10 No-Brainer Reasons to Visit Cambodia

In Travel Destinations by Phoebe Nicolas

There are still many travelers who are hesitant to visit Cambodia. From the security issues and landmines of the Khmer Rouge, travelers often skip to visit Cambodia.

Not known to many, this almost landlocked country in Southeast Asia has a certain appeal for travelers looking for a unique travel experience. Cambodia attracts many tourists yearly to go visit the temples, try out the food, relax in beaches, and go on an adventure.

Whether you are looking for a country with rich history, beautiful attractions, tranquil landscape, delicious food, or sprawling nightlife – Cambodia has something to offer to you.

While the first thing people associate with Cambodia is the famous temples and ruins of Angkor Wat, there is still so much more to see and explore than this. Angkor Wat in Siem Reap is a prime tourist attraction but definitely not the only one to visit when in Cambodia. Dense jungles, green fields, rugged mountains are options for people who want to be with nature. There are weekend flea markets, pop up booths and floating markets that appeal to people who love to travel and shop.

This country is a destination suited and ready for all kinds of travelers. You will see that when you visit Cambodia, you will never have a dull moment. These reasons might help you have an insight why many people choose to go to this country.

1. Visit Cambodia because of the warm and friendly people

Warm and friendly people

The Cambodians are known to be warm and friendly people. Just like many of their neighbors, they often greet tourists and fellow locals with a smile on their faces. The Cambodians are known for their hospitality and welcoming feeling towards tourists. They are soft-spoken and patient, so extend the same respect and patience with them.

Contented with life

Being a developing country, not many Cambodians enjoy the luxury of life. Most people reside in rural areas and enjoy only the very basic necessities in life. Despite this, the Cambodians are contented people. They make do of what they have and do not resent life. They are satisfied with life and continue to become gentle, helpful, and generous towards tourists as tour guides, drivers, and vendors.

So, do not hesitate to mingle and make friends with Cambodian locals. More than Cambodia’s historic areas and beautiful scenery, it is the friendliness and warmth of the people that I often look back at my trip to Cambodia. The Cambodians make your trip more fulfilling.

Whether you are traveling solo or in a group, take time to meet and get to know locals. They will make your trip easier and they always come to help when you need them.

Easy communication with locals

Lucky for a foreigner travelling into Cambodia, many Cambodians can understand and speak English. There will be minimal difficulty asking for directions, prices, and haggling with products and services as long as both of you speak in English.

It is easy to meet other travelers

Bordering countries that are similarly attracting tourist destinations, you are guaranteed to meet a lot of foreigners and make new friends while travelling to Cambodia. Whether you meet them on the flight, on a tour, or at a random bar, sharing your travel experience with fellow travelers can be exciting.

If visit Cambodia solo, there is a good chance you will get to meet a willing potential travel buddy.

2. Visit Cambodia to see the amazing temples

If there is anything people associate with Cambodia immediately, it is none other than its famous temple and national symbol, the Angkor Wat.

Cambodia’s temples are beautiful to look at in photographs, but nothing compares to seeing these masterpieces in real life. Aside from Angkor Wat, there are several other temples within the Angkor Archeological Park, as well as in other states of Cambodia.

This temple complex in Siem Reap perfectly showcases the architecture of temples and monuments built during the Khmer regime. It is home to many stunning structures, each described below. A day is not enough to explore the large park, so allot a day or two to fully marvel in its wonder.

We recommend rising early to enjoy and witness a beautiful sunrise.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, meaning “Temple City”, is purposefully located just north of the city of Siem Reap, where a major Cambodian airport is also located.

Angkor Wat was built by King Suryavarman II way back in the 12th century, and went through many natural obstacles such as rain, drought, and storms. Originally built as a Hindu temple and dedicated to the god Vishnu, Angkor Wat is now a Buddhist temple and known as the largest religious monument in the world. It is also proudly embedded in Cambodia’s national flag.

