHR), however, most of the the things including accommodation, transport and entrance tickets you will pay in USD, and only in local restaurants and small shops you will pay in riel. The current exchange rate is 1 euro = 4300 riels.
On xe.com you will find the updated exchange rates.
While you travel around Cambodia, you will find free Wi-Fi in almost all accommodations, and the connection is quite decent most of the time. On the islands you might have more problems with the connection, there’s not always available, and when there’s, it’s often very slow.
Cambodia is a quite calm and safe country. Nevertheless, police and customs officer are known to be the most corrupt ones in the whole region. On the borders they always try to ask for a couple of extra dollars that you shouldn’t pay them, and Cambodian police officers are famous for stopping foreign travelers who drive their own vehicle, and they don’t let you pass till you don’t pay some money to them. We saw in Sihanoukville that police officers stopped foreign tourists who rode a motorbike very often.
Child prostitution is one of the most unfortunate problems of Southeast Asia, and in Cambodia, especially around Sihanoukville it was more obvious than in other places. It really makes you feel like vomiting when you see these things, it’s impossible to get used to it.
Where to sleep in Cambodia
When you travel to Cambodia, you will see that in most touristic places such as Siem Reap, you will find accommodation for any kind of budget, and in general the price-quality ratio of hotels is very good. In less frequented places you will have a harder time to find cheap accommodation, but if you take your time, you will always find something relatively cheap and decent.
How to travel around in Cambodia
During your travel to Cambodia, you will travel by bus most of the time. If you come from Laos, you will find that the roads are in much better state, nevertheless, Cambodian drivers tend to drive like crazy. We recommend you to have extra care if you dare to ride a motorbike or a bicycle on Cambodian roads. Other travelers told us that it’s not very advised to take night buses in Cambodia for the same reason.
Between tourist sights there’s a decent frequency of buses, but if you are in a hurry, you can also take a minivan, which is somewhat more expensive, but faster.
Where to eat in Cambodia
In Cambodia you will not have any problems to find the typical food stalls on the street, where you can eat a meal for 1-2 euros, and there are also many local restaurants where you can eat for similar prices. Our favorite dish in Cambodia was the amok, a curry cooked with coconut in banana leaves, and there are other nice dishes, but Cambodian cuisine is much more limited than thai kitchen. In some places they offer khmer barbecue, which is a gas barbecue where you can cook your own meat with vegetables, and it’s quite tasty. It’s worth mentioning that on the coast of Cambodia (especially around Kep) you can eat fresh crab for very little money.
Budget for your travel to Cambodia
We spent only 14 € each per day during our travel in Cambodia, including food, transport, accommodation and entrance fees.
In Cambodia unfortunately you will find child poverty everywhere on the streets, and in many places kids will come to you and ask you for something to give time. It is more responsible not to give them chocolate or other things that harm them, but you’d rather have something useful with you for them, like pencils, for instance. We prepared some colorful bracelets from wool, which we simply called traveling bracelets, and we gave these bracelets to kids who usually appreciated it a lot.
In Cambodia, it’s possible to haggle over the price of everything. Nevertheless, be respectful and never bargain excessively.
Cambodia is a very popular destination amongst Chinese tourists, both Angkor Wat and certain islands on the coast. Try to avoid traveling to these places during the festivities of the Chinese new year or other important Chinese holidays, since during these days you will not only find many tourists, but the price of accommodation will be twice as expensive as usually.
The beaches in Cambodia are one of the great surprises of the country and the coast is full of hidden gems. The area around Kep and Kampot are amongst the most relaxing places in Cambodia.
We really hope that this short guide will be useful to organize your travel to Cambodia.
Useful tools to organize your trip
– ZZZ… BOOK YOUR HOTEL IN CAMBODIA – find the best hotel for you.
– WOW… EXCURSIONS, CHEAP GUIDED TOURS
– BRUM BRUM… RENT A CHEAP CAR FOR YOUR TRIP AROUND CAMBODIA – find the best car for you.
PIN IT FOR LATER?
Kate and Kris
We love Cambodia too. You can now get an e-visa before you arrive, meaning you don’t need to go to an embassy. You just need a scan of a passport photo and the forms, and to do it at least three days before. It’s actually not a problem getting a visa on arrival at the airports, as they will not rip you off like can happen at the borders.
Rachele & Gábor
Thanks guys for the up-to-date information! Really appreciated!