Backpacking in Cambodia: 2 Week Recap & Travel Tips

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The first time we went backpacking in Cambodia was in 2010 on our whirlwind honeymoon tour in Southeast Asia. We walked away in total awe at this beautiful country and didn’t hesitate to tell people it was our favorite country. 4 years later, we are still in love.

Our return visit solidified our original opinions of this country, it is beautiful, the people are beautiful and the history is enough to consume you and take you to a surreal place while visiting. We love Cambodia and already want to go back again.

This time, we visited the capital city of Phnom Penh first before making our way north back to Siem Reap. The capital is busy and raunchy, exactly what you would expect when traveling in Asia.

However, it has a pulse that is so much different than other countries in this hemisphere, the people here have an intense desire to work hard and show their spirit.

I will admit though, Phnom Penh is not our favorite place in Cambodia. It is an absolute must for a traveler though because it is a place that will help you get a small grasp on Cambodia’s history.

The best thing you can do for yourself before visiting is to pick up a book or two and read about what happened in this country.

This knowledge will make for a much more enriching trip then showing up and being that person making comments like ‘ something really horrible happened in this country, right?’.

After Phnom Penh, we decided to just head straight up to Siem Reap and spend 10 days there re-exploring our favorite stop from our 2010 travels.

While Siem Reap has grown up, A LOT, we still love it as it has kept its charm. The growth seems to be mostly within the downtown area of the city where people stay, I mean they even have a Hard Rock Café now!

The temples are still gorgeous and we had an amazing time visiting our favorites and exploring some new ones. We both still have an intense desire to explore more of Cambodia and I can see it being on a return trip in the not so distant future.

Backpacking in Cambodia: 2 Week Recap

Where Did We Go?

Cambodia Travel Itinerary Divergent Travelers

~Phnom Penh and Siem Reap ~

What We Loved About Backpacking in Cambodia


We still love the Cambodian people. They have some of the warmest people in all of Southeast Asia and we were so happy this hasn’t changed with the influx and growth of tourism in the past 4 years.

There is nothing more special to traveling them from being able to connect with the local people and smiling faces.

A prime example is the family of the guesthouse we stayed in Siem Reap routinely invited us to join them for dinner during our stay and when we tried to pay him, he refused and told us it was his pleasure.

They were some of the best meals and company we have had in our travels.


RTW Travel Cambodia Monks Angkor Wat

~ Smiling Monks at Angkor Wat ~

And it is really easy to find. One of our least favorite things about traveling is having to go out and find food for every single meal.

It gets old, especially when you find yourself in a place where it is hard to find a good, cheap meal without having to trek miles.

We stayed outside the busiest area, on the skirts, of Siem Reap and had at least 10 different local restaurants within a 3-minute walk that served food for $1USD per plate and $0.50USD fresh fruit shakes. You can’t beat that.


Cambodia is gorgeous and unique. We have yet to come across another country that really compares, landscape wise.

You have rice fields for miles with towering palms jutting from them. It is so beautiful and that scene just makes us both sigh and say Cambodia. There’s nowhere else quite like it.

What We Didn’t Love About Backpacking in Cambodia

Begging Kids Angkor Temples Siem Reap Cambodia

~ Begging children can be seen at most temples ~


This one is a given if you spend enough time in SE Asia, it is going to happen to you. Unfortunately, it happened a couple of times while we were in Siem Reap.

We made arrangements with a driver to take us to sunrise at Angkor Wat, we got up at 4:30 AM and were ready and waiting at 5:00 AM for him. He never showed up.

We then attempted to pick up another driver, who happened to be driving past our guesthouse and spoke good English.

We negotiated and hopped in at 5:30 AM fearing we would be too late for the sunrise but going for it anyway, only to have him drive us to the corner and try to pawn us off on his friend that could barely speak English for the same price.

Sigh, no thanks. We returned back to our hotel and at 6 AM, received a knock on our door, it was our original driver. Hello, the sun is already up!! Buzz off!


While the children you will encounter in Siem Reap while temple touring are beautiful, extremely friendly and a good chat, I was surprised to see so many children on the streets begging and trying to sell to tourists.

Admittedly, there were considerably fewer children than we encountered on our last visit in 2010, yet they were still prominent and were quite aggressive at times.

We absolutely do not believe in supporting this, we do not give handouts and do not buy from children that should be in school when we travel.

It was really sad for us to see them acting like zombie drones, ‘mister, mister, buy my stuff, one dollar, one dollar, please, please, one dollar, one dollar, please, mister, one dollar”.

Over and over and over and over and over (you get my drift), while they stared straight through you. So sad, these kids belong in school or playing with their friends, not being used as tools to capture money from the softer hearted tourists.

What Did We Spend?


We spent an average of $55USD per day for 2 people while backpacking in Cambodia. This included a private room and 3 meals per day, temple passes and activities.

