HOW TO SPEND 3 WEEKS IN CAMBODIA – ITINERARY & GUIDE

ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE SUNRISE CAMBODIA

3 weeks in Cambodia is the perfect amount of time to appreciate all this beautiful country has to offer. And to help with your trip planning, we have put together a 3-week itinerary for Cambodia that ensures you do not miss out on any of the highlights.

From rich culture & history in the North to pristine beaches & islands in the South, Cambodia is a diverse and exciting country to travel. Combine that with backpacker-friendly prices, a wild party scene, welcoming locals and delicious Khmer food, and you’re onto an absolute winner.

After spending over 3 weeks in Cambodia, it is one of the countries that moved us most throughout our travels. You see, there is a lot more to Cambodia than just temples, beaches, and parties. Conversely, the country has a dark and distressing past.

During the 1970s, the country saw over 2 million people killed under the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge. With millions more left injured, orphaned, and petrified, it is still a very raw subject for the Khmer people. With this in mind, we highly recommend you educate yourself on the history of Cambodia before visiting.

Despite the tragic past, this brave and inspiring population are not allowing what happened to hinder their future. The Khmer people are not only positive and unresentful, but they are helping spread awareness so that nothing similar can ever happen again.

In summary, Cambodia was fun, educational, and heartwarming. It’s a country we would return to in a heartbeat, and if you follow our 3-week Cambodia Itinerary I guarantee you will feel the same!

*Before You Travel to Cambodia, have you got your travel insurance sorted? Cover yourself for the unexpected, read why you really need travel insurance, or get a quote from World Nomads.

3 Weeks in Cambodia – Route

3 Weeks in Cambodia – Itinerary

As mentioned, 3 weeks in Cambodia is plenty of time to get around all the countries highlights. That said, we recommend taking some time to explore some of the lesser-known spots as well. We include a bit of both in the itinerary so feel free to adjust should you need to. And while we start our journey in Siem Reap, you can complete this route in reverse too.

Days 1-4 Siem Reap Itinerary

Siem Reap is the most travelled to destination in Cambodia, and not without good reason. The city is home to the once lost city of Angkor – The biggest temple ruins complex in the world. Even if you are not a city person, a visit to the Angkor temples is an essential addition to your Cambodia itinerary.

Other than this awe-inspiring wonder of the world, Siem Reap is just like most other South-East Asian cities. You will find the generic markets, nightlife, and food scene, as well as some historical points of interest.  We suggest spending 3-days in Siem Reap to cover all of the cities highlights.

Top Attractions in Siem Reap

1. Explore the Angkor Temples

The history behind the Khmer Empire & lost city of Angkor is always one that fascinated us. I won’t bore you with too many unnecessary details here; however, it’s worth learning the story behind it before you visit.

Suggested Read: The history behind Angkor Wat

The thing to understand about Angkor is that it is a HUGE complex. While the centrepiece is the grandeur Angkor-Wat, there are over 1000 other monuments to spread across the grounds. Some popular, some not so much.

To enter any part of the grounds comes with the same hefty price tag. As of 2019, a daily pass is $37, a 3-day $62, and a 7-day $72. While we found ourselves completely templed out after just one day, we can understand why visitors would want to explore more of the complex. It’s truly a remarkable place.

When visiting the Angkor temples, do not make the same mistake as we did and book an organised tour. We completely underestimated just how many tourists would be in the complex, and being at the same temples at the same time as everybody else is no fun at all. Trust us on this one!

Instead, negotiate a price with a tuk-tuk driver for the entire day. That way you can tailor your day and avoid busy times at the well-known temples. Genius! Now, why didn’t we think of that!

Lastly, to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat is one of those bucket list moments when visiting Cambodia. And while we do recommend it, we should prewarn you that it is – how can I put this, MAYHEM!! Crowds of people pushing to get the best spot, cameras & phones in every little crevice. Yes, not quite the spiritual experience we envisioned. Anyhow, we’ll leave it there and let you decide if you think it’s worth it or not!

Must Read: A guide to the temples of Angkor Wat

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2. Visit the Landmine Museum

The reign of the Khmer Rouge saw millions of landmines and unexploded bombs scattered across the country. Founded by a former child soldier, this museum depicts the tragic story that continues to affect Khmer people, even today.

