Backpacking Cambodia: BEST Travel Tips For 2024

My top tips for backpacking Cambodia so you can have the ultimate adventure in one of my favorite budget destinations! I will let you know all things money, visa details, the ultimate places to visit, and so much more!


Even though Cambodia may not be as popular as Thailand or Vietnam when it comes to crazy budget travel. However, it is still a great option with palm tree-covered beaches, lush green jungles, and super interesting history, backpacking Cambodia is an adventure to remember.

It is one of my personal favorite countries and one I always recommend it to friends and family.

Also since Cambodia is on the banana pancake trail in Southeast Asia you will come across plenty of other backpackers. So, if you travel on a budget like I do, you will be stoked to know it’s easy to find great hostels, affordable food, and of course, crazy cheap beers.

Most travelers spend around 2 to 3 weeks on their backpacking Cambodia itinerary. This will give you time to explore the history, check out a couple of the islands, and compare small town versus big city life.

Before we get into the fun stuff like the best places to see, it’s back to basics with backpacking Cambodia. Let’s iron out the finer details like money, visas, when you should visit, accommodation, transport and so much more!



Currency In Cambodia

The currency in Cambodia is called the Cambodian Reil.

I recommend checking online exchange rates for the most up to date conversions.

Though what is unique about the money situation in Cambodia is that US dollars are widely accepted all around the country. That means it is quite common for you will receive your change in a mixture of Cambodian Reil and US Dollars when you pay for goods.

It may take a little bit to get used to, especially if you are not the best at conversions.

Be aware that in 2020 the Cambodian Government started phasing out smaller US Dollar bills, such as $1.00, $2.00, and $5.00 notes. This is especially so in Phnom Penh, though in larger tourist centers such as Siem Reap they are still often accepted.

Just be aware over time this is likely to change and Cambodian Reil will again become the norm in the country.

checking out the impressive carvings on one of the temples- a must when backpacking cambodia
checking out the impressive carvings on one of the temples- a must when backpacking cambodia

Travel Budget For Backpacking Cambodia

Before my life of travel took over I actually spent many years studying to become an accountant. Therefore don’t be overly surprised to learn that I kept track of all my expenses while backpacking Cambodia!

And I mean absolutely everything from transportation, food, activities, accommodation, and I remembered to even add my souvenir shopping!

All in all, I spent $29.00 per day. I was able to do it so cheaply by staying in some super cheap, and questionable rooms, booking minivans as tourists, and honestly doing as less tours as possible.

Of course, there are some pricey experiences in Cambodia such as visiting Angkor Archeological Park on the small circuit or grand circuit. Though this is a bucketlist experience and something that is well worth splurging on!

In typical fashion, the most expensive part of my budget was actually food, at over twice as much as my accommodation costs. Though I am quite the food and enjoy eating in pricier hipster spots which are seemingly around every corner in Siem Reap.

Therefore if you eat street food, and book accommodation with breakfast included, it would be easier to beat my personal average daily spend of $29.00 while backpacking Cambodia.

One thing which is really growing in popularity these days is volunteering at organizations such as Worldpackers where you work for a preorganized amount of time in exchange for a bed, and usually some meals as well.

Worldpacker work exchanges are quite a popular thing in Cambodia and around the hostel scene around the world. Essentially you will be eliminating your accommodation, and some meal costs, allowing you to travel for longer.

the calm shore of saracen bay in koh rong samloem
the calm shore of saracen bay in koh rong samloem

Entry Requirements For Backpacking Cambodia

You do need a visa to enter Cambodia. Though you either have the option of getting an eVisa online or a visa on arrival.

Be aware if you decide to do a visa on arrival they cost around $30.00 (make sure you have cash on you) and you will need one passport-sized photo. Both the eVisa and visa on arrival are valid for 30 days from entry.

Do note that you are required to show proof of departure when arrive which is a common practice. This is because many people travel somewhere and end up overstaying. In the past, it has been a popular place to do visa runs, but governments around Southeast Asia are cracking down on this.

If you do not have proof of onward travel I can recommend a company called Onward Ticket. They book a legitimate flight ticket in your name and then cancel it after a certain period. I 100% use this when I don’t have a return ticket already booked or want to keep my plans more open.

In exchange, you will pay a small service charge. However, you will be provided with an actual ticket for proof of onward travel.


Best Time To Travel Cambodia

The weather in Cambodia is similar to Thailand where between November and March is the high season or dry season. During this period you will find minimal rain, clear days, and lots of sunshine.

During this period, there is an influx of tourists as people come to visit, and as a result, accommodation prices increase.

Personally, I have always traveled Cambodia during the later side of the high season in either March or April. During this time the sunny days seemed to stick around, and it wasn’t until the islands that we experienced only a couple of thunderstorms.

