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Cambodia Travel Guide

Cambodia is a relatively small country, yet still has plenty of history and its own unique cultural identity. Cambodia travel is great for travelers with an eye for adventure and wanting to explore the mostly unspoiled lush jungles, temple ruins, idyllic beaches, while also enjoying ethical shopping, exciting nouvelle cuisine and artsy boutique hotels. Its rich history has made it possible to launch completely new beginnings and bring this country to the world stage. The capital city of Phnom Penh is rich and vibrant, and makes it possible to get a glimpse of the countries traumatized past while also getting to see the new and modern with shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. For the traveler interested in stunning architecture and temples, a visit to Siem Reap is a practical choice to admire sights like the Angkor Wat. The south of the county gives access to the beautiful and enchanting beaches for a truly relaxing time.

Learn more about this awe-inspiring country by reading out Cambodia travel guide.

cambodia travel guide

The Cambodians are able to give great hospitality and warmth to visitors and this helps to make one of Asia’s more welcoming countries. There are several social rules that should be taken into account when talking to the locals, such as being quite sensitive when talking about politically-related issues. It is advisable to avoid touching someone on the head because this is seen as insulting. While photography is accepted while traveling, there are certain restrictions in place like not taking photos of railway stations, airports or military installations. Plus, permission should be requested before photographing locals, and this especially relates to monks.

The religion in Cambodia is 95% Buddhist (Theravada) with a small minority of Christian and Muslim.

Weather & climate
Cambodia is based in a tropical zone, which means this country has a monsoon climate. The worst of the monsoon season takes place during the period May to November, with the rest of the year generally dry and pleasant. The entire countryside is a rich and stunning green immediately after the monsoon.

The temperature throughout the country is fairly constant, although the winter period in northern regions is slightly cooler. The average temperature you are likely to experience on a Cambodia travel adventure is in the region of 27.5° C (but can vary from 21° C to 35° C). Certain areas of Cambodia can experience flooding in July and August which can have a negative impact on road travel because most are still dirt-based.

Best time to visit
The best time for the tourist to visit the stunning beauty of Cambodia is the dry season that stretches from mid-November to April. Even thought the rainy climate during the rest of the year can impact outdoor activities like boat cruises, biking, hiking, etc., a refreshing burst of rain is certainly to be appreciated by those traveling in the larger cities where it helps to clean the air from the dusty roads. If planning to travel during the monsoon season, there are plenty of leeches about, so take extra precautions and conduct repeated leach checks.

Cambodia is basically a circular country that is boarded by Vietnam to the east, Laos to the north and Thailand to the west. On the southern edge of the country is the Gulf of Thailand. This country is rich in fertile cultivated land and tropical rainforest. There are plenty of major rivers that pass through the country, such as the mighty Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac. This nutritious land is blessed with all types of nature, including freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins, Asian elephants, and Indochinese tigers.

This country is unfortunate to suffer from a high volume of illegal trading in logging and endangered wildlife. The habitat for many species is being wiped out at a rapid rate. This has resulted in rainforest preservation trips and eco-camps for tourists to visit and learn more about the illegal trade and even give those previously involved an alternative income.

cambodia visa

Cambodia visa
An entry visa for Cambodia travel is a requirement for all nationals from the USA, EU, Canada, Britain and Australia (for any other country, it is necessary to contact the embassy for details). The visa can be applied for in advance or on arrival in the country (but make sure the port of entry has the ability to issue the visa).

An ACMECS visa is a practical choice for those planning to visit both Cambodia and Thailand and lasts for a period of up to 90 days. This visa extension is available to nationals from the USA, UK, Germany, Spain, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Austria, Portugal, Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy and Australia.

However, it is only worth applying for the ACMECS visa if planning to stay in Thailand for 30 days or more because visa-free travel is already available to the above mentioned countries for up to 30 days.

Where to stay
The hotel accommodation in Cambodia has seen significant improvements in recent years and the cost is relevantly inexpensive. The major areas such as Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and the capital city Phnom Penh give the best choices with plenty of hotels and hostels, and there are even brand-name hotel chains (Sofitel, InterContinental and Raffles). Most of the towns that attract tourists have at least one good hotel to stay, although these hotels won’t have the longest list of facilities available. There is no such thing as official hotel grades in Cambodia. Other more quirky accommodation includes private islands, jungle bungalows and floating river lodges.

For the low-cost stay in Cambodia there is a great choice of boutique lodges and guesthouses in Phnom Penh or other decent sized towns around the country. But, the facilities can vary from well-equipped to virtually nonexistent, so it can benefit to check a room before confirming the booking. Plus, the hostels are a practical choice for the high amount of backpackers that visit the country.

