This overview of budget backpacking Cambodia covers:
general costs, things to know, tips, transport, accommodation options, and my overall experience of the country.
Backpacking Cambodia will take you on a journey. The history of Cambodia is full of war and genocide, so be prepared for an emotional ride.
Even with its history, the fact that It’s one of the most underdeveloped and poorest countries in South East Asia you would forgive the locals if they were angry, didn’t want tourists to intrude on their country but that’s not the case. Cambodians are some of the most charming and friendliest people I have ever come across, it’s a country looking to the future, and not living in fear of the past.
Cambodia, to the outside world, is famous for its Ancient temples like Angkor Wat. However not many know about the hideous civil war-stricken past run by the delusional tyrant Pol Potts and the Khmer Rouge. Traveling through Cambodia will pull on your emotions but will some brilliant highs too.
The country itself has so much wonder to it, amazing coastal lines, incredible landscape, sleepy towns, magical ancient ruins that take you back into time and surprisingly a great nightlife.
A few Cambodia travel tips:
- – Prepare yourself for an emotional ride through this country.
- – Although Cambodia is trying to modernize, it’s still quite underdeveloped. Don’t expect western standards.
- – Dental surgeries are everywhere in Phnom Penh (get your teeth done for cheap)
- – Get to know, talk and learn from locals – Cambodians are amazing people.
- – Angkor wot is truly is a spectacle and well worth waking up at stupid O’clock to watch a sunrise.
- – If you try and take a sleeper bus try get a bed in the middle of the bus. In the back, you will bounce around and it smells from the onboard toilet.
- – Local food is amazing but don’t expect the same quality from western food, even things simple as pizza or burgers.
- – When you step off a bus a tour tout will harass you, tell them you already have all your tours and accommodation booked even if you don’t.
- – Booking trips and activities from your hostel will work out cheaper.
Some things to be wary of:
- – Cambodians are very friendly but due to its horrific past, there are a lot of homeless people. Be careful of children begging, you may feel for them but they will not hesitate to pickpocket you. (Sounds harsh but it’s true)
- – When children beg, they will do it in groups, they will harass you, and if you give them something they will ask for more.
- – Be careful of fruit and snack sellers that board buses, keep your belongings safe and close. I’ve been on a bus where a seller stole a purse from another backpacker.
- – Tour and hostel tout’s not giving you space to breathe as you step off a bus. They will harass you to sign up for their tour or hostel – Easiest way to appease them is to say you already have something booked even if you don’t.
- – Keep your belongings close when at Angkor wot, beggars and thieves will try and steal from you. Children will demand money from you.
Basic things to know:
- – Language spoken: Khmer (Cambodian)
- – Other Languages spoken: French, Mandarin
- – Is English spoken: Yes (in Moderation)
- – Currency: Cambodian Riel
- – Backpacking in Cambodia is – Cheap
- – To check live rates click here XE.com
Visa options for Cambodia travel:
- – A Tourist ‘T’ class visa is needed to enter Cambodia. (For a single stay up to 30 days, can be extended once)
- – Cambodian ‘ordinary/business visa’ or ‘E’ class visa can also be obtained for stays longer than 30 days. Can be extended indefinitely.
- – You can obtain this visa on arrival into Cambodia by land or air. You can also apply for an E-visa in advance.
- – For more information click here – Cambodia Visa’s or check Gov.uk
Things to know when budgeting for backpacking Cambodia:
Like all the South East Asian countries, Cambodia is a backpackers haven; not only for its sights but because of how cheap the country is.
To give you an idea of how cheap it is, during my time there, I was very close to being completely broke. However, I still managed to travel the country, party through a new years eve and see Angkor Wot and eat normally throughout my trip.
Transport and accommodation:
Are inexpensive, and will not make a dent in your budget, you will even be able to afford private rooms on the tightest of budgets.
Most of your expenses in Cambodia will go on drinking and eating on Pub street in Phnom Penh. As much as you tell your self you’re not there to party, once you see and experience Pub Street you’ll quickly change your mind.
Activities and tours:
Are generally cheap, only Angkor wot will cost you a little more because you’ll have to organize how to get there and the entrance fee. I paid $20 for a day ticket, but as of 1st February 2017 that has gone up to $37 (US dollars)
As you can see I haven’t gone into specific pricing, as prices always change and information becomes irrelevant. However, if you are looking to compare live prices here is a couple of good sites for live comparisons to help you: numbeo and expatisan.
Getting around while backpacking Cambodia:
With Cambodia relatively new to tourism transport is basic but getting around is fairly simple and cheap as most people travel from east to west or vice versa. Just bear in mind; the roads are not the greatest.
- – Walking – Unlike other SE Asian country, Cambodia is walker friendly.
- – Tuk-tuks – can be found on every corner.
- – Taxis – Hire a driver for the day
- -Mopeds – You can easily hire your own moped if you can brave the potholes.
- – Buses – Readily available from major cities.
- – Mini-van shuttles – More expensive than buses but safe.
Popular tour Companies:
Lots of local tour agents to chose from too.
As with everything in Cambodia accommodation is very cheap, you’ll find plenty of options to chose from. Most will contain there own travel agency or will recommend you to one they work with.
- Hostels – Cheap, mostly clean and good social hubs to meet other travelers
- Guesthouses – One in the same with hostels, private rooms.
- Budget hotels – Very cheap but sometimes not as clean as guesthouses.
- Workaways – Stay with a local family
- Couchsurfing – Check the Couchsurfing site for hosts.
My overview of backpacking Cambodia:
It’s difficult to put into words how I felt backpacking Cambodia because after the lows I endured in Vietnam, Cambodia bought me back up but at the same time the history of this country sucked me in. Now, I should point out, emotionally I’m not really wired the right way and things don’t really affect me in the way they should but this was not the case here. From learning about the history and turmoil, visiting the killing fields I really felt for the people and everything they had been through.
On the flip side, though I could see and feel the happiness of the remarkable people, I was touched by how friendly they were, and how they loved a good party.
During my time in Cambodia, I got to do so much while being completely broke, I was able to experience Angor Wat, party on Pub Street on New years eve and make friends with locals.
I would like to return to Cambodia in the future just to see how much it might change, and how tourism might have grown.
Some of my highlights:
Learning the history.
Shooting machine guns for the first time in my life.
Lazing by the Mekong river.
Speaking to and getting to know locals.
The street food.
The killing fields (very emotional but a must do)
The Cambodian wilderness.
Some of my dislikes:
Being harassed by tour touts as soon as I step off a bus.
Child beggars trying to steal.
Bad western food.
Not spending more time there.
Not being able to explore the north of the country.
My route Backpacking Cambodia:
This trip took me from East to the west, coming into the country from Vietnam and out towards Thailand.
Did you find this backpacking Cambodia guide helpful? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to know.
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