We traveled through Cambodia just shy of a month. To be honest, it can be done in less. 2-3 weeks will be more than enough time to get your fill of the tourist spots as well as enough time to get a feel of local life here.
One thing we can say about Cambodia is just how lovely, kind and friendly the Cambodian people are. We were always met with a smile, often greeted at hostels with free water and food, waved to by local children we passed in the streets and has stories shared by welcoming restaurateurs. You really feel the pride and sense of community here and you can understand why when you learn of the horrors of their past.
Although we thoroughly enjoyed our time spent in Cambodia and will always have fond memories of our time here, we want to give an honest review of the places we visited so you can be as informed as possible when making your own Itinerary. We found some great hostels, cheap eats and fun things to do during our stay, so here is the break down of our itinerary as well as some extra places we wished we had visited!
At A Glance
Seim Reap – 5 days
Koh Rong – 5 days
Koh Rong Samloem -2 days
Sihanoukville – 3 days
Kampot – 3 days
Phnom Penh – 5 days
Siem Reap (5 days)
Siem Reap contains the biggest tourist draw to Cambodia – Angkor Wat. We have a whole blog dedicated to Angkor Wat and our adventures getting there so we wont go into detail about it on this blog but you can click HERE to find all the information you need about this UNESCO World heritage site. We will just say that this is 100% a must if you are visiting Cambodia.
We spend 5 days in Siem Reap, a little too long in our opinion – especially if, as we did, you decide to do a 1 day tour of Angkor only. We think 3 days in Seim Reap will be more than enough time to cover everything.
Saying that, Siem Reap was our favourite place in Cambodia. Even though it is the 2nd biggest city in the country, it really feels more like a town. All the big places are easy to walk too and prices are reasonable.
It is definitely the city most set up for tourists with a fantastic night market where you can have your fill of elephant pants as well as a ‘strip’ of pubs known rather imaginatively as ‘Pub Street’. Drinks are very cheap – most pubs offering $0.75 beer and $1.5-$2 cocktails.
There are also a plethora of tours set up to neighboring villages, the floating markets and Angkor Wat itself.
Where we stayed
Mekong Hostel – This hostel had everything you would want – A pool, good deals on drinks and the all important Air Conditioning! Our 8 person shared dorm room was $2.50 a night and well worth the money!
Try Me Restaurant – With a western looking interior, this restaurant draws mostly tourist but is still reasonably priced and has one of the best Lok Lak’s we had in Cambodia (Sort of like a tomato gravy with beef) Prices start at $3.
My Little Café – Large Portions and Very Cheap – Try the Fried Rice with Shrimp Paste and Khmer Amok Red Curry ($2-3)
Bong Srey Mith Laor Restaurant – Not much to look at from the outside but good food and one of the cheapest we found! Its also very good for breakfast ($1-$3)
Things to Do
Angkor Wat – UNESCO World Heritage site located 6km outside Siem Reap
1 day – $37 (If you buy after 5pm the day before you can access the site that day and the following day)
3 days – $62
7 days – $72
Floating Village Tour – Half a day starting at $29 (We didn’t do this as it was not in our budget but we have heard good things)
Apsara Dance Show – A Traditional Khmer Dance show – You can pay to see it for around $17 which will include a meal or alternatively, go Temple Bar on Pub Street which have FREE dance shows every night starting at 7:30pm! All you have to do is buy a drink!
Night Markets – The night markets are fun, vibrant and packed full of elephant pants, crafts and souvenirs which you can haggle to a reasonable price (We’ve learned Cambodians are not the best hagglers! Stand firm on your offer and they will accept pretty easily).
Koh Rong (5 days)
Koh Rong is one of those places were the novelty of the beautiful (lets not mistake, it is stunning!) beach wears off very quickly.
We overstayed massively here! Definitely only worth 2-3 days max!
