Backpacking Cambodia: A Full Travel Guide

Last updated on August 20th, 2018 at 12:50 am

 

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Angkor Wat, Cambodia  Photography: Wikipedia

Are you planning to go backpacking Cambodia? Interested to travel around Southeast Asia? Cambodia is one of the countries that you have to visit. Cambodia isn’t a very big country. You can visit  the country properly in two weeks. I’ve visited Cambodia three times and I’m still amazed with its culture. People are very friendly. Probably the most friendliest and simplest people I’ve seen. There are many plans to do in Cambodia from visiting Angkor Wat Temples, relaxing in Sihanoukville and spending a few days in Phnom Phen.

Here´s a full guide for backpacking Cambodia ready for you. Cambodia is one of the underdeveloped countries in Southeast Asia, but if I have to choose my favorite for visiting, Cambodia will be my choice. Why? Because I love Buddhism culture, and while you are backpacking Cambodia, you will find various temples of Buddhist people. Cambodian people are very friendly and outgoing. If you are backpacking Cambodia you will like people and most specially the prices. Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries for traveling. And yes! Angkor Wat is something that you can´t miss while visiting Cambodia. The Kingdom of Cambodia was a French colony in the past. Cambodia had very hard time under the Khmer Rouge regime during the Civil War. So, yeah! You will learn many interesting things about their story when traveling around Cambodia.

Before Backpacking Cambodia

Visa

Backpacking Cambodia, you will have to pay for the visa if you are from Canada, USA and most of the European countries. Check this list  and take a look if you are included in the list of countries which don’t need visa for backpacking Cambodia. You can get visa on arrival paying 30 USD and it will take just 15 minutes to get it overland or via the airport. If you are bringing a photo, you can save 3 USD. If not, you can get charge a fee for scanning your passport. There are a few border points where you can get your visa on arrival getting from Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Read here, to make sure you know all of them, for you to make the best choice.

How to get there

By plane

You can get to Cambodia by plane. You will find cheap prices coming from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. We always suggest to take a look at Skyscanner to get the best deals for flights.

Overland

You can get to Cambodia overland and by boat coming from Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

The most popular border crossing overland is Poipet/Aranyaprathet. We can recommend you to have the experience of crossing by foot. You can get there by public transportation, train or bus. Or you can even get there hitchhiking.

Just go by yourself, with a photo, $30, your passport and wait for the line. You will get your stamp and 30 days Visa in half an hour. Once you cross the border you can choose bus, private taxi or why not hitchhike to move around Cambodia.

Be careful with the tour companies which are going direct to Phnom Phen from Bangkok. They will make you spend the night in the border and you aren’t gonna be able to reach Phnom Phen until the next day.

Currency

Cambodian Riel is the official currency in Cambodia. Exchange rates are around 1 USD= 4 000 Riels. Click here to check the current rate. You should know that you can use dollars everywhere in Cambodia. You will use local currency for small payments.

You can even get USD from ATMs while backpacking Cambodia. There are ATMs in all touristic places and cities. You can also find exchange offices or banks if you are bringing cash. Make sure you get the best rate if you bring cash, and checking 2-3 places and ask for their rates. If you always compare, you can always make an informed decision.

Health

Make sure that you are up to date on routine vaccines included Tetanus and Rubella. There are some vaccinations that are recommended like Hepatitis, Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria. Take a look at this link to get more information. Apart from that, you don’t need anything special for backpacking Cambodia.

Safety

I found it very safe, backpacking in Cambodia. But I can recommend you to be extra careful in the cities and touristic places. I met some people who had problems with snatching while in Cambodia. Just normal precautions in crowded places. Don’t go crazy about safety! It’s even possible to  feel much safer in Cambodia than in your own country.

Weather

You will find 2 types of weather in Cambodia: wet and dry season. You need to be prepared for both seasons especially if you plan a long backpacking trip to Cambodia. The wet season starts in May until October. Then from July to September, you get the rainy months. And the dry season starts from October until early May. November to February should be the best season for backpacking Cambodia.

How to get wifi

You will find Wifi in hostels, hotels, bars and touristic places. Wifi signal is very weak in Cambodia in the islands. If you need to work online, you need to be patient. But if you don’t depend too much on Wifi, you should be fine.

Transportation

In backpacking Cambodia, transportation will not be an issue. There are short distances to move around, and prices are very cheap. You can get local buses from $5-8 for 5-6 hours bus journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Phen. And starting $4-5 from Phnom Phen to Sihanoukville for 3-4 hours bus ride.

Hitchhiking, backpacking Cambodia.

You can also try hitchhiking, it´s not the easiest country to do it but it´s working if you take time. Plus you will meet amazing people in Cambodia and you will feel the authentic culture of the country. If you have never tried hitchhiking, here is a full guide on how to do it.

An interesting thing about backpacking Cambodia: you will not find buses inside the cities. Moto taxis and tuk tuks are available to go around the city and prices are very cheap. You will pay $1-2 for the ride inside the city. Like foreigner sometimes, they will try to overcharge the price.

Accommodation

When you are backpacking Cambodia, you will find hostels starting at $3 a night per dorm, and $5 for a room. It depends on how much luxury you need. Prices are very affordable for accommodation. Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries in Southeast Asia for sleeping.

Budget for backpacking Cambodia

You can easily manage with $20 per day. Average for sleeping could be $5 per day sleeping in a dorm or cheap hostels. Eating and drinking beer is so cheap, $5 per day if you go for street food. The rest of your budget you can spend in transportation and also paying entrances for Angkor Temples or for visiting Killing Fields. You can even spend less if you are doing Couchsurfing and hitchhiking! If you want to know about couchsurfing and how to sleep for free while traveling, read this guide.

