We spent 3+ weeks in Cambodia, and were we to do it again, we'd spend the same amount of time, but in different ways. Below are our top tips to ensure your time and money are well-spent.
Don't expect Cambodia to be cheap
It's not. In fact, for us, it was more expensive than both Thailand and Laos. Sure, if you stay in dorms with shared bathrooms and fans, then it's inexpensive, but for private AC rooms, expect to pay $15-$20. And because meals are in dollars, those are more expensive as well. That said, expect every first price given to be a total rip-off. If you don't bargain, you're being an idiot. Just walk away and watch the price drop to half, or even a quarter. (The only time this rule doesn't apply is if you're here during Khmer New Year, when prices double or triple for transport and hotels. If that's the case, you, like us, are simple screwed.)
Set a good example for the locals, especially when it comes to litter
Cambodia is dirty. That's the first thing we noticed and something we saw time and time again, even on the beautiful beaches. If you make a point of putting your trash in the bins in front of locals, it'll remind them that it's bad to dump in their yards or in the ocean. Joining beach cleanups is another way to bring the point home. If that's too much, just frown whenever you see someone dumping trash. It works like a charm.
Remember that dollars are king
Everything is quoted in dollars, the ATMs dispense dollars, and the locals are dollar obsessed. Riel is only used for water and cookies, so make sure you don't get a handful back unless you have a lot of time left in the country. For all intents and purposes, it's 4000R to $1.
Be firm but patient with the hawkers
Whether it's kids in Angkor or on the beach, or a gazillion tuk-tuk drivers, just say "no, thank" (day aw-koon) and walk away. They'll either follow you or let the next hawker start the harassment, but there's really no point in getting upset about it because the fact of the matter is that it won't stop. On that note, try not to buy things from the children. They should be in school, not selling bracelets and fireworks on the beach.
Plan your trip around Siem Reap
Plan your trip around Siem Reap, a quick stop in Phnom Penh, and a longer time on the south coast of Cambodia. These are, in our opinion, the only places really worth visiting. The off-the-beaten track options in Cambodia just aren't that great compared to other regions, but the temples of Angkor, the history in Phnom Penh, and the beaches and islands in the south put up a decent fight against their neighbors. Also, if you have the money, the Koh Kong Conservation Corridor in the south is supposed to be an amazing, if pricey, place to visit. If you're craving less tourists, go there. If you have more time see our three week Cambodia itinerary.
Interested in seeing Angkor Wat and Cambodian beaches without paying for a plane ticket? Check out our Cambodia destinations.
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