Nestled in the southern part of the Indochinese peninsula lies the Kingdom of Cambodia. Surrounded by Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, the old empire of Kampuchea is home to rare and wild animals and a very young population with a median age of 26 years.  

If you are patient enough, take a boat on the majestic Mekong River in Stung Treng and watch the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin, named after the Ayeyarwaddi River in Myanmar. The friendly critters are often called 'fisherman's friends' as they help the fishermen to collect small fish.

And if you have not only patience but also time, visit the remote states of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. Their jungle is home to wild elephants and with some luck, the majestic giants might come out of the thicket.

Entry requirements for Cambodia

For vaccinated travelers

  • Valid visa: Apply for the visa before traveling. It takes around 3 business days to complete the process.
  • Covid test: Proof of a negative COVID-test result prior to your travels. Negative PCR-covid test within 48 hours before boarding or entering the country.
  • Vaccination: A valid EU Digital COVID certificate or a valid recovery certificate or an alternative proof of full vaccination. If you have been vaccinated in the USA, please show your CDC-card. No quarantine or self-isolation is required.

For unvaccinated travelers

  • Valid visa: Apply for the visa before traveling. It takes around 3 business days to complete the process.
  • Covid test: Proof of a negative COVID-test result prior to your travels. Negative PCR-covid test within 48 hours before boarding or entering the country.
  • Quarantine: Quarantine of 14 days after arrival is mandatory and the facility will be randomly chosen for foreigners.

There is no mandatory obligation stating that you must have insurance when traveling in Cambodia.

Travel health insurance for Cambodia

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Covid-19 in Cambodia

Cambodia shows a vaccination ratio of 88% of its population.

How to travel around in Cambodia

  • Public transport: There is no public transport in Cambodia that is worth trying. Cities have neither tram, metro, subway nor a reliable bus network. In cities or towns, it is easy and best to take a taxi or Grab.
  • Bus: Cambodia offers a relatively good bus network. However, the quality of services differ greatly. One bus company I can recommend is Giant Ibis which operates between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kampot, Kep, Sihanoukville, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), and Bangkok (Thailand). The overland busses stop at clean public restrooms, legroom is okay, and the music or TV is on normal volume. Other companies are blasting local music to a degree where one can not understand his own words. Kampot Express is a good way to reach southern destinations such as Kampot, Kep, or Sihanoukville.
  • Taxi: Official taxis are widely available in Cambodia. However, recent reports by tourists include price scams and a lack of navigating the nearest route to the destination. I would suggest looking for a Grab before taking a taxi.
  • Grab: An easy, reliable and transparent way to get around in Cambodia is by using Grab.
  • Tuk Tuk: Similar to Bangkok's Tuk Tuks, Cambodian Tuk Tuks are a nostalgic way to get around, for example from Siem Reap to the nearby temples of Angkor. Tuk Tuks are more expansive than Grab.
  • Bicycle: It is easy to rent a bicycle in Cambodia and many locals use bicycles to get around. Tourists often use bicycles to paddle from Siem Reap to Angkor, although the heat and high level of humidity make it to a workout.
  • Scooter rental: Another way to be self-sufficient is by renting a scooter, which is often done by travelers. The rental process is uncomplicated. Please be aware that the traffic in Cambodia has basically no rules. Busses and trucks drive fast and don't mind racing through big puddles soaking pedestrians, cyclists, and bikers in dirty water. I would not recommend going by scooter or motorbike between cities but it is ok, if you have some driving experience, to use scooters within a city.

Where to find a place in Cambodia

  • Facebook groups: Facebook works like a giant marketplace in Vietnam and so it does in Cambodia. Join the local Facebook groups and search through the listings, it is easy to find a place in Cambodia. I wouldn't pay more than $500 per month for an average-sized non-fancy place that comes with a kitchen and decent internet connection.
  • Airbnb: I used Airbnb in Cambodia and haven't had a bad experience so far. I just don't like to support the service as I think their price scheme is off since the pandemic and fees have skyrocketed.
  • Hotels: Depending on how long you stay in one location, I would always search on booking.com and co. for available hotels. The advantage of staying in a hotel is that there is staff around you can make accountable for things that were promised but were not provided. It is also easier to get a refund through a booking site or with a hotel by negotiating this matter with a private landlord. Plus: Cambodia is a fairly cheap travel destination and it might be worth spending some money on a nice sea view villa or Colonial-style hotel in urban areas.

