If exploring Cambodia tourism is on your bucket list, one thing that you don't need to worry about is the best time to visit. Despite heavy rains that the country witnesses between April and October, you can explore Cambodia tourism any time of the year. Just be prepared with your raincoat and umbrella.
November through January is considered peak season and most luxury travellers plan their trip to explore Cambodia tourism during this time. January sees the least rain and the country is dry during this time allowing you to explore the countryside and include treks in your Cambodia tourism itinerary. However, it is important to remember that the country's popular tourist attractions are extremely crowded during peak season. You will also have to shell out a lot more than usual for accommodation and transport.
Budget travellers planning their trip to explore Cambodia tourism should consider the shoulder season. The country witnesses heavy rainfall from May to October and while that may deter a few travellers, the sights are gorgeous and irresistible for adventure enthusiasts. Since there aren't too many tourists, flights are extremely cheap and hotels offer huge discounts.
Cambodia offers visa on arrival to Indian passport holders. Indians can get their visa on arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport and Siem Reap International Airport. If you are planning to enter Cambodia by road, the Cambodia-Thailand border, Cambodia-Vietnam border and Cambodia-Laos border are ports of entry from where you can collect your visa.
Another option to obtain a visa for Cambodia is through various online portals that offer Cambodia eVisas. Indian passport holders can also apply for a visa through the Embassy of Cambodia.
Some key requirements for a Cambodian visa are an original passport with at least six months validity from the date of intended travel, recent passport-size photographs, confirmed return flight tickets, bank statement for six months, a copy of credit card and a photocopy of your passport.
It's no surprise that Siem Reap is on most Cambodia tourism itineraries because of its proximity to Angkor Wat. However, recently the city has come into its own and has much to offer besides being a gateway to one of the grandest structures in the world. To explore the beauty of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, we recommend spending at least three to five days in the city. A guided tour is the best way to explore the ancient city but if you are confident of your exploratory skills, you can head out on your own using this travel guide.
The city of Angkor Wat was built between the 9th and 15th centuries by the kings of Khmer dynasty. The city covers more than 400 square kilometres and it’s no surprise that you need at least three days to explore the archaeological site. This is not to say that travellers who are short on time will not have a memorable experience. Cambodia is the land of temples and Angkor Wat is certainly the most magnificent temple city in this stunning country. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat was the largest city in the world before pre-industrialisation.
Many historians have debated about the collapse of this mesmerising city and opinions range from a failing water system to a shift in religious ideologies. The intelligently designed water system that is part of the ancient city is an example of brilliant skills and you can’t help but marvel at the expertise of the artists. There are numerous canals that are connected by an elaborate system. Most historians feel that this is a representation of Mount Meru, which is considered to be the home of Hindu gods. The best time to visit Angkor Wat is from December to January. We also recommend including a few offbeat hikes in your Cambodia tourism itinerary when you are planning a tour to Angkor Wat. This is slowly becoming a favourite activity with backpackers and history lovers.
Besides the awe-inspiring temple city, you can also include a visit to Angkor Thom in your Cambodia tourism itinerary. Angkor Thom is known for the Bayon Temple, that is famous for 216 stone faces of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara carved on 54 pillars. Ta Prohm, Tonle Sap Lake, Angkor National Museum and Phnom Kulen National Park are a few other places that you can add to your Cambodia tourism itinerary. If you want to take a break from sightseeing, we suggest spending time in the city’s markets and exploring the many culinary offerings. Siem Reap has some of the best markets in the country and you can pick up unique souvenirs and traditional handicrafts on your shopping trips. Remember to bargain to get the best deals.
Cambodia tourism is incomplete without exploring the capital city of Phnom Penh. Chaotic, beautiful and charming, Phnom Penh does justice to its reputation as a growing cosmopolitan. The city was in shambles during the Khmer rule but since independence, it has flourished to become an administrative centre and a tourist hotspot.
Situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, the capital city offers you a glimpse into architectural treasures from the Khmer rule and the French era. Architectural marvels, orange-hued houses with perfectly manicured gardens and bustling markets home to gorgeous cafes and fine-dining restaurants – all come together to make this the most visited place in Cambodia. So much so, that travellers say that you can have a fulfilling trip in Phnom Penh even if you don’t do anything else besides enjoying sunny afternoons in beautiful cafes.
You must include the National Museum in your Cambodia tourism itinerary if you are a history lover or a photography enthusiast. The National Museum is home to Khmer sculptures and other art forms that help you learn more about the country’s intriguing history. Your Cambodia tourism itinerary will be incomplete without adding the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. The Royal Palace is the King’s residence and also serves as a venue for official ceremonies. Both tourist attractions are located in the same complex which will save you time. The Silver Pagoda or Wat Preah Keo Morokat is famous for its glistening silver floor tiles.
