1. Do all the things
Discover your inner Indiana Jones at the epic temple ruins of Angkor Wat. Go diving and island hopping in Sihanoukville by day, then party the night away at the city’s many vibey beach bars, clubs and casinos. Head to the capital city, Phnom Penn, where anything goes and there’s never a dull moment. Take a sobering trip to the infamous Killing Fields (not for the faint-hearted). Sail down the Tonle Sap River. Take it easy in the quiet seaside town of Kep. Hike in the great rain forest of Bokor National Park. Or jungle trek in Koh Hong. If you’re keen on an elephant encounter, skip the cruel rides and circuses, and head to the Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri where you can roam freely with these gentle giants in the forest.
2. Om nom nom
Cambodian cuisine is packed with fresh ingredients and loads of flavour. One of the most popular dishes is Fish Amok, made with fresh fish in a creamy curry sauce. For something really refreshing, snack on a banana blossom salad with a squeeze of lime. Try the delicious Cambodian version of ceviche made with thinly sliced beef. For breakfast, you’re likely to be served tasty kuy teav noodle soup or bai sach chrouk (pork and rice). Feeling brave? There’s also some super weird stuff on the menu, including fried tarantulas, frogs and scorpions on a stick. Yum?
3. Know your budget
Cambodia is easy on your wallet. Everything from accommodation and food to transport and activities are a steal. Expect to spend a mere R350 per day on a backpacker budget. If you’re looking for a little more luxury, plan for about R650 a day. Food is pretty cheap too, and a meal at a market costs about R60. A bottle of beer will set you back around R15. Most hostels include free WiFi and breakfast. Heads up: Cambodia uses USD, so no need to carry any local currency with you.
4. How to stay thrifty
It’s not hard to stick to your budget in Cambodia. But if you want to be extra thrifty, there are a few ways to do it. As usual, street food is by far the most cost-effective way to eat (and usually the most delicious too). Booking a longer stay at your hostel will give you some bargaining power for a lower rate. You can also bargain for pretty much everything else – so never buy anything at the first price you’re offered. Don’t book accommodation or activities in advance. If you’re there in person, you’ll be able to negotiate a better deal. Bring a reusable water bottle with a filter ¬ you’ll save on buying water and help cut down on plastic wastage.
5. Keep safe
Cambodia is very safe. Violence is pretty much unheard of, and the only thing you really need to watch for is some petty theft and scams. If you’re renting a scooter, take some photos of it first (vendors sometimes try to charge you for damage you didn’t cause). Some tuk tuk drivers will take you on a detour to a restaurant or hotel where you’re expected to spend money before they’ll take you home. Also, watch out for dodgy/fake police officers who ask to see your passport then charge you a ‘fine’ to get it back. Always make copies of your personal documents, ID and passport. Keep your friends and family in the loop on where and when you’ll be going. And finally – get travel insurance! It can get you out of all sorts of trouble if things get hairy.
6. Gear and packing list
Cambodia’s tropical climate means it’s usually hot (and often very humid). From Feb to April, the temperatures can soar to a hot-and-bothered 40°C. So pack light clothing, t-shirt, shorts, flip flops and a sun hat. It’s always a good idea to bring a light rain jacket and a warm top just in case. If you’re hiking, be sure to bring sturdy boots or walking shoes. Bring all your preferred toiletries (they’ll have some stuff there but maybe not the brands you like). Also, any chronic medication you’re on, plus a small medical aid kit.
Now that you know what a holiday in Cambodia is all about, you’re good to go!