This blogpost was updated in 2023.
This itinerary is the perfect route to discover the history, temples, beaches and the jungle of Cambodia. It’s a very diverse country with lots of things to see. The start and end point is in Bangkok, Thailand. Flights from Europe to Bangkok are usually cheaper than to Cambodia. Within 6-7 hours you can get from Bangkok to Siem Reap and start your journey from there.
I travelled this route alone in 2018 and with my partner in 2023. This itinerary allows you to travel slowly and soak everything in instead of rushing from one place to the other and only staying in a place for two nights.
You love travelling but don’t like planning? I’d love to do it for you! Get in touch for more information.
Day 1-2: Bangkok
After a long flight give yourself some time to fully arrive in Bangkok. To adapt to the new climate, food and maybe even experience the first culture shock. Definitely try mango sticky rice and a fresh cold coconut – so delicious!
Things to do in Bangkok
Go visit some temples, wander around, go on a boat ride on the main river Chao Phraya, enjoy a massage and end the day with a nice cocktail in one of Bangkok’s skybars. Try to not put too many things on your agenda or maybe add another day – it’s very hot and humid which makes everything a little bit more exhausting. Rather go with the flow and observe. Believe me, you will find places you didn’t even know they exist.
Places to stay in Bangkok
I recommend to stay around the area of Khao San Road. You would never find my on the road itself but there are to reasons why this area is the best to stay in. There is a direct bus from the airport and the bus to Siem Reap also leaves from nearby. The Hidden Lumpu is a low-budget guesthouse, only 15 minutes walk from the bus station.
Day 2-5: Siem Reap
The first stop in Cambodia is Siem Reap, which is famous for the temple complex Angkor Wat. It’s worth spending at