Travel lessons from Cambodia

We had a mixed time in Cambodia, we visited Phnom Phen and Siem Reap during our time here. We wished we could have made it to the southern beaches but unfortunately Cambodia was more expensive than expected.

We loved Angkor and learnt a lot about the terrible genocide that plagued the country in the 70’s which was very interesting and gave us an insight to the countries troubled past. The food in Cambodia was also very good! However, for us Cambodia was a reasonably frustrating country to travel in and here is why…

Local bus station chaos.. lucky for us someone helped us find our bus… there are no signs you just have to hope for the best
  • They use 2 currencies – their local riel and USD. This is annoying and means that Cambodia was more expensive than expected. The NZD to USD rate is rubbish (thanks OCR) so we lost a lot on exchange, also mostly everything you want is priced in USD. However, they don’t accept anything less than $1 USD so you get a mix of change back. As no one there wants USD you will find most things are priced at $0.50 etc so they can give you back local Reil. R4,000 to USD$1 is about the exchange rate.
  • USD notes have to be perfect or you are screwed – make sure you check all the USD notes you withdraw from an ATM and if it is not perfect take your receipt and go into the bank asap and make them give you a perfect note. We did not do this and were left with a redundant USD $100 which is a lot of money. Our $100 bill had the smallest rip and no one, not even a local money exchanger would take it. It was stressful and as taking cash out was so expensive (up to $5 USD) and as it was our last day, we decided to make do but we suffered from a bit of hunger on the bus trip back to Vietnam as we had no money…
  • Don’t exchange any money into local Riel – As mentioned above no one wants it, if you don’t spend it all forget trying to exchange it at the boarder. Just get USD from an ATM and go from there, you will get enough local money back as change if you need it.
  • You get what you pay for – There are a number of bus companies in Cambodia taking you to various places. We did not try them all but in our experience you get what you pay for. We paid $10 USD each to go from Phnom Phen to Siem Reap and the bus was shit… Air-conditioning was patchy and one of our seats were broken. If we paid the extra $6 USD each we could have got their in luxury on the Giant IBIS Bus, with air-con, wifi, towels and water… Saving money seemed like a good idea at the time…
  • Shop around for transport prices – We paid $13 USD each to get from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh on the bus, other travellers we shared the bus with paid a whopping $35 USD for the same thing, so it pays to shop around. We used a local travel agent rather than our hostel to book the bus.
  • Visa prices have recently gone up – it is $30 USD per person not $20 as highlighted in the most recent version of the Rough Guide to South East Asia…
  • Local people don’t travel well – If other people being sick behind you on a bus makes you sick, be warned Cambodians and their neighbours from Vietnam don’t travel well. Pretty much every bus trip or train trip we have been on, there have been people spewing around us… not fun!
  • It is hot – Avoid travelling in the hot months, we were there in May which is low season because it is so hot. Most days were at least 40 degrees Celsius and very humid which is not pleasant. Walking anywhere becomes difficult and you will have to do a lot of laundry as you will be a sweaty beast!
Amok is very yum! We really enjoyed the food in Cambodia

Keep in mind this is what we learnt in a week, perhaps we did not give the country enough of a chance to charm us, unfortunately it was just too expensive for us to stay there any longer. We have heard of a few people loving it and we did love the temples of Angkor. Angkor was well worth it and we would highly recommend you putting it on your bucket list!


Angkor Wat at Sunrise – Just beautiful



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