Cambodian Travel Advice

I went there in 1996 when travelling was still discouraged so I’d imagine things have changed a bit.

Pnomh Penh is quite charming, despite the shell marked buildings, and you can easily spend two or three days there. Stomach turners are the mandatory trip to the killing fields and (forgot the name) the high school that was used as a political prison. Check out the FCC also for a taste of the colonial life.

The other place I visited was of course Angkor. I took a boat there from PP but flew back. Why? Because although the high speed boats afford fabulous views of the Tonle Sap they were extremely narrow and dangerously overfilled - fear of capsize for 4 hours! Still they may have changed this given the amount of attention Angkor now gets.

There’s little to do in Siem Reap (outside Angkor) but you should buy at least the 3-day pass to savour the beauty of the huge temple complex.

Things to buy: markets in PP are good, especially the Russian one. I bought silks but they have a good choice of silver too. Pot can be legally bought everywhere - it’s a Cambodian cooking ingredient - but the quality isn’t much. A good deed is to go to the shops selling handicrafts made by landmine victims. They have some beautiful things, especially the leather products.

Happy travelling. :sunglasses:

I also took the fast boat from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. I feared capsizing more on the fast boat from Thailand in the rough seas to Sihanoukville. That was a very scary ride, with many people puking, and I was certain the boat would split in half. The Tonle Sap is much calmer, though, so I didn’t fear capsizing. But a week after I took the trip some gunmen held up one such boat, robbing the passengers. Although I enjoyed the fast boat, if you feel like exploring more remote villages you can take the slow boat, stopping at a town or two on the way where foreigners rarely venture.

Definitely need 3 days for Angkor Wat. The place is huge and very impressive. That alone makes the trip to Cambodia well worthwhile. Rent a bike or motorbike in Siem Reap to get around.

Rather than flying in and out of Phnom Penh, I made a loop from Bangkok, coming by sea to Sihanoukville (from an island southeast of BKK), then bus north. After Angkor Wat, I took a boat to Battambang. That boat trip was great, past floating villages and beautiful scenery. And I liked Battambang – nice central market with roof to escape the intense sun, and lots of friendly people. I was invited to houses for meals, to an English class to speak with the students, on motorbike rides with pretty girls, and to sit, talk and eat with numerous people.

After Battambang, I took a bus to the border crossing with Thailand. I forget the name of that town, but it was fascinating. Giant shanty town trading all kinds of cheap goods (cardboard, scrap metal, etc) between the two countries, and offering Cambodian casinos and cheap, young prositutes to the Thais. Capitalism at its most basic.

I didn’t spend a lot of time at the southern beaches, but just enough to realize that they are beautiful nad not overrun with tourists. But I really liked the rest of the country too, although it is sad – not just the museums full of thousands of skulls, but the amputees, beggars, orphans and teenage prostitutes struggling to get by.

The cities, beaches, and tourist areas are safe, but I wouldn’t recommend hiking in the rural areas of Cambodia. According to this website, the U.S. dropped more than 539,000 tons of cluster bombs on Cambodia from 1969 to 1973, which is more than all of the bombs dropped on Japan during World War II. A large number of these bombs didn’t explode when they hit the ground like they were supposed to. They’re called “unexploded ordinance” or “UXO”, and they still easily detonate, even though it’s been 30 years since they were dropped. Hundreds of Cambodians (mostly farmers and children) are still killed every year from UXO.

In addition to this, there’s also thousands (millions?) of land mines in rural areas of Cambodia which were layed by the Khmer Rouge. In fact, Cambodia is still one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

But I don’t want to scare you. As long as you stay in the cities, tourist areas, and beaches, you’ll be fine.

I agree with you 100% Mark. Off the beaten track is dangerous; on traveled paths is ok.

Although I digress slightly, you raised a good point about cluster bombs. I’ve read that the US also dropped more bombs on Laos during the Vietnam war than it dropped on Germany in all of WWII (even though the US was not at war with Laos), including millions of cluster bombs that release numerous ping-pong ball size bomblets. Untold numbers of those bomblets also remain unexploded all over Laos, still regularly blowing arms and legs off of farmers plowing their fields, curious children, and others. But most appalling is that the US government failed to learn from the grotesque inhumanity of those prior assaults. Cluster bombs were widely used in this year’s assault on Afghanistan, again exposing innocent people to decades of unexpected deaths and amputations in the future. And people refer to western countries as civilized. :unamused:

Sihanoukville beaches are great. But becoming more and more like Thailand with food vendors and sleazy fat foreign men trying to buy the little girls and boys. Some of the beaches further out of town are deserted and lovely - you need to rent a scooter to get out there. Make sure you have travel insurance that covers riding a motorbike, most policies don’t (I learned the hard way). Medical costs are very high and many places you need to be evacuated back to Phnom Penh or another country for treatment.

Hire scooters in Sihanoukville and cruise round to Kampot and Kep. From Kampot head up throught the forest park to the top of Bokor Mountain. It’s absolutely awesome. A ghost town of a French resort (complete with a huge casino and a spooky church) with a stunning view of the ocean.


I went to Cambodia for a week in November and did the usual stuff, nothing out of the ordinary. Phnom Penh museums and killing fields. Then went up to Siem Reap by boat (I also took the plane back to Phnom Penh by the way, rather than ride that boat again. It was uncomfortable and so noisy that my hears were ringing for two days following. Not healthy). Spent two days at Angkor Wat.

Cheap and decent gueshouses…

Siem Reap: Home Sweet Home Guesthouse, rates from $8-$20 a night. Just opened a few months ago so many moto-drivers may not know it yet. It is near “Mom’s” guesthouse, they know that one.

Phnom Penh: Dara Reung Sey, walking distance from the river, national museum and royal palace. Sorry I forgot the address but I think they do have a website you can search for. Rates $12-$18 a night. Capitol Guesthouse in Phnom Penh is a dump and the restaraunt downstairs is crawling with beggars and peddlers (more than the usual amount at other places).

Have fun!