20 Incredible Things To Do In Kampot

Man sits on waterfall near Kampot, Cambodia

With its crumbling colonial buildings, mouth-watering food choices, and beautiful river guesthouses, Kampot is one of Cambodia’s more underrated gems. The city is often skipped in favour of visiting the white sand beaches and parties on Koh Rong, but Kampot is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for somewhere a bit more relaxed on your Cambodia itinerary.

** Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you click one of the links and make a purchase we’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you. Just like the travel backpacks we build, we’re very particular about products and we only recommend products, services, or accommodation we trust and use ourselves.*** 

Girl watches boat at sunset in Kampot

How to get to Kampot

By bus: The bus from Phnom Penh to Kampot takes around 4 hours ($6-10), although the traffic and road conditions can sometimes add additional time to your journey. If you’re heading to the islands, you can catch a 2 hour bus from Kampot to Sihanoukville and then a ferry from there. 

It’s also possible to reach Phu Quoc Island in Vietnam via the border crossing at Ha Tien from Kampot.  The trip typically takes 6 hours and costs about $20. The trip can easily be arranged at most hotels, hostels or travel agents on Phu Quoc Island. 

By train: Cambodia’s passenger trains are running again! You can take the train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville with Kampot as a stop along the way. It’s worth taking this slightly longer journey (4.5 hours) for the beautiful countryside views along the way and to avoid Phnom Penh’s crazy traffic. It costs $6. 

Best places to stay in Kampot

Best hostel in Kampot

Karma Traders

Boasting great live music nights, a rooftop cocktail bar, and social activities galore, this is the place to go in Kampot to get your socializing on. It’s located just 5 minutes or so out of town, so it’s pretty accessible to get to either by motorbike, bicycle or PassApp (Cambodia’s ride sharing service). Fair warning however, the dorm rooms can be a bit noisy as a result of the aforementioned live music, so you may want to consider a private if you’re looking for some shut eye.

Best quiet place to stay in Kampot

The Hidden Oasis Bungalows

There is a reason for this place’s great rating on online booking platforms. Located about 10 minutes out of town by motorbike ride, the 6 bungalows here are some of the cleanest and most thoughtfully decorated I’ve found in Cambodia. The owners and their two children are some of the sweetest people you’ll meet – they’re incredibly representative of the wonderful people you’ll find in Cambodia. It’s countryside location is a real attraction. 

Girl sits on bungalow at night in Kampot

Best boutique place to stay in Kampot

Rikitikitavi

It’s an incredibly fun name to say and a great place to stay! Rikitikitavi has a collection of adorable individually decorated rooms situated in a tastefully renovated rice barn and located in a prime location right on the river in Kampot.

Featuring a great restaurant, bar, and hotel the building dates back to 1920’s. What begin as a rice barn, was later used as theater, and a Vietnemese barracks, and the governer’s private residence before becoming a hotel in the mid 2000’s. 

Best riverside place to stay in Kampot

 Greenhouse or Eden Eco Village

If you want a real taste of Kampot life, head further out of town to Greenhouse or Eden Eco Village for stunning riverside accommodations. Both are eco friendly and have simple but thoughtful bungalow accommodations. Eden has bungalows in the treetops and directly on the water. Greenhouse boasts a pretty incredible restaurant. This is a one of a kind experience and for really affordable rates.  

When to visit Kampot

Kampot cools down nicely in the evenings even when you visit during Cambodia’s incredibly hot season starting from March. That said, the best months to visit are usually November-February. Avoid Cambodian holidays here if possible as a lot of restaurants close down. 

Top 20 things to do in Kampot

Take a Kampot pepper farm tour

Even if you aren’t a raving pepper fan, Kampot’s La Plantation will pleasantly surprise you. This incredible farm offers free English and French tours running throughout the day where you can see not only how pepper is grown, but also how everything from turmeric and passionfruit are grown. The best part? After your tour you’ll be led through a free sampling of the different types of pepper and ideas as to where you can use them in your own cooking – from chocolate ice cream to mashed potatoes.

Take a cooking course

One of the best ways to experience the culture of a new place is through their cuisine! Head to La Plantation (before or after your pepper farm tour) to learn how to cook a variety of wonderful Khmer dishes. It’s not the cheapest cooking course in Cambodia ($20), but it is a pretty unforgettable three hours.

