After 1 month in Cambodia, we detail all our figures to help you prepare your travel budget for a stay in Cambodia, but we also give you our review of this trip.
Backpacking Cambodia: our complete travel guide for a perfect trip!
Cambodia is an essential destination for any backpacking trip to Southeast Asia. Who hasn't dreamed of visiting the temples of Angkor? We've spent just over 3 weeks there, and we've put together an overview of everything you need to know to prepare for your visit to Cambodia and make sure you don't miss a thing!
- Map of Cambodia
- The best time to visit Cambodia
- Cambodia: the 3-week itinerary
- Choose a Cambodia tour package
- How to get to Cambodia
- Backpacking budget in Cambodia
- Accommodation in Cambodia
- Do you need a visa to travel to Cambodia?
- Cambodia and COVID-19
- Which vaccines do you need to travel to Cambodia?
- Driving in Cambodia
- Transportation in Cambodia
- The basic Khmer words for visiting Cambodia
- Holidays and festivals to celebrate in Cambodia
- Food in Cambodia
- Wi-Fi and Internet in Cambodia
- Our blog articles about Cambodia
Map of Cambodia
Cambodia is often reduced to the city of Angkor, but this country is full of gems in terms of landscapes and gastronomy.
Here's the map with all our articles about our 3-week backpacking trip to Cambodia:
When to visit Cambodia
Like its Southeast Asian neighbors, Cambodia has 2 seasons: dry and wet. The best time to visit Cambodia is from early November to late March, during the dry season. Although we traveled across the country in December, at the height of the high season, we were still relatively quiet (except in Siem Reap to visit Angkor).
Itinerary: what to do in Cambodia in a 3-week backpacking trip?
Our backpacking trip took just over 3 weeks across Cambodia. We left Thailand and headed straight for Siem Reap, starting with a visit to the mythical temples of Angkor! We then explored the south of the country before continuing our trip around the world in Vietnam (and celebrating New Year's Eve in good company!).
Here's the itinerary we recommend if you want to visit Cambodia in 3 weeks. The order of stages depends on whether you land in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, or if you're on a round-the-world trip and cross one of Cambodia's land borders.
- 4 days in Siem Reap to visit Angkor: our journey began with the visit to the magnificent temples of Angkor. Particularly noteworthy are the temples of Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat! The visit with the 3-day pass is quite intense, but you can take a day off to make the most of the incredible beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site. In short, Angkor is a must-see on your trip to Cambodia!
- 3 days in Banteay Chhmar: after the tourist hustle and bustle of Siem Reap, enjoy the peace of north-west Cambodia in the village of Banteay Chhmar, where eco-tourism is legion.
- 2 days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital: apart from a visit to the horrifying but necessary Tuol Sleng (S-21) genocide museum and Choeung Ek killing fields further south, and a Cambodian cooking class (if you haven't taken one elsewhere), 2 days is enough to visit Phnom Penh. Otherwise, we don't remember much about the capital, a big city like many others. A little oppressed by the incessant solicitations of tuk-tuks, mototaxis and souvenir sellers of all kinds, we decided to flee it fairly quickly and head for the south of the country. Depending on your itinerary, you may stop here often (many buses and minibusses pass through Phnom Penh before heading off in the opposite direction).
- 5 days in the Cardamom Mountains and on the island of Koh Kong: if you're looking to get off the beaten track, go for the Cardamoms! Southeast Asia's lung has many surprises in store for you #teasing. The island of Koh Kong and the far southwestern region of the country are perfect places to relax. Trek, jungle, beach and eco-tourism!
- 2 days on Cambodia's southern islands: love paradise beaches and idleness? The other islands bordering the south of Cambodia should appeal to you. Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem and Koh Ta Tiev: 3 islands for 3 different atmospheres. It's up to you to decide whether you want to do Koh Kong on the edge of the Cardamoms and/or one of these islands. In any case, we recommend that you enjoy the beaches of the south for a few days during your backpacking trip to Cambodia!
- 3 days in Kampot and Kep, in the south-east: not a historical must-see, but a gastronomic must-see! Known for its world-renowned pepper, Kampot is a pretty little town with a certain joie de vivre. From here, you can explore a pepper plantation, visit Kep in 1 day and enjoy a delicious green pepper crab after discovering the crab market!
