Suasadai! I recently visited Cambodia as a part of a 9 day tour with G Adventures. It was the first lengthy stay in an Asian country as a part of my Asia adventures. It was a massive culture shock for me and adjusting was quite difficult but worth it in the end.
I knew this would be a massive challenge for me in a lot of ways. This is why I’m glad I did it as part of a tour. I found it a lot easier and enjoyable knowing I wasn’t alone.
There were many obstacles I created in my head before even getting to Cambodia and some issues I found when I got there. My anxiety has never been tested so much till I got to Cambodia but it was worth every second of panic and anxiety.
READ MORE: An Anxious Traveller’s Guide to…
By no means, was visiting Cambodia easy or anxiety free but it was fun and filled with memories I will never forget. Cambodia was a great start to my Asia adventures and a great country to visit first before taking on the rest of Asia.
Cambodians love rice and noodles so expect a lot of that while you’re there. You’ll also see a lot of chicken, beef and pork. You might find beef can actually be water buffalo.
One thing you won’t run out is vegetables. They love fruit and veg in Cambodia so if you’re Vegetarian or Vegan you’ll be well fed. The vegetarians loved every meal and were probably the most satisfied every meal time.
I’m a massively fussy eater and having rice and noodles everyday really can grind on you. Sometimes you’ll really miss Western food or just crave a burger and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you want a burger, have a burger.
There’s lots of restaurants which will have Western food on offer but they’ll charge you a lot more than the local food on offer.
My local meals in Cambodia ranged from £2-6 per meal. Crazy. Your budget will stretch further if you go for the local menu.
There’s a range of accommodation in Cambodia to choose from if you’re travelling solo or with friends. If you’re in a group tour, you’ll get what you’re given but it’s not as bad as you think.
Cambodia is still a very young country and you’ll see very quickly how different Cambodia’s lifestyle is to more built up countries.
I mostly stayed in hotels in Cambodia but this was a part of a group tour so they chose the accommodation for us. There could be several reason for this, lack of hostels, the standards of the hostels but I’m happy with the accommodation I was in.
You also get free bottles of drinking water which is great after driving for hours to get to the hotel in the first place.
I also stayed in a Cambodia home stay which was separate to the host families house. We got them gifts (e.g toothbrushes, toothpaste, cookies) as a thank you for letting us stay and because it’s quite far to the nearest shops.
Just be warned. Most places are very clean BUT…the odd critter may sneak into your room. The biggest culprits are geckos and cockroaches. Not a fan. I will admit, I screamed a few times during my trip finding unwanted guests in my room. Then, tactically got rid of them.
I know a few people who will read this title and be like WOAHHH. Personally, I’m from Merseyside. I live near Liverpool. It’s nothing out the normal for me and no one is taking anything from me.
Unfortunately, you’ll find people robbing everywhere in the world but Cambodia has a few areas where bag snatchers are more common. Not so shocking, it’s more likely in the nightlife and bar areas.
Biggest hotspot for bag snatchers is Pub Street in Siem Reap.
Don’t let the anxiety of this ruin your night. Just keep safe. You can do this by not carrying important items on you. Lock them in a safe in the hotel or in you backpack.
Best advice is to buy a money belt that you can wear under your clothes (preferable) or one that goes around your front. Do not carry a hand bag, they will swipe it off your shoulder.
Boarder Crossing Dilemma
Before this trip, I had never crossed a boarder by land before. I’ve been worried about it for months prior to the trip. I always worry about things I’ve never done before and just didn’t know what to expect.
Luckily, the process for me was made super easy on the day by our tour leader. They had all the documents ready, collected the money, took our passports and checked everything was ready before getting there.
Before travelling to Cambodia, you should check your government website for VISA and entry information for up to date information. I know it’s annoying when people say this but you won’t find the correct answer anywhere else.
Biggest thing to remember is as long as you have all the documentation you need, you have the money for the VISA and you’re wearing a mask (don’t forget this), then you’ll be fine. America customs is a lot more intimidating than Cambodia.
It’s HOT out there. Really hot. So when you take transportation in Cambodia, having air con is vital! Some days we were running to get on the bus because we just wanted to get out the heat.