Admire the Secret Lake and grab some food

 On the way to La Plantation is Kampot’s Secret Lake. Grab some food at rustic, family owned Khmer Roots Cafe and admire this beautiful lake view. There’s not much to do here, but it’s a pretty scenic place to take a rest from the bumpy motorbike ride to your pepper farm tour.

Quiet secret lake near Kampot

Motorbike the snaking road up Bokor Mountain

If you’re looking for a smooth road in Cambodia to motorbike, you’re largely out of luck – but Bokor is one of the blissful exceptions! This newly paved winding road that takes you up into the clouds of Kampot’s Bokor Mountain is a perfect place to enjoy smooth roads and cool temperatures. You can rent motorbikes in Kampot for around 5 USD per day and hit the road yourself, or if you aren’t as comfortable in the driver’s seat, you can also hire a motorbike driver to take you, which may cost you 20 USD for the full day. If you need a good driver, drop me a comment below and I can share one with you!

Don't forget travel insurance

Travel insurance is an absolute must on any international adventure! Check out World Nomads for comprehensive coverage that includes high adventure activities like motorbiking. Or get a quote below. 

Visit Popokvil waterfall

This waterfall is less impressive in dry season, but is still a very welcome sight after a long motorbike ride up Bokor mountain. It’s another popular place to have a picnic, so bring some snacks and really get into the Khmer picnic culture.

Man sits on waterfall near Kampot, Cambodia

Take a swan paddle boat ride

The Mountain Lake on top of Bokor offers a unique and kitsch opportunity to rent swan-shaped paddle boats to explore the waters. If you’re looking for something unique to do, or you happen to be traveling with kids, this may be for you. 

Treat yourself to high tea at a deserted hill station

 At the top of Bokor Mountain, this formerly abandoned hill station has been recently revived and turned into a restored colonial hotel. If you’d like to splurge, the $12 authentic high tea is quirky, kitsch and extremely filling. Furthermore, the hotel and restaurant were far from capacity at the time of my visit, adding a certain murder mystery feel to this not to be missed experience. 

High tea in Cambodia

Indulge in Cambodia’s best coffee

If you’re a caffeine fan, don’t pass up Kampot’s Cafe Espresso. They roast and serve the country’s rather famous Rumble Fish coffee beans at this location, and it’s really some of the best coffee I’ve had in the country. The food is also all local and seasonal. A great place to cool down and relax after motorbiking the day away. 

Bicycle to the salt fields 

One of the things I love most about Kampot is the quiet rural roads you can bicycle on. Head down the river or out to the vast salt fields in the area. 

Kayak the green cathedral

This spot in Cambodia has understandably earned its iconic name for its magical foliage arches covering narrow river channels. It’s a beautiful place to hit the waters for some peaceful kayaking. The hotels renting kayaks will give you a map for a loop that takes around 2 hours. I rented my kayak from Champa Lodge. Do watch out for snakes in the water though! 

Kayaking the green cathedral in Kampot

Shop ethically at Dorsu

As we become more cognizant of the impact our fashion choices have on creating waste, shopping ethically has never been more important. Dorsu is a trailblazer in this area – offering minimalistic and high quality pieces for affordable prices. It’s a perfect place to see their workshop and buy some souvenirs for yourself or loved ones back home. Their staff are also fantastic. 

Get flexible with a yoga class

There are plenty of yoga classes to choose from in Kampot. I would recommend social enterprise and vocational training center Banteay Srey to get your workout in while doing good for women in the community. 

Photo tour Kampot’s colonial buildings

Part of Kampot’s charm is its old colonial buildings. Wander around the city center to snap photos of its colourful heritage.
Kampot colonial buildings

Experience traditional Khmer healing practices

After your yoga at Banteay Srey Project, really reward yourself with one of their healing treatments. From reiki to a turmeric scrub to a traditional massage, really allow yourself to heal after being on the road!

Day trip to Kep National Park

Are you into outdoor activities? Take the one hour drive to the charming seaside town of Kep to access its national park. It takes about two hours to walk the main hiking trail in the park. It’s one of the few places in Cambodia that’s safe to walk independently, with unexploded remnants of war still active in parts of the country. There are plenty of birds and monkeys to see here (and hopefully no more snakes). After your hard day of hiking, you can head down to Kep’s Sailing Club for a beautiful sunset drink looking out on the water. 

