Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Cambodia Budget Travel Guide: "Book a Ticket and Just Leave"

As someone who loves surfing the internet, reading travel blogs has always left me feeling envious. I realized that while I was young and had few responsibilities, I needed to start traveling more. That's why when I received an email from Tiger Airways about their promo fares, I didn't hesitate to hit the booking button. Hence, the title "Book a Ticket and Just Leave." While I wanted to book a direct flight to Siem Reap to explore the ruins of Angkor Wat, the flight to Phnom Penh was 70 percent cheaper. I knew this meant I would have to find a more challenging route to see the ruins, but I was excited about the adventure. Let's go!


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Travel Tips
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3 days Backpacking in Cambodia ( Phnom Penh-Siem Reap )
Short Trip Budget: 300 SGD = 900,000 riel 

I've always viewed travel as an escape from reality, but as I gained more experience, I came to realize that it was more of a craving than an outlet. It wasn't just my itchy feet that drove me to explore new places, but a deep desire to feed my wandering soul and push beyond my borders. Thankfully, I discovered this early on in life and didn't feel the need to justify my passion to those who don't understand it. When you know what you want, the opinions of others become irrelevant.


FIRST DAY - Saturday
Check-in: Lazy Gecko Cafe & Guesthouse


2 days Room - 20 USD
Airport to Gecko (by tuk-tuk/taxi): 5 USD - 15 USD
Travel time: 30 minutes
Lunch/Snack Meal -5 USD - 10 USD


PLANNED TOUR:
Phnom Penn tourist spots: Among my list, we only get to do numbers 1, 4 and 5

Here's a list of exciting places to visit near our Guesthouse:
  1. Central Market (Phar Thmei) - just a 5-minute walk away from our location. The market is open from 6:30 AM - 5:30 PM. At the Central Market, this is where you find taxis and bus services.
  2. Boat ride: Tonle Sap and Mekong River for 20 USD.
  3. Tuk Tuk tour - Visit Choueng Ek killing fields or Tuol Sleng and the Russian market for 15 USD - 30 USD.
  4. Dinner at the Russian market - head to Yej Café, located outside the Russian Markets towards the back. The café is decorated in purple and yellow.
  5. Night Market - explore and shop for souvenirs and food at Street 106 and 108. Remember to keep your bags secure.
Night Bus Ride - head out at 10 PM to catch the night bus. Lazy Gecko is about 5 minutes away by tuk-tuk from the Giant Ibis bus station. Make sure to book online ahead of time for your ticket. The price ranges from 15 USD to 25 USD, and the travel time is 6-7 hours.


SECOND DAY - Sunday

6AM - Arrival at Siem Reap 
From the bus station, take a tuk-tuk ride to Angkor Wat Ruins
Opening hours: sunrise-sunset before 5am/5pm 

Stopover Breakfast 10 USD - 20 USD
Whole Day Angkor Wat Tour
Entrance Fee: 20 USD - 40 USD
Reminders: cover your legs, wear an Aladdin pants/maxi dress
Rent bicycle 15 USD - 30 USD

5PM Angkor Wat Sunset
6PM Nightlife & Dinner @ PUB Street

Angkor Wat to PUB Street:
Check out Angkor What Bar (backpackers bar)
Best ice cream at the Blue Pumpkin
Red Piano Resto -try Tomb Raiderdrink (Cointreau, lime and tonic)

1030PM Night Bus: Giant Ibis
Location:  #252 near Old Market(Phsar Chas)
PUB Street to Bus Station: less than 20 minutes


THIRD DAY - Monday

January 6, My Birthday!
Time frame: 9 - 5pm
6AM - Arrival Lazy Gecko Guesthouse 

930AM Pick up for Bear Keeper a day at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center
Address: National Road 2, Trapang Sap commune, Bati district, Takeo province
Travel time: 45 mins from the city
Fee: 65 USD - 100 USD (feed, cuddle, lunch)

