Cambodia Travel Guide
Atualizado: 1 de jul. de 2018
Cambodia, officially known as Kingdom of Cambodia, is a Southeast Asian country, bordering Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Phnom Penh is its capital city. Cambodia has a population of about 60 million. Khmer is the official language and the Riel is the country currency.
However, for the majority of the transactions the US dollar is the currency accepted and the Riel (KHR) is only used for the small change (1 USD = 4.000 KHR). In fact, most of the ATMs will provide dollars on withdrawals.
A visa is required to enter in Cambodia for the majority of foreigner countries. It is now possible to apply for an e-visa, but there is also the alternative of applying for a visa on arrival valid for 30 days, which we found more convenient. When you arrive at the airport, you just need to fill in the official forms and provide it to the official officers, along with your passport, a passport photo and 30 USD in cash. After that, you just need to wait a bit to have your passport back with a stamp that covers a whole page and then proceed to the Police.
Regarding the weather conditions, Cambodia has two distinct seasons: dry (from October to April, with very hot and dry weather); rainy (from May to September, with warm and rainy conditions).
A SIM card may be easily obtained on arrival in Cambodia. The main telecommunications companies are Cellcard, Metfone, Smart, Beeline and Excell. We opted for Metfone and we bought a 30-days SIM card with unlimited data. We bought it at Siem Reap International Airport and the cost was of 16 USD. In general, the overall experience with Metfone was good. In Siem Reap and Phnom Phen we had no problems, while in the province of Battambang we had poor connection sometimes. Still, we were satisfied with our decision.
In what concerns transportation between cities, buses are the cheapest way of transport. We found the buses reasonably comfortable. But note that we only visited three different places in Cambodia, so our experience was quite limited. Within the cities, tuk tuk is the most convenient mean of transport. As in every Asian country, do not forget to bargain and agree the price before starting your trip.
During our volunteering experience, we could get more in touch with local people and feel their simplicity and kindness. We never had any problems in terms of safety, although we felt more insecure during our stay in the capital city, Phnom Penh. Just be more careful with your belongings and avoid walking around during the night and everything should be fine.
We spent 20 days in Cambodia. During this time we only visited three cities:
(A) Siem Reap
(C) Phnom Penh
Detail city by city
Siem Reap (6 days)
Siem Reap is the gateway to the Angkor Wat Complex, being the most popular tourist attraction in Cambodia.
Arriving time: we arrived in Cambodia in the Siem Reap International Airport. Firstly, we flew from Mandalay in Myanmar to Bangkok in Thailand. Secondly, we flew from there to Siem Reap.
Sleeping time: we chose Pool Party Hostel for our stay in Siem Reap. As the name suggests, this a party hostel with a wonderful pool and restaurant. Apart from that, the private rooms are very comfortable and you can still avoid the party if you are not into it. They have music every night and it is a cool environment to meet other travellers.
Eating time: we tried some local restaurants in Siem Reap, namely Pot and Pan Restaurant and The Christa Restaurant & Bar, both nice experiences. We also tried a pleasant Indian Restaurant located very close to Pub Street, “India Gate”.
Visiting time: the main attraction in Siem Reap is, for sure, the Angkor Complex. There are three different passes: 1-day pass costs 37 USD, a three-day pass costs 62 USD and a seven-day pass is 72 USD. We opted for a three-day ticket, since we had time, but most of the visitors go for the one-day pass. Actually, we found two days enough to explore the main highlights of the Complex, being the third day too tiring, especially considering the extremely hot temperatures. The tickets can be bought one day in advance, which we recommend if you have only one day and want to enjoy the sunrise. It is now possible to pay with Visa or MasterCard. The Angkor is located a bit far from the center of Siem Reap, so you will have to rent a tuk tuk or a bike to get there. Additionally, as the complex is huge, it is quite demanding to walk within the temples, so it is advisable to have another mean of transport. Most visitors hire a tuk tuk driver with a guide (English speaker or other languages available), which we did on our first day. Although it could be a bit expensive, we highly recommend for a better understanding of Angkor history (expect to pay about 15 USD for the tuk tuk small circuit or 20 USD for the tuk tuk big circuit, plus 35 USD for an English speaker guide). On the two other days we rent an e-bike in our hostel, which was cheap and very convenient (10 USD per day). Some people also opt to rent a bicycle once in the Complex to walk around. Regarding the main highlights, according to our experience, we recommend the Angkor Wat sunrise, Angkor Wat itself, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. For the sunrise, our advise is to go very early (arrive at the place at 5 am) to find the spot available for the best photo. In front of the Angkor Wat there are two gardens, make sure to go to the one on the left and find a spot extremely close to the lake. Be aware that people will come late and try to have a spot on the front "rows", so make sure you arrive early, buy a coffee (in front of the lake) to have access to a mat to seat on, otherwise you will be seated in the mud. After that you will have to wait for almost 1 and half hours while being eaten by mosquitos. Therefore, make sure to bring long closes and mosquito repellent and enjoy the amazing view when the sun rises. Apart from the Angkor Complex, we also recommend a visit to Siem Reap night market, with good food & beverage and shopping alternatives.
