Are you thinking about travelling to Cambodia? If so, there’s a few things you should know before you take off! This Cambodia backpacking guide will take you through all the essentials for travelling through this beautiful South East Asian country.
My unexpected trip to Cambodia in March this year ended up being nearly 2 weeks long, so this guide is a rough suggestion based on my own experiences, as well as other travellers I had met along the way!
Phnom Penh (2 nights):
Where to stay:
Lovely Jubbly Vila – Dorm rooms starting at $12/night
Cambodia’s capital city Phnom Penh reminded me of most large Asian cities, although it was much MUCH more humid! If you think Vietnam is hot, you’ll be in for a rude awakening when you step foot in Phnom Penh. I’m talking 40 degrees celsius, feels like 50 with the humidity! 🥵
Besides the unusually hot temperature, I also struggled immensely with pronouncing the name of this city. If you’re having trouble, just know that you’re not alone.
What is there to do in Phnom Penh?
Quite frankly, there isn’t a lot. I’d suggest spending your days doing one of these few things:
Check out Central market – You’ll find heaps of souvenirs, knock off clothing and little trinkets. If you’re in need of a SIM card, you can find places near the market for cheap. I got a SIM with Metfone for $5 including 4gb.
Visit the temples – Wat Phnom is the most popular temple but there are many in and around the city you can visit!
Killing Fields – If you aren’t familiar with the tragic and somewhat recent history of the Cambodian people, this is an eye opening experience. You must dress conservatively while visiting the fields and prepare yourself for a heavy day. The photos below show the killing tree and collection of skulls from those who lost their lives there.
Getting from the city to the fields and back by tuk tuk should set you back around $12 USD for two people and entry is $6 USD per person.
Kampot (2 nights):
Where to stay:
Arcadia Backpackers & Water Park – Dorm rooms starting at $7/night
Although I didn’t have a chance to make it to Kampot during my time in Cambodia, I heard great things! Staying at the Arcadia Backpackers & Water Park hostel is enough of a reason to visit. The hostel has massive water slides that could keep you entertained all day long!
Asides from the hostel, here are some of the activities on my bucket list for Kampot:
- Go chasing waterfalls – I hear Popokvil is a nice one!
- Take a hike – Bokor National Park is nearby, as well as other trails.
Koh Rong (4-7 nights):
The beautiful island of Koh Rong is truly the star of the show in this Cambodia backpacking guide!
Getting to the island from Kampot or Phnom Penh is a long journey but worth it. You’ll catch a boat from a port in Sihanoukville which was once a vibrant and lively party spot in Cambodia but has recently been called ‘shitsville’ by travellers. What’s changed? It’s been ripped to shreds and is in the process of being developed by the Chinese. I never understood how a place could possibly get such a bad rep, that is until I arrived.
Luckily, you won’t be spending much time there and will forget all about it when you step foot on the blissful islands of koh rong!
Where to stay:
Reef on the beach – Dorm rooms starting at $13/night and private bungalows for around $40! This hostel is right on the nicest beach in Koh Rong (4K Beach) & has breathtaking views.
This island paradise is a must see! There isn’t much to do so it’s the perfect place to slow down and unwind for a few days. The water is crystal clear and the beaches have beautiful white sand.
4K Beach is the where you want to be during the day or to catch a sunrise. If you’re looking to watch the sunset, you’ll need to make your way over the Long Set Beach. You can grab a motorbike taxi from the village on the island for around $15 return for two people.
When lounging at the beach all day begins to wear thin, try booking a snorkelling trip. The hostel I stayed at charged a mere $15 for a 5 hour boat tour that included drinks, snorkelling gear and swimming with the glow plankton once the evening came around!
The only downfall to Koh Rong are the HORRIBLE sand flies so make sure you bring bug spray with you!!!! I cannot stress this enough, as my legs were eaten alive and were itchy for months. I ended up needing a prescribed steroid cream once I returned home, so if you attract the bugs, you need to come prepared!
Siem Reap (2-4 nights):
Getting to Siem Reap from Koh Rong is a mission, to put it lightly. Bring sleeping pills (or you can buy them at any pharmacy in Cambodia for a few dollars) and get ready for a 15 hour journey!
You’ll take a boat back to Sihanoukville and from there you’ll catch a 12ish hour overnight bus to Siem Reap.
Where to stay:
Onederz Hostel Siem Reap – Dorm rooms starting at $6.50/night
I seriously can’t rave enough about this hostel. It was the best one I stayed at in Cambodia. Super clean, had a pool and nice beds in the rooms!
There’s no way you can travel through Cambodia without making a stop at Angkor Wat! These famous temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and absolutely stunning. Tickets cost around $40 USD for the day and allow entry to a few other nearby temples as well. You can easily spend days venturing around these temples if you want to but 1 day was enough for me!
Before you go:
- What to wear – All temples require modest clothing – this means legs and shoulders covered for women. I’d recommend buying lightweight and flowy pants at a market if you don’t already have some (see the photos below).
- What time to go – The best time to visit Angkor Wat is as early as possible. We got a personal tuk tuk driver for the day for about $20 USD and he picked us up at the hostel around 4am. We got back around 11am and by that time it was SO hot and I couldn’t have been more grateful for the early start time! Everyone goes around this time for the sunrise so you will be with a lot of other tourists but I don’t see how anyone could go mid-day and survive.
- Other things to bring – WATER and lots of it!
One of the most unusual performances I’ve yet to experience was the Phare Cambodian circus. The storyline was strange to say the least but impressive! Tickets go for around $18 USD.
Pub street is the place to be if you’re looking for the party scene. There are night markets nearby as well and you’ll find tourists and locals alike living it up!
While Cambodia is still a very affordable country to travel through, beware of the difference in price if you’re coming from Vietnam or Thailand! What makes Cambodia a tad more expensive is the use of USD. If you’re American, you might not notice a huge difference but travellers from other countries where their dollar isn’t as strong (such as myself), will lose a lot on the conversion.
When it comes to food, eat the street food or at local restaurants whenever you can. I didn’t see a huge difference between Cambodian and Vietnamese food but either way it was good and fairly inexpensive!
Overall, the accommodation was great. The prices were good and Onederz was a 12/10!
If you’re a big fan of temples, Cambodia is the place for you! Otherwise, I found there wasn’t much to do throughout the country. I still had a great time discovering all that it had to offer but honestly thought there would be more to see and do.
Getting around Cambodia is quite easy in the sense that every hostel has buses going to most destinations you’d like to visit. The prices aren’t unreasonable but they are nowhere near as cheap as local transportation in other SEAsian countries!
NOTE: If you book a bus or tuk tuk through your hostel, there’s a 99% chance that they will seriously rip you off. For example, I paid $10 USD for a bus that only cost $0.65! You can avoid this by booking buses ahead of time online or going to the bus station the morning of and hoping they have space on the bus for you!
One last thing …
Before I head off, be sure to check out my TikTok, Instagram & YOUTUBE channel for more travel inspo. Oh, and don’t forget to take a peak at my Vietnam backpacking itinerary if you haven’t already done so!
I post a new blog every Tuesday and Friday, so make sure to subscribe to my email notifications so you don’t miss out on new travel info each week. If you made it to the end, thanks for reading my Cambodia backpacking guide and I’ll be back with more in a few days!