Cambodia is an incredible country. From perfect beaches, to thick jungles, to ancient monuments, this pretty country has it all. If you’re planning on travelling Cambodia, you don’t want to miss out on the best parts because you didn’t plan properly!
Some people are sure they want to visit Angkor Wat, but then are left with no time at all to explore the islands. Others might just come over to get a great tan, but forget that the country is rich with history and culture not to be missed.
Travelling within Asia can be daunting, especially if you’re coming from a western country! There is such a variety of cultures, languages, visa regulations and even currencies that you come across!
So, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to travelling Cambodia so that you can visit fully prepared! Make a cup of tea and settle down to discover what Cambodia is all about!
It’s surprisingly easy to get a visa for Cambodia for most nationalities. If you have a European, American, or Australian passport, you shouldn’t have any problems. Some Southeast Asian countries don’t need a visa to enter the country, but check with the website first.
It costs $30 (you can only pay in U.S. dollars). You can get it online, but you’ll pay a $7 processing charge. If you’d prefer to get the visa in person, you’ll just have to queue up to get one on arrival.
We entered Cambodia by bus where there were certain checkpoints everyone had to go through anyway so we just waited until we got there to get our visa.
As with most countries, Cambodia asks you to have at least 6 months left on your passport. The visa only lasts 30 days but it’s valid for 3 months from when you buy it.
Vaccinations are always horrible but you really should get them done. It’s advised that you speak to your GP or nurse 2 months before you travel. They can give you more information about the exact jabs you might need.
Generally, though, for travelling Cambodia you’ll need to be vaccinated against: hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid.
Usually if you’re only travelling short-term, and you avoid rural areas you should manage to stay clear of the diseases. But, better to be safe than sorry!
Cambodia is also home to many mosquitoes so even if you don’t normally react to their bite (the red bumps people get aren’t a direct bite mark, they’re a reaction from your skin) protect yourself with some good spray.
*We are not doctors so don’t take this as medical advice! We are only stating the information we have from our experience. Go and see a doctor if you are concerned about anything!*
Time of Year to Go
Cambodia is warm pretty much all year round! There’s a dry season and a wet season so you can usually avoid the rain if you plan ahead!
October –April: The dry season
May – September: The wet season
Remember that dry doesn’t always mean good. It can mean horribly hot days where all you want to do is stay inside in an air-conditioned room!
If you’re caught out with rain, don’t let it dampen your spirits (pun intended)! Just spend all day splashing around in the sea or your hotel’s pool.
If the weather is really bad, make some friends in a nearby bar and discover Cambodia’s cheap local beer!
What to Pack
Are you a pack-your-whole-wardrobe kind of traveller, or a live-out-of-hand-luggage type? Either way, you’ll need to think about the climate when you’re travelling Cambodia. Remember the little accessories that make all the difference when travelling around too!
Don’t forget a good first aid kit – yes, you could visit a pharmacy if you needed to but who wants to leave their room and buy medicine when chronic diarrhoea hits!?
Bring a small, hand-held fan too. It will keep you cool when you’re waiting in line for your street food, or wandering around clothes markets. Even if it rains when you’re travelling Cambodia, it’s warm and humid. A quick blast of moving air will feel like heaven.
Another must-have item is a shawl/sarong. In Cambodia, it’s hugely offensive to show your shoulders and above the knees, especially in and around the temples. Many touristy areas will seem OK with it to cater for western customers. But remember it’s better to comply with local culture and cover up!
A full packing list for travelling Cambodia is coming soon. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to read it!
There are different options for your transport into Cambodia – obviously the best way depends on where you are coming from! Check out this site for some fantastic tips on travelling across the whole of Asia too.
If you’re coming from anywhere other than a neighbouring country, then you’ll almost certainly want to fly. Use Skyscanner to get the best deals. We wouldn’t recommend flying with Air Asia for long flights. Our most recent one with this airline was only four hours and we regretted it the whole way!
Recently, Cambodia has revived its train lines, which is great news if you’re planning on travelling Cambodia.
The main line runs from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, stopping at Takeo and Kampot on the way. The full journey only costs $7 which is incredibly cheap since it takes 7 hours.
Buy your tickets from Baolau or plan ahead and go to the station a few days before to pick up your tickets – as it’s a new service, everyone is trying it out and they do sell out!
The long haul buses throughout Southeast Asia can actually be pretty decent. Companies like Giant Ibis are really professional.
They give you an e-ticket which you can either print off beforehand or just download to your phone. They provide snacks and water, and some of their buses even have plug sockets and Wi-Fi.
They’re incredibly cheap and easy to use when travelling Cambodia from somewhere like Vietnam or Thailand.
Cambodia’s main language is Khmer. However, you are likely to be able to find lots of people who speak very good English. Not only are there many tourists travelling Cambodia, but the locals are becoming wise to the fact that they’ll get more business if they can communicate with the foreigners!
It’s always polite to learn a little of the local language before you go, though. Download or buy a phrasebook to practise with on the journey to Cambodia.
Try your best to learn some key words and sentences! People will appreciate it and you’ll leave your comfort zone, which is a great confidence booster for when you’re travelling.
Weirdly enough, Cambodia uses two currencies. Their local one is the riel and 1 GBP/5203 KHR/$1.28. However, everyone seems to prefer to use U.S dollars.
Lots of restaurants, bars and hotels will give prices in dollars, but you can usually pay in riel if you need to. You’ll end up paying less using the local currency but it’s easier to change some money into dollars too just in case. You’ll also get your change in riel regardless of if you paid in dollars or not!
