Travel Guide Cambodia

The Cambodia Travel Guide will help you discover one of Southeast Asia’s most enjoyable destinations. Visit Cambodia, and you’ll find plentiful attractions ranging from unspoilt beaches and colonial townscapes through to dense forests and majestic rivers and lakes. The legendary temples of Angkor continue to attract millions of visitors each year. Away from the temples, Cambodia is refreshingly untouristy. Cambodia remains largely unexplored in many places. New roads now bring once remote destinations within easy reach.

    Cambodia travel facts

  • Spoken language: Khmer
  • Currency: Riel (r) or US dollar
  • Population: 16 million
  • Capital: Phnom Penh
  • Religions: Theravada Buddhism (97%), Islam, Christianity, Animism
  • Flag: The Cambodian flag has an image of Angkor Wat. It is the only national flag in the world with a picture of a building on it.

Where to go in Cambodia

If you’re looking for the best place to travel in Cambodia, choosing where to go can be tough. When travelling Cambodia, there is so much to discover including cities, villages and breathtaking beaches. This ‘where to go in Cambodia’ guide gives an overview of the destinations worth adding to any Cambodia travel wishlist.

If you’re looking for the best place to travel in Cambodia, choosing where to go can be tough. When travelling Cambodia, there is so much to discover including cities, villages and breathtaking beaches. This ‘where to go in Cambodia’ guide gives an overview of the destinations worth adding to any Cambodia travel wishlist.

Cambodia’s cities

Phnom Penh is the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The city is an alluring attraction in its own right. The centre has broad appeal, and its French influence is evident in the open-fronted colonial shophouses that line the streets. There are a mind-boggling number of restaurants, bars and cafes to try. Many tourists that travel to Cambodia linger here for the culinary experience. You can also take a boat trip from Phnom Penh along the mighty Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers.

Siem Reap is Cambodia’s principal tourist town. This city offers a gateway to the temples of Angkor. More than one hundred Angkorian monuments lie spread over some 3000 square kilometres of the countryside around the town. Siem Reap retains its small-town charm despite its popularity. It’s a lively city with many activities and attractions including lively Psar Chas Market, buzzing cafes, bars, boutique shops and plentiful nightlife. It’s also a good spot from which to visit the nearby floating villages on the Tonle Sap.

Laidback Battambang is Cambodia’s second biggest city. It is worlds apart from Phnom Penh’s urban bustle. It has a growing number of ex-pats fuelling the growth of arty cafes, restaurants and bars. It’s also home to impressive colonial architecture. You can take a countryside ride on its quirky bamboo railway.

Kompong Cham is Eastern Cambodia’s largest city. The waterfront is particularly attractive, with a string of colonial buildings lined up along the Mekong.

Temples of Angkor

For most tourists that choose to come here, their Cambodia trip is not complete without a visit to the unforgettable temples of Angkor. Understandably, this is high on the list for many who travel Cambodia as it is one of the most important archaeological sites of Southeast Asia. The awe-inspiring Angkor Wat is the most famous of the temples dominated by five corncob towers. Visit early in the morning to avoid some of the crowds. The temples attract some two million visitors per year. Visit How to see Angkor Wat without the crowds for more tips.

Southwest Cambodia & The Southern Islands

Visit the Southwest to discover miles of unspoilt beaches, hidden coves and idyllic Cambodian islands. Sihanoukville is the most popular beach resort. Ochheuteal Beach and Serendipity Beach Road justify their party town reputation. There are quieter spots too, particularly around Otres, 6km away. Sihanoukville is also the entry point to the islands of Koh Rong, Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Ta Kiev. Koh Rong has a buzzing backpacker strip at Koh Toch. The beaches at Long Set and Long Beach along the west coast are more laidback. Peaceful Koh Ta Tiev retains a real castaway vibe. Remember to take cash as there are no ATM’s on the islands.

