After Singapore, Cambodia was the second country on mymonth-long trip in Southeast Asia. Travelers flock to Cambodia for the majestic temple of Angkor Wat, but this country deserves to be visited in greater depth. Here are my highlights and strategies for saving money on your travel with points.
It’s inconceivable to travel to Cambodia without visiting Siem Reap. Even forgetting the famous temples, I found that Siem Reap had a lot to offer and I spent a week there. The atmosphere is so relaxed that time seems to stand still.
The center is small enough that everything is close at hand, but the city extends into the suburbs, offering a wide range of activities.
For tips on the best places to visit in Siem Reap, check out this article by Jean-Maximilien :
The only thing I’d like to add to the activity list is APOPO. This small establishment is located halfway between the city center and the entrance to Angkor. This is a center where demining rats are trained.
I loved my visit to APOPO and learned more about the history of the war in Cambodia and the hard work of demining that has been going on for many years.
The guided tour includes a presentation on their mission and rat training, a demining demonstration and time to interact and pet the rats if you wish. Admission is US$5, with proceeds going to support their humanitarian mission.
A visit to the capital is an interesting way to learn more about Cambodia‘s tragic past. The Tuol Seng Museum (US$5) and the Choeung Ek killing fields (US$6) are well worth a visit.
To admire Khmer architecture, visit the Royal Palace (US$6.50), the Silver Pagoda (free) or the National Museum of Cambodia (US$5).
In the late evening, a stroll along Sisowath Quay offers a magnificent view of the sunset. Phnom Penh’s main attractions can be visited in one full day.
The country’s most beautiful beaches can be found on this island and its neighbor, Koh Rong Samloem. Koh Rong is quite developed and the island is a destination of choice for backpackers looking to party.
Just next door, tourism is not yet fully developed on Koh Rong Samloem. The facilities are somewhat rudimentary, but that’s what makes this place special. You’ll have the white sand beaches and turquoise waters almost to yourself.
To reach the islands, boats leave from the port of Sihanoukville. This city is now a victim of overdevelopment and under constant construction. There’s nothing to see here, and you should avoid spending the night. Take your boat to Koh Rong as soon as you arrive in Sihanoukville.
This is where the best pepper in Cambodia (some would even say in the world) is grown: Kampot pepper. You can visit La Plantation, a family farm owned by a French couple. The establishment offers free guided tours, tastings and a store.
Pepper aside, Kampot is a relaxing place where you can unwind by walking the streets or spending the afternoon in a café.
Another beach destination, although the beaches in Kep are much less beautiful than those on Koh Rong. You can rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards for a leisurely water activity.
What’s more, Kep National Park is a great place for hiking in the mountains. Just 30 minutes from Kampot, Kep is worth a day trip.
A pleasant visit to add to your itinerary if you have the time. Battambang is an authentic Cambodian town, with a peaceful atmosphere.
Take a leisurely stroll through the village and cycle through the surrounding countryside. The traditional bamboo train is also a popular activity.
For a little inspiration, here’s a suggested two-week itinerary that includes all of Cambodia ‘s must-sees:
- Day 1: Arrival in Phnom Penh
- Day 2 : Visit of Phnom Penh, overnight transport to Siem Reap
- Day 3: Visit Siem Reap and the spas
- Day 4: Visit to the temples of Angkor
- Day 5: Visit to the temples of Angkor
- Day 6: Visit to the floating villages on Tonlé Sap
- Day 7: Battambang
- Day 8: Transport to Sihanoukville, boat to Koh Rong
- Day 9: Koh Rong
- Day 10: Koh Rong Samloem
- Day 11: Kampot
- Day 12: Kep
- Day 13: Return to Phnom Penh
- Day 14: Return flight
If you don’t want to plan the whole trip yourself, consider organized tours like the one with G Adventures. This 14-day trip visits Cambodia in depth, and since all transport and activities are taken care of by the company, all you have to do is enjoy the adventure.
Transport in Cambodia is long and delays are to be expected. The roads are not always in good condition, and you have to be patient. The main means of transport between towns are sleeper buses and minivans.
It is not necessary to book well in advance, but it is advisable to buy your ticket the day before rather than on the day itself.
Here is a summary table of travel times and prices for popular routes:
|Phnom Penh-Siem Reap||6 hrs||US$11|
|Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville||3 hrs||US$15|
|Siem Reap-Battambang||4 hrs||US$13|
|Phnom Penh-Kampot||3 hrs 30||US$8|
|Sihanoukville-Koh Rong (fast boat)||45 minutes||US$15|
In addition, a meagre network of domestic flights is operated by the national airline, Angkor Air. The three airports served are Siem Reap (REP), Phnom Penh (PNH) and Sihanoukville (KOS). Their fleet is made up of small ATR 72s, and tickets cost a minimum of US$100 one-way.
There’s also the rail network, which has been quietly reopened since 2010. Although tickets are very inexpensive, the train is slow and infrequent. For these reasons, I recommend taking the bus.
In Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Grab (Southeast Asia’s equivalent of Uber) has a strong, safe presence. You can order rides by tuk tuk or regular car.
In smaller towns like Battambang or Kampot, tuk tuks are the preferred means of transport. Negotiate the price of your trip directly with the driver.
Organize your trip with points
Cambodia is one of the most affordable countries in Southeast Asia. See how you can save even more with reward points and travel for almost free.
Cambodia is a little harder to reach than its neighbors, Vietnam and Thailand. From Montreal, a minimum of two layovers is required. First, you’ll need to position yourself in a hub in Southeast Asia, such as Bangkok or Singapore.
To book these flights with points, you have suggestions in this article:
Then there are the two international airports in Phnom Penh (PNH) and Siem Reap (REP). The SIN-REP and SIN-PNH routes are served by Singapore Airlines and can be booked on the Air Canada website for 8,000 Aeroplan points.
From Vietnam, you can use 9,000 Flying Blue miles for a HAN-REP ticket on Vietnam Airlines.
From Thailand or Malaysia, you’ll have to turn to low-cost airlines like AirAsia.
The Marriott Bonvoy chain offers just three hotels in Cambodia, two in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap. Le Méridien Angkor is currently closed for major renovations. Points rates are low, from 10,000 to 17,500 points per night.
For all other locations, you can book independent hotels on platforms such as Booking.com or Expedia. Then, several types of rewards points can be applied to these expenses in exchange for a statement credit.
Here are a few examples of flexible travel rewards programs:
Cambodia has much more to offer than the temples of Angkor. What’s more, I was impressed by the kindness and hospitality of the locals. Although the majestic Angkor Wat is the country’s main attraction, I recommend spending more time here to discover at least Phnom Penh, Kampot and the island of Koh Rong.
Do I need a visa to travel to Cambodia?
Canadian passport holders need a visa to enter Cambodia. This can be obtained in the form of an electronic visa (eVisa). before departure or upon arrival in the country. It is advisable to obtain the electronic visa in advance to reduce the wait at immigration. The processing fee is US$36 and the maximum stay is 30 days.
What's the best time of year to visit Cambodia?
The ideal time to visit Cambodia is from November to March. During these months, rain is almost non-existent and temperatures are milder. The climate is warm (28°C on average) and humid all year round.
How long to spend in Cambodia?
You can breeze through the country in a week by only visiting Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. However, to fully explore the whole country, you’ll need two to three weeks.
What language is spoken in Cambodia?
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer. Signs are in Khmer and English. Generally speaking, people in the tourism industry speak good English.
What sockets are used in Cambodia?
Sockets are type A (American), type C (European) and type G (UK). The voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You’ll need a power converter to use certain electronic devices.