Cambodia was one of the countries I wasn’t very convinced if I should add it to my travel route or not. While I was in Vietnam I talked to many travelers that have been there before and the opinions were mixed. In the end I still heard more positive impressions and thought it’s that close, I just give it a go. And I’m so glad I did! I will tell you why I’m convinced that you will love it too and how to make your travel experience in Cambodia the best you can get!
Are you searching for information about the neighbour country Vietnam? Have a look here!
The great thing about Cambodia is that you can easily see all the main attractions within two weeks or even 10 days! In comparison to Vietnam it’s not such a big stretch of distance between one place to the other, so you can go by bus. Just make sure to have a reliable one. The company I can highly recommend you is called Giant Ibis. They provide a good service where your expectations get satisfied. Their sleeper buses come with comfortable, clean beds, AC, a water bottle, restroom and most importantly it’s a save, well organized ride.
My journey started in Sihanoukville, in the south. From here you have different options where to go that depend on your timeline. So either you can go to the Koh Rong islands by speedboat, stay in Sihanoukville or go to Kampot. Personally I skipped Koh Rong because I was just coming from the island paradise of Phu Quoc, but many people suggested to go there. The islands offer still a very rough and unspoiled beauty.
The other option of staying in Sihanoukville wouldn’t be my preferred choice. I’ve stayed there only one night and this was already enough. It’s a small, small village. The only thing you can do there is hanging in one of the party hostels, or go to the beach which isn’t that nice. But opinions differ. If you’re not into partying though, I wouldn’t stay long and instead make your way up to Kampot. It takes about 4 hours ride in a shuttle bus.
Kampot was besides Siem Reap my favorite place in Cambodia. You can imagine it as this small town that has a good variety of attractive restaurants and shops for tourists, but still hasn’t lost its unique charme. The people of the village were all very warm and friendly. It’s a great place to see some of the fisher villages close by or the salt fields that are just a short bike ride ahead. If you want to see some of Cambodias countryside this is the place to go. Motorbike rental is really cheap, US$5 a day, and the bikes are usually in a good condition. If you’ve never driven a bike and you want to give it a try, Cambodias countryside is one of the best places in Southeast-Asia. A nice route to take is the one from Kampot to Kep, a village famous for its crab market.
Where to stay
The hostel I’ve stayed at is called Karma traiders. It’s a little offside located but they rent great bikes as mentioned above, so you get within 5 minutes to the main center. The hostel is very clean, has a beautiful rooftop, a pool, and a big garden, lovely dogs and the staff is super friendly and helpful. And not to forget it’s backpacker-budget friendly👍🏻.
Despite the fact that Siem Reap is the big tourist hub in Cambodia it doesn’t feel overcrowded like other big cities! Next to tourism industry the fish and farming sector still maintains one of the most important roles in growing Siem Reaps economy. In addition to the world famous Angkor Wat you can do a lot of nice trips to the countryside and other attractions in and around the city.
Angkor Wat it the biggest religious monument in the world and has always been in use since it was finished in the year 1152. Its breathtaking in detail and the way how it was built so many years ago.
You can visit it all year round. If you want to make sure to get one of the famous sunrise shots though, the best time is to go from November to February. Otherwise you might have a cloudy or rainy sky.
Entrance fee is for one day US$ 37 and for three days US$ 72.
The easiest way to get around the temple area is by Tuk Tuk. I paid US$ 21 for a whole day but shared it through three people.
There are two routes offered. A small and a big one. Personally, for me it was enough doing the small one in a one day tour. I saw so much of the beautiful temple buildings in just one day that it already satisfied my expectations completely. But it’s totally up to everyone’s individual preference.
Do you want to see some of the countryside around Siem Reap? Then you could make a trip to the Lotus farm just a quick ride outside of town, in a place called Samatoa. Once there, you get rewarded with a really breathtaking view! There’s no entry fee but donations are welcomed. The farm is part of a project that produces high quality eco-friendly and sustainable fabric clothing.
The war museum is giving a big insight into the history of Cambodia and the long suffering the people had to endure. Make sure to attend the guided tour. It’s not a big museum. You will see some war vehicles and artillery. The highlight of the museum are the guides who are actual ex-soldiers that will tell you their story in a very good English. Sorely touching and goosebumps are warranted.
Definitely make sure to rent a bike if your time allows it. There’s no better adventure then to bicycle along the dusty, red roads, through jungle, along rice paddies, villages and eat with the locals. A beautiful route I can suggest you is the one to lake West Baray.
The Phare Circus was created by local artists in 2013 and is so worth your time and money! It was one of my absolute highlights. With a lot of charm and nice gags along the show, this circus is not only to marvel at the imposing acrobatic skills of the artits but also inspiring by telling a social message with a good portion humor. Ticketing price starts at US$ 18. A big plus for this show too and even a reason more to visit it – it’s performed completely without any animals used! Definitely a MUST SEE! in Siem Reap.
Are you looking where to go for the vibrant nightlife? Then don’t look further anymore. Pub street is the answer! Just next to the night market, this street is where the drinks are poured.
Where to stay:
The hostel that has everything from the perfect location, big clean dorms and showers, free water to daily room cleaning is called Lub d. It’s perfect for socializing with other travelers, has a big pool, a lounge zone, restaurant and bar and a travel agency where you can rent bicycles, your tour to Angkor Wat, or buy the ticket for the Phare Circus. And if you’re still not convinced, on Agoda I got it for only US$ 5 the night.
This is it! My comprehensive list of places and things to do in Cambodia. You may ask yourself but what about Pnom Penh. So I will quickly explain why I left it aside. Due to many bad feedback about about safety and the overall impression, my final decision was to not stay there. Regardless I spent an afternoon in the city, while I was waiting to catch the night bus to Siem Reap and my first impression wasn’t as bad as everyone was telling. Still, the poverty is more present on the streets of Pnom Penh and there are a lot of places I wouldn’t want to visit alone at night. If you still decide to go I would recommend not investing too much of your time and just visit the historical sights, the killing fields while you’re there.
I hope you enjoyed this travel guide and it will be a helpful tool for you to plan your Cambodia adventure!