Aki Ra was just a child when the Khmer Rouge killed his parents and forced him to plant landmines and bombs across the country. The fact that he has dedicated his life to demining Cambodia is inspiring. As well as clearing over 50,000 mines, he continues to support other victims through donations and employment.

3. Party the Night Away on Pub Street

Once the sun goes down, the only place to be in Siem Reap is Pub Street. The strip has a wild atmosphere, boasting bars, restaurants, and clubs aplenty. You’ll also find $1 cocktails (say what!), delicious street food (check out this guide to eating insects in Cambodia), and of course, one hell of a good time!

One of the most popular bars on the strip is ‘Angkor What?’. We had a crazy night here, eventually rolling back to our hostel at around 5 am. And for our LGBT readers, we even found a gay bar. Check out ‘Miss Wongs’ classy lounge for delicious, if not slightly expensive, cocktails.

Suggested Read:  15 Things to do in Siem Reap

Where to Stay in Siem Reap

HostelLub D Siem Reap – Lub D is the creme de la creme of hostels. The convenient location, a swimming pool, unrivalled comfort, and a social scene – what isn’t there to love?

BudgetEco-Home – For a cheap but cheerful private room, Eco-Home is a great option in the heart of the city.  You are sure to love the homely feel of this modest guesthouse, along with the comfort of the rooms.

Mid-RangeeOcambo Village – Located a little outside of the city centre, this property is perfect for those wanting to relax after a tiring day exploring.  Highlights include an outdoor pool and delicious free breakfast!

For more places to stay in Siem Reap, you can check the latest prices here.

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Exploring the Angkor Wat Temples
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Days 4-6 Battambang Itinerary

If you are looking to get off the beaten path in Cambodia, Battambang is a great place to start. Located in the heart of the countryside, we were pleasantly surprised by just how much this rural town had to offer.

You don’t need much time here to cover all the attractions. Nonetheless, located just 3 hours South from Siem Reap, it’s well worth a brief stopover. There are only a few opportunities to experience the real Khmer culture when travelling Cambodia, and this is one of them.

Top Attractions in Battambang

1. Ride the Bamboo Train

The ‘original’ bamboo train is what essentially put Battambang on the map, following a feature on Jack Whitehall’s ‘travels with my father’. I say ‘original’ as sadly, what was once an authentic experience, is now a bit of a tourist trap.

The original train had a rustic and quirky feel, leading you through rural villages and beautiful countryside. On the contrary, the new train has been modernised and feels more like a fairground attraction. That said, it’s still an enjoyable experience if you don’t mind paying the $5 to ride.

2. Visit the Killing Caves

Like many places in Cambodia, Battambang holds significance in the history of the Khmer Rouge. As the name suggests, the Killing Caves were an execution site during these dark times.

Walking the grounds of the caves is heart-wrenching stuff. Life-size statues depict the torturous acts the victims endured. And bones and skulls collected from the caves lay encased in a glass memorial box – a stark reminder of what happened here.

Admittedly this is pretty distressing, and I understand we’re supposed to be having a good time here. However, to avoid anything of this nature happening again, it’s crucial that we all understand what happened.

On a positive note, we found it incredibly beautiful and peaceful at the caves. Located on a mountain, you have incredible views over the surrounding countryside. And the numerous temples and shrines help create a calming serenity in an otherwise dark place.

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3. Visit the Bat caves at dusk

Another unmissable thing to do in Battambang is witnessing the crazy bat spectacle that takes places every evening. It’s somewhat of a local phenomenon, with locals and tourists alike lining up to watch the event unfold.

The tradition is to buy a beer from the locals who are cashing in on this natural wonder. Then just as the sun goes down, millions of bats come streaming out of the cave and into the horizon. Words can’t do it justice, but it’s very, very cool.

Where to Stay in Battambang

HostelLucky Hostel – One of few hostels in Battambang, Lucky Hostel boasts a swimming pool and comfortable dorm accommodation.

BudgetSky Palace Boutique Hotel – Located close to the city and boasting air-conditioned rooms at an unbeatable price, Sky Boutique Hotel is your best budget option in Battambang.

Mid-RangeThe Sanctuary Villa – A touch of luxury in the heart of Battambang, The Sanctuary Village is beautiful yet affordable.  Designed to look like a contemporary Buddhist property, you will love how peaceful and relaxing it is here.