Sunset dock at Kep Sailing Club

Eat for a cause

There are plenty of amazing restaurants in Kampot, but why not eat at one that also has a great social impact? Epic Arts Cafe is one of the most popular cafes in Kampot for this very reason. This social enterprise generates funds for their Inclusive Arts projects and the majority of their staff are deaf to promote an inclusive working environment. 

Relax with a cocktail in the evening

Kampot has no shortage of restaurants, or bars for that matter. For a breezy experience, head to the Rikitikitavi and get in on their happy hour deal. Alternatively visit, Voodoo boulevard to sample one of their delectable cocktails. 

Hop on a sunset boat ride

Kampot’s lazy evenings are best kicked off with a boat ride starting at sunset. Most tickets are very affordable at $5-7 USD and include a drink or two.

Sunset boat on river in Kampot

Stay in some of the most unique accommodation in Cambodia

From tree top bungalows to bungalows where you can dive straight from your hammock into the river, Kampot is a place to really have a unique sleeping experience, and for a good price at that. Eden Eco Village has become somewhat Insta-famous for this very reason.

Eat, eat, and eat some more in town

To cap off this list, we can’t begin to name all of our favourite restaurants in town. Somehow Kampot is truly a mecca for amazing food from vegan options to tapas to homemade dumplings. Check out TripAdvisor and get your decision hat on to choose from all of the highly rated restaurants in the area. 

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The 5 Best Cambodia Itineraries | Plan the Perfect Cambodia Trip

Cambodia Itinerary Ta Prohm

If you’re mapping out the perfect Cambodia itinerary, chances are there’s something in this post just for you! After living and travelling in Cambodia for years, I’ve put together this  guide with 5 different itineraries to chose from. If you’re looking for a 1-week Cambodia itinerary we’ve got you covered.  If you’re planning a 3-week Cambodia trip you’ll find info on that too!  No matter how long you’re planning to travel, this Cambodia itinerary guide has you covered.

Cambodia is one of the best countries to experience every extreme of travelling! It’s home to some of the world’s most jaw-dropping ancient architecture from the 12th century at Angkor Wat, but just a few hours south, the contrast is stark as you experience the country’s heart-wrenching history. Phnom Penh’s Killing Fields and the S-21 Genocide Museum are potent reminders that one quarter of this beautiful country’s population was killed in the 1970s.

Today’s Cambodia is a unique and incredible mix of this grandeur and tragedy. It has an eager, youthful population who are bright eyed and ready for change. With strikingly beautiful islands, quiet backwaters where you can kayak or SUP, lush rice fields, red roads, and some of the kindest people you’ll meet, Cambodia will unabashedly capture your heart as it first captured mine many years ago. 

** Some of the links in this section are affiliate links. If you click one of the links and make a purchase we’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you. Just like the travel backpacks we build, we’re very particular about travel products and we only recommend products, services, or accommodation we trust and use ourselves.

Angkor Wat at Sunrise a stop on the Cambodia Itinerary

How much time should you spend in Cambodia?

Cambodia offers plenty of experiences for trips of all lengths from 5 days to 3 weeks! The following itineraries are a good starting point for your adventure with the option to speed up or slow down any of these trips as you see fit. Scroll through the whole post or click on any of the individual stops to skip ahead to the sections most relevant for your own Cambodia itinerary. 

5 Day Cambodia Itinerary

7 Day Cambodia Itinerary

10 Day Cambodia Itinerary

2 Week Cambodia Itinerary

3 Week Cambodia Itinerary

Bayon Temple in Siem Reap

Do you need a Visa for Cambodia?

Yes, but you can purchase a visa upon arrival at Cambodia’s airports. It costs $30 USD for 30 days. You can also choose to purchase an electronic visa online before you arrive through the government’s website: evisa.gov.kh. This option costs $30 plus a $6 processing fee. It usually takes 3 days from submission of your information to receive the e-Visa by email.

What money do they use in Cambodia?

Cambodia’s official currency is the Cambodian Riel. In practice, the country uses both US dollars and Cambodian riel. It’s common to pay for anything less than 1 USD using riel (e.g. 25 cents = 1000 Riel) and anything over this using US dollars.