Though what we honestly struggled with was the heat. This was especially so in Siem Reap, where I definitely recommend booking an air-conditioned room if you are wanting to get any sleep.

If you travel during April you will also get the chance to experience Songkran in Cambodia. This is the local New Year and is celebrated all around the country. Though be aware the best places to experience this are in smaller towns such as Kampot, as in larger cities nearly everyone leaves to be with their families in the villages.

celebrating songkran in kampot
celebrating songkran in kampot

Accommodation While Traveling Cambodia On A Budget

You can find a heap of accommodation options when backpacking Cambodia. Just keep in mind that if you want to visit the islands, which you 100% should, then you will definitely want to up your budget a little bit.

This is because it costs a lot more to run and build these hotels or hostels on an island. In contrast, on the mainland, you will find a variety of affordable hostels, guesthouses, and hotels for all budgets.

Siem Reap and Phnom Penh you can find a huge variety of affordable accommodation options. Honestly, they are excellent value for money. You can easily find a nice modern hotel in Siem Reap with air conditioning, and a pool, in a good location for as low as $20.00 per night.

Also on quite a few occasions I have just rolled up on Phnom Penh and wandered around to find a deal. Doing this can often mean you find private air-conditioned rooms for the same amount as a dorm bed you book online.

In smaller towns such as Battambang and Kampot, the best value-for-money accommodation comes in the form of a guesthouse. These are more like locally run hotels so you may find the beds are a bit harder and the rooms relatively basic. Though in all they are excellent value-for-money options.

In terms of actual prices, if you want a dorm bed person I recommend budgeting about $8.00 per day for accommodation costs. Though, if you are like me and enjoy simple guesthouses, and also have someone else to split private room costs with, up this amount to $15.00 per day just to be safe.

our glamping tent on koh rong samloem
an affordable glamping tent stay on koh rong samloem

Transport Options Around Cambodia

To be perfectly honest, there are no fancy ways to get around Cambodia. The trains are in no way the standard you find in Thailand, and the VIP minivans with lazy boy seats aren’t as common here as in Vietnam.

Nevertheless, there are always multiple choices for how to travel between your desired destinations.

Here is a little overview of the different kinds of transport you can find while backpacking Cambodia:

Planes: Let’s be honest, if you are trying to keep your budget low then it’s unlikely you will be taking any flights in Cambodia. Though if this is something you are interested in doing then your cheapest spots will be departing from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap.

Luckily if you don’t have the budget for this it is honestly not a big deal. This is simply because Cambodia is a relatively small country and you won’t find yourself needing to do any overnight journeys.

Mini Van: Now taking a minivan is one of the most popular ways to travel in Cambodia. Even if you actually book a bus, don’t be surprised if instead, a minivan turns up. With pick you up from your accommodation and drop you off at a central location in your next city, it’s a great choice.

The prices may be a little bit higher when compared to the bus. However, its worth it as the journey will be a lot faster. Just be aware the one downside is they will likely fill up the minivans to the brim with travelers, which does not make for a comfortable journey.

Also, they are generally more dangerous as the drivers swerve in and out of traffic, and not very well taken care of, so don’t be surprised; if you experience a breakdown.

Bus: A slightly cheaper option than a minivan, the bus is a good choice for those who aren’t in a rush. Personally, I make sure to book The Giant Ibis when traveling by bus in Cambodia.

These are more pricey but are always a comfortable journey with soft seats and the majority of the time, working air conditioning. The driver will also pull over every few hours for a much needed bathroom break.

Train: Slowly taking the train is becoming a more popular option in Cambodia as the rail lines are being refurbished around the country. Though as of writing this they aren’t widely available within the country.

Instead, you are only really able to take the train between Phnom Penh, Battambang, Kampot, and Sihanoukville on the main tourist trail. Also, be aware the trains in Cambodia are notoriously slow so you may find it still takes the same amount of time as a bus would.

Boat: Of course, if you are planning to travel to the islands, which you definitely should be, then you will need to take a boat of sorts. Honestly, the easiest way to do this is just to turn up at the pier and book with the next company going out.

On the speed boats or ferries, all service that they offer is essentially the same. Just make sure you don’t turn up to the pier in the late afternoon as you may find that the timetable has finished for the day. Alternatively, you can do the cheaper option of the slow boat from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong.

Motorbike: A less popular option for backpackers, but definitely still doable is to travel by motorbike around Cambodia. Since your itinerary will likely be from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, or visa versa, and visiting all the towns along the way, renting won’t be an option and you will need to look at buying.

taking a tuk tuk is a great way to travel around cities when in cambodia
taking a tuk tuk is a great way to travel around cities when in cambodia

Food & Drink In Cambodia

In Cambodia, you can find a huge variety of foods, especially in cities like Siem Reap. From tourist favorites like vegan, Italian, Indian, and Vietnamese to BBQ and burgers.

