After 10 days in Vietnam, we took the bus to the capital of the Khmer Kingdom (aka Cambodia), to Phnom Penh. We also picked a special time to celebrate in Phnom Penh, and that was Christmas. After spending Christmas Eve and the first day of Christmas in the city where poverty and glitter are mingled, we set off for Siem Reap. We visited the Angkor Wat complex, sampled the most famous local cuisine and tried to enjoy the place as much as possible, although we’ll tell you up front that it was by no means our favourite country. Here is your Cambodia Travel Guide + 1 week itinerary.

Cambodia Travel Guide + 1 week itinerary

When to go to Cambodia? – best time to visit Cambodia

There are two distinct seasons – dry (October to late April) and wet (May to late September). Within each season there are temperature variations, with the last few dry months preceding the rainy season (March and April) and the first few months of the rainy season (May and June) usually being the warmest of the year, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 35°C.

Humidity peaks in March and April, while the coolest months of the year tend to be between October and December, but this is a cool period for Cambodia, but far from cold, with average temperatures averaging around 26°C-28°C.

How to get to Cambodia from Vietnam?

I knew from past trips that flights between Southeast Asian countries are extremely affordable. From Kuala Lumpur you can fly cheaply to Bangkok, Saigon or even Jakarta, as well as from Bangkok or Hanoi to the cities already mentioned. But when it comes to Cambodia, things change radically.

Cambodia seems like a country cut off from the rest of SE Asia, and flying in and out of Cambodia is quite expensive. This is also one of the reasons why we chose to go by bus from Vietnam to Cambodia. While airfare cost a little over 300 euros for 2 people, the bus trips cost us 100 euros for both of us. And so, we got a great experience – seeing some not so well known areas of both countries – at a very good price. Admittedly, the 2 bus trips were 13 hours long, but it was worth it.

From Siem Reap we had to get to Kuala Lumpur, and the only option was by plane. We got some plane tickets with the low cost carrier Air Asia, which cost us 85 euro/person.

If time allows and your next destination is Thailand, it’s good to know that there are direct buses from Siem Reap to Pattaya or Bangkok, and prices for a bus trip from Siem Reap to Thailand’s capital start at 30 euros. But consider that the whole trip will take between 8-10 hours.

How to get a Cambodia e-visa?

In short, Romanian citizens need a visa to enter Cambodia. Visas for Cambodia are fairly easy to obtain on-arrival or online. For visa-on-arrival, I explained the procedures above (you give the driver or his assistant 40 USD and your passport and he will take care of all the formalities). As for e-visa, I recommend you to apply one week before the date of entry to Cambodia. To get the e-visa, you need to fill in the application form on this website, pay the visa fee (36 USD) and print the visa. You will need a card to pay the fee and a passport photo. Generally, the visa is delivered to your email address within 3 working days.

Currency in Cambodia – Cambodian dollar or Cambodian riel

One of the biggest dilemmas when it comes to Cambodia is the currency, and if you’re preparing to visit this country, you’ve probably asked yourself the question “What currency do I pay in, US dollar or Cambodian riel?”. Well, the answer is simple because Cambodia officially uses both the US dollar and the riel. So, if you don’t want the hassle of foreign exchange fees or ATMs, we recommend that you pick up some US dollars.

In Cambodia, you’ll be able to pay in USD anywhere – from stalls and small shops to supermarkets, transport or laundromats. So when you go to a restaurant or market, you’ll see that prices are displayed in both local currency and US dollars. And if they’re not, you can ask the shopkeeper to tell you the price according to the currency you want to pay in.

Itinerary for 6 days in Cambodia

Days 1-2 – Phnom Penh

Half by choice, half by necessity, we found ourselves leaving for Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Christmas Eve. If someone had told me that in 2022 we would be spending Christmas on the streets of a city as strange as Phnom Penh, I would have laughed out loud. But nothing is ever really random, and after a day spent on the bus, we stopped at the fanciest restaurant that came our way for Christmas dinner. And we chose one that had a garden and trees full of lights…to make it a little more festive. By the way, if you end up in Phnom Phen I highly recommend this restaurant.

Phnom Penh, this oddity of a city, was our first contact with Cambodia. I say “oddity” because in the few hours I spent there, I always had a very strange feeling. I had never seen a city with so many contrasts before. Extremely well-kept, gilded government buildings and temples next to dusty houses and streets; the smell of expensive perfume and some smells that immediately took away your appetite; a Lamborghini next to a tuk-tuk; too poor people next to people who clearly belonged to another social category. Phnom Penh is an enigma to me and although I wouldn’t have anything to reproach it with, I’m glad I didn’t stay an extra hour.

As I said, on Christmas Day we walked around the capital, ate on the street corner (right next to our Airbnb in the evening three or four mobile kitchens popped up) rice with “de-everything”, and visited what could be visited (central square, a few temples and monuments, the royal palace). I purposely omitted the Genocide Museum and The Killing Fields, the only sights in the capital.

