Cambodia has become quite a popular stop on the Southeast Asia backpacker trail. I visited Cambodia for a week- I flew into Siem Reap, then took the bus to Phnom Penh and finally Sihanoukville, where I took the boat over to the paradise island of Koh Rong Samloem. I found the people to be really friendly and had a really positive experience there, in fact I was hassled a lot less than in Vietnam or Thailand.
The country is pretty corrupt and you’ll see a lot of poverty here- this was particularly bad in Sihanoukville where I saw several kids begging for money around the beach area. At the airport in Phnom Penh I got chatting to an Australian lady in the check-in line, who said she was cutting a month-long trip short after only a few days. When I asked why she said she couldn’t handle seeing the poverty and wasn’t expecting it to be like that. I’m not sure what she was expecting from one of the world’s poorest countries and a nation that endured the murderous regime of the Khmer Rouge.
Anyway, you’ve been warned, but don’t let it put you off- this is a beautiful country with beautiful people. The highlight of my trip was most certainly Koh Rong Samloem- a beautiful paradise island off the coast of Sihanoukville.
Capital: Phnom Penh
Currency: Cambodian Riel, US dollar
Language: Khmer Language- English spoken by people in tourist-facing roles.
Beer: Angkor, Kingdom, Cambodia Beer and many other brands.
When entering Cambodia, make sure you have more than 6 months left on your passport, and make sure you have a few spare pages as the visa takes up a full page.
Most visitors should be able to get a Visa on Arrival (valid for 30 days) at the airport or border crossings, but check this before you travel. See the Wikipedia page on Cambodia’s visa policy for more info.
You can fly into Siem Reap or Phnom Penh airport- I used budget carrier Air Asia. Check Skyscanner for flights. You can also do the land crossing from Thailand, Laos or Vietnam. If you’re travelling by bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap, beware of various scams- here’s a link that lists some of the possible scams.
Within Cambodia it’s best to travel by bus. I took a bus between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, as well as a bus between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. Both were comfortable journeys on air conditioned coaches and tickets were booked through the guesthouses I stayed at. The Man in Seat 61 has a list of bus services in Cambodia.
I get asked a lot about the money http://humanrightsfilmnetwork.org/topamax situation in Cambodia. If you withdraw money from the ATM there, it will spit it out in US dollars. Even though the Riel is the official currency, US dollar is widely accepted and the currency you will pay for most things in.
If you’re paying for small things, you will usually pay in US dollar and then be given change in Riel. You might need to use Riel to pay for small things like street food or to pay for things in more remote areas, but generally speaking, you will pay in USD.
So, my advice is, if you’re going to take cash with you on your trip, take USD, and carry around about $10 worth of Riel to pay for things like motos and snack food.
Accommodation-wise there are all kinds of accommodation from budget to luxury. For guesthouses and hotels, I always look to Agoda.
If you’re backpacking on a budget there are a number of budget guesthouses and backpacker hostels. Look with Hostelworld and maybe give some of these a go:
Foods to try include BBQ Pork with rice, Khmer curries and Fish Amok– one of the most well-known Cambodian dishes. Fish Amok is basically a fish curry made with coconut milk and an aromatic curry paste consisting of lemongrass, galangal, fresh turmeric, shallots, garlic, and a little chilli. Beers usually cost about $1 and sometimes as low as 50 cents during Happy Hour- naturally I drank a lot of them.