If you are a history geek with a hunger for knowledge on Cambodia’s history, architecture, and culture, the Angkor Wat complex is a great place to immerse yourself in. Angkor Wat is an example of intricate design and delicate carving. This wonder has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, for its importance and contribution to Cambodian art, history, and culture.

Angkor Thom

While you are at the Angkor complex, take time to visit Angkor Thom, the last known capital of the Khmer kingdom. Its name roughly translates to “Great City”, a name befitting for this majestic capital. Similarly, it was built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII.

Remarkable in this area is the length of causeways with several stone figures and statues.

Bayon

Just around the perimeter of Angkor Thom you can find numerous temple towers, known as the ruins of Bayon. The amazing Bayon, the central temple of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, contains 216 massive stone heads whose faces stare down at temple-goers from every direction.

Ta Prohm

A temple might catch your eye and look as if you have seen it somewhere; that is probably because you have. To the east of Angkor Thom lies Ta Prohm, a temple featured in Angelina Jolie’s movie, Tomb Raider. This is one of the more picturesque temples in the complex, so do not forget to snap a photo here.

Ta Promh has been left to endure the growth of trees and vines within its structures, giving the temple a deserted jungle feeling. Ta Promh offers travelers raw beauty of its temples and 39 towers.

Hiring a guide is a chance to learn more about the temples and the history behind them: a lot of them have beautiful carvings, depicting legends from Hindu mythology and complex symbolism that can be easily overlooked.

Visiting Angkor Complex is an experience that you will never forget. It is one of the best experience when you visit Cambodia and the grandeur of its temples.

3. Visit Cambodia for the flavorful food

Another great way to experience Cambodia is to taste its flavorful dishes. Cambodian cuisine is less recognized compared to its Thai and Vietnamese neighbors, but the array of dishes in this country offers a burst of flavors and textures. It is best enjoyed by exploring food markets and buying from street vendors. They offer cheap, yet authentic dishes that travelers can try. Food is prepared fresh in front of you, so you know what goes into your food.

From the country’s signature fish amok and beef loklak to crab and Kampot pepper and the mass of noodle and rice dishes that are eaten on a daily basis, exploring the flavors of Cambodia is essential.

Exotic food

While the more popular dishes of Cambodia are easy on the stomach, the more adventurous can taste popular exotic snacks such as deep-fried tarantulas, crickets and other insects. Head on to any weekend market or street stalls to get a piece of these weird critters. These bugs are considered a treat by many locals, rather than as pests.

You can catch these exotic critters fried, seasoned, or grilled in both street markets and even in large restaurants. Vendors swear by the sanitary handling of these critters, and these are the ones bred specifically to be eaten as exotic food.

Rice is a staple

In Cambodian cuisine, rice is a staple and consumed with almost every meal. Many varieties of rice are served. Order a Cambodian dish and you can find white rice, jasmine rice, or brown rice served on the side.

Unique dishes

Cambodia offers a lot of mouth-watering dishes that excites your taste buds. Similar to other Southeast Asian nations, Cambodian food, or Khmer cuisine as it is often called, consists of meat seasoned with herbs and spices.

Spiciness is also a key feature of Cambodian food. For travelers who are not fans of chili, you can have it removed from your dish or have it served on the side, rather than mixed into the dish.

Some of Cambodia’s unique dishes include:
  • Fish-amok – This is a dish made of white fish steamed in banana leaf and topped with a lemongrass curry paste known as kroeung, and generously garnished with coconut cream.
  • Lap-Khmer – This is thinly sliced beef that is either quickly seared or “cooked” ceviche-style by marinating with lime juice.
  • Kdam-chaa – This is stir  fried crab prepared with green, locally grown Kampot pepper.
  • Bok svay – This is a green mango salad served with dried fish.
  • Samlor Karkoo – This soup is made with vegetables and green fruit usually jackfruit, banana and papaya.
  • Prahok –This is fermented fish paste, used as a salty flavoring for many meals.
  • Sticky rice with mango – Last but not the least, a simple dessert made of sweet mango and sticky rice, often drizzled with milk or coconut cream.
Fruits are aplenty

If you are a health buff who loves fruit, Cambodia will be a food sanctuary for you. There are fruits unique to this country, such as dragon fruit. The price of fruits in this country is also ten times cheaper than those found in grocery stores such as mango, papaya, and even pineapple.

