Cambodia is home to rich history, spectacular temples, delicious food, beautiful beaches and islands, friendly locals and a lively nightlife. It seems that everyone is always talking about the neighbouring countries of Thailand and Vietnam and Cambodia is often overlooked. If you’re a history buff, you should add Cambodia to your South East Asia itinerary. This is everything you need to know when planning a trip to Cambodia.
Tourist Visas for Cambodia
Visas to Cambodia are granted on arrival for $30 USD, but you can also apply for them beforehand to save yourself some time in the airport. If you apply online, you will pay $35USD, which is a little extra but means you can skip the line upon arrival. Tourist Visas in Cambodia are valid for 30-days and can be extended at the embassy in Phnom Penh for $45 for an additional 30-days.
Weather in Cambodia
Like most of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is warm to hot year round and the climate is dominated by the wet and dry seasons. The dry season typically runs from November to May and the wet season runs from June to October.
Different parts of the country are affected at different times.
Phone and internet in Cambodia
You can purchase a sim card from Phnom Penh Airport or Siem Reap airport.
If you don’t get a sim card from the airport, you will easily find one on your journeys.
Expect to pay around $5USD for a sim card with 24GB – Unlimited data.
We used Cellcard, which has reliable service across the country. No complaints.
Travel Insurance in Cambodia
Travel insurance is a necessity. I recommend World Nomads.
Recently, however, I arranged a new credit card that covers all my travel insurance. If you travel a lot, this is something I recommend looking into.
You can use the Money Converter website to find out current exchange rates.
In Cambodia, the currency is Cambodian Riel and USD.
Almost every place accepts USD, so if this is the currency you are travelling with, you won’t need to worry about getting it exchanged.
I recommend having some Cambodian Riel or USD on hand for your arrival.
After you arrive you can easily exchange your cash around Phnom Penh, Siem Reap or Sihanoukville or can use an ATM to withdraw. When choosing to use ATMs, it is recommended to look into any associated fees and charges so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
Accommodation in Cambodia
There are ample options for accommodation in Cambodia, ranging from guest houses, bed and breakfasts, Airbnb, hotels and luxury resorts. In Cambodia, you will get great value for money. Booking in advance isn’t essential.
Flights to Cambodia
When travelling into Cambodia, you have several options. The main airports are located in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
The airport you choose to fly into will depend on the route you choose.
Siem Reap is the base of Angkor Wat. Phnom Penh is the capital city and location of the infamous killing fields and Sihanoukville is the closest airport to the beaches and islands.
You can pre-arrange a driver to get you from the airport to your hotel or you can easily find a taxi or tuk-tuk driver outside the airport.
Transport in Cambodia
When travelling across Cambodia, transport options include flights, bus rides and ferries.
There are three airports that you fly into: Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.
Getting across the country by bus is relatively cheap and easy, but can take a bit of time.
Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh takes 5 hours (minimum) and costs $10.
Sihanoukville to Siem Reap takes 10 hours (minimum) and costs $20-$25USD.
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap takes 5 hours (minimum) and costs $10USD +.
From Phnom Penh to Siem Reap you also have the option to take a ferry, which takes slightly longer but makes for a great experience. Ferries usually operate only between July and March because during the dry season the water level is too low. In Phnom Penh, ferries depart from the port on Sisowath Quay, usually at 7 am in the morning and arrive at Chong Kneas in Siem Reap in about 4-6 hours, covering the distance of about 250 km.
You can also choose to hire a taxi or driver for the day, which will cost $20+USD.
Planning your route around Cambodia
The main route for backpackers is Siem Reap to Sihanoukville and the southern islands of Cambodia.
Most travellers fly into Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat then head south to Phnom Penh to visit the killing fields before going to Sihanoukville and taking a ferry to the offshore islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem.
This route is well travelled and can easily be done via flights, buses and ferries.
You also have the option of getting off the beaten track. Here are some ideas.
Cost of travelling around Cambodia
The cost of travelling around Cambodia depends on how you want to travel.
You can stay in luxury resorts and go to expensive restaurants, or you can get by on the cheap if you wish.
Accommodation: The cost of staying in a hostel starts at $3-$7 for a dorm bed to $7-$15 private for a private room. For a mid-range hotel, expect to pay $25 – $40 and for luxury, anywhere above that. I recommend using booking.com to search for accommodation.
Bike Hire: Bike hire generally costs $5 – 10 USD per day, depending on your location.
Food: A meal costs between $3 – $15 depending on where and what you eat. If you are on a budget, eat local food at local restaurants. Western food always costs more. You can get a beer for $1 – $2.
Massages: Massages start at $5USD per hour.
Transport: Flights around Cambodia start at $60 and buses are generally around $10 – $20 between major locations.
If you plan to travel to the Islands of Koh Rong, expect to pay around $25USD for the return ferry trip.
You could get by on a budget of 25USD per day in Cambodia if you wanted to.
Things to do in Cambodia
The main things to do in Cambodia include Angkor Wat, the Killing Fields and a trip to the paradise islands of Koh Rong. This is my 7 day Cambodia itinerary, showcasing the best destinations in Cambodia.
Safety in Cambodia
I recommend exercising all usual safety precautions when travelling in Cambodia. Bag snatching is common in Phnom Penh so this is one thing to take particular care with. In addition, these are my tips for keeping safe.
For more information on the safety risk in Cambodia, visit the Smart Travellers website.
Vaccinations in Cambodia
Check the Travel Doctor website to find out what vaccinations you need when planning a trip to Cambodia.
Haggling in Cambodia
In markets, the first price you are offering is rarely the real price, so don’t be afraid to counteract with an offer.
Tipping in Cambodia
In general, tipping in Cambodia isn’t expected or required, however, if your service from restaurants, hairdressers, taxi drivers, hotel employees, and other service providers exceed expectations, consider leaving a little extra to show your appreciation. To find out how much you should leave, read this guide to tipping in Cambodia.
Khmer is the official language of Cambodia, although sometimes it’s referred to as Cambodian.
Not everyone speaks English in Cambodia, but if you stick to the tourist areas most people will have a basic understanding.
Regardless, I recommend learning a few key phrases. Locals always appreciate it when you try to speak their language, at least a little.
How are you –Anak sokhasabbay te
Thank you – Saum arkoun
See you soon –Kheunh anak chab
Other things to know when planning a trip to Cambodia
- Don’t drink the tap water in Cambodia.
- Visit the temples early – beat the crowds and the heat.
- Tips aren’t expected but they go a long way.
- Here are some more fun facts about Cambodia
- For the ultimate Asia packing list, click here.
History in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country still trying to find its way after the horrifying genocide that was carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime (led by Pol Pot) between 1975 and 1979 when about 1.5-3 million Cambodian people were killed. This only took place 35-40 years ago, so the aftermath is still raw and most locals are still deeply affected. Development since has been slow as corrupt officials have hinder growth by selling off most of the country to investors. As you travel around Cambodia you can see the devastation that has taken place. Be prepared for an eye-opening and sometimes upsetting experience.
That is everything you need to know when planning a trip to Cambodia.