holiday in Cambodia?
The jungle scattered and sublime Khmer temples of Angkor are indisputably one of the world's greatest ancient attractions, but note that Angkor Wat is just one of many Angkor area temples!
Apart from temples you should also visit the French-built capital,
Phnom Penh, for fine food and museums; Sihanoukville for
sun and sand; Banlung for nature and ethnic people.
Generally people - even the infamous motorbikers - are charming
and friendly while local cuisine is superb and good value and a cool Angkor beer is divine!
• There is some street crime and banditry around.
• Cambodia is the world's most land mined country with around 5
million mines and a half million tons of UXOs (unexploded ordnance)
around the countryside and remains one of highest for the number of landmine related casualties. Thanks to both international (such as MAG) and domestic organizations' de-mining
efforts, the numbers of casualty decreased, also the Angkor area and the central Phnom Penh have already been cleared, but always seek a local guide going off for a walk or crossing the border and never
stray off paths.
November - February.
With its tropical climate, Vietnam has four seasons: the hot and cool rainy season and the hot and cool dry season. The best time to visit is cool and dry months between November and February benefitting from pleasant dry heat and the vegetation is still verdant just after the rainy reason. The most uncomforable time to be is June to August, hot, wet and humid. Though going there in the wet season aka 'green season' which is a low tourist season, is not a bad idea especially in September and October with comparatively less heat, less crowds and lower prices. This is the time when the beauty of Angkor is at its best surrounded by lush greenery.
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: Phnom Penh 2 days; Siem
Reap (Angkor) 2-3 days; total 5 days
Recommended: 2 weeks, Phnom Penh - Siem Reap (Angkor, Tonlé Sap
Lake) - Sihanoukville, or other towns.
**Phnom Penh. Most tourists visit Cambodia for Angkor, but this
bustling capital is well worth a couple of days or more. It has
some impressive sights, an interesting street life and the riverfront
is laid back with trendy shops, restaurants and cafes (photos).
Main Phnom Penh prime sights
• The Royal Palace. The residence of King Sihanouk contains a magnificent sight, the Silver Pagoda (Wat Preah Keo) and its gold and jeweled Buddha statues, especially the two most outstanding, a 17th century crystal 'Emerald Buddha' and the gold Maitreya Buddha covered by over 9500 diamonds.
• Tuol Sleng Museum, the former high school turned prison for the
Khmer Rouge victims, more than 14,000 met their death there.
• Wat Phnom, a hilltop pagoda, was the origin of the city and
is one of the most important spiritual places in the country.
• The National Museum of Arts, an imposing Khmer style building in
red brick built by French shows extensive Angkorian crafts (picture
• The Central Market (also known as New Market) and the Russian Market
(Psah Toul Tom Poung) are worth visiting.
• The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek Memorial), 17 km from the city centre were the final destination for
the Khmer Rouge victims.
**Siem Reap: An ideal base for the country's prime attraction, Angkor Archaeological Park, which is situated just 6 km north of the town. Siem Reap is developing fast and becoming one of the most popular destinations in the world. It offers an excellent choice of accommodation, from a few dollars budget hostels to a thousands dollars a night lavish spa resorts, as well varied and interesting dining options.
***Angkor Archaeological Park, a world heritage-status complex of ancient temples. Note that Angkor Wat, one of world's largest religious sites, is just one of many Angkor temples. See Angkor
Guide | Angkor Pictures
**Koh Ker, thanks to recent de-mining and a new road, the once remote, inaccessible temple complex of 42 stractures, is becoming an essencial outing from Angkor. The star monument is Prasat Thom, a 40 m high, Mayan pyramid looking temple. It is located 100 km northeast of Angkor, 2-3 hours by car from Siem Reap. It worth spending a night even though a day-trip is doable.
**Kratie is known for its spectacular sunsets over the Mekong River, Kratie is booming as a place for a break during an overland trip between Phnom Penh and Laos' Champasak. The star attraction here is to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong.
**Kampot is a laid-back riverside town with some fine but shabby French architecture. It offers great views across Bokor and Elephant Mountains which form Bokor National Park (also known as Preah Monivong National Park). This is mostly jungle and home to varied wildlife including endangered tigers. It's supposed to be free of land mines but stick to well-beaten paths. Bokor is easily accessed from Kep (30-60 minutes by road depending on the transport).
**Banlung, a small town
used as a base to explore Cambodia's largest national park, Virachey, that lies between Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri Provinces. The park encompasses
rainforest, mountains, lakes (particularly Yak Lom crater lake), waterfalls and ethnic mountain tribes.
** Battambang, an enchanting, laid back city,
with well-preserved colonial architecture and picturesque rustic scenery used be a hidden gem and has now graduated to popular 'off-the-beaten track' tourism.
