Why go to Cambodia ?


You will find here the results of our backpackers' survey as well as comments on some aspects of Cambodia.

We asked backpackers who had traveled in Cambodia for more than two weeks already to answer the followings.

Do you like Cambodia ?  95% of the backpackers surveyed (82) say yes !

If you hate the crowd but plan to spend only a week in famous Cambodia, you are prone for a stressful stay. If you fancy disco, nightlife & travelers company but plan to go off the track, you are likely to get bored real fast. If you expect great beaches or natural wonders, you shall be disappointed. If poverty sights make you sick, you would rather send a check from home. Otherwise, like most people, you should just love it !


Would you happily come back ? 85% of the backpackers surveyed (82) say yes ! (same)

Cambodia is a small country, Angkor is expensive to visit, transport is uncomfortable, safety is an issue and salespersons are irritating. Five reasons which could explain the unwillingness of some travelers to return. But wait a second ! Most of the territory remains unexplored, ticket's prices may drop, roads will get fixed and salespersons & bandits will eventually have money and stop bothering tourists. See you back in 5 years ! That is, of course, if mass tourism has not become, by that time, another deterrent...


Would you recommend Cambodia ?  96% of the backpackers surveyed (82) say yes ! (same)

Is it not to selfishly keep Cambodia for themselves that some travelers would not recommend it around ? As for me, the only thing that I can say is to visit now as it might become too crowded tomorrow...

We also asked them to rate the followings :

The tourists attractions        Backpackers : 16.73 /20 (up)
For most visitors, Cambodia is synonym with Angkor Wat and quite a few travelers (and nearly all the tourists) limit their visit to those old temples plus Phnom Penh. In a week stay's perspective the rate should actually even be higher as Angkor is definitively one of the best attraction of Asia. But a few people also visit around and so the rate decreases a bit. At the scale of the country and excluding Angkor & Phnom Penh, the attractions aren't indeed too numerous. If you head outside the tourist path, it is going to be more about atmosphere than ticket boots. And it is probably better that way...

The city scenery       Backpackers : 12.54 /20 (up)
A rather low rate which can also be explained, I think, by the limitations of a one week visit. Excluding modern cities like HK or Singapore, I personally found Cambodia's towns to be the most charming of Asia. Maybe because, being French, I was moved by the vestige of the colonial past ? All the cities I visited (some would say overgrown villages) boosted some good example of this kind of architecture, while having kept most of the life near the ground. This contribute to the usual very laid back atmosphere...

The natural scenery         Backpackers : 14.00 /20 (up)
Cambodia's countryside is pretty alright with all the characteristics of an exotic climate but there aren't any big natural attraction like in the surroundings country. The nicest area is probably mountainous Ratanakiri but only adventurers make it up there so far (this shall probably change with the opening of the border with Laos. Stay tuned.)

The cultural opportunities        Backpackers : 14.88 /20 (up)
Angkor again, a real heavyweight champion in the cultural category. In a totally different domain, Cambodia also offer plenty of horrible testimony for those who wish to understand the tragic history of the area or study the sometimes (in)human behavior of mankind. The new generation is catching up but as Pol Pot's regime went heavy on the intellectuals, while cutting a whole generation from the classrooms, cultural exchanges with the local people are still fairly limited. 

The food         Backpackers : 13.22 /20 (up)
With such delicacies as millipede or spiders, Cambodia's food rank high with backpackers ! More seriously, those who make the effort to walk from the GH's restaurants to the food stalls at the markets should find plenty of snacks' opportunities as well as basic yet sometimes very tasty rice dishes. Vietnam or China, this is not and the choice is somehow limited but there is no reason to loose weight either... 

The infrastructures         Backpackers : 7.17 /20 (up)
This is what Cambodia is famous for : the state of its roads or, more exactly, the unstate of its roads! And as the travelers' experience is often limited to the Poipet-Siem Reap section, the rate logically dig deep ! The truth is : it is not as bad everywhere and, overall, I found traveling in Cambodia to be more pleasant than, say, in Laos. It is never compulsory to travel at the back of a pick-up truck, great AC buses do run on some itinerary and boats sometimes offer a comfortable alternative to the dusty roads. As for the train, it touched the bottom and is still digging but it is fun ! Note (Oct 01) : since the repair of the above infamous road, this rating is likely to improve more...

The cost of living and traveling        Backpackers : 12.00 /20 (up)
Cambodia is one of the most expensive country to visit in Asia but this is mainly due to the entrance fees of Angkor Wat. Put the ticket in a separate budget and the remaining cost should be quite average with the surrounding countries. But this also depend of you : you can eat in restaurants priced in $ and find the food expensive or eat at the market for nearly nothing. Accommodations are reasonably priced at 2-5$ for a room while the cheapest transport options are, well, as dirt cheap as some road... You can also use the train and pay nothing ! Globally, excluding Angkor and beers, I spent an average of $8 per day. This is more expensive than Thailand or Laos but where in Thailand do you get a huge room w. shower and satellite TV for $5 ?