Eating and Drinking

While backpacking Cambodia, you will enjoy eating and drinking. Cambodian food is tasty and little bit spicy. There are Thai and Vietnamese influences and also French influence like Baguette which you can find in Cambodia. You can’t easily find it in Asia. Prices are very cheap. You can eat a whole meal for $1-2 with free iced-tea included! If you want to know more about the various street food you can eat in Asia, read our top 40 street food dishes in Southeast Asia.

Khmer noodles

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Cambodian Noodles  Photography: Alpha

You can find this everywhere in Cambodia, especially as street food. It’s served as soup noodles and are very spicy. Prices are so cheap, you will find Khmer noodles starting for $1-2.

Fish Amok

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Fish Amok, a Khmer specialty  Photography: Ben Yapp

This is one of the most´popular Cambodian dishes. It’s fish with red curry, which is again super spicy. And it’s served wrapped in a banana leaf. Prices are cheap, starting from $1-2, another very popular street food.

Exotic fruits

Backpacking Cambodia fruits.

In Cambodia, I love their fruits so much. Rambutan, jack fruits, dragon fruits… Plenty of them! All of them very tasty! You can find them everywhere in street markets and there are also a lot already mixed as fruit juices. Prices vary, although really cheap.

Cheap beer

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Angkor Beer  Photography: shankar s.

Cambodian beer may not be my favorite in Asia, but I have to say that the price is insanely cheap. You can find beer starting from half dollar, maybe little bit more expensive in night bars.

Cambodian sandwiches

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Num Pang Cambodian Sandwich  Photography: amanderson2

Because Cambodia was a French colony, it’s amazing that you can find these sandwiches. There are vegetarian sandwiches, but there also the sandwiches with chicken or meat. When you are traveling around Asia, it’s hard to find these in every country. You can only find them in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Must see in Cambodia

Markets Phnom Penh

When you are backpacking Cambodia, you will visit the capital of the country: Phnom Penh. My favorite thing there was visiting street markets. Not only will you have local contact but also you will find different types of food. These places are perfect if you’re trying to learn and  speak a few words in Cambodian language. And because Cambodian people are so friendly, they will introduce you to the basic vocabulary in Cambodian language.

Read here a Phnom Penh City Guide.

Party in Sihanoukville

If you are looking for party, this is your place! You will meet many people in Sihanoukville. There are many bars in the evening where you can enjoy partying and drinking. If you aren’t into parties, you can go to quiet beaches where you will find the perfect places for relaxing. Despite of the nightlife, Sihanoukville beaches are amazing. You will find blue water and white sand. It’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

Koh Rong

Backpacking Cambodia: koh Rong.

It’s the second largest island in Cambodia. It’s located in Sihanoukville province. Just go there and enjoy paradise. The island is very beautiful and quiet. It’s a perfect place for reading, swimming and relaxing. Prices are little bit more expensive than the other places in Cambodia. But you will find accommodation less than $10. Also eating and drinking will be more expensive in Koh Rong.

Bamboo train

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Bamboo Train in Battambang, Cambodiastrong>  Photography: Act of Traveling

You can have the experience of riding the bamboo train in Cambodia. The maximum speed is 50 kilometers per hour and it’s a touristic attraction in Battambang. Prices starting at $5 per hour riding the bamboo train.

Battammbang

This is a perfect place for backpacking Cambodia. It’s an off the beaten path location where you can enjoy the markets and the French colony architecture. It´s very well conserved.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Watt, backpacking Cambodia.

Visiting Cambodia and stopping in Angkor Wat is a must! It was built during Khmer Empire. These temples are located in Siem Reap and it’s the most touristic place in Cambodia. You will spend amazing time there enjoying the temples. You can visit them by bicycle or tuk-tuk. If you do by bicycle make sure that you are bringing water. The weather is really hot and there are kilometers and kilometers of temples there. Prices for renting a bicycle are cheap ( 1-2 USD) or you can even find some for free. Sometimes your hotel will provide free bicycle everyday. If you get up very early, you will get a free bicycle for the whole day.  If you visit them by tuk-tuk, you can join with someone to share expenses. Prices for sharing a tuk-tuk start from $10-15 for the whole day.

Views are amazing from the temples, you can see the jungle. Sunrise and sunset are always amazing! There are a lot of varieties of temples and you will enjoy all of them. It’s full of people, that’s the only problem. Tickets are $20 per  day and $40 if you buy a ticket for 3 days. I can recommend you spending 3 days in Angkor Wat if you have time. It’s totally worth the visit and there are many temples to see.

Killing Fields

Killing fields, backapcking Cambodia.

Some people miss visiting killing Fields. It’s an amazing opportunity to know more about Cambodian history. More than a million people were killed and buried there during Khmer Rouge time. It was in their 70’s, just a few years ago.

Killing Fields are in Phnom Penh, 10-12 kilometers far from city centre. How to get there? There are no buses in Phnom Penh. You have several options. You can go by moto taxi or tuk tuk. Prices are expensive if you consider regular Cambodian standard of living. If you want to go the cheapest way, you can go by bicycle. It will take you less than an hour to reach there.  Once you get there tickets are $5 and you can visit the place in an hour or longer if you want to spend more time. They will set a short movie about people who was killed and buried there. And how they killed them, without using guns.

We hope that after reading this full guide, you will be ready for backpacking Cambodia! If you find this post useful, better share it to friends who are planning to travel to Asia. Cambodia is definitely a place not to miss.

Read here for more information to plan your next trip to Cambodia!

And if you want to know more about guides in traveling Southeast Asia, read about the amazing country of Myanmar. We also have full informationoon how to travel Thailand in a low budget and also a complete guide to backpacking Laos!

Happy Travels!

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. He believes in travel without money. Recently, he finished a bicycle trip, 9500 km, from Madrid to North Cape.

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