Although Cambodia is most known for Angkor Wat and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime the country has a lot of offer those with a sense of adventure. We spent nine weeks in Cambodia. Time enough to have a good look around and get to know the lay of the land.
This Cambodia travel guide with cover the major destinations that we have personally experienced, how to travel between these places, accommodation we stayed at and more. This guide should cover all the important stuff you need to know to get the most out of a trip to Cambodia.
Generally it is an easy country to move around, people's reactions can be a little full-on but they are generally friendly. It is possible to post stuff home from Cambodia if you buy too much at the markets.
As always, if you are planning on riding a motorcycle or scooter we recommend that you get your motorcycle license before coming to south east Asia. The roads and the traffic in the region can be demanding and the consequences of being inadequately prepared can be very serious.
- 1 When To Visit Cambodia
- 2 Getting To Cambodia
- 3 Do I Need A Visa For Cambodia?
- 4 Eating In Cambodia
- 5 Cambodia Attractions
- 6 Where To Stay In Cambodia
- 7 Getting Around Cambodia
- 8 Cambodia Travel Budget Tips
- 9 What To Pack For Cambodia
When To Visit Cambodia
Cambodia tends to be very hot from March to August. The peak is in April and May with maximum temperatures getting to the high 30s (Celsius, 95-105F). Although the heat is bothersome it is generally not a problem provided you are not traveling with young children or anyone else less resilient.
Wet season is from June to November. Typically rainfall occurs in the afternoon or at night so it is fairly easy to plan around. Rainfall can be very heavy but it rarely rains for long periods of time. An afternoon shower lasting an hour or two which always starts and ends at around the same time is fairly easy to factor into your schedule.
The best time to visit Cambodia if you want cooler dry weather is November to February. This avoids both hot season and wet season.
On the flip side the least pleasant time to be exploring the country is June, July and August which is both hot season and wet season. Not only is there high temperatures and periodic rainfall but the humidity tends to be high all day which can be stifling.
One caveat on this is that Cambodia's various temples and ruins, most notably Angkor Wat, tend to be at their most photogenic during wet season. Moats and pools are full and the surrounding jungle is lush and green. If you want the best possible photographs you will want to go in wet season.
Getting To Cambodia
Although Cambodia is a popular tourist destination you are unlikely to find many direct flights from outside south east Asia. Typically if you are flying there you will find yourself stopping off at Singapore, Bangkok or similar. Despite that minor inconvenience the country's major destinations, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, are well served by a large number of airlines.
The sheer number of airlines can be overwhelming so we recommend using Expedia to start your research. They pull together a whole bunch of flight options and help you sort through them. Even if you do not book through them they are a handy tool for comparing a lot of prices quickly and will often list a few airlines you would not have thought to check.
It is also possible to travel to Cambodia overland from any of its neighbors, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. We have a detailed guide describing how to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap.
Do I Need A Visa For Cambodia?
Yes. Tourist visas can be purchased on arrival for $30 USD. You must also provide two recent, identical passport photographs. It is advisable to have the correct amount of US currency on hand as change may not be forthcoming. Notes should be in near new condition or they may be rejected. A Cambodia tourist visa gets you 30 days in Cambodia. A Cambodia tourist visa can be extended once and only once.
Tourist visas can be purchased online in advance through the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. A Cambodia tourist visa purchased online is valid for 3 months.
For anyone wanting to stay in Cambodia for more than 30 days you require a different kind of visa. The business ‘E' visa. This type of visa may now have been renamed to “ordinary visa” so look for that name on the form.
While the business/ordinary visa is also only a 30 day visa it can be extended indefinitely without the need to leave the country. Go to a travel agent, give them your passport and the fee in US currency and then come back in a few days to pick up your passport.
Eating In Cambodia
Cambodia is a popular tourist destination so the major tourist hot spots have a multitude of international food available. In particular there are a lot of amazing restaurants in Siem Reap.
Traditional Khmer food can be a little more difficult to access. There are companies that offer Cambodia food tours. These can be a great way to quickly try a whole bunch of different foods with the help of a local guide.
We found Khmer food to be relatively bland compared to the firey and sharp flavors of neighboring Thailand. If chilies are not your thing you are relatively safe in Cambodia as they do not seem to like their food quite a blazing hot as many Thais.
Siem Reap And Angkor Wat
Siem Reap is a very popular tourist destination. It is home to a surprisingly varied set of restaurants and expats from all over the world.
Things To Do In Siem Reap
Siem Reap is home to one of the world's most famous tourist attractions. Visiting Angkor Wat will be on just about everyone's to-do list when they are in town. There are however at least a few things to do in Siem Reap other than visiting Angkor Wat.
Battambang is a charming town that receives far fewer visitors than other parts of the country. For those specifically interested in the Khmer Rouge era Battambang's “killing caves” are a grim reminder of the hundreds of killing sites scattered across Cambodia.
Although we only spent a week here we did a great tour of Battambang and got dressed in traditional Cambodian costumes. The selection of battambang hotels is relatively limited compared to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh but we were very happy staying on the outskirts of town and getting around on the provided bicycles.
