Cambodia

Cambodia Backpacker Travel Guide

The Ultimate Cambodia Backpacker Travel Guide.  You asked for it. You got it. Everything you need to know to budget, plan and travel Cambodia as a backpacker pro.

When to go

The best time to visit Cambodia depends on the heat, rainfall and number of tourists. Most travelers visit Cambodia from November to March. If you prefer to dodge the crowds and go when prices are lower, the best time to visit Cambodia is from May to early October.

Cambodia is warm year-round wherever you go. Seasons are broken into wet and dry season. Wet season, from May to October, is usually marked by a brief downpour in the afternoon. This rarely affects travel plans and still includes many hours of bright sunshine. It is known locally as green season as the countryside springs to life. Travel in the dry season, from November to March, is marked by hot dry days

Where to go

Siem Reap for the Temples of the Angkor… enough said

Phnom Penh for a history lesson at the Killing Fields and the S-21 Prison

Sihanoukville for the happiest pizza you have ever seen

Koh Rong for the most chilled out island life you have ever encountered

Battambang for temples and the imfamous bamboo railway

Kampot for authentic country life and a sleepy Mekong town

Arriving in to Laos

Cambodia has two international gateways for arrival by air – Phnom Penh and Siem Reap – and a healthy selection of land borders with neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Formalities at Cambodia’s international airports are traditionally smoother than at land borders, as the volume of traffic is greater. Crossing at land borders is relatively easy, but immigration officers may try to wangle some extra cash, either for the visa or via some other scam. Anyone without a photo for their visa form will be charged about US$2 at the airport, and around 100B at land borders with Thailand. A one-month tourist visa costs US$30 on arrival and requires one passport-sized photo. Easily extendable business visas are available for US$35.

Getting around

If you can afford it, flying is a quick and easy way to get around from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. But because you are a savvy budget backpacker.. or you just love the adventure, The best way is by bus. Cambodia had some of the best buses we saw in South East Asia. It’s easy and cheap to organise tickets. My advise is to travel overnight if you can. They have the best sleeper buses. They have like bunk beds rather than folding down chairs and they have aircon, water, a cold towel for you and power points to charge all your electronics on the way. Plus if you travel overnight you save on a nights accommodation and get to wake up fresh in a new place ready to explore. Tickets can be organised easily through your hostel.

Budget

Hostel dorm bed average: $4 One day motorbike hire: $30
Basic private double room average: $15 Long distance bus service: $3 – $7  ($1/hour of travel is typical in Cambodia)
Local beer :$1.00 Entrance to a site cost: $2-3 for foreigners on average
Meal at a cheap restaurant :$2-3 One day Angkor Temple pass: $20

* prices in Australian Dollars.

Food

Cambodian food draws on the  same rich traditions of neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, with a greater preference for fish. Flavours come from Cambodian peppers, cardamon, lemongrass, chilli, kaffir lime leave and asian basil. Be ready to either sticky of jasmine rice with every meal. Vietnamese influence see many noodle soups, while French colonization left behind coffee and baguettes. Must trys are Fish Amok, with is often described s the national dish, Kuy Teav (noodle soup) and Green Mango salad, similar to the Thai Green Papaya salad.

Helpful Tip: Don’t forget translation cards if you have any food allergies.

Culture

Khmer is the official language of Cambodia and is used in most social contexts. The majority of Cambodians follow Theravada Buddhism. Ask permission before taking pictures of people, especially monks and other religious figures. When entering religious and cultural sites it is a courtesy to dress in appropriate clothing. You are expected to remove your shoes when entering temples and private accommodation. Dress for women is more conservative in Cambodia than other South East Asian countries. While shorts are acceptable in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and tourist beach towns, it is more respectful to wear knee length shorts or trousers when outside of these areas. The Khmer Rouge is a very sensitive issue, and one which Cambodians generally prefer not to talk about.

Safety Tips

  • Theft – though not common, petty crime such as pickpocketing and theft of valuable items can strike travellers in Cambodia. Common sense can go along way in keeping you and your belongings safe. Keep any valuables hidden in a bag which you keep close to yourself at all times. Particularly avoid carrying a camera around your neck in populated areas. One method of theft is from the back of a motorbike. Makes sure you keep a hand on any bags, as these can easily be grabbed from a moving bike.
  • Water – It’s best to drink and brush your teeth with bottled water in Cambodia to avoid stomach bugs. Most hotels and hostels provide water. You can buy water easily in Cambodia.
  • Culture – as mentioned above Cambodia is a conservative country. For woman is it best to keep shoulders and knees covered to avoid any unwanted attention. Save the bikini’s and short shorts for swimming.
  • Scams & Begging – Though not as prevalent as some other countries, there are still scammers and beggars in Cambodia. Begging is quite common, mainly in tourist areas. Most beggars will leave you alone if you say no, though you may need to be quite firm. Keep an eye out and trust your gut when it comes to protecting yourself against scams from Taxi drivers, tour operators and money exchange services.

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24 year old dysfunctional backpacker, creative & storyteller. Cannot do a cartwheel, but I can eat an entire lemon so if that’s not impressive I don’t know what is. Follow my (mis)adventures around the world!