Ultimate Travel Guide for Cambodia

Cambodia is undoubtedly one of the jewels of South-East Asia. Huge temples await you at Angkor Wat, one of the greatest architectural jewels of today where you can feel like Lara Croft and Indiana Jones touring all its temples.

Escape to the south of the country and discover its paradisiacal islands Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem where you can relax or party until the sun rises and explore Kampot, the region with the most attractive nature and mountains in the country.

Everything you need to know for your trip to Cambodia:

  1. Best time of the year to visit Cambodia
  2. Best tips for your trip to Cambodia
  3. Two week itinerary through Cambodia
    1. Days 1 and 2: Phnom Penh
    2. Days 3 to 5: Kampot
    3. Days 6 to 8: Koh Rong Sanloem
    4. Days 9 to 12 : Siem Reap
    5. Days 13 and 14: Kratie
  4. Daily budget for Cambodia
  5. Where to stay in Cambodia
  6. What else to do in Cambodia if you have more time

Official exchange rate 1EUR = 4.500 KHR

Best time of the year to visit Cambodia

Back to business as usual in South East Asia, Laos has two seasons, the dry and the wet.

Dry season: November to April, little rain and higher temperatures, it can be quite stifling and extremely hot.

Wet season: May to October, coinciding with the European summer. Even though it is the rainy season, these are characterized by being short but intense, you can find yourself one day with only rain, but in three weeks in Laos this was never the case. Although it rained almost 80% of the days, it was either at night or for a while in the morning.

For me, the rainy season is still the best option for an inland country.

The bridge months between seasons are usually low season, you will find fewer tourists and better prices everywhere. Both dry and wet seasons, one for good weather and the other for coinciding with the European summer, are “peak” times in which the country is in full tourist effervescence. In my case, on my first occasion I traveled at the beginning of May and I attest, most hotels were at half capacity and that was noticeable in the rhythm of the people. However on my second visit in September and late August, Thailand was smoking and people were everywhere.

Best tips for your trip to Cambodia

Here are some tips that may be useful on your first visit to the country:

  • The south (Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem): You should be aware that everything is set up to go on tours, any island or place that has water in between, most likely you will not be able to get there on your own by renting a boat (everything has a price ).
  • Set up a group and rent a longtail: If you are lucky enough to go in a large group or make a group of friends in the country, renting a longtail to take you to a nearby island can be very cheap and you will be able to avoid daytrips and set up your own party. Especially in the Koh Rong and Kratie region.
  • Grab: As in many countries taxis take advantage of tourists so take advantage of technology and use Grab it costs half as much as Uber and less than a taxi. If for some reason you cannot take a Grab, always agree on the price with the taxi drivers, they will tell you <> Don’t pay attention to them, always agree on the price even in Tuk-Tuks.
  • Redbus: It is the best application to find buses and go from one place to another, you can buy online and it will be practically the same price as in an agent, the positive part of buying in an agency is that many times they include the transfer and pickup in your accommodation
  • Travel at night: Like many of its neighbors, Cambodia enjoys a wonderful night transport system, trains and sleeping buses. Not only will you save money, but you will avoid wasting time, and in Cambodia there are sleeper buses.
  • No sexy inside: This was told to us in more than one temple… Whether you are a man or a woman, cover your legs and shoulders! You must always wear long pants to enter the temples. You don’t want to arrive at Angkor Wat at 5 in the morning and search for a sarong to cover yourself
  • Beware of motorbikes: To say that most of the westerners I met had fallen off their scooters is not an exaggeration. The roads are not in their best condition and the scooters are usually pretty bad. Although if you’re responsible you shouldn’t have a problem.
  • Visa: The visa for Spaniards and most nationalities is 30 days but it is easy to extend. Otherwise you can cross the neighboring border and re-enter, also called a “visa run”. Although in my opinion, with 30 days you have enough to see the entire country.

Two week itinerary through Cambodia

This route is designed to fly into Phnom Penh or cross from Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) and cross into Si Pha Don in southern Laos. You can alter the order and leave Siem Reap for last if your next destination is Thailand.

Days 1 and 2: Phnom Penh

If you arrive in Cambodia through the Phnom Penh airport, you will need to obtain a visa on arrival, which gives you permission to spend 30 days in the country. You can only pay in cash in Riels or Dollars, there is an ATM and exchange house where you can manage it.

