Must-do’s when backpacking through Cambodia

Admire the temples of Angkor Wat, explore the streets of the fascinating capital Phnom Penh, get to know the friendly people and relax on the golden beaches and Cambodian islands.

Cambodia is an enchanting and inexpensive destination for backpackers. Here you will find the absolute must-do’s and find out how to apply for your Cambodia visa to travel to the country. 


Eating in Cambodia
Amok: This delicious creamy coconut curry with fish is an absolute must. Other (maybe less attractive) delicacies to try are deep-fried spiders, crickets, barbecued rats and snakes. Don’t let the names scare you off, you’ll find they taste surprisingly good! Sugar cane juice is a refreshing drink pressed directly from the sugar cane on the street and is the perfect way to cool down in steaming hot Cambodia. For backpackers looking to keep costs down, the streets of Cambodia are full of delicious local meals, such as curries and stir-fries that often cost less than 1 dollar. Add another dollar and you get a large bottle of local Angkor beer with your meal. If you feel the need for Western food after all those weeks of backpacking, you can get a sandwich for a bit more money (3 dollars) or a pizza (for 5 dollars). 

Sleeping in Cambodia
One of the main reasons Cambodia is so popular as a backpacking destination is due to the fact that it is one of the cheapest countries in Asia to stay in. In many towns and villages, you can find hostels for as little as 1 or 2 dollars a night. For about 8 dollars, you can get a great hostel with extras like free breakfast and a swimming pool. If you feel the need to get a good rest from all that travelling and sleeping in the dorms, you can get a double room in a nice hotel with all the extras for 15 dollars a night. 


Phnom Penh
In the capital, you can visit the harrowing “Killing Fields” and the Tuol Sleng Museum to learn more about Cambodia’s recent history. You can also immerse yourself in the ancient past at the National Museum. It is a city of extremes (poor vs. rich and modern technology vs. tradition). There is much to discover and marvel at, but be prepared for hectic activity, heavy traffic and crowded markets. 

Angkor Temples
Angkor Wat, a few kilometres from Siem Reap, is hailed as one of the most beautiful structures in the world. Built by King Suryavarman II, this awe-inspiring site turned into the capital of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 13th centuries. This “eighth wonder of the world” offers 400 km2 of temple ruins with beautiful vegetation. Angkor Wat is said to have been built in 35 years by 12,000 workers. 


Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the ideal starting point for backpackers who want to visit Angkor Wat, but it has much more to offer. It is a lively city full of restaurants and bustling bars, night markets, street food, busy backpacker hostels, the Phare Circus and the Tonlé Sap Lake (one of the largest lakes in Southeast Asia) with its picturesque floating houses. In addition to visiting Angkor Wat, it is highly recommended to rent a scooter or bicycle and take a trip around Siem Reap to explore the surrounding countryside and local villages. 


Apply for a Cambodia visa
Backpacking in Cambodia requires a mandatory Cambodia visa. Otherwise, you won’t be allowed to enter the country. You can apply for the Cambodia visa online by filling out the digital form and making the payment. The visa is then sent to you by e-mail after approval. Since 30 March 2020, it is only possible to enter Cambodia with a visa that you can apply for at the Cambodian embassy (this is different from the e-visa Cambodia, and proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. This certificate must not have been issued more than 72 hours before the date of departure. You must also be able to prove that you have health insurance with a minimum coverage of 50,000 US dollars.

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Photo credits: Paul Szewczyk on Unsplash