When is the best time of year to visit Cambodia?

To avoid the intense rain and heat in Cambodia, it’s best to visit between November and March.

How to get around in Cambodia

Download Grab (the regional ride-sharing app) and PassApp (the Khmer version) on your phone when you arrive in Cambodia. These apps take away the stress of getting ripped off for a tuk-tuk or rickshaw ride and also save you having to direct your driver around a new city. If you’re booking buses between Cambodia’s cities you can use the online service Book Me Bus.

How to get to Cambodia

By air

International flights now arrive at both Phnom Penh’s airport and Siem Reap’s extravagant new airport. Flights to get here don’t tend to be the cheapest in Southeast Asia, so if you have some extra time to spare you might consider flying to Bangkok and overlanding to Cambodia from there.

By bus

You can take the bus into Cambodia from neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam or Laos. Buses from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh take 6-7 hours while buses from Bangkok to Phnom Penh take 12 hours and from Bangkok to Siem Reap around 8-10 hours.

How much should you budget for your trip to Cambodia?

Backpacker's budget

On average plan to spend about $10 for a dorm bed, $3 for a plate of noodles, $9 for a bus ride within the country, and $1 for a glass of Angkor draft beer. Angkor Wat ticket entry will be your big splurge.

Flashpacker's budget

On average plan to spend about $30 for a private room in a hostel or guesthouse, $6 for a great meal, $50 for a one-way flight within the country, and $3.50 for a cocktail.

Is it safe to visit Cambodia?

Yes! Cambodia is one of the countries I’ve felt the safest in as a solo female traveller. That being said, like anywhere in the world (including your home country), you should keep your wits about you. On that note here are a few things to be aware of:

Bag and phone snatching

These have become sadly commonplace, especially in Phnom Penh. Wear your backpack with both straps on and if you’re going out in the evenings, try to just carry your belongings in your pockets. Watch out for motorbikes passing by when you’re taking photos with your phone, or all of those beautiful travel photos and your means of communicating will disappear in a flash! If you’re looking for peace of mind, check out World Nomads for comprehensive travel insurance including theft (I’ve used their insurance to cover me while living in Cambodia).

Travel Insurance

Whether you’re riding on the back of motorbikes, or exploring ancient temples, medical emergencies can happen and you want to be prepared! I had a friend that was medevaced to Bangkok from Cambodia and spent several weeks in the hospital there to the tune of $750,000. Fortunately, she had travel insurance. If you don’t already have travel insurance, check out World Nomads or get a quote in seconds below.  They even have options that protect against theft, and cover the cost of emergency evacuations. 

The powdered milk scam in Cambodia

This one used to be a favourite in Siem Reap and it still pops up from time to time. A woman will stand nearby a shop and ask a passerby to buy milk for her baby. She’ll explicitly tell you she doesn’t want money, just milk. Unfortunately these women have a deal with the nearby shopkeeper, so once you buy that milk and leave, they will return the milk and grab the cash. There are much more sustainable ways to support those who need help in Cambodia. Try visiting a training restaurant or donating your time or money to a reputable local NGO instead.

Backpacker in Cambodia

What to bring to Cambodia - a few essentials

A great travel backpack

Uneven terrain and frequent bus, boat, and tuk-tuk rides make a travel backpack the perfect luggage for your Cambodia adventure.  Your pack should be weather resistant, ergonomic, and help you stay organized. If you need a travel pack check out our Khmer Explorer Travel Set which was built for adventures  just like this. Plus every bag helps a child in Siem Reap province go to school, so you’re giving back to this country before you’ve even landed!

Comfortable clothing for hot weather

Think linen, organic cotton, sweat wicking, quick drying, and light colours. Cambodia gets crazy hot, even during the cool season. Leave the jeans at home!

Water bottle & water purification device

Cambodia is one of the hottest countries I’ve every travelled too, meaning you’re going to be really, really thirsty. Plastic pollution is a major problem, so grab your favourite water bottle and use the ever more readily available water coolers or your own purifier (like a steripen) to stay hydrated and cut down on plastic waste. Also, bring along some electrolyte tablets if possible. The water here doesn’t have many minerals and these tablets will help prevent dehydration.

