Cambodia Survival Guide
Cambodia was one of my favorite countries. Laid back, vibrant fields, gentle people, it somehow felt like home to me. Cambodia is not as underdeveloped as one may think. It has a good bus transportation infrastructure to woosh you around city to city, while taxis and motodops take up the rest of the load. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have backpacker areas where you’ll find the tourist enclave and a slightly more western Cambodia. You’ll also find many NGO programs where travelers come to volunteer their time to developing and educating the system even further.
Due to the violent history of the Khmer Rouge, history is its prime attractions. Attractions such as the genocide museum, killing fields, Angkor Wat are all main fodder to check out.
Plug Adapters & Converters for Cambodia
Voltage in Cambodia is 230v, which is slightly higher than much of Southeast Asia (220v). I’ve charged my Mac Airbook and Canon DSLR and they was fine, but to be safe you may want to use pick up a transformer for the voltage. Without it, your devices may heat up. Plugs used are generally A and C and in some hotels, G.
Currency in Cambodia
Angkor Wat is a world-famous UNESCO site so it’s definitely a must see, but it’s also worthwhile to spend an extra day or so, getting out to the outer areas of the park, to places like Bantay Srei and the landmine museum. Take a drive out to the town’s outskirts to see houses raised on stilts and Tonle Sap’s floating villages, (but for the latter, be careful not to get scammed with $25 ticket prices at the boat dock. The actual cost is only $10).
Budget accommodations are plentiful in Siem Reap. If you’re located near the old market (where most of the bars and restaurants are), there’s a wealth budget hotels and guesthouses to choose from. You essentially could even go on foot. However, if you’re not so inclined to sherpa your luggage around in the heat, you can book ahead. Here’s two places I stayed at.
This friendly guesthouse is located in a neighborhood of small, laid-back guesthouses and is only a 10-15 minute walk to the Old Market. Near to Peace Cafe (where there’s yoga), Happy offers free pickup, free internet, a restaurant with free wifi and tour deals/transportation to your next destination.
Popular Guesthouse (Location: Ideal, near the Old Market. Book through Agoda)
A stones throw from the Old Market and outdoor food stalls, Popular Guesthouse makes a nice pad to drop your stuff while in Siem Reap. It offers free wifi in the cafe and a upstairs cafe to hang out, lounge and take in a lazy morning breakfast. Rooms are comfortable, clean and cheap starting at $6 for a single room with fan and bath ensuite
What to do and see in Siem Reap
Angkor Wat (read here)
Floating Villages (read here)
Houses a children’s home providing education and support for at-risk youth and those who have been affected by landmine accidents. Home to over 30 children. Getting there: 6 km south of Bantey Srei Temple inside the Angkor Wat park. Takes about 45 minutes by tuk-tuk from downtown. Admission is $1 but to get into the Angkor Wat park, you will need to have a ticket to Angkor Wat. If you’re looking to see the major temples, you may want to get the 3 day pass. $20/day, $40/3-days.
Volunteer programs in Siem Reap
If you wish to volnteer to teach English must commit to at least two months. www.interweavecambodia.org
NLCO or New Life Center Organization, funded by USA org, Global Connections PRoject Organization
To improve the lives of orphans and disadvantaged children
Address: #0558, Group 7, Pobos village, Svaydongkum Commune, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat.
Bus : SIEM REAP to PHNOM PENH
Bus Transportation in Cambodia is fairly efficient and inexpensive. Often, there is an overnight bus as well as, long distance buses in the day,which operate to many locations throughout Cambodia. There’s even long distance buses to Vietnam/Ho Chi Minh. Buses are comfortable, with AC and some play Khmer music videos/karaoke on the television monitor. You can buy your tickets from your guesthouse, travel agency or the bus companies themselves. You can get a more detailed listing and bus timetables from Canby Publications .
Overnight Bus : leaves 12 AM, arrives 6AM, $8
I can’t tell you why just yet but I love this city but I do! It’s honkity busy with activity and motorbikes, but it’s still friendly and laid back. The S21 museum carries a powerful impact and is a definite must, making the Killing Fields look a tad less thrilling. The main parts of the city are walkable but a $2 tuk-tuk or motordop ride doesn’t hurt.
