Lily's guide to backpacking around Cambodia



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The Trip

I was away for 5 months after graduating to see and experience things I never had before. I was in Cambodia for nearly a month and this felt like the perfect amount of time. We didn’t follow a particular route but we started in Phnom Penh then made our way south to Kampot then the islands – Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem then a 16 hr bus ride North West to Battambang and finally South East to Siem Reap. Phnom Penh was a real culture shock, but the Killing Fields and S21 Museum are a necessary place to visit to understand the traumatic history of Cambodia.

Koh Rong white beaches and blue seas, pretty much a party island, boozy boat trips and beach parties aplenty. In Battambang we did such a great cookery course of all the typical Cambodian dishes at a small restaurant called Nari’s Kitchen, would 100% recommend.

In Siem Reap I went on a 6 day yoga and meditation retreat called Hariharalaya. $170 for 5 nights accommodation, all you can eat vegan buffets for brek, lunch and dinner and 6 days of lessons. Incredible experience if you’re into wellbeing. Of course, if you’re in Siem Reap you have to visit the Ankor Wat temples, we hired a private tuk-tuk for $40 for the day, it picked us up at 4am so we could watch the sunrise over the largest iconic temple. Definite highlight.

Where to stay?

Phnom Penh: Hostel 88, nice pool, $2 cocktails, maybe $8-10 per night per person.

Kampot: High Tide Hostel, less than $5 a night.

Kho Rong: Sons of Beaches, very secluded and cut off from the rest of the island so much quieter but idyllic and perfect for those chillers out there ;), $5 a night.

Kho Rong Sanloem: Yellow Moon, about $5 a night. Battambang: Lucky Hostel, $2 a night.

Siem Reap: Golden Mango Inn (now called Forest King Hotel), more expensive at $25 a night but such a nice pool and sun loungers and free tuk-tuk into the city & back.

So in general in Cambodia, you can get decent accommodation for 5$ a night, but do be aware that in beach locations, like the islands, the cheaper the accommodation the more likely you are to be sleeping on a damp mattress with bedbugs – not enjoyable. 

Where to eat & drink?

Phnom Penh: Food market on the other side of the large Russian Markets are a must, good traditional cheap eats, everyone sits on the floor on giant rugs and gets stuck in. The Russian Market great for buying designer(is) clothes on the cheap, lululemon leggings for $5 etc.

We TripAdvisor’s most of the bars. Koh Rong: Beach bars easily found by walking around. Boozy boat trips very easy to come across. Siem Reap is famous for its strip of bars and clubs and they are all easy to find in the centre of the city.

"We used night buses to get everywhere. We simply asked at the reception of our hostel."

Any safety issues?

I felt very safe in Cambodia compared to other southeast Asian countries. Incredibly friendly locals that are aware of how valuable tourism is and are willing to help. In the Russian Market in Phnom Penh and busy places, I’d suggest to hold on to your belongings carefully and lock away your luggage in the lockboxes that are in most of the hostels. I wouldn’t recommend giving anything to the child beggars that are very present in Phnom Penh as it’s difficult and emotional to get them to go back to their parents, as well as the fact that a local woman told us the parents of the child beggars take them out of school if they know they can earn some money on the street, and we shouldn’t be fuelling this.


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