Not your usual type of guide to backpacking Cambodia
This backpacking Cambodia post will give you a sense of what It’s like to travel through this historically rich country. We’re going to dive into some practical information, useful tips, and a few things to be wary of. This post also gives you a heads up on some basic information to know about Cambodia, visa, transport, an interactive map, and accommodation options and my overall experience of backpacking Cambodia.
However, this post doesn’t tell you how you should plan your itinerary, it doesn’t preach ‘top 10 things you must see and do’, what to pack, nor tell you how you should spend your budget. There are far too many posts that cover all that already available for you.
This overview of backpacking Cambodia is to help your day to day backpacking trip through the country.
Backpacking Cambodia is more emotional than you might think!
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, since I started backpacking in 2010. 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 lead you on an incredible journey which will have you not just impressed but inspired by the end of it.
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.
Basic things to know before Backpacking Cambodia
- – 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 backpacking Cambodia
- – 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
Practical tips for backpacking Cambodia
- – 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.
- If you go to a gun range in the morning, try not to go to one of the prison trips, or concentration camps straight after – It will leave you in bits!
- – 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, you will be left inspired.
- – Angkor wot is truly is a spectacle and well worth waking up at stupid O’clock to watch a sunrise.
- However it is very overcrowded with tourists.
- – 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
Things to be wary of when backpacking Cambodia
- 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.
Budget information for backpacking Cambodia
Like all the South East Asian countries, Cambodia is a budget backpackers haven; It’s dirt cheap.
While backpacking through Cambodia, a budget backpacker will be able to loosen the purse strings a little, however remember buying western food and drinks will work out more expensive. And like in rest of the region, you will need to haggle so you don’t get ripped off. However I did find Cambodians to be more honest when dealing with prices than in Thailand or Vietnam.
Most of your expenses in Cambodia will go on drinking and eating on Pub street in Phnom Penh. As much as you tell yourself you’re not there to party, once you see and experience Pub Street you’ll quickly change your mind.
Are generally cheap, only Angkor wat 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 those prices went up to$37 (US dollars)
With prices changing all the time, it would be unfair to try and give you specific prices or tell you how much you should budget for. However if you want to check out some live prices these two sites will give you a better idea: numbeo and expatisan.
Transport options when 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. There won’t be much comfort, some roads are unbearable with huge potholes so journeys can be quite arduous at times.
Getting around locally
- – 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.
Getting around nationally
- – Buses – Readily available from major cities.
- – Mini-van shuttles – More expensive than buses but safe.
Accommodation options for backpacking Cambodia
With Cambodia starting to become quite a popular destination with budget backpackers, accommodation options are starting to grow as well.
Most accommodation options will be quite basic so don’t expect the a range in comfort that you might get in Thailand, Malaysia or Bali. Most of the backpacker hostels and guesthouses will come attached to a travel agency, or will recommend one for you.
- 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.
Looking for a hostel while backpacking Cambodia? Use the Hostelworld form below to find your best option
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, the country 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.
While backpacking through Cambodia, I really got a sense of how the country used to be to where they are going. Even though I was dirt broke, I was able to do so many things for free, experience Angkor Wat which was amazing apart from how over-touristy it is. And I can honestly say, having partied in so many places all over the world, spending New Years Eve on Pub Street was one of my best party nights (that I can remember).
My one regret of backpacking Cambodia was not being able to experience the southern coast. I’ve heard amazing things about the beach life down there and I know a lot of budget backpackers have found a sense of home there. So if you get the chance, I would recommend you hit the coast up too.
I would like to return to Cambodia in the future just to see how much it might change, and how tourism might have grown.
An interactive map of my route through Cambodia
If you’re looking to go backpacking Cambodia but not sure of the route to take, this map below shows my route, places I stopped, and will hopefully give you an idea of the best route for yourself. (remember to add the coast to your route)
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