This page is my overview of backpacking Cambodia, covering the country, some tips, general things to know, transport and accommodation options, general costs and my experience of the country.
So you’re thinking of backpacking Cambodia but not sure what else there is to see and do except for Angkor wot?
Before you go, It’s worth while brushing up on a little history; more specifically about Khmer rouge regime. I wish I knew more before I traveled there. Why?
Cambodia is famous for and mainly known to the outside world for it’s Ancient temples like Angkor wot. 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.
This is a country seeped in history, war and genocide and it will take you on an emotional ride. It’s one of the most underdeveloped and poorest countries in South East Asia but it’s a country looking to the future and not living in fear of the past. Due to it’s past you would forgive the locals if they were angry, or hateful but that’s not the case, Cambodians are some of the most charming and friendliest people I have ever come across.
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 tips:
- Prepare yourself for an emotional ride through this country.
- Although Cambodia is trying to modernize, it’s still quite under developed. 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.
- 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 on board 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 harasses 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.
- Angkor wot is truly is a spectacle and well worth waking up at stupid O’clock to watch a sunrise.
Some things to be wary of:
- Cambodians are very friendly but due to it’s 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 pick pocket 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 touts not giving you space to breath 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
Tourist ‘T’ class visa are needed to enter Cambodia. (For 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 a E-visa in advance.
Things to know when budgeting for Cambodia:
Like all the South East Asian countries, Cambodia is a backpackers heaven; not only for it’s 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 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.
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 bare 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:
Traveling through Cambodia was was an emotional ride, feeling the history in Siem Reap to feeling in awe of Angkor Wot and everything in between.
Even though I was dirt broke, Cambodia let me enjoy it, it let me relax at times, it made me feed sad but it showed me some good times too.
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 west, coming into the country from Vietnam and out towards Thailand.