Cambodia, oddly, did not appeal to me at first. I kept on skipping it. Perhaps because its neighboring countries, Vietnam and Thailand, made a great deal of first impressions on me that this Angelina Jolie clad in cat suit country failed to capture me. To kick off my year-long trip abroad, I decided to start it with a 9-day solo trip to Cambodia before heading to Australia . During my 9-day solo trip, I traveled in Phnom Penh (3 nights), Siem Reap (3 nights), and Battambang (2 nights), which I have to say is more than for your Cambodia itinerary.
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The most common transportation around the city is the legendary tuktuk. Ten-minute ride can cost $2-$3. Too pricy if you ask a struggling Filipina traveler like me. Better walk if you’re not in a hurry.
If you can’t rough it up with the tuktuk (it is not even rough), taxis are available around the cities too. I haven’t tried it, but I expect it a bit pricier than the tuktuk. A given if you are traveling around Southeast Asia, download the Grab app, which is the Uber on this part of the world.
Getting old and wanting convenience more and more, I primarily used 12Go, a transportation booking website in Southeast Asia for all my buses in Cambodia and border crossings. I didn’t have to go to travel agencies or bus operators to book a ticket. All time schedules are available. All I need is tap the website and book my bus, pay by credit card, and I get my ticket on my email and I just show up at the provided address. Pick up request is also available!
You can also book you a private taxi and boat (river cruising is big in Phnom Penh!).
I’ve tried several bus companies in Cambodia already, and I particularly love the service of Mekong Express! Bus is very clean, the staff is very efficient, and they provide snacks and bottled water for the journey!
You can also use 12Go if you travel to Thailand or Vietnam. We used this website as well when we did our visa run from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. Again, I highly recommend Mekong Express. I’ve tried some others, but they’re not worth mentioning. I’ve heard Giant Ibis is a good bus company too. But I haven’t used it, so I can’t personally vouch for it.
I had a funny ATM anecdote on this one. You know, I’m that kind of traveler who doesn’t read lengthy and boring travel guides (like the one you’re reading right now). 😛 So I did not know what to expect in Phnom Penh really. The proudest research moment I did was booking my hostels and having their address saved. And that’s it.
So anyway, during my first trip to Cambodia, I tried to withdraw money in the airport but I got shocked when there is only USD option. So I tried another ATM, but it was the same. So reading boring travel guides like this will actually prepare you for the most ordinary of things like knowing that Cambodia has two functioning currencies: USD and Cambodian Riel. But Cambodian Riel is primarily used for very small bills, that it is not worth to look for a local bank to withdraw some. That being said, USD is the dominant and unofficial currency in Cambodia.
Street food usually costs around Php150-Php200 ($3-$4). Compared to Vietnam, Cambodia is a bit pricier. But if you know where to look (read: sidewalks), you can have a good meal, by that I mean, a cup of rice, meat, and a vegetable sidedish, for Php50-Php70 ($1-$1.5).
Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are the most popular destinations in Cambodia. But I advise you to go beyond these two. There are many places in Cambodia that you can explore as well. I personally loved the laidbackness of Battambang. A lot of small and vibrant temples. I also intend to travel some more in southern Cambodia in the near future.
Highly Recommended, Entrance Fee is $6. Only $3 if you have a student ID with you. Horrifying history as a destination is something the Philippines should do.
Highly Recommended, Entrance Fee is $6. Only $3 if you have a student ID with you
Did not enter this place. Just admired the walls and the pavilion outside the gates. Entrance fee hiked up to $10 for foreigners. Cash only
Just in front of the Royal Palace Pavilion. It is a good place to walk especially in the afternoon. There are benches to sit on if you are tired from walking around. It is a long riverside boardwalk. I think I walked around this area thrice.
I haven’t been here. Entrance fee is $6.
Landscape-wise, Phnom Penh pales in comparison with other Cambodian cities. But the country’s rich culture and sad history can always be a valid destination. Do pay a visit their national museum.
Primarily meant for tourists. But there is no harm in looking at the trinkets sold. A good place for a dinner too.
You can get your fresh vegetables and fruits from here. And if you are staying in a place with a kitchen, this is also a good source of fresh meat. It is just across the night market.
I particularly love local markets. So when I see one, I spend a good time walking around and observing how things are done.
Built in 1937. Art deco in design. Boring description. Haha! A destination for tourists who want to buy souvenirs. I’m not into souvenirs., but the architecture is interesting to look at.
Must-try. It is kinda similar to Vietnam’s varied che, a sweet dessert soup, that locals love snacking on before or after a meal. Try it! So good! I think Tobi and I had four little bowls of them! Haha!
Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and Prison S21, Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes are located outside the city. You have three options: by taxi, tuktuk, or a motorbike. So we could save a bit, we decided to rent a scooter for $6-$8. A round-trip tuktuk tour costs around $20-$25.