Would you like to travel to Cambodia for 1 month? If so, you can add to the above itinerary:
- 2 days in Kratie and Kampong Cham: explore the banks of the Mekong on foot or by bike from these 2 towns. Be sure to visit a silk-weaving workshop, the island of Koh Trong and the huge bamboo bridge leading to the island of Koh Pen! You may also be lucky enough to see Irrawaddy dolphins.
- 3 days in Mondolkiri and Ratanakiri: these 2 provinces in north-east Cambodia are the most remote in the country. Between the towns of Saen Monourom and Banlung, set off on a trek, chasing waterfalls (Kachanh, Katieng and Bousra), bathing in the Yeak Lom crater lake in a rolling environment. You'll also meet the ethnic mountain people who are developing eco-tourism in the region.
Choose a Cambodia tour package
For a more serene and relaxed vacation experience in Cambodia, we recommend the tours offered by the Evaneos website. This travel agency specializes in tailor-made trips to Cambodia, created in collaboration with local agencies! They offer a wide range of tours that are organized with a guide at your side, as well as "freedom" formulas. You manage the program while they take care of transport and accommodation, and you enjoy the wonders of Cambodia without worrying about logistics! Not bad, eh?
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How to get to Cambodia
To get to Cambodia by plane, you have 2 choices: land in the capital Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Cambodia's third international airport, in Sihanoukville, may be an option, but flights in and out are more expensive than at the other two.
Please note that there are currently no direct flights to Cambodia from Europe, whichever airport you choose! Stopovers are often in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, or Singapore. On the other hand, if you're already in Southeast Asia, you'll easily find flights to Cambodia. Here's a tip: fly to Bangkok from Europe (you'll easily find flights costing around 600 euros for a round trip), then Bangkok-Siem Reap or Bangkok-Phnom Penh (around 40 euros one way), depending on your itinerary. Alternatively, you can fly via Bangkok, land in Siem Reap, tour Cambodia and then fly from Phnom Penh back to Bangkok and take another direct flight.
Note: several airports are under construction in Cambodia, including one due to open in Siem Reap, 50 km east of the city. It remains to be seen whether this will revive the tourism industry, which has been damaged by COVID and the competition, as explained here.
If you're already in Southeast Asia and want to cross the land border, we warn you about the many scams, especially at Poipet between Thailand and Cambodia and at Nong Nok Khiene, the Lao-Cambodian border. The most common is the $2 for the stamp on the passport (outright bribery) and the unnecessary medical check-up (temperature check). At least you know ;)!
Backpacking budget in Cambodia
Today, Cambodia remains a cheap country in which to backpack, despite price rises for activities (Angkor in particular) in recent years. In short, a backpacking trip to Cambodia on a budget is still possible!
So, Cambodia's currency is the riel and its current rate is 1 euro = 4500 riels. Check the current rate here before you leave. But you may not see a single coin or banknote of Cambodia's national currency! Here, everything is paid in US dollars, as are withdrawals. Make sure your bills are always intact, i.e. not torn, folded or stained. Otherwise, they may be refused in shops or on public transport. As a reminder, 1 euro = 1 US dollar.
To give you an idea, here's what we spent on average each day during our trip to Cambodia.
That's a total budget of around €19 per person per day.
For more details, we invite you to read our article which details the budget for 1 month of backpacking in Cambodia and gives you our opinion on our trip (spoiler alert: we have mixed feelings).
Accommodation in Cambodia
As mentioned above, we backpacked around Cambodia during the high season, and to be honest, accommodation (hotels and guesthouses) was pretty empty... Except in Siem Reap, but that would certainly be the case today, given the significant drop in visitors to the Angkor temples. All this to say that we booked very little accommodation in advance of our visit.
If you prefer to plan your trip to Cambodia from A to Z, we suggest you compare accommodation prices on the map below. You'll find all available apartments, hotels and guesthouses. Enter your dates and adjust the filters (accommodation type, price and ratings) to refine the results:
Do you need a visa to travel to Cambodia?
To visit Cambodia, you need a tourist visa (T visa), which you can obtain by e-visa (strongly recommended), visa on arrival, or classic visa.
The T visa is valid for 3 months but only authorizes you to stay in Cambodia for a maximum of 30 days. To extend it for a further 30 days (you are only entitled to one extension), you need to go to the immigration office opposite Phnom Penh International Airport. This will cost you $45.
Normally, an exit ticket (before your visa expires) or a reservation in another country is required to obtain your T visa, whatever it may be. However, checks are rare...