Good to know about Cambodia

  • Internet: The average broadband connection in Siem Reap is 13 Mbps download and 12 Mbps upload speed. Phnom Penh shows slightly higher rates of 16 Mbps download and 16 Mbps upload. In most hotels, Airbnbs, and guest houses, Wifi speed is okay to work from. However, if you spend most of your time in video calls, it greatly depends on your accommodation. It is advisable to have a sim card as a backup hotspot.
  • Sim card: Get Cellcart or Smart sim cards if you stick to Siem Reap and the Phnom Penh area. If you travel across the country and visit remote areas get Metfone. If your phone supports eSim cars, you might want to consider airalo.
  • Climate: Similar to Thailand and Lao, Cambodia's dry season is the winter months from October to April. The wet season is from May to September. Temperature ranges from an average of 24 degrees Celsius in the dry season to 35 degrees Celsius in the wet season. I have been to Cambodia many (many) times, including in the wet season (in May and in July and August), these months turn most unpaved roads into mud puddles. The drainage systems of villages and smaller towns are non-existing and even the bigger cities struggle during heavy rain.
  • Digital nomad community: Cambodia has a long history in tourism, it has been a backpacker's paradise, a getaway for honeymooners, and wildlife and birdwatching enthusiasts. Similar to its neighboring country, Cambodia has a lively expat community, from the small town of Kampot to Sihanoukville, and of course in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. And where travelers and expats mingle, you often find digital nomads too.
  • Coworking spaces: In Phnom Penh, check out Workspace 1, a cozy coworking space in the south of the capital, located in a factory building. If you want to work closer to the city center, check out Emerald Hub which comes with an onsite café, a terrace, and a library. In Siem Reap, the famous AngkorHub closed its doors, unfortunately. But, check out BioLap Coffee & Office, The Little Red Fox Espresso, and Footprint Cafés Hub.
  • Quality of life: Keeping in mind that Cambodia is a developing country that still crawls out of the darkness of its recent history of the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia - to me - comes with a good quality of life. People are really friendly, helpful, and welcoming, facilities such as hotels, restaurants, cafés, and shops are in good condition and provide good selections, a lively, growing, and diverse expat community sets international tone into the cities, and the overall cost of living is really affordable. Although public transport isn't great, it is still relatively easy to get around, or rent a scooter and explore the nearby areas.
  • Cost of living: As mentioned already, the cost of living in Cambodia is really good and can be compared to the costs of living in Vietnam. You shouldn't need to spend more than $1,200 per month as a single person.
  • Safety: Overall, Cambodia is considered to be a safe country for travelers. Pitty crime and taxi scams can happen. Reports on tourists being ripped off by taxi drivers or hotels have increased but stagnated over the last years - maybe because of the pandemic? Be careful when strolling around the city and make use of your room safe, if you have one.
  • Health care: When the brutal Khmer Rouge was overthrown by Vietnamese armed forces, due to border conflicts, the country was left with only 50 doctors in 1980. Since then, Cambodia has grown not just economically, or in population size but also in health care. The problem is that 60 % of the health care costs are out of the pocket expenses which are the main reasons for impoverishment. However, health care services are okay as long as you don't have serious illnesses or severe accidents.
  • Air quality: The fast-growing capital of Phnom Penh shows a moderate level of 65 US AQI in air quality. Overall air quality is good in Cambodia, and especially on the coast, in the countryside, or in Siem Reap you will breathe fresh and clean air. The cause of air pollution in Phnom Penh results in the increase of vehicles, construction sites, and factory emissions.
  • Easy access to neighboring countries: It is easy to take a plane and visit neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, or Laos. Once immigration laws ease up again after being tightened due to Covid, it is possible to cross borders to Vietnam and Lao by boat, or bus.
  • Wildlife: Cambodia is home to many wildlife, for example, the Asian Elephant, the Siamese Crocodile, and the Sun Bear. Also, wild ox, panthers, parrots, King Cobra, gibbons, and water buffalos are inhabitants of Cambodia's terrain. Many species are endangered, and the wildlife diversity diminishes quickly. Only 75 elephants are left in Cambodia. A group of 50 Asian Elephants lives in the Elephant Sanctuary in the jungle of Mondulkiri which you can visit and help the project to keep alive and safe the group from illegal poaching. No elephant riding.
  • Butterfly Center: When in Siem Reap, check out the Banteay Srey Butterfly Center in the countryside of Siem Reap which is a nice half-day trip and close to Banteay Srei temples.
  • Grilled insects: Skuon, also known as Spidertown, in Kampong Cham province is famous for its fried spiders (tarantula). The locals starting nibbling on the eight-legged creatures in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge ruled the country which forced the majority of the population into hunger and starvation. Cambodia is the country where you can try grilled insects as streetfood dishes.
  • Khmer Rouge: Supported by the North Vietnamese Viet Cong, the communist Lao Pathet, North Korea, the communist party of Romania, and the Chinese Communist party lead by Mao Zedong, the army of Khmer Rouge was quickly built up and set Mr. Pol Pot in power, a Marxist-Leninist and nationalist, who ruled the country from 1976 to 1979. Khmer Rouge ruled highly autocratic, totalitarian, xenophobic, paranoid, and repressive and the government killed 25% of the Khmer population, including academics, doctors, teachers, scholars, and basically everyone else who was wearing glasses or was able to read and write. A proxy war, between the United States together with South Vietnam and China together with the Soviet Union, and Khmer Rouge took place and lead to the Cambodian Civil War. Khmer Rouge was eliminated in 1999. Please visit The Killing Fields and the prison of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, when traveling to Phnom Penh.