The national capital and largest city, Phnom Penh is rapidly developing and has something of a wild west feeling. It is likely to develop very rapidly over the coming years.
If you are looking for a real adventure, you do not have children, and you are looking to base yourselves somewhere for a long stretch we recommend you consider Phnom Penh. Short term Phnom Penh apartments are easy to come by for when you first arrive, the city is extremely dynamic and has a real energy about it.
What To Do In Phnom Penh
The city's largest tourist draw is the killing fields. Despite having “the” in the name the killing fields is actually only one of several hundred killing sites across the country.
Prior to be murdered at these killing sites some victims were first interrogated at places like S21, also known as Tuol Sleng. It is a school that was converted into a prison and torture center. The school building peeking through the barbed wire and the cells constructed within classrooms complete with blackboards make this place especially unsettling.
Although not suitable for children visiting S-21 then the killing fields is a profound experience.
After that emotionally draining experience do remember that there are other much more jovial things to do in Phnom Penh. If you are hungry and up for a slightly unusual experience there is even a North Korean restaurant staffed by actual North Koreans.
Cambodia has some really beautiful coastline. Sihanoukville beaches in particular can be quite lovely. Although the focus is very much on the beach there are in fact at least a few other things to do in Sihanoukville.
After the grimness of the killing fields and hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh hanging out in Sihanoukville was a very pleasant change of pace.
Where To Stay In Cambodia
Being a popular tourist destination there is generally plenty of accommodation in Cambodia to choose from.
Accommodation in Cambodia We Stayed At
The following are places we have personally stayed. If a hotel or hostel is listed here we would stay there again.
Siem Reap Accommodation
We spent quite a bit of time in Siem Reap so we had time to try out a few places.
The Passaggio Boutique Hotel was very slightly closer to the center of town. It was quiet although our room was a little cozy. Click here to get the current price.
If you want to be very close to Pub Street without breaking the bank the two hotels above are great options.
Finally is the Claremont Angkor Boutique Hotel. We spent a month here. Comfortable room, very nice breakfast from the rooftop restaurant overlooking Siem Reap. A bit further from the center of town but still walkable. Read our Claremont Angkor Boutique Hotel review and click here to get the current price.
We stayed at “Battambang My Homestay”. A nice place run by a friendly Cambodian family. It is on the outskirts of Battambang. Bicycles are available to ride into town and it is a really lovely ride. Read our Battambang My Homestay review.
Phnom Penh Accommodation
We stayed at the Diamond Palace II. Pleasant enough facilities although not fancy. Tuk tuk drivers congregate in the street out the front and will shout at you as you leave your room. The blind massage place around the corner is very good. Click here to get the current price.
The Beach Club Resort Sihanoukville is a really nice place. Clean and tidy, well run, big swimming pool and awesome blue cheese hamburgers. A short walk to Ochheuteal Beach. Read our Beach Club Resort Sihanoukville review and click here to get the current price.
Getting Around Cambodia
Although the infrastructure is basic Cambodia is a hugely popular tourist destination. That means that there are an abundance of buses, cars etc available to ferry visitors around.
Taxis In Cambodia
Taxis are generally cheap and can be a very convenient way of getting from place to place. Negotiation is required and the process can be a little intimidating. Try to bear in mind how much you are actually paying. Even if you somewhat overpay the actual amount of money involved is unlikely to be large. As always, trust your instincts.
Buses are cheaper than taxis but may require some waiting around before you depart, they tend to make stops to pick up and drop off people and they likely run between bus stations so you still need to get from the bus station to your accommodation.
Taxis cost more but they solve all of those issues. Ideally have your accommodation arrange a taxi for you. That avoids any language issues plus this is less likely to result in you being unfairly overcharged or dropped off somewhere other than where you wanted to go. Particularly if you are a group of two to four people the cost of a taxi may well not be much higher than buying everyone a bus ticket. Being picked up at your previous accommodation then dropped at your next accommodation is an added bonus.
How To Get From Siem Reap To Battambang
Battambang is a little off the beaten path compared to Siem Reap but the two are well connected by buses. Read our guide on how to get from Siem Reap to Battambang
How To Get From Battambang To Phnom Penh
Being the national capital Phnom Penh is well connected to the rest of Cambodia. Read our guide on how to get from Battambang to Phnom Penh
How To Get From Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Once you have had enough of the big city perhaps it is time to head to the beach. Read our guide on how to get from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville
How To Get From Sihanoukville To Phnom Penh Airport
It is possible to go directly from Sihanoukville to the international airport. Read our guide on how to get from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh airport
Cambodia Travel Budget Tips
Cambodia is a relatively low cost destination. Prices can be surprisingly high however for the unwary.
There are effectively two currencies in Cambodia. US dollars and the Cambodian riel. Most businesses where you are paying in cash will be keen for you to pay in US dollars while they give you change in riel. This has two effects. Firstly the purchase price of everything gets rounded up to the nearest dollar which adds up if you are wandering around buying food and drinks throughout the day. Secondly you wind up with a pocket full of riel that is extremely hard to get rid of. Many vendors will simply refuse to accept it and some negotiation may be required before you can pay for something with the local currency.
