Updated: Jul 21, 2020
What can I expect from Cambodia?
While Cambodia is a very beautiful country and is still rebuilding from the destruction and genocide by the Khmer Rouge all the way up until 1979! It left a deep wound on the country, but the people are still very friendly and welcoming to tourists. When visiting Cambodia you will find a really rich history, beautiful coastlines/islands, and a lively nightlife scene. Not to mention Cambodia is home to the world famous Angkor Wat (temple seen in Tomb Raider movies). Here is all you need to know before visiting Cambodia.
Top Things to do in Cambodia
1. The Killing Fields
2. Toul Seng Genocide Museum.
3. Sunrise/Sunset at Angkor Wat and Siem Reap
4. River Villages
5. Island Hopping
6. Swim with the Bioluminescent plankton in Koh Rong.
Typical costs for Cambodia
Visa. The cost for US Passport holders is $30. You can obtain your passport at the border or when you arrive at the Phnom Phen or Siem Reap airports. This single entry visa is valid for 30 days.
Accommodation. Cambodia has some of the most budget friendly and accommodation we have seen in SE Asia. On average a hostel will run you about $4 a night while a hotel or guest house will cost $5-15 a night. You can find luxurious hotels beyond that, but you can find beautiful luxurious hotels without spending an arm and a leg here.
Food. Many people underestimate Cambodian food, but it is very delicious! The food has a long history and is influenced by many different cultures.
Transportation. You will find this to be very cheap as well. Just remember to negotiate and find your best price BEFORE accepting a ride. Rides will rarely cost more than $5. You can find rides/public transportation throughout the country for less than $20.
Excursions. Many reasons people decided to travel through Cambodia is to see the famous Angkor Wat Temple. Be sure to factor in the steep ticketing prices of $37 for a full day pass. For other excursions you will pay anywhere from $10-$20. We found that most of Cambodia was really cheap until it came to the prices of activities and excursions.
Cleanliness. This is where we felt a little uncomfortable. We didn’t find Cambodia to be clean in most places we went. From the cities, to the coast lines, and even the public transportation buses we found everything to be a bit… sketchy.
Suggested daily budget- less than 30$ per day. This should be more than enough if you are traveling on a budget.
Money Saving Tips
1. Use the Tuk Tuks. but make sure you haggle the correct price first. It is very common to overcharge tourists up to 300% for rides. Know how far the distance is and if you don’t know a reasonable price ask a local at your hotel/hostel or restaurant the fair price.
2. Bartering is a must. almost everything you find in Cambodia can be negotiated if you have the confidence to do so. This is a place you will need to stand your ground on your pricing or you will be taken advantage of.
3. Eat street food. You will be surprised at how tasty the street food is in Cambodia. You can find large fresh smoothies and even full meals for $0.50. You can also find cheap happy prices at the bars for less than a dollar a beer.
4. Don’t book in advance. in addition to the negotiating tip, never buy before you get there. Tour packages and excursions will run you up to 4 times the actual price! Yikes!
*Tip: When you visit Cambodia you will find many child beggars in the streets. The sight of it is quite sad, but in fact if you were to give them money they most likely will never benefit from it. It is common knowledge that the children and their families are being exploited by gangs. It is also discouraging the children to seek education by wanting to make money through begging instead. If you want to donate or help the children we recommend going through credible orphanages or nonprofit charities. Be aware that there are many sketchy organizations to exploit the children as well so do your research.
Guide to Traveling Cambodia
Our route: Cambodia was one of the more rugged countries we traveled through. We took public buses and transportation everywhere we went. From the Vietnam/Cambodian border our bus took us to Phnom Penh. From here we went to Siem Reap and then down to the islands at the southern tip of the country.
Currency: KHR or Cambodia Riel (4000 KHR = .00024 USD) Because of inflation most things are priced and paid for in US Dollars.
Religion and Culture: Buddhism is the main religion
Language: Khmer is the first language of Cambodians. However many Cambodians understand or speak French and some English.
Dressware: It is very hot in Cambodia, but the dresswear remains modest. They also wear long sleeves or pants to protect themselves of the sun. On the islands the dresswear is more relaxed. When entering religious structures or more populate areas we recommend covering up in respect.
Seasonality: Tourist season will be from November- April because the temperatures will be less harsh. The temperature in Cambodia will rarely dip below 68 degrees F but can reach to temperatures over 100 degrees F.
1. Phnom Penh- while this was one of our least favorite cities to visit, there is a lot of rich history here especially having to do with the Khmer Rouge genocide.
2.Angkor Wat (entrance fee is $37) as one of the seven world wonders Angkor Wat is a must when visiting Cambodia.
3. Royal Palace- a complex of multiple buildings where the king of Cambodia resides.
4. Island hopping- looking for fun night life? Spend some time on Koh Rong and visit their full moon parties.
About the food: Cambodian food is heavily influenced by Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cultures. Khmer or Cambodian food is less spicy then its neighboring countries, but has a lot of tasty and tangy flavors. Most dishes in Cambodia will be paired with rice and/or soup as they staple ingredients. Avoid your craving for pizza and Western food and try the local foods, it might be one of your new favorites!
The Uncomfortable Side: We found Cambodia to be more on the dirty side and it felt a little more sketchy at night. While we never had any issues it is still important to keep aware of your surroundings. Gun carry and petty crime is also common here so be vigilant when you are pulling money out of the ATMs and don’t wander alone at night.
This is a very conflicting topic when it comes to Cambodia. On one hand the LGBT scene is boasting with gay bars, drag shows, and wild night life especially for the tourist industry. Cambodia’s annual gay pride festival is also gaining traction yearly. On the other hand growing up as an LGBT member in Cambodia is rather difficult. LGBT locals still face issues with discrimination and prejudice when it comes to their lifestyle. However, times are changing globally for the LGBT community and like most places, Cambodia is generally becoming more open minded with the idea of same sex couples. Many organizations and support groups are rallying constantly to bring equality to its LGBT members.
For us personally we had no issue traveling in Cambodia as a lesbian couple. We held hands and had no one confront us for it. Cambodia is still more on the modest side though so we remained respectful and not too openly affectionate.