What to do in Cambodia, budgeting, and things you should know before visiting Cambodia.

Cambodia was the first stop on my Backpacking Southeast Asia solo trip. This is not a country to be missed! Despite the fact that my phone was stolen at the beginning of my trip, this never stopped me from enjoying Cambodia.

I can say without a doubt that Cambodia was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t have any expectations before going in, which helped me enjoy my time to the fullest. There’s a reason Cambodia is on the rise as an international tourist destination. It hosts beautiful sights, delicious food, friendly locals, and cheap prices. Every person should visit Cambodia at least once to see it for themselves.

Koh Rong Island in Cambodia
Koh Rong Island

I wrote another blog post about Cambodia where I shared my full itinerary, how I spent my time, and even more tips: so definitely check that out!
Read: Best 10 day itinerary for visiting Cambodia
Read: Helpful Tips for visiting Angkor Wat

HOW TO GET TO CAMBODIA:

Cambodia is accessible by air via airports located in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Sihanoukville. If you’re traveling by land, (like I did from Bangkok, Thailand,) using an overnight bus is a very convenient and cost effective alternative. You’ll most likely sleep the whole time and it only costs $30. WiFi, free water, snacks, and use of a toilet are all provided. Just make sure to book your tickets at least two days in advance.

VISA:

You will need a visa to enter Cambodia. The best and easiest option is to apply online through this official website: https://www.evisa.gov.kh/. The process is very easy and straight-forward. You just need to upload your photo, the details of your passport, and pay the fee of $36. When it’s ready, print your approval and take it with you to the border. The approval usually takes three days but I received mine the morning after I applied.

WEATHER / WHEN TO VISIT CAMBODIA:

The most popular time to visit Cambodia is during the dry season, from November to March. April and May are the hottest months. The rainy season starts in May and lasts through October which cools the temperatures down a bit. If you want nicer weather you should go during the dry season, but if you want smaller crowds plan to visit at the end of May, like I did. Even though the weather is considered worse and some of the waterfalls were dried up, it’s preferable to having tons of other tourists everywhere. Either way it’s going to be hot and humid, so don’t forget to bring water everywhere you go– maybe even a fan.

Phnom Bakheng temple in Cambodia
Phnom Bakheng
Sunrise from Bokor Mountain in Kampot Cambodia
Sunrise from Bokor Mountain in Kampot
Cambodia Itinerary Gift

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    MONEY:

    Cambodia has its own currency, but most of the prices will be listed in US dollars (no cents). Expect to pay in either US dollars or in Riel anywhere you go. Don’t worry about changing your money at all, because most of the places will give your change in Cambodian Riel which you can then use for small purchases. You will be able to find ATMs or pay with your card in some hotels and high-end restaurants, however it’s a good idea to bring cash with you everywhere you go. Don’t forget to bargain and negotiate the prices. You can get much better deals this way.

    SIM CARD / WIFI:

    I didn’t expect Cambodia to have such easy access to an internet connection. It was easy to find WiFi in all the hostels, restaurants, and cafes I visited and the connections were really good. There are two suggested mobile SIM cards that you can get. You can buy one in a Smart shop, if you like, or you could do what I did and purchase a Metfone SIM card. It costs $8 and gives you unlimited data for an entire week.

    LANGUAGE:

    Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. English is not well spoken among the majority of locals. Many young Cambodians are studying it though, and will want to practice with foreigners. While you will be able to ask simple questions in English, it is always a great idea to learn couple of Khmer phrases for words like Hello, Thank you, etc..

    Ta Prohm Temple in Cambodia
    Ta Prohm Temple

    PEOPLE IN CAMBODIA:

    It’s very hard to speak about any nationality as a whole. There are good and bad people in every single country. In my own personal experience, almost all the people that I came across were very friendly and genuinely trying to help. All the tour guides I met were kind and funny. My tuk-tuk driver even invited me to his brother’s wedding on the first day that we met! Don’t forget that this country was affected by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime not that long ago and most of us don’t even know about it! It’s definitely left its mark on the culture and people of Cambodia. The tourism industry is not as well-developed in Cambodia as it is in Vietnam, for example, so people still need some time to adjust. With that being said, you still shouldn’t be too kind or let other people fool you. Scams and overcharging tourists is very popular.

    SAFETY & SCAMS:

    In general, Cambodia is a safe country to visit. Though keep in mind that like in another country it’s important to be cautious and aware of the scams that might happen. Be careful about people not charging you the right amount at the restaurants. Always hold onto your belongings while riding in a tuk-tuk and don’t buy from local children. This only serves to support exploitation. Don’t buy milk for the woman with a baby, she will have someone resell it afterwards and split the money. Another popular deception is when a person approaches you saying that the attraction where you’re going is closed. He will just try to offer you a different tour. Don’t believe that it’s closed; just keep walking to your destination.