The traveler interested in the off-the-beaten-track experience of the country has to option to go camping and join organized tour groups. But, the Cambodia landscape is rich in tropical and rare wildlife species so there is the risk of dangerous species, which means it is necessary to be extra cautious and carry anti-venom.

cambodia travel

Shopping and nightlife
Markets are widespread in the towns and cities throughout Cambodia and give a perfect opportunity to invest in souvenirs like Buddhist artworks, silverwork, jewelry, carvings, textiles and silks. The Angkor Night Market and Phnom Penh Central Market are two of the best choices to find the most unique gifts. But, the trade in rare animal furs is illegal, so it is important to avoid buying any items that could contain material sourced from endangered species. For the more up market shopping experience there are plenty of small boutiques in the capital city. Some areas to visit include Street 178 and Street 240, which have plenty of silk, antique and art traders.

The nightlife in Cambodia is quite vibrant in the major districts like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and includes plenty of restaurants and bars to visit in the evening. Phnom Penh is great for riverfront restaurants to give a very relaxed and family-friendly environment. While the outright nightclub is scarce there is still a varied range of smart cocktail bars to down-and-dirty drinking holes. But, there are also numerous girlie bars, so it is worth checking the establishment out before paying a cover charge to avoid entering the more seedy environments.

Food and Drink
Cambodian people enjoy a cuisine that is quite similar to its neighboring countries Vietnam and Thailand. The fish based dish is very common which is for good reason seeing as the mighty Mekong River runs through the country.

Many of the dishes like soups, stews and stir fries are flavored with galangal, Asian basil, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, chili, cardamoms and curry pastes. Other seasoning choices include Prahok which is made using fermented fish. The base for most meals is either jasmine rice or sticky rice that is grown throughout the country. Specialty dishes throughout the country include Babor, Bai chha, Mee katang, Pleah sach ko and Lok Lak.

Getting around
Cambodia travel packages with internal flights pre-booked makes getting around the country quick and easy. Major services include Bassaka Air and Cambodia Angkor Air, and include regular flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. A visit to Siem Reap is a popular choice to take tourists to the ancient temples at Angkor.

Road travel is possible by taxi or hiring a car with a driver. The taxis aren’t metered so it helps to fix a price at the start of the journey. The overall road condition varies from very poor to excellent with plenty of major routes that include travel from the capital city to the Vietnamese border. Road accidents are quite high in this country with many vehicles not using headlights at night, so extra care and attention is important.

While it is possible to hire a motorbike, this type of transport is mostly banned from hire in major cities like Siem Reap in an effort to protect the tourist.

National Parks
Cambodia has set aside large areas of its country to preserve the natural landscape and wildlife. Many of the national parks are easy to reach, especially those within travel distance from Phnom Penh.

cambodia travel package

Virachey National Park
The Virachey National Park is rich in deep and isolated jungle and an area that is mostly unexplored and home to a variety of unique and rare animal species. This park borders Vietnam and Laos and situated in the Ratanakiri province, and includes a variety of beautiful sights, such as its waterfalls and mountains.

Kirirom National Park
The Kirirom National Park is a two hour journey from Phnom Penh and includes plenty of mountain streams, waterfalls and pine forests. This park has many hiking trails that make it really easy to explore and enjoy the stunning scenery, while also traveling at a cool elevation, which is much more refreshing than the tropical forests.

Ream National Park
The Ream National Park is situated close to Sihanoukville (southwest region) and a coastal area that consists of beaches, coral reefs, islands, jungles, mountains, estuaries, and a river. This park is perfect for jungle walks, boat trips, snorkeling and getting to admire the local wildlife.

Other national parks of interest include the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary, Bokor National Park, Kep National Park and Phnom Kulen National Park.

Things to see and do in Cambodia
Visit the Angkor Wat temples

Angkor Wat is an awe-inspiring temple and one of the largest and most spectacular religious monuments in the world. The construction started in the 12th century and it is believed it took at least 30 years to complete.It was constructed in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Enjoy a boat trip on the Mekong
A slow and relaxing boat trip from the capital city to Siem Reap is one of the most enjoyable ways to reach the Angkor Wat temples and local surroundings. The river trip is very scenic with the crusie up Battambang one of the most awe-inspiring river trips possible.

Feast on fresh seafood
Any Cambodian travel packages that includes exploring the coastal regions not only gives a great sand, sea and sun experience, but is also very big when it comes to serving ocean-fresh seafood. Coastal areas like Kep and Kampot are great for seafood inspired menus, especially with just-caught crab, lobster, squid and prawns.

cambodia tour packages

Travel Tips
•   Try to book a single tuk tuk in major cities like Phnom Penh or Siem Reap to increase the chance of having a continuous and reliable service, while •   eliminating the hassle factor of having to keep flagging down a passing tuk tuk.
•   Read a Cambodian travel guide before entering the country to fully appreciate the way of life, customs and places to explore.
•   Leave items of value such as jewelry in the hotel room safe for extra safety and to avoid attracting unnecessary attention.  
•   Even though the bus and boat ride services are pretty good, the general safety standards aren’t likely to compare to western standards, so be extra vigilant when traveling.
•   Use the knowledge of a local guest house or hotel when booking internal travel to or from Phnom Penh, Battambang or Siem Reap. Any guest house manager will have local knowledge and are more than willing to help.
•   Lightweight clothing is practical year-round. But, for the monsoon season, pack extras like raincoats, umbrellas and gumboots. It really pours once it starts and can last for several days solid.

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