For more places to stay in Battambang, you can check the latest prices here.

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Bat caves at dusk

Days 6-7 Sihanoukville Itinerary

A year ago, I would have told you to spend a lot more time in this part of Cambodia; however, the word on the street is that Sihanoukville has changed a lot in the past 12 months. And not in a good way.

While the main tourist area of Sihanoukville was always a bit of dive (sorry if that offends anybody), Otres Beach was an eccentric backpacker enclave. From hippie markets to jungle raves, and a beautiful beach to boot, it was in short, a backpackers paradise.

Today, following recent Chinese investment, towering hotels have replaced the modest beach huts. And casinos have replaced the quirky backpacker bars. Furthermore, the once pristine beach is now littered and bustling with tourists. It’s incredibly sad, to be honest, and a prime example of why we should all be making an effort to be responsible travellers.

While I have only heard this information through the grapevine, I would recommend you skip Sihanoukville and head straight to the islands. But if you’re curious to see for yourself, we would love to know what you discovered there!

Suggested Read: An Honest Guide to Sihanoukville in 2019

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Sunsets at Otres beach

Days 7-11 Koh Rong Itinerary

Located just across the water from Sihanoukville, Koh Rong is Cambodia’s largest island. A few years ago there was barely anybody here, and only those in the know would spend their time in beach huts, lapping up the island life.

Today, tourism in Koh Rong has well and truly caught on, yet despite recent developments, the backpacker scene continues to flourish. It’s gained itself a bit of a reputation as a party island; however, outside the main village of Koh Toch, you can find secluded beaches and dense rainforest. In short, it’s a paradise!

*Tip – There are no ATMs on the island, so be sure to bring plenty of cash.

Top Attractions in Koh Rong

1. Beaches

There are some breathtaking beaches in Koh Rong; however, you will need to venture away from Koh Toch to experience the best of them. It’s not recommended to swim at all in this area, as the waste systems from the village lead straight into the water. You can literally see the giant pipes leading into the ocean, and people have been known to get very sick from swimming here.

Thankfully, you are never too far away from a beautiful beach where it’s safe to swim. 4K beach is just a short walk away from Koh Toch, while the more secluded beaches are accessible via boat taxi or trekking through the jungle. Our favourite beach was Long Beach – a 7k strip of untouched paradise.

If you’d prefer to be completely away from the main village, we recommend staying North of the Island. There isn’t much to do there other than the beach. But isn’t that the point?

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2. Swim with Bioluminescent Plankton

Swimming with bioluminescent plankton was one of the highlights of our time on Koh Rong. It’s quite rare that you come across the opportunity, so when we saw tours advertised for just $5 we jumped at the chance.

On the night of your tour, you will be whisked out to sea after dark. You won’t see any sign of the plankton until you get into the water. But when you do, the plankton will react with your movement, sparkling like a starry sky. It’s a magical experience.

3. Weekly Party on Police Beach

We are party animals at heart, and while we don’t party much when we travel, Koh Rong was an exception. With just one night allocated for a blowout, we decided to check out the Police Beach party (which ended up rolling into a two-day party, but that’s another story!)

Anyway, it was awesome. One of the best parties we’ve been to in Asia, and we’ve been to a few. The parties are on every Wednesday, Saturday, and full moon during high season, so you’d have to be very unlucky to miss it. The music is generally techno, with one night a month dedicated to psytrance. And the music doesn’t stop until after sunrise!

Where to Stay on Koh Rong

HostelNest Beach Club – For a social and comfortable hostel, Nest Beach Club has got you covered.  The beachfront location is perfect just a short walk away from the nightlife in Koh Toch.

Mid-RangeWhite Beach Bungalows – Located perfectly to enjoy the best of both worlds, White Beach Bungalows is located on a quiet beach, just a short walk to Koh Toch.  The bungalows are of premium quality but retain a rustic island feel.

In the NorthLonely Beach Guesthouse – Located North of the island, this simple beach hut resort is the perfect spot to embrace traditional island life.

For more places to stay on Koh Rong, you can check the latest prices here.

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Partying till sunrise at Police beach

Days 11-14 Koh Rong Samloem Itinerary

Koh Rong Samloem is what I imagine Koh Rong was like in the yester-years. A virtually untouched paradise with little else to do other than appreciate your surroundings. Unlike its touristic big sister, you’ll not find much nightlife here. You’ll be lucky to have electric 24/7. And good luck finding wifi because it’s practically non-existent.