5PM Flight Departure

Fares:
Motortaxi - 2,000 - 4,000 riel
Taxi - 5,000 - 20,000 riel


Must Try Foods: 2 USD - 20 USD
  • Kdam Chaa -fried crab
  • Stir-fried red tree ants with beef and holy basil
  • Ang dtray-meuk -grilled squid
  • Cha houy teuk -jelly dessert 
  • Bai sach chrouk -pork and rice
  • Fish amok - fish mousse
  • Khmer red curry 
  • Lap Khmer - Khmer beef salad 
  • Nom banh chok- Khmer noodles 
Learn some Khmer words:
  • Thank you - Saum arkoun anak/ Ong kun
  • How much? -Thlay pon man
  • So expensive -T'lai nas 
  • Delicious - Chgañe nah!
  • Goodbye - Lea Huey


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

What to do in Cambodia: Embracing My Inner Explorer

Initially, I intended to embark on this journey alone, even though it was a few days shy of my birthday. I was excited at the thought of backpacking solo and having a unique, adventurous birthday experience. However, I was relieved when a friend agreed to come along instead of making the mistake of going alone. The thought of being alone in a foreign country and spending my birthday in a bar with a bottle of beer was laughable, but it made me realize that solo backpacking is something I would like to experience someday. Fortunately, the booking process went smoothly, and I was able to secure a cheap round-trip ticket to Cambodia.

Tiger Airways round trip promo fare: 146.5 SGD ( Singapore-Phnom Penh )

While some may argue that true backpackers don't need to plan their trips, I believe that responsible travelers should always have a plan in place before heading to a foreign country. A simple itinerary that includes locations, fares, and transportation schedules can help ensure a smooth trip and contribute to a lower risk of getting lost.
To prepare for my own trip to Cambodia, I spent two weeks researching tourist spots and booking accommodations and transportation options. I even had a backup plan in case things didn't go as expected.
But planning doesn't have to be stressful! By creating a vacation checklist well in advance, I was able to avoid last-minute packing stress and enjoy a more exciting and anxiety-free travel experience. 
 

Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

What to bring checklist:

- Itinerary 
- booked tickets (make sure to do web check-in and print out your boarding pass) 
- comfortable shoes
- shades 
- raincoat ( better ready than sorry )
- baggy pants and a thin jacket ( to show respect, temples are sacred places)
- sweets
- USD Dollars ( no need to change for Khmer money- tell you later )
- Close-up smile! ( lots of it, to get a good price from the Tuk Tuk drivers )
- Don't forget your friend, it's nice to get lost with someone by your side.

I've gone to the gym before I head out to the airport. I need to wake myself up from fatigue due to last night's work and energize my muscles for my short trip to Cambodia. I ended up short of time and had to rush out and take a taxi. The great thing I've already done the web check-in the other day and printed our boarding pass- so much for time management. This makes the chances of the plane leaving you behind at a minimal level. 

Our budget was to bring along 300 SGD is about 900,000 riel or 230 USD. We planned on sticking to our budget game as much as possible. 


First Day

It was a sunny day on our very first day in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. I've already booked ahead of time a room good for two people with our own bathroom. It's best to secure a place to stay before invading Cambodia with your glistening crazy smile. 


A backpackers hostel is a clean place to stay at a budget-friendly expense. 

We were planning to get a taxi outside the gates of the airport but the tuk-tuk offered a better deal. A blogger said it was cheaper to get a ride out there. However, that was not the case in Cambodia we found out that changing your dollar to Khmer, Cambodian money was useless. No matter where you are in the country, every tourist in Cambodia regarding rides, accommodations, food/drinks, and all are all in American dollars. A constant number was implemented by all stores. During our visit, the constant rate of 1 USD was equivalent to 4,000 Khmer. All necessities that tourist needs here are doubled up in great amount compared to Thailand which is more budget-friendly. But of course, everything was still cheaper when compared to Singapore.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Russian Market 

After we checked into our guesthouse we decided to do some early shopping. We allotted the second day for a whole day Angkor Wat tour. The tuk-tuk driver drove us all the way to the Russian market for about 35-45 minutes from the guesthouse. I was planning to have our dinner at this so-called Yej Café which is located outside of the Market towards the back. I've read on the Internet that the staff and cafe are dressed up in a yellow and purple theme. More importantly, it's a cafe where you can show your support for mistreated people. It is said most of the crew have gone through some life mishaps and the cafe is trying to lift them up from their adversaries. However, we were starving to look any further for it. If you're dropping by any chance in Phnom Penh go and have a meal in this nice little cafe. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Try Angkor Beer

