Travel Tips to Cambodia, also known as Kampuchea/ Khmer, officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is 181,035 square kilometers (69,898 square miles) in area, bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. Phnom Penh is the nation’s capital and largest city. Cambodia has a population of over 15 million. Buddhism is enshrined in the constitution as the official state religion, and is practiced by more than 97% of the population
I flew to Phnom Penh in 2010 with my wife to visit Angkor Wat, one of the most visited places in Asia. Cambodia is considered one of the cheaper country to travel like Thailand. You can stay here for 2 weeks and it’s the same as you go spend in Europe for a week. Food and accommodation are cheap except for the Angkor Wat temple entrance fee which is US$37 (2022 price) for 2 consecutive days, and $62 for 3 days pass valid for 5 entries in 10 days duration. I went again this year in September 2022 by driving my own car, road trip from Thailand and Laos to Siem Reap
Once touch down we get a bike taxi (tuk-tuk), which is the most popular transportation here. Is actually a bike that pulls a two-wheel cart behind, you can sit up to 4 behind. Their fares are relatively cheap. We book one guy for 3 days, from morning to evening, he would bring us around to visit many places and temples, wait for us, like our driver. Service us until evening so we didn’t walk much during this vacation. During my time, I can book their service at $15 (Rm60) for a whole day. If you are planning a trip here, you can get in touch with 2 of my Tuk-Tuk friends who speak English well, their mobile are +855 973043869 (Chenda) and +855 12324051 (Sytoeun). Below are some of 2022 September driving trip photos.
One of the interesting attractions, I personally recommend is the APOPO, APOPO’s Mine Detection Rats and Technical Survey Dogs are integrated into existing methods to vastly speed up landmine clearance in Cambodia. APOPO’s HeroRATs are African giant pouched rats, originated from Morgoro, Tanzania in 2000, existed throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa. Their head and body lengths range from 25–30cm and weigh between 1 and 1.3 kg (2.2 – 2.8lbs). APOPO trained rats and other scent detection animals on TNT to clear landmines much faster than metal detectors releasing land for development. You can also donate or adopt a rat at their org website. Entrance is $8 (2022 price)
There are many museums in Siem Reap, among the famous ones namely Angkor Panorama National Museum, Siem Reap War Museum, Cambodia Landmine Museum, Cambodia War Remnant Museum and Genocide Museum in Siem Reap.
Angkor Panaroma National Museum is an archaeological museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and presentation of Angkorian artifacts, also provides information and education about the arts and culture of Khmer civilization, with collections mainly dated from Khmer Empire’s Angkor period circa 9th to 14th centuries. Entrance fees $20 a bit expensive for a museum, generally.
Siem Reap War Museum, between 1975-1976 was plagued with one of the scariest civil wars of all time. By 1979, more than a million men, women, and children were killed. This War Museum is exhibits the original military vehicles and weapons used during that time. Tickets prices at reasonably $5.
Landmine Museum in Siem Reap displays an exclusive collection of landmines, weapons and the Pol Pot regime. The museum also runs an awareness campaign to educate the people and youth about landmines. Entrance fees is $5 as well.
War Remnant Museum was the command post and prison during the civil war and the reign of Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot. The museum provides education, training, and support for dozens who are at risk of landmines. The ultimate desire is that by experience, people can tell new stories about Cambodia’s past, thus, building a new hope for Cambodia’s future.
Genocide Museum is also known as Tuol Sleng. Before 1975, it was a high school with a set of classrooms but when the Khmer Rouge came to power in the year 1975, they converted the school into S-21 prison and interrogation facility where inmates were held in tiny brick cubicles and were tortured, sometimes from days to months, to extract confessions after which the victims are executed at the killing field of Choeung Ek which is just outside the city. S-21 killed more than innocent 17,000 people.
Angkor Wat is famous throughout the world, considered as one of the 7 Wonders of the world, many tourists come to Cambodia with main purpose to see this. Angkor Wat had brought in billions of foreign income to the locals year after year, virtually supporting Cambodia’s tourism economy for centuries and many many more years to come.
The motor taxi rider suggested to us to watch the Angkor Wat sunrise. He also acts as a tourist guide as he knows all the places well, been doing this almost every day so he just takes us here and there but mostly (Wat) temples. Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure (temple complex) in the world by land area, measuring 162.6 hectares (401+3⁄4 acres). At the center of the temple stands a quincunx of four towers surrounding a central spire that rises to a height of 65 m (213 ft) above the ground. The temple has three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. It lies within an outer wall 3.6 kilometers (2+1⁄4 miles) long and a moat more than five kilometers (three miles) long, It was so big that we took two days to visit, I bought a 3 days Angkor Pass (Angkor Archaeological Park ticket) at that time 2010 was $50 which also entitles you to some other monuments in the Siem Reap area, like Phnom Krom, Bayon, Wat Athvea, Kbal Spean, Beng Meala and the Roluos Group.