Just remember that when you visit  Cambodia, stray away from hotel restaurants and have your meals at food stalls all around the city. An authentic way to experience Cambodia is to taste its cuisine the way locals traditionally prepare it.

4. Visit Cambodia and experience the authentic Asian transportation system

Cambodia is a great destination that should be explored extensively in order to appreciate all that it has to offer. There are several modes of transportation to get around the country, and here is a quick guide:

Bus

The cheapest and easiest way to go about in Cambodia is by bus. Buses are available daily to take you to any tourist destination or any area you want to go.

Since travelers have frequented Cambodia in the recent years, a tourist bus system has been established to safely take you to selected places. Main hubs to hop on and hop off these tourist buses are in the large cities of Cambodia: the capital Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville.

Instead on taking flights within the country, ride a bus instead, which is way, way cheaper than paying for a flight.

Taxis and tuk-tuks

For short distances, taxi cabs are also available for a traveler’s convenience. Cambodia has a local version of taxi cab, called a tuk-tuks. These are smaller versions and often can be shared with other tourists. Unlike taxis, tuktuks do not have meters or fixed prices per destination. When traveling in a small group or with a partner, tuk-tuks can be a great way to see the city and neighboring areas.

Your haggling skills will be put to test when you hail a tuk-tuk. They usually are more expensive than buses and taxis, but it is a one of a kind experience to ride a tuk-tuk when in Cambodia. Sit back and enjoy the wind breeze while waving hello to locals you passes by. Riding a tuk-tuk is also photo-worthy, an experience to add to your beautiful memories of Cambodia.

Boat

Boats are not a main mode of transportation in Cambodia, but there are available boats for access to tourists. If you have a lot of extra time in your itinerary, then you have some time to go on a scenic ferry ride to and from the major cities of Cambodia. Boats service routes from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and Siem Reap and Battambang.

The prices are not very expensive , you will have a few hours to relax while taking in the beauty of Cambodia.

To truly experience Cambodia, one must spend a good time traveling via buses, tuktuks, and even by walking. It is only through this you can fully explore Cambodia and its attractions.

5. Visit Cambodia – The gateway to Southeast Asia

Strategic location

Many tourists often go on backpacking trips across Southeast Asia because these are often visa on arrival countries and have cheap standards of living, allowing them to travel for extended periods of time. The most visited cities and countries in Southeast Asia are Bangkok in Thailand, Hanoi in Vietnam, and Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

Cambodia is strategically located in the southeastern part of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. This key feature makes Cambodia a great place to start of your Southeast Asia backpacking trip. It is bordered by Vietnam to the east, Laos in northeast, and Thailand in West.

Ways to get to neighboring countries

1. Land– Due to its close proximity with other countries, and you can easily cross these borders by simply riding a bus or car from Cambodia.

2. Air – Travelers also have the option of flying in to the neighboring countries. Depart from the major airports in Cambodia, located in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

3. Water – In addition to land and air travel, you can access the neighboring country of Vietnam by taking a speed boat or river cruise from Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh towards Saigon in Vietnam.

Visit  Cambodia and its neighboring countries by setting off in this beautiful country.

6. Visit Cambodia for its culture and history

Cambodia has a rich culture and heritage that is evident in the daily lives of Cambodians. Whenyou visit Cambodia, there are plenty of ways to experience a taste of their culture, such as: listening to traditional music, watching apsara dancers, and even elaborate stage shows.

Religion and spirituality

Cambodian people are very spiritual people. Majority of them are Buddhists, hence the abundance of temples around the country. They are respectful of their culture and tradition. It is prudent when you visit Cambodia to learn about these traditions and show respect for their culture and religion, such as wearing appropriate attire when visiting temples.