If you want to learn more about Cambodian history, you can head to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. A former secret prison, it was earlier known as S-21. This is said to be the place where thousands of Cambodian civilians were imprisoned and tortured by soldiers of the Khmer Rouge. According to historians, most of the civilians were executed in nearby fields. The attraction may not be on the top of your sightseeing list considering its history but we recommend visiting in order to understand the resilience of the Cambodian people and the power of human tolerance.
We recommend spending between three to fours days in the capital city so that you can include cycling and village tours in your Cambodia tourism itinerary.
A riverine town, Kampot is ideal for those who want to spend time amidst surreal natural beauty. An important historical town that is part of Cambodia tourism, Kampot is situated along the Gulf of Thailand. The scenic town is surrounded by a few mountain ranges giving you the best of both landscapes. Visited by tourists from across the world, Kampot is gradually becoming one of the top destinations in Cambodia tourism itineraries.
It’s gaining importance among luxury travellers owing to the huge number of luxury resorts here. Travellers can choose to spend all their time in Kampot or head out to explore nearby tourist attractions such as Bokor and Rabbit Island. If you have some time in your Cambodia tourism itinerary, you can head to Kep. Kep is a resort town that is perfect for nature buffs and photographers.
Cycling tours and motorbike rides are activities that most travellers enjoy and are an ideal way to see the town as well as places around. You can book a cycling tour to Kampot City Centre and a bike ride to Bokor. We recommend not to drive yourself if you aren’t an expert driver since the roads are tricky. If you are interested in a more action-packed itinerary, you can visit the limestone caves in Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Sorsia. Both the caves have temples inside and are a must-visit for architectural buffs. Another thing that you shouldn’t miss adding to your Cambodia tourism itinerary is visiting a pepper plantation.
Cambodia tourism is often compared to Thailand and the debate usually ends at Thailand’s picturesque beaches. However, you’ll be glad to learn that Cambodia is home to a few stunning beaches that are located in Sihanoukville. A coastal town situated along the Gulf of Thailand, it is mostly known for a happening nightlife and a busy cafe culture.
Besides being a tourist hotspot, Sihanoukville is one of the most urban cities in Cambodia and you will find numerous luxury resorts here along with experiential living properties. You can spend between two to four days here and expect to have a great trip. Adventure buffs should include a few boat tours and adventure activities in their Cambodia tourism itineraries while nature lovers can head out for jungle treks.
Sokha Beach and Independence Beach are ideal for luxury travellers who are in the mood for a relaxed, laidback vacation in a five-star property. On the other hand, backpackers usually make a beeline for Serendipity Beach, which is home to numerous guesthouses. Sailing and ATV rides are popular activities in the city for adventure buffs and we recommend booking your adventure tours from recognised local agencies.
Battambang is located in the northwest part of Cambodia and is the second-largest city in the country. The city is centred around a giant statue of Ta Dumbong. There are many stories surrounding the history of the statue and it’s enthralling to hear the locals narrate different versions. Battambang is home to Phare, Cambodia’s central institute for artists, dancers and singers. The performances that take place here throughout the year are fine examples of the city’s love for performing arts and are a must-include in your itinerary.
Battambang is not part of most Cambodia tourism itineraries but that trend is gradually changing as it’s becoming a favourite with backpackers and locals alike. Battambang is full of intriguing experiences and travellers will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of activities this city offers. For example, a visit to the Bat Caves is on top of the list in most Cambodia tourism itineraries. The Bat Caves are situated ten kilometres from the city and are infamous as the Killing Caves. It’s said that soldiers from the Khmer Rouge pushed their victims from the caves. The best time to visit is in the evening when hundreds of bats stream out of the caves. As exciting as it sounds, we highly recommend planning your trip with a local guide.
When in Battambang, you can’t miss a chance to hop onto the famed bamboo train! The train had stopped operations for a brief period but to the delight of travellers, it made a comeback in 2018. Locally known as a ‘norry’, the train is a huge crowd puller. The bamboo train is made of a small bamboo platform that is covered with a mat and cushions to make it comfortable. A wooden pole is used instead of a brake and a ride on this unique mode of transport is memorable, to say the least.
Go for a dive
Diving is on top of the list for most adventure buffs exploring Cambodia tourism and for good reason. The underwater landscape that Cambodia offers is awe-inspiring and if your budget allows it, you shouldn’t miss this opportunity. Most of the diving sites in Cambodia are located around Sihanoukville and you can book diving tours from the main town.
Koh Rong and Koh Rong Saloem are two popular islands that are well known for their dive sites. The diversity of marine life is the biggest attraction here and you can spot a variety of fish including stingrays, sea stars, cobia fish and scorpionfish. Secret Garden and Rocky Bay are the most popular sites and we recommend booking your tour in advance. Koh Kon is another beautiful island that is located close to Koh Rong. The site boasts vibrant coral, boxfish and yellow goatfish. Divers often claim that this is one of the best diving sites of Cambodia tourism especially if you try night diving. Night dives give you an opportunity to spot blue spotted rays and catsharks.
