Why Travel To Cambodia

The Kingdom of Cambodia has made its way onto countless bucket lists for it is graced with the most spectacular ancient temple ever constructed: Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Cambodia travel shouldn’t be without a visit to this architectural masterpiece and the hidden temples that surround, but this country has so much more to offer than just ruins.

Phnom Penh, the capital, was once referred to as the pearl of the east and Battambang, Cambodia’s 2nd city, has a laid-back atmosphere and is surrounded by gorgeous temples. There is a dreamlike countryside, with snaking rivers, brilliant-green rice paddies and dense jungles found around Banlung and Sen Monorom. An underdeveloped coastline around Sihanoukville and Kep are also well worth exploring. Off the coast you’ll find idyllic islands with few people such as Koh Rong Sanloem; other islands have no inhabitants at all such as Song Saa.

Cambodia is a truly delightful destination, but visitors often come away from this heart-shaped country charmed most by its people. After having experienced a harrowing history, Cambodians are still coming to terms with what happened. But as they admirably overcome a bloody recent history, everything is still done with a giggle and a smile. You would be hard-pressed to find a more inviting country in Asia than Cambodia.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat and the surrounding hidden temples.

Idyllic islands

Idyllic islands with stunning beaches untouched by tourism.

Peaceful countryside

Peaceful and laidback countryside with charming people.