    TRANSPORTATION:

    Getting around the country is pretty easy, you can use either use flights or buses. Download apps like Skyscanner, Camboticket, or use the 12GO website to book your tickets. Use tuk-tuks to get around the city. It’s an easy, fast, and cheap way to get to where you’re going. Don’t forget to negotiate the price before getting in.

    TIP: You can find tour agencies selling bus tickets and different tours everywhere. I suggest that you don’t book your tours online as they are almost always more expensive that way. Just go to a tour agency near you and check out the price there.

    Bayon Temple in Cambodia
    Bayon Temple

    ACCOMMODATION:

    Depending on your needs you can find both luxury resorts and very cheap hostels in Cambodia. Since I was backpacking Southeast Asia, the best option for me was staying in hostels. It’s cheaper and you meet a lot more people that way.

    Funky Hostel Siem Reap Cambodia
    Funky Hostel Siem Reap

    APPS:

    I have a separate blog post dedicated to the most useful apps which I use while traveling. I highly recommend all of them so if you want to make your adventures easier to navigate, remember to check that out as well!

    FOOD IN CAMBODIA:

    Like in almost every country in Southeast Asia, you simply have to try local street food. My rule was to go where the locals go. If you see a lot of people constantly buying food, it means that most likely it’s not going to lie around for too long. Khmer food isn’t that spicy and it’s very delicious. If you go to small local restaurants or street food vendors you can easily get by with just spending $1-2 a meal. A word of warning: do not drink the tap water.

    Places that i recommend:

    • Khmer Taste Restaurant (Siem Reap)
    • Artillery (Phnom Penh)
    • White rose (Koh Rong)
    • Amazing pizza (Kampot)
    Tofu Amok Cambodian food
    Tofu Amok

    ANGKOR WAT:

    You will want to visit this magical place while you’re in Cambodia. In order to keep this post shorter in size, I created another list with special tips for those of you who would like to see Angkor Wat. Be sure to give it a read before you travel to Cambodia.

    Bayon Temple in Siem Reap Cambodia

    BUDGET:

    Like most countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodia can be a very cheap place to visit. Considering the fact that every person is different and has different priorities, I’m just going to share my spendings with you in this table.

    I stayed in hostels and ate mostly in small restaurants or street food.

     AccommodationFoodTransportationTicketsTours
    Siem Reap (3 days)$4/night$15$25 for Angkor Wat $1 tuk-tuk $37 1day Angkor Wat$18 floating village, $12 dance show
    Phnom Penh (2 days)$5/night$15$10 bus from SR$6 killing fields, $5 prison$15 tour for killing fields and prison itself
    Kampot (2,5 days)$5/night$15$9 bus to Kampot$20 full day tour
    Koh Rong (3 days)$5/night$20 (food is cheaper in Koh Toch beach)$10 ride to the Longest beach and back; $25 bus from Kampot to Sihanoukville and a ferry two ways$25 Adventure Adam tour
    Popokvil Waterfall in Kampot Cambodia
    Popokvil Waterfall in Kampot

    PLACES TO VISIT IN CAMBODIA

    • Siem Reap
    • Battambang
    • Phnom Penh
    • Kep
    • Kampot
    • Sihanoukville
    • Koh Rong Island

    SIEM REAP:

    I loved Siem Reap. You’ll want to stay here if you’re going to visit Angkor Wat. It’s a very small city but the atmosphere is great. It has its own unique offerings outside of Angkor Wat. I spent three days here, but honestly I wish I had spent at least four.

    PHNOM PENH:

    Phnom Penh is busy as it’s the capital of Cambodia. I wouldn’t recommend staying here for too long, as there is not a lot to see and do. There are much more beautiful places in Cambodia. Be careful of bag snatching when you’re here, as it’s a common occurrence. I’d hate for it to ruin your whole experience.

    KEP:

    Kep is a tiny city on the coast of Cambodia. You can see everything it has to offer in about a day. This is also the place where you can try famous Kampot Pepper Crab.

    KAMPOT:

    I loved Kampot the most out of all the places that I visited in Cambodia. I even returned there after visiting Koh Rong Island to stay for one more day. It has cute little cafes, restaurants with delicious food, cheap fruit stands, and French bakeries. Additionally, Bokor Mountain, the pepper plantation, and walking along the river are not to be missed.

