A tropical vacation…
A new culture…
A taste of modern luxury…
All in one epic, vacation to Cambodia!
Let’s make it happen!
Ten years ago the country of Cambodia looked quite different.
There were very few Western restaurants and stores for for shopping.
And the hotels?
Only a precious few hotels were “vacation worthy.”
But that has all changed.
Now travelers can find authentic pizza restaurants, American fast food favorites, and even American ice cream and pretzel shops!
With a ginormous mall that just opened in Phom Penh (Aeon 2), there’s also some pretty good shopping, a new aquarium and even a water park on the roof to make your exotic vacation a little more modern!
Let’s jump in and chat about how to make the most of your vacation in Cambodia.
I want your vacay to be EPIC!
12 Ways to Make Your Cambodia Vacation Epic
- Venture out to the smaller cities. Sure, Phnom Penh and Siem Riep are more bustling cities for Cambodia, but the smaller ones hold some gems for the Ameerican traveler! Why not consider a little city that I’ve come to love!
Kampot is only about a two and a half hour drive from Phnom Penh and thirty minutes from the beach town of Kep.
It’s packed with foreigners, hole-in the wall restaurants that offer some amazing food and lots of roads that are begging to be explored by bicycle!
In this city you’ll also find a gorgeous mountain (Bokor Mountain) with some pretty interesting Cambodian history attached to it.
The traffic is less chaotic than Phnom Penh and Siem Riep, so it is definitely more of a kid-friendly adventure!
When traveling to Kampot we choose to stay the Boutique Kampot Hotel.
You know one reason we choose this hotel? The bathtub.
What you might not know is that bathtubs are not overly common in Cambodia. In fact, it’s extremely difficult to even find a house with a bathtub!
Definitely check if your hotel for your Cambodia vacation has a bathtub before you book. You’ll enjoy those long soaks after a day of exploring!
The Boutique Hotel makes sure guests enjoy unique, boutique decor while learning about Cambodian history.
See those scarves on the wall?
They’re very popular among the Cambodians.
They wear them on their heads to protect them from the blazing sun and even use them as cleaning cloths.
And our kids definitely enjoyed seeing the “antique” telephone!
They called each other often…ha!
- Keep US Dollars and Cambodian Riels on hand. It was definitely a surprise when we realized several businesses preferred US dollars for payment. Many places are not equipped to take credit cards, so make sure you keep cash ready. You can still use Cambodian riels. An easy way to keep up with how much you’re spending is remembering that approximately 4,000 Cambodian riels equals a dollar.
- Pass Apps are easier and cheaper than tuk-tuks. You’ve probably read lots of tourists posts about tuk-tuks. However, most recently, Cambodia has been utilizing apps! You can see the Pass App here. This makes traveling much easier. There is no bargaining and the prices are cheap. You can choose a rickshaw, car, or SUV to take you to your destination. You can even request your driver to wait on you if you’ll only be somewhere for 15-30 minutes. Some will wait, others won’t.
- Carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Toilet paper is almost never available unless you’re in a Western type of business. Cambodians prefer sprayers instead. Toss a roll or a package of tissue in your purse for your travels. Don’t forget the sanitizer! Hand soap is a luxury too!
- Don’t tip 20 percent at restaurants. In America, we’re pressured to leave at least a 20 percent tip. Traveling in Cambodia is quite different. Unfortunately, sometimes the tips don’t always go to the waiter or waitress. They’ll go straight to the owner. Most of the times that is the case when there’s a tip box. However, if it’s an NGO run restaurant, you’re pretty safe tipping!
- Be generous with selfies. Cambodians love to take selfies! If you have any kids with you, some Cambodians may innocently lean over and ask to take a picture with your kids. Don’t take offense. In their culture they’re not being rude. They’re showing they like your kids or think they’re cute!
- Avoid pointing or showing the bottoms of your feet. These two actions are considered extremely rude. Many people reserve pointing at others for when they’re extremely angry and they want to shame another individual. Bottoms of feet are considered especially gross.
- Choose a hotel that has recent, positive reviews. Since you’ll experience jet lag, humidity, heat and mosquitoes, you’ll definitely want a comfortable, cool, modern room to rest in at night. I’ve been in a few icky hotels and my rest was anything but rejuvenating.
If you’re traveling in Kampot, definitely check out the Boutique Kampot Hotel for clean, comfy sheets, excellent Wifi, a hearty breakfast and a kind and attentive staff!
Those are must-haves for an epic vacation!
- Be ready to negotiate prices at the markets. Don’t leave your Cambodia trip without visiting the Russian market and haggling over some pretty fun souvenirs. The sellers typically start a few dollars above their final price. Be nice, but feel free to ask for cheaper prices for those really cute coconut shell bowls!
- Don’t follow the crowd when it comes to restaurants. Many tourists miss the really good restaurants that the expats know about. Do some research on trip advisor first before you go to the riverside or popular tourist streets. There are some really good restaurants in Cambodia at very decent prices. If you don’t do online research first, you may miss those tasty spots!
- Beware of “baby milk” scams. It’s incredibly sad, but there’s a very popular scam hitting tourist areas. A woman comes up to you with a small, sleeping infant in her arms and asks for money to buy the baby some milk. Sometimes they even “rent” babies from other people just to appear as if they have a baby. If you walk with the woman to purchase formula, as soon as you leave, the woman heads to the store and returns the unopened formula. The owner of the store and the woman split the money they gained from a well-meaning tourist. It’s difficult to walk away and say no, but remember if you give in to their scam, you’ll help them continue “renting” babies in order to trap unsuspecting tourists.
- Keep mosquito repellent on hand. You can purchase this in Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Riep or bring your own. Malaria and Dengue fever are definitely a cause for concern when traveling. Stay covered with repellent and consider covering your ams and legs when possible.
- Don’t over-schedule yourself. To make your Cambodia vacation truly epic, make time for rest and relaxation. Take time to enjoy your quiet hotel and even indulge in a nap!
This large sitting window at the Boutique Kampot Hotel gave us time to relax, enjoy the view of Kampot and be refreshed for our next adventure.
Your kids need some down time too or they will most likely experience meltdowns from jet lag mixed with exhaustion.
- Learn a few Cambodian phrases. It makes traveling less stressful if you learn a little bit of the Cambodian language before traveling! I recommend using this app instead of listening to tourists on Youtube videos tell you phrases. If your accent is absolutely horrible, they will not understand you! :)
- Have a medical emergency plan available. Know where the best health care is in case of an emergency. For our family, we choose medical care at either Royal Raffles Medical Clinic or Royal Phnom Penh Hospital. Royal Phnom Penh is the newest hospital in Cambodia, but it’s still limited in comparison to American hospitals. Raffles Medical Clinic is a simple doctor’s office with foreigner and Khmer (Cambodian) doctors. For serious situations, you will most likely be encourage to fly to Bangkok, Thailand for further medical assistance.
When is your vacation planned for Cambodia? Feel free to reach out to me about any questions you have about traveling in Cambodia! Happy to help!
Our family was given a one night’s stay at Boutique Kampot Hotel in order to give our honest review and opinion. Thank you for making our trip special!