Our 870.30-Kilometer Journey by Land Within Cambodia

Well, not exactly 100% by land. Some 77 of 870 km was a boat ride to a beautiful island called Koh Rong in Cambodia. Just to give you an analogy, 870 km is like driving from Manila to Taiwan! (This is not possible though!)

Welcome to Cambodia!

Despite its distance from the Philippines, Cambodia has become a popular tourist destination for Filipinos for three reasons aside from the Angkor Wat:

1. The introduction of Cebu Pacific’s MNL-REP seat sale in the recent years. Because why not? For a Php 4,000 round trip airfare from Manila, you’ll be able to fly to see the grandeur of the Angkor Wat.

2. Because it’s freakin’ accessible from Bangkok and Saigon! The Indochina trail is easily accessible than you think. From Saigon, just hop-in an overnight bus to Cambodia, and before you know it, you’re already in Phnom Penh. Also, instant 2 passports stamps!

3. Like Manila, it’s cheap to travel within Cambodia. Except for a day-pass to the Angkor Wat which I think is a bit pricey for budget travelers. The cost of traveling by land to another country from Cambodia is as cheap as booking a bus ticket from Manila to the Cordilleras.

According to Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism data in 2015, the average length of stay in Cambodia is 6.50 days. It also states that Philippine tourist arrivals is only 1.8% compared to 20.8% visitors from Vietnam. While 1.8% seems like a small number, it is equivalent to some 66,000 Philippine passport holders who visited Cambodia in 2015 alone. And according to the statistics, the following are the regions primarily visited by tourists in general:
  • Phnom Penh & Surrounding
  • Siem Reap Angkor
  • Coastal Areas
  • Eco-tourism Areas

Me at the Angkor Wat Complex 

How to Hit the Highlights of Cambodia in 7 Days (with Less Planning)

It’s true. You don’t need to plan meticulously to see the main attractions of Cambodia. Planning helps, of course. But if you love “flashpacking” and you’re a “let’s go wherever the road takes us” kind of guy, Cambodia is a good place for you! We went to the country with the intent of seeing 5 towns namely, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong and Kep Province. We have an itinerary in mind but we didn’t book our hotels and transportation in advance because we’re not sure if online bookings are reliable especially for their provincial buses. Also, we wanted a flexible itinerary so we can extend our visit in places we love and leave immediately in places we like the least.

5 Pre-Trip Essentials

• Know what’s your purpose in going to Cambodia. Most of my friends went there solely for Angkor Wat, which is definitely okay. If you have extra days, research for key areas you wanted to add in your itinerary. In our case, aside from Angkor and Phnom Penh, we wanted to see the sleepy towns of Kep and Koh Rong. We heard it’s beautiful!

• To avoid getting ripped off, research for the cost of bus, private car and tuktuk rides going and leaving from each city or town. That way, you have the baseline of common cost of travel within Cambodia. There are many touts who will try to overcharge you. Also, better research for alternative means of transportation like a private car since there may be no bus schedule on days/time you want to leave.

• Write down at least 2 hotels that fit your budget. Or, research for the “backpackers” area of the town you’ll visit. Once in Cambodia, you can give the name of your hotel to the tuktuk driver to get there. Most likely, there will be other cheaper hotels around the area of your chosen hotel that are not found online.

• Research for the location of each town in Google maps, check the distance between towns and how long it will take to drive from point A to B.

• Read blogs and official websites if it’s safe to travel to your chosen towns. Remember that Cambodia has many undiscovered land mines from the Khmer Rouge era. Some places may not be safe for tourists and locals alike.

Tuktuk ride to Angkor Wat 

Our 7-Day Itinerary

Travel Notes About Crossing the Aranyaprathet-Poipet border

• The full trip has two segments: the Thai side (from Bangkok to Aran) and the Cambodian side (from Poipet to Siem Reap).

• The Poipet border crossing is open from 07:30am to 8:00pm daily. Be there as early as you can. It didn’t look safe when we were there around 7pm

• No fee (even $1) should be levied by the immigration from ASEAN passport holders

• Taxi from Poipet to Siem Reap is normally $35; government bus is $10 only (it only runs til 4pm)

Siem Reap
Day 1
Tour the Angkor Wat Archeological Complex for a Day
$20 - for a 1 day pass +
$12 - tuktuk ride to/from your hotel, the driver will wait for you in waiting areas outside the complex. They can’t go inside, you’ll do the walking!