Koh Rong is basically a more exotic Magaluf (for those international readers, Magaluf is a town in Spain that, during the summer season is overtaken by 18 year old Brits on their first holiday without their parents who get smashed every night and listen to top 40 and EDM…). Run by people who describe themselves as ‘vagabonds’, but are only really interested heavy daytime drinking and selling their rubbish overpriced t-shirts. Don’t get us wrong, the place is stunning! But it gets very tedious very quickly. Our advice is to leave on a high and get out before you, like the ‘vagabonds’ turn to the daytime drink because its literally the only think to do there.
Where We Stayed
Bongs – $8 (Private Double Room). The room was extremely basic, think a wooden shack with a tin roof, the ‘shower’ (a shower head in a toilet) didn’t work and the roof leaked. Saying that, the hostel provides a free breakfast (worth $2 off the menu), free water refills and ‘happy hour’ all day for its guests, which is actually a great deal. Furthermore, Bongs explicitly references its bare bones living ethos in the bio of its HostelWorld page so you really should know exactly what you’re signing up for when you book with them. All in all, we couldn’t really complain, we had a really nice stay here, perhaps the lack of shower was taking the piss a little though.
Sigi’s – The best Thai food we’ve ever had and we weren’t even in Thailand! Run by a lovely, witty, master of a chef… presumably called Sigi. Plus, if you’re lucky you may even get a karaoke concert by the locals who live next door! Highlight – Drunken Noodles ($3-5)
Things To Do
Boat tour – $10 – All the boat tours advertised on the island are the exact same thing – We went with 3 Brothers but you could choose any to be honest. This tour is half a day of snorkeling, fishing and visiting other beaches on the island, food is included and a bonus is eating the fish you caught! The grand finale includes swimming with the fluorescent plankton that surround the island. It was pretty spectacular and this is definitely a highlight! You also get 2 free beers and a share of a bottle of whisky with you shipmates, this is a pretty great deal but as the alcohol flows pretty freely don’t be surprised when the boat crew get as smashed as you do so just be prepared for an extremely loose interpretation of health and safely (by loose we mean absolutely non-existent) especially if you have bad weather as we did.
Chill on the beach – Pretty self explanatory – Koh Rong has a number of beaches, but apart from the one on the main dock, these beaches can only be accessed through a pretty intense trek through the jungle or a boat taxi. Taxi prices are highly negotiable.
Drink – This is pretty much the biggest thing to do on the island. The main town is just a row of hostels with bars selling cheap but not that cheap alcohol. After the first day, you’ll spend most of your time in one of these. They are all pretty much the same, same drinks deals, same mid-twenties bar staff with edgy haircuts, so just close your eyes and pick one.
Richie Richs Pub Crawl – At some point during your stay you will run into the infamous Richie Rich, a charismatic, skinny American man who will try to sell you the ‘Best Pub Crawl in Cambodia’….as the entire island consists of approximately 250 metres worth of pubs, this didn’t really give us much hope for the rest of the nightlife in the Cambodia! Run every Tuesday and Friday with prices starting from $5 (advance) which includes a free t-shirt, you get to spend the night in the same bars you have done every night since you got there but now fashioning an oversized, sleeveless Tee….
However, you will go on it because there is literally nothing else to do….
Koh Rong Samloem (2 days)
Advertised as everything Koh Rong used to be, we headed over to this neighboring island with the hope of a more beautiful, untouched island. It was not.
Our hostel was located in M’pai Bay, basically a building site come rubbish dump, filled with the same type of hostels as on Koh Rong just less..finished.
We never went to the other side of the island but we would advise you to do this as we have been told that that part of the island is much cleaner and sports the same white sandy beaches as on Koh Rong.
Another thing to note is that not one hostel/bar we went to had change, meaning we either had to spend the exact amount of money we had (usually $5-$10) which we weren’t prepared to do, or just not spend any money. This meant it was hugely difficult to buy any food or drink without having to massively overspend. Furthermore, Wifi is not existent and by sundown there is, again, nothing to do. We ended up going to bed around 7:00/7:30pm every night.