Culture

Gain insight on Cambodia’s diverse culture by observing how locals act and do the things they do. The combination of Hindu and Buddhist customs fuse to make rituals that are distinctly Cambodian. The countries traditions date several centuries back and yet people still practice them nowadays.

Art

Cambodia does not have a national art gallery, but spread over the country is small galleries that showcase beautiful pieces of various artists. Reflected in their art is the rich culture of Cambodia, depicted in everyday life, architectural pieces, and landscape stills.

7. Don’t miss the amusements and nightlife when you visit Cambodia

French architecture and mellow cafes

Apart from the beautiful temples and ruins left by the Khmer regime, Cambodia is home to beautiful French style buildings and establishments. Most prominent for these French style architecture are those in Battambang. Battambang is a riverside city, hours away from Siem Reap.

In Battambang, you can find modern restaurants and French style homes and cafes, perfect for unwinding after a long day. For the best experience when you visit Cambodia, take the eight-hour boat trip through floating villages as you head to Battambang from Siem Reap.

Battambang is only the third largest city in Cambodia, but visitors can find a good variety here: from luxury hotels, cheap hostels, high end restaurant, and street markets. Spend a few days in this city to maximize your experience in Cambodia.

Immerse in Cambodia’s booming nightlife

A traveler always gets his or her booze fix in this country because bars offer cheap beer and drinks – as low as $0.5 per bottle!

Pub Street in Siem Reap is one of the best places to wander around and look for bars and restaurants. Meet with locals and foreigners for a chill night out or dance the night away to great music.

If beach parties are what you have in mind, the best place to experience Cambodia is in the island of Sihanoukville. It is known for its fun parties, travelers dancing to the beat of the latest tunes, while sipping on their drinks. You might lose a thing or two, but the experience is unforgettable. 

Visit a floating village

Rivers sprawl across Cambodia, which is why many houses are built on stilts above these bodies of water. Experience Cambodia by visiting a river village, soak up the scene, and be one with how the locals live.

Houses near rivers are built on bamboo stilts, and people get around on small boats. While at a river village, purchase a souvenir or some food from a local peddling on boats. One way to experience Cambodia is to head over to Chong Khneas, the most visited floating village in Cambodia.

8. Visit Cambodia for its nature and wildlife

Being a country in the tropics, Cambodia is a country filled with lush jungles, towering hills and mountains, as well as a colorful fauna and flora.

No matter how long you stay to experience Cambodia, you will always have something to see and do. After visiting the historic temples and enjoying the pristine beaches, you can also explore the many parks and jungles in Cambodia. Visite Cambodia forits rawest, purest and untouched state and see the various natural attractions it has.

Sunny weather

The Cambodian weather is perfect for travelling all year round. Average temperature ranges from 25°C to 40°C, depending on the season. Being sunny all year round, it is always a good time to visit Cambodia, whatever month it may be. Do not forget to pack your sunblock and moisturizer as it can get humid in this country too.

Visit a park

When we say park, we mean the entire flora and fauna, and not just a park with a playground. Most of Cambodia’s parks is home to different kinds of plants and animals, and are good places to see the biodiversity of this country.

  • Ream National Park – This is one of the famous national parks in Cambodia. Experience Cambodia by going around this park, which is home to animals and bodies of water, such as various birds, mammals, and reptile. Within the park are also rivers, estuaries, and coral reef formations.
  • Bokor National Park – This park is a perfect way to experience Cambodia and its rich ecosystem. Relish the view of beautiful mountain streams and waterfalls – which are clean enough to bathe in. This park is home to animals such as the Indian elephant and Asian black bear too. You can hire a guide to tour and trek this park.
  • Virachey National Park – This is the largest park in Cambodia – one that has not been fully explored because of its large area. Tourists have the chance to see rare animals such as elephants, sun bears, tigers, and even leopards. Complete the experience by going on an ecotourism tour, guided by English tour guides.

