global tourism

Planning a vacation to Cambodia? Here are some tips!

Joshua Berida

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Planning a vacation to Cambodia? Here are some tips!

CAMBODIA. The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

Joshua Berida/Rappler

This six-day itinerary includes visits to Ankor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Beng Mealea

When you think of Cambodia, the things that immediately come to mind are Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Tomb Raider (if you were old enough to watch the movies Angelina Jolie was in).

The country has a rich history that spans centuries as exemplified by its ancient temples. It’s also an affordable and accessible destination for Filipinos.

Getting a visa

Cambodia is part of ASEAN which means Filipinos can enter the country and stay for 30 days without applying for a visa.

Travel guide to Cambodia
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Riel is Cambodia’s local currency. The US Dollar is another currency you can use during your trip. Conversion as of this writing: $US1 = KHR 4,114

Get into Cambodia

Cebu Pacific used to have direct flights from Manila to Siem Reap. However, they discontinued this route. You can purchase tickets for a direct flight from Manila to Phnom Penh via Philippine Airlines.

Check their website and social media profiles regularly to get discounted airfares. You can also combine Cambodia with a trip to nearby countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Travel guide to Cambodia
Angkor Wat will impress you. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Many Filipinos go on a multi-day trip to visit all three countries in Indochina. You’ll most likely arrive late at night, an official taxi to your accommodation in the city from the airport costs around US$12 for up to four persons.

Getting around

The most convenient way to go sightseeing is to rent a tuk tuk and driver. You’ll pay up to around US$25 for the whole day including wait times.


*This itinerary assumes you start with one full day.

For this itinerary, you’ll start your trip in Phnom Penh.

Day 1

Start early for sightseeing to maximize your day.

Make the Royal Palace your first stop. Try to visit the palace early so that you have enough time to see more attractions in the afternoon. The Royal Palace is a massive complex. It is the residence of Cambodia’s royal family. It’s not as old as the Angkor ruins found in Siem Reap, but just as culturally important to the country.

Travel guide to Cambodia, Cambodian Royal Palace
CAMBODIA. The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

The Throne Hall and Silver Pagoda are the main draws of the palace. The pagoda has a revered Emerald Buddha statue. The king uses the Throne Hall to meet guests. It’s also a venue for religious and royal functions. FYI: You’ll need to follow a dress code when you go to the Royal Palace. I would recommend wearing at least a shirt and pants.

Photography is prohibited in some areas of the palace complex.

After an early lunch, hire a tuk tuk driver to take you to the Killing Fields or also known as the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center and the Tuol Sleng S-21 Prison. You can pay the driver around US$20 for both destinations and includes wait times. The one-way trip takes approximately an hour. You’ll save money if you travel with others.

Travel guide to Cambodia
The Killing Fields are a reminder of Cambodia’s dark past. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Pol Pot is an infamous dictator that massacred his own people. His Khmer Rouge committed millions of summary executions during its reign of terror.

The Killing Fields was the mass burial site for the civilians and alleged traitors. S-21 Prison was where the Khmer Rouge tortured their captives until they confessed to crimes they were innocent of. After torturing the prisoners, they were taken to the Killing Fields to be executed. You’ll find vestiges of the torture rooms and photos of the innocent people killed during your visit.

After a day of sightseeing, head back to the city for some free time.


  • Royal Palace fee US$10
  • Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre (Killing Fields) fee and audio guide US$6
  • Tuol Sleng S-21 Prison fee US$5 (extra US$3 for audio guide)

Day 2

Check out of your accommodation and get something to eat before sightseeing. Take the night bus to Siem Reap to save some money on accommodation.

You can visit the Independence Monument located at the center of the city. It’s a symbol of the country’s liberation from France. Not too far from the Royal Palace is Wat Ounalom. The latter is regarded as the center of Buddhism in the country and is one of the oldest pagodas. It also dates to the mid-15th century.

Wat Phnom is perched on a hill towering over the city. Here you’ll find locals praying and leaving offerings. It’s also a nice quiet place to take leisurely walks in. You can drop by the Central Market to go window shopping or buy souvenirs early.

Travel guide to Cambodia
Wat Phnom. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening along Sisowath Quay. This bustling district has plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops catering to locals and tourists alike.

I would recommend booking your overnight bus tickets in advance through You can book a luxurious bus or a standard one for your overnight journey to Siem Reap.

Day 3

Upon arrival from Phnom Penh, go to your hotel/guesthouse/hostel/Airbnb. You might have to wait later in the day to check in, but you can at least leave your bags, rest and get something to eat before seeing the temples. You can hire a tuk tuk with a driver (the affordable option) or a car with a driver.