You can get to your accommodation by tuktuk for around €15 or take the bus for 1,500 riel (€0.4) and it will drop you off in the center of the city.

Phnom Penh is a relatively interesting city for a couple of days easily and you will be able to cover it all. You should not miss under any circumstances, the S21 Prison. This prison-museum will give you the necessary background to understand Cambodia’s harsh recent history and how the Khmer Rouge sowed terror and murdered people throughout the country, entrance fee 40,000 KHR with audio guide (€10). Complement it with a visit to the Killing fields, extermination camps about 20 minutes from Phnom Penh by tuktuk.

For your second day in the city I recommend that you visit the Orussey Market, the Central Market and head towards the west bank of the river where you will find the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and Wat Phnom.

For dinner, the best thing you can do in Phnom Penh is to go to the Night Market, although it is a bit small compared to other capitals, you can try delicious local foods.

From here you can take a bus of about 4 hours to Kampot (the price is usually around €10)

Days 3 to 5: Kampot

Kampot is the place where you can definitely extend your stay in Cambodia, there are endless options and routes to discover in the area. Also, I stayed at Arkadia Backpackers, which is a hostel that is also a water park.

Bokor National Park should be on your itinerary, it is a very strange National Park. There is not much to see at the nature level, but it is a very mysterious place full of abandoned structures that were mostly built by the French decades ago and have been left abandoned. Luxury hotels, half-finished villas and apartments, abandoned cities, and even an abandoned power station next to a lake. All this accompanied by a permanent mist trapped at the top of the mountain.

You can dedicate another day to visit several waterfalls in the area such as Tada Roung and Veal Pouch waterfall or take a kayak and navigate the river.

There are many other options and plans, sunset cruise along the river, spice tour etc… I didn’t do any of these but the spice tour looked interesting. To move around the area you can rent a scooter for 24,000 KHR (€6)

In the center of Kampot it is full of food stalls and the Kampot Night Market has at least 100 different street food stalls, you won’t be able to try them all!

Perhaps the hardest part of this trip is the 80 kilometers and 5 hours that separate Kampot from Sihanoukville where you will take the speedboat to Koh Rong or Koh Rong Sanloem. It is a hellish road full of “potholes”. Mark my words, it’s the worst road you’ll ever take in your life.

Days 6 to 8: Koh Rong Sanloem

There are several daily trips to both Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, and/or they are 100,000 KHR (€25) quite expensive… but it’s the only way to get there. In Sihanoukville there is literally nothing to do, it is a port city controlled by the Chinese mafia full of casinos.

How to decide between Koh Rong and KRS? Personally, KRS is more backpacker and has another vibe of cabins and small hostels, while Koh Rong is bigger and more touristy. Of course, if you like to party and you plan to visit them, try to plan it to be in Koh Rong on a Saturday, when Nestival is celebrated at Nest Hostel.

As for the beaches, both one and the other island are not at the same level as Thailand, Indonesia or Malaysia, although they are worth a visit and a few days of relaxation, fishing trips, snorkelling and even going out to enjoy and investigate a little the island.

Both islands do not have vehicles and you have to walk everywhere, it is full of small paths that lead to small secret beaches, cabins and restaurants hidden in remote places.

From here you can go to Siem Reap or make an intermediate stop in Battambang, in my case I went directly to Siem Reap on a night bus for about 60,000 KHR (€15). The journey is about 10 hours, do it at night and discover the Asian night buses, sleeping in a bed on a bus is not something that is done every day.

Days 9 to 12 : Siem Reap

What to say about Siem Reap… I have a very good friend who told me: Uncle there is nothing to do in Siem Reap, but for some reason I stayed for two whole weeks and until the last day I had not seen Angkor Wat.

Siem Reap has that vibe that many places lack, they have a lot of backpacker life, a nightlife that has nothing to envy to Thailand and its famous Pub Street with drinks for €1 will make you not want to leave the city. However, after four days I can say that I did a bit of everything.

Nightlife, check, 4/4 we could say with a pub crawl included.

Angkor Wat is truly the highlight, you can go as many times as you want, you will never finish it, it honestly depends on what you like about stones and ruins… I went one day and pedaling a bike you don’t want to go back, but here are the temples that you should or should not miss on your visit to Angkor Wat.

