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Holiday guide: plan the perfect trip to Cambodia for the first time visitors

cambodiaguide 1 - Holiday guide: plan the perfect trip to Cambodia for the first time visitors
A view of cambodia’s angkor wat temple, with monks walking inside

Cambodia is one of my all-time favorite destinations. It may be a flawed and corrupt country, but it’s filled with some of the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered, rich history, delicious food, beautiful coastlines, and a lively nightlife. Cambodia is a country still trying to find its way after the horrifying genocide that was carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime (led by Pol Pot) between 1975 and 1979, when about 1.5-3 million Cambodian people were killed. Know that since this only happened 35-40 years ago, the aftermath is still raw and most people you meet are still effected by this on a daily basis. Development hasn’t been great since, as corrupt officials have hindered growth by selling off most of the country to investors. But in all my visits here, I always fall more madly in love with the place and can’t recommend it enough to everyone I meet. It always surprises you. Read about the trip to Cambodia for an example. Let us give you Cambodia holiday guide.


Top 5 Things to See and Do in Cambodia

1. Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat Temple
These temple ruins are massive, and you’ll need a few days to satisfy your inner Tomb Raider and exploring these ruins. If you’re not a history buff then just purchase a single-day ticket ($37). Everyone else may want to consider the 3-day ticket ($72), which offers a bit of a discount.

2. Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville z - Holiday guide: plan the perfect trip to Cambodia for the first time visitors
White sand beaches, nearby deserted islands, great diving, seafood, and a heavy nightlife filled with cheap booze make this spot a favorite among travelers. It’s not a quiet place to hang out, but it’s a good place to drink or use as a base to visit the nearby islands, which are quiet and serene.
As the capital of Cambodia, this place has a wild west ambiance with dusty streets and a “devil may care” atmosphere. There are a few good attractions to see and an up-and-coming foodie vibe to the city.

4. Tonle Sap

tonle sap - Holiday guide: plan the perfect trip to Cambodia for the first time visitors
Tonle Sap
Sailing down this river allows you to get a look at how closely Cambodian life is tied to this major waterway. You can take a boat all the way down one end to the other or just cruise around on a day trip. Tours start around $2.50 USD per person.

5. Battambang

Battambang province - Holiday guide: plan the perfect trip to Cambodia for the first time visitors
Here you’ll find great temples, a bamboo train, and stunning architecture. It’s Cambodia without the tourism — for now! Try taking a riverboat back to Phnom Phen or Siem Reap for a unique experience (tickets are usually around $20 USD per person).

Other Things to See and Do

7. Koh Kong

Typical Costs

Note: Cambodia uses USD. There’s no real need to carry the local currency, Cambodian Riels (KHR) unless you pay for really small things on the street, but for the most part, use USD.

Accommodation – Dorm rooms in hostels start at around $3.50 USD per night. Private rooms in hostels and guesthouses generally go for $5-10 USD per night, depending on where you are in the country. Free WiFi is the norm for hostels these days, and a few will also include free breakfast. You can get comfortable guesthouse rooms for $15-20 USD with air con, TV, and other amenities. Beyond that, the sky is the limit but I’ve never needed to spend more than $25 USD per night for luxury in this country! Airbnb is available in the major cities, with prices starting around $10 USD per night for shared accommodation. For an entire home or apartment, expect to pay closer to $27 USD per night.

Food – Food is very cheap in Cambodia. Local street vendors will cost you about $1-2 USD per meal, and basic restaurant meals will cost between $3-5 USD. Western meals at nice restaurants go between $5-15 USD per person. If you want to splurge, you can get some really world-class food in Phnom Phen these days for around $8-10 USD. If you plan on buying your own groceries and cooking your own meals expect to pay between $20-25 USD per week, depending on your diet. Stick to local markets for the cheapest produce.

Transportation – Local city transportation is cheap, costing only a few dollars. Tuk-tuks can be found on every corner in the big cities, though be sure to negotiate a price in advance (usually not more than $5 USD depending on the distance). Renting a driver for the day will set you back between $15-20 USD, and most hostels can help you arrange to find one. Generally speaking, you can get a bus anywhere in the country for under $18 USD. For example, buses depart regularly from Siem Reap into Thailand for as little as $13 USD each way. Both buses and mini-buses also make the journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh daily for $10 USD per person.

Activities – Those planning on visiting Angkor Wat (and you should be!) should factor in the cost of the entrance fee, which is around $37 USD per day. Also, be sure to factor in the cost to travel there. Other tours, hikes, and entrance fees are between $10-20 USD depending on the length and popularity of the activity.


Money Saving Tips

Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries in Southeast Asia. There really isn’t any big money saving tips here because just by being here, you are saving money. Food, accommodation, and transportation are all dirt cheap so you don’t need to do much to save money (for more city-specific money–saving tips, see the city destination guides), but here are a few tips:

  1. Minimize your drinks – Every drink is a dollar and before you know it, you’ve spent more money on beer than on food and accommodation. There’s no reason this country should cost you more than $20 USD per day but if you drink a lot, you’ll need a slightly higher budget.
  2. Stay put – You can usually negotiate a discount at a hostel if you stay for a week or longer.
  3. Book tours and day trips as a group – You have more negotiation power when you’re with a group of people buying multiple things. Traveling alone? Meet a friend at a hostel and see if they want to join the same tour as you.


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