Cambodia Travel Guide (2024) – Planning and What to Know
This post was last updated on 12/22/2023.
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Cambodia is often an add-on to a Thailand or Vietnam trip – not the main destination. It should be though, and it deserves its own spotlight. You can easily spend an entire month here. (I did!) You just need to go beyond the surface, because the country is much more than Angkor Wat and the Khmer Rouge.
The people are incredibly friendly, and many are trying to build toward a brighter future after the Khmer Rouge’s devastating genocide. They’re amazingly resourceful – living off the land through foraging and hunting just about any animal, from wild rats to snakes. Cambodian food is delicious, it’s relatively easy to get around the country, and there’s stunning wildlife and scenery.
Here’s your guide to traveling Cambodia.
What you need to know
Language: Khmer is the official and national language of Cambodia. About 22% of the population also speak English.
Currency: Riel (KHR) is the Cambodian currency, although US dollars (USD) are also accepted. The most common exchange rate is 4,000 riel to 1 USD. Some places, like hotels or stores, have an exchange rate of 4,100 riel to 1 USD. If you withdraw USD from ATMs, most only have $100 bills. I recommend carrying riel over US dollars since a lot of places won’t be able to break large bills. US bills need to be in near pristine condition. Plus, bills that are printed after a certain year may be considered too old and rejected.
Plugs: In Cambodia, plug types A, C, and G are supported. Voltage is 230V and the frequency is 50 Hz.
Drinking water: In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, you can drink the tap water. But it’s not recommended since the water is treated with a lot of chlorine and doesn’t taste good. It’s best to stick to drinking bottled water or water that’s been boiled.
When to go to Cambodia
The best time to visit Cambodia is between November and February. While it’s always hot and humid in Cambodia, you’ll avoid the worst of it during this time.
Cambodia’s dry season runs from November to May. The temperature starts rising above 33°C (91°F) in March, which can make it difficult to be outside.
Visiting Cambodia during the wet season, June to October, isn’t a bad idea though. You’ll experience fewer tourists, lush farm fields, and cheaper prices on accommodation. The downside is you might experience some flooding and muddy roads can be impossible to drive through.
How to get around Cambodia
Bus and van
The easiest, cheapest, and most convenient way to travel around Cambodia is by bus and van. There are many different operators that can all be accessed through sites like 12Go.Asia, Camboticket, BookMeBus, and CheckMyBus. Vehicles run more frequently for some routes than others, but most of the time, you can wait to book your ticket the day before.
Buses and vans have air conditioning and most operators give you a bottle of water. Depending on the type of van, some are cramped with little leg space. Drivers will typically stop at least once for a bathroom break. For longer drives of five or six hours, there’s usually two stops – sometimes three.
In my experience, most operators depart on time. The only one that was incredibly late was Virak Buntham Express. They were 30 to 40 minutes late, but the drivers drive so fast that we still managed to arrive either on time or just a little bit behind schedule. Unfortunately, they’re the only company that runs between Phnom Penh and Kratie.
You’ll find tuk tuks everywhere in Cambodia. They’re the best option when getting around large cities and taking day trips to nearby attractions. Always haggle and you can ask your hotel or hostel what a reasonable price is for where you’re going to avoid getting ripped off. You can also use apps like Grab and Pass to order a tuk tuk with a fixed price. I primarily used Pass since the price is cheaper than Grab. Don’t forget to have small bills, preferably riel, for tuk tuk drivers.
Taxi or private car
Taxis or private cars will usually be your most expensive option. If you’re traveling in a group, it can be worth it for long distances. Remember to haggle, and you can ask your hotel or hostel to help arrange a car.
Trains are a cheap way to cover long distances. Cambodia doesn’t have an extensive rail network though, so you can only take the train between a few places: Phnom Penh, Battambang, Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep, Takeo, and Pursat. For most routes, there’s only one train that runs each day so you have less flexibility. This is why I recommend taking a bus/van over the train.
There are a few boat routes you can take in Cambodia: Phnom Penh <> Siem Reap, Siem Reap <> Battambang, Kampot <> Kep. Some ferries only run during the rainy season, when the water level is high enough to sail.
