Cambodia: Cambodia is one of my all-time favorite destinations. It may be a flawed and corrupt country, but it’s filled with some of the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered, rich history, delicious food, beautiful coastlines, and a lively nightlife. 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. Know that since this only happened 35-40 years ago, the aftermath is still raw and most people you meet are still effected by this on a daily basis. Development hasn’t been great since, as corrupt officials have hindered growth by selling off most of the country to investors. But in all my visits here, I always fall more madly in love with the place and can’t recommend it enough to everyone I meet. It always surprises you.
Trip Planning: The planning stage of your trip can be instrumental in its success and an enjoyable part of the experience itself. You have a world of options...and plenty to consider.
Entry and Exit formalities: Visitors must hold a passport valid for at least six months & beyond at the time of entering the country. Some nationalities can obtain visa on arrival and for nationalities who requires visa please refer to the Cambodia consulate website: www.cambodiaonlinevisa.org
Transportation: Figuring out how to get around is one of your biggest pre-trip decisions. Get our holiday expert best advice on deciding between your options.
Based on your trip itinerary, our experts will help you choose wisely. You'll also find a wealth of practical travel tips.
Money: Use your money wisely. Know the best time to use cash or card — and how to avoid unnecessary fees either way — as well as tipping etiquette.
Phones and Technology: Phones and other smart devices can be huge time-savers...or expensive distractions. Get our tips for making the best use of technology during your trip, and for calling home with or without your own phone.
Packing Light: On your trip you'll meet two kinds of travelers: those who pack light and those who wish they had.
Sleeping and Eating: Your hotel and restaurant choices can be a matter-of-face chore…or they can provide rich opportunities to connect with locals and their culture.
Health & Hygiene: Take comfort: Doctors, hospitals, launderettes, and bathrooms aren’t that different. Dealing with them can even be part of the fun of travel.
Sightseeing & Activities: Once you're on the ground, the real fun begins…but it pays to have a thoughtful plan. Our experts will help you get oriented to your surroundings, use your sightseeing hours wisely, and find your way off the beaten path.
Things to see & do:
Angkor Wat – This huge temple complex is the reason most people visit Cambodia. The temple ruins are massive, and you’ll need a few days to explore all of them. While there’s a lot more to the country than this UNESCO site (too many people only come to visit Angkor), no trip is complete without satisfying your inner Tomb Raider and exploring these ruins.
Tonle Sap – Sailing down this river allows you to get a look at how closely Cambodian life is tied to this major waterway. You can take a boat all the way down one end to the other or just cruise around on a day trip.
Sihanoukville – White sand beaches, nearby deserted islands, great diving, amazing seafood, and a heavy nightlife filled with cheap booze make this spot a favorite among travelers. This was once a very seedy town but has become a mecca for backpackers (although it’s still quite seedy). It’s not a quiet place to hang out, but it’s a good place to drink or use as a base to visit the nearby islands, which are quiet and serene. Check out Vagabond Temple while you’re there!
Phnom Penh – As the capital of Cambodia, this place has a wild west ambiance with dusty streets and a “devil may care” atmosphere. There are a few good attractions to see and an up-and-coming foodie vibe to the city. Since the destruction of the lake and the nearby backpacker area due to development, most of the action and hostels have moved towards the river.
The Killing Fields – You can’t mention Cambodia without people drawing a connection to the country’s bloody genocidal past. Although a visit to the Killing Fields, located 10 miles from Phnom Penh, may not be the most cheerful way to spend an afternoon, it makes for a hallowing and memorable experience, a testament to the dangers of uncontested power.
Kep – This beautiful beach town is the quiet version of Sihanoukville. a nice place to relax near the ocean without the party atmosphere that is Sihanoukville. This city is famous for its pepper crab and empty beaches. There’s not a lot to do here, so it also makes for a good day trip if you don’t like the idea of chilling out for a few days.
Bokor National Park – Wander among the atmospheric French ruins while hiking a great rainforest. Bokor was a big destination for the French aristocracy back in the day, and you can see the ruins of their homes. It is a day trip from Sihanoukville or nearby Kampot.
Battambang – Known as a farming area and famous for its fading French colonial architecture, this is the place to get a real taste of Cambodian life. Here you’ll find great temples, a bamboo train, and stunning architecture. This destination sees few tourists except for those who like to get off the beaten path and off the Siem Reap-Phnom Phen trail. It’s Cambodia without the tourism — for now! Try taking a river boat back to Phnom Phen or Siem Reap for a unique experience (tickets are usually around $20 USD per person).
Prasat Preah Vihear – This breathtaking mountain temple is the source of conflict with its neighbor Thailand, who also claims this place as its own. The trip here is not easy but nothing worth going to is ever is. Expect a $5 USD entrance fee for foreigners.
Visit a river village – There are 3 floating villages to choose from in the country. The houses are built on bamboo stilts, and there are always boats filled with people selling trinkets, food, and hanging out. The Chong Khneas is the most visited in the country but popularity has made it a bit of a tourist trap recently.
Visit the pepper farms of Kampot – Outside the city of Kampot (go there!) and on the way to Kep are vast pepper fields. This southern region of Cambodia is filled with pepper farms where you can learn about the history of the spice, see how it is grown, and pick up what is considered some of the finest pepper in the world. Tours are usually free, though you need to arrange transportation.
Koh Kong – A city near the Thai border in the Cardamom Mountain district, Koh Kong offers great opportunities for jungle trekking, as well as a chance to relax on the white sand beaches. Koh Kong island is known as one of the best beach spots in Southeast Asia. It’s illegal to spend the night there, but there are plenty of operators offering day trips to the island from the shore.
Kampong Cham – Though it’s the third-largest city in Cambodia, most travelers overlook Kampong Cham. The city has retained a lot of its old French colonial feel and a great place to really get to know Cambodia. While the city in itself is something to explore, you should also check out the ruins at Nokor Wat. One of the highlights here is a detailed series of murals which depict religious torture scenes.
Visit Kampot – Most people come here to enjoy the scenic riverside views, as well as the rolling hills that surround the city. Since you can explore easily enough on foot or by bicycle, Kampot is a great place to slow down and relax. Don’t miss the pepper farms, the mangroves, and the national park.