If you do receive US currency from someone as change be wary of damaged US notes. We once paid for something with a US $10 bill. They gave us change partly in US currency and we received a $5 bill that had a slightly torn corner hidden among a few riel notes. We did not even notice it at the time but no one would accept this note so it was essentially worthless. The amount of money involved was very small but no one likes feeling duped.
Accommodation is a big part of everyone's travel budget. Regardless of how you find and book your accommodation we recommend verifying prices on Hotels Combined. Just double check that the great deal you are being offered is actually a great deal.
Canadia Bank ATMs did not charge an ATM fee for at least some foreign bank cards. ATM fees for foreigners can be steep so the saving you can make here are actually reasonably substantial depending on the length of your visit.
What To Pack For Cambodia
The weather in Cambodia tends to be warm to hot. Hot weather combined with high humidity makes for a very sweaty time. Leave your jackets at home and focus on clothing that will keep you as cool as possible.
Casual clothing is fine for virtually all activities. We would however strongly encourage you to stick to clothes that cover your shoulders are which are not overly tight or revealing. Likely you will be visiting a number of temples and sites related to Cambodia's difficult history so some level of modesty is appropriate. Plus the Cambodian sun can be very strong so you will want adequate coverage to prevent sunburn and loose clothing tends to allow your sweat to evaporate more rapidly compared to anything more form fitting.
Mosquito borne illnesses like Malaria and Dengue Fever are of serious concern. DEET based repellents are generally the most effective. We recommend wearing a DEET based repellent during peak mosquito times.
To avoid the need to wear DEET 24 hours a day we also carry a citronella based repellent. We use this during more low risk times or in low risk areas likes cities and even in our room while sleeping if the area we are staying feels particularly mosquito prone.
Mosquito repellent clothing looks pretty awesome but we have not yet got around to trying it out. If you try it let us know how you go.
Keen sandals or similar are typically preferable to enclosed shoes to allow your feet to breathe. They are fairly attractive, as far as sandals go.
Cambodia Packing List
-At least three days worth of warm weather clothing.
-Hats. Especially if you will be exploring Angkor Wat it can get very sunny.
-Basic toiletries. A mixture of cheap local brands and more expensive items are available from convenience stores but if you are particular about your toothpaste, moisturizer etc you will want to bring a little stash.
-Thongs/flip flops/jandels for around your accommodation.
-Bank/credit cards and a small amount of cash.
-Travel insurance details.
-Any electronic devices you require plus their chargers or cables.
-Books, toys etc for the kids (if you have any with you).
Stuff for babies and toddlers
There are some items specific to small children that you might consider bringing.
For Cambodia we consider a baby carrier of some sort virtually mandatory. Footpaths and frequently of poor quality, dirt roads are common and the traffic can be intense. That means a stroller can be impractical and letting a toddler walk on their own is sometimes going to be a very bad idea.
There are a lot of great baby carriers out there but the Ergobaby is a great starting point.
If you expect to use your carrier infrequently something like the Boba Air may suffice. Although it is less comfortable than something like the Ergobaby it packs up very small and only weighs 1 pound (0.5 kg). It is perfect for occasional use but you will get sore if you wind up wearing it for long periods of time.
For more information check out of extensive collection of baby carrier reviews.
A stroller in Cambodia is going to be, at best, a mixed blessing. There are just so many situations where it will not be helpful. Non-existent sidewalks, potholed dirt roads and muddy footpaths are all common. If you are going to bring one make sure it is something extremely lightweight. That way you can pick up the stroller, child and all, when required to do so.
We personally own and use both the Babyzen Yoyo, which is suitable from birth thanks to the bassinet attachment, and the GB Pockit Stroller, which is lighter but does not recline so it cannot be used with a new born.
If you are selecting a stroller check out our guide to choosing the best travel stroller.
Travel Cots/Travel Cribs
We traveled with our own travel cot until Zoe transitioned into a real bed. That way she always had somewhere familiar to sleep and she was safely contained. Phil & Ted's Portable Traveler Crib was great. Packs up small, light weight, and stable. On a hard floor like tile it does however benefit from having something soft put under it to make it more comfortable as the provided air mattress is fairly thin.
Infant car seats
If you anticipate frequent car trips or taxi rides then you might want to consider bringing your own car seat. I would be somewhat wary of anything provided to you within Cambodia as it may not meet the safety standards you expect.
For occasional car trips we put Zoe into a baby carrier on one of us then just make sure that the seat belt is not around Zoe. The lap strap should be under her bum while the chest seat belt strap should be between the adult and the child. That way in the event of an accident the seat belt can stop the adult while the baby carrier will stop the child and the child will not be squished by the adult's body weight.
These are available in larger stores and convenience stores but you will likely need to be flexible on brand. You are likely to come across some very cheap options but expect a quality of product that matches the price tag.
Baby formula is available but for a short trip consider just bringing a stockpile. That way your baby can have familiar tasting food throughout. They will have enough new experiences to deal with anyway so it is nice to keep their diet consistent.
Still want more? Here is everything we have written about Cambodia.