Battambang (9 days)
Battambang is the capital of the Battambang Province in north western Cambodia, being the French colonial architecture a notable aspect of the city.
Arriving time: Battambang is located about 160 Km from Siem Reap. We opted for a shared van for 7 USD per person and it took 3 hours.
Sleeping time: we decided to stay in Royal Hotel. Very central and good value for money hotel that perfectly served our long stay in Battambang. We had an awesome deal and stay ed in a 3-start hotel for less than 9€ per night.
Eating time: since we spent a considerable amount of time in Battambang, we had the chance to experience different restaurants. Our favourite ones were Lonely Tree Cafe and La Casa Battambang. We highly recommend them specially if you are craving for some amazing western food.
Visiting time: our main focus in Battambang was to visit a school run by an organisation called “Cambodian Child and Hope Association” in order to create promotional content for their fundraising company based in the Netherlands, “Equal Chance”. We spent our days visiting the school and working on photography, filmmaking and articles creation. For this reason, we did not explore Battambang in a touristic way. However, on our last day, we went to the famous bamboo train. At the time of our visit, the old bamboo train was still running, but not for a long time and some parts of the path were not running. The Cambodians already built a new one for touristic purposes, but it is farthest from town comparing to the old one. It was a fun experience, but nothing special. The bamboo train ride costed 5 USD per person. We also heard from some people that the Battambang Bat Caves are really worth a visit, where you can see millions of bats getting out of the cave as the sun sets.
Phnom Penh (4 days)
Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia, known for the beautiful and historical architecture and attractions.
Arriving time: we came from Battambang by bus, on a 8-hour ride. We chose a local company with reasonably comfortable seats and the bus ticket was 6,50 USD per person.
Sleeping time: we stayed in Rachana Hostel. Good location, clean and spacious rooms. We had pleasant stay there!
Eating time: we explored the food alternatives close to our hostel. The ones we enjoyed the most were western choices, Pizza Factory & Cafe and Cousin’s Burger & Coffee (one of the best burgers we tried in Asia!).
Visiting time: we have to admit that Phnom Penh was not one of our favourite cities during our trip across Asia. It is not a pretty city and one might feel unsafe while wandering around, especially at night time. Nonetheless, it was extremely important for us to visit the capital city, since we had the chance to have a better understanding of Cambodian history, particularly the grey Khmer Rouge period. The Choeung Ek Killing Fields are located here. The entrance fee is 6 USD per person, including an audio guide which we highly recommend for a better understanding of the place. To complement your knowledge, there is also Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, used as a Torture Prison during the Khmer Rouge period. The entrance fee is 5 USD per person, plus 3 USD for the audio guide. Apart from that, we also recommend a visit to Russian Market and/or Central Market, especially if you enjoy shopping and bargaining. All these places are located far from each other in Phnom Penh. We agreed a price with a tuk tuk driver for the whole day to take us to these places and wait for us. We ended up paying 17 USD for the full day. There are also organised tours, but tend to be more expensive and restrict the amount of time you spend in each place..
Best of Cambodia
In case we had to choose our top 3 in Cambodia, according to our experience in this country, we would vote for:
Volunteering in Battambang - it was a unique experience we will never forget. The opportunity to see the reality of Cambodia education and try to somehow give our contribution and help was something that certainly touched our heart. In fact, we consider this one of the highlights of our trip so far.
Angkor Wat - it was, for sure and as expected, the touristic highlight of our stay in Cambodia! The greatness, robustness and beauty of this place is unforgettable. The sunrise is majestic (specialist for photography purposes).
Killing Fields and Torture Prison in Phnom Penh - so important to understand the Khmer Rouge period, unknown for so many people all over the world (us included before our visit to Cambodia). Learn from the mistakes from the past to build a better future.
What we will not miss next time
Cambodia has some much to explore and we know that we only see a small part of the country, since we were mainly focused on our volunteering experience. Next time we visit Cambodia, we will certainly not miss:
Koh Rong Sanloem - an island off the coast of Sihanoukville, known to be a paradise on a backpacking budget;
Kampot - a city on the Southern Cambodia, famous for its pepper plantations and salt fields, for a countryside experience of the country;
Mondulkiri - the original “wild east of the country”, home to the Bunong people and their elephants.
Hope you enjoy this guide we created based on our experience in Cambodia. In case you have any questions, please contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).