I recommend saving your boat-taking for when you’re traveling to an island. Aside from being your only option in those cases, the trip will also be shorter and more comfortable.
Since Cambodia isn’t a large country and has only three commercial airports (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville), you won’t save much time by flying. It’s also much more expensive to fly, with most flights starting around $90 to $100 USD.
Places to visit in Cambodia
You’ll find all sorts of landscapes in Cambodia, including rainforests, islands, and crowded cities. The most popular places to visit in Cambodia are Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh. But don’t just stick to those places. There are so many more interesting and beautiful places to discover in this small country.
If you’re looking for nature and adventure, head into the wilderness of the Cardamom Mountains or Mondulkiri. To learn about Cambodian culture and history, spend a few days in Battambang or Kampot. And if you want to live the island life, soak up the sun on Koh Rong or Koh Rong Sanloem.
See the 13 best places to visit in Cambodia to learn more about each of these places and add new ones to your itinerary.
Have a few places in mind already? Dive deeper into what to do in each of these places in Cambodia:
- 32 Best Things to Do in Phnom Penh
- Top 8 Things to Do and See in Kratié
- 22 Best Things to Do in Siem Reap
- 16 Best Things to Do in Kampot
- 16 Best Things to Do in Battambang
If you’re trying to figure out how much time to spend in Cambodia, I recommend spending at least two weeks. One month will truly bring you all around the country and off the beaten path. But if you have just one week, you’ll get a taste of Cambodian culture and see the most popular sights that Cambodia is known for.
Use my itineraries as a starting point:
What to pack for Cambodia
- 1 hat
- 5 pairs of underwear
- 5 pairs of socks
- 5 t-shirts or tanks
- 1 long-sleeve top
- 1 sweatshirt, hoodie, or cardigan for chilly evenings and cold buses/vans
- 1 pair of jeans or long pants
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 pair of casual sneakers
- 1 pair of athletic shoes (only if you plan on being out in the wilderness)
- Sarong (handy for covering up shoulders or knees when visiting temples)
- 2-3 dresses
- Bug spray (you can also easily find it in grocery and convenience stores and pharmacies)
- Sunscreen (you can also easily find it in grocery and convenience stores and pharmacies – just be on the lookout for ones that contain whitening)
- 1 razor
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of conditioner
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 quick dry towel
- Hair bands
- Menstrual products (pads are widely available but tampons are less common in Cambodia)
- Travel adapter
- Phone charger
- Print out of your e-visa (if you need a visa and if you’re not doing the visa on arrival)
- Daypack (waist pack, backpack, purse, etc.)
- Reusable water bottle (some hostels allow you to fill up your bottle for free or for a few cents)
- Hand sanitizer
- Face masks
How safe is Cambodia?
Cambodia is a generally safe country, even for solo female travelers. I never felt in danger walking alone during the day or at night, in both busy cities and quieter towns. However, there a few things that you should know before going.
Be careful with your belongings
Watch out for petty theft. Always hang onto your belongings, especially in busy areas like markets and when riding a motorbike or tuk tuk.
Beware of bag and phone snatching, particularly in large cities like Phnom Penh. If you rent a motorbike, don’t leave your bag unattended on it. When riding a tuk tuk, hold onto your bags and stay alert. And be careful when using your phone out on the street. I’ve heard of people getting their phone snatched out of their hands while they were taking photos.
Inspect the US bills you receive
If you receive US bills from a cashier, it’s a good idea to take a look at them. Most of the time, the bills will be in fine condition. But some people will take the opportunity to pass you bills that are torn, marked, creased, or too old to be accepted in Cambodia. There’s also a small chance you might receive counterfeit bills.
Stick to defined trails when exploring on your own
Because of the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge, there are still unexploded landmines in Cambodia. Always stick to the trail when you’re in rural areas or in the wilderness.
More resources for traveling Cambodia
- How Many Days to Spend in Cambodia
- How to Take Tuk Tuks in Cambodia Like a Pro
- How to Solo Travel Cambodia and Stay Safe
- Visiting Angkor Wat in 2024: Complete Travel Guide