This guide will help you plan your visit to Cambodia. We share first hand experience from our travels around the country, and talk about our three major stops – Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Koh Rong Samloem.
Getting to Cambodia
We landed in Phnom Penh, and then made our way around Cambodia from there. This was an uninformed decision from our end. After spending a couple of days in Phnom Penh we checked bus schedules and realised that the wiser decision would have been to land in Siem Reap. Because of bus connections, it is more convenient to travel Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, then the other way round. But more on this later.
Going around Cambodia
The country is connected with trains and buses. We never used trains. Locals told us that it’s slow, and buses get you there quicker. The buses aren’t government owned and in fact, all bus companies are private. We suggest you download Grab app. It is the equivalent of Uber, and works with tuktuks, taxis, motorbikes and vans for 5+ people. We used it in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, and it worked fine.
Top Tip 1: You will need data to access Grab. Our best suggestion is to get a local sim card and a data plan that will cover you during your time in Cambodia.
Top Tip 2: If you’re really short on time or detest long bus journeys, you can take a domestic flight.
We applied for Cambodian VISA on arrival (in Phnom Penh airport). We filled in an arrival card, and presented our passport along with a passport sized photo of us. The process lasted for about 5 minutes. Our VISA was valid for 30 days, and costed $30.
Top Tip: Make sure you already have some dollars with you, because payment has to be made by dollars, and in cash.
Siem Reap is a village in central Cambodia. It is home to Angkor Wat, the most visited attraction in the country. We suggest at least 3 nights in this village. The first day you’d be knackered with all the travelling, so you’ll have ample time to rest and get ready for day 2. On the second day you can start exploring the temples. Then the third day you can chill, and enjoy street food and open markets.
Read ⟶ How To Plan Angkor Wat
We travelled Phnom Penh to Siem Reap with a Sorya bus. You can do so the other way round. I booked the bus two days before our travel day, and used their online booking system. Everything worked out fine and I even chose our seats online. The journey took around 6 hours.
Important: Make sure you’re at the terminus at least 30 minutes before departure time. If you book online, go to the ticket booth at the terminus and show them your e-ticket. They will give you a paper ticket equivalent to your existent e-ticket.
We found Phnom Penh to be an interesting, bustling city. Just like all other cities, use your common sense always, and be careful of your belongings and aware of your surroundings.
Points of interest to see while in Phnom Penh:
- National museum of Cambodia
- Tuol Sleng killing fields
- S21 prison
- Royal palace
- Silver pagoda
Koh Rong Samloem
The islands south of Cambodia are gems. We were unsure if we should visit. After spending one week in the Maldives, we weren’t convinced that another beach destination is what we were looking for. But we were so wrong!
We chose Koh Rong Samloem because its known as the quieter, more chilled-out island (compared to its neighbouring island, Koh Rong). Friends that visited both Koh Rong islands told us that they are actually very similar. But we can only speak for Samloem. On Koh Rong Samloem we snorkelled and swam everyday. We didn’t put shoes or proper clothes on during our 5 days on the island.
As for accommodation, there are plenty of hostels and appartments to choose from at the main harbour, at M’Pai bay.
Hiking to Clear Water Bay – Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia
- Pack some snacks, because there are no places to buy food from on the way, or on the beach.
- Put your swimsuit on, pack a towel, and you’re good to go.
- You will most probably start your hike from M’Pai bay, which is the main bay on Koh Rong Samloem.
- From there, walk right to the next beach. This beach is a big stretch of white sand (much bigger than the beach in M’Pai bay).
- Walk all the way to the rocks on the other side of the bay and you should find rocky stairs and a slope going up into the jungle. That’s your path to clear water bay.
- It’s the only path in the jungle, and it will lead you to where you should put your foot next. It is an easy trek, but be careful especially when walking with flip-flops.
- After a 20 minute walk in the jungle (or so), the dense jungle will become more of a couple of dusty fields in front of you. Continue uphill, and when the ‘road’ splits, choose the road on your right.
- You should reach the beach in 10 minutes.
If you are too tired, or not bothered to walk back again, you can take a ferry to M’Pai bay, from clear water bay. The hike should take approximately 45 minutes.
Conclusion – Is Cambodia Worth It?
Simple. It definitely is. Cambodia presents different scenery and experiences to visitors. Due to its horrible (recent) history, the country is still developing and I could greatly feel this. From small children playing on the streets with stray dogs and rocks, to a colourful underwater world around Cambodia’s south islands, this country is an all-rounder.
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