A lot of restaurants and cafes here are also set up as social enterprises. This is where they give back a portion of their profits to educating and supporting local communities, as well as hiring and training local workers.

Though wherever you find yourself good food will not be far away. To be honest, I am a super fussy eater plus a vegetarian, not a fun combination. However, I had zero issues finding something suitable in Cambodia. My favorite options were small locally run restaurants offering different stir-fry dishes.

At these types of local eateries, you generally spend between $2.50-$3.50 per meal. Though, in contrast, by eating out at upscale restaurants that cater to tourists you can easily double this amount or more!

a delicious pad thai meal from a restaurant in siem reap
a delicious pad thai meal from a restaurant in siem reap

What Is Internet Access Like In Cambodia?

You will be happy to know that internet access is pretty decent in Cambodia. As a result, it can be a popular place with digital nomads who need to work remotely, this is especially so in Siem Reap and Pnom Penh.

The only place you are likely to have internet issues is on any of the islands, basically don’t expect to have any internet access there at all, some parts of the islands even have limited or no power.


Purchasing A SIM Card In Cambodia

No doubt the easiest and simplest way to buy a SIM card is when you arrive at the airport in Cambodia.

Here you will find people working phone company booths that are trained to help foreigners and provide good short term plans. Though be aware that because of this service you are likely to pay a premium when compared to just simply buying it in a store off the street.

I have actually always arrived in Cambodia using one of the overland borders from neighboring Vietnam, Laos, or Thailand. This meant I didn’t have that ease of purchasing one like I would have had I arrived at an airport.

In this instance, I usually wait until my final city of the day and find a phone store there. Generally, the person working can figure out what you want. Though you can always download Google Translate offline in advance.

enjoying cold drinks next to the pool on a hot day in siem reap
enjoying cold drinks next to the pool on a hot day in siem reap

The Best Places To Visit While Backpacking Cambodia On A Budget

If you haven’t figured it out already Cambodia is one of my personal favorite backpacking destinations. here you can find a variety of cities and islands perfect for travelers.

So let’s get into the details of each one a little more:


Siem Reap

This is actually one of my favorite spots in Cambodia and a must visit. This is an awesome spot with the incredible Angkor Wat Archaeological Park which is a must on your Cambodia bucketlist. Also, you will find plenty of delicious foodie choices and some incredible value-for-money hostels.

This extraordinary place is one of the main gateways into Cambodia receiving hundreds of thousands of travelers each year. I recommend spending 4 days in Siem Reap which will give you enough time to check out Angkor Wat, markets, museums, and of course a spot of shopping.

hanoi city backpackers hostel

Onederz Siem Reap Hostel

A fun and social hostel with a rooftop pool. Prices start from $5.00 per night for a dorm room.

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little charm hanoi hostel

Lub D Siem Reap 

A chill hostel with a co-working space as well. Prices start from $7.00 per night.

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de lanna hotel

Royal Crown Hotel & Spa

My top choice. Rooms start from $45.00 per night with two pools and breakfast included.

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vieng mantra hotel

Blac Smith Residence

A Luxe Hotel with modern rooms and a pool. Prices start from $70.00 per night.

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exploring on of the temples in the angkor archeological complex
exploring on of the temples in the angkor archeological complex

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is a pretty large city and if I am being honest, it can be quite overwhelming at first. This is nothing like the quaint streets of Siem Reap. Instead, it is busy, loud, and a little bit dusty. However, I still recommend spending at least 2 days in Phnom Penh on your Cambodia itinerary.

While you are here you definitely need to explore the important historic sights such as S21 Prison and the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center. If you are not aware, Cambodia has had quite an unfortunate past.

I think it is important to gather an understanding of what happened here so you can appreciate the hardship its citizens have been through and how many lives were changed because of it.

366401011

Onederz Hostel

A backpacker’s favorite in this city. Dorm rooms start at $7.00.

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Lux Riverside Hotel

Live in luxury for less with prices from $40.00 per night for a double room.

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168166478

The Big Easy

Excellent value for money with modern pod-style dorms starting from $6.00 per night.

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38641715

Harmony Phnom Penh Hotel

Enjoy riverside living with the most incredible infinity pool. Rooms start from $80.00 per night.

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Battambang

Battambang is a quaint cute town in Cambodia. Honestly, there isn’t a whole heap to do here, though one of the most popular things is the famous Bamboo Train.

No doubt while you are backpacking Cambodia you will hear of the Battambang Bamboo train. I mean seriously I came across this city and added to my itinerary literally just to do the bamboo train ride.

407085310

The Place Hostel

An upscale and modern hostel. Enjoy this flashpacker accommodation, from $8.00 per night.

