Cambodia Travel Guide
Located in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is a country that thrives on retelling the stories of its ancient history—especially that of Angkor Wat—one of the world’s greatest historic sites. Religion is very much woven into the culture of the country as it is home to approximately 4,000 ancient temples. In addition to being a historical goldmine, some of the nicest locals live in the country—in fact—you’ll likely be greeted with a smile everywhere you go.
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer. English is also spoken by locals in many of the tourist areas; such as in Siem Reap.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Cambodia is between November and April, when there is very little rain. Monsoon season in Cambodia is from May to November. I visited towards the end of Monsoon Season (in October) and I found the country to be extremely green & lush due to all of the rain. It did rain a lot during my trip though-so be prepared to view the tourist sites (which are largely outdoors) in the rain if you choose to go during this time.
Currency & Payment
Cambodia operates on a dual-currency system. The Cambodian Riel is the official currency of the country. The second currency used is the US Dollar. Most places in Cambodia will accept the USD for payment and then give you change in the Cambodian Riel. Credit card is accepted in most established stores. Be sure to cash on hand for the local shops & restaurants. ATM’s vend the USD & Cambodian Riel.
Check Visa Procedures Prior to Arrival
Cambodia has some particular visa regulations so be sure to check out the clause for your country well in advance of your trip. In my case, I am a US Citizen and processed my Visa in advance online. The authorization took 3 days to complete. Upon entry, I was asked to pay $40USD in cash. They only accept cash and it’s a good idea to have this on-hand prior to arrival to save you the headache of having to take it out of the ATM prior to immigrations.
The best way to get around the cities of Cambodia will be by using a method of transportation called a tuk-tuk.” A tuk-tuk is basically a scooter attached to a wagon on wheels. You can hail these down on the street as you would a taxi or book one through your accommodation. Just be sure to negotiate the rate before you get in to avoid giving them the power to increase the cost upon arrival.
Bugs are on the Menu!
Insects are a part of the traditional cuisine in Cambodia and you’ll sometimes find them on the menu. In fact, there’s an entire restaurant in Siem Reap (The Bug Cafe) dedicated to solely serving insects. If you’re an adventurous eater, Cambodia is a good place to try new things – if not, no worries – they serve other things too. In fact, their local cuisine is actually delicious.
Here’s a list of what to bring; outside of the stuff that you’d normally carry.
Sarong: Make sure you bring a Sarong with you and carry it everywhere. You never know when you arrive at a temple or other sacred ground that requires you to wear one. The purpose of this is to cover your legs entirely.
Sweater or Lightweight, Long Sleeved Top: I suggest bringing a button down sweater or lightweight covering to throw over your shoulders if needed. Same as the sarong, some sacred grounds require that you cover your shoulders before entering.
Hand Sanitizer & Tissues: As mentioned in the, “Everything you need to know” section, soap and toilet paper might be missing from the public restrooms; tissues and hand sanitizer help.
Water Bottle: You can’t drink the tap water in Cambodia so it is suggested that you bring a refillable water bottle and ask restaurants or your hotel to fill it for you before you head out to check some of the sights. This helps save some money if you’re on a budget, too.
Mosquito Repellent: Just as with most countries in Southeast Asia, mosquitos run rampant in Cambodia so be sure to bring some repellent with you.
Umbrella or Poncho: If you go during monsoon season, the rain will sneak up on your rather quickly. I kept a lightweight poncho in my bag so that I could walk freely through the tourist sites with no issue. If you go during the dry season then this won’t be a problem.
Power Adaptor: There are two main kinds of plugs in Cambodia. Here’s what you should be prepared for: (1) Type A: Same kind that is used in the USA. This socket only works with plug A. (2) Type C: Found in Europe. This is the round socket with 2 prongs. This socket also works with plug E and plug F.
There’s so much to see and do in Cambodia. Here’s a summary of the top things to do in Cambodia; including some things that I experienced first hand and recommend.
- Visit Siem Reap and check out its historic grounds: Siem Reap, Cambodia is home to some of the world’s most historic places—including the famous Angkor Wat. Also, be sure to check out as many temples as possible as they’re all so unique. My favorite temples are Bayon & Ta Prohm… but there are many more great ones to see.
- Try some…bugs!: Cambodians include insects in their diet. Might seem a little weird but it’s their norm. If you’d like to get adventurous—you can try an insect (scorpion, worms, etc.) in a local market or if you’re in Siem Reap check out the Bug’s Cafe. Bug’s Cafe usually requires reservations made in advance as it books up quickly, especially during peak tourist season.
- Spend Some Time at the Beach: There are some great beaches worth checking out in Cambodia and they’re still quite beautiful & untouched. There’s also plankton sometimes at night at Koh Rong Beach.
- When in Siem Reap; have a drink at Pub Street: Pub Street is a lively spot to check out—full of both locals and ex-pats.
- Visit the Killing Fields in Phnom Phen: The Killing fields are a tragic part of Cambodian history and worth a visit.
- Spend a day at an Elephant Sanctuary: You’ll see lots of elephants on the side of the road in Cambodia for photo opps + rides – try to stay away from those as they’re often abused to generate an income. There are many elephant sanctuaries set up in Cambodia—you can go and spend a day with the elephants and support a cause that helps them, rather than harms them.
Here are some basic facts about Cambodia that you may not have already known:
- Cambodia is home to one of the 8 Wonders of the World, Angkor Wat. It’s the largest religious ground in the world, spanning 500 acres.
- Cambodia is one of the few countries in the world that has never had a McDonalds! If you’re an avid traveler then you know that McDonalds restaurants are usually everywhere.
- Craving a Tarantula? Bugs are a common Cambodian cuisine.
- More than half of the country’s population is under the age of 15 years old and 60% are under the age of 30. This can be attributed to the mass killings that took place under the Khmer Rouge, when between 2 and 3 million Cambodian’s were killed in a span of 4 years – most of them were murdered in The Killing Fields.
- Birthdays are not celebrated in Cambodia. In fact, some parents don’t even know what day their children were born—just the season.
- There are still a lot of active landmines in the country. Most of them are in rural Cambodia.
- There are over 4,000 temples in Cambodia.
- There are 1.3 million mopeds in Cambodia. Cambodia’s population is 1.5 million…so…that’s almost one moped per person!
How much you will spend on your trip to Cambodia will depend on the region that you visit and the season. This estimate is based on what it might cost to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia.
With COVID-19 and the change that the travel landscape has recently seen, I decided to make some virtual resources available for those who want to satisfy their wanderlust and explore Cambodia from home. If you have a trip to Cambodia planned; then these can serve as great tools for getting amped for your trip!
Note: the links on this curated list will navigate you off of this page & take you to an external website.
– View Pictures and 360 Video of Angkor Wat in this virtual tour on virtualangkor.com.
– Check out a monsoon in Cambodia in this 4K Youtube Video.