Usual order of visit:
Sunrise at Angkor Wat > Angkor Thom > Bayon> Baphuon > The Terrace of Elephants > Ta Prohm

• Free swimming at Kanell Restaurant and Pool if you consume at least $5 on food/drinks per person. A good way to be refreshed after a whole-day tour in Angkor
• Join the party in Pub Street
Day 2
Half-day biking around Siem Reap and the old market

• Checkout and get on the 8-hour bus to Sihanoukville;
• Find a cheap guest house
Day 3
Half day tour around Otres Beach;
• 45-minute boat ride to Koh Rong from Sihanoukville

• Check-in at Coco Bungalows;
• Swimming and tour of the Koh Rong Island
Koh Rong

Day 4
Half Day tour of Koh Rong (we left earlier than expected because the weather wasn’t cooperating);
• Boat ride back to Sihanoukville

• Private car service to Kep Province, 2.5 hours
• Tuktuk ride to hotel;
• Check-in at The Vine Retreat House and
Half day tour of Kep's bay area
Kep Province
Day 5
• Swimming in the retreat house

Explore Kep Province on motorbike:
• Pepper and mango farms
• Kep National Park
• Kep Crab Market
• Kep Beach
• Jasmine Valley
Phnom Penh
Related Article:
Day 6
• Check out from The Vine Retreat
• 3-hour bus ride to Phnom Penh
• Stroll around Sisowath Quay
Day 7
Whole day city tour via tuktuk
• Wat Ounalom
• Independence Monument
• The National Museum of Cambodia, Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace (we're not able to get inside because they were closed for some reason)
• Killing Fields
• Sisowath Quay
• Central Market to buy gifts for home

@Kep Province
Breakfast at The Vine Retreat, also in Kep Province

Summary of Expenses for 7 Days in Cambodia

Siem Reap

Bangkok to Aran via Minivan
Poipet to Siem Reap by private car ($35)
Tuktuk to guesthouse (Free)
Yellow Guesthouse x 2 Nights
Angkor Wat One Day Pass
Tuktuk to Angkor Wat / Hotel
Tuktuk to Pub Street Area (Free)
Bike rental (Free)
Sihanoukville + Koh Rong

Bus to Sihanoukville
Tuktuk to hotel
Hotel in Sihanoukville (forgot the name)
Hotel Coco Bungalows x 1 Night
Return boat ticket to Koh Rong
Kep Province

Car rental to Kep ($35)
Tuktuk from drop off to The Vine
The Vine Retreat x 2 Nights
Motorbike Rental in Kep ($10)
Phnom Penh

Bus from Kep to Phnom Penh
Tuktuk to Hotel ($2)
Hotel in Phnom Penh x 1 Night
Killing Fields Entrance Fee
Tuktuk to/from Killing Fields ($9)
Wat Ounalom Entrance
Phnom Penh to Saigon by bus
Food (Appx. ₱200/meal) x 19 meals
₱ 13,505.00

• Prices are per person; they are not official and are just estimates
• Bus trips were all arranged by the hotel receptionist
• Airfare to/from Manila not included (~5,000 php)
• Exchange rate as of writing $1 = ₱45 (it was cheaper when we were there)

Fine white sand in Koh Rong Island 

Money Saving Tips in Cambodia

• Get on the direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap instead of taking the minivan to Aran and car to Siem Reap. Whenever possible, avoid car rentals in Cambodia and take advantage of the provincial buses because they are cheaper.

• Cambodia is a country with dual currency. The US dollar is used as much, or more than, the local currency. There may be cases when restaurants would prefer dollars over riels. At the Aran border, people accept dollars, riels and Thai baht! Make sure you have small dollar notes and riels for small purchases to avoid getting ripped off unknowingly.

• Negotiate with tuktuk drivers for best price on city tour. The city center isn’t that big so tuktuk tours shouldn’t be that expensive.

• Upon arrival at the bus station, you can ask the tuktuk driver to help you look for a cheap hotel within the city center or the backpackers area. It’s okay to say no if you didn’t like the place.

• Avoid organized tours where possible - Sometimes organized tours are the easiest way to see some of the famous sights especially when you’re short of time. The city center is not that big so wherever possible, try to organize the city tour yourself.

Long live, Cambodia! 

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