Cambodia Backpacking Guide

Let me take you through why Cambodia is the ultimate spot for backpackers. In 2024, my partner and I zipped across Cambodia, hitting up places like Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampot, and Battambang over 10 adventure-packed days. In this backpacking Cambodia guide, I will be sharing with you all the activities we did, the accommodation we stayed, the transport we took, and so much more. This is yet again a first-hand guide from our very own experience.

Cambodia’s got many experiences for you prepared: an impressive and also dark history, a culture that’s vibrant and full of life, landscapes that’ll have you pinching yourself to make sure they’re real, and it’s all easy on the wallet. From the awe of Angkor Wat to the hustle of Phnom Penh’s streets, every corner has a story.

One of the main things that surprised me: Cambodian people are incredibly friendly and have the most beautiful smiles! I loved that!

What makes Cambodia stand out for backpackers isn’t just the big-ticket items. It’s the chill vibe of Kampot’s river life and Battambang’s artsy streets that pull you into the real Cambodia. Plus, the food is amazing and affordable, letting you taste your way through the country without breaking the bank.

What to Expect: A simple Overview

Most people just visit Cambodia because they wanna see the iconic Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world and a sight to behold at sunrise. But that’s just the start. The ancient city of Angkor is sprawling with temples, each with its own story, but Cambodia can captivate you if you keep digging.

Backpacking Cambodia is about immersive experiences that connect you with the heart of Southeast Asia. It’s about ancient temples, vibrant cities, serene landscapes, and the kind of adventures that turn into stories you’ll tell for years.

The backpacking scene in Cambodia is chill and cool – with some hostels offering you parties at the pool, or tours to discover the history. Look for a hostel with a swimming pool because it is very hot, and you’ll love a dip. Plus, it is the perfect spot to meet other fellow travelers.

Also, Let’s be honest. Cambodia is very affordable. And cheap prices mean you can get more for less. Who does not like that? Also, if you are doing a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia it means it’s time to spoil yourself a bit. It might be a nicer hostel, a food feast, a massage, or simply joining a tour or getting a more comfortable transfer from point A to B. Take time for yourself and enjoy it.

With its blend of history, culture, adventure, and affordability, Cambodia is a backpacker’s dream.

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

These estimates include accommodation, meals, and basic daily expenses but can vary based on your specific destinations within Cambodia, the time of year, and personal preferences.

Suggested Budget per Person per Day

  • Low: $20 – $30
  • Middle: $40 – $70
  • High: $80+

Detailed Costs


  • Low: Hostels dorms can range from $5 to $15 per night.
  • Middle: Mid-range hotels or boutique accommodations typically cost between $20 and $50 per night.
  • High: Luxury hotels or upscale resorts start at $60 per night and can go much higher.


  • Low: Street food and local eateries offer meals from $1 to $5.
  • Middle: A meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost between $5 and $15.
  • High: Dining at high-end restaurants or international cuisine can start at $20 per meal.

Tips for Enjoying Cheap Food in Cambodia:

  • Street Food: Cambodia boasts a rich street food culture, offering delicious and affordable options like noodles, rice dishes, and local snacks for just a few dollars.
  • Bakeries: Surprisingly, Cambodia is full of bakeries offering snacks for the sweet tooth.

Explore Cambodia: Things to Do

Cambodia is a treasure trove of experiences, blending ancient wonders with natural beauty and urban vibrancy. Here’s a roundup of must-visit attractions and activities that should be on every backpacker’s list:

1. Explore the Temples of Angkor: Beyond the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat, delve into the ancient city of Angkor Thom. You might have heard about the Bayon Temple’s stone faces, and the jungle-clad ruins of Ta Prohm. I do insist that you visit at least 3-4 less-known temples. Each temple offers a unique glimpse into Cambodia’s glorious past.

2. Unwind on the Southern Coast’s Beaches: Head south to relax on the pristine beaches on the idyllic islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, or the smaller but beautiful Koh Ta Kiev.  These spots offer a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure with their crystal-clear waters and vibrant nightlife.