Phnom Penh Accommodations
Capitol Guesthouse (restaurant and bus station) – read my experience here
#14Eo, Road 182, Sangkat Beng Prolit, Khan 7 January, Phnom Penh
tel: 012-548-409 website: www.bigpond.com.kh/users/Capitol
Located on the corner of a busy street opposite of Orussey Marketplace, Capitol is a bustling hub for tourists looking for a place to bed down, eat and shop for tours/transportation. It’s an all-in-one service provided here. Tour packages and bus tickets to your journey onward are cheap. Rooms can feel a bit cell-like and walls are thin, but it’s cozy, clean and incredibly cheap enough to make you want to extend your stay (I stayed for close to a week) and there’s free in-room wifi to make it even more attractive. While it’s not a place you’ll easily meet travelers, it will help you set up your journey. The neighboring area is more of a gritty downtown feel. It’s not pretty but there’s a lot of local action and flavor to its surroundings to make it interesting and it’s close to central (meaning: if you’re ambitious, you can walk to most things) The backstreet parallel holds a street market in the morning and the streets in the neighboring area are dedicated to individual services- tailoring, motorbike mechanics, etc…
Bus Stations in Phnom Penh
Bus Transportation in Cambodia is fairly efficient and inexpensive. Often, there is an overnight bus as well as, long distance buses in the day,which operate to many locations throughout Cambodia. There’s even long distance buses to Vietnam/Ho Chi Minh. Buses are comfortable, with AC and some play Khmer music videos/karaoke on the television monitor. You can buy your tickets from your guesthouse, travel agency or the bus companies themselves.
You can catch a long distance bus conveniently from Capitol Guesthouse. The bus station, Capitol Tours, is on the ground floor. As well as, near Sorya Bus station near the Phsar Thmey (Central Market). You can get a more detailed listing and bus timetables from Canby Publications .
Capitol buses from PP go to Battambang, Poipet, Bangkok, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham,
What to do and see in Phnom Penh:
The Killing Fields
The Royal Palace & National Museum
River front & Night market
Day trip to Kampong Cham to PP– 15,000 or $4
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum aka S21
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is the infamous genocide camp, where victims of the Khmer rouge were brought, tortured and killed. Perhaps the most intense site of all Cambodia it hits harder than the Killing Fields as you walk through three school buildings which were converted into a horrific torture chamber of Pot Pol’s regime carrying out orders to kill families whose members were seen as traitors. Postwar stories from the survivors as well as the Khmer Rouge lend much reflection. But perhaps the most disquieting and shocking display on the grounds are all the hundreds of photos of camp victims who were tagged and documented. Seeing s21 and the Killing Fields will leave you winded for a few hours.
.Getting to S21: A motordop or tuk-tuk drive is easily taken to s21 which is south of downtown. If you have the time, walking is also feasible but it stands a distance from the Royal Palace and National Museum along PP’s tourist coastline. The Killing Fields however, are on the outskirts of Phnom Phen and can be reached by taxi/driver or tour. There’s a one day budget tour from Capitol Guesthouse including these two sites as well as a few others.
Kampong Cham is a surprisingly well-kept and maintained town. Despite some aging, French colonial styled buildings felt as old as the 1960′s and 70′s and the town was definitely finding slow-but-sure upgrades through contemporary billboard signage, a ‘Stop & Go’ type of gas station convenience mart, fresh coats of paint and sidewalk re-bricking maintenance.
Kampong Cham has only one main bus station. There’s a second but it’s more for locals and it consists of a small van and locals will try to transport as much as they can. You’ll see these vans at bus rest stops and their cabooses will be spilling out. Trust me, just stick with the larger tourist bus. You can catch a long distance bus conveniently from Capitol Guesthouse. The bus station, Capitol Tours, is on the ground floor. As well as, near Sorya Bus station near the Phsar Thmey (Central Market). You can get a more detailed listing and bus timetables from Canby Publications .
Capitol buses from PP go to Battambang, Poipet, Bangkok, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham,
Best Guide books to find about Cambodia and IN Cambodia:
Canby Publications (Read my review )