Are you planning to travel to Cambodia and want to organize your trip yourself? Then you've come to the right place. The round trip presented here will help you plan your own trip.
On this trip you will visit Angkor, the most spectacular temples in the world, see fascinating nature, get to know the Buddhist way of life and enjoy life in inexpensive hotels and fresh Cambodian food. You can splash around in wonderful pools and relax wonderfully.
In contrast to many other tours described on my website, Cambodia is not really suitable for driving a rental car yourself. The traffic is sometimes chaotic and there are a large number of mopeds that regard the traffic rules as a non-binding recommendation. What has proven to be a recommendable way of traveling is to hire a driver to accompany you on your trip. With this way of traveling, the driver takes you to the sights you want to see and to the hotels you have booked. In other words, you design the trip according to your wishes and plans, book the hotels conveniently, e.g. via booking.com, and leave all the transfers to the driver. We did it this way for the first time - this is certainly not possible in many countries with a limited budget, but in Cambodia it is worth checking whether it fits into the travel budget.
With a private driver, you have more flexibility and freedom to plan and design your own route. You can visit the sights that interest you the most and spend as much time as you like. You can also change your plans spontaneously if, for example, a festival is taking place somewhere. For example, we were able to arrange the time of the visits to the temples in Angkor individually with our driver, Mr. Sarath.
You also have more space for your luggage and can take a break at any time if you want to eat, drink or go to the toilet.
You have more opportunities to get to know the local culture and people when you travel with a private driver. You can ask your driver for their recommendations, tips or stories. He can also help you communicate with the locals if you don't speak the language. He can also show you the best places to eat, shop or go out. For example, our driver spontaneously stopped at a small rice paper production facility and a snack stall selling original Cambodian lightly sweetened sticky rice in a bamboo tube.
We had a very good experience with Mr. Sarath, the owner of www.angkortaxis.com. He was always on time, the Lexus SUV was comfortable and well equipped and the calm relaxed way of driving we found very pleasant. We communicated about the vacation and negotiated the price via WhatsApp and everything went smoothly. Mr. Sarath speaks good English, so communication on the road was not a problem.
Payment is not made in advance, but half on site in Phnom Penh at the beginning of the trip and the other half at the end. Calculate the costs at around 100 US dollars per day for the driving service. As the hotel prices and food prices in Cambodia are quite low, you will probably end up paying less than on a package group tour.
Recommended duration of the trip: 14 days
Number of accommodation locations: 5
Maximum travel time between the overnight stops: 4:50 hrs.
Travel time: We made the trip in October, i.e. at the end of the rainy season, which runs from June to October. A Cambodia vacation is also possible in the rainy season, because even in the rainy season it usually only rains for 2-3 hours and stays dry the rest of the day. In addition, there are significantly fewer tourists on site during the rainy season, which means you may have one or two of Angkor's temples to yourself. Hotel prices are also lower than in the high season, which runs from November to March. These months belong to the dry season in Cambodia and are considered the preferred time to travel. From April onwards, the temperature rises to 40 degrees before the rainy season begins again in mid-May.
Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and by far the largest city in the country with around 2.2 million inhabitants. Phnom Penh is a lively city with large streets, lots of traffic but also beautiful corners such as the promenade along the Mekong River. I recommend planning at least 2 nights in this metropolis, as we had a late arrival and an early departure, we even spent 4 days here.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is located within the city, so you can also be taken there by tuk-tuk. If you are traveling with a driver or a group, this excursion is usually combined with a visit to the 'Choeung Ek' killing fields, which are about 30 minutes outside the city gates. In my opinion, both should definitely not be missing from the itinerary, also or precisely because the visits are very thought-provoking.
The Khmer Rouge's reign of terror under Pol Pot was just over 40 years ago and lasted 5 years. It is estimated that up to a quarter of the population lost their lives through execution, starvation and inadequate medical care. This also explains to a large extent why Cambodia's economy is weaker than that of its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam. The country still needs time to recover.
We stay at the "Hotel Plantation Urban Resort & Spa", link to Booking.com, super centrally located, only a few 100 meters from the National Museum and Royal Palace. The hotel offers clean, beautiful rooms, an excellent restaurant and a large pool with a wonderful atmosphere. You won't notice the hustle and bustle of the city in this oasis of relaxation.