A comfortable pair of sandals or shoes for walking

If you’re visiting the temples of Angkor you’ll be doing a lot of walking and climbing!

Temples of Angkor

Planning your stop in Siem Reap

Siem Reap is the jewel of Cambodia and an essential stop on any Cambodia itinerary. The jumping off point to visit the temples of Angkor Wat, many tourists make this their only destination in the country and if you’re short on time in Cambodia, this is the place to see. While the town itself has become a bit of a tourist madhouse, heading just a few streets away from the notorious “Pub Street” brings you to a different world of beautiful green fields, sleepy villages, and hidden temples to explore. Many people cram a marathon visit to Angkor Wat in one day and move on, but there is so much more to enjoy in Siem Reap and it’s worth spending a few more days in this little town. 

How to get to Siem Reap

By Air

International flights arrive straight into Siem Reap, so for those limited on time, flying directly here is a great option. Your guesthouse or hostel will usually offer a free pick up service from the airport. Alternatively, you can use PassApp or Grab to book a tuk tuk. 

By Bus

Buses arrive to Siem Reap from across the country. From Phnom Penh it takes about 6 hours by bus. We would recommend Giant Ibis ($15) for their great safety standards and conservation efforts. Cambodian roads can get a bit crazy at night so try to travel during the day for your own safety when possible.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat an amazing thing to do in Cambodia

Cambodia itinerary highlights in Siem Reap

Visit the Temples of Angkor

The ancient city of Angkor was once home to a population of over 1 million people and held the title of the world’s largest city. During the period between its creation in 802 AD to its abandonment in 1431, the God Kings of the Khmer Empire constructed a series of magnificent temples and religious monuments across hundreds of square kilometres of modern day Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.  The crown jewels of this era are housed within the Angkor Archaeological Park adjacent to the town of Siem Reap. From taking in sunrise over Angkor Wat, to gazing at the many faces of the Bayon, or wandering the tree-engulfed corridors of Ta Prohm, no trip to Cambodia is complete without a journey here. As tourism just begins to resume in 2022, now is an incredible time to visit. The temples still lack the crowds and you’ll often find complete solitude at some of the most famous spots.  Like many of the world’s great wonders, a trip here is sure to be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

Read our comprehensive guide to visiting the Temples of Angkor.

Banteay Ampil
Banteay Ampil an off the beaten path temple

Explore off-the-beaten-path temples

The joy of spending several days longer in Siem Reap is that you can take the time to visit the countless off-the-beaten-path temples in the surrounding area. Of course the famous Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon temples can’t be missed, but they can be very busy and it’s worth spending a day or two visiting some equally incredible ruins without the crowds. Our favourite two hidden temples are Beng Mealea and Banteay Ampil. You can also venture further afield to Koh Ker, the former capital of the Khmer empire, now tucked away in the jungle with few tourists making the journey to visit it.

Banteay Ampil actually lies outside any kind of official zone so it’s free to visit. Beng Mealea costs $5 as it also lies outside of the Angkor Park. You can pick up your Beng Mealea ticket on the road to get there.

Visit the ethical Phare circus

Usually I hear the word circus and cringe, but not when it comes to Siem Reap’s Phare circus. This amazing spectacle – the Cirque du Soleil of Cambodia – features traditional dance, theatre, live music, and circus arts. Some of the performances will leave you in goosebumps. Profits from your ticket here support the education, training and social support programs of the Phare Ponleu Selpak

Haven Siem Reap

Where to eat in Siem Reap

Siem Reap is the place to eat amazing food and to make a difference.  Haven and Spoons are two of my favourite restaurants for their amazing food and social impact. These restaurants offer vocational training in the hospitality industry plus accommodation, meals, and social support to disadvantaged youth from the surrounding areas. If you’re looking for something a bit more local, be sure to head to Road 60 to experience the real Siem Reap. Every night this road comes to life with bright lights, food stalls, mats laid out on the road, and carnival-type rides. It’s where all of the locals head at night when the tourists are drinking too much Angkor draft on Pub Street.

Where to stay in Siem Reap

There is certainly no shortage of accommodation in Siem Reap. Lubd or Onederz are both awesome, social hostels close to everything happening in town. If you’re looking to splurge, eOcambo Village is the place to go, not only for their beautiful rooms but because they may have the loveliest staff I’ve ever met.