This is just our experience and we learned that we are not the type of people to lay on a beach all day or just mill around drinking. If this is something that appeals to you then go to Koh Rong at least there you will have the beautiful beaches and the overpriced Vegan hostels wont be causing so much destruction to the beautiful environment they say they want to protect.
Where We Stayed
Old Souls – $4 – Very basic shack built out of recycled metal and wood from the beach. We had a great stay here. The owner/builder Stefan and his girlfriend Sara were a lovely, chill couple we genuinely seemed to care about the island.
Sihanoukville (3 Days)
Sihanoukville is an odd place and somewhere we wouldn’t really recommend to spend a lot of time. Our advice is to just use it as a pit stop to the islands. Culturally there is nothing to see here, the entire town is amass with huge casinos and is really rather seedy. It has some pretty beaches but nothing as beautiful as Koh Rong. However, we had a pleasant enough time here and it was a good reintroduction into civilization after the relative isolation of the islands.
Where We Stayed
Mad Monkey – $8 for a private room (2 people) / $4 for a dorm. There are a number of mad monkey hostels dotted around Cambodia. In our opinion they are clean, well run and a safe option. The Mad Monkey hostel in Sihanoukville is the original and as it is run by Brits has a plethora of English treats like bacon butties, Heinz ketchup, proper tea and a good old English breakfast which was an absolute treat for us Englishman after a few months without these luxuries. The hostel also has a pool and a very good transport service from which we organized our minibus to Kampot ($5 each).
Delicious – This was one of the best experiences we had during our stay, the food it decent but the real treat was Mr Delicious himself! The owner, Sothear, is a lovely, somewhat eccentric gentleman who will delight you with a few hours of stories about his incredible life from his time as a smuggler in the war, to his time in a Thai Refugee camp and even his stance on life and death! Definitely an evening well spent.
BBQ -The town is famous for its Khmer BBQ. We recommend trying the local favourite, Barracuda. It’s around $3 in almost all restaurants. The best place to get BBQ is Ochheuteal Street, it’s basically a street full of BBQ restaurants with essentially the same menu so its your pick!
Kampot (3 days)
Kampot is a beautiful old French Colonial Town with many buildings dating from that period. This was one of the highlights of our time in Cambodia. We only spent 3 days here but we could have easily spent more! The town itself is packed full of quant restaurants and bars, friendly locals and is much less touristy than anywhere we had stayed before.
The town of Kampot is famous for its pepper plantations, salt fields and the Praek Tuek Chhu river that runs alongside it. Kampot is a short distance (8km) from the Peah Monivong Bokor National Park, of which the Bokor Hill Station is the main attraction, an old abandoned hotel that was built by the French in the 1920s which now stands eerily amongst the clouds, 1080m above sea level.
Where We Stayed
Mad Monkey – $8 private double room / $4 Dorm – The same sort of deal with Sihanoukville although sadly the English treats did not make it up to Kampot L
The Night Market – This night market is just off the main roundabout and is your typical market full of cheap knock-off clothes, its not really anything special. However, it does hold a number of cheap food stalls which range from meals costing $1-3. The food isn’t anything special but will do the trick if you are on a tight budget.
$1 Restaurant – We aren’t sure what this is called and is essentially a food shack on the roadside but everything here is $1, portions are large and you get an accompanying broth with your meal! Its amazing value for money and is actually pretty tasty. It is near Nelly’s Bar and a restaurant called Ciao and is the by far the cheapest food we found in Kampot!
Magic Sponge – This is a hostel/restaurant and is located right next door to the Mad Monkey. It does some great deals that change daily which are advertised on boards outside the entrance. It also does a $1 breakfast deal every day which consists of an egg (scrambled/fried/boiled etc) and a coffee. Again, a great deal if you’re on a budget!
Things To Do
Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple ($1)- Located around 8km from Kampot, this is one of the most ancient Hindu Temples in Cambodia, predating even Angkor Wat. To get there, we rented at Motorcycle for $4 per day (+$2 for petrol). We rented from a company opposite our hostel, but there are places to rent all around Kampot and all seem to be around the same price.