You pay extra for a guide. A tuk tuk costs around US$15-$US20. You save more money if you’re traveling with a group. Before you start, your driver will take you to the ticket office to buy your Angkor Pass.

Travel guide to Cambodia
Get lost in one of Cambodia’s ancient ruins. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

The first batch of temples you’ll visit are in the Grand Circuit (you can save Angkor Wat for the next day). The temples here are some of the lesser-known ones but still historically and cultural significant to Cambodians.

The places in your itinerary include East Mebon, Neak Pean, Ta Som, Pre Rup, and Preah Khan. For me the highlights of this trip are Pre Rup, Ta Som, and Preah Khan.

Travel guide to Cambodia. Ta Som
Ta Som.

Ta Som has tree roots growing around its ruins. It dates to the 12 th century. King Jayavarman VII had Preah Khan built to pay tribute to his father. It also has a history dating to the 12 th century. Pre Rup is a 10 th century temple that King Rajendravarman II built. It provides overlooking views of the surroundings and is a popular spot to view the sunset.

You can wait or return to Pre Rup to watch the sunset or call it a day. You can hang out and get something to eat at Pub Street.


  • US$62 3-day Angkor Pass

Day 4

On your second day of temple hopping, get an early start to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat and explore the Small Circuit.

Angkor Wat is the main attraction for many tourists. The centuries old complex is massive with various structures and statues that provide you with a glimpse of the country’s storied past.

Travel guide to Cambodia
Relive history while exploring Angkor Wat. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Ta Prohm is another temple included in this circuit. It became a famous stop because of Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider. The roots enveloping the ruined temple will immediately grab your attention.

Travel guide to Cambodia
Ta Prohm. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Other than Angkor Wat, many visitors (including myself) name Angkor Thom as a highlight of a trip to Cambodia. Angkor Thom dates to the 12th century and its main draw is the many stone faces you’ll see while exploring. Other attractions you’ll visit include:

  1. Terrace of the Elephants
  2. Baphuon Temple
  3. Phimeanakas
  4. Terrace of the Leper King.

After a day of temple hopping, go to your favorite hang out spot in the city.

Travel guide to Cambodia
Angkor Thom’s many stone faces. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Day 5

Check out of your accommodation and prepare for a long return trip to and from Beng Mealea. You’ll be taking the overnight bus again back to Phnom Penh. Bring food and drinks with you for the trip.

I’m interested in visiting archaeological and ancient sites whenever I travel. So, if you share the same interests, I recommend a trip to Beng Mealea. You can book a tour that combines it with other sites, or you can hire a tuk tuk with a driver to take you. The tuk tuk is your budget option.

Travel guide to Cambodia
Explore the jungle ruins of Beng Mealea. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

King Suryavarman II had Beng Mealea built during his reign. It dates to the 12th century. It’s over 70km from Siem Reap. The temple complex is massive and impressive. Its degraded and jungle-like state adds to its mystique. Nature and time contributed to its current ruinous appearance. It has Naga statues, galleries, and depictions of deities. Take your time walking around the complex and imagine what it looked like centuries ago.

Travel guide to Cambodia
The jungle-like appearance of Beng Mealea adds to its mystique. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

After exploring Beng Mealea, make your way back to Siem Reap and get something to eat before your overnight trip. You can buy your bus tickets here or from an agency in town.

Day 6
When you arrive in the morning from Siem Reap, you still have more than enough time to go shopping if you have the budget. Philippine Airlines’ flight bound for Manila leaves just after midnight. I would recommend booking at least one more night in Phnom Penh so you can rest and hang out in your favorite spots in the city before leaving for the airport.

How much will you spend?

Your biggest expense for Cambodia is the Angkor Pass. For the itinerary mentioned above, you’ll need the 3-day pass which costs US$62.

A budget of anywhere between P15,000 and P20,000 per person for a group of at least two gets you a bed in a hostel dorm or a budget room, budget meals, tuk tuk transfers for tours, an English-speaking guide (optional), entrance fees, 3-day Angkor Pass, and overnight buses.

Travel guide to Cambodia
Angkor Wat. Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

This covers the itinerary mentioned above. It doesn’t include shopping and flights.

Overall, Cambodia is an affordable country. You can splurge on nice accommodation or nice meals throughout your stay. You can also hire a car with a driver if you have the budget. –

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Want to go to Siem Reap, Cambodia for vacation? Here’s what you need to know

Want to go to Siem Reap, Cambodia for vacation? Here’s what you need to know

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