Visiting Cambodia – Things I Wish I Knew

On a recent trip to Cambodia I did lots of planning. In fact I planned the trip for over one and 1/2 years before embarking on the 2 week journey. But there are just some things that you wish that people had told you when you take an epic trip such as we took. Our trip took us to Vietnam, Cambodia and Tokyo for a total of 16 days in August of this year. Here is a list of the things I wish people had told me before heading to Cambodia which is where we spent the majority of the trip.

Don’t Pack Bug Spray

  • Every major hotel has bug spray. This would have not only saved room in my suitcase but stopped me from having to check my suitcase due to liquids. Don’t get me wrong, you need bug spray especially if you are going during the hot season. Luckily, our hotel had it and sprayed it on us every chance they got.

Bring Small Treats For Children

  • Cambodian children love pencils and small trinkets. We were visiting a school while we were in Cambodia so we brought some school supplies but I had no idea we would be giving out pencils to random children we met on the trip in small villages. They loved them and were genuinely appreciative. I had to stock up several times on my trip. 

Don’t Change Your Money

  • They take US dollars but they must be brand new bills with no rips or writing on them. Although the official currency of Cambodia is the Real, they will take US dollars in most restaurants, hotels and stores.  The bills must be new and must have no marks on them which I found our when trying to use a $20 that had writing on it in a gas station to buy some snacks. Luckily, I had a backup bill to use and brought the bill in question home and used it without issue at a Taco Bell in my hometown. 

Don’t Be Afraid of the Rainy Season

  • Rainy season doesn’t always rain that much. We visited during rainy season this past Summer and were prepared for rain with raincoats, umbrellas and hats.  We only saw 1 rainstorm during the 9 days we were there.  I can’t say if that is typical, but I will say, don’t let rainy season scare you away. It is much less expensive and the rain can be hit or miss depending on where you plan to go.

Pack Less

  • Pack less. You can have laundry done during your trip.  Laundry was inexpensive throughout our trip. I wish I had brought less clothes. It would have lightened my load throughout the trip and save my back. A few loads of laundry would have been a reasonable expense and I would have had more room for souvenirs.

No One Paid Any Attention to These!

Ignore The Street Signs

  • There are no traffic rules in Cambodia. When I say that Cambodia has no traffic rules that is an understatement. They technically have lights and stop signs in large cities, but no one pays any attention to them. Luckily, we took public transportation so I didn’t have to figure out how to ignore the signs, but even sitting in a Tuk Tuk (the customary mode of transportation was nerve wracking because it constantly felt like a truck was coming directly at you.

Sticky Rice

  • Crossing any street would feel like I was taking my life in my hands.
    This means that crossing the street is a maze of traffic with mopeds, cars and trucks driving around you. You really just have to take it on faith and walk. You must trust that the people on wheels will go around you which means you must not make sudden stops or speed up. Just walk across the street. When traveling in a group, stay together. Many times on our trip you would hear the group of us saying “Sticky Rice” to each other so we remembered to stay together. In other words, stay together like sticky rice.

Bathroom Etiquette

  • Bring your own Toilet Tissue. Remember you aren’t at home and bathrooms in Cambodia are not like they are at home. Many bathrooms might only have squat toilets and few have supplies of toilet tissue. After I had to use the packet of tissues I had in my backpack, the first day, I started to bring tissues with me everywhere and they came in handy in many public restrooms.

There Are Temples Everywhere

  • There are literally hundreds of temples to see when visiting Cambodia and they all are different. You could visit a temple every day for years and still not see all of them. While in Siem Reap we saw 8 temples over 2 days and could have spent a day on each temple to really understand them. We got private guides and drivers to take us to them to allow us to see the maximum amount in the shortest amount of time. I highly recommend a private guide. Our hotel, The Viroth arranged for our guides and drivers. They have a set price list for these services so you can decide exactly what you want to do before you even arrive at the hotel. Out guides were very flexible and we had them for both of the days we were in Siem Reap.


  • Massages are super cheap and awesome. I’m not sure how else to say it except to say I had a massage 3 of the 4 days I was in Siem Reap. I tried a number of different types of massages from a scalp massage to a full body massage and I wish I had allowed more down time in my schedule to go for more treatments. So good and so relaxing.

The People

  • The people could not be nicer. We met a number of locals during our trip to Cambodia from guides to people in hotels to locals. The Cambodia people could not have been more welcoming. I felt at home there and the people made me feel welcome. I can’t wait to return.

If you have been to Cambodia let me know if you have any additions to the list. If you are heading there and have any questions, I will try and answer what I can. We spend part of our time on a river cruise on the Mekong. The rest was spent in Siem Reap viewing the temples of Angkor Wat and with a 2 day layover in Tokyo on the return. More on that part of the journey soon.

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