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Cambodia Travel Guide

A kingdom of wonder
With temples hidden away in green jungles, gold and jewel-studded palaces, spectacular natural landscapes and truly, delicious local food, Cambodia has captured the imaginations of travellers for centuries.  No matter where you are in Cambodia, you’ll find your palate delighted, your senses heightened, and your spirit recharged.
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With temples hidden away in green jungles, gold and jewel-studded palaces, spectacular natural landscapes and truly, delicious local food, Cambodia has captured the imaginations of travellers for centuries.  No matter where you are in Cambodia, you’ll find your palate delighted, your senses heightened, and your spirit recharged.

Location

Cambodia, located in the centre of the Southeast Asian group of nations, is bordered by Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. Its capital, Phnom Penh, is in the south of the country, while Siem Reap, site of the temple ruins of the Khmer Empire lies to its north.

Where to go

Siem Reap, where the Angkor temple complex is located, is a must-vist for any traveller choosing from Cambodia holiday itineraries, as is a couple of days in the capital Phnom Penh. Travellers who have more time to spend will want to check out Sihanoukville’s beaches, or the limestone caves at Kampot. as well as Battambang which is known for its laidback charm and friendly small town atmosphere.
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At a glance

Currency

Cambodian Riel
Riel is the currency used in Cambodia. At the time of posting, the conversion from Cambodia’s currency to INR is 1 Cambodian Riel = 0.018 INR.

Weather

Cambodia has two seasons – the dry season lasts from October to April and the wet season runs from May to October. However, within each season there are variations in temperature and precipitation. Travellers can visit the country throughout the year, although the ideal months are in December and January.

Language

Khmer
The official Cambodia language Khmer is spoken by 90% of the population. However, travellers will find that thanks to English being the primary foreign language, many locals speak English, especially in the cities and sites of interest. As an added bonus, street signs are written in both Khmer and English.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

Explore the temples of Angkor   

Recommended by The Blonde Abroad

“the awe-inspiring ancient temples of Angkor Wat [are] located just outside of Siem Reap. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, and is considered one of the Ancient Seven Wonders of The World. Watching the sunrise over the temples is a bucket list moment in itself!”

Kiersten Rich created The Blonde Abroad to help women find the confidence to travel the world. She shares resources on everything from solo travel to packing guides to photography tips on her site. The Blonde Abroad is a Forbes Ranked "Top 10 Travel Influencer", and has been featured in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Marie Claire, Business Insider, AFAR, Times Now & more.

Visit the Killing Fields   

Recommended by Nomadic Matt

“You can’t mention Cambodia without people drawing a connection to the country’s bloody genocidal past. Although a visit to the Killing Fields, located 10 miles from Phnom Penh, may not be the most cheerful way to spend an afternoon, it makes for a hallowing and memorable experience, a testament to the dangers of uncontested power.”

Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, has travelled to nearly 100 countries. He shares proven tips and advice on his website which has been featured on major media sites including the New York Times, the BBC, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, The Independent, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and TIME magazine.

Stop by the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh   

Recommended by A Passion and Passport

“Home to the King of Cambodia, a trip to Phnom Penh isn’t complete without a visit to the Royal Palaces...There are numerous buildings inside the Palace compound, all of which are impressive in their own right and characterised by beautiful ornate roofs and grand monuments. A particular building of note is the Silver Pagoda, one of Phnom Penh’s major temple attractions that houses national treasures of gold and jewelled statues of Buddha.”

Source description: Jessica Kay is the mastermind behind this independent travel blog which shares information on day trips, long weekend travel, to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, as well as general travel tips and destination features.

Enjoy downtime at Kampot   

Recommended by The Broke Backpacker

“Kampot is a quaint riverside town located at the base of the Elephant Mountains. You can explore the town by bicycle, check out the French colonial architecture and indulge in delicious food...The sunset cruise is a great way to spend the evening, cruising along the river with the fireflies and watching the sunset.”

Will Hatton, founder and chief editor of The Broke Backpacker, one of the world’s best-known adventure travel blogs.

Go beach hopping in Sihanoukville   

Recommended by Passport Symphony

”The most beautiful ones are Serendipity Beach and Otres beach. You can spend these couple of days relaxing at the beach and partying at the nights as Sihanoukville has some of the best nightclubs in Cambodia.”

Daniel Kiteski is the founder of Passport Symphony, a blog about hidden gems that aren’t mentioned in most travel guides.

Incredible places to visit in Cambodia

Battambang

Battambang is Cambodia's largest city and a worthy inclusion on any Cambodia group tour package you’re considering. Artsy boutiques, quirky cafes, and innovative restaurants lend colour and character to the colonial setting of this place. An ideal place to be explored on a bicycle, you can also walk around the small alleyways to discover Battambang on your own. Here’s what to do in Battambang:

Take the bamboo train

The bamboo train is the quirkiest way of moving around the city. It’s not so much a train as a bamboo flatbed placed on top of a wheeled metal carriage that is powered by a small engine. The train line runs through the jungle, rattles over bridges, and moves swiftly over rice paddies. More than often the bamboo train shuttles back and forth, taking people, livestock and rice from one place to another.