3. Immerse in Phnom Penh’s Dynamic Culture: Phnom Penh, the bustling capital, is rich in history and life. Visit the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and the National Museum to soak in the culture. Reflect on the country’s recent history at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields. I only recommend staying here for one night and then move on.

4. Take a Ride on Battambang’s Bamboo Train: Experience the ingenious Bamboo Train in Battambang, a unique ride that offers stunning views of the Cambodian countryside. It’s a fun and unforgettable way to see the rural landscapes. We heard it might disappear, so you should do this before it is not possible anymore.

5. Cruise Along the Mekong River: Embark on a boat cruise along the Mekong River in Phnom Penh or head to Kratie to spot the rare Irrawaddy dolphins. The river is the lifeline of Cambodia and offers breathtaking sunsets and insight into riverside life.

6. Kampot’s Pepper Plantations and Bokor National Park: Visit the pepper plantations to learn about the world-renowned Kampot pepper. Then, explore Bokor National Park, where you can trek through lush forests, visit abandoned colonial buildings, and enjoy panoramic views.

7. Discover the Charm of Kep: Known for its crab market and colonial ruins, Kep is a quiet coastal town perfect for those looking to enjoy seafood delicacies.

8. Experience Local Life in the Countryside: Venture into the countryside to experience Cambodia’s rural heart. Visit local farms, learn about traditional crafts, and enjoy the hospitality of village life. If you have the time, getting a motorbike and cruising around the countryside is an absolute experience, and it was one of my favorite things to do in Cambodia.

Itinerary Ideas

Here are some itinerary suggestions tailored to different lengths of stay in Cambodia. I cater to backpackers looking for adventure and fun, but if you want to do it on a slower path, just add some more days in any of the mentioned places to have more time to chill.

I build a fully detailed itinerary guide mentioning all the places you should stay, and the length of the activities, … Check my Cambodia itinerary here.

5-Day Itinerary: Just the Essentials

Got only five days? Zero in on Angkor and get a crash course in Khmer history by splitting your time between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

Tip: Spice it up with a village vibe – Kampot and Battambang are both solid choices, easily reachable from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and perfect for that extra flavor of local life.

10-Day Itinerary: Culture Meets Adventure

Ten days in Cambodia can feel tight if you’re aiming to hit both the islands and mountain villages. It is doable! I did it on my last Cambodia trip. Here’s a game plan that covers the best of both.

Days 1-2: Angkor Exploration

Kick-off in Siem Reap exploring the majestic Angkor. Post-temples, catch a night bus to Kampot. Arriving early gives you a full day in this charming riverside village.

Days 3-5: Kampot Chill or Rabbit Island Retreat

Kampot is all about that easy-going river life. Don’t miss a visit to a pepper farm.

Nearby, Rabbit Island (from Kep, the crab village) offers a sandy escape. You can choose to unwind in Kampot or hop over to the island – even just for a day trip. Ferries run at 9 am and return around 3:30 pm.

Days 6-7: Phnom Penh Insights

Early rise and bus it to Phnom Penh for a two-night stay.

Dive into history and culture with these must-visits:

  • Killing Fields
  • S21 Prison – Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
  • Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
  • National Museum

Day 8: Battambang’s Unique Ride

Next, Battambang calls. Experience the one-of-a-kind bamboo train, a highlight that’s as fun as it is memorable.

Days 9-10: Siem Reap Encore

Circle back to Siem Reap. With an extra day, explore off-the-beaten-path temples or revisit favorites. Seeing these wonders through a fresh lens can be just as awe-inspiring the second time around.

15-Day Itinerary: Full Immersion

Mix and match from the 5 and 10-day plans, or lean into island life for longer.

Cambodia’s islands are postcard-perfect, boasting white sands and turquoise waters. Top picks include Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem, and Rabbit Island – each offering its slice of paradise.

No matter how you slice it, Cambodia is a backpacker’s dream. From the ancient to the serene, and everything in between, these itineraries are your ticket to an unforgettable journey.

Where to stay on a Budget in Cambodia

Cambodia offers a wide range of hostels. In major tourist spots like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, you’ll find everything from laid-back, family-run guesthouses to hostels that feel more like boutique hotels, complete with pools and rooftop bars. Kampot and Battambang offer more quaint, intimate settings that reflect their quieter, more laid-back vibe.