Reminders: NEVER leave Cambodia without trying out their beer. I'm already implementing that rule in all my travels. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Street Stall Dinner in Russian Market

We had a Pork Barbecue and Banh Chiao, a kind of salad that looked like a pancake stuffed with minced pork and bean sprouts, paired up with the one and only steamed rice. It was something different and I like trying out new flavours. A portion of the egg-like pancake was meant to be wrapped with the lettuce and the other green leafy vegetables and dipped in sweet sauce, which we only found out when we'd almost finished the dish. I liked it. I was just a bit worried about the food preparation but we didn't have any stomach problems at the end of the day so that's clear.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

While we were enjoying our dinner I couldn't help myself from talking to the locals. Some of them who were just sitting beside our table were really friendly to share a few tips about their country. They taught us some important phrases that we can use like "Thlay pon man?" which means how much? and "Ong kun" for thank you. 

We headed back to the guesthouse full and ready to prepare for a long night's bus travel. By 10 pm we've already showered and packed some useful things for our travel. Lazy Gecko is about 5 5-minute tuk-tuk ride from the Giant Ibis bus station. 

Cambodia is flooded with tourists and booking an online for your night bus ticket is a smart decision. I've searched a lot of night buses and all have good reviews but the Giant Ibis bus service has the best remarks among all of them. It's a long, bumpy ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, and choosing the best wheels will pay its price. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Bumpy bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

NIGHT BUS- Phnom Penh to Siem Reap 
Travel time: 6-7 hours

The ride was bumpy and the roads were treacherous. If you're asking about a good night's sleep then expect less for that to happen. They have double-deck beds with a 25-degree head elevation portion. A small pillow and blanket were also provided for everyone's comfort. I chose the upper level of the bunk without knowing that was actually the least promising unless you're going on a day trip. I later realized that the most comfortable area inside the bus is in the middle part and the lower level of the bunk is the most conducive bed for sleeping. We got out of the bus groggy but our spirits were shining bright like a diamond, and at the same time, I learned the best spot for a night bus ride which will be beneficial for my future trips. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Second Day: Angkor Wat Temple of Siem Reap, Cambodia

For the past few months, a friend of mine has been talking about the ruins of Angkor Wat and all the amazing historical sites on Earth.  Angkor Wat was never been on my bucket list but I've been fascinated by the idea of going to Cambodia and seeing the majestic architecture in person. Then one day I was able to purchase unplanned promo tickets and I'm so glad I did. As I read in an Instagram account "Book a ticket and just leave." I thought to myself Cambodia here I come! Right away after a few days from the new year's countdown, I fly to Cambodia with all smiles.


What to bring checklist:

- comfortable footwear 
- baggy/Aladdin pants 
- flying carpet joke! Ahahaa 
- sunblock? 
- hat/cap
- gallons of water 
- sunglasses (esp. for those people who took the night bus ride) 
- deodorant!
- camera with spare batteries or film if you're using the old school camera. For me no need to bring a flash the lighting in and out of the temples is perfect. Besides I don't have that kind of gadget so what do I know right?! I use a flashlight from my camera for a more natural effect.
- tuk-tuk ride


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary
My friend joined me on this travel and the moment we arrived in the country on the very first night we took a bus ride to Siem Reap.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Angkor Wat Tour

We took the Giant Ibis night bus ride in Phnom Pehn around 22:00, arriving at 06:00 the next day in Siem Reap. The plan of seeing the sunrise in Angkor Wat was beyond our control it takes 6-7 hours of travel to get there from Phnom Penh. 