The safety        Backpackers : 11.71 /20 (up)
Personal safety is certainly an issue for Cambodia but it nowadays seems to be more an issue for guidebooks in the theory than for backpackers in the practice. For sure, Cambodia is the most dangerous country to visit in Asia : some remote roads house bandits, mines still do civilians casualties, a lot of firearms are still in circulation and walking alone late at night in some districts with a big bag is asking for trouble. But as a whole, in the central localities during the day, risks are now really low. Therefore, keep the safety issue in the corner of your mind but do not let it spoil your trip.

The cleanliness        Backpackers : 11.37 /20 (up)
Cambodia is not perceived as a clean country and the contrary would indeed be difficult. The sights of some markets (in particular after rain) indeed sometimes make India look like a sterile private hospital. But, on the contrary, the main touristy streets of Phnom Penh or Siem Reap are rather well taken care of. 

The pollution        Backpackers : 12.98 /20 (up)
At its stage of development, pollution is not yet a big issue for Cambodia : big cities are logically affected but there aren't too many of them and it is never dramatic. The over exploitation of the natural resources by private companies, in general, and the logging, in particular, are however already a serious threat to the environment.

The Shopkeepers' attitude        Backpackers : 13.41 /20 (up)
The problem is not about the salespersons (of any kind) being unfriendly or aggressive. They are not. But they are everywhere around the tourist attractions, they are numerous and they sometimes follow you deep inside to sell you something or offer you their service. So, after a while, it is too much ! Angkor in particular is under threat of becoming a huge tourist supermarket run by kids and animated by beggars. Visit before it is too late...

The Minorities' attitude        na
With very few travelers going to the minorities area at Ratanakiri, we did not get any answer to this question. But tribes do live in Cambodia and their unexposition to tourism should make the trip a very rare experience. 

The Cambodia people's attitude        Backpackers : 16.59 /20 (up)
A good rate as local people are indeed very hospitable and courteous toward visitors. Considering what they went through, they could have lost their smile but Buddhism & natural friendliness kept it intact. The friendliness manifestation are however sometimes limited by their lack of education and rather poor English. If someone around speak English, you should hear about him but otherwise, do not expect too much interactions. Old people sometimes speak French and they usually have interesting horror stories to tell...

Entertainment        Backpackers : 11.46 /20 (down)
Globally, if you are not a karaoke fanatic, there aren't too many things to do at night and, when there is like in Phnom Penh, the safety issue may kick back. Of course, we are talking here about "classic" entertainments : UN personnel are said to have spent $110 millions in pocket money over the few years of their presence and it is very clear this was not on happy pizzas only... 

Shopping        Backpackers : 12.00 /20 (up)
Cambodia is certainly not a shopper paradise as shops are fairly small with limited products on display (some specialized shops also offer all kind of western goodies but we are talking big dollars here). As for souvenirs, a stroll around Siem Reap or Phnom Penh markets should make you find easily the exotic objects you can not live without. People concerned with humanitarian actions will however prefer to buy in one of the numerous shops involved with education or rehabilitation projects.

Generally, the country        Backpackers : 16.73 /20 (up)
Cultural treasures, charming towns, friendly people, comfortable accomodation and laid back atmosphere plus a zest of thrill and adventure translate into this rather high rate. If the Siem Reap - Phnom Penh axis is crowded, any place off the track will also put you in touch with authenticity

Value for money        Backpackers : 14.88 /20 (down)
Your perception will probably depend on your degree of fanatism toward Angkor (most people agree that it is worth every cent spent), where you eat (usually the further away from the GH, the best), how fast you visit (the longer the trip, the cheapest on average) and whether or not you use motorbike driver to tour around. Considering the comfort of accomodation, the cheap food at the market and the fact that walking around is free, I personally found that Cambodia offered excellent atmosphere & experiences for little money. 

Give your opinion !  If you have traveled in Cambodia for more than 1 week, please participate to our surveys !

Compare Cambodia with other countries in the Asia Section

Backpacker's Tips :  Marian Leydon, Ireland (Nov 05)
 Hi! I'd just like to say that Cambodia was the highlight of my trip to South East Asia during the summer. Cambodia is the gem of South East Asia. As soon as you cross the border from Vietnam to Cambodia, you see the difference immediately. I just loved every minute of my stay. The infrastructure may be bad....especially the road from Siam Reap to the Thai border, but the friendliness and relaxed nature of the people and the natural beauty of the country make it a wonderful place to visit.

Backpacker's Tips : Spunky, Dutch (April 03)
Maybe we were lucky but we had no negative experiences at all with the locals. Okay, transportation is pretty expensive but what can you do about it? I heard and read so many stories about people being cheated, ripped off, robbed etc. Well, we didn't experience that all! We traveled to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and for me Cambodia was the best, mostly because of the locals. They were all so nice, friendly, funny and interested! We met great people and had lots of interesting talks! The youngsters are really eager to improve their English and they just all want to talk to you. I just loved everything in Cambodia and left with pain in my heart!



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