Inspiring Trip Ideas

Recommended Places & Senses

Map

Cambodia Travel Guide

AT A GLANCE
Capital: Phnom Penh
Population: 15.8 million
Languages: Khmer
Currency: Riel (KHR)
Time zone: GMT +7
Electricity: 230V
Dialing Code: +855
  It might be one of Southeast Asia’s smallest countries, but Cambodia can compete with the big boys when it comes to must-see sights. Once the preserve of trailblazing backpackers, this formerly war-torn nation is now firmly established on the Asia travel circuit. That luxury yachts ply their trade on Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, is a mark of just how far Cambodia has come. Carving the country in two is the mighty Mekong River, which remains the lifeblood of Cambodia, running from the bustling capital, Phnom Penh, to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. A journey down this iconic waterway is one of the great pleasures of Southeast Asia. Boats of all shapes and sizes drift, chug and spray their way along the Mekong, carrying livestock, clay pots, bananas, motorcycles and all manner of goods.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
  • January and February are the driest months of the year in Cambodia and has a comfortable average temperature of 26°C, making this the perfect time to explore the temples in Siem Reap or relax on the southern coast's beaches.
  • March and April: This is the peak time to visit Cambodia, and temperatures are likely to reach sizzling heights, often exceeding 33°C. It is therefore best to explore early in the morning and in the late afternoon rather than embarking on full day excursions.
  • With the wet season fast approaching, May to July provides a good opportunity to take advantage of promotional offers as crowds begin to disperse. You should expect a few showers during this time of year, but nothing that will greatly impact on your trip.
  • August to September: Cambodia's wettest months and you should expect heavy showers daily; although these are normally short-lived and exploration is still possible.
  • October: The rains begin to die down and temperatures average 27°C, making October a lovely time to visit Cambodia and its lush landscape. Beat the crowds and take advantage of early season promotional offers.
  • November – December: Cambodia's peak season begins again and the crowds flock to the temples, with temperatures averaging a comfortable 25°C. It is the perfect time to venture out onto Tonle Sap Lake. The Cambodian Water Festival usually takes place in November, and hotel prices are often higher at this time of year, so it is essential to book in advance.
PEOPLE, HISTORY AND CULTURE
The most notable thing about the Khmer culture is clapping hands and bowing to respect one another. Clapping hands is a symbol of praying to Buddha, however if the hand is just touching the chin then it means a respect for a person of the same level. If a hand is touched to the nose it is a sign of respecting ones parents and older people. Khmer people have a deep, traditional admiration for the Royal Family, and a visitor should be careful to show respect and reverence for the King, Queen and the Royal Children. Clothes is also important for women. Khmer people wear long sleeve shirts or skirts at home and the traditional silk suit when involved in a ceremony. Traditionally, Khmer women like to stay home or go out with their parents. These women never allow a man to touch their body at any time either, until they are married.
GEOGRAPHY
The dominant features of the Cambodian landscape are the large Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and Bassac River Systems and the Mekong River, which crosses the country from north to south. Surrounding the Central Plains which covers three quarters of the country’s area are the more densely forested and sparsely populated highlands, comprising the Elephant Mountains and Cardamom Mountain of the southwest and western regions, the Dangrek Mountains of the North adjoining the Korat Plateau of Thailand, and Rattanakiri Plateau and Chhlong highlands on the east merging with the Central Highlands of Viet Nam.
TRANSPORTATIONS
When we step out on Cambodian roads, remember the dominant traffic rule in the country which is “the bigger gets the right of way”. When driving, anarchy rules, so take extra care when on the roads! In Phnom Penh, traveling by moto-romauks ('tuk-tuks') and cyclos (bicycle rickshaws) can be safer than motorcycle taxis, but not as safe as taxis. If you wish to take a motorbike taxi, select your driver carefully. If the driver appears drunk, reckless or drives too fast, do not hesitate to get off (pay him a bit) and get another one.
ACCOMMODATIONS
  1. Budget Accommodation in Cambodia is generally excellent value, available in a range of guesthouses and hotels (note that many places which call themselves guesthouses are actually more like small hotels). Most places are functional concrete boxes, rather lacking in character, although a few livelier establishments geared towards Western backpackers can be found in the major tourist centres.
  2. Mid-range and Luxury accommodation ranges from smart business-style hotels to lower-end boutique hotels and resorts. Facilities are often not significantly different from those in more expensive rooms in budget hotels and guesthouses (with a/c, hot water, minibar and perhaps tea and coffee making facilities), although rooms are likely to be more comfortable and stylishly furnished. You will probably have a pool and in-house restaurant and perhaps other facilities such as a gym or spa. Breakfast may also be included in the price.
EATING AND DRINKING
The foundation of any Khmer meal is rice, either sticky rice, or the fragrant jasmine rice grown in across the nation. Vietnamese influence manifests itself in the form of noodle soups such as kuy teav, while the French legacy is obvious from the popularity of coffee and the nom pang (baguette sandwiches with pork) served as snacks across the country. A typical Cambodian meal consists of a light soup, salad, a fish dish, and of course rice. ‘Must try' dishes include amok, a steamed fish dish accompanied by an array of herbs and spices bringing out the flavor of the fish without masking its taste. Another is samlor korko, a mixed vegetable and fish soup and char kdao, meat stir fried with basil, lemongrass and galangal. Cambodian pepper and cardamom join more familiar Southeast Asian ingredients such as curry pastes (kroeung in Khmer), lemongrass, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, Asian basil and galangal as flavourings for stir fries, stews and soups. Prahok, a pungent seasoning made from fermented fish is another much-loved seasoning.
SENSES'S PICKED DESTINATION
  1. Siem Reap : Gateway to the Temple of Angkor 
Nestled between rice fields and stretched along the Siem Reap River, the provincial capital of Siem Reap  serves as the gateway to the millennium old ruins of Angkor, the Angkorian-era Khmer Empire. Designated a World Heritage Site, the Angkor Archaeological Park encompasses dozens of temple ruins including Bayon, Ta Prohm and the legendary Angkor Wat whose artistic and archaeological significance and visual impact put it in a class with the Pyramids, Machu Pichu and the Taj Mahal.