Every evening at sunset around 5.30 pm, millions of bats leave the cave and fly out into the dusk to start their day. The square or street in front of the cave is seated and you can comfortably watch this 30-minute spectacle while sipping from a coconut. However, it is difficult to take good photos, but this natural spectacle remains unforgettable.
The Bamboo Train is an example of the ingenuity of the Cambodian people who created this improvised rail vehicle from leftover parts of the war. The Bamboo Train was originally used as a means of transportation and freight delivery by the locals, especially during the rainy season. As a tourist, you rattle along the landscape sitting on a wooden platform, a few centimeters above the tracks. When two trains meet on the track, the one with fewer passengers or freight has to be dismantled and pushed aside to allow the other to pass. This process only takes a few minutes and is part of the fun and adventure of the ride.
Siam Reap is the city used by all tourists as a base station for visiting the Angkor temples. Accordingly, it is very touristy here. There are plenty of restaurants, pubs and a real nightlife hotspot in the form of 'Pub Street'. From Siam Reap, it is less than 15 minutes by tuk-tuk or car to the main temple complex of Angkor Wat.
The largest religious monument in the world. The country's national monument. Depicted on the national flag of Cambodia. Unesco World Heritage Site. The main reason for many tourists to visit Cambodia. Superlatives wherever you look. To keep expectations from skyrocketing, here are a few lines to ground you: We arrived at a less than ideal time around 2 pm in the scorching midday sun. Fortunately, there were no crowds at the entrance or inside and the number of other tourists was manageable. At this time of day, however, the light was not ideal for taking photos and the view was not very mystical. However, we soon noticed the detailed, masterful stone carvings in the outer corridors. They depict entire stories and legends about the beginning of the universe and war and peace.
Angkor Wat is divided into 3 levels. The third level inside the temple is known for its 5 towers and its breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. It can be reached via 40 steep steps, whereby appropriate clothing is checked at the entrance. Short skirts and off-the-shoulder tops are not allowed. Admittedly, it took me a while to be captivated by the magic of Angkor Wat, but when I was almost alone with my girlfriend in some corners of the temple, I realized that this is a special place. You should plan at least 2, more likely 3 hours for the visit.
The Bayon Temple is probably the most visited temple in Angkor after Angkor Wat. It is located within the temple city of Angkor Thom. At all the gates of the temple, you will see meter-high faces carved out of stone pointing in all directions. These mystical faces give the temple an incomparable atmosphere. Photo tip: The Bayon Temple has several levels, all of which offer different perspectives of the faces on the towers. I find it exciting to combine the faces in the photo so that their noses seem to touch.
The temple is known for its ruins and strangler figs that snake deep into the masonry, giving it a semi-derelict state. The temple is a highlight of Angkor and offers an incomparable atmosphere created by the overgrown trees and decaying masonry. We deliberately visited this temple around sunset just before 5 pm and our plan worked: We were completely alone in some corners of the temple and the magic of the place naturally came into its own. I was impressed by the power with which nature seemed to engulf the temple. It's not for nothing that the temple is probably the most impressive location in Angelina Jolie's 2001 Tomb Raider film.
Banteay Srei is the temple known for the most ornate red sandstone ornaments and wall reliefs in the whole of Angkor. It is located approx. 23 km from the main Angkor Wat temple and is therefore not part of the standard Angkor circuit. It is one of the smaller temples but has an exemplary tourist infrastructure, including a modern exhibition on the history of the temple. I found this temple particularly enchanting and photogenic, even though many of the stone carvings have been restored or replaced. For me, this temple is a must-see when visiting Angkor. The temple is significantly smaller than most of the others, so you should plan about 1 hour for the visit.
Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and the floating villages are an important part of the lives of the people of Cambodia and offer visitors an insight into the unique culture and way of life of the locals. The pier with the excursion boats is about a 30-minute drive from Siam Reap. We started this excursion in the late afternoon, so that a very special light developed over the lake. Backlit pictures, in which other boats turn into a kind of silhouette, are particularly attractive. We found the excursion a very nice change after all the temple explorations and loved sipping a coconut on the boat, which we had bought from a floating market boat.