This is what we love about this island though! When do you get the chance to completely escape and experience life off the grid? It’s heaven, I tell you! If you have 3 weeks in Cambodia, there is no excuse to miss this island off your itinerary.

Saracen Bay and M’pei Bay are the two most developed areas on the island, and where you will find most accommodation options. Alternatively, you can check out sunset bay for a more rustic vibe.

*Tip – There are no ATMs on the island, so be sure to bring plenty of cash.

Where to Stay on Koh Rong Samloem

HostelMad Monkey Hostel – If you do seek a social vibe on Samloem, then Mad Monkey is the place for you.  This legendary party hostel has their own private beach, and the resident boat will whip you there from the drop-off pier on Saracen Bay.

BudgetDragonfly Guesthouse – These modest beach bungalows are located just 500m from M’Pei Bay beach.  Dragonfly Guesthouse is one of the best budget options on Koh Rong Samloem.

Mid- RangeSunboo Beach Bungalows – If you want to get away from the tourist area on Samloem, Sunboo Beach Bungalows in perfect.  Located on Sunset Beach – one of the most beautiful beaches on the island – the property has it’s own bar and onsite restaurant.

For more places to stay on Koh Rong Samloem, you can check the latest prices here.

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Days 14-18 Kampot & Kep Itinerary

If a week on the islands wasn’t enough to relax you, a few days in Kampot and Kep will finish the job. First, head to Kampot, a charming riverside town boasting French colonial architecture and quaint cafes. Days here are spent meandering the streets, enjoying relaxing river cruises, or getting drunk at the Arcadia water park. Or for something more adventurous, take a scooter to Bokor National Park where you can explore abandoned buildings.

Kep is just a 45-minute drive from Kampot, and the main attraction here is the National park. Here you can enjoy incredible hikes of various lengths and difficulties. Most famous is the Stairway to Heaven where you will be rewarded with a beautiful pagoda and incredible views at the peak. Finally, check out the pepper plantations located between Kampot and Kep.

Must Read: Things to do in Kampot and Kep

Days 18-21 Phnom Penh Itinerary

Phnom Penh is not only the capital city of Cambodia but also the countries cultural and historical centre. Nestled alongside the Mekong River, it’s surprisingly charming and quirky. You can expect to find a chic cafe culture, good nightlife, and bustling markets.

Conversely, it is also a city steeped in a sad history. You should be prepared for a heartbreaking experience as you get to the heart of what happened during the Khmer Rouge.  Here are some of the hotspots in the cit

Top Attractions in Phnom Penh

1. Visit the Killing Fields & S-21 Genocide Museum

The Phnom Penh Killing Fields are the most well known memorial site in Cambodia. Following the defeat on the Khmer Rouge, the remains of thousands of people were found buried within the grounds.

An audio tour leads you through the killing fields while depicting a harrowing account of the events that happened there. The tour ends at the Buddhist Memorial Stupa, which houses the skulls of 10,000 victims exhumed from the mass graves.

Today, the killing fields are a place where people come to remember those who lost their lives. It’s a haunting experience learning about the countries past, but also an essential addition to your Phnom Penh itinerary.

I’m afraid the sombre mood continues at the S-21 genocide museum. Here is where the Khmer Rouge imprisoned anybody suspected of resistance against them. Those captured were subjected to torture and mistreatment before being sent to the killing fields. Countless others died from malnutrition and untreated disease.

2. Royal Palace

The gleaming gold architecture of the Royal Palace is truly a sight to behold, and something you must experience during your time in Phnom Penh.

Home to the Kingdoms Royal Residence, you are confronted with the countries history as you meander the grounds.

3. Shop at the Markets

Phnom Penh isn’t all history and culture. In fact, it is also famous for its vibrant markets. Most popular is the Central Market, where you will find bargains on clothes, jewellery, and gifts. Or if it’s handcrafted items you’re looking for, then be sure to check out the Russian Market.

Don’t forget to haggle, it can be great fun, but also be sure to haggle sensibly. Pay what you think is fair for the item, so all parties feel like they are getting a good deal.