Spend a day with elephants
If the thought of spending a day with elephants amidst lush forests sounds perfect then head to the farm owned by the Mondulkiri Project. A Cambodian NGO, they rescue elephants and rehabilitate them to ensure a better life. In an effort to raise money, they offer numerous tours that give you an opportunity to spend time with elephants.
Besides spending time with elephants, you can bathe and feed them. If you choose a two-day tour, you can enjoy an exciting trek through the forest. Accompanying you on this trek will be an elephant along with a tour guide. An experience with Mondulkiri Project gives you an opportunity to learn more about the local culture, flora and fauna and animal welfare. The two-day tour includes all meals, stay at the farm and a trek. You may have to book the tour in advance since this is a popular activity.
The popularity of Cambodia tourism has led to an increase in various kinds of accommodation options. Resorts, five-star hotels, island resorts, experiential properties and budget hotels are spread across the country and you can enjoy warm hospitality and a memorable experience according to your budget.
Luxury hotels in Cambodia
Whether you want to enjoy warm hospitality in an island resort or stunning views from your room, luxury hotels that are part of Cambodia tourism make everything possible. Take a look at the most popular luxury hotels in Cambodia tourism.
Mid-budget hotels in Cambodia
There are a variety of mid-budget hotels in Cambodia and if you want to strike a balance between spending on accommodation and indulging in experiences, Cambodia tourism doesn't disappoint. You can expect comfortable rooms, delicious food and guided tours. Some of the best mid-budget hotels in Cambodia tourism are:
Budget hotels in Cambodia
Budget travellers have a wonderful time exploring Cambodia tourism as the country is home to numerous budget hotels. Urban cities and small villages have great accommodation options for budget travellers and you can enjoy your trip within your budget. Some of the best budget hotels that are part of Cambodia tourism are:
Cambodian cuisine has been overlooked for decades in lieu of its more popular counterparts – Vietnam and Thailand. This is one of the reasons that travellers are surprised at the variety of Cambodian cuisine. Closely interlinked with Cambodia tourism, you can’t explore the country without trying the exquisite dishes that make up the local cuisine. Fish is an integral part of the cuisine and most dishes have freshwater fish as an ingredient. The flavours are typically mild and all dishes are served with soup and chilli on the side.
Fish amok is the most popular dish in Cambodia and you’ll find it almost everywhere. With a rich and creamy curry made of coconut milk, fish amok will become your regular go-to meal while discovering Cambodia tourism. Samlor korkor is another favourite and locals may say that this is more popular than fish amok. Made of vegetables, catfish or pork belly, the delicious dish is served in most restaurants and roadside stalls. Banana blossom salad, lap khmer, bai sach chrouk or pork and rice, kampot pepper crabs, sngor chruak sach trei, nom banh chok and prahok are some of the dishes that you must try.
Most of the big cities, including Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, are home to street hawkers and small cafes that serve numerous delectable dishes. In fact, Siem Reap is the city of quirky cafes and fine dining that has gradually become a big part of Cambodia tourism. Some of the restaurants that you should try in Cambodia are Vibe Cafe, Cuisine Wat Damnak, Bistrot Langka, Daughters of Cambodia, Friends the Restaurant, Sandan and Bistrot Langka.
In an effort to promote Cambodia tourism and in light of the rapid development, it has become easier for tourists to explore the country. Besides a solid network of roads, you can travel by train or flight. If you are planning inter-city travel and are on a luxurious budget, the best way to travel would be to book a flight. However, if you are in the mood to enjoy serene views of the countryside, you can also hire a private taxi.
Tuk-tuk is another means of transport that is popular in most cities and travellers prefer it over taxis. If you are exploring a city for a day or two, you can hire a tuk-tuk for the entire duration of your trip. It’s best to bargain to arrive at a price that suits you and we recommend using your best bargaining techniques. If your itinerary includes a lot of travelling, we recommend using one of the local Cambodia tourism agencies to book your travel. This will not only reduce cost but save you from the hassle of planning.
Cambodia tourism has gained massive popularity in the last decade. Travellers have discovered the many delights this gorgeous country offers which has led to tourism becoming an important part of the economy. Travelling to Cambodia is not expensive and you can have a luxury trip on a mid-range budget. If you are travelling on a luxury budget, you can expect a memorable trip complete with boutique resorts, guided tours and heartwarming hospitality.
Luxury travellers can expect to spend between Rs.6,500 and Rs.10,000 per day while exploring Cambodia tourism. This cost includes accommodation, food and local tours.
The per-day cost for mid-budget travellers to explore Cambodia tourism can be between Rs.4000 and Rs.5500. This includes your accommodation, food and activities. If you choose to go diving, this cost can drastically increase.
Budget travellers can explore Cambodia tourism with per day costs of Rs.1000 to Rs.3000. You can include more group tours, local eating options and group activities to further reduce this cost.
Written by Kirat Sodhi. She is a proud mom of three cats and lives for lemon tea, a good book and spontaneous travel plans.