Please note: if you overstay your T visa, you will be fined $10 for each day you overstay. After 30 days, you will have to leave Cambodia within 7 days, in addition to paying the fine...
The e-visa for Cambodia
We strongly recommend that you opt for an e-visa, especially if you're entering the country across the land border, to avoid all the scams we mentioned earlier. In short, with an e-visa, you can rest easy whatever happens. The only address where you can apply is the government one, the others are agencies that will charge you a fairly substantial fee...
The e-visa for Cambodia costs $36 and takes 3 working days to obtain. See all e-visa border crossings here.
Visa on arrival in Cambodia
This visa is obtained on arrival in Cambodia, either at the airport or at the border. It costs $30, but you'll probably need to slip in a small bill to get your stamp. Be aware that you have the right to refuse. It will take a little longer (15 min), but the customs officers will eventually stamp your passport.
The classic visa to visit Cambodia
The last option for obtaining a visa for Cambodia is to apply at the Cambodian embassy in your country. It's not the most convenient way, but you know it's possible. The visa costs around €35 and can be applied for locally or by post.
Cambodia and COVID-19
All measures relating to COVID-19 have been lifted in Cambodia since March 2022. For an update on these measures, please consult the US Embassy in Cambodia website.
Which vaccines do you need to travel to Cambodia?
Like most other Southeast Asian countries, no vaccinations are required for travel to Cambodia. However, certain vaccines are recommended:
- Hepatitis A and B;
- Japanese encephalitis;
Find all the information you need about vaccines for travel to Cambodia on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Driving in Cambodia
In Cambodia, you drive on the right-hand side of the road, but if you've ever driven in Southeast Asia, you'll know that Eastern traffic rules are not quite the same as Western ones! Cambodian roads are not all asphalted, they have many potholes and you need to be particularly vigilant, whether in town or on small roads/tracks. In short, Cambodians are so unpredictable behind the wheel that you really have to be careful!
If you intend to rent a two-wheeler in Cambodia, you must have an international driving license, with A1 marked. The deadline for obtaining it is at least 6 months before departure, so make sure you apply in good time, especially if you're going on a round-the-world trip! We refer you to this article for the best equipment for two-wheelers in Asia.
Please note: make sure your travel insurance covers you for scooter and motorcycle riding! If you don't have a motorcycle license, your insurance may refuse to cover you in the event of a problem.
How to get around Cambodia
In Cambodia, you'll easily find a bus, minibus or minivan to take you wherever you want to go. But be warned, the roads are pretty rough! The country has good rail links, and train journeys are often more comfortable than bus journeys. To book your bus tickets, we recommend 12go and CamboTicket. For train tickets, there's only one website to choose: that of Cambodia's railway company, Royal Railway.
To get around town, you can either use your legs, rent a bike or motorbike, or hire a tuk-tuk (or rather, they'll come to you). When faced with a tuk-tuk driver, always negotiate! Today, there's an app called PassApp that saves you from having to show off your negotiating skills to book a tuk-tuk. In short, it's the Uber of tuk-tuks! The result: prices are fixed and not over-inflated, and you don't have to fight to get a reasonable price.
Another handy transportation app is Grab, which also works in other Southeast Asian countries. Grab connects you with taxi drivers for short and long-distance trips. Here too, prices are fixed.
The basic Khmer words for visiting Cambodia
Khmer, or Cambodian, is the official language of Cambodia. Largely influenced by Sanskrit, Khmer has several regional dialects. The language is not easy to learn for Westerners, but having a few notions on arrival in the country always makes a good impression ;). We've listed a few Khmer vocabulary words that might come in handy during your backpacking trip!
|How much is it?
|Bat for men, Chaa for women/Te
|My name is...
|I would like...
Holidays and festivals to celebrate in Cambodia
In Cambodia, many religious and historical festivals and celebrations take place throughout the year. Here are the main celebrations you won't want to miss during your stay!
- February: in and around Siem Reap, a giant puppet parade is held in conjunction with orphanages and local organizations.
- April: Chaul Chhnam or Khmer New Year is THE Khmer festival not to be missed if you're visiting Cambodia during this period. Lasting 3 days, this celebration is an opportunity for Cambodians to get together as a family, make offerings in the pagodas and play traditional games in the streets. Beware: the temples will be much busier than usual!
