Cambodia in a nutshell

Cambodia is in Southeast Asia and shares a border with Thailand in the West, Laos in the North and Vietnam in the East.   Cambodia is most known for the ruins of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world and one of the seven wonders.

After you’ve fulfilled your Lara Croft fantasies head South to Koh Rong and spend an entire day in a hammock or eat as much crab as you can in Kep.  There are plenty of places to visit in Cambodia.  

If you have time to pull back Cambodia’s layers you’ll discover the beauty beyond the famous Khmer Ruins.  A simple way of life, happy people and a positive outlook to the future.  The people, culture, ruins, and adventure will keep me returning time after time.  Enjoy the adventure while traveling Cambodia.

Quick Facts

Population | 15. 2 million

Language | Khmer

Religions | 96% Theravada Buddhism

Currency | Riel, US dollar

Capital | Phnom Penh

Cambodia Destinations

Know before you go

Visa

A Visa is required by most countries to enter to travel Cambodia. You can get an Visa before you go or get one on arrival.  It’s easier to take the stress out of it and get an iVisa prior to arrival.

If you would rather get one on arrival it costs 20  dollars and there are ATM’s that dispense USD’s at the border.

Either way always make sure you have at least 6 months validity on your passport and a blank page for the Visa.

Currency

The Cambodian Riel is the official currency of Cambodia but US dollar will be your main source of money.  

4,000 Riel = roughly 1 USD.

Most things will be priced in USD and the Riel’s are used as change.  Bringing small bills will be beneficial but make sure they are 2006 or newer and have no tears.

ATM’s all of the country have options to dispense USD’s.  Some places in Cambodia don’t have ATM’s like Koh Rong in the Southern Islands. 

Language

Khmer is the official language of Cambodia but English is widely spoken especially in Siem Reap.  You’ll still want to know a few basic Cambodian words and phrases like hello in Cambodian or thank you in Cambodian. 

Trust me these basic khmer phrases will help you on your Cambodian holiday.  And I’ve found that it always helps to be able to say these words when you add a smile!

Basic Cambodian Phrases to Know

Khmer PhrasesPronunciation English Translation
Susadeisoo-a s'dayInformal hello
Soksabysok sa-bai jee a dtayHow are you? and I'm Fine, thanks
Lee hilee-a hou-eeInformal goodbye
Ot TehdtayNo
ArkunAr-koonThank you
Som Dtohsoam dtoahExcuse me/ Sorry
SomsoamPlease
Chopchop Stop
ChoyChoo-e!Help!
Bo manbow-manHow much?
T’lait-layToo expensive
Noh ai nah...?noo-ee-naaWhere is the...?
Bahn tuop tukbaan tu op tukBathroom
Suom beer-yair muysoam bee-yar moiOne beer please
Knyohm aht kohlk'nyom aat koohlI don't understand

Festivals & events

Bonn Om Tuk, the “Water Festival” is held early November.  Every time this year the Tonle Sap raises so much during rainy season that it pushes the water back upstream.  People will gather on the riverbanks of Phnom Penh where boat race and fireworks.

Cambodia Travel Tips

Cambodia Travel Guide with I'm Jess Traveling

Best time to go to Cambodia

Cambodia basically has 2 seasons.

May to October is rainy monsoon season.  There will be heavy rains and the humidity will be off the charts.  Expect it to heavy down pour for a couple hours each afternoon.

November to April are the dry months.  The average temperature will be in the 80s.

December and January are the best months to visit.

Cambodia Travel with I'm Jess Traveling

Highlights

  • Sunrise over Angkor Wat
  • Experience paradise in the Cambodian Islands
  • The silver pagoda in Phnom Penh
  • French inspired Kampot
  • Cambodian cuisine
  • Bamboo railway in Battambang

How long to visit Cambodia?

Cambodia travel guide with I'm Jess Traveling

This Cambodia travel guide recommends spending as much time as you can visiting Cambodia 🙂.  The people are kind, there’s hidden ruins in the jungle and its cheap.  Spend at least 2 weeks traveling through Cambodia exploring all of her beauty.  

Traveling between towns and cities within the country are sometimes long and tiring on a hot bus.  This means you should allot more for travel days if you want to explore more of the country.

🤳 useful apps

GOOGLE TRANSLATE: Translates characters to English by taking a picture with your phone.

PASS APP:  To book tuk tuks and cabs on the go

GRAB: The Uber of  Southeast Asia, very useful for Cambodia travel.

GOOGLE MAPS: How did we ever survive without it.  Very helpful when you’re trying to navigate public transportation.

WHATSAPP:  Talk/text to friends and family anytime you are connected to the internet for free.

ROME2RIO: Calculates different routes from point A to point B, showing you the cheapest, quickest etc…

Average daily budget

cambodia travel guide with I'm Jess Traveling -5

 

Average daily budget for Cambodia is $60-70 for a couple.  This is mid range hotels with A/C and a pool.  Enterance into the temples.  The occasional happy hour.  It is possible to travel on $15 a day but Cambodia in my opinion is BUDGET LUXURY, its worth the splurge!