What to avoid in Cambodia

  • Currency scams: Cambodia's official currencies are the local riel and the USD. If you want to exchange money into riel, do this only in small quantities as the riel is nothing worth outside Cambodia and hard to change back to Euros or Dollars. Instead, you can use USD in Cambodia. Never accept a "foreign coin collector" to change money for you in order to collect Euro coins, for example. These scams are common as many tourists don't know the official exchange rate.
  • Fake guides: The area around the entrance of Angkor is the official parking lot and the place where fake guides try to convince you that they are licensed tour guides and offer cheap service. If you want to book a guide for Angkor, book on official selling points in town.
  • Taxi scams: It happened, unfortunately, that taxi drivers say the meter is broken, that the meter works but the driver takes an overly long road, or does he is out of change. The best is to know the prices for distances and always carry small notes with you. Or, why not use Grab?
  • Underestimating travel time: If you check out Siem Reap to Kampot or Kampot to Sihanoukville, you might think it is just a quick overland bus trip, done in a few hours. No, no. Roads are in really bad condition, sometimes there is too much traffic for the old roads and it causes traffic jams and just the time from Phnom Penh's outskirts into the city center takes more than an hour due to chaotic traffic. I took overland busses all over Cambodia, it is safe, fun and affordable but it will take forever.
  • Reducing travel to Siem Reap: Cambodia offers so much diversity: remote beaches at Rabbit Island near Kep, Bokor National Park with the ruins of a church, jungle, and wildlife in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri states, cruise adventures on Tonle Sap or Mekong river that bring you all the way up north to the pool of the Irrawaddy River dolphins, the rattling bamboo train, an old French railway in Battambang, and cycling through the countryside.
  • Sihanoukville: The only place I never want to go back to is Sihanoukville, a beach resort town in the charm of a rundown Soviet Union-era town. Tacky bars on trashed beaches and overtourism by Chinese tourists make Sihanoukville the by far least attractive place I have visited in South East Asia.

Useful contacts

  • Tourist police Phnom Penh: 012 942 484
  • Tourist police Siem Reap: 012 402 424

How to stay healthy in Cambodia

Stay active

  • Gym and Pools: If you are in the cities, like Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, you can get a gym membership at a normal gym, or you join one of the 5-star hotels which give you access to their pool.
  • Yoga: Just have a look on Facebook and you should find someone who offers yoga classes for very little money. Yoga studios can be found in all touristic areas but you can also find yoga retreats far away from the beaten track.
  • Cycling: Cambodia is a cycling-friendly country, thanks to the fact, that many Cambodian use to cycle, especially the elderly and people in the country side. It is beautiful to cycle through the green rice paddies, on river promenades, and remote villages. In Siem Reap you can cycle around Angkor and also Kep is suitable for cycling.

Eat well

  • Khmer cuisine: Local food is clean and healthy, at least when the food is prepared in the traditional way, without the usage of MSG and other additives that unfortunately entered the market with ready-to-eat-sauces. Khmer cuisine is based on fish, meat, and vegetables. You find sour soups, beef dishes, curries, hot pots but also papaya salad in Khmer cuisine. Popular dishes are Samlar Kari (chicken curry), Yao hon (hot pot), the breakfast dish Num banh chok (Khmer noodles) and Lok lak (styr-fried beef dish), Amok trey (fish in bananaleaf dish). Local food is very meat- and fish-heavy.
  • Home-cooked meals: Cambodia offers plenty of tropical fruits and vegetables on the local markets. From avocado (seasonal), oranges, papaya, to pineapple, sprouts, and mushrooms to just name a few. Cambodia has a huge variety and it is really fun to shop at the markets. Please check the kg price beforehand otherwise you might end up paying triple the local price.
  • No Western junkfood: Do you know there is no Mc Donald's in Cambodia? Because every single street food vendor in the country is 10x faster and 5x cheaper than the American fast-food junk. Although you might find KFC in the country, Cambodia is one of the only countries where the junk-food giant makes no profit.
  • App: Check out Happy Cow for vegan venues in your area.

Make friends

  • Live happier: We don’t mean to force ourselves into awkward blind dates or superficial meetups. Still, it is true: Studies reveal, and you know this already, that people with satisfying social relationships live happier, healthier, and longer.
  • Reduce depression & anxiety: In times of Covid-19, the feeling of loneliness has been increased, especially among young adults. A Harvard study reveals, about 36% of young American adults frequently felt lonely or lonely at all times since the outbreak. Additionally, around 63% of young adults felt anxious and depressed.
  • Where to make friends: As an introvert, I know how awkward it is for me to make new friends in coffee shops, grocery stores, or the gym. I simply don’t want to be bothered when I sweat my butt off during a workout. Instead, I recommend meeting new people by doing what you like, e.g., your hobby. I find it much easier and more natural to meet people at coworking and/or coliving spaces, digital nomad meetups, local dance or cooking classes, book clubs, craft workshops, or simply every other event representing a hobby.

Your health insurance for Cambodia

Genki offers travel health insurance for your stay in Cambodia. Quick sign up from anywhere in the world (no need to be in your home country to sign up), and you will be covered for up to 2 years (monthly subscription and payment plan).

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