However, our daily living expenses were around $30USD per day for 2 people. It is really affordable there! We bought a 3-day temple pass, hired a private tuk-tuk and also went horseback riding, so these things are what drove up the average, but still very cheap here.

Currency: While the official currency is the Cambodian Riel (4,000 riel = $1USD), the US dollar is primarily used by all businesses and merchants in Cambodia. ATM’s even dispense USD.

Transportation: We used all local transport via tuk-tuk when we were in the cities. Traveling between cities we used a local coach bus, Giant Ibis, to get between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. This cost us $15 each and took around 7 hours. We only flew into the country, when we left we took a direct bus to Bangkok, traveling overland.

Airlines Used: We did not fly within Cambodia.

Accommodation: We only stayed in 2 different guesthouses while in Cambodia, I think this is some sort of record for us. Both were comfortable, although the one we had in Phnom Penh had some smell issues, not sure what it was, we had an occasionally stinky room. Both had a private bath.

Places Stayed:

Activities: We didn’t do too much in Cambodia compared to other countries, but we did a day trip by tuk-tuk to the killing fields and Genocide Museum while in Phnom Penh and of course did 3 days of temple touring in Siem Reap. We did the small tour, big tour, a trip out to the Rolous Group, some countryside tuk tuk cruising and a couple of different sunrises. We also spent an afternoon horseback riding through local villages and to remote ruins.

Food: Glorious, cheap food abounds here. We even found a tasty Mexican restaurant on the riverfront in Phnom Penh that was so yummy. Finding Mexican food is really hard in Asia!! Fresh fruit shakes are everywhere and I lived on coconut shakes during our time in Cambodia. It is really easy to find cheap, good cuisine in this country and that was amazing for us.

Our Backpacking in Cambodia Favorites

Favorite Beach: No beaches for us here, but here’s one of my favorite shots from our temple touring.

Complete Guide to Visiting the Angkor Temples Ta Phrom Siem Reap

Favorite City: Siem Reap

Cambodian locals siem Reap Cambodia Divergent Travelers

Favorite Activity: Horseback Riding in Siem Reap, Temple gawking around Angkor

Horseback Riding Siem Reap Cambodia

Favorite Meal: Fresh Coconut shakes, hands down. Followed by Christmas Dinner for us at Hard Rock Café, Siem Reap (I know, lame, but it was like having a piece of home for us)

Hard Rock Cafe Siem Reap Cambodia Divergent Travelers

 ~ Chrismas Eve dinner in Siem Reap!! ~

Check out the other RTW Travel Recaps from our travels:

More on Cambodia:

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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6 thoughts on “Backpacking in Cambodia: 2 Week Recap & Travel Tips”

  1. You at the hard rock!!! No I totally get it, was it expensive there? We walked by it but we choose to have the $1.50 tacos at Viva Mexican almost every night….

    • Yup, we had Christmas dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe! LOL Well, it was expensive for Cambodia but the prices at Hard Rock are the same as they are in other places around the world, I think the whole meal was less than $40. A splurge for us. We did eat at Viva Mexican as well, but found much cheaper food away from that busy tourist area!

  2. Nice round up on Cambodia! You guys have us beat on your daily average $, by a lot! We ate way too much western food while we were there! I have to agree, the begging children were heartbreaking. It’s so hard to see kids being forced to do this. I know why they keep doing it, we saw so many people handing over cash. I was actually quite surprised. I suppose if you don’t realize what is going on going into it, you just assume you are giving money to needy kids. Anyway, great post… a lot of good info on the those two cities!

    • You can easily spend way more than we did if you stick around pub street in Siem Reap and the river in Phnom Penh. Food is ridicuously overpriced in those places, but just wandering a couple blocks away you can get really good food for around $2-$3 for 2 people including drinks. This is what brought our expenses way down. The begging children are for sure heartbreaking and I get really huffy when I see people just forking over money to them. They don’t believe they are harming their futures, but think they are helping. I think fairly some people don’t do enough research to know the harm it causes, but there was a time at a bus stop where there were signs posted to not give money to the begging children and a couple at our table ignored this and handed money to the kids. We had a conversation with them about it, pointing out the signs and just telling them about the selling rings and why its bad to give money to them and they just scoffed at us saying itw as only a couple bucks. Ignorance is bliss I guess. Anyways, we LOVE Cambodia.

  3. Excellent round up. I couldn’t agree more – the people that we met in Cambodia are so lovely and humble. Craig lost his iPhone in the back of a tuk tuk and we got it back. I would disagree about Phnom Penh though. We loved it and ended up staying for longer than anticipated!

    • Fair enough on Phnom Penh! I think it all depends on your state of mind when you arrive. We aren’t huge fans of big cities as it is… so that plays a part for sure. We loved the history side of it but much prefer Siem Reap. All in though, LOVE Cambodia and cannot wait to go back for a third time in the future.


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