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Ganesha Family Guesthouse

Budget-friendly accommodation with dorm rooms starting from $5.00 per night.

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225055173

Moloppor Villa

Beautiful private rooms from $50.00 per night and an incredible pool.

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351388418

Cambana La Riviere Hotel

A boutique hotel for those who enjoy a luxe life. Rooms start from $100.00 per night.

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making new friends on the bamboo train in battambang
making new friends on the bamboo train in battambang

Kampot

Kampot is a pretty chill and quaint town which is quite different from other towns in Cambodia. It also makes a great spot to spend a few nights when you are traveling from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.

I arrived here before visiting Phnom Penh and it was the perfect way to slowly go back to being human after living on the beach for the last week. There is even an awesome backpacker scene here in Kampot so you will meet plenty of other travelers.

Seriously, there are some pretty cool hostels here, whether you are looking for decent amenities, a quiet riverside location, or even a waterpark with crazy slides!

little friendlys freedom place

The Magic Sponge

A homely backpacker hangout with plenty of onsite activities. Prices start from $20.00 per night.

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chill riverside hostel

Karma Traders Kampot

Another awesome hostel for travelers looking to relax. Hang poolside on a budget with dorms starting from $6.00 per night.

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61912823

Eden Eco Village

Enjoy riverside serenity in this cute spot. With prices starting from $25.00 per night you must check this one out!

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villa pumalin

Bamboo Bungalow

Another beautiful riverside spot in unique bamboo cabins. Rooms start from $30.00 per night.

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sunset along the riverbank in kampot
sunset along the riverbank in kampot

Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville is a huge city that has changed like crazy over the last 20 years. It is located on the coast and was a popular spot to stay between traveling to and from the islands.

I first visited in 2017 and then it was okay on the outskirts and the beaches were still swimmable. However, even then you wouldn’t want to stay for more than 1 night.

On my next visit in 2019 it was obvious the outskirts of the city were no longer backpacker heaven. Construction was in full force on the once-popular Otres Beach, and the majority of locally-owned restaurants and hotels had shut down.

In more recent years many tour agencies such as Stray Travel and Intrepid decided to pull out of visiting anymore, which says a lot.

land for a new build in sihanoukville
land for a new build in sihanoukville

Koh Rong

It’s no secret I love the islands in Cambodia and one of my favorite beach destinations with clear waters and white sand is definitely Koh Rong and the nearby Koh Rong Samloem.

I have visited Koh Rong a couple of different times throughout my travels in Cambodia and absolutely love it there. If you happen to be searching for a paradise island you have certainly found the right place. From the calm waters to the white sandy shoreline, this island has some truly incredible beaches.

hanoi city backpackers hostel

Sok San Beach Resort

Enjoy beachfront living in luxury. Rooms here start from $70.00 per night.

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little charm hanoi hostel

Nest Beach Club

One of the best party places on the island. Dorm rooms here start from $5.00 per night.

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de lanna hotel

Coconut Beach Bungalows

Located on a quieter part of the island. You can find a seaview tent here for $11.00 per night.

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vieng mantra hotel

Tree House Bungalows

A short walk from an incredible beach and the main town. Rooms here start at $50.00 per night.

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going for a swim on long set beach in koh rong
going for a swim on long set beach in koh rong

Koh Rong Samloem

Of course, we can’t forget the paradise of Koh Rong Samloem! Think white sand and calm clear waters, it’s perfection. No matter where you go on Koh Rong Samloem no doubt you will find some beautiful serene spots.

Though if you do not want to put in the effort of wandering until you find this, or perhaps want to book accommodation on one of the beaches on Koh Rong Samloem. Well lucky for you there are so many to choose from, though you will find the issue is actually to do with getting to them.

There are two main beaches on Koh Rong Samloem called Saracen Bay and M’Phey Bei which are where the speed boats and ferries arrive. Therefore this is where the majority of people choose to stay since it is easily accessible.

Sleeping Trees

Sleeping Trees

A glamping-style hotel on an excellent snorkeling beach. Prices from $20.00 per night.

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Onederz Koh Rong Sanloem

Onederz Koh Rong Sanloem

A popular hostel right on the beachfront. Dorm rooms start from $14.00 per night.

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Sara Resort

Sara Resort

My top choice. Rooms start from $36.00 per night with air-con, 24/7 power, and awesome wifi.

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The Big Easy

The Big Easy

An affordable hostel on the main beach of Saracen Bay. Dorms start from $6.00 per night.

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relaxing in a hammock on saracen bay on koh rong samloem
relaxing in a hammock on saracen bay on koh rong samloem

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Find out absolutely everything you need to know about backpacking Cambodia! I will share with you my best travel tips, money, important information, top places to see, and more in this guide on one of my personal favorite budget destinations, Cambodia!

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

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