  1. Phnom Penh : Capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia
As the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is fairly young, only rising to the role in 1866, but is still a city steeped in tradition and history, offering several cultural and historical sights. Much of the central city, including the Royal Palace and National Museum was built during the French period. You may notice the old French buildings in classic colonial yellow amongst the Southeast Asian shophouses and traditional Khmer pagodas and markets. The National Museum in Phnom Penh is the most significant public repository of Khmer artifacts in the country, displaying many important Angkorian artifacts and rare pieces from later periods. Historical sites from the Khmer Rouge period include the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Memorial.
  1. Sihanoukville; Cambodia's Premier Beach Town
Sihanoukville is Cambodia's premier beach town, sporting miles of white sand beaches, some excellent seafood, a heady party scene, and several nearby tropical islands. The town sits on a peninsula jutting into the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Beaches of fine, pearl-white sand line the shore around the peninsula, each offering its own unique character, from the busy and popular Ochheuteal Beach to the secluded chilled out Otres Beach.
  1. Kep: Cambodia's Oceanside Retreat
From the turn of the century through to the 1960’s, Kep was Cambodia's premier beach town, drawing holiday makers to its breezy shores and nearby Bokor Hill Station. Back in the day, luxurious villas of the privileged class dotted the seaside. A few still remain, now ruined vestiges of an earlier era. These days Kep is known more for its oceanfront ‘Crab Market,’ excellent seafood dining and relaxed tropical atmosphere. A kilometer from the Crab Market a single short but picturesque sliver of sand, Kep Beach, sits at the southern tip of the peninsula where several guesthouses and restaurants are clustered. Though there are now dozens of hotels, guesthouses and even luxury resorts across the area, Kep still has a rustic getaway feel to it, with jungle clad mountains, a quiet beach and oceanside crab shacks. It is a place to relax and dine by the seaside and use as a base to visit Rabbit Island (Koh Tunsay), to explore the national park or the nearby caves and rural countryside.
  1. Battambang : Cambodia's Second City
Battambang is a classically quaint provincial capital with old world architecture and even older pagodas set picturesquely along a river, and even though the city is one of the country's largest, it is still lightly touristed. In town, charming colonial era buildings line narrow lanes, including the ‘walking district’ near the market where contemporary art galleries, local and foreign cafes, bars and shops inhabit old shophouses. Battambang is a place to explore the architecture and budding art scene, check out the local cuisine, and to use as a base for excursions into the nearby countryside.
HEALTH and SAFETY
  1. Safety in Cambodia is a major concern for travelers. This exotic destination has had a violent history, notably under the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), bringing some fear to travelers. Fortunately, the Khmer Rouge regime has long since vanished and is no longer a concern. While petty crime is unfortunately not uncommon, if one has their wits about them one will be safe. NEVER leave valuables unattended ANYWHERE, not even locked in a bag inside a hotel room. If someone wants to get in, they will find a way!
  2. Food safety of course is an issue. Tap water is not safe in Cambodia and bottled water should be used at all times. Bring Immodium tablets just in case. Probably the most consistent health hazard is dehydration. Carry bottled water with you at all times and a good tip is to bring sachets of isotonic salts in order to replace all the salts that you lose through sweating.
FESTIVAL CALENDAR
  • 01 Jan: New Year’s Day
  • 07 Jan: Victory Day
  • 25 Feb: Meak Bochea, also known as the day of the Fourfold Assembly.
  • 08 Mar: International Women's day
  • 14-16 Apr: Cambodian New Year
  • 01 May: Labour Day
  • 9 May: Royal Ploughing Ceremony
  • 13-15 May: Birthday of King Sihamony
  • 25 May: Visak Bochea Day - Birthday of Buddha.
  • 18 Jun: Former Queen's birthday
  • 24 Sep: Constitutional day
  • 14 Oct: Pchum Ben Day - The Soul Day
  • 29 Oct: King's Coronation Day
  • 31 Oct: Former King Sihanouk's birthday
  • 09 Nov: Independence Day
  • 27-29 Nov: Water Festival
  • 10 Dec: Human Rights Day
Note * Dates is changeable every year as it follows the lunar calendar and Khmer calendar
DOS & DON'TS
DOs
  1. DO COVER UP. Due to the hot climate visitors tend to wear shorts or miniskirts but it is preferable to dress modestly. Bear in mind, that shorts are considered proper attire only for schoolchildren! Appropriate clothes are a must, not only when inside a religious site (upper arms and legs should be covered and hats removed) but also when volunteering. While dressing up, think of what you would wear to your work normally.
  2. DO ASK FOR PERMISSION before taking photos of others.
  3. DO TAKE OFF YOUR HAT AND SHOES when entering Khmer houses or a place of worship.
  4. DO BRING A SMALL GIFT such as fruits, flowers, dessert if invited to dine in a khmer home.
  5. DO ALLOW ELDERS TO CONTROL THE CONVERSATION, walk first, and take the lead. This is a way of respecting elders, which is very important in Cambodian culture. Remember this while dealing with local Khmer staff.
  6. DO SIT WHILE TALKING TO A MONK if he is seated
  7. DO PASS THINGS USING BOTH HANDS, as a sign of respect.
DON’Ts
  1. DON’T TOUCH SOMEONE ON THE HEAD (even children).
  2. DON’T DISPLAY AFFECTION IN PUBLIC - Cambodians are quite conservative, which is why one should be mindful of any contact with the opposite sex. Even small gestures like placing an arm around a local to pose for a picture can be misinterpreted.
  3. DON’T SIT HIGHER THAN THE ELDEST PERSON IN THE ROOM. This is one of the ways of showing respect to elders and is very important in Khmer culture.
  4. DON’T GIVE IN TO FRUSTRATION. Losing control, shouting and screaming is not socially acceptable and can make Cambodians embarrassed. Facing this kind of situation Cambodians often smile out of awkwardness which can be even more confusing.
  5. DON’T TALK ABOUT BUSINESS OR WAR WHEN AT THE TABLE. Don’t start to eat when you are a guest at the dinner table before your host has taken a bite.
  6. DON’T GIVE MONEY TO STREET CHILDREN and don’t buy souvenirs from them. Children should not be involved in raising money for their families. There are many organizations giving opportunities to street children but by giving money to them, tourists make the problem worse.
  7. DON’T VISIT ORPHANAGES. Despite the big number of warm invitations, orphanage tourism has become a big problem, not a solution.
Journey Planner

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” – St. Augustine. People read the book in different ways, some only glance at the cover; some skim through the pages; and some read between the lines to find hidden meanings… My personal thought, “read the book” then use senses

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