Battambang Boat

Planning your stop in Battambang

Often neglected Battambang is a place that should be missed only at your own peril. It’s not that there are a particular number of attractions to see in Battambang, but this countryside city is the best place to bask in the relaxed Khmer way of life and escape the tourist hordes. Take the slow boat from Siem Reap past floating villages, stroll through the local market, attend a cooking course, and cycle around. You may just find your own little piece of inner peace in this relaxed destination.

How to get to Battambang

By boat

The most scenic way to get to Battambang is to take a 7-9 hour boat ride from Siem Reap. It costs $20. 

By bus

The bus from Siem Reap to Battambang takes just 3-4 hours and costs about $6. 

Cambodia itinerary highlights in Battambang

Boat riding from Siem Reap to Battambang

Sure you could make this trip in one third of the time by bus, but isn’t travel about the journey not the destination? When the water is low, the boat frequently gets stuck so this can be an extra long journey. While it may be long, it is far from a boring trip. Passing by villages floating on stilts, local fishermen at work in their boats, and children playing on the riverbanks, this is the way to observe everyday Khmer life at its finest. It may be the perfect way to transition from the commercialism of central Siem Reap town to the charming quaintness of Battambang.

Battambang Market

Learning to cook Khmer style

Cooking in Southeast Asia usually evokes images of Thai food, but we promise you that a Khmer cooking course is not an experience to be missed. And there is no better place than the sleepy town of Battambang to have this experience. Head over to Nary Kitchen where you’ll scour the local market for ingredients, then return to make multiple dishes you didn’t realize you were capable of creating. A cooking lesson, a delicious meal (we promise Nary’s instructions are foolproof), and a free recipe book thrown in – it is hard to find better value for $10!

Where to Stay in Battambang

Battambang still isn’t a tourist hotspot so accommodation options are more limited here, but they tend to be affordable and clean. Check out Pomme for a consistently good hostel.

Phnom Penh city view on the Cambodia Itinerary

Planning your stop in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh might not be the city you fall head-over-heels for right away. Most people stop here only for a day or two and move onwards. In spite of this, it’s an important stop on your Cambodia itinerary to truly begin to understand Cambodia’s difficult past. A day in Phnom Penh visiting the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum of S21 is harrowing. Be sure to allow yourself time after these visits to relax at one of Phnom Penh’s many great cafes or restaurants. The city is constantly changing and it’s an interesting place to soak in Cambodia’s rapid transformation over the past years. It’s a city where past really does meet present.

How to get to Phnom Penh

By air

International flights arrive here from across the world. From the airport to the centre of town (Riverside, BKK1 or Russian Market) a rickshaw booked through Grab costs around $6. An official airport taxi has a fixed rate depending on the area of your destination ($12-$15). You can also take the public bus which costs just 1,500 riel ($0.37).

By bus

Phnom Penh is a hub to access Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and destinations across Cambodia. Buses coming into Phnom Penh will drop you off at different locations depending on the bus company you choose. Most bus company stations are located along the riverside or near Orussey market.  

Cambodia itinerary highlights in Phnom Penh

Visiting the harrowing S-21

Tuol Sleng, also called Security Prison 21, is a former school that was turned into a security prison during the reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. More than 14,000 people were tortured, imprisoned, and ultimately killed in these halls. Only 7 people who walked in here walked out alive. One of these sits at the entry point as you enter S-21. As you navigate past the faces of all those who were lost, it’s a particularly potent reminder of humanity’s dark side.

Tour the Choeung Ek Killing Fields

Located just 40 minutes outside of Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek was the largest of the Khmer Rouge killing fields. This is the location where those imprisoned and tortured at S-21 were sent to be executed. Today this is a place dedicated to educating both Cambodians and international visitors about the Khmer Rouge genocide in an attempt to prevent this from ever happening again.

Banana Backpacks Khmer Explorer in Phnom Penh market

Strolling through Kandal or BKK market at 7am

Phnom Penh is bursting with amazing markets to explore, from the famous architecture and fake goods of the Central Market to the souvenir haven of the Russian Market. For really authentic experiences though, visit Kandal or BKK markets when they open at 7am. Watch as shopkeepers lay out vegetables and meat to sell for the day and get lost in the corridors selling the widest variations of items. These are the markets not catered to tourists in any capacity and they’re great places to get a sense of Phnom Penh’s daily bustling life.