Ream National Park is 18km east of Sihanoukville. It’s a great place to explore Cambodia’s unspoilt natural environment. The park is evergreen with mangrove forests, sandy beaches, coral reefs, and offshore islands. The riverside town of Kampot with the backdrop of misty Bokor mountains is one of Cambodia’s most appealing towns to add to your Cambodia trip itinerary. 25km southeast of Kampot, Kep is a favourite with ex-pats and Cambodians who descend at the weekend. They are attracted by its delicious, inexpensive seafood, freshly plucked from the ocean.

Eastern Cambodia

If you travel to Cambodia and you like nature and wildlife, the east is the place to be. There are patches of dense, unspoilt rainforest that remain in Eastern Cambodia. The riverside town of Kratie is an excellent base for exploring the nearby countryside. Just over 20km from Kratie is Kampie which provides the best riverside vantage point to view a pod of rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins. It’s thought that only around eighty remain in the entire Mekong river.

Tucked away in the forest near the sleepy capital of Banlung in the Rattanakiri province, there is a trio of impressive nearby waterfalls Ka Chhang, Katieng and Chha Ong.

Best time to go to Cambodia

Figuring out the best time to travel Cambodia depends on what you plan to do when you arrive. Cambodia is warm all year round, but it has a rainy season too.

If you visit Cambodia between March and May, the temperatures and humidity are higher. Visiting at this time can still be a good choice if you are hitting the coast. If you are travelling Cambodia to explore the temples, the season between November and February is cool enough for sightseeing. December and January can be the most popular time for tourists.

Travel Cambodia in the rainy season, and you’ll find the countryside at its lushest. Travelling around Cambodia during this season can present some practical challenges and flooding is commonplace. However, the mornings are usually dry as the rain mainly falls in the afternoon. If you do choose to go visit in the rainy season, you’ll avoid the crowds too.

Find out more from our Cambodia Travel Guide about when to go to Cambodia.

How to get to Cambodia

The busiest International Airports are Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. There aren’t any direct flights from Europe to Cambodia. You can reach Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap via Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City and several other destinations. Take a look at Skyscanner for more options.

It’s also possible to travel overland into Cambodia from neighbouring countries. You can cross the border at several spots in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.

Find out more Cambodia travel information in Getting to Cambodia.

How to get around Cambodia

When planning how to travel around Cambodia, consider the transport as part of the adventure.

Roads have seen massive improvements in the past five years, so getting around the country is much easier than it once was. The bus system provides connections between all major towns. The bus offers the cheapest and usually the most convenient way to travel.

Minibuses and ‘share taxis’ are also other options to travel by road. Share taxis are faster than taking the bus, but they do get absurdly packed. You can ask to pay roughly double the standard fare to have a front seat to yourself. You could also pay to hire the entire taxi.

For short local trips, you can hire a motorcycle or ‘moto’ for the day or a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk is a passenger carriage pulled by a motorbike. It’s virtually impossible to rent a self-drive car in Cambodia, but you can hire a car with a driver. Three-wheeled cycle rickshaws called cyclos are also available in Phnom Penh for short trips.

You may also end up travelling Cambodia by boat. Boat trips run between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and between Siem Reap and Battambang. In the south, regular ferries and fast catamarans run between Sihanoukville and Koh Rong. Find out more about how to travel to Cambodia in our Cambodia guide to “Getting Around”.

10 best places to visit in Cambodia

Why travel to Cambodia? Here are 10 of the best places to travel in Cambodia. These highlights are sure to convince any traveller to include Cambodia on their itinerary when taking a trip to Southeast Asia.

