Cambodia | Filtraveler: Adventure Travel
Cambodia is one of my all time favorite destinations, well having been based myself here for almost a year, says it all. It may still be a developing country and the progress can be so slow in coming; on the other hand, this country is filled with some of the friendliest and most genuine people I have ever met. Cambodia has a rich history, picturesque views, amazing people, unique flavours and amazing nightlife – one of the best places if you wish to soak yourself in cultural vibrancy. I have been living in Siem Reap – the gateway to Angkor Wat for almost a year and it has indeed captured my heart. I have already fallen in love with this place and I can’t recommend it enough to everyone I meet. If your plan is to tick this country off your destination list, please do so as this country has many unique experiences to offer, guaranteed that it will not disappoint you.
Cambodia Travel Guide
Capital City: Phnom Penh
You can either fly via Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Via land, enter by bus from any of the neighboring countries – Vietnam, Thailand or Laos. Yes, these Southeast Asian countries are just a bus away so better to include them on your trip to Southeast Asia.
There is no need to be concerned about Cambodia’s currency. Though Riel is Cambodia’s official currency, most of the commodities are priced in US dollars. The exchange rate is usually 4,000 riel – 1 US Dollar. In addition to that, some establishment and local stores also accept foreign currencies such as Thai baht, Canadian dollar, and even our currency back home, the Philippine Peso is also accepted. So there is really no need to worry about – just worry about not being broke as the cost of living here is fairly cheap! You might end up spending more than your allotted budget for your trip.
When it comes to access to ATM or Automatic Teller Machines, they are readily available in most locations. Credit card payments are also accepted at most hotels and restaurants in the cities.
Visa upon arrival is available for most nationalities but be sure to check the requirements for your country before you arrive. Countries under ASEAN are visa free and you will be given at least 30 days upon arrival. If you’re entering the country on a tourist visa you do not need to provide any photos; however, if you are entering on a business visa, you will be needing a passport size photo, a filled out form and a business visa fee which will cost you around US$30.00. Note: You have to pay in US dollars. Heading to Cambodia soon and worried about the visa requirements? You can check this site for more information.
It is always summer in Cambodia, so you’d better wear light clothing, throw your shoes away and just wear your flip flops instead. Moreover, don’t forget to apply some sunscreen on as you trek around the temples or engage yourself in some adventures; otherwise, you will definitely feel the burn. If you can’t stand the heat anymore, there are a lot of hotels and resorts where you can have a dip or lounge by the pool which is a perfect antidote after a long day of exploring around.
Wet season: The wet season is characterized by rain, and during the peak of wet season from July to September it can rain as much as two out of every three days.
Dry season: The dry period runs from October to April and the weather can be extremely scorching and dry. The temperature can rise up to 42c.
Dorm rooms in hostels start at around KHR 17,000-21,000 (US$3.00 – US$6.00) while private rooms are usually priced from KHR 20,000-40,000 (US$5.00 – US$10.00) per night. Siem Reap is not only home to Angkorian temples but also home to many hotels and resorts – they have just mushroomed all over Siem Reap!
Asia is home to many different modes of transport that you may not be accustomed to back home – especially if you are from a western country. Just like any other Asian countries, Cambodia also has a version of its own, the tuk tuk. Tuk tuks are two-wheeled carriages pulled behind a motorcycle and is a great way to ride in style. Whether you’d like to get around the Angkor Temples, or would like to roam around the historic town of Siem Reap, riding on a tuk tuk is the best option as you can get to immerse yourself in Khmer culture. Note: In Siem Reap, there aren’t any public buses, trains or taxis yet (I assumed before I came over). There are only motorcycles, private cars and tuk tuks.
Cambodia has a lot of things to offer. At the top of the list is the Angkor Wat Complex (Well, majority of the tourists come to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia to see the ancient beauty of this world’s famous complex). If you’d like to satisfy your adventurous side, there are activities like biking, kayaking, hiking and more! Read my adventure here.
Food is fairly cheap in Cambodia. Local street food will cost you about KHR 4,000-8,000 per meal (That’s US$1.oo to US$2.00 and restaurant meals will cost you between KHR 12,000-20,000 (US$3.00 to US$5.00). Cambodia has quite similarities with the cuisines of its neighboring countries, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. On the other hand, Khmer food has its unique flavors that make it special, and it is less spicy compared to Thai food. Khmer Cuisine uses special herbs and special spices which add authentic flavors to any Cambodian food. Khmer-style curries, stir fried vegetables, rice, noodles and soups are just some of the staple food in Khmer cuisine. You may want to check >> Filtraveler’s Guide: Cambodian Food
Wandering around the Angkor temples is not just the highlight of the tourism in Siem Reap. Expect an amazing nightlife too! When talking about nightlife in Siem Reap, “Pub Street” is the place to be! It is like Siem Reap’s counterpart of Thailand’s Khao San Road. Pub Street is a place where most tourists gather together and have some drinks in one of its jazzy bars. It is where the action is at night time, full of bars and restaurants that suit any taste. Note: Beer here can be so cheap especially during happy hours. Happy hours indeed! Expect some .50 cent beer! Angkor Wat Bar, Temple Bar and Red Piano are some of the recommended pubs to go to.
Language: Though Khmer is the official language, surprisingly, English is widely spoken here. However, you will find it challenging to speak with the locals from the rural areas or from the countryside regions as their English can be limited.
Internet: Internet is never a problem in Cambodia as almost all the restaurants, pubs and food chains have WiFi connections. On the other hand, you may also consider buying a sim card which has credit on it which is priced less than US$10. That’s ideal if you want to keep your friends posted about every single detail of your trip!
Haggling: Haggling is expected here and it is definitely all part of the experience. Sellers and tuk tuk drivers tend to set a price for an item/a service three times higher than its actual cost. So, this skill is a necessity here!
Where to go
Siem Reap – The gateway to world’s famous Angkor Wat Complex. There’s not a huge amount to do in the city itself, however, if you like shopping, there are numerous shops where you can buy authentic Khmer products or souvenirs for your family and friends. If you want to be surrounded by tourists and cuisines from around the world, you can head to Pub Street or in the Old Market are of Siem Reap town.
Phnom Penh – It’s a busy city but if you’re interested in the history of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is the place to visit. The capital city of Cambodia is home to majority of the museums. From killing fields to genocide museum, Royal Palace to the National Museum – be ready as Cambodia’s past can be extremely shocking.
Battambang – This is the place to get a real taste of Cambodian culture. Battambang is known for its bamboo train, farms and some long-forgotten temples. Moreover, if you feel like getting away from the massive crowds and relax a bit, this place is the place to slow down.
Sihanoukville – Sihanoukville is located in the Southern part of Cambodia and is famous for its untouched, white-sand beaches. It is the perfect place to stay when you are after a party atmosphere.
Kep – This beautiful beach town is the laid-back version of Sihanoukville where you can indulge yourself in a relaxing atmosphere. This province of Cambodia is known for its stunning beaches and amazing seafood.
Ratanakiri – For nature lovers, this province is perfect for you. It is one of Cambodia’s most remote yet amazing provinces, a place where you can have a deeper connection with nature. Cambodia’s elephant sanctuaries are also situated here.
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