Settling down at a cafe and shopping for good

There are so many amazing cafes and restaurants in Phnom Penh, you don’t have to look far to find them. One of my all time favourites  is the charming ARTillery Cafe. Located close to the Royal Palace, ARTillery offers a nice respite from the heat and offers amazing treats like a falafel waffle eggs benedict. Right outside of ARTillery you can find secondhand and ethical goods shops to get your souvenir shopping out of the way while you’re here.

Where to stay in Phnom Penh

Onederz Phnom Penh location is terrific spot to stay in the city. It’s located in the riverside area of the city, close to all of the main tourist attractions.

Kayaking in Kampot

Planning your stop in Kampot

I have yet to hear someone say they felt anything short of love for Kampot. This riverside town has a dilapidated charm different to anywhere else in Cambodia. The crumbling colonial buildings and quiet streets make it a brilliant town to explore either by foot or by bicycle. With amazing coffee shops and restaurants, pepper farms galore, a river brimming with activities, and a hill station to explore, Kampot is sure to charm you.

How to get to Kampot

By Train

Cambodia’s passenger trains are running again! You can take the train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville with Kampot as a stop along the way. It’s worth taking this slightly longer journey (4.5 hours) for the beautiful countryside views along the way and to avoid Phnom Penh’s crazy traffic. It costs $6.

By Bus

The bus from Phnom Penh to Kampot takes just 3-4 hours (depending on traffic getting out of Phnom Penh). It costs around $6-10 depending on the bus company.
Girl watches boat at sunset in Kampot

Cambodia itinerary highlights in Kampot

Looking for more information on your trip to Kampot? Make sure you check out this post on 20 Incredible Things To Do In Kampot.

Kayaking with the (fabled) crocodiles

Don’t worry, apparently it’s a myth that there are crocodiles in this river, although I did see a water snake when I was kayaking here. Rent a kayak at Greenhouse, Champa Lodge or Meraki and explore the beautiful backwaters here that are covered by tree cathedrals. It’s very reminiscent of the Mekong Delta here and you’ll often have the water completely to yourself. You can also rent a SUP board and test out your balance on the river water.

Eating, drinking, and eating some more

A lot of great chefs who got tired of the Phnom Penh chaos moved themselves down to Kampot, and it really shows in the quality of restaurants here. Trendy Cafe Espresso is the perfect breakfast choice with its strong coffee, overflowing granola and fresh fruit of all varieties, and mouth-watering Huevos Rancheros. It’s truly a big slice of breakfast paradise in Cambodia. When it comes to dinner, there are so many amazing spots that I’m hard pressed to choose just a handful to recommend. Explore for yourself and don’t be surprised if you stay longer in Kampot just for the food alone.

Exploring the salt fields and pepper farms

The only shortcoming of this area of Cambodia is that the roads are notoriously potholed. Whether you’re exploring by motorbike, tuk tuk or bicycle, prepare yourself for a bumpy ride to get out to the countryside salt fields and pepper farms. Kampot pepper is famous for good reason and you may find yourself with a whole new appreciation for this kitchen staple after visiting Kampot. Journey out to the certified organic pepper farm, La Plantation, and take their free tour to see step by step how pepper is made and sample half a dozen kinds of pepper variations. 

Where to stay in Kampot

If you’re looking for a great social hostel, Karma Traders is for you. They host amazing live music, quiz, and taco nights and the staff is ultra friendly. The dorms here aren’t the most soundproof, so if you’re looking for a quieter night’s sleep you might want to try a private room. If you’re flashpacking, take the 20 minute ride out of the city to tranquil Greenhouse, where you can rent a riverside bungalow and kayak, float, or stand up paddle to your heart’s content.  

Kep - Sunset at the Sailing Club

Planning your stop in Kep

Kep is a sleepy little seaside town blossoming with greenery. It’s a popular vacation spot among Khmer locals, but less international tourists visit here. If you’ve been craving some relaxation, hiking trails, beachfront, great seafood, and beautiful sunsets, Kep may just be your heaven on earth. There isn’t much to do here (which is really what makes it such a charming place), so you only need a day or two here, especially if you’re short on time.