  • Social Atmosphere: Many Cambodian hostels are designed with socializing in mind, featuring communal areas, and bars, and often hosting events like BBQ nights, pool parties, or tours.
  • Facilities: Free Wi-Fi is standard all over the country, and many hostels also offer amenities like air conditioning, free breakfast, and laundry services. Some even boast swimming pools and on-site bars or cafes.
  • Dorms and Private Rooms: You’ll have the option of staying in dorm rooms, which are great for meeting other travelers and keeping costs low, or private rooms if you’re after a bit more privacy.

Few Hostels we love

1. Onederz, Siem Reap: The rooftop, which offers a view of the river, is without a doubt the most interesting feature of this hostel.

2. The Magic Sponge, Kampot: Located away from the hustle and bustle of the city in a serene lane, this is a hostel to relax. They do offer free mini golf.

How to get around Cambodia

Navigating Cambodia is part of the adventure, with a variety of transportation options available to suit every traveler’s style, budget, and timetable. Here’s how you can get around:

Transfers between the airport and city:

  • Buses: Bus companies are operating in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to bring you to the city from the airport. In Siem Reap, a bus ticket ride costs 8$ per person.
  • Electric Tuk-Tuk: it is also possible to go by tuk-tuk from the airport to the city, and it is a fun way to introduce you to the real Cambodian experience. I do recommend you to download the Grab app before traveling to Cambodia so you can use it as soon as you put your feet there – there are sim card providers at the airport. A Tuk Tuk from Siem Reap International Airport to the city center is around $16. In case you are traveling as a couple or with friends this might be a cheaper – and more convenient – option to get to your accommodation.
  • Taxi: this will be the most expensive way to go from the airport to the city center, a taxi in Siem Reap costs around 25$. I do not recommend you book a transfer service in advance, as everything you’ll find online will be more expensive. There are ATMs in the airport that will give you dollars to pay the taxi.

It is important to know that the international airport in Siem Reap (SAI) is around 40 km outside the city.

For transfers between cities/ villages:

  • Buses: Buses are an economical way to travel longer distances across Cambodia. There are luxury coaches with AC and also more basic options. Companies like Giant Ibis come highly recommended for their safety records and reliability. We tried also the local Vireak Buntham Express and I must say I was surprised by their good service, punctuality, and organization. Booking tickets through your hostel or a local travel agency is straightforward, and you can also find and buy tickets through the site 12goAsia. For popular routes – like Siem Reap Phnom Penh –  consider booking at least one day in advance.
  • Domestic Flights: For covering large distances quickly, you could consider domestic flights. Cambodia has a few airports connecting major destinations, including Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Sihanoukville. Airlines like Cambodia Angkor Air and Lanmei Airlines offer short flights that can save you time, with the trade-off being a much higher cost compared to land transportation. During my travels, I checked the price for flying from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap. For the price of that flight ticket, I could commute all around the country by land.
  • Boats and Ferries: Exploring Cambodia by water is a scenic and serene option, especially for reaching islands like Koh Rong or traveling along the Mekong River. Services vary from speedy hydrofoils to leisurely river cruises. Prices and schedules can be less predictable than other modes of transport, so it’s worth doing some research or asking locally for the latest information.

Once you are in the city/ village:

  • Tuk-Tuks: The real Cambodian experience, tuk-tuks are available in every town and city. They’re perfect for short distances and offer a fun, open-air ride. There are normally 2 kinds of tuk-tuk: electric tuk-tuks and remolque tuk-tuks (I have only seen this kind of Tuk-Tuks in Cambodia). Remember to always agree on a price before setting off. For an even smoother experience, apps like Grab are available in larger cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Through Grab you can book rides at fixed rates – or just check the price to you know how much to pay for the ride.
  • Motorbikes: Renting a bike or motorbike gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. It’s an ideal option for day trips or getting around smaller areas like Kampot and Battambang. Many travelers use this option for Angkor. Rental shops are plentiful, and rates are affordable, but make sure you’re comfortable with the local driving conditions and always wear a helmet. Also, in most shops, they will ask you to pay in advance as well as leave an identification card as a deposit. It is a regular procedure. If you do not feel comfortable leaving any document by them, you can ask to leave cash as a deposit (they ask around $250 for motorbikes).
  • Bikes: biking is also an option in many places in Cambodia, especially Angkor City, Battambang, and Kampot. Be aware the weather is hot, so it might not be as easy as you think to ride a bike. Angkor is very well prepared to go by bike, and there are many areas with shade, so it is a good option for those who want to do some exercise or do not know how to ride a motorbike and wanna explore at their own pace.