We definitely think this is worth a see, the journey to get there is just as much a part of the experience as the cave temple itself, especially if you veer off the highway and use the local roads like we did, you really get to experience the Cambodian countryside and are often greeted with a smile and wave by the locals as you ride by. Be aware, once you get to the temple there will be a number of local children offering to be guides, they will be persistent and follow you into the cave. You wont need a guide, the cave is small and it will only take around 10/15 minutes to get your fill of the temple. Paying for the services of the children will only discourage them from going to school. We advise you to keep kindly declining their request of a guide as they can be quite insistent.
Bokor National Park + Firefly River Cruise (Mr Bison Tours $13 per person, $1 entrance to the Waterfall not included) – There are loads and loads of tours running to Bokor National Park so choose the one best for you. We chose Mr Bison tours for $13. The ‘tour’ consisted of a few hours visiting the main landmarks of the Park including the famous Bokor Hill Station and has a lunch provided. You’ll notice the inverted commas we’ve used as this tour was pretty much an insane high-speed minibus ride scaling the winding road up the near 1000m ascent to the top of the park! So if you get any type of motion sickness be prepared for a rather unpleasant journey! Furthermore, the ‘tour guide’ is pretty much the driver giving you a ten second, sketchy explanation of each site before letting you out to explore while he relaxes in the minibus to watch his Cambodian soap operas.
(A word of advice… DO NOT SIT AT THE BACK! The road out of Kampot is incredibly bumpy and you will be questioning the structural integrity of your spine by the end)
The tour also included a 2 hour sunset boat ride to see the fireflies that populate the riverside trees, unfortunately our tour was hampered by a heavy rainstorm but we got to see a few fireflies nonetheless.
All in all, this tour was pretty good value for money (especially as the sunset boat ride was $6 by itself) and the quality of tour guide was pretty much what we expected for the amount we paid.
Phnom Penh (5 days)
We spent 5 days here. You definitely wont need this long, 2-3 days max is all you need. The Capital City is busy, chaotic and a far cry from the sleepy towns that we had become accustomed to during our time in Cambodia. We came to Phnom Penh to get our Visas for Vietnam and to visit the Killing Fields and the S-21 Prison Museum. Once we had done this, there really wasn’t much else to do here. Our advice is get in and get out as fast as possible!
Where We Stayed
8Eight Hostel – $5 (Dorm) – This hostel was slightly more expensive than we normally pay but the beds were huge, it came with an excellent free all-you-can-eat breakfast which included omelets, fried rice, noodles, fruit, tea and coffee. It also had a pool which was a big bonus and the staff were incredibly friendly and very helpful. We also sorted out our Visas through the hostel, it cost $45 and took 1 day to process. When we priced up doing it ourselves including transport to and from the embassy, this option actually worked out the cheapest. The hostel also has a tuk tuk share sheet at the reception with how much it costs to go to your destination, we found this very helpful when organizing to go the Killing Field and S-21.
The Night Market has multiple food stalls, all pretty much selling the same this, all around $1.50 a meal. If you get a chance, try the Coconut Ice-cream from any one of the ice-cream stalls at the night market it costs $1.25, come in a coconut and you get a cup of coconut water as well!
Things To Do
Killing Fields and S-21 Museum ($6 and $5 respectively) – We organized a tuk tuk for the day for $18 (split between 4 people) to take us to both sites. This was a brutally honest and harrowing experience as both sites do not shy away from the horrors of the war. However, we urge you to visit.
What We Would Have Done
Battambang – Another Colonial Town located to the west of Seim Reap. This town is known for its Rice production. We have heard good things about the Rice field tours and Rice wine tasting! Buses run regularly from Seim Reap (approx. $8)
Kep – A Costal Town in Southern Cambodia close to Kampot which is known for fantastic seafood and butterfly-filled National Park.
Seim Reap 3-4 days
Battambang 2 days
Koh Rong – 3 days
Sihanoukville 2 days
Kampot 3-4 day
Kep 2 days
Phnom Phenh 2-3 days
Total 17-20 days