We arrived in the city greeted with huge smiles from the tuk-tuk drivers. A good deal was made with one of the drivers for 40 USD providing a whole-day tour of the ruins of Angkor Wat. Old-school transportation always wins backpackers' hearts. What a kind and cute comment coming from the tuk-tuk drivers when they approached us they said " Hello My Lady, do you need a tuk-tuk ride?." I was impressed by their words and I felt like royalty. If that's their marketing strategy they got me but I find it genuine in some way, I'll leave it that way for my memory bank.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

The driver agreed to take us to the famous sites and he would patiently wait for us by the corner of the entryway or in the parking area. At the end of every stopover, we always find him so relaxed with his feet dangling in his nylon-made hammock. 

 
Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Ta Prohm "Tomb Raider" Film Location

The entryway to the first site of Angkor Wat has a few restaurants/cafeteria that serves good meals, good enough to fuel you with energy for a temple-run challenge. Have some breakfast as you will need that with all the stair climbing you'll be doing for that day.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Get Ready For This

Tourists are encouraged to wear proper clothing, if you're worried about your fashion statement then wear Aladdin pants or a maxi dress. I chose the laid-back Aladdin pants and my cotton top with comfortable slippers. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

I've planned to roam around the temple on a bicycle if it weren't for our tuk-tuk ride. The bicycle rental was nowhere in sight too, in my research it cost maybe around 12 USD. If you have more than 2 days' access to the temple, why not rent a bicycle the next day. I guess having a tuk-tuk waiting for us was not that bad because each historical site was far from the other. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

It was amazing! What more can I say. The breathtaking view of one of the temples was a must-see. The grandeur architectural design of Angkor Wat is something we don't have in this century. The intricate designs of each corner and passageway were done with intensive commitment and passion. The Angkor Wat symbolizes how humans surpass creating impossible structures, the same goes for the Ancient Pyramids, Machu Pichu, and all the unbelievable human creations on the planet. They were able to build a majestic structure with less mechanical help with an impressive outcome. Real art is intoxicated with hard work and dedication, and there you go The Angkor Wat of Cambodia. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary
We roamed around the ruins like children in a playground. Up in here, Up in there. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary
No monkey business, please.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary
Just being silly, no harm was done.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Hanging around the tuk-tuk with a friend.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Made another friend along the way.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Sunset in Angkor Wat

The sunrise we'd planned was deleted from our day plan however the sunset was still up for grabs. When we figured out we still had time to see the sunset, our tuk-tuk driver suggested we head to a hill named something I can't remember. It was a steep hike going to the hill but you won't feel that tired because the view is great and a big crowd accompanies you all the way. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

The sunset was a spectacular view, especially watching it on the rooftop of a temple. People flocked to the area just to see the sun slowly making its way from the horizon, all eyes were fixed in the west on that brightly lit ball of fire. There's something about a sunset that puts people at ease: it's like a delightful feeling of a warm hug or a gentle aromatic tea/coffee/beer/wine that simply creates a curve line in someone's face. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Nightlife & Dinner @ PUB Street

We were exhausted at the end of the day yet we still had time to make our way to the nightlife capital city of Siem Reap. Our accommodating tuk-tuk driver passes by our night bus station before heading to PUB Street. It was just a walking distance from the Night Market which is just around the corner from PUB street. 

We had dinner at this affordable outdoor restaurant. You can see the chef cooking outside just along the street with a hat! How cool is that?! It was delicious and the prices range from $10-$20. You better have dinner here if you're looking for a good meal at a fair price. 


 Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

PUB Street

Nightlife & Dinner @ PUB Street
Angkor Wat to PUB Street: 30-45 minutes, depending on the traffic.

Check out: Angkor What? Bar, a must-see for every backpacker out there in Cambodia! 

We roamed around PUB street and searched for the Blue Pumpkin, it was said that they sell the best ice cream in town. 

I was planning to check out Red Piano resto, a place famous for their Tomb Raider drink, a mix of Cointreau, lime, and tonic (whatever those two are but lime sounds good to me). However, we run out of time so if you're going to PUB Street in Cambodia better check out this resto and tell me about it. We had to rush before 1030PM to catch our night bus and head back to Phnom Penh for our Bear Keeper a Day activity. 