The main temple Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Preah Khan, Ta Keo and Ta Prohm. Leaving aside the main temple, perhaps the second most impressive is Ta Prohm and if you are a fan of Lara Croft Tomb Raider you will soon understand why. Nature has taken it completely and you will see how the trees and their roots go through the impressive temples.

Days 13 and 14: Kratie

Kratie is one of those places that are not usually on the backpacker route in Cambodia, but it was certainly one of my favorite places. You can get there from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh by bus and it takes about 4 to 6 hours, depending on where you come from.

You will wonder what there is to see in Kratie, the truth is that not much, but if you like to discover local life, walk, establish relationships with the locals and escape from luxuries for a while, this is your stop.

If you go to Kratie I recommend that you stay on the island of Koh Trong (if they all sound the same), I stayed at Pomelo Homestay and this was one of the best decisions without a doubt. Very basic and rudimentary, but we ate like never before, although we also slept little because the chickens wake you up every hour starting at 3am… But we rented bikes and rode around the island, playing volleyball, we went to temples and markets.

If you are also interested, you can see the Irrawaddy dolphins, some endemic river dolphins of this region that are currently in danger of extinction, although you will only see them from afar, the tour cost us 48,000r (about €12). From there we headed to Laos, where we had to bribe the customs agents on both sides twice.

You can go to Laos from Kratie town to Si Pha Don (4000 islands) for about €25. You leave first thing in the morning and arrive by sunset, the logistics of the trip are quite bad, but when we went there was little demand, this may have changed.

Daily budget for Cambodia

Probably, together with Laos and Vietnam, one of the cheapest countries you will find in South East Asia, with an average of €28 a day, you will go out partying once every couple of days, you will go on excursions, you will to Angkor Wat and you will eat until you burst.

Food, the weakest part of Cambodia. I was expecting a bit more varied cuisine, but it is relatively basic within noodles and rice compared to its neighbors. Most of their dishes are worth €1.5 if you look for local shops and stalls. You are going to miss the Pad Thai of Thailand

Leisure, Cambodia has a very good nightlife, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are the two best places to go out at night. However, within this budget there are also visits to temples, museums and Angkor Wat… In this country it is difficult to spend money… Probably along with Laos and Vietnam

Presupuesto diario viajar Camboya

Accommodation, most hostels are around €5 and guesthouses are €10 depending on the area you go to. Quite new and modern full of backpackers.

Transportation, the country is small, although it takes time to cover those distances, keep in mind that if you want to save time and money, you should allocate one of those nights to take a night bus to get to your next stop if you don’t want to waste the whole day.

Where to stay in Cambodia

  • Mad Monkey Phnom Penh // Phnom Penh: It is a party hostel, the volunteers and staff will do everything possible for you to have a good experience in the hostel and organize activities every afternoon/evening. Modern and recently renovated facilities.
  • Pooltop Guesthouse // Phnom Penh: Much more basic and with less atmosphere in another part of the city, quieter with a pool on the rooftop, very close to the night market.
  • Mad Monkey KRS // Koh Rong Sanloem: Wilderness cabin style, extremely basic, bunk cabins, outside bathrooms but with a very relaxed vibe. Great to spend a few quiet days drinking beers and being on the beach. The downside is that it is not on the main beach.
  • Arkadia Backpackers // Kampot: It’s a crazy hostel, extremely basic and rudimentary, but it’s like a water park, it has slides, springboards, trapeze and a couple of Blops! It is also a party hostel.
  • Mad Monkey Siem Reap // Siem Reap: Party hostel too, 10 minutes from the bar area and in a relatively touristy area where there isn’t much to do, but it is full of restaurants. It has a pool and it is very easy to meet people.
  • Pomelo Homestay // Kratie: It is a homestay, great to experience the local and quiet life of this small island in the middle of the Mekong. You can take a free bike, ride around and its owner will take you for a ride and see the rest of Kratie. Very basic bathroom, kitchen and bed.

PS: It is not sponsored by Mad Monkey but their hostels in Cambodia are really worth it and they are very sociable

What to do if you have more time in Cambodia

You have several other options in Cambodia, there is Battambang and its caves with thousands of bats. Then the province of Ratanakiri, which is practically a National Park in its entirety with several animal sanctuaries, mainly elephants, the only drawback is its poor communication and difficulty of access.

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