Other tourist attractions in Phnom Penh:

  • Royal Palace
  • Independence Monument
  • Silver Pagoda
  • Central Market
  • Tonle Sap River Promenade
Buget si itinerar pentru 6 zile in Cambodgia
Buget si itinerar pentru 6 zile in Cambodgia, Cambodia Travel Guide

Days 3-6 – Siem Reap

We took a minibus to Siem Reap and five hours later we arrived at our destination. Although the distance between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is not long, the journey was extremely long and tiring. But if you want to get from Vietnam to Cambodia, to the famous Angkor Wat, the cheapest way to get there is by bus. The trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap cost us 10 USD/person because we bought our tickets online. If you have time, you can get tickets directly from the post office in Phnom Pehn for only USD 7. However, I recommend the online option.

Siem Reap

On the first day we rested, took the city at a leisurely pace, tried some local cuisine and made a plan for the day we were going to explore the temples and ruins of Angkor Wat. Unlike Phnom Penh, Siem Reap is a more touristy, bustling place and not so rich in temples or other buildings. There are a few areas that tourists frequent, such as The Pub Street or the riverside night market. Otherwise, Siem Reap doesn’t have much to offer except the temple complex at Ankgor Wat, which is also why tourists stop in Cambodia.

Siem Reap Accommodation

In terms of accommodation, in Siem Reap we opted for a guest house. In general, prices for decent hotels/guest houses (good location, clean and air-conditioned) start at $15 per night/2 people. I’ll leave some recommendations here:

Everything you need to know about Angkor Wat

Ankgor covers an area of 400 square kilometres and was the capital of the Khmer Kingdom. The Angkor Complex also includes the magnificent remains of the various capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century. These include the famous Angkor Wat Temple, Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple. It should also be mentioned that it was built by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the first half of the 12th century, around 1110-1150, and that it was the French who restored some of the buildings, with the aim of making Angkor a tourist attraction. Today Angkor attracts over 2 million tourists annually.

How to get to Angkor Wat?

Angkor Wat, the main temple, is located 5 km from Siem Reap. To get to Siem Reap we either take the bus (from Phnom Penh or even Bangkok) or the plane (Siem Reap has an airport, yes!).

How many days do you need to visit the main attractions?

In one day you can do a “small tour”, which covers the most important temples. The tour starts at Angkor Wat and continues to Angkor Thom, Preah Khan and Ta Phrom (the temple that appears in Tomb Rider). It’s the tour we did and can easily be done in one day. If you want to explore lesser known places as well, then 2-3 days should be more than enough.

How much does it cost to enter Angkor?
  • 37 USD/day
  • 62 USD/3 days
  • 72 USD/7 days

Tickets are available at the Angkor Wat Tourist Center, which is a few km from the main entrance.

Transport in Siem Reap and Ankor Wat:

The temples are located at considerable distances from each other, and the best option is to rent a tuk-tuk. There are plenty of options, and prices are negotiable. For example, we paid USD 20 for a full day, and the price included the trip from Siem Reap to the tourist office, then the drive to Angkor Wat and the locations included in the “small tour”. At the end, the driver dropped us off at our hotel.

Initially we were thinking of renting a scooter, but we read on several websites that tourists are not allowed to drive scooters. They say it’s illegal and they generally give fines. I don’t know if it’s 100% true, but we know we didn’t want to go to any more trouble.

Cambodia Travel Guide

What to eat in Cambodia?

Comabodgian cuisine is not much different from that of the surrounding countries, in fact I would say it is similar to Thai cuisine. If you want to know more about the history and basis of Khmer cuisine and even learn how to cook traditional dishes, I recommend this cooking class in Siem Reap.

Traditional Khmer food:

  • Amok (Coconut fish curry)
  • Kampot Pepper Crab
  • Lok lak

Restaurants (our recommendations):

Ngon Restaurant in Phnom Penh – this is a Vietnamese restaurant offering a varied menu, good food and delicious pineapple juice. We had Christmas Eve dinner here and returned the next day for lunch.
Khmer Taste Restaurant in Siem Reap – a perfect option for those travelling on a budget. We ate here 4 or 5 times, especially breakfast, since it’s super cheap and the food isn’t bad at all. For 2 USD we got two eggs, a baguette, butter, marmalade and a lime juice, and for 3-4 USD a main course (amok or lok lak). Also here, a beer costs 50 cents.
Try Me in Siem Reap – we ate here three times. I recommend both lok lak and their pad thai with shrimp.

Travel Budget for Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the cheapest countries I’ve visited, which is also why it’s extremely popular with long-term travellers or those who decide to take a gap year in Southeast Asia. While food and accommodation are cheap, at the opposite end of the spectrum we found the supermarkets to be quite expensive. Incidentally, in Phnom Pehn we saw the biggest constrasts – neat government buildings and gilded temples next to dilapidated houses, a shiny Lamborghini next to a tired tuk-tuk or a local who had just popped out of a Maibach to buy a bag of soup (or soup to bag). Sometimes, when we walked the streets of Phnom Pehn we smelled such contradictory smells – of expensive perfume and fish left in the sun, this was another thing that made us say Phnom Penh is by far the strangest city we’ve ever visited.

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