  1. The Royal Palace in Phnom PenhThe Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh are the city’s finest example of twentieth-century Khmer influenced architecture. The Royal Palace is set back from the riverbank on Sothearos Boulevard. You can stroll this complex of regal structures and perfectly manicured grounds. While there, you will gain an insight into Cambodia’s past and present. A blue flag flies when the King is in residence. While the palace itself is off-limits, it’s possible to visit several buildings within the grounds. The Silver Pagoda is named for its floor which is covered in gleaming silver.
  2. Temples of AngkorThe Temples of Angkor are world-renowned and house some of the country’s finest monuments. More than one hundred Angkorian monuments lie spread over some 3000 square kilometres of the countryside. The best-known monuments are the vast temple of Angkor Wat and the walled city of Angkor Thom. During the Angkorian period, the ruling god-kings built imposing temples as a way of asserting their divinity. They left a legacy of more than one hundred temples constructed between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. The full magnificence of Angkor Wat represents the height of Khmer art. The pretty tenth-century temple of Banteay Srei is unique, made from unusual pink sandstone and with intricate ornamentation.
  3. Koh Ta TievPeaceful Koh Ta Tiev is one of the southern islands, and it’s a tropical paradise retaining a real castaway vibe. There are several types of accommodation to choose from, and you can even camp or sleep in a hammock between two trees over the sand. There is limited electricity on the island and no wifi. Spend your days’ jungle trekking, snorkelling, or experiencing authentic Khmer cooking.
  4. BattambangBattambang is Cambodia’s second largest city, but it’s often overlooked. It’s a bustling city that is both welcoming and laidback. Its lush surrounding countryside is ideal for bike rides, and it’s easy to get out on the water by kayak. You can whizz past rice paddies and rattle over bridges when you ride the quirky bamboo railway too.
  5. KampotThe riverside Kampot is one of Cambodia’s most appealing towns with the backdrop of misty Bokor Mountains. At Kampot, you can potter along the river for a swim or sunset cruise. You could also head into the mountains to explore caves. Kampot is also a base from which to explore the region’s famed pepper plantations. Bokor National Park is home to an abandoned 1920s hotel and casino. Kampot has a friendly but low key nightlife.
  6. KepKep is renowned throughout Cambodia for its delicious, inexpensive seafood. It’s heaven for seafood connoisseurs. You can get fresh crab straight from the sea at the crab market on the western seafront. It’s also a good base from which to go on an island boat tour. Head over to the palm-fringed beach of Rabbit Island or Koh Tonsay.
  7. Floating villages on Tonle SapTonle Sap lake is home to dozens of picturesque floating villages. Explore the fascinating houses built from bamboo and raised on stilts; they are mainly inhabited by Vietnamese fisherman. You’ll pass floating markets, schools and pagodas and learn more about local life.
  8. Irrawaddy DolphinsAround 20km north of Kratie is Kampie. It offers the best riverside vantage point to spot the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins. It is expected that only around eighty remain in the entire Mekong. The Irrawaddy dolphins look very much like porpoises. The Irrawaddy dolphin has been added to the IUCN Red List as a critically endangered species. The dolphin-watching site is now run as an ecotourism project by the local community.
  9. Ream National ParkReam National Park is one of Cambodia’s most accessible national parks. Here you can explore Cambodia’s unspoilt natural environment with mangrove forests, sandy beaches and rich diversity of flora and fauna. You are likely to see kingfishers, eagles and monkeys.
  10. Trekking in RattanakiriTrek into the forest of Rattanakiri, the capital Banlung is surrounded by peaceful countryside. It is dotted with waterfalls and lakes, and it’s also home to the indigenous chunchiet hill tribes. You may spot gibbons, rare birdlife and endangered species in the Virachey National Park.

For more places to visit, check out these gorgeous pictures of Cambodia.

Cambodia travel itineraries

The carefully-curated itineraries in our Cambodia travel guide will inspire you to make the most of your trip. These I itineraries take in the most popular destinations for those that travel Cambodia including the cities and infamous Temples of Angkor. You can also take the opportunity to go off the beaten track and take in Cambodia’s natural attractions. There is an itinerary to suit anyboth your interests and your timeframes.

The Grand Tour takes in the best Cambodia has to offer including the capital Phnom Penh, the magnificent Angkor temples, floating villages, mountains, jungle and the hedonistic beach islands in the south.

The Wild Cambodia travel tour includes kayaking, forest hikes and jungle trekking to find waterfalls, dolphins, elephants, gibbons, and more. You’ll also explore rivers, lakes and floating villages.

Combining remote locations that are as yet not overrun with tourists is the aim of the Undiscovered Cambodia itinerary, which includes trips to quiet tucked away townships and villages. The itinerary includes a trip to Koh S’dach archipelago which offers an authentic taste of Cambodia’s coastline. You’ll also take in Khmer Rouge history at Anglong Veng and have a lost-in-the-jungle experience in Cambodia’s far northwest.

