Ricefields, white beaches and historical temples – this is Cambodia! And so much more… you can swim in waterfalls, ride an elephant through Angkor Wat area or discover the hippie backpacker paradise Koh Rong. But what is the most impressive next to all the beautiful places to go: the terrible past of this country in the Khmer Rouge time where three million people got killed with no reason.
I did a voluntary service in Siem Reap for one month at a NGO called Bamboo Shoots (Facebook page and German website). They support the education of children by running three preschools, one library in the rural areas and many more education programmes. More about my time as a volunteer you can see in my VLOG (videoblogs) if you scroll down or on my page “VOLUNTEERING” (available in German here). All my travel tips I collected in my time in Cambodia you can read here.
MY FOUR BEST PLACES
- When to go: November to May in dry season, best months are December to February because it is not that hot and not rainy for sure. June to October is rainy season.
- Visa: tourist visa on arrival costs $30, you don´t need to apply before but don´t pay more than $30, sometimes the officers say $35… corruption is a widespread problem.
- Getting there: cheap flights with AirAsia available from Bangkok, Phuket, Saigon, Hanoi and more to Phnom Phen, Siem Reap and even Sihanoukville. Bus available from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Battambang or further (about 10h because of border crossing, about $12) or from Saigon or Chau Doc to Phnom Phen (about $8-16 for 6h), train from Bangkok available to border at Poi Pet and then take local bus to Siem Reap, no trains inside Cambodia
- Money: Weird fact is that you pay in AMERICAN DOLLARS as a tourist. That is the only currency you can withdrawal from the ATMs with $6 fee (also for DKB Visa Card)- the smaller amount under one dollar are given in the local currency “Riel” (4000 Riel = $1), only on the local markets the payment in Riel is better but at touristic night markets you get offers in Dollar. The tours and entrance fees in Cambodia are really expensive in opposite to Vietnam or Thailand, maybe it is because it is not as touristic as the other two countries yet but Angkor Wat for $37 or National Park with waterfall for $20 are remarkable in your travel budget. Therefore the hostels are very cheap, $3 per night in Phnom Phen or Sihanoukville is convenient. Also with shopping Cambodia is with some things the cheapest option, shirts for $1 or elephant bags for $4). But also here you always need to bargain, especially at the night markets but it is not as bad as in Vietnam.
WHERE TO GO
- Phnom Phen: Cambodia’s capital with night markets and the King’s Palace. In contrast to this, the killing fields and the S21 Museum (Tuol Sleng Prison) where parts of the cruel history of the country while the terror regime KHMER ROUGE under Pol Pot happened – 2 nights recommended
- Sihanoukville / Koh Rong: Backpackers beach spot in the south with beautiful islands around – Koh Rong for more action and backpacker life & Koh Rong Sanloem for more relaxing and tranquility: on boths you can find amazing white beaches and green nature! – at least 2 nights if you stay in Sihanoukville, more days if you go to the islands because of ferry transfer and distance of 5h bus ride to Phnom Phen
- Siem Reap: vibrant city with many markets and party mile “Pub Street”, knows for its laid-back backpacker plair with many cheap hostels and pools and of course for the famous Angkor Wat Temple – located 4 km from city center you can go by bike, by motorbike, by tuk tuk or with an organised tour (in this order from cheap $2 to expensive $13/$20). Entrance fee is increased from 1st of Febuary 2017: for a 1-day-ticket $37, 3-day-ticket: $62. Near Siem Reap, 50 km out of the city, you can find the Koulen National Park with an awesome waterfall to swim in and old temple ruins hidden in the water ($20 entrance fee + transprt, tours offered at the hostels for $35) – 3 nights recommended
- Battambang: small touristic city with famous Bamboo Train built by the French and going through countryside for $5, Banan temple on a mountain, the Killing Cave near Phnom Sampov Temple Mountain and 6 million bats flying out of the cave next to the entrance, not much night life but you can take a boat to Siem Reap – 1 or 2 nights depending on your arrival and departure times