Also there are some little-known but superb Angkorian temples out
in the countryside, including Wat Ek Phnom, Wat Banan and Phnom
Sampeau. Battambang is 45 minutes flight from Phnom Penh, or 3.5 hours by shared taxi, or 5-6 hours by bus or a 18-24 hour heroic train journey.
There is a stunning boat trip from Battambang to Siem Reap though it's rather slow, taking 5-7 hours depending on the weather and water conditions, compared to 2 hours by road.
Sihanoukville (Kampong Som).
Not quite up to neighbouring Thailand's pristine sands, these
previously uncrowded, white sandy beaches are now action packed play grounds. The town itself is not peaceful with dusty, noisy construction and too many street hustlers, but as Cambodia's premier beach destination, it is still
rewarding after temple burn-out or Khmer Rouge shock and you can go island hopping,
snorkelling and diving if the sand doesn't do it for you. (Photos).
Ream National Park also lurks nearby
for nature and wildlife activities such as jungle trekking and boat
trips with rangers.
The most popular beach in the area is Ochheuteal, with some grand hotels
and restaurants, but for tranquility head offshore to one of the many little islands. Ochheuteal is about 230km (143m) from Phnom Penh, 3.5 hours by
Kep: once upon a time the beach for upper class French and Cambodians, Kep is in the process of a make-over. Although the beach is rather narrow, Kep offers a decent selection of accommodation and the local fresh crab is the justly. The islands off Kep are worth a trip, especially Ko Tonsay, known as Rabbit Island. Kep is 173km southwest of Phnom Penh.
Koh Kong: Southwestern province with undeveloped coastline, isolated by the Cardamom Mountains with one of the largest rainforest in South East Asia.
April, Khmer New Year, 3-4 day festival with much spring cleaning
and offerings for the new year.
Early May, Bon Chroat Preah Nengkal, (the Royal Ploughing Festival),
an agrarian ritual for good harvests; takes place near the Royal
Palace in Phnom Penh.
Full Moon Day at beginning of November, Bon Om Tuk (the Water Festival),
the country's biggest and most important festival. Locals go bananas
celebrating a natural phenomenon - the reversing of the current
of Tonle Sap River- with boat races and fireworks. Nationwide but
Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are the places to be.
some precise dates, more suggestions and information see: Exotic
Apart from Angkor sightseeing, activities are still relatively limited and primitive, though Cambodian
tourism is rapidely developing and booming.
• Hiking, elephant rides with guides and boat trips
along Tonlé Sap River and Mekong River are possible at various locations.
• Snorkelling, diving, beaches and nature walks are on offer at Sihanoukville coastal town (see beaches above).
• Eco-tourism at wildlife sanctuary and nature consavation area in the Cardamom Mountains and protected forest (the second largest virgin rainforest on mainland of South East Asia) in Koh Kong province. It is home to many threatened animal species including tigers and over 100 species of endemic vegetation.
• Rare Irrawaddy dolphin watching happens at Kratie along the Mekong
Can be found easily in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or Sihanoukville.
Phnom Penh is foreigner-friendly and Siem Reap is replete with high
A wide range of fabulous Southeast Asia cuisine - with a French
twist - make eating out a great experience in the capital and Siem
Splendid seafood and plump mangoes are available from pretty fruit
sellers at beaches in Sihanoukville.
Take $ cash. No need to change money and you'll pay much the
same as paying with the local currency (Riel).
Thai baht are also accepted.
Travellers cheques can be a problem outside tourist areas.
Credit cards can be used in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville
and Battambang, but with an extra charge.
Not a tradition in Cambodia, but service personnel in any
area with tourist connections will be expecting something. A small donation on visiting a wat temple) is appropriate, especially when a monk gives you a guided tour.
240v, flat 2 pins or sometimes round 2 pins.
The usual souvenirs are only found in major tourist places
such as Siem Reap or Phnom Penh with nothing elsewhere, even in
Popular items are silver jewellery, replica carvings, antiques and
kramas (cotton scarves). Bargaining is essential.
A passport and a visa are required and tourist visas varid for a month are obtainnable on arrival at the both Phnon Penh and Siem Reap International airports for most visitors. Visas are also available for people crossing the land from Thailand at Poi Pet, Banteay Meanchey and Cham Yeam. Though you need visas prior to your arrival if you are entering from Vietnam at Bavet (Moc Bai in Vietnam) and Ka-Om Samnor (Chao Doc in Vietnam) through Cambodian Embassy or Consulate overseas. Visas availablity may varied at other crossing points, always check the latest situation before you go.
You can apply visas online: e-visa.
Guide | Cambodia
Map | Cambodia