In preparation for our trip I have been researching topics such as potential accommodations, activities, landmarks, and transportation methods for each destination. I figure this will give us a better idea of the daily cost, and therefore help determine how long we will want to stay in each country. It will be interesting to see the difference between the ideas I have researched and what we actually do when we are on the road!
Click the small arrow button on the top left of the map header (left of where it says “Potential Destination”) to expand out additional details about many of the locations and activities described below.
U.S. Visa/Travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/cambodia.html
Helpful Web Sites
Anticipating that our time in Cambodia will be 5-7 days split between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, I don’t think we will go the pet or house sitting route since those are typically longer stays and the language barrier may be an issue. Most likely, we will do either Airbnb, homestay (when you stay with a local family), or a hotel. There are SO MANY options! Phnom Penh looks like it may be slightly more expensive then Siem Reap, but in both places we should be able to find a private room for around $10-20 per night.
I am finding just like when shopping around for flights, there are multiple websites out there to find the best deal on bus transportation. I have mentioned www.seat61.com and https://12go.asia/en in my post about Vietnam, but when researching Cambodia I came across several others, including https://bookmebus.com/en which is only for travel in Cambodia, and https://www.baolau.com/ which is all types of travel throughout all of SE Asia. So far pricing has pretty much been the same on all these sites. However, each work with different carriers and vary in number of carriers, so it will be nice to be able to look at multiple sites to see as many options as possible. Also, the pick up and drop off points vary with each carrier/ticket, so depending on where our accommodations are may impact which we go with.
Another factor when picking which carrier to go with will be reviews/reputation. I found some interesting information on CamboGuide, https://www.camboguide.com/practical/getting-around-in-cambodia-by-bus/, regarding opinions of various buses, recommendations on not taking night buses in Cambodia, etc. I’m sure talking to locals at our accommodations will also help tremendously.
To mix things up a bit and see some new scenery I was thinking we could take a speed boat from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap – https://www.seat61.com/Cambodia.htm#Phnom_Penh_to_Siem_Reap_by_speedboat. However, after looking at reviews and reading what a horrible experience it was for some, https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g297390-i9163-k4295642-Boat_from_Phnom_Penh_to_Siem_Reap-Siem_Reap_Siem_Reap_Province.html, I’ve definitely changed my mind! Not only does it sound pretty shady, it cost 2-3x as much as a bus ticket, and isn’t any “speedier” (each taking 5-6 hours).
TUK TUK & RICKSHAW
While in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap sightseeing, transportation will mainly be via tuk tuk, although it will be interesting to see if by the time we get there the public transportation options have changed. An interesting article I read (http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2097978/what-will-become-cambodias-endangered-tuk-tuk-drivers) states that because of the growth of tourism in Cambodia over the past few years, the number of tuk tuk drivers has exploded, causing increased competition for the tuk tuk drivers to get passengers and earn as much as they used too. Also, more modern and less expensive rickshaws have made an appearance in Cambodia, accompanied by the app CamGo which is a tuk tuk equivalent to Uber. Interesting enough, some tuk tuk drivers have gotten more savvy and started individually marketing themselves. For example, https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297390-d8867710-Reviews-Tuk_Tuk_Sarak-Siem_Reap_Siem_Reap_Province.html
Several companies are available for booking tours/excursions with locals in Cambodia, such as Withlocals and Beyond Unique Escapes. There are some interesting itineraries on each site, such as cooking classes and village tours. But I have to say, some of the free stuff to do in Cambodia sounds just as appealing and won’t break the budget. Check out http://wander-lush.org/51-free-things-to-do-in-phnom-penh-cambodia/, which lists things like free beginner meditation classes, self guided tours of Phnom Penh and Koh Dach (Mekong Island) silk farms, and walks through local markets, among other activities.
SOBERING, BUT IMPORTANT TO SEE
One “must do” while we are in Phnom Penh is to go to Choeung Ek and the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, which are remainders of the horrific killing fields of the Khmer Rouge which occurred between 1975 to 1979. Choeung Ek is a memorial at the site of a mass grave of thousands of men, women and children. The Toul Sleng Genocide Museum is the former high school turned torture center where an estimated 17,000-20,000 people were subjected to electric shocks and other means of torture such as having their heads locked inside boxes of scorpions, before being put to their deaths. It will be a very sobering day I am sure, but also extremely informative and insightful into Cambodia’s history and culture. Admission cost is around $10 per person, not including hiring transportation for the day which will run around $15. Another option which sounds promising is to book a tour through Hop on Hop Off City Tours (https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductDetail-g293940-d11464759-Killing_Fields_and_Prison_S21_Tour-Phnom_Penh.html) which cost around $15 including transportation.
As far as temples in Phnom Penh, Phnom Chisor Temple is often mentioned. Located anywhere 26 to 38 miles outside the city (depending on which website you go to and apparently where you are standing in Phnom Penh – the numbers are all over the place!), this temple is situated on top of a large hill with fantastic views.
I am very excited about this part of the trip, but am interested to see how quickly “temple fatigue” sets in and how bad the crowds are.
While in Siem Reap the “must do” is of course visiting the temples of Angkor, such as Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (Bayon, The Baphuon), Thommanon, Chau Say Tevoda, Ta Keo, Ta Nei, Ta Prohm, and Prasat Kravan. There is a TON of information online about each temple. Something unfortunate for our budget, but not surprising, is an increase in ticket prices to Angkor Park. The 1 day pass increased from $20 to $37, 3 day pass from $40 to $62 and 7 day pass from $60 to $72 (https://www.visit-angkor.org/blog/2017/02/01/angkor-pass-new-prices-details/).
One recommendation I have come across to get away from the crowds is to explore Beng Mealea which is a less visited temple about an hour from Siem Reap. This temple is in a much more raw state, once completely consumed by the jungle but slowly uncovered with recent efforts over the past few years.
Any thoughts about our ideas above, or suggestions of “must see” activities/landmarks? Please include those below!