Where to Stay in Phnom Penh

HostelSla Boutique Hostel – For a home away from home hostel, Sla Boutique is your best option in the city.  The rooms are cosy and modern, and you will find lots of group activities going on around the hostel.

Budget139 Guesthouse – Modest but cosy, 139 Guesthouse resembles a traditional Khmer home.  It’s a little out the way of the centre; however, the owners are sure to make you feel right at home.

Mid-RangeThe Plantation Urban Resort and Spa – Located in the heart of Phnom Penh, this beautiful resort is perfect for a relaxing stay in the city.  Features include two outdoor pools, a spa, and a fitness centre.

For more places to stay in Phnom Penh, you can check the latest prices here.

Spending More Than 3 Weeks in Cambodia?

Actually, 3 weeks in Cambodia is the perfect amount of time. Although, if you do have longer, we would suggest spending more time on the islands. You can also consider visiting Phnom Kulen – a nature area just North of Siem Reap. Or Koh Tonsay is a sleepy little island a short boat ride away from Kep.

Spending Less Than 3 Weeks in Cambodia?

If you are spending less than 3 weeks in Cambodia, but still want a taste of all Cambodia has to offer, I would suggest choosing between Koh Rong and Samloem. Next, decide if you’d prefer to visit Battambang or Kampot & Kep.

The Best Time to Visit Cambodia

High Season for visiting Cambodia kicks off in November and continues until early February. The weather is cool and dry at this time of year; however, it will be extremely busy and everything is more expensive.

By mid-March to early May, the weather becomes extremely hot & humid. Expect air conditioning to be your new best friend, and sightseeing to be an arduous task. If you do visit at this time of year, it’s best to stick to the beaches & islands in the South.

Wet Season runs from June to mid-October, but it’s generally just a downpour in the afternoon. For low prices and fewer crowds, it’s the golden time to visit.

If you plan to coincide your trip to Cambodia with other places in the region, do not forget to research the best time to travel South East Asia.

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Koh Rong Island

Getting Around Cambodia

When it comes to getting around in Cambodia, you have a number of options.

Bus – By far the easiest and cheapest way to get around Cambodia is by bus.  The backpacker trail is well and truly established throughout Cambodia, so there aren’t many places the tourist buses won’t take you.  Check 12Go Asia for recent ticket prices and timetables.  Alternatively, you can book through local tour operators or hotels/hostels.

Train – I’ve heard there are some train routes in Cambodia, but I don’t know anybody who’s actually taken one.  You can find more information on the train network here.

Boat – You’ll be surprised to learn that you need to travel by boat to the Cambodia Islands.  To get to Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, you’ll need to take the ferry that runs regularly throughout the day from Sihanoukville Pier.  The journey is around 45 minutes and will set you back $25 dollars return.  I also advise that you avoid travelling during rough weather.

Additionally, you can travel by boat between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and Siem Reap and Battambang.  We’ve had no personal experience using this mode of transport, but you can find more information here.

What to Pack for Cambodia

Unsure of what to pack and what to wear in Cambodia? Don’t worry, we have got you covered.  Check out our backpacker essentials, for a packing list of items that we carry with us on every adventure.

Here are some items that we recommend taking to make your visit to the beaches & waterfalls more comfortable:

Travel Responsibly

As travellers, it should always be a top priority to travel responsibly.  We already leave a substantial carbon footprint just by flying to our travel destinations, so that’s even more reason to make a positive impact when we get there.  There are many small steps you can take to becoming a responsible traveller, here are some things you can do to minimise your footprint:

1. Do not leave any rubbish on the ground: You would think this would go without saying;  however, there are some questionable humans who think it’s ok to throw trash on the ground.

2. Carry a Steripen or iodine tablets to sterilise water: This not only limits your usage of single-use plastic but also saves you money too!

3. Respect the local culture: Be courteous of the local culture and act in such a way that leaves a good impression.  Learn a little of the local language (hello and thank you is the minimum, you can use Google Translate), greet the locals in a polite manner, and respect dress codes & traditions.

Well, that concludes our 3 Weeks in Cambodia itinerary & guide.  If you have any questions or feel we have missed anything, please reach out to us in the comment section below.

Stay adventurous and Happy travels.

Charlotte & Natalie x

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HOW TO SPEND 3 WEEKS IN CAMBODIA – ITINERARY & GUIDE

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