Cambodia is an amazing destination for all types of travelers. Whether you are a luxury traveler, solo traveler or budget traveler your money is going to go much further here. Having visited Cambodia twice I have a few tips and tricks. Keep reading for my Guide to Visiting Cambodia.
Below First-timers Guide to Visiting Cambodia
You will need a passport that won’t expire within six months of your travel date. You’ll need to apply for a visa, which is only valid for one month, at the airports or at the borders. It cost about $30 and it’s a sticker they imprint on to a page in your passport. You’ll need a full passport page for this. I’ll link to this website which goes into more detail about the visas and where you can get one. I purchased mine at the Siem Reap border and the second time at the airport. Keep in mind the tourist visa is single entry only, and can be renewed once for an additional 30 days for a fee of $45.
The CDC and my physician recommended I get Hepatitis A booster and a Typhoid shot. Always confirm information with your physician as they will know your history. Be mindful that not everywhere is going to have the typhoid shot so plan accordingly. For my second visit I got my seocnd Hepatitis A Booster and now I am covered for life. I also got another Typhoid shot. The frist time I got my shots my travel clinic did not give me a yellow booklet with what shots I had received. Just make sure you get this mainly so you remember what shots you get and also when you visit certain countries you will need documentation of certain vaccines.
Both also highly recommended Malaria tablets which you need to take a few days before, during and after your trip to Cambodia. I know a few people who didn’t take their pills for whatever reason and they were fine. Just do what makes you feel comfortable and discuss your concerns with your travel clinic/doctor. My first time in Cambodia I took my Malaria pills and the only side effect was I had very vivid nightmares. However my second time I took different Malaria pills are for twice as long with absolutely no side effects.
I didn’t really get sick in Cambodia. My tummy was a bit fickle due to eating a ton of fried food and not enough veggies. That being said I ALWAYS travel with Imodium, rehydration drops and Charcoal pills. If I have eatin something I think will make me sick or my tummy hurts, right away I take two charcoal pills. These are amazing and will absorb any toxins or yuckiness so you can get on your way to feeling better. I know its gross to talk about but when you do get sick let it run its course. I keep hydrated with rehydration drops and take my charcoal and usually I am fine within a day. I only take Imodium if I need to be on transit or I have been sick for more than a day.
Make sure to bring suncreen the sun is very strong here. If you forget they will have some but it will be twice what you will pay for at home. Everyone said I wouldn’t be able to find tampons in Southeast Asia and boy was that I lie. Every supermarket and 7Eleven I have been to has had them. Of course there will not be a whole isle like back home so if you are picky bring your favorite. I also brought a diva cup just incase and I always have back up toilet paper since public bathrooms don’t usually have any.
I’ve been to thirty plus countries as of now and the best advice I can give you is BE SMART. Everywhere you go whether you live in Nebraska, NYC, Paris or Bangkok there are going to be dishonest and shady people. I’ve never worn a money belt and I never will. I carry a cross body bag or a backpack and I put my money, id and passport in a zipper compartment inside the bag. In case anyone slices your bag open from bottom keep that stuff in a zipper compartment instead of floating in your bag. I also make three copies of my ID and Passport. One stays home with my family, another copy is on me at all times and one I keep in the bottom of my suitcase. I also take pictures of my credit cards and leave them with my family in case they need them for any reason.
Don’t walk home alone, be careful what you drink, don’t tell strangers where you’re staying . I acted no different in Cambodia then I did in NYC, except for maybe speaking in a lower voice. I never felt unsafe during my travels but I also never put myself at risk. You are going to stick out no matter what, especially if you have white skin, so just be aware and mindful about your surroundings.
Here’s some good news everything is cheap in Cambodia. You can literally eat massive meals for a couple of dollars. For every 1 American dollar you get 4071 KHR (Rieis). To put that into perceptive, a pack of Marlboro’s cost $1.50, imported beers $2 and domestic beers $1. Everything is affordable so don’t pull out too much money. I took out enough to have $40 every day and enough for 4 days, so I’d take out about $160 worth out. It was more than enough for everyday use and if I lost the money and it got stolen it wasn’t a big deal. The great thing about Cambodia is they accept USD so you don’t have to exchange money.
For inter city travel a bus is the way to go. They are the cheapest option and how most people get around. When booking buses they are usually two kinds the “VIP” buses and regular ones. VIP buses are smaller vans that can usually accommodate 7-9 people. These have fewer stops and get to places faster. The regualr buses are usually only a dollar cheaper and in some cases take double the amount of time. We booked all our buses through BookMeBus and would highly recommend them. They have great customer service and were able to help us when we missed our bus in Phnom Penh.
Flying is another options but airports are more limited. Take into account wile a flight may be shorter than a bus trip you still need to get to an airport 2-3 hours before a flight.
Grab is Southeast Asia’s solution to Uber. It is exactly the same concept except better. Grab lets you amass points and even has coupons. Keep an eye out for any pop-ups especially around airports/bus stations etc. We basically always used Grab as taxi and tuk-tuk overcharge tourist. For example at one point Grab was telling me from pub street to my hotel in Siem Reap a private car would cost $1.10. I asked a cab driver and a tuk-tuk and they both wanted nothing less than $5! I also happen to think Grab is safer as there is a digital footprint of the transaction and you can see who is picking you up. You can also use your card to pay which was great for us so we didn’t need to take out cash.
What to see
Cambodia is a third world country so you will see extreme poverty. Most people will shy away from this, and ignore it, I implore you not too. One of the most amazing things you can gain from travel is perspective and knowledge. Until you see first-hand how people from all different walks of life live, nothing will ever change. So go visit the slums and don’t ignore the dirty “ugly” places you see.
I recommend visiting New Hope orphanage and school. There they cooked traditional Cambodian food for us and we got to try some delicacies like crickets and rice with fire ants. Both were shockingly delicious. It was a truly beautiful experience. Interact with the people, let them tell you their stories and their history. You will be glad you did and will learn so much more than what you can read in a book. We got to visit the killing fields and hear about a genocide I had never heard about from survivors. We got to learn from first hand survivors about their experiences things you will never get from a book.