- May: the festival of the Sacred Furrow or Royal Plowing Ceremony (Chat Prea Angkal) celebrates the arrival of the first rains and the first sowings. To inaugurate this new plowing season, the royal family and their representatives lead the festivities in front of Phnom Penh's National Museum. Rituals are performed to predict good harvests and any bad weather that may affect crops.
- September/October: this time of year is marked by Pchum Ben, the ancestors' festival, the equivalent of the Western feast of the dead (All Saints' Day). Families make offerings in temples (the custom is to visit 7 temples) and to elders.
- October/November: Bon Om Touk or Water Festival takes place at the time of the full moon and lasts 3 days. It marks the change in the direction of the Tonle Sep River current. After the rainy season and the Mekong's supply of fish, the water level rises and flows back into the Tonle Sep Lake. It's one of the most important festivals in Cambodia, and Phnom Penh in particular is where it really comes into its own, with boat races and parades.
Food in Cambodia
Even though our trip to Cambodia left us with a bitter taste, we have to admit that Cambodian cuisine is simply succulent! Largely influenced by India, China and Vietnam, Cambodian food is a delicious blend of flavors that you'll find in restaurants, but also in the street food so dear to Asian culture!
We took a Cambodian cooking class in Phnom Penh, and really recommend it if you're visiting the capital city or Siem Reap. A guaranteed delight!
Here are the essential dishes of Cambodian cuisine that you must try at least once during your stay in Cambodia:
- kroeung: this aromatic paste is widely used in Khmer dishes (simmered or not). To prepare it, you need a mortar, a pestle, a lot of patience and some biceps! Ingredients include chili, garlic, fresh turmeric, lemongrass, lime, peanuts, shallots, pepper and a little salt. The mixture is mashed to a compact paste.
- prahok: this fermented, salted fish paste is one of the basic ingredients of Khmer cuisine. In itself, it's not very appetizing, especially for the smell it gives off, but I promise you, it's perfect for making soups or even amok!
- fish amok: this is probably THE most typical Cambodian dish. The original recipe uses freshwater fish, but there are many variations, including chicken and vegetables. The special feature of this curry is that it is steamed in banana leaves!
- Kampot pepper: Cambodia's southern region is world-famous for its Kampot pepper. And it's delicious, to say the least! It can be eaten in grains (black, red, or white), dried and ground, but also fresh (where it's much less strong than after drying). That's right! Fresh bunches of pepper add extra flavor to any dish. But be warned: real Kampot pepper is very expensive, up to $100 a kilo for white pepper! On the market, you'll find pepper for less, but it's often imported from Vietnam or other parts of Cambodia and packaged as Kampot pepper... Today, Kampot pepper is one of the only peppers to have a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), a guarantee of quality and authenticity.
- kdam chha mrich kchei or crab with Kampot pepper: the name says all about this absolutely irresistible dish from the town of Kep, near Kampot. And when it's eaten on a seafront terrace in Kep, facing the sunset, it's even tastier! Believe us, we've tested it for you! ;)
- beef lok lak: this traditional Cambodian dish consists of marinated beef served with rice and a fried egg on top. A hearty dish!
- banana leaf salad: to prepare this dish, we take a banana flower (which, by the way, looks nothing like a flower, but more like a long stem) and cut it into very thin strips. Then mix the desired ingredients in a mortar and pestle! In terms of ingredients, we used lime, Thai basil, peanuts, fresh mint and chicken. A great salad, quick and fresh for summer!
- Angkor beer: beer is a very common drink in Cambodia. Naturally, we went out of our way to try them all. Angkor is the most common and offers the best value for money, especially when served on draught. Count on less than $1 for 3 dl.
- Khmer coffee: when you think of coffee, you don't immediately think of Cambodia, granted. Nonetheless, we've tasted some pretty good coffee around here! Khmer coffee is a very strong black coffee with a chocolaty aftertaste. It's usually served iced with lots and lots of sugar. And if you like your coffee with milk, it's usually condensed milk! In short, a lot of caffeine and a lot of sugar to get the day off to a good start!
Wi-Fi and Internet in Cambodia
Wi-Fi is available in all tourist establishments: hotels, cafés, restaurants...However, you can opt for a prepaid SIM card to have an Internet connection at all times in Cambodia. You can buy them just about anywhere: at the airport on arrival or in small supermarkets. For 4 GB, you'll pay something like $5. The main suppliers are Smartfone, Smart and Cellcard.
As for the time difference, Cambodia is 5 hours ahead of France.