Cambodia Travel Tips: Things To Know Before You Go
Are you planning a trip to Cambodia? If so, here are some top travel tips and things you need to know before you go.
We spent 8 weeks backpacking through Cambodia in 2017 and fell in love with this South East Asian gem. We also learned a lot of tips and tricks – mostly the hard way! – about traveling in Cambodia. So instead of letting you learn your own lessons, I hope the following advice will help to make your trip to Cambodia that much easier.
From the spectacular temples at Angkor Wat, the beaches on Koh Rong Sanloem to the jungles in Ratanakiri, Cambodia is a country rich in diversity and steeped in history. It is a country that has been ravaged by war, but everywhere you go, you will find the people full of welcoming arms and huge smiles. This is a beautiful country with delightful, helpful people.
The main forms of transport in Cambodia are by bus or minivan – some luxurious and others most definitely not! Some overnight buses had double beds for a really good nights sleep, while others only had reclining seats. Some minivans had wifi and bottled water, some had 25 people, chickens and a motorbike! I’m not even joking! All the modes of transport we took were suitable for traveling with kids. Whatever your mode of transport, you will be amazed at how easy it is to get from point A to point B.
Here are Our Top Cambodia Travel Tips
Travel Tip 1: Booking Bus Tickets
Always get your hotel or guesthouse to book your bus tickets. They may charge an extra $1, but you’ll get collected from your hotel.
The bus will always collect you from the place where you book your tickets, so if you book at a travel agent, that’s where you’ll be collected. That means you’ll have to make your way to the travel agent with all your luggage. Suddenly that extra $1 for booking at your hotel seems oh so worth it!
Travel Tip 2: Listen to Your Own Music
All buses in Asia have Asian music playing. As lovely as this may seem when you first start your journey, 8 hours of it isn’t always that pleasant. So a top tip is to always have earphones on hand, so you can listen to your own music from your phone.
Travel Tip 3: Avoid Tuk-Tuks at the Station
As you arrive at your destination and step off the bus, you will be descended upon by a horde of tuk-tuk drivers all vying for your business. Besides being rather overwhelming, these guys generally charge an inflated rate. Our top tip is to rather walk to the end of the block and as soon as you round the corner, flag down a tuk-tuk and they will be much cheaper.
Travel Tip 4: Test the Tuk-Tuk Driver’s English
If you are hiring a tuk-tuk to take you sightseeing for the day, always make sure to test their English by chatting to them before you get going. They often nod and say yes, when actually they don’t understand what you are saying and then you end up somewhere you had no intention of going. Showing them Google Maps also doesn’t help as they are often not familiar with maps.
The most popular way to visit Angkor Wat is to hire a tuk-tuk for the day. They all charge similar daily rates, but if you get a tuk-tuk driver that speaks good English, you will have an infinitely better experience. The drivers often have a very good knowledge about Angkor Wat. They know the best times to see which temples and they can tell you the history of the temples. It will save you on having to pay a tour guide!
Travel Tip 5: Chicken or Beef?
In our experience, the beef was always better than the pork, while the chicken mainly came still on the bone. When we had the choice, we always opted for the beef. One of Cambodia’s mains dishes is Lok Lak which is chunks of sirloin, marinaded and then flash fried and served with french fries. Absolutely to die for!
Travel Tip 6: Water or Beer?
You should never drink the tap water in Cambodia. We used it to clean our teeth, but we didn’t swallow or drink it. Then again, when a draught of Cambodian beer is only $0.50, why would you want to drink water!
Travel Tip 7: SIM Cards
Wifi is widely available throughout Cambodia, with most hotels and restaurants providing free wifi. That being said, the local SIM cards are super cheap and always being connected makes life that much easier. I always watched where we going on my Google Maps to make sure the drivers were taking us the right way. There are lots of smartphone shops where you can buy a SIM card. The best deal I got was a SIM card with 4GB of data for 15 days for $1.
Travel Tip 8: Cambodian Visa
Visa’s can be purchased on arrival at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International Airports. Visa’s can also be obtained at land crossings from Thailand at Poipet Banteay Meanchey and Cham Yeam. There is an age old scam at the land border crossings where they con you into paying for twice for your visa. To avoid this, it’s a much better idea to get an e-visa online before arriving in the country at www.evisa.gov.kh. The visa costs $30 + $6 processing fee.
Should you wish to extend your stay, you can renew your visa for another 30 days at a cost of $64.
Should you overstay your visa, you will be charged $2 for every day you have exceeded your stay.
*Please make sure to check that the above information applies to your Nationality
Travel Tip 9: ATM Fees
Cambodia has its own currency, the Cambodian Riel, but this is only used for payments under $1. Everything over $1 is charged in USD. As such the ATM’s give you the choice of withdrawing Dollars or Riels. I’d most definitely advise that you only withdraw USD.
The ATM’s charge a $5 fee per withdrawal, so it’s best to draw the largest amount possible each time. On the other hand credit card transactions only have a 2-3% fee, so it’s always cheaper to swipe your card instead of withdrawing money at the ATM.
Travel Tip 10: Don’t Buy From Children
You might be approached by young children selling trinkets, postcards or souvenirs or you may also be approached by young girls holding a baby and asking you to buy milk for the baby. Please don’t buy from them! These kids work for cartels who drug them and force them to sell on the streets when they should be in school or be cared for at home. There are numerous NGO’s working tirelessly to break this cycle of abuse and to save these kids from a life of hardship. If you are approached, please contact the nearest NGO and ask them to assist the child.
Travel Tip 11: Cover Your Knees & Shoulders at the Temples
Cambodia is a Buddhist country and the temples are seen as sacred religious sites, so make sure to always cover your knees and shoulders in observance of their religion. I always kept a light scarf in my bag that I could drape over my shoulders when we entered a temple.
Travel Tip 12: Always Carry Tissues
9 times out of 10 there will be no toilet paper in the loo’s, so make sure you always have tissues in your day back.
So, there you have it! Our 10 Top Tips for Traveling in Cambodia.
If you have any other tips you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!