    Bokor Mountain in Cambodia
    Bokor Mountain

    SIHANOUKVILLE:

    Even though I was in Sihanoukville for only a couple of hours, I can’t recommend you to go there. As a matter of fact, everyone that I asked about this coastal town, says that it’s used to be a nice place with white beaches and beautiful jungles. That is until it got ruined by excessive building, the mafia, casinos, and trash. Unfortunately, I even met several local Khmer people who told me that they had to pack up and leave Sihanoukville due to all of the gambling, rising prices, and escalating crime rate. If you still want to visit the area around Sihanoukville, go to Otres Beach. It’s probably the last untouched remnant of what Sihanoukville used to be.

    KOH RONG:

    Koh Rong is a big island just a short ferry ride away from Sihanoukville. Here you can still get incredible white beaches, clean water, and beautiful bungalows. If you travel during low season, you can find a bed for $4 right on the beach! It will feel like you have the entire island all to yourself. 4K beach is where I stayed and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s not far from the main part, Koh Toch beach, where the ferries come to but it’s cleaner and not as noisy. The roads here are almost non-existent so be prepared for long walks and bumpy motorbike rides. Unfortunately, this island will probably get ruined very soon, as contracts have already been signed for building more resorts, ports, golf courses, and an airport. They even changed its status from “National Park” to “City”.

    TIP: Don’t forget about the glowing plankton here, it was a highlight of my trip and unbelievably cool!

    Koh Rong Island in Cambodia
    Koh Rong Island

    THINGS TO DO IN CAMBODIA:

    Sunrise/sunset at Angkor Wat and explore the whole complex

    Even though it’s very popular among tourists, you should add this one to your bucket list. You will see for yourself how magical this experience is. It’s definitely worth waking up at 4 am to see.

    Visit floating villages:

    There are several villages on Tonle Sap Lake that you could visit. The most popular, touristy, and the closest one to Siem Reap is Chong Khneas. A better option is to go a little bit further to Kampong Phluk for a more local feel. You could go even further to Kampong Kleang to learn more about Cambodia and see very different way of life. I went there during low season but I still enjoyed it, especially since that’s when you can see the huge difference in water level.

    Floating Village in Cambodia
    Floating Village

    Learn to prepare Khmer food and take a food tour:

    I loved Khmer food A LOT! It’s so flavorful! I don’t even have the right words to describe it.That’s why I didn’t want to leave Cambodia. I recommend doing a food tour in almost every country because the food is so different. It will help you to learn a lot more about local dishes and about the culture in general. While you are there and have a chance to experience it, you should absolutely attended a cooking class in Cambodia.

    You can book it through Airbnb or Get Your Guide apps. Another option is to book it on the spot.

    Fish Amok Cambodian food
    Fish Amok

    Experience Khmer New Year (usually falls on April 13th and 14th)

    I haven’t got a chance to see it myself but I’ve heard so many great things about it I had to put it on the list.

    Hidden Temple in Kampot Cambodia
    Hidden Temple in Kampot

    Learn about Cambodian history:

    The brutal Khmer Rouge regime is a more recent occurrence than people realize and is something that you’ll want to learn more about while you’re in Phnom Penh. Visiting the Killing Fields and Prison S21 is a very heart-breaking and eye-opening experience. When you are at the Killing Fields take an audio tour for only $3 and you will learn so much more about those horrible times.

    Toul Sleng Genocide Museum Prison 21 in Cambodia
    Toul Sleng Genocide Museum / Prison 21

    Cruise Mekong River:

    Another popular thing to do while you’re in Phnom Penh is to take a cruise on the Mekong River. I haven’t done this myself because I to do it in Vietnam.

    See a Cambodian circus or dance show

    I went to a Khmer Dance Show and had a wonderful time. We had a buffet full of delicious Khmer food and seeing an authentic dance show was really entertaining. It’s crazy how much patience you have to have to dance like that!

    Cambodian Dance Show
    Cambodian Dance Show

    Visit the islands and go scuba diving:

    While almost everybody knows about beautiful beaches of Thailand, Cambodia has some amazing places to offer for relaxing at the beach or going scuba diving. I visited Koh Rong island and I loved it. I went there during low season and that honestly the best time to do it, as you can get $4 bed on the white beach with almost no one else around. It feels like you have your own private island.

    Plankton glow at night:

    This was the highlight of my visit to Koh Rong Island. It was my first time swimming with glowing plankton and it was an incredible experience. You can see thousands of shooting stars when you’re moving in the water. If you visit Cambodia, this is one activity you have to experience for yourself.