NIGHT BUS back to Phnom Penh (booked online)
PUB to Giant Ibis Bus Station: less than a 15-minute walk. 
Location:  #252 near Old Market (Phsar Chas), a few metres away from the Russian Market. 


Reminders: Book your night bus ticket online to avoid the queue and the fully booked hassle. Just recently, night buses were available due to the popular demand of tourists going around Cambodia at a time management pace. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Third-Day: My Birthday!

Bear Keeper for a Day 
Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Center

It's our last day in Cambodia and an exceptional day for me. We arrived back in Phnom Penh around 6 in the morning and right away took a tuk-tuk ride to Lazy Gecko Guesthouse. My friend took a shower while I did some packing. The feeling of leaving made me feel sad because I wanted to do more stuff in Cambodia, yet at the same time I was excited thinking about my next travels. I was beaming with excitement at the thought of exploring another country and filling in my soul's desires. 

A few weeks before we came to Cambodia, I read a very interesting article about the Phnom Penh rescue center. It was highly recommended by bloggers and travelers. I decided to drop an email regarding their rescue center and the activities they offer. We were supposed to get a jeepney jungle-like tour of the place however, the coordinator in charge had a wedding to attend on that day. The other part of the center offers a bear keeper activity for tourists, it sounded cool so right away I booked a reservation.  


0930 Pick up for Bear Keeper for a Day 

Phnom Penh Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center
Address: National Road 2, Trapang Sap commune, Bati district, Takeo province
Travel time: 45 mins from the city
Book the activity by sending them an email: bearkeeperforaday@gmail.com


Money Matters

Our Kher money was already low so we dropped by a bank to change some dollars. I've discovered that it's more convenient to use US dollars in Cambodia and the bank offers a higher rate compared to our guesthouse. That's something new, now I know what to do if I ever decided to come back to Cambodia. 


We traveled for 45 minutes or more the traffic got bad while we were trying to get out of the city proper. The pickup truck passed by mountains, rice fields, and all the wonderful scenery you find in the Asian countryside. The interesting thing about the trip is that the one who picked us up brought along his big dog.  He stayed at the back of the truck along with our bags. I can actually see him on my right side with his tongue tasting the air. It was like the road trip from the movies, one thing missing, the shouting part from the passing vehicles or showing off boobs - maybe that's too extreme! Ahahaa 

In the center, we had a brief orientation about the place and the animals kept inside the vicinity. The site was established in 2007 and abused or smuggled animals were taken to the center for rehabilitation. 


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

Feeding Time

The guide showed us the first three cute young cubs: one was sleeping while the other two were playing and dangling around. The sight of them reminds me of the cartoon TV series Care Bears, instead, they're bigger, have no bright colors, and are real. As a bear keeper, our task for that day was to feed them these orange and green balls, which we stuffed ourselves, holding a few bananas and leafy vegetables. A simple recipe makes up the bear's diet: bananas, biscuits, honey syrup, and a bundle of leafy vegetables. We were asked to place all the ingredients inside this hollow bowling ball with big finger holes. I've imagined it to be a close encounter with bears, like holding one small cub in my hands while feeding him milk in a bottle. 

It was not what I expected it to be. The bears were behind an electric fence and the balls were just thrown above it. It was clearly for safety purposes. I can't deny my disappointment I pictured myself to be right beside them, stroking their backs and feeding them treats. Who can blame the center for keeping everyone safe anyways, the bear's loved our homemade snacks for them. They were clever to roll over their backs while holding on to the holes in the hollow ball, rapidly shaking it until the bananas, biscuits, and vegetables fell outside the holes. The site of them devouring their food made everyone hungry. 

The tour package includes a homemade Cambodian lunch in a nearby hut in the rescue center. We had our meal in a traditional way, sat comfortably on the mat, and happily ate our last meal in Cambodia.


Cambodia Backpacking Itinerary

The tour was cut short because we had to be at the airport by 4 in the afternoon. The person who runs the place, who is also the one who picked us up from the hotel was kind enough to send us back early for our afternoon flight. I had a memorable experience but what makes it even better is I've found a friendship that will last for a long time.

Have fun and be safe ^__^

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