I get asked a lot ‘What my favorite country is?’ and Cambodia is always in my top 3. I love the warm, welcoming people, the history and the ancient ruins scattered deep in the jungles. On my third visit to the country I wanted to explore more of the small towns in Cambodia that were off the beaten path and thats how I found myself in Kampot and Kep, Cambodia. First things first…
BEFORE YOU GO:
- VISA: A Visa is required by most countries to enter Cambodia. You can get an E-Visa here before you go or get one on arrival. I always get one on arrival, it cost $20 and there are ATM’s that dispense USD at the borders. Just make sure you have at least 6 months validity on your passport and a blank page for the Visa.
- Purchase World Nomad’s Travel Insurance.
- CURRENCY: The Cambodian Riel is the currency of Cambodia but USD is widely accepted. 4,000 Riel is about 1 USD. Most things will be priced in USD and that is the main source of currency that you’ll be using. The Riel’s are used as change, if you pay for something that is $2.50 with $3.00 you will get 2,000 Riel back in change.
- LANGUAGE: Khmer is the official language of Cambodia but English is widely spoken.
- RELIGION: Theravada Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia
AVERAGE DAILY BUDGET:
Budget – $15
- Dorm bed
- Street food
Mid Range – $40-50
- Average for a couple
- Double bed w A/C and a pool
- Occasional happy hour on the riverside
Luxury – $70 and Up
- Staying in the swankiest hotels
- Eating all the crab you want in Kep
- Private tour guides
- Private transportation
HOW TO GET THERE:
Located in Southern Cambodia, the sleepy, coastal town of Kampot is 2 hours by bus from Sihanoukville and 4-5 hours by bus from Phnom Penh. Buses are direct and frequent. From Kampot, Kep is a 45 minute moped ride.
WHERE TO STAY IN KAMPOT:
- Kool Kampot– Offers panoramic views, walking distance to town and a pool table. The owner is friendly, rooms are clean and its a great value for your money.
- Mad Monkey Hostel – Great atmosphere, relaxing pool, tours offered, and great location. Beds start at $6 a night.
- VIBOLA Guesthouse – Outdoor swimming pool, air conditioning, and great location. Prices start at $18 a night.
- Champa Lodge– Khmer-styled traditional wooden houses, situated along Kampot Bay River. It features a private beach, free parking and free Wi-Fi access throughout the property. Also offers activities such as kayaking, cycling, and boating. Prices start at $45
- Mea Culpa Kampot – Located right in Kampot, every room has private bath, shower and a coffee kettle. Also offers free bikes to explore the surrounding area. Prices start around $25 per night. Check availability here.
- Pippali Boutique Hotel – Situated on the river, nice, clean pool and breakfast included. Prices start at $75 a night.
- Le Bokor Palace – Located a bit out of Kampot town, offers privacy, world class service and amazing breakfast. Prices start at $220 a night.
DAY 1: Explore Bokor National Park, Bokor Mountain
Rent a moped or hire a tuk tuk for the day and explore Bokor National Park. I personally always like to rent a moped because it gives you more flexibility and freedom. Bokor National Park is about an hour away on motorbike and the road up the mountain is paved and a lot smoother than the road to Kep. The park is filled with pleasant hiking trails, waterfalls, and if you’re lucky you may be able to get a glimpse of some wildlife.
Next head up Bokor Mountain where you will get incredible, panoramic views all the way to the coastline. The summit of the mountain is home to the French Bokor hill station and you’ll find many abandoned French colonial buildings.
Kampot itself is a cute, charming, riverside town with French influence architecture, so be sure to make it back in time for sunset. Have drinks on one of the many riverside boats and watch the sun set over the river. We had drinks at the Rusty Keyhole, I had a nice big, glass of wine complete in a Bordeaux glass for only $3 USD. Once you’ve watched the sun sink down over the river, walk into town and have dinner at one of the many restaurants scattered down the side streets. There are plenty to choose from depending on what you’re craving from Italian to Mexican to classic Khmer cuisine.
DAY 2: Explore Kep
Hop on the moped again and explore the the small, coastal town of Kep. Kep is about 30-45 minutes from Kampot via motorbike. The road to Kep is the complete opposite of the drive to Bokor National Park. It is very dusty and filled with pot holes. The ride itself is a wild, adventure. #JessATravelTip if you rent a moped make sure you bring a scarf to cover your face or wear a helmet with a face mask because it is very dusty and it will get in your eyes, ears, and mouth.
Kep is a small seaside fishing village and the main attraction of Kep is the fresh crab market. They don’t just sell crab but an array of seafood like stingrays, prawns, squid, and fresh fish like snapper and tuna. Wondering through Kep’s crab market is a great way to spend the morning. You can have lunch at one of the wooden shack restaurants that line the beach or if you’re on a tighter budget you can pick your seafood, they will make it to your liking and you can enjoy it right there in the crab market.
Check out Kep beach and journey down the coast and take in the beauty. We found this cool pier as we were zipping around. If you’re feeling up for it, jump on the ferry and journey to Rabbit Island.
ALTERNATIVE THINGS TO DO:
Kampot Pepper Plantation – Kampot is famous for its peppercorns that come in red, black and white but grow green. Kampot pepper is really zesty and has been elected by chefs and foodies as one of the best peppers in the world.
Salt Fields of Kep and Kampot – You can watch the locals harvesting the salt fields where water is let in from the ocean to the fields. The fields are then blocked from the ocean, and the water is allowed to evaporate, leaving salt crystals. This process is repeated many times and is only harvesting from December to April.
- USD is the currency used in Cambodia
- ATMS are widely available in Kampot
- You legally need an international drivers license to rent a moped but its not enforced
- English is widely spoken
- Bring a scarf or sarong to wrap around your nose, eyes, and mouth if you’re on a moped as its dusty and you’ll be doing yourself a favor!
I hope you found this article useful. Thanks for reading and follow me @ImJess_Traveling to see my current adventures.