My itineraries are meant for those who are backpacking or “flash-packing” – my advice is not suitable for those who are looking for a luxury vacation.
Note: We only stopped in Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Takeo, and Kratie. We did not go to Kep, Battambang, or Kampot, so I cannot comment on those places. I have visited Phnom Penh for a few days but I did not travel much outside of the city. I didn’t enjoy Phnom Penh as much as the other cities in Cambodia.
Cambodia requires a tourist visa to travel through the country. You can either get the visa at the border if you are crossing by land, or before using the internet or the Cambodian Embassy if you are flying in from another country. The Cambodian visa costs roughly $25 (as of 2016) and is good for one month.
Cambodia Travel Itinerary:
First Stop: Siem Reap
We took the bus from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Siem Reap using “ The Sinh Tourist” Bus company. It cost $17 and took about 12 hours including border crossings.
We stayed at the ‘New Bequest Hotel’ , located near the center of all the action. It was only $10 a night, nice clean rooms and a private bathroom. The staff was very friendly. Our first night we stayed at the Garden Village hotel, which had large hostel rooms, some as low at $1. It was absolutely disgusting, I don’t recommend it unless you want to meet shady characters who wont spend more than $1 on a room and want to sleep on dirty sheets.
Must See and Do:
Angkor Wat: We chose the 3 day pass for $40 each. A one day pass is $20 but you really need at least 2 days to see everything unless you want to be rushing from one site to the next all day. If you buy your tickets after 5pm, you can enter the park that night for the sunset for free and your tickets won’t actually be activated until the next day. I recommend doing that. We rode a bicycle around instead of paying for a tour. Our hotel let us rent one for $1 a day. It was tiring especially in the heat but well worth it. You can ride there around 4am in the morning to make it in time for sunrise and beat the tour packages with hundreds of people. It took us about 45min to ride our bikes there from the center of town. The good sunrise started around 5am. You want to see all the major sites inside the park, they are all amazing in their own way. We did the large loop one day and the small loop the next. You cannot rent a motorcycle in Siem Reap so your only options are riding a bicycle or hiring a tuk tuk for the day which will cost around $15-25 and only take you to the 7 major sites.
Maharaja Indian Restaurant: Absolutely delicious and incredibly cheap. We ate here 3x! Get a set meal for $4.
The Peace Café: Delicious Vegetarian food priced from $2-$10. Try the Vegetarian Amok and the Indonesian Salad. Located on the other side of the river from the main tourist section, but only about a 5 minute walk.
Pub Street: This is where all the action is at night. Get cheap Angkor drafts for 50 cents and lounge on comfortable chairs while eating popcorn. We didn’t go to any of the more packed clubs but there were plenty.
There is a $2 shirt lady who will give you 3 for the price of 2 located on the road near pub street. She is not located in the old market area. Her shirts are super soft and a great deal.
There are also a few side trips from Siem Reap that we did not have time for, but would definitely make a priority if we returned. Any hotel or guesthouse in Siem Reap can give you information about what’s best to do in the area.
Second Stop: Sihanoukville
We took the VIP Gold Bus Company from Siem Reap overnight to Sihanoukville. You will read some bad things about it on tripadvisor (all bus companies in Cambodia have bad reviews) but we enjoyed it enough and it was comfortable. We got tickets for $14, don’t let them get you for any more. It was located around the corner from our hotel and across from the Elephant Hotel (Not sure of the exact name, it was a fancier hotel that had the word elephant in it and a few elephant statues out front)
Sihanoukville has several different beaches. Serendipity Beach is known as the “party beach” while the others are much more quiet. We opted for the more quiet of the beaches, which was recommended as Otres 2 Beach. The beaches start from Serendipity, then Otres 1, then Otres 2. It takes about 30 minutes walking along the beach to reach Otres 1 from Otres 2.
Castaways: This was our guesthouse on Otres Beach 2. We absolutely loved Otres 2 and Castaways Beach Resort. It was so quiet (although we went during the rainy and low season, we heard the high season in Sihanoukville can get absolutely crazy with people). We were located directly on top of the beach, our room was $8 for a double with a private bathroom. Bungalows ran as cheap as $5 with a shared bathroom. The bungalows are very basic.We chose this place because it had excellent reviews on trip advisor and some of the other places had not so great reviews. It is run by a Cambodian family, not foreigners like many of the other places. Mr. Ox who owns the place is the nicest man, and his wife is an EXCELLENT cook. The prices in Sihanoukville are more to begin with for food, ranging from $2-$5 per plate everywhere. We stayed here for 7 days relaxing in hammocks on the beach. Tell Mr. Ox Dan and Tara sent you and that we said hello! Try the ginger dish his wife makes and her noodle soup! Delicious Amok curry and Loklak as well! He has motorbikes for rent, we actually used his bike 3x and he never charged us once! His tuk tuk driver is very friendly and he will pick you up from the bus station. The whole feel of this guesthouse is one big happy family.
You can walk down 2 guesthouses to the left of Castaways to a fancier guesthouse that has delicious food as well for reasonable prices. They even serve Absinthe there, the alcohol made from wormwood (illegal in the states), made on an island nearby.
Walk to Otres 1 if you want to do daytime partying, for nighttime you will have to go to Serendipity. There are good bars and restaurants at Otres 1, and if you want quiet from Serendipity but not quite as quiet as Otres 2, stay at Otres 1 instead.
Must See and Do:
The Spaghetti House: A restaurant located in Sihanoukville city center, next to the Pizza Company. AMAZING! Run by an Italian man, the food is incredible. You can get a $4 set meal, which includes bruschetta, pasta or meat dish of your choice, enormous salad, large warm baguette, and espresso coffee at the end. Its almost unbelievable. His large glasses of wine are $1.50. He is very friendly and likes to talk to you and asks you to write about him in tripadvisor. His pizzas are incredible as well.
Casinos: Sihanoukville is filled with casinos which were fun for an afternoon. You get free drinks and food while you play. Some are a little sketchy but others at 5 star resorts. It poured all day one day so we spent the afternoon at one and even won a little money!
Third Stop: Takeo
Dan and I were lucky enough to have a unique trip from Sihanoukville to Takeo. A local politician, who also acts as the tuk tuk driver for Castaways guesthouse agreed to take us on the 4 hour trip via his private tuk tuk. We thought that would be the best way to see the countryside so we agreed on a price of $30 USD. The trip ended up taking roughly 9 hours, getting into Takeo in dark, but what an incredible journey!
We went to Takeo and skipped other touristy places to stay at the New Futures Organisation volunteer home. We spent a week volunteering at an orphanage of 45 children and working at local schools and teaching the monks and local police officers. We cannot recommend this place enough.
If your looking for an incredible experience that you wont get anywhere else, please come here and you wont be sorry. Teaching at “Little Po” school was one of the most rewarding things we have ever done.
Fourth Stop: Kratie
We came here to see the RARE river “Irrawaddy” dolphins, with less than 80 left in the Mekong river. We stayed at the Odom Sambath Hotel, which was $7 a night and very comfortable. Their restaurant had a good breakfast. Kratie is a small town and there are plenty of places to stay. We got a tuk tuk driver to take us to the docks to rent a boat to see the dolphins but you can ride a motorbike there as well. The ride out there is beautiful and if your lucky you will get some amazing shots of the dolphins. Go early around 9am. Your boat ride will be about 2 hours and you don’t want to do it in the heat of the day. Overall we didn’t find the food to be that fantastic in Kratie but there are a couple places catering to tourists and even have good drink specials. From Kratie we took the bus into Laos and headed to the 4000 Islands.