Other Temples attraction
Phnom Krom is home to the majestic Angkorian temple built in the 9th century. Located at a 140 meters hilltop, some 12 km from Siem Reap, here is also a good spot for the sunset view from a pagoda there. The temple has 3 towers each dedicated to a Hindu god. the southern tower is dedicated to Brahma, the center tower to Shiva, and the northern to Vishnu.
Bayon is in the heart of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, built as a dedication to Buddha by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. The Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment after a long period of meditation beneath a banyan tree. The religious significance of the banyan tree and the many banyan trees growing around the site made it an appropriate name. However, the local Khmer workers who worked on the restoration of the temple mispronounced the name as “Bayon” instead of “Banyan” and thus the name.
Prasat Wat Athvea is located about 6km outside of Siem Reap, therefore, it’s often missed out by most tourists and visitors to Siem Reap. Erected during the same time as Angkor Wat in the 12th century, it’s a very peaceful place to visit.
Kbal Spean is an ancient Angkorian site located in Banteay Srei district, Siem Reap. Its name after a natural sandstone rock bridge over the Kbal Spean River. Highlights of this site are their stone cravings in the river bed of yonis and lingas, as tributes to the Hindu god, Shiva. Thus, this place is often referred to as the Valley of a 1000 Lingas or the River of a Thousand Lingas.
Beng Meala (means “lotus pond) is an unrestored jungle temple with its walls and towers burst apart with trees. Beng Mealea gives a good opportunity to experience an Angkor temple as it would have been for hundreds of years, overtaken by jungle, Located about 70km from Siem Reap, you can either book a private taxi or tuk-tuk (cheaper option)
Roluos Group is a group of 4 Angkor monuments named Bakong, Preah Ko, Lolei and Monty situated 12 km from Siem Reap in a small town named Roluos. They are the last remains of Hariharalaya, the 2nd capital of the Angkor-era Khmer empire.
Visit Crocodile Farm
There are at least 300 crocodiles of various sizes and ages at the farm here in Siem Reap as Crocodile Farm is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Siem Reap. One of the crocodile farms is located on the road to Tonle Sap Lake. You will have to pay a fee of US$ 1 for admission of foreigners and 4,100 riels for Cambodians. You can buy stuffed crocs on the premises and other croc products like wallets, belts, and shoes or view the crocodile nests inside the farm. At a glance the nests look like a pile of dirt but after 75 days of incubation, some little crocs cracks open the egg and snap their teeth for the very first time. If you wanna catch the hatching moments, be here in the morning, and if you are lucky, you can even hold one in your hand. One healthy female crocodile can yield up to 40 eggs a year
The admission ticket printed “Help preserve wild animals,” for entrance into the Crocodile Farm. but the crocodiles are more likely to be preserved by a Thai handbag, shoe, wallet or belt maker than an ecologically minded zoo operator. There is also a Crocodile Restaurant beside where diners are advised to order the reptile for the lunch menu. A tour to the Crocodile Farm is a must if you happen to visit Siem Reap for business or leisure. For animals lovers or If you have any concern about animal welfare or empathy with animals then you will not want to visit here.
Water Festival (Bon Om Touk)
This Water Festival is held annually over three days period in November all over Cambodia, with the biggest celebrations along the Tonle Sap River in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. The Water Festival was first celebrated in the 12th century, around the time of Angkorian King Jayavarman VII.
Their Water Festival (Bon Om Touk) is celebrated yearly between the 18th-20th November. In Phnom Penh people gather for big boat races, illuminated floats, a moon salutation and eating of special rice made with banana or coconut juice, The Water Festival was celebrated by the King’s Navy to kick off the Cambodian fishing season – the fluvial festivities are meant to keep the river divinities happy, ensuring a bountiful harvest of rice and fish for the year to come. It also marks the end of the monsoon season. The festival is celebrated in every province, but many Cambodians make a trip from the provinces to the capital city, Phnom Penh, and spend at least two days enjoying the festivities.
In the year 2010 Water Festival, a sad tragedy happened, a human stampede broke out when a recently built bridge, the bridge that crosses from the mainland over the Bassac River to Diamond Island, where a concert was held Monday night to conclude the Water Festival. The crush is thought to have started at around 10pm, on the final day of the Water festival, which is estimated to attract around 4 million population each year to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. People were stuck on the bridge, they could not move, so they pushed others into the water, I was lucky as I didn’t go there to see at the evening, I wanted to go but my wife objected, otherwise I could have perishes in this human stampede. I was in the hotel watching the breaking news on tv. Survivors spoke of being caught up in hellish scenes with people trampling over each other in their desperation to escape a crush which Cambodian authorities said had claimed the lives of at least 378 people. After the dead , the dying and the injured had been removed, the hundreds of abandoned shoes that littered Diamond Island’s north bridge still served as a grim reminder of the chaos that had last night turned one of the most joyful events in the Cambodian calendar to tragedy.