When to visit Cambodia

Timing your visit to Cambodia can greatly enhance your experience, as the country goes through distinct seasons, each offering its own set of attractions and challenges. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide the best time for your backpacking adventure:

Dry Season (November to April):

  • Peak Season: December to February marks the peak tourist season, thanks to the cooler weather and minimal rainfall, making it ideal for temple tours and city explorations. However, it’s also when tourist sites are busiest and prices at their highest.
  • Hot Season: March and April see temperatures soaring, with highs that can reach 40°C (104°F), particularly challenging for outdoor activities. However, this time is perfect for visiting the coastal areas and islands for some beach time.

Wet Season (May to October):

  • Early Wet Season: May and June experience short, heavy downpours, usually in the afternoon, which can bring relief from the heat and add a lush, green vibrancy to the countryside. It’s a good time to see Cambodia with fewer tourists and enjoy lower accommodation prices.
  • Deep Wet Season: July to September sees the heaviest rainfall, which can affect road conditions and access to some rural areas. However, the Angkor Wat complex is stunning in this season, with full moats and fewer crowds.
  • Shoulder Season: October, as the wet season winds down, offers a sweet spot with cooler temperatures, less rainfall, and the landscape at its most verdant. It’s an excellent time for photographers and those who wish to enjoy the beauty of Cambodia without the peak season crowds.

Local Festivals:

  • Water Festival (Bon Om Touk): Usually in November, this festival marks the end of the rainy season with boat races, fireworks, and celebrations along the waterfronts of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. It’s a spectacular time to experience Cambodian culture and festivity.
  • Khmer New Year: Celebrated in mid-April, this is one of Cambodia’s most important holidays. Expect vibrant street parties, traditional games, and a festive atmosphere, but also be prepared for some businesses and attractions to be closed.

Tips for Visiting:

  • Book Early: If you’re visiting during peak season, secure your accommodation and transportation well in advance to get the best deals and avoid missing out.
  • Stay Hydrated: Regardless of when you visit, Cambodia’s climate can be hot and humid. Drink plenty of water – and coconuts, they are great for getting minerals –  especially when exploring outdoor sites.
  • Embrace the Unexpected: Weather can be unpredictable, and festivals may cause changes in local transportation and opening hours. A flexible itinerary can help you make the most of your visit.

Each season offers a unique perspective of the country’s beauty and traditions, ensuring that no matter when you go, Cambodia will have something special in store.

Backpacking Essentials & Safety Tips

These tips aim to ensure a smooth, enjoyable, and enriching experience as you explore the wonders of Cambodia:

Local Currency: In Cambodia, they use 2 currencies: US dollars and Cambodian Riels. Having Cambodian Riels for smaller purchases can make transactions simpler and sometimes more economical. Very important: ensure your US dollars are in good condition; notes that are ripped, excessively worn, or old may not be accepted. This is also important to bear in mind when you do receive change.

Stay Hydrated and Protect Against the Sun: Cambodia’s climate can be hot and humid. Carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated (many places offer refills) and use sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to protect against the sun.

Visa for Cambodia: A visa is required for many nationalities to enter Cambodia. While obtaining a visa on arrival is common, you can now request and pay for it online, streamlining the entry process into Cambodia. You can get your visa on the official website. However, be mindful that requesting a visa during holidays, including Chinese New Year or special Cambodian dates, may delay processing. Always verify visa requirements well in advance of your trip, as conditions can change.

Hostelgeek tip: Ensure your passport has at least six months of validity and four free pages before entering any country to avoid being denied entry.

Safety Tips

1. Beware of Scams

Some scams are common in all  Southeast Asia regions, like overpriced tuk-tuk rides, and fake monks soliciting donations. To avoid overpriced rides, always agree on prices beforehand (and check the prices or directly book with Grab app).