Immerse in the green parks and jungles when you visit Cambodia.The biodiversity of Cambodia is very different from American or European countries, so many species here are considered rare so do not pass up on the opportunity to see these animals.

9. Cambodia is known for being a cheap travel destination

Travelling always involves a lot of expenses and often requires a lot of money. One does not simply travel without enough pocket money, or emergency funds. While still in the planning phase of your trip, it would be a good idea to consider countries with cheap living conditions.

Cambodia is an appealing choice especially for backpackers. You can visit Cambodia without breaking your bank account because of how cheap the living expenses in this country is.

Accommodation

Cambodia has a wide range of cheap accommodations to choose from: hostels, bed and breakfasts, and dormitories. You can stay in these quaint little rooms for as low as $10 to $20 daily rate.

Even if you stay in 4 or 5 star hotels, you will only be paying a fraction of the price you would normally pay back home. You can book your accommodations in Cambodia though these trusted sites.

Cheap transportation

You can easily get around major cities by foot, saving you a lot of money from riding unnecessary transport. Should you need a vehicle, buses are readily available as well. Getting around by bus or by tuk-tuk, or even a private car  in Cambodia is cheap. Bicycles and motorbikes are also available for a more convenient way to around the city.  You can easily find shops around that rent out bicycles or motorbikes for a very affordable rates.

Cheap food

Food is very cheap in Cambodia. Local street vendors will cost you about $1-2 USD per meal, and basic restaurant meals will cost between $3-5 USD. Western meals at nice restaurants go between $5-15 USD per person. Beer would cost around $0.50-$3.00.

As a traveler on a budget, Cambodia is already considered a luxury. Your travel money goes a long way for everything in this country, and sticking to your budget should not be too difficult.

10. Visit Cambodia for its pristine and unexplored beaches

Many tourists would say that Thailand has the best beaches, so the beaches in Cambodia are often ignored and neglected. Picture long stretches of powdery white sandy beaches, with turquoise clear waters and rich marine biodiversity and you have just pictured Cambodia’s pristine beaches. Cambodia’s beaches are nothing less than the ones you see in neighboring countries and you just have to see them for yourself.

While strolling along the beaches of Cambodia, why don’t you try surfing, snorkeling, or diving too? There are always a lot of activities to choose from.

While Thailand is known for the crazy beach parties, Cambodia offers a different scene: peaceful, tranquil beaches that give you time to meditate.

Beaches and islands to visit

Many tourists flock to Thailand’s famous beaches and often leave Cambodia’s beaches unexplored. Because of this, the beaches in Cambodia remain virgin and unspoiled. Each beach destination offers something slightly different from the other. Please the inner mermaid in you by visiting these beaches in Cambodia:

  • Koh Bong – If there is any beach in Cambodia that can parallel Thailand’s crazy beah party, it is none other than Koh Bong. Head over to this beach for some wild fun and music.
  • Koh Rong Sanloem – If you prefer a quiet, relaxing night, stay at Koh Rong Sanloem. This tranquil island is unique and offers sustainable tourism.
  • Song Saa – If you have money, then flaunt it. This exclusive island experience comes at a staggering price but the parties and people are to die for.

Often underrated and not frequently visited, visit Cambodia’s beautiful, untouched beaches. Cambodia’s beaches should be promoted more.

Final thoughts

Hopefully by now you are convinced, so start planning your trip, book that flight and be prepared to enjoy some days in Cambodia.

You see, it is not difficult to see why Asians and Westerners both love to visit Cambodia. Right by the time you arrive at the airport, you are greeted with warm smiles from generous people. As you go along your trip you realize that beyond the Angkor Wat, there are so many undiscovered and underrated sites to visit and see.

Cambodia is a fresh destination for travelers who want a change of scenery: unique, not crowded, unspoiled, and untainted. For the reasons I have stated above, I will definitely be back Cambodia.

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Phoebe Nicolas