Susaday is the informal greeting in Cambodia. They have a simple but unfamiliar way to greet each other more formally and respectfully to which you will find instructions HERE if you would care to follow their traditions! We travelled by boat from Ho Chi Minh city Vietnam, up the Mekong river to Phnom Penh where we spent 4 nights. Travelling by bus to the island of Ko Rong Samloem, we spent another 4 nights without internet or hot water for a much needed refrain from the ever present electronic world. We ended up finally where our whole story began in an inspiration found in pictures in a home in Canada: Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat.
The intention of this page is to provide links to the various places we went and recommend as well as provide resources that we found useful along the way. We understand that we don’t have ALL the information, but what we do have will be helpful to those travelling to Cambodia!
Riels and USD are both used in Cambodia although the dominant currency is the USD and will be accepted anywhere. Prices are both in USD and Riels. You can pay either in USD or Riels or a mix of USD and Riels.
If you pay in USD you may be given change back in either USD (for the part greater than $1) and Riels (for the part less than $1). E.g. If you give a $5 bill to buy an item that cost $1.5 you will be given back $3 and the remaining in Riels. Remember that outside of Cambodia, the Riel is useless and cannot be converted so make sure you convert any leftover currency back to USD or better yet, use USD for all of your purchases.
It is beneficial to withdraw large amounts from ATM’s as the cost of transaction is around $3 per withdrawal. Note that all foreign cards will receive USD when making withdrawals from an ATM.
We arrived in Cambodia via the Mekong river and had our visas taken care of by the cruise we were on by getting a Visa on Arrival. It was necessary for us to have a recent photograph, valid passport not expiring in 4 months and $35 USD cash. There is also a process to get an online E-Visa which may or not be suitable or easier for your needs. HERE is a link to help you with your visa if you would like one in advance, or you can get one when you arrive. So long as you have the required money, you’ll be fine!
You cannot drink the water in Cambodia. It is suggested to drink only bottled or purified water and we go so far as to brush our teeth with the same water to avoid ingestion of any water borne diseases.
There are many different ways to get around Cambodia. Within the cities we found the easiest was by foot especially in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. We’ll tell you some others we used here and hopefully you will enjoy the wide range of options as you travel through this beautiful country.
By Foot: Be aware of your surroundings at all times! Traffic is moving and constant. There is a distinct way to cross the road which is far different than anywhere else we have been and it entails weaving through traffic as if in a game of Frogger deliberately moving in the direction you want to go. The people driving intuitively understand this to be the method and will move around you as you go. DO NOT STOP OR HESITATE, KEEP MOVING!
Bicycle: Bicycles can be a great way to get around especially in the less busy parts of town. In Siem Reap we saw many people travelling around the temples on bicycle however the temples are quite far out of the main part of town. We would recommend taking a bicycle if you enjoy getting around for cheap.
Tuk Tuk:This is how we got around pretty much every day. One way rides can be negotiated pretty much anywhere within the main cities for around $3 USD and we hired a driver for the whole day to do day tours on multiple occasions costing us anywhere from $20-30 USD for the day. As always, negotiate your price before departing to go anywhere. We found the tuk tuk drivers to be reasonable and fair as well as consistent with their pricing no matter where we were and you’ll never have to wait long, there is always a driver nearby!
Bus:To get from city to city we found that bus was the best option, though not for the faint of heart. The roads in Cambodia are suspect at best and are mostly unpaved especially from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. We used Giant Ibis and would recommend their services, however don’t expect internet on the bus to work. Both trips (Phnom Penh-Sihinoukville) and (Phnom Penh-Siem Reap) did not have the promised WiFi working but got us there on time and safely which was much more important!
There are many options for accommodation in Vietnam but we exclusively stayed in hotels. All hotels were booked on Expedia and we cross referenced our options with TripAdvisor to make sure we were going to have a great stay. Also, all of our hotel stays included breakfast simplifying our meals and expenses for the day. Many people we spoke with decided to find their accommodation upon arriving and seemed to enjoy what they found in places such as hostels and guest houses. If travelling with a partner you will pay the same individually as you would in a hostel by booking a hotel except you will likely have a nicer, cleaner, private room.
Cost: Average cost of a 3+ star hotel including breakfast $40 USD/night.
Khmer food reminded us very much of the neighbouring Thai food. The curries were absolutely delicious although there is a multitude of restaurants catering to the Western tastes we preferred and mostly enjoyed various world cuisines throughout the country. Trip Advisor as always helps us navigate the popular spots and we explore the not so popular options as well to get a taste of local life! We’ll give you our favourite spots from each city below.
As mentioned above, we did multiple day trips via tuk tuk. In Phnom Penh, we went to both the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and the Killing Fields as day trips. There are many other to choose from. In Siem Reap, we saw the temples via tuk tuk driver as well which we hired for the whole day and one day lasted 12 hours! They are great people and really know their own culture as well as the best sites to see. It isn’t necessary to book tours in our opinion, do some research into what you would like to see and hire a tuk tuk for the day. You’ll be glad you did!
There are small laundry shops you can find within the cities offering their services to clean your clothes either by the piece or by weight. Try to find a shop that isn’t on the main road as the clothes are air dried outside and will pick up the smell from the exhaust and will be quite unpleasant to wear. Do expect it to be very reasonably priced $3 USD for a good sized wash and to be folded and packaged up nicely for you to take away.
CITIES, ATTRACTIONS & RESTAURANTS WE VISITED:
Phnom Penh: The capital city of Cambodia is bustling with action and seems to come alive at night. There is a strong undertone of the atrocities which occurred during the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot. Be aware of your belongings and keep what you bring close to your body as well as be aware of your surroundings. What you carry has a value to someone who may be looking to take it from you however if you stay away from trouble and aren’t causing it you should be fine!
Koh Rong Samloem: We had heard about the beautiful islands in the south of Cambodia but we never expected it to be this good! We took a bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville (approx. 4 hours) before embarking on a 1 hour boat ride to the island. Four nights were perfect without hot water or internet and it was a much needed vacation from our vacation to relax and recharge!
Siem Reap: The inspiration for our whole travel began with this magical place. We finally got to experience the centuries old temple complexes and incredible architecture that surrounds this northern city. Be sure to check out our photo page to see some of the moments we captured.