In the minds of many, Cambodia is a mono attraction with just Angkor Wat's beautiful monuments to offer.
Between Thailand and Vietnam–tourists tend to ignore that there is an entire country to be discovered beyond the decaying temples.
If you've never been to Cambodia before, it can be overwhelming to take it all in at once. We've put together a complete guide for you to make things easier.
Arrival at Cambodia
Most visitors arrive in Cambodia via Siem Reap International Airport, which is three miles from Angkor Wat and roughly five miles from the city of Siem Reap. You can take minibuses, buses, or domestic flights from Siem Reap to other country regions, such as Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kampot, and Sihanoukville (the gateway to Koh Rong).
If you're considering a land trip from another country, many border crossings are open to tourists–the Thai border crossings at Aranyaprathet/Poipet and Trat/Koh Kong, and the Vietnamese border crossing of Moc Bai/Bavet.
To travel from the UK to Cambodia, British citizens require a visa. British tourists can request a visa online to visit Cambodia. However, check the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism website for the latest information on policies before making travel arrangements.
Things to do in Cambodia
If you're thinking about a holiday to Cambodia, we have a few recommendations for you:
Angkor Archeological park
Angkor Wat and a smattering of Buddhist and Hindu structures from the 12th century can be seen in this 400-acre park near Siem Reap. There is a severe risk of "temple fatigue" due to the large number of structures located within. Choose between the 10-mile "Small Circuit," which can be visited in a single day, and the 16-mile "Grand Circuit," which requires a multi-day entry pass.
Siem Reap, a tiny hamlet about five kilometres south of Angkor Wat, has grown into the fastest-growing settlement in Cambodia. When it comes to tourist attractions, Siem Reap is all about delectable cuisine, enticing lodgings, and a slew of fun activities that won't ruin your holiday.
Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, grows from 1,000 square miles to 6,200 square miles during the rainy season, from June to October. Over 300 species of freshwater fish breed in the flooded forests, and the lake supplies half of Cambodia's entire fish catch. A short drive north of Siem Reap, Tonle Sap is known for its floating villages, where entire populations depend on the lake's bounty for their survival.
Phnom Penh is a kaleidoscope of cultures, times, peoples, and civilizations, with temples, markets, and bustling backstreets. Despite its chaotic nature, the city manages to combine influences from Cambodia, China, and France into a cohesive whole.
Battambang is a peaceful retreat from the bustle of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, with a rich architectural legacy, a burgeoning art scene, and gorgeous landscape countryside. History buffs will enjoy visiting Phnom Sampeau, Phnom Banan, and Wat Ek Phnom, all within a day's drive of Battambang. The famous Bamboo Train, which runs between Battambang's east bank and the little village of O Srav on a single-line rail track made of wood and bamboo, is also a popular attraction.
Facing the peninsula that connects Cambodia and Thailand, which is reachable by a nearly two-kilometre long bridge, Koh Kong is a lovely and quiet base to explore the surrounding hills, oceans, and everything in between.
Even if the number of national parks in Cambodia is small, this does not indicate that the country lacks eco-friendly activities. It is possible to trek in the Cardamom Mountains in the west, from Koh Kong and Chi Phat. Betreed is located in the north, beyond the Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary. Sen Monorom, situated in the east, is a major centre for eco-tourism activities involving elephants and sustainable tourism.
With fewer tourists and more charm, Cambodian island beaches are as wonderful as Thailand's, if not better. From picture-perfect cliche to a rather messy party venue, Koh Rong offers a stunning coastline of unspoiled beaches, alive with marine life and colourful plankton, and a lush inland covered in dense woods, regardless of what the future holds.
Where to stay
As Cambodia's most popular gateway city for tourists, Siem Reap has a wide variety of accommodation options, from hostels to five-star hotels. Booking in advance is especially important if you plan to travel during the peak season of December and February.
Best time to visit
Visit Cambodia in the dry season, which lasts from the end of November to the beginning of April. The Angkor temples are far more pleasant to visit during the dry season when the weather is cooler, and there is less muck.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.