In Cambodia, you’ll find also many kids and teenagers begging, trying to sell you things, or asking you to buy baby formula. These are common methods to get money from you.

Another common scam in Cambodia is fake orphanages. Do not engage with them, as they are exploiting children for donations. UNICEF even reported that most children in these orphanages have living parents but are kept in poor conditions to elicit donations.

2. Travel Insurance

Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses, theft, and unexpected travel disruptions. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. The best travel insurance for Asia is HeyMondo.

3. Protect Your Belongings

Use lockers or security safes provided by hostels for valuable items. When out and about, keep your belongings secure and be mindful in crowded places to avoid pickpockets. Also, make sure you have your valuable belongings for you during the transportation. I found it very secure to leave my luggage with the bus companies I traveled to – they even gave me a ticket to redeem my bag- but the companies are not responsible for any loss so you should have valuable things always with you.

4. Health Precautions

Stick to bottled or filtered water, avoid raw foods, and make sure street food is cooked in front of you. Carry hand sanitizer and a basic first-aid kit. Also, there are some rural areas with a higher risk of malaria and dengue fever. Take appropriate precautions using mosquito repellent (you’ll find it in all supermarkets) and wearing long sleeves and pants during night time.

5. Local Laws and Customs

Respect local laws and customs. Drug offenses carry severe penalties in Cambodia, and showing disrespect towards images of the King or sacred sites can offend. Some years ago, a tourist ended up in jail because he used a drone over the Royal Palace.

Responsible Travel Practices

Traveling with awareness and respect for the places you visit not only enhances your experience but also contributes to the preservation and flourishing of Cambodia’s unique heritage and natural beauty.

1. Support Local Businesses

Choose locally owned and operated hostels, restaurants, and tour companies. This ensures your money directly benefits the communities you visit. Also, investigate if there are any cafés in the area supporting the local communities in any way. It is a good chance to help Cambodians.

2. Environmental Awareness

Minimize your environmental impact by using refillable water bottles, saying no to single-use plastics, and disposing of waste responsibly. Consider participating in or organizing clean-up activities or taking part in my “3 rubbish rule”: take 3 pieces of rubbish you see around you when visiting a place and dispose of them in a container when you see one.

3. Cultural Sensitivity

Dress modestly, especially when visiting temples and rural communities. This includes also Angkor City, as it is a temple.

Learn a few phrases in Khmer to show respect for the local culture.

Always ask permission before taking photos of people, particularly monks and children.

4. Ethical Animal Interactions

Avoid attractions that exploit animals, such as elephant rides or circuses.

5. Volunteer Wisely

If you choose to volunteer, select programs that are ethical and have a tangible, positive impact on the community. Be wary of “voluntourism” projects that may do more harm than good, especially those involving children.

6. Leave No Trace

Practice the principles of Leave No Trace when exploring natural areas. This includes staying on marked trails, not disturbing wildlife, and leaving cultural or historical artifacts undisturbed.

Resources and Planning

Here are some essential tools and resources to help you with travel planning. Also, some specific tools can help you plan your trip to Cambodia.

  • 12goAsia: A comprehensive platform for booking bus, ferry, and private taxi services across Cambodia.
  • Cambodia Angkor Air: This is the national carrier in case you wanna have a look at domestic flights.
  • Klook: This platform offers a variety of tours and activities, from temple tours in Siem Reap to food tours in Phnom Penh, complete with reviews and ratings to help you choose.
  • Local Travel Companies: there are many local travel companies in all the places you’ll visit. I do recommend you to ask your accommodation if they are reputable companies before booking any trip/ ride with them.
  • Passapp: The local ride-hailing app similar to Grab in Cambodia.


It’s time to kickstart an adventure that promises not just travel but a journey through a land rich in history, culture, and natural beauty.

This guide has armed you with the tools, tips, and insights needed to dive deep into Cambodia’s wonders. But beyond the planning and the itineraries, remember that the heart of backpacking lies in the unexpected joys, the spontaneous detours, and the hostel connections forged along your travels.

Safe travels,