Getting from city to city was mostly done in private transfers as I was apart of a big group. There are buses but apparently they’re not very reliable so expect to be waiting around and long journeys.
We got to Koh Rong by boat which wasn’t as bad as I thought. I get horrendous travel sickness but the boat ride was actually quick smooth. When leaving the island the winds picked up a lot so we couldn’t board till the winds died down. When we did get on, it was a bit bumpy.
I would suggest taking some travel sickness tablets for the windy roads in buses, etc and any wavy conditions you may encounter en route to Koh Rong island.
Tons of Temples
I hope you like historic sites and culture coming out your ears because Cambodia is bursting with it. Even more, the locals love talking about it.
Cambodia has incredible temples in Siem Reap. To my surprise there was more than one. We thought there was only one site but there were several to see and we didn’t even get to see them all. We even had to take transfers between them.
The first temple called Angkor Wat was quite iconic and we got up at 4am to go see the sunrise which was a beautiful site. There are a lot of tourist that go to do this so be prepared for crowds of people.
Be careful of the children around the temples selling things. If you speak to them or tell you to go away they might start shouting at you or swearing. Best to make no contact at all.
The Ta Prohm Temple is more known for appearing in the film “Tomb Raider” with the patron saint of Cambodia Angelina Jolie.
Lastly, we saw was Bayon Temple which also had a bunch of monkeys running around the grounds.
All 3 temples took 6 hours to see. There are about 72 major temples or other buildings are found within Seim Reap. Bring really comfortable shoes that have a good grip as you’ll be climbing a lot of stairs which are quite gritty and some rocks which are bit loose.
I’m not a fan or creepy crawly things. You won’t find me holding spiders, petting a lizard or befriending a snake. Hell no.
Cambodia doesn’t have cute wildlife. Costa Rica has monkeys and sloths, Australia has koalas and kangaroos but does Cambodia have anything adorable like that…no. They have cockroaches and geckos.
I don’t like creepy crawlies where I can’t predict where they’re going or too quick for their boots. No thanks.
We even had geckos hilarious fall from the roof once.
There are elephant sanctuaries which you can visit but make sure you visit one which is a rescue center and doesn’t have any riding involved.
Tiger’s are functionally extinct in Cambodia but there are Tiger Encounter tourist sites in Cambodia and around Asia. Do not visit them. They have been starved, beaten and tortured into submission so you can have your photo taken with them. It’s not ethical.
Not exactly wildlife but the dogs which roam Koh Rong are damn cute…
The Cambodian people are a right lovely lot. You’ll find that tourism is key to Cambodia’s way of life, so when they see locals they’re thankful you’re there. They want to help you and are very friendly people.
English isn’t a well spoken language in Cambodia unless they work in restaurants, hotels or shops. Technology really helps breaking the language barrier. Use it if you have it.
We found it hard to communicate with the people in the home stay but that didn’t stop them from being hospitable and friendly with us.
Our tour guides in the cities and on the excursions were fluent in English, really knowledgeable and approachable. They could craic a decent joke too but mostly, I learnt a lot during my stay.
Having social anxiety makes it really difficult for me to approach and talk to new people but everyone I met was so nice which made it a lot easier for me.
The Killing Fields
I didn’t know anything about the Killing Fields till I went to Cambodia. I was really shocked when I heard about what happened there, but also about how I felt being there.
It really effected me and if I wasn’t in such a good mood that morning or having one of my bad days then it really could have effected my mental health.
The whole place is so airy and upsetting. The tour itself was very interesting but I did feel bad taking photos etc. However, the tour guide said he wanted to us to tell people their story and show what happened there so this is what I’m doing.
If you do get a chance to visit the Killing Fields, definitely go. It’s an incredible experience and really puts things into prospective. Just ensure you look after your mental health first and don’t feel bad if you need to cut the tour short or take time for yourself.
There is also the opportunity to meet some of the last surviving prisoners held captive at the prison during the Killing Fields. They have an incredible story to tell and were the loveliest people.
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Disclaimer: This blog post contains non-affiliate links. I was a paying customer on this trip. All thoughts and opinions are my own as always.