How to get to Kep

By Bus

Located just 4 hours from Phnom Penh ($8) or 1 hour from Kampot ($4), this is an easy bus ride. 

Cambodia itinerary highlights in Kep

Hiking in Kep

Kep National Park is the only place you can hike without a guide in Cambodia, as the area has been completely cleared of landmines and unexploded ordnance. A trail system snakes around the park and it’s a great place to take a 2 hour stroll or peddle a mountain bike through. The Led Zep Cafe makes for a nice spot to rest your feet and quench your thirst in the park.

Taking in a sunset at the Sailing Club

This swanky spot on the beach is a great place to grab a sunset drink and take in the incredible view over the ocean. It’s not cheap, but it’s also not as expensive as you might think when you first lay eyes on it.

Day tripping to Rabbit Island

Koh Tonsay (or Rabbit Island) is a blissful little patch of sand less than an hour by boat from Kep. It’s rustic and if you’re looking for a Castaway experience, you can settle in one of the little bungalows on the beach here to stay the night.

Where to stay in Kep

There’s a reason why Khmer Hands Bungalows has a perfect 5 star rating on TripAdvisor. These adorable bungalows are super thoughtfully designed and the owners of this place are some of the most wonderful people around. The place doubles as an arts training center.

Cambodia's Islands

Planning your stop in Cambodia's Islands

Less famous than Thailand’s islands, Cambodia has its own set of island gems. With white beaches and bioluminescent plankton you can swim with at night, these islands are still worth their hype. Located off the coast of Sihanoukville (try to time your visit to avoid spending the night in Sihanoukville), Cambodia has an island for every kind of beach lover.

Koh Rong

Koh Rong is the most famous of Cambodia’s islands and it’s getting busier and busier by the year. If you’re looking for a party, this is the island on the list to visit.

Kong Rong Samloem

Koh Rong’s quieter sister, Koh Rong Samloem is a popular alternative for those looking for a more relaxed time on the beach. Accommodation here can be expensive so make sure to look into where you’ll stay before visiting.

Koh Ta Kiev

Koh Ta Kiev may be the jewel of all of these islands. It’s reminiscent of what my first trip to Cambodia’s little island, Koh Russei, was like 9 years ago. There are basic beach bungalows, limited electricity and wifi, and travellers can actually get back to the basics here.

How to get to the Islands

Take the bus or plane to Sihanoukville and, if possible, jump on a boat right away to access the island of your choice. Sihanoukville has become expensive and is not the most pleasant place to stay.

off the beaten path spot on the cambodia itinerary homestay

Off the beaten path spots in Cambodia

If you have some extra time to spare in Cambodia and you happen to be a lover of the mountains, there are three wonderful places you could add to your itinerary.

Kirirom is Cambodia’s first national park and its location in the Cardamom mountains make it a cool and refreshing retreat from the country’s heat. With pine forests to explore and adventure activities galore, Kirirom is a great off-the-beaten-path adventure spot not too far from Phnom Penh.

In Cambodia’s wild east, a visit to Mondulkiri or Ratanakiri provinces shouldn’t be missed by trekking lovers. There are plenty of multi-day treks you can take through the jungles of these provinces and Mondulkiri offers ethical elephant experiences. Be sure to read this thoughtful article to make an informed decision about which elephant sanctuary you visit. They aren’t all created equally.

How to get here

Mondulkiri (7 hours, $10-13) and Ratanakiri (9 hours, $11-15) are easily accessed by bumpy bus rides from Phnom Penh. Kirirom is harder to get to and often necessitates figuring out some private transportation.

Responsible Travel Tips for Cambodia:

Orphanage tourism in Cambodia:

Visiting or volunteering at orphanages is incredibly harmful to Cambodia’s young population. The last years have brought increased knowledge about the harms of orphanage tourism, yet this is still an issue to be mindful of as you travel to Cambodia. 

Plastic waste

Plastic waste is an astronomical issue in Cambodia. Tourists alone using disposable water bottles account for 26 Olympic-sized swimming pools of plastic waste in just one year. You’ll quickly see this when you arrive in the country. As a responsible traveller there are a number of things you can do to mitigate your own impact. Bring your own water bottle and fill it up from refill stations or use your SteriPen, pick up a bamboo or metal straw instead of using disposable plastic straws, and say no to plastic bags when offered them.

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