Budget and Midrange Accommodations in Phnom Penh
Fun fact about Siem Reap. It literally means “Siem defeated.”
Well, there is one thing that most tourists do in Siem Reap. That is, visit the Angkor Wat Temple Complex.
WARNING: Angkor Way Temple Complex’s entrance fee has almost doubled. I was there December 2016, and the entrance fee for one day was $20. Now it has hiked up to $37. A three-day pass now costs $62 from $40. A seven-day pass $72 from $60.
But if you buy your ticket past 5PM, you are allowed entry to Angkor Wat Temple Complex without using your entrance ticket for the following day. Angkor Wat is a popular sunset and sunrise destination, so these two moments can be the most crowded.
Visiting hours are 5:00AM – 6:00PM. Angkor Wat closes at 6:00PM, Banteay Srey closes at 5:00PM and Kbal Spean at 3:00PM.
Nope. You can’t get the ticket anywhere else but the Angkor Conservation Area ticket booth on Charles de Gaulle road. It is about a twenty-minute ride from the center. It needs your presence because your pass bears your face. It functions like an ID in the archaeological park. That’s why nobody else can buy your pass for you. The line in the morning can be very long. But the staff are very efficient. So the line moves up fast.
Again, as I said, buying your ticket around 4-5PM is a great option. The line won’t be long, plus you can enter the archaeological park on that day and the following day.
Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm, and Angkor Thom are the most popular temples in the archaeological park.
I was traveling solo, and I wanted to follow my own instinct in navigating around a massive place. So I traveled using an Ovelocity e-bike. I’m a passenger kind of traveler. I never had any experiences with e-bikes, which is a slower version of scooters really. Definitely did not feel like a bicycle. It was nerve-wrecking at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. I enjoyed it a lot and I visited a lot of small temples along the way.
Facebook: Ovelocity e-bike
Renting a motorbike in Siem Reap can be a bit tricky. But there are still places you can rent. On my second visit to Siem Reap (now with my partner), we rented a motorbike for $15 a day. It was too expensive! But Siem Reap is the most expensive city of Cambodia.
This is the most popular option for a day tour around the ruins. It has some advantages. The drivers know the popular places where throngs of tourists visit, but you don’t really have the freedom to explore the place on your own.
Knowing I would spend a lot if I bring my wallet, I went to the Night Market with just $10 in my pocket. I just wanted a dinner somewhere, walk around, people-watch while having beer and then go back to my lovely place in Secrets Pavillion Urban Boutique Hotel. But my boring plan for the night was meant to be trashed when I met a French girl! Read on, because she became my guide!
So I accompanied this petite beauty shopping for a very vibrant bag and wrap-around square pants in the night market. After that, we walked past Pub Street, crossed the bridge, and dined at The Brothers Bar Restaurant Lounge.
Well, Siem Reap is quite a party club. I could vouch for that. Although I am not a party animal, the French and I met some awesome people at the restaurant and they encouraged us to join them. Needless, we bar-hopped til five in the morning.
Battambang is three hours away from Siem Reap, and I highly recommend your include this quaint town in your Cambodia trip. It has a lot of small and beautiful temples. You don’t have to compete with other tourists because there is only a few. If you have two days to spare, include this town.
I rented out a bicycle and pedaled my way around the city. The terrain is very flat, you pedaling around Battambang never caused problems to my aging knees. Haha!
Some of the temples I have visited were Ek Phnom Pagoda, Wat Kandal, Damrey Sor Pagoda, Kampheng Pagoda, and Phnom Banan. Most of them are near to each other.
Check the map below for the addresses of the temples.
Battambang’s Bamboo Train is only for tourists really. But I was curious about it because I never experienced it at all. So I did not regret it all. You simply sat on the mat placed on the split bamboo floor. The breeze felt great in the face. It is a pleasant and interesting ride.
Price: $5 for two or more people.
If you’ve been to Phnom Penh’s Killing Fields, this one is a similar one. It doesn’t have the audio guide, but the field has statues depicting all forms of torture and weapon used by the Khmer rouge. I personally think the Philippines should have places like this. As you may know, the Philippines also suffered from the dictatorship of the Marcoses.
This is somewhat outside the city. I joined a half-day tour for $6 to go to three places: Bamboo Train, Phnom Sampeu’s Killing Caves, and Phnom Sampeau Golden Stupa accordingly. Our guide dropped us off at the foot of the mountain. It is an extra cost to the gate, which is quite a pant for an old lady like me. But I managed it to the top. The view was marvelous. Expect some monkeys on the top too.
This is the last destination for an afternoon tour for a reason. At the foot of the mountain, tourists wait for the waking time of the thousands of bats!
So far these are the only places in Cambodia I’ve been to. I will update this once I make another trip to the Khmer land. If you got some leads to interesting places in Cambodia, feel free to chime in!