The Khmer Empire once stretched across much of Southeast Asia and was the most powerful of its time. However, in the past century, Cambodia became one of the poorest countries in the region.
When you visit, you’ll be confronted with the history of both these periods. The horrific war and genocide that ravaged Cambodia in the 1970s left the country struggling to support its people. Amongst the ruins of great temples, many locals still live in poverty.
But recent decades have seen huge improvements and Cambodia is an incredible destination for travellers. The temples of Angkor is the most popular site and caters well for tourists. It’s one of three World Heritage Sites in Cambodia.
In other parts of the country things can be slightly rough but that’s part of the fun. Don’t let it put you off.
I would suggest giving yourself time to see the capital, Phnom Penh, and explore some of the countryside. There are some great beach destinations and smaller cities like Battambang and Kampot also have a lot to offer.
Cambodia is pretty hot for most of the year and doesn’t have the same traditional seasons as Europe or the US. The best time to visit Cambodia is probably between November and March because that’s the dry season. April and May is still dry but getting particularly humid. June to October can be a bit wet but the crowd numbers are also down.
Cambodia has become a bit more dangerous for tourists in recent years, particularly in Phnom Penh where violent robberies have increased. But Siem Reap is generally safe and most people in smaller towns will be quite welcoming.
You will need to keep your wits about you when doing things like negotiating prices and changing money, because there are unfortunately people who’ll take advantage of tourists.
The currency is the Cambodian riel, although USD is also commonly used.
Cambodia uses both the A power plug (like the US), and the C plug (like much of Europe).
The official language is Khmer but English is common in tourist areas.
To get around Cambodia and see more of the country, the bus network is your best bet – and it’s pretty good between the main destinations (although don’t expect luxury) You can book tickets in advance with 12Go.
It’s also not that expensive to hire a car with a driver, so that could be an option if you want to see quite a few destinations and are short of time.
Most visitors will visit Siem Reap to see the temples at Angkor, and possibly also go to Phnom Penh. But I would recommend also going to some of the smaller cities and the out-of-the-way landmarks.
The temples of Angkor may be the highlight but, as you can see, exploring a bit further afield opens up a huge range of amazing experiences in Cambodia.