When you plan your Cambodia trip, make sure you have the latest Cambodia travel advice.

Check out the travel essentials section with all the travel advice you need before you go. It will help you to make sure your trip runs smoothly. It covers tips on travelling Cambodia, including keeping healthy, staying safe, money and insurance. Cambodia travel essentials also includes festival and public holiday dates, tips on travelling with children and more.

Travel visa requirements for Cambodia

All foreign nationals except those from certain Southeast Asian countries need a visa to enter Cambodia. Tourist visas are valid for thirty days. The tourist visas are issued on arrival at all border crossings and airports. You will need two passport photos to get your visa. You can also take care of your tourist visa online in advance The e-visas are only valid at airports and the Poipet, Koh Kong and Bavet land crossings. Check the website for full details. E-visas take three days to process, and you still need to provide a digital photograph.

A tourist visa can be extended once for one month. Many travel agents and guesthouses can help you extend your visa for a commission. You can also buy a business visa, and this can be extended in a variety of ways, and they allow multiple entries. Find out more in the Cambodia guide to travel essentials.

Accommodation in Cambodia

The main cities in Cambodia have several accommodation options and finding something is rarely a problem. There are basic hotels in every provincial town too. The budget accommodation can be very cheap at around $7 to 8$ per night. Most hotel rooms have a double bed as standard. Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville also offer tourist-orientated budget guesthouses and hostels. Hostels can be priced as little as $2 per night. Camping is theoretically illegal in Cambodia, but is a possibility in some places – for example, on the beaches and islands of the south coast.

Mid-range and luxury accommodation is usually only found around the tourist hotspots and major towns. Luxury accommodation is widely available in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, Sihanoukville and Kep. There are choices of five-star chain hotels, chic boutiques and idyllic resorts constructed in traditional Khmer style.

Find out more in the Cambodia guide to accommodation.

Food and drink in Cambodia

Cambodian food has influences from many other countries in Asia and French influence too. Cambodian food is milder than Thai food and often herbs, spices and chilli are served on the side rather than blended into the dish. Dishes are delicately enhanced with flavours like lemongrass and coriander. Cambodia’s national dish is bamboo-leaf infused fish amok. Stir-fries feature on most menus alongside delicious coconut milk curry dishes and rice.

Local variations of typical Vietnamese dishes can also be found too. French influences can also be found on the menus here with endless coffee options and French-style baguettes. You can find Khmer street food at markets and on street stalls. You can fill up on noodle dishes, filled baguettes and stir-fries.

Cambodians drink plenty of green tea and fruit shakes. Stalls are set up in towns all over the country from late afternoon. Also available is iced sugar-cane juice and the juice of green coconuts - all very refreshing. Cambodia’s national beer is Angkor, brewed by an Australian and Cambodian joint venture in Sihanoukville. Find out more about food and drink in Cambodia.

Activities in Cambodia

Cambodia has an increasing number of activities and sports. In the northeast, particularly in Banlung and Sen Monorom, local guides can lead groups or individuals on treks into the surrounding jungle and Virachey National Park. Treks can last anything from a day to a week. There is also good trekking in the forested hills around Koh Kong.

Diving in Cambodia

There are excellent opportunities to snorkel and dive in and around Cambodia. There are several PADI dive shops in Sihanoukville and nearby islands offering both certification and fun day trips.

Cycling and kayaking are available in the northeast around the Mekong River. Bike trips can be organised at Kratie, Stung Treng and around Angkor’s temples or the Cardamom Mountains.

Сulture of Cambodia

Those that travel Cambodia will gain more respect from locals if they are well dressed. Both men and women dress conservatively. It’s best to avoid skimpy clothes and shorts unless you are at a beach resort. When visiting temples, it’s best to have both shoulders and legs covered. Remove your shoes before entering a Cambodian temple or Cambodian home. Cambodians themselves are conservative and do their best to keep clean and well presented.

It’s advisable to avoid any displays of public affection between men and women. Even visitors holding hands can be embarrassing for Cambodians.

Top image © Efired/Shutterstock

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