After travelling to Cambodia, I have come up with some top tips to help you guys get the most out of your travels! Enjoy...
Get Grab guys. Grab is like the Uber of south east Asia, you can use it in Cambodia to order taxis to pick you up from your location! This is super handy for obvious reasons, it means you can get a ride without any confusion about where you are going and without any worries about being overcharged! If you have heard the horror stories about westerners being charged a fortune for a ride, seriously get Grab, it gives you a price before you even book the taxi just like Uber so you can check how much your ride is going to cost before hand – perfect! You can choose from taxis, tuk tuks or a to hop on the back of a Grab motorbike if you’ve travelled light! Grab has been a lifesaver for many travellers so get downloading guys.
If you are an organised person (you probably are if you’re reading this article) like me, you will want to get as prepared as possible before you depart, maybe this is due to excitement or efficiency – either way it’s a good idea. You can get a Cambodia visa online for the same price as getting it at the airport, maybe even cheaper AND you won’t have to queue when you arrive at your destination airport. You just have to apply for the visa online and upload a passport-esque picture – mine was awful but effective. They usually get back to you within a couple of days (obviously this is different right now due to Covid 19) via e-mail to let you know it’s all been accepted, then all you need to do is print out the document and make sure you take it with you when you set off! This is a fantastic time saver and will make you feel so much better if you’ve had long journey and desperately want to get to a bed or a swimming pool or a bar for an ice cold Cambodian lager. Thank me later.
Cambodia is super hot! Seems obvious. You’re looking at way over 30 degrees Celsius, and for a pale skinned English girl like me, this is hot hot hot, so I thought it was worth a mention. Take cool breathable, lightweight clothes to help you stay cool and seek shade when you can. Luckily Cambodia is pretty equipped for this hot weather and there tends to be plenty of shaded areas.
The high season for tourists is November to March as these months have lovely hot weather. Between May and October is the wet season, where it is super humid and rains a lot.
Make sure to drink lots and lots of water and stay cool whenever you can, go swimming, wear lightweight clothes and most importantly – listen to your mother and wear sunscreen, you don’t want to get sunburn riding around in the unrelenting heat trust me its going to hurt.
When you are packing your bags for your trip to Cambodia, make sure you think about being respectful. Because of the hot weather it is tempting to pack some short shorts and tank tops but make sure you also bring some decent skin covering pieces. If you are staying in a backpackers hostel, you will be fine wearing whatever you want because they are used to westerners being around and wearing very short shorts, skirts and crop tops etc.
Respectful clothes are absolutely essential if you want to visit any kind of religious place, temples and the like, but they are also a great idea in general day to day life, you will feel uncomfortable and out of place if you’ve only brought very skimpy beach clothes. Spend time before you go investing in some good quality lightweight pieces that cover enough skin to be deemed acceptable and you love to wear because you will be wearing them. A lot.
Another great thing about Cambodia is that you can buy clothes for super cheap, if you haven’t packed wisely (me) then you can pick up all sorts of great pieces in markets and shops for incredibly fair prices.
There are two currencies in Cambodia! US dollars and Cambodian Riel. USD is the main currency and if you’re wondering what currency to take, take US dollars, you can use them everywhere. You will also need dollars if you want to get a visa on arrival so make sure you have some! The way it works having two currencies is that USD is the main currency, you can use this everywhere. Generally things are charged in dollars, and if there is small change, you will receive this is Cambodian riel, you can often use this riel for small purchases like food and drink. As I write this (19/05/2020), 5000 Cambodian Riel (KHR) = $1.22. Don’t change any currency into Cambodian Riel because there is really no point, the currency is essentially US dollars, but don’t be surprised if your change comes in a totally different currency.
It’s easy to get excited about how cheap everything is, but the one rule of fight club, is we don’t talk about how cheap everything is. It’s rude to talk about money in a lot of cultures, it’s not rude to talk about money in Cambodia, but it is rude to boast about how much money you have personally. The average wage of people in Cambodia is very low in comparison to Western cultures and to constantly comment on how cheap things are comes across as brash.
Haggle! If you visit markets in south east Asia (you will) make sure you haggle! The first price is never the real price, the vendor will massively over-estimate the price because they EXPECT you to haggle with them for the product. Don’t just be like “it’s just three dollars!” Try and get it for two. That may seem crazy but it’s so disrespectful if you speak dismissively about things being cheap. I don’t just think this is only true in south east Asia, this is true everywhere. You don’t want to be the guy (or gal) flaunting your wealth. This is somebody else’s culture so just be aware of what you are saying when it comes to buying things/finances.
Buses are the best way to get around south east Asia! Bold claim, but I really think this is true. You can get buses between many major cities, and this is great for spontaneous travelling. Due to the surplus of buses, there really is no need to plan your trip too thoroughly before you go, you can take every day as it comes and move on whenever you decide. If you like a certain place and want to stay an extra day – stay! And get on a bus the next day, or week, or even month!!
Generally the buses are air conditioned and not uncomfortable, though I have heard some serious horror stories about very hot and horrible buses so keep your fingers crossed when you book!
Generally you can get a vibe if you visit the bus station to book your ticket, have a look at the buses that are parked there to see what kind of journey you are in for. Regardless! It’s likely you will only be on the bus for a couple of hours and you will survive! Bus journeys are really cheap so you can get around for very few dollars which is great, this means you can see loads of the country on a budget.
You can definitely find western food in Cambodia, you could eat pizza or pasta or pretty much anything else depending on the town you’re in, I have even had a shawarma in Kampot, but my advice to you is…
Eat local! In my opinion, one of the best ways to experience a culture is by eating the food of that culture, you could discover new things you love and it will be a hell of a lot cheaper for you. Western food in Cambodia is pretty cheap but local food is even cheaper and very exciting! Worst case scenario is you hate what you have ended up with but that’s not the end of the world! Especially because the chances are you haven’t spent more than $4. In a nutshell: take a chance, be adventurous, try something new!
Get your washing done while you’re in Cambodia, don’t put it off. It’s cheap to get your washing cleaned and it’s so worth it to have nice clean clothes when you’re living out of a suitcase!
Also if you’re jumping in and out of a river and sweating a lot like me, you might not smell so good. Laundry is so great in Cambodia, your clothes will never have smelled so fresh and never been so beautifully folded. Most laundry places charge by the kilo, so less washing means less money, which makes a lot of sense. You can find places that will do your laundry pretty much everywhere, you can try googling it but your best bet is to drive around to try to find somewhere, also ask at where you are staying because a lot of places offer in house laundry services - handy!
Get a sim card, seriously. I know it kinda seems like a waste of money because you’ll only use it when you’re actually IN Cambodia, but it won’t cost you a lot of money, and it is beyond worth it! It’s especially useful to have a sim card if you are travelling with people, because you can communicate with your pals without having to find WIFI. Another reason getting a sim card is great is to be able to use the internet wherever you are – GOOGLE MAPS was a very important tool on my journey, if there was somewhere we wanted to find, we didn’t waste any time getting lost (even though I kinda love getting lost, whatever floats your boat). Of course you can totally survive without a sim card this is by no means an essential, but it is a very useful tool to help you navigate the country and be able to meet up with friends, or communicate with other travellers you’ve met.
Experience the Great Tonle Sap Lake and meet the residents of Kompong Khleang Floating Village who call it home. Tour highlights include local snacks - like fresh sticky rice and palm sugar donuts - a drive through the countryside, a visit to Kompong Khleang, the largest floating village in Siem Reap, and a boat ride out to the Tonle Sap Lake.