Cambodia, where ancient meets modern, is a Southeast Asian nation mostly made up of low lying plains, the Mekong Delta, mountains and the coastline of the Gulf of Thailand. The capital, Phnom Penh, is often overshadowed as a tourist destination by the far more enchanting city of Siem Reap in the northwest which hosts the ruins of the Angkor Wat temple.
CAMBODIA TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Watch the Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Yes a completely touristy thing to do but it’s the Angkor Wat and it’s incredible so it still tops the list and is perhaps the no1 attraction to visit while here. Leave early in the morning so you can get in when the gates open at 5am and find yourself the perfect spot to admire the sunrise. If you’re not a morning person catch the sunset instead which is equally as magical.
Visit the Killing Fields
If you can muster the emotional strength to visit the Killing Fields you will find thousands of skulls and bones which were unearthed from the many Cambodian Killing fields located in Phnom Penh. The Killing Fields stand as a historical monument to showcase Cambodia’s horrific history when many were murdered by their fellow Cambodians the Khmer Rouge. The audio guide is worth using because it will help you to understand this truly heartbreaking and gruesome time in Cambodia.
Snack on Tarantula
You will find street vendors selling deep fried Tarantulas in Cambodia and in some restaurants in Phnom Penh. Cambodian women believe that eating tarantulas makes them more beautiful and works wonders for their skin and hair. If you’re an adventurous foodie or you want to switch out your face cream for an eight legged snack order a “a-ping” also know as deep fried tarantula. Yum!
Hang out at Kampot or Kep
A few hours away from Phnom Penh you will find a sweet little town called Kampot. If you want cute shops, western restaurants and riverboat cruises but with less crowds that the bigger cities, you’ll love this place. While here, if you fancy a break from chilling out in Kampot take a trip to the nearby seaside town called Kep, if only to sample their freshly cooked crabs. Kampot and Kep are really great places to simply relax and unwind!
Angkor Archaeological Park
After watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat which was our No1 thing to do in Cambodia, you must take a walk around the temple complex known as the Angkor Archaelogical Park. The largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat is truly amazing and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Angkor was once the heart of the Khmer civilization and the Angkor Wat temple is the best representation of Khmer art and culture.
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CAMBODIA TOP 3 FESTIVALS
Khmer New Year
This is a major event and is celebrated across Cambodia on the 13th and 14th April each year. Also known as Bon Chol Chhnam Thmei, the New Year marks the end of the harvest season when the farmers can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Since most of the people return to their hometowns to celebrate Khmer New Year with their families the main cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap empty out as most of the partying goes on in the villages.
Another important holiday for Cambodian’s is Pchum Ben. This religious festival goes on for 15 days and the last three days are declared a public holiday. Pchum Ben falls at the end of September or the beginning of October each year. It is commonly believed by Cambodians that during this period spirits from across seven generations come back to earth and their offerings made during the festival are passed on to their deceased ancestors.
This three-day festival attracts Cambodians from all across the country to the cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to watch colorful boat races and fireworks. This festival marks the end of the rainy season and the start of the harvest or full moon.
Language: The national language in Cambodia is Khmer and this is spoken by about 90 percent of the population. The next major language spoken is French with around 500,000 speakers. English, Chinese and Vietnamese are the other popular spoken languages.
Currency: Cambodian riel.
Visa: Visiting Cambodia requires a valid passport and a visa. Tourists and business travelers can get their visa at the airports in Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk, Siem Reap and at all major border crossings. Bring a passport sized photo and be prepared to pay about $30. Your visa is valid for one month from the date of entry but can be extended for another 30 days if you visit the embassy in Phnom Penh (for an additional fee). Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Cambodia is required (which depends on the country you’re from) and if so, how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: Cambodia operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz. There are three plug types in Cambodia, A, C and G. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Cambodia: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN CAMBODIA
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in Cambodia are listed below. Don’t drool!
Fish Amok: Fish Amok is one of the most popular and well known dishes in Cambodia. It’s a kind of Khmer curry paste which is prepared from lemongrass, garlic, turmeric root, shallots, finger root and galangal and incorporated in a fish mousse with kroeung and fresh coconut milk. A great option for dinner and very healthy too!
Bai Sach Chrouk (Pork and rice): This is one of the simplest and most flavorful recipes of Cambodia. Grilled pork is served with lots of steamed broken white rice and pickled radish, cucumber and ginger on the side and topped with fried onions and scallions.
Khmer Red Curry: This is a less spicy version of the curries from neighboring Thailand. The dish is made out of beef, chicken, fish, potatoes, eggplant, green beans, lemon grass, fresh coconut milk and kroeung (Kroeung is the Cambodian word for a number of spice/herb pastes that make up the base flavors of their Khmer dishes). This curry is usually saved for special occasions such as weddings and religious gatherings.
Kdam Chaa: Fried crab dish is a specialty of Kep, a sea town in Cambodia and is prepared from locally grown green Kampot pepper.
Cha Houy Teuk- A Jelly Dessert: No meal in Cmabodia is complete without a mouth-watering dessert. This extremely refreshing dessert is made up of agar agar which is derived from seaweed. Bright, edible colors like greens and pinks are added to the jelly which makes it super popular among children. This is combined with sago and coconut cream and is usually served with a scoop of shaved ice.
WHERE TO STAY IN CAMBODIA
Cambodia is a really affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Cambodia is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Cambodia affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Cambodia will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Cambodia can cost less than $20 dollars.
If you’re looking for accommodation that includes western amenities and comforts then there will be more options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Phnom Penh. If you’re traveling to Cambodia during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. Cambodia is a very popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Cambodia. However, if you are backpacking in Cambodia or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
There’s a wet and dry season in Cambodia and temperatures rarely dip below 68°F (20°C). Cambodia is warm year-round but most travelers choose to visit in the dry season between November and March. If you prefer less crowds then go between May and early October when the prices are lower but the weather isn’t as great.
CAMBODIA TRAVEL BUDGET
Cambodia is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Cambodia really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $20 to $30 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget about $100 to $200 plus a day.
IS CAMBODIA SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to Cambodia. Pick-pocketing, bag-snatching and other scams to take advantage of tourists are common in some areas such as Phnom Penh. Female travelers should take care to dress appropriately and be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Some parts of Cambodia are dangerous so do your research before you go and avoid these places. Based on many years of solo travel in Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance. I would never leave home without insurance and I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Cambodia trip.
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CAMBODIA FLIGHT DEALS
CAMBODIA TOURS & ACTIVITIES
CAMBODIA PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Cambodia, like most other places in Asia, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Cambodia and it’s always best to travel light whenever possible.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our fabulous finds with you.
It’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates just remember to pack lightweight and breathable lose-fitting clothing. Be prepared for the occasional chilly morning and evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater or coat.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Cambodia include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
So if you’ve found your travel inspiration, figured out the practicalities and got the travel gear it’s time to stuff it all in a bag and go right? Well, no, hold your horses, you see there’s an art to packing which we have (almost) perfected.
Hop to our Travel Packing Tips for all of the latest on this topic.