We are not really happy with the hotel we chose, Angkor Land Urban Boutique. The rooms look unkempt, worn out and at the same time not fully equipped. Also, after reading the reviews on booking.com again on site, we have the impression that they are all formulated very similarly. Everyone can draw their own conclusions. However, the pool in this hotel is also large, nice and clean, the staff are friendly and the breakfast tastes delicious.
On the way from Siam Reap, we made a stop of several hours at Phnom Kulen National Park. This park is about 50 km from Siem Reap and is a sacred mountain for the Khmer. It is known for its historical and cultural sights, such as the 1000 Lingas, the reclining Buddha and the enchanting temple ruins. We found the whole atmosphere there with the monks in their orange robes and the monkeys frolicking around very special. The park also has a spectacular waterfall that consists of two levels. The upper level is about 5 meters high and the lower level is about 20 meters high. You can even swim in the waterfall. However, entry to the park is not cheap at 20 US dollars per person and access by car must be in the morning.
Temples again? Yes, but ancient and with a very special atmosphere. That's why I recommend taking a break here on the way to Kratie. Before the rise of the Khmer, the Chenla empire existed in the 6th and 7th centuries. The Sambor Prei Kuk dates back to this time and included more than a hundred temples. Ten of them are octagonal and unique examples of their kind in Southeast Asia. The temples are decorated with sculptures and reliefs. Sambor Prei Kuk is also a place of natural beauty and tranquillity and the monkeys apparently feel very much at home here. Our local guide was particularly wonderful, vividly presenting the history of the temples and adapting to our pace and interests.
We have another accommodation tip for you in Kratie. The hotel "Privada Lodge - Rooftop Bar & Grill" with the warm and friendly owner couple and the tastefully decorated rooms in industrial vintage style is certainly unique in Cambodia. The breakfast and dinner are excellent and the location right on the edge of the market in Kratie is unbeatable. However, this is also the only drawback: early in the morning, busy noises from the street enter the rooms. Nevertheless: absolutely recommendable.
Dolphin watching is a great experience for nature lovers who want to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the morning or evening atmosphere on the Mekong. Freshwater dolphins are a rare and fascinating animal species that can only be found in a few waters in Southeast Asia, New Guinea and northern Australia. They are threatened with extinction and there are only around 80 of them left in the Mekong. Seeing the dolphins so close was a special experience, even if they only come to the surface briefly to catch their breath.
In the afternoon, we rented a bike at the hotel in Kratie and took the ferry to the island of Koh Trang. The island is car-free (although there are a few mopeds), so it is easy to explore and cycle around. Here you can get to know the rural life of the locals in a very relaxed way and visit the rice fields, the cultivation of pomelos and the traditional wooden houses.
At the end of the trip, we relax at the "Hotel Plantation Urban Resort & Spa", link to Booking.com. During the day, we take a trip to Koh Dach Island, also known as Silk Island. There we are shown the process of silk production. It's quite interesting, but the guide we have to take with us tries to encourage us to buy a silk textile a little too often in our opinion. Back at the hotel, after a delicious dinner, we end the day relaxing in the pool before our driver takes us to the airport the next day.
Cambodia is considered to be relatively safe, but there are always some pickpockets, so you should carry your bags and rucksacks on the front of your stomach when walking along busy roads.
Does this travel report make you think that Cambodia has no coast and no beach life to offer? Wrong. In contrast to its big neighbor Thailand, Cambodia has less beach life to offer, but there is still the opportunity to incorporate a few nice days by the sea into your vacation. You can either do this in the coastal town of Sihanoukville or, as is usually recommended, you can cross over to the island of Koh Rong and enjoy the relaxed life by the sea there.
It takes less than 3 hours by car from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, which is the only highway in Cambodia. Due to the short travel time of 2 weeks, we decided not to do this because we wanted to see more of the country and its people. You can save further transfer time by car if you book an open jaw flight with landing in Seam Reap and departure in Phnom Penh or from Sihanoukville, for example.
... we wish you many great impressions and experiences on your round trip through Cambodia! Kirsten & Thorsten
... and if you have any suggestions, ideas for improvement or criticism about this website or the tour, we look forward to hearing from you.