    Koh Rong island beach in Cambodia
    4k Beach, Koh Rong Island

    Go to the top of the Bokor Mountain:

    You can rent a motorbike for $5-10 a day and it will give you freedom to stop wherever you like on your way up. You should only do this if you are confident enough in your driving skills though. Another option is to hire a taxi or a motorbike driver for your trip, like I did. Popular places on top of the mountain are Bokor Palace Hotel, also known as the “old casino”, the abandoned Catholic church, and the Lok Yeay Mao statue. Of course, there is a gorgeous view of Kampot from the top.

    Sunrise at Bokor in Cambodia
    Sunrise on Bokor

    Visit Pepper Plantation

    Another thing to do while you’re in Kampot is to visit the pepper plantation. You can see how peppers are grown, eat in an organic restaurant and even try different varieties of pepper here.

    Pepper plantation in Cambodia
    Pepper plantation

    Kayaking the Green Cathedral

    Ride to Champa Lodge and rent your kayak there. Since I was traveling by myself at the end of the dry season and I don’t enjoy kayaking that much in general. I decided to skip this one. Still, it’s something you should consider doing.

    Read next: Helpful tips for visiting Angkor Wat

    Read: Best 10 day itinerary for visiting Cambodia

    where I go in-depth about exactly how I planned my trip and share more tips.

    Temple in Angkor Wat Cambodia
    Temple in Angkor Wat

    Thank you so much for reading and don’t hesitate to contact me through email, Instagram or Facebook, where I share even more tips, so we could stay connected and get to know each other better. Can’t wait to hear from you! Happy travels!

    I hope I was able to help make planning your trip to Cambodia easier. You should visit this amazing country and see for yourself what it has to offer.

    Did you enjoy this article or feel like you have anything else to add? I’d love to discuss it with you in the comment section below this article!

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    Coni
    3 months ago

    I love that you included your budget. It makes it great for planning. Cambodia is super high up my list -I can’t wait to go! Saving this post for future references 🙂

    Travelling With Diana
    Admin
    Travelling With Diana
    3 months ago
    Reply to  Coni

    Thank you so much, Coni! Even though the budget for everyone will be very different, I think it’s still nice to have at least one real example 🙂 It is truly very beautiful country, you will be surprised.

    Melissa
    3 months ago

    My list of countries to visit just keeps on growing! This travel guide is so useful for the future if I ever decide to visit Cambodia, which I am sure I will. Thanks for including the budget as well, not many bloggers mention it and it is so nice to get an idea of how much everything costs.

    Travelling With Diana
    Admin
    Travelling With Diana
    3 months ago
    Reply to  Melissa

    Thank you so much, Melissa! Cambodia is truly worth visiting! And main reason because it’s still not as popular as Thailand for example. Yes, I love to share how much money I spent at least on some things, so people might see at least one real example 🙂

    Aditi Sharma
    Aditi Sharma
    3 months ago

    We’ve yet to travel to Cambodia and it’s been on our bucket list for sometime now. It’s good to know about the details of applying for the visa – sounds like the online application gets processed quite quickly which is so convenient. Certainly very helpful to know about the SIM card option – $8 for getting unlimited data for an entire week is a great deal. The photographs in your post are incredible and I hope to see Angkor Wat in person someday soon–such incredible architecture and history! Hadn’t know about Popokvil Waterfall in Kampot but will add it to… Read more »

    Travelling With Diana
    Admin
    Travelling With Diana
    3 months ago
    Reply to  Aditi Sharma

    Aw, thank you so much, Aditi! It makes me so happy that you liked it! If you ever have any questions about Cambodia, you can always let me know and I will try my best to help you. It’s truly one of the top places that I’ve ever visited.

    Michelle Segrest
    3 months ago

    Cambodia has been on my bucket list for a long time and this is a very comprehensive and helpful guide! I would love to see the floating villages! Also, I’m intrigued by the glowing plankton. I am a sailor and have seen this many times at sea and it is simply spectacular!

    Travelling With Diana
    Admin
    Travelling With Diana
    3 months ago

    Thank you so much, Michelle! I think Cambodia should be on everyone’s bucket list! You just have to visit it at least once! And the local food there is so delicious. Aw swimming with glowing plankton was such an unreal experience! It felt like I was dreaming!

    Sarah
    3 months ago

    Cambodia is a lovely place for every budget traveler. I haven’t been there yet but it’s on my list!

    Travelling With Diana
    Admin
    Travelling With Diana
    3 months ago
    Reply to  Sarah

    Exactly, Sarah. That’s so true! It’s not very expensive but it’s a real gem!

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