Cambodia’s main tourist attraction, vast Angkor Wat (Buddhist/Hindu temple) and dozens more magnificent structures in the Angkor Archeological Park between 6 to 30 kilometres of Siem Reap. Photo by Samgarza.
In fact there are plenty of tourists out there, including myself, who prefer who would put other temples at the top of the Angkor Greatest Hits list, though Angkor Wat sports the biggest land area.
Koh Rong Samloem pier and main beach, half an hour by fast boat from Sihanoukville.
Sihanoukville, 230 kms southwest of Phnom Penh, is the hub for getting to some spectacular white powder-sand beaches. Sadly Sihanoukville’s own beaches – though large and golden sandy – are tiresomely commercial and poorly maintained while the town is a mess of half-built, poorly-executed structures gaily entangled by heavy black cables. The streets ring with the endless mating call of the ballcap crested tuktukhomme: “Mister, where you go, where you go?”
It’s pretty clear where every foreign tourist is going – elsewhere! Either take a short tuktuk ride down to Otres 1 if you’re young/backpacker/neo-hippy/poor/sociable. Or Otres 2 if you’re affluent/family/like a bit of luxe style in your life. Alternatively take a 30 minute/1 hour boat ride to Koh Rong (more developed) or Koh Rong Samloem (less developed).
The best time to visit Cambodia is during the cool, dry months November – February. November- mid December especially benefits from pleasant, dry, warmth and vegetation that is still verdant after the rainy reason, but remember that the Christmas/New Year period will be crowded and pricey.
Cambodia has a tropical climate and four seasons
Hot & rainy, June-August
Cool & rainy, September, October
Hot & dry, March-May
Cool & dry, November-February
The most uncomfortable time to visit is the ‘green’ season June – August, when it’s hot, wet and humid. Going in the late wet season is not a bad idea from September and October with less heat, less crowds and lower prices. At this time the beauty of Angkor is reinforced by lush greenery.
Otres 2 beach bar, near Sihanoukville.
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 River.
Floating villages of Chong Kneas and Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia.
Visas are obtainable on arrival at the both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International airports for most visitors.
Visas are also available for people crossing by land from Thailand at Poi Pet, Banteay Meanchey and Cham Yeam.
However, you need visas prior to arrival if you are entering from Vietnam at Bavet (Moc Bai in Vietnam) and Ka-Om Samnor (Chao Doc in Vietnam). Visa availability may vary at other crossing points, always check the latest situation before you go.
Typical mid range hotels in Siem Reap, 8 minutes walk to the core of Old Market and Pub Street.
Hotels on a budget big or small can be found easily in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or Sihanoukville area beaches including the Rong islands. Phnom Penh is quite foreigner-friendly and Siem Reap is replete with a wide range of hotels.
A wide range of excellent Southeast Asia cuisine – with a French twist – make eating out a great experience in the capital and Siem Reap.
Splendid seafood and plump mangoes are available from pretty fruit sellers at beaches in Sihanoukville.
Take $US cash. No need to change money and you’ll pay much the same as paying with the local currency (Riel). Take a lot of small dollar bills.
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.
ATMs charge a flat fee ($6 in 2017) to deliver of any amount of US dollars at one time so don’t use the machine for small withdrawals.
Shopping and Tipping
The usual souvenirs are only found in major tourist places such as Siem Reap or Phnom Penh with nothing elsewhere, even in Sihanoukville.
Popular items are silver jewellery, replica carvings, antiques and kramas (cotton scarves). Bargaining is essential.
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 if a monk gives you a guided tour.
240v, flat 2 pins or sometimes round 2 pins.