Visit the bat caves

As the sun starts setting at the foot of Phnom Sampeou, you are in for a treat. As the light begins to fade, millions of bats pour out of dark, dim caves- making for a spectacle of sorts for first-time visitors. The best time to catch this sight would be around 5:30pm in the evening.

Mrs. Bun Roeung’s Ancient House

Mrs. Bun Roeung’s Ancient House is a heritage house in Wat Kor. It has elegant stairs and old paintings, and is surrounded by orchid gardens and palm trees. Travellers can stay at the house and enjoy a complimentary breakfast in the morning. Tours are available in English and French.

Wat Ek Phnom

This is a huge and partly collapsed Hindu temple that traces its roots back to the 11th century. To explore it, travellers actually have to climb over blocks of stone and root which will make anyone feel like they are discovering it anew - similar to the Angkor temple complex. Don’t miss the temple’s expressive carving titled the 'Churning of Milk' which depicts scenes from Hindu mythology.

Watkor Cultural Village

Located south of Battambang, around the Watkor temple, this village is home to several Khmer traditional houses. Walking around here will give you insight to local Cambodian life - the residents are more than willing to show you around and invite you in for a friendly conversation and a cup of tea.

Siem Reap

Siem Reap is your gateway to the beautiful temples of Angkor.  It has its own airport, making travel here really easy, and the town itself is about 10 minutes away from the temple complex. During the day, when most travellers are exploring jungle-covered temples, the town is laidback and charming; at night, it springs into life, boasting a variety of restaurants and pub streets. Here’s how to enjoy Siem Reap to the utmost:

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the star of the show. It is grandiose for one thing; at more than 5 kms long - with its own moat - it is the world’s largest religious monument, and it is incredibly detailed as well. It is decorated with a 800m-long series of intricate carvings depicting historical events and stories from mythology, and the building is crowned with symbolic lotus bud towers as well; this UNESCO World Heritage Site is truly a testament to the power and culture of the ancient Khmer Empire, and essential in all Cambodia travel packages.

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom means ‘the great city’ in Khmer. To enter the fortified city, you’ll drive over an ancient bridge flanked by 54 stone warriors and 54 stone demons, then through a huge gate topped with a tower, which bears four faces looking in each direction. It feels like you’re entering an ancient kingdom of gods and giants, and the beginning of a legendary adventure.

Bayon

Bayon can be found in the heart of Angkor Thom. It is one of the monuments that were constructed during the 12th and 13th century by King Jayavarman VII. Bayon is known for its striking 200 mysterious giant smiling stone faces. Depending on the light and time of day, they change their expression from a wise, warm smile to sarcastic leer and grim grin. For many visitors, Bayon is the most striking temple in the whole complex. You can get the best shot for your Instagram page here, climb to the third level of the temple for surrounding scenic vistas or ask a co-traveller to help you get a ‘nose-to-nose’ shot with the giant heads.

Ta Prohm

Travellers can channel their inner Lara Croft or Indiana Jones as they explore Ta Phrom, where scenes from The Tomb Raider were filmed. Walk through the lichen-covered ruins of this temple, where gargantuan roots of strangler g trees run riot, growing over old stone walls, reclaiming the temple for their own. You’ll feel like the European explorers of old when they stumbled across the temples years ago, hidden away in the jungle.

Tuk-tuk temple tour in Angkor Thom

There are over 100 temples and monuments around Siem Reap and the distances between them are often kilometres apart. If you’ve been on a tuk-tuk ride before, you’ll know the joy these small vehicles bring to any traveller. Hire a tuk-tuk to take you from one temple to another. You’ll enjoy the thrill of driving into the jungle and the breeze as you drive from temple to temple. Plus they’re extremely convenient and budget-friendly. Protip: ask your driver to take you to his favourite temple in the complex - you’re sure to discover a hidden gem.

Flooded forest boat ride

The Tonle Sap Lake is well-known for its floating villages, each of which is bordered by a flooded forest. A collection of mangroves grow on the banks of the lake. These are called flooded forests because, at a specific point yearly they are filled with water and are navigable only by boat driven by local women (often smoking cheroot cigars!). Floating through the trees is a lovely experience - don’t miss this! Protip: you are planning last minute holidays to Cambodia, it is advisable to check the weather conditions in advance.

Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville is a coastal city in Cambodia. With white sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters, it makes for a great tropical getaway while you’re in Cambodia. Spend a lazy day sunbathing on the shores of the Otres Beach and hit a casino by night. Here’s what to do in Sihanoukville:

Wat Leu Temple

Wat Leu is one of the most famous temples in Sihanoukville. Apart from its religious and historical significance, it is known for its architecture too. Located on the top of a hill, it’s a great place to watch and take pictures of the setting sun against the Cambodian sky. Whether you’re looking to explore ancient history or are in for a bit of peace and tranquillity, Wat Leu is a must-visit.

Beach hopping and water sports

Beach bums will love Sihanoukville. Besides lazing on beautiful white sand beaches, you can enjoy water sports like kayaking, scuba diving, kite surfing, snorkelling and windsurfing. Famous nearby dive sites are Koh Kon and Koh Rung Samloem. If you have more time in hand, you can move further to the Kooh Prins, Condor Reef, and Koh Tang. Weekends, however, tend to get busier because the local people come to enjoy their share of sand, sea and sun.

Take a Khmer cookery class

Professional teachers and volunteers run these classes where you will be introduced to various Khmer recipes, their cooking techniques, and ingredients. You could learn how to make traditional Cambodian dishes such as fish amok or chicken with lemon grass and holy basil. Yum!

Visit Bamboo Island

Bamboo Island is a quiet island getaway near Sihanoukville and is 4.5 km off the coastline. There are several bars, restaurants, and bungalow resorts where you can book your stay for a more laid back kind of vacation. To reach the island, just catch the local ferry!

Koh Rong

Koh Rong is often called 'Island Paradise' by visiting travellers. You can snorkel in the frothy-blue waters or simply enjoy the serenity of the beach in all its glory. Koh Rong also comprises of five tiny islands, three out of which aren't habited. Make sure you don’t miss a sunset during your stay here; the orange skies at sunset are gorgeous.

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, feels like a shot of colour and noise. It’s crowded with locals and travellers from all over the world; busy footsteps reverberate along the roads, temples and pagodas radiate power and serenity and daily markets sell colourful wares, bars are filled with laughter and chatter. Here’s what not to miss out when in the capital:

The Killing Fields

In order to appreciate Cambodia’s present, it’s important to learn about it’s tragic past. The Killing Fields where were more than a million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-79.

The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda

The Royal Palace has been the residence of the royal family since the 1860s. The king’s quarters are roped off, but you can peek inside the Throne Hall and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or The Silver Pagoda that’s magnificent in its opulence.  True to its name, it houses a Buddha carved from luminous green Sri Lankan jade, as well  as other figurines made of gold and diamonds, and has a floor covered with five tonnes of pure silver that is spread across more than 5000 tiles. Don’t forget to walk around the open-air pavilion painted with scenes from the Ramayana.

Take in a Cambodian Living Arts performance

This is an open-air performance where dancers take you on a tour of Cambodian mythology, ancestral traditions and village life. Through use of live music, stunning costumes, and equally captivating stories, they perform classical asparas and tales from folklore. Be sure to check for available shows when you plan your Cambodian holiday.

Mekong Delta cruise

Surrounded by lush green paddy fields, the Mekong Delta is the “rice bowl” of the country. A cruise along the longest river in Southeast Asia is a part of most Cambodian holidays.  See green mangroves, languid backwaters, and life in sleepy little villages glide by. From a fisherman casting his net out into the water to impossibly green rice paddies, you never know what moments of wonder are just waiting beyond the next bend.

Silk island

Silk Island is an island located on the Mekong River, locally known as Koh Dach. Lesser known among travellers, this island owes its name to the traditional silk weaving communities residing here. You can reach Silk Island by a ferry ride. Visit the weaving centre and learn about the silk production process or just spend a slow, lazy day away from the city crowds.

Kampot

Kampot is a city in southern Cambodia known for pepper plantations, French colonial architecture, and a tranquil, peaceful air akin to that of Goa’s interiors. There’s plenty to charm you here: take a jet tours down the river, Bokor National Park, eating fresh fish at neighboring Kep, or going on a sunset cruise down the river to see thousands of little fireflies lighting up the trees on the banks.

Phnom Kulen National Park

Phnom Kulen National Park is well known for two sights- the massive statue of the reclining Buddha and the Thousand Lingas.  Travellers can also explore the Kulen Mountain, which is also considered to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia according to the Khmers, or pack a picnic basket to go up to the waterfalls at the top.

Mondulkiri

Mondulkiri means 'Meeting of Hills', which is an apt description for this region. It is a lovely little wild spot, replete with pine groves, grassy hills and jade green rainforests. If you are lucky, you can spot wild animals like leopards, bears, and elephants here; at the very least, you’ll be able to see birds, monkeys, and wild pigs.

Cardamom Mountains

The Cardamom Mountains are the last aggregation of rainforests in Southeast Asia, and is a place where the majestic elephants still roam freely. These mountains are home for endangered wildlife and minority groups. While large expanses of the mountains are off-limits for travellers, you can occasionally spot a clouded leopard or a sun bear here.

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