⛺️

 

Accommodation

  • Bed in dorm with AC | $3-7 USD.
  • Average mid range hotel with A/C, double bed, own bath | $20
  • Budget luxury hotel will cost you $30 USD.
  • Luxury $40 & above.

🍚

 

Food

  • Angkor Beer |$1.50
  • Fish amok | $2 -3 USD’s.  This is a famous Cambodian dish and one of my favorites.
  • Western dish at a sit down restaurants  | $2-4 USD’s
  • Crab at a sit down restaurant near the crab market in Kep | $7-8

🛺

 

Transportation

🐒

 

Activities

  • Angkor Wat 1 Day Pass -$37 |3 Day – $62 | 7 Day – $72
  • Battambang railway | $5
  • See the plankton at night in Koh Rong | $5

Getting to Cambodia

International flights fly into the capitol city Phnom Penh and Siem Reap home to Angkor Wat.  

There are no international flights that fly direct from the United States to Cambodia.  You will more than likely connect through Seoul or Tokyo before arriving at the final destination in Cambodia.  

If you live in Hawaii like me AirAsia has frequent deals to Southeast Asia.  Finding a $500-$600 round trip airfare to Cambodia wouldn’t be a stretch from HNL.  

Main airport codes for Cambodia 

Phnom Pehn – PNH

Siem Reap – REP

Sihanoukville – KOS

✈️  Flights to Cambodia

If you’re flying from a neighboring country such as Thailand tickets are usually pretty cheap and the time saved is sometimes worth spending an extra $30.  Here’s how flying would compare to taking the bus.

Fly BKK – PNH | 1.15 hours | 60 USD |

Bus BKK – PNH | 13 hours | 31 USD |

Flights from Bangkok to Phnom Penh – $60 (without checked bag fees) and takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to get there.  Of course in order to get the $60 dollar or cheaper flights you have to be flexible with your travel plans.  This is easy to do when you travel slow, plus there are frequent flights daily. 

Bus from Bangkok to Phnom Penh – $31 and takes 13 hours to get there  and that’s if the bus doesn’t break down because we all know how dodgy buses can be.  And thats not even an overnight sleeper bus.

If you’re traveling light the extra thirty dollars is definitely worth it, you’re saving yourself 13 painstakingly, miserable hours on a bus!  Okay I’ve obviously been on several overnight buses in my life and am a little jaded. 

They’re not all that bad, plus sometimes we’re on a budget so you have to do what you have to do to make travel happen.

Jetradar, Skyscanner and Kayak are sites that are flexible and give you the cheapest rates.  AirAsia, JetStar, Tiger amongst other budget airlines are all listed through these search engines.  This always ensures getting shown the latest and cheapest prices.  Just don’t expect much frills on these budget airlines.

🚌  Overland by bus

If you’re traveling slow and/or throughout Southeast Asia, it’s likely that you’ll be taking a long bus journey at some point or another.  International buses are frequent and comes from all the neighboring countries including Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.  

Traveling to Cambodia via overnight bus is a great option for budget travelers.  The overnight buses are better in Cambodia than most countries in Southeast Asia.  Here’s an idea of how much bus prices are and how long buses take. 

Bangkok – Siem Reap | 10 hours | 22 USD |

Ho Chi Minh – Phnom Penh | 12 hours | 12 USD |

Don Det, Laos – Siem Reap | 6 hours | 20 USD |   

Transportation around cambodia

Transferring between towns is straight forward and easy to navigate.  Download the apps Bookaway and 12Go Website.  They are very helpful to check bus, boat, and train schedules ahead of time.  

Useful Transportation Booking Sites ↓

Getting around in Cambodia is an adventure in itself.  You’ll find that most of the stories you tell your friends will involve transportation.

By Bus

Buses are frequent within the country.  Here’s what you can expect with bus travel within Cambodia.

Siem Reap – Phnom Penh  | 5 hours | 14 USD |.

Siem Reap – Sihanoukville | 10 hours | 20 USD |

Kampot – Phnom Penh | 3 hours | 10 USD |

Battambang – Phnom Penh | 6 hours | 15 USD |

 

By Boat

There is a regular ferry service that runs between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and Battambang.  Don’t expect many comforts.

Tuk Tuk

A tuk tuk will be your common form of transportation when you’re exploring the cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. These are the 3 wheeled rickshaws being pulled by a motorbike.  Hiring a tuk tuk driver for the day to explore Siem Reap will cost around $20.

This is where crisp, fresh $1 dollar bills come in handy.  A ride into town will only cost 3-5 USD’s.  It’s a very affordable form of transportation.

What to pack for Cambodia

cambodia travel guide with I'm Jess Traveling -5

Packing is always the hardest part.  You don’t want to overpack but you also don’t want to be left wanting.  You’ll most definetly want a rain jacket espicially during monsoon season.  A couple great bikinis will be perfect for the islands and hotel pools.

You must be covered up, that means shoulders and knees when you explore the temples.  You’ll be doing lots of temple hopping and exploring so a sarong or wrap skirt is a must.