Buffet Dinner with Apsara(Cultural) Dance
One of their highlight buffet dinner (only $12) here besides eating and drinking as much as you can, (except alcohol) you get to enjoy their cultural dance performance (Apsara Dance). Their Angkor beer cost just $1 for a big bottle (see above photo) so if you are a beer drinker, don’t miss this golden opportunity. It may cost a bit more nowadays but I believe is still cheap. There are quite a few restaurants that have this buffet dinner with the show, just ask your tuk-tuk rider and they take you there. Update 2022, unfortunately all of these restaurants and many restaurants have close down after Covids pandemic
If you are tired visiting of Wat and temples, you can head on to unwind at their vibrant beach resort which is popular with both local and foreign tourists. There are several beaches in Kompong Som Province, Sihanoukville like Sokha Beach and Independence Beach boast luxury hotels. For backpackers, Ochheuteal Beach and the Serendipity Beach area are the most popular sandy strips.
If you looking for an island vacation, Koh Rong Samloem (accessible from Sihanoukville), is one of the most beautiful islands, with dozen of beach hut resorts that welcome you. You can enjoy your relaxing hammock-time here with scuba diving activities as well
Tonlé Sap Lake is Cambodia’s largest freshwater lake and most important waterway with 170 floating villages residing here that depend on fishing for their livelihood. Their houses, shops, churches, schools, and temples of these villages are built on rustic buoy foundations of lashed altogether barrels and bamboo, and all transport is by boat. I visited their school where their pupils take a boat to school and donated some stationeries and books. One of the most interesting is the village of Kompong Luong, near the town of Pursat on Tonlé Sap
Kampot is a quiet laid-back town with oodles of old-world ambiences. For travelers who opt out of the busy tourist area and wanted to live in a villagers easygoing pace lifestyle. If you want to do some visiting nearby, head to the old French summer getaway of Bokor Hill Station, with its abandoned church and eerie, empty shell of a once-grand hotel, is just an easy day trip from here, also they are limestone caves of Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Sorsia, both with old temples inside.
Kratie here is the major destination for travelers to watch their endangered Irrawaddy dolphins on the Mekong river. Tourists that came here have indirectly help to protect these dwindling numbers by offering an alternative economy to fishing, so much so of the fisherman turn become tour operators and the dolphins have enough fish to eat
Battambang is another place to relax with tranquil rural countryside scenery, tiny villages, and acres of paddy rice fields. There are 3 old temples here namely Phnom Sampeau, Phnom Banan and Wat Ek Phnom which you can visit all 3 within a day. Another popular activity here is the bamboo carriage rail track where the carriage is made from wood and bamboo travel between Battambang and village of O Srav.
Fish amok (steamed coconut fish in banana leaves) a national dish consists of fish, coconut milk and curry paste which is steamed.
Samlor machu trey (sweet and sour soup with fish) is a soup that’s popular in many households as it has a lovely taste. Ingredients include fish, garlic, lemongrass, celery, tamarind juice, bean sprouts, pineapple, and seasoning with sugar, fish sauce, and salt.
Twa ko (Cambodian sausage) made in either beef or pork with various spices usually barbecued, grilled or pan-fried style
Char kroeung sach ko (stir-fried lemongrass beef) Kroeung is a lemongrass paste made from lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal. Beef is fried in oil and garlic until tender and add veggies like red peppers and onion
Bai sach chrouk (grilled pork and rice) Pork is marinated in coconut milk or garlic and then put on a slow grill, served with rice and chicken soup, a simple and yummy dish
Nom banh chok (Khmer noodles) is their breakfast consisting of rice noodles topped with green fish gravy and lots of fresh vegetables including cucumbers, green beans, mint leaves, banana blossom, and bean sprouts.
Cambodia is open for all international travellers, however, it’s cheap and not complicated to travel there. Vaccinated travellers aren’t required to quarantine on arrival. You must present evidence of your COVID-19 vaccinations. If you’re unvaccinated, you’re required to do a rapid-antigen test (RAT) on arrival at the cost of $US5 per test by health workers on standby at entry points. If you return a negative test result, you’ll be free to continue to your destination. If you return a positive test on arrival, you’ll be asked to isolate at home or in a facility determined by the Health Ministry – at your own cost.
Pre-departure COVID-19 tests are not required. The Cambodian Government encourages all visitors to Cambodia to undertake a voluntary COVID-19 test before travelling and after arrival.
Before you enter Cambodia, you will need to:
Arrange a visa in advance. For countries that need a visa to enter Cambodia. Tourists can apply for an e-visa online or get a tourist visa on arrival. These are valid for 30 days. For longer stays or other situations, get a visa through an embassy or consulate of Cambodia