Where to Visit
When people hear ‘Cambodia’, usually the biggest religious complex of Angkor Wat springs to mind. However, there are plenty more places to see!
You already know that you can’t come to Cambodia without visiting Angkor Wat, and Siem Reap is where you’ll find it. You don’t even need that much time to see the interesting parts. Do it in one day and explore the rest of the city as well. Even if you’re travelling with kids, you can still explore the amazing temples!
Spend a few days here enjoying the amazing food, wandering round the cheap night markets and getting relaxing massages!
A touristy beach town, Sihanoukville is on the south coast of the country. Come here if you’re into parties, or as a stop off on your way to one of Cambodia’s gorgeous islands. There are plenty of backpacker hostels and bars to spend your evenings in, but don’t expect a great night’s sleep if you’re staying in the town! Sihanoukville is a pleasant enough place to spend a day relaxing and checking out the local culture.
Kep and Kampot
Famous for the tasty crab and spicy pepper, both Kep and Kampot draw in travellers who are looking for a relaxing few days. Visit the salt flats, a pepper farm and enjoy the fresh local cuisine!
Koh Ta Kiev
A tiny island off the coast of Sihanoukville, Koh Ta Kiev is a gorgeous hidden gem. There’s limited electricity and no Wi-Fi, but you’ll soon forget the comforts of home when you spend the morning snorkeling in gorgeous waters, the afternoon at a local fishing village eating freshly caught crab for lunch, and the evenings drinking the local absinthe and making new friends, and the night-time in a cute treehouse.
The capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh has plenty of distressing history to share, but try not to skip the Genocide Museum or the Killing Fields. You can also visit the gorgeous Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, and join a sunset boat trip down the river.
Where to Stay
Cambodia is basically a backpacker’s heaven on earth. There are literally thousands of cheap, cheap hostels dotted around the whole country.
You can sleep in a decent dorm room for less than £2/$2.60 a night! If that’s slumming it a bit for you, the prices are still low for private rooms – you just get more for your money than in other countries.
A fun way to spend a night (if you’re a bit excitable like us) is to book a box room. Some dormitories have literally boxed up their beds and you sleep in a little cubicle.
If you’re travelling as a pair then sometimes staying in a private room or hotel does work out cheaper, so it can pay to spend time planning your accommodation beforehand.
Tuk tuks are popular in most Asian countries, and Cambodia is no exception. They usually don’t go fast enough to be dangerous, so jump in and get to your next destination quickly.
Expect to pay between $1 and $1.50 for a short journey, but don’t be afraid to haggle if you think you’re being ripped off! At the same time, don’t be that person who’d rather walk 30 minutes than pay another 50 cents. We’re all on a budget but there can be exceptions!
You could also hire a motorbike, but we wouldn’t really recommend it in the cities. Even if you do have travel insurance (ALWAYS get travel insurance!), being thrown off a scooter because you’ve had to swerve to avoid a crazy driver, and spending time in a local hospital isn’t the way to spend your time travelling Cambodia.
If you really want to ride, think about going somewhere with flat roads and very little traffic – a small island would be perfect.
What to Eat
Food is always something that can attract you to a country! Cambodian food is incredibly tasty, and amazingly cheap. Buy meals from the local stalls, wander around the markets and discover new food or even take a cooking class and learn how to make authentic Cambodian dishes from scratch!
Be sure to grab a plate of Bai Sach Chrouk in the mornings – it may seem odd eating a plate of soft barbecued pork and rice first thing, but trust us, it’s so good you’ll forget what time it is! Another must-try dish is the amok – a gorgeous curry steamed in banana leaves!
The cuisine is similar to Thai, with creamy coconut curries, but there’s also plenty of Western food to binge on if you’re craving chips!
On the small islands, however, you might find that the meals don’t necessarily represent Asian cooking as you’d expect, and could be a lot more expensive. They often have to do a boat run every day for supplies, which inevitably puts the prices up.
Scams to Be Aware Of
The most important thing to do before you travel anywhere is buy travel insurance. You never know what might happen! Although most people in Cambodia are friendly and willing to help you, there will always be someone who wants to rip you off or even steal from you in any country!
Be aware of pick pocketers – wear a money belt. Don’t flaunt your cash either. The amount of times I have seen foreigners open up their wallets in a restaurant with their whole holiday fund in freshly printed notes!
Take out what you need for the day. It will help you stick to a budget, plus if you do lose any cash or are targeted by a thief, your holiday won’t be ruined.
Don’t give over your passport to anybody, even the police – carry a copy around with you and tell them you’ll meet them at the embassy with your real one. If they’re fakers then you won’t see them again.
Although it might be heart breaking – please don’t give money to children begging in the street. Those children should be in school, and paying them just gives the adults who are responsible for them more incentive to keep them on the streets.
Children are often taken from their families and put in orphanages just so they can make money from unknowing tourists.
Our Honest Opinion On Travelling Cambodia
Cambodia truly was a beautiful place to stay. We did feel safe, but we didn’t exactly go exploring into non-touristy places so our advice would be just to be careful like you would in any country!!
We would 100% go back again for a longer time and enjoy the different areas of the country.
Our favourite food was Khmer Amok and the best place we stayed was Koh Ta Kiev, the tiny, completely Wi-FI free island!
If you’re planning on visiting Southeast Asia, you cannot miss Cambodia. A country full of interesting history, culture and people, you won’t be disappointed!
Have you been to Cambodia? Did it meet your expectations? Let us know in the comments below!
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