Don’t leave home without theses Cambodia travel guide essentials.

Best travel gadgets for backpackers
Travel Accessories with I'm Jess Traveling '

Where to stay in Cambodia

cambodia travel guide with I'm Jess Traveling

A budget luxury hotel will cost around $30-40.  Cambodia is a budget friendly country.  Traveling slower is always the best way to experience a country.  Here are some housing guides to help plan your travels.

⭐️ Worth the Splurge: Saem Siem Reap Hotel, Siem Reap

Top things to do in Cambodia

Cambodia Travel Guide with I'm Jess Traveling

Explore Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the main reason that tourists and backpackers flock here and its among the top things to do in Siem Reap, let alone one of the best things to do in Cambodia, period.

Angkor and the entire complex span over 400 sq km.  This was once the heart of Khmer civilization.

I recommend you spend at least 2 days exploring the ancient ruins. You must experience sunrise over Angkor Wat, it can get very crowded but if you stay long enough you can outlast the others a get the perfect shot.

It is possible to wander around on your own but I recommend hiring a driver/guide who can explain to you history and direct you to the sights.  It will be your own private Angkor Wat tour.  Here are some Cambodia travel tours that I recommend.

See the ruins in Ta Prohm

If you’re visiting Angkor Wat then exploring Ta Prohm will be easy since its locattion is next to it.   Commonly known as the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’, Mother Nature has begun to take back her land as you see vast root systems growing over top and through anciennt temples.  

Due to the proximity to Angkor, this makes Ta Prohm popular and usually crowded.  Definetly allot enough days to properly explore the area.  I recommend at least 2 if not more.

Get to know Cambodia’s past

Cambodia has a dark past and no one wants to hide it but the coutry wants to move on. Getting to know Cambodia’s past helps you understand the the Cambodian way of life.  I highly recommend hiring a guide or go on a Phnom Penh tour to understand the history and grasp the scale and damage that was done.

Get a massage everyday

Better than the ruins and jungles, one of my favorite things to do in Cambodia is get a massage.  Spas are extremely affordable and its a perfect way to spend an afternoon.  Make you get one every day!

Laze in a hammock all day in Southern Islands

If you’re looking for white sandy beaches and bright blue waters head south to the islands.  The islands can be reached by ferry from Sihanoukville.  The “popular” island Koh Rong is a great place to hang your hat for a few days and work on your tan.  The island has no cars or ATM’s and WiFi is limited.  Come here to unplug.

Fall in love with Kampot

Kampot is a sleepy town located in Southern Cambodia.  You’ll quickly fall in love with this charming riverside town as you wander around.  French influenced architecture can be spotted all around town as you pop in and out of cute shops, cafes, and restaurants.  A must stop on any Cambodia travel guide itinerary. 

Ride the bamboo railway in Battambang

I first saw the bamboo railway on an episode of Amazing Race.  The “train” itself is a bamboo platform set on top of the metal “train” wheels and is powered by a motorbike.  A ride on the bamboo railway costa about $5 per person and takes a half hour.

Off-the-beaten path Cambodia

Tonle Sap Lake

Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.  This is a great day trip from Siem Reap where you can learn about the unique ecosystem and the simple farming and fishing lifestyles of the locals.  The “floating villages” is a very impoverished part of Cambodia.  I recommend exploring Tonle Sap on a tour

Eat crab in Kep

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.  You can eat fresh crab in the market itself or splurge on a seaside restaurant.

Touring around Cambodia

cambodia travel guide with I'm Jess Traveling -5

If you’re not into planning your own travels and would rather travel in an organized group setting I’d recomend TourRadar.  They provide cultural, historic and adventure tours all over the world.  This small group tour is a great way to meet people, sight see and feel safe.  A personal Cambodia travel guide.

Safety in Cambodia

Safety is an important factor in planning any trip, espicially when it is international.  Here are my Cambodia travel guide safety tips.

  • As each year passes, Cambodia is becoming safer.  Gun crime is still common in Phnom Penh tho.  
  •  Snatch in grab crimes are also common.  Like for instance if you’re holding your iphone outside the taxi window to take a picture and someone rode by on a motorbike and snatched it.
  • Scams are also common at the border.  Uniformed men will approach you and ask for your passport and then a fee.  Use your common sense, if it seems shady, it probably is.

Cambodia travel guide tips

  • ATMS are widely available throughout Siem Reap.  They will dispense USD’s.
  • To save money eat street food and try to stay out of the bars.
  • SIM CARD:  Get a Sim Card for no more than $10 depending if you’re their for a week or more.  Its cheap and you’ll always have the internet
  • WIFI is available at most guesthouses and hotels.
  • To enter temples in Cambodia you will have to dress moderately.  This means having your knees and shoulders covered.  Always have a sarong or wrap skirt handy.
  • Tipping is common is Western restaurants.  A couple dollars go a long way. 
  • Basic items such as sunscreen and bug spray can be purchased for cheap once you are here.

Cambodia Travel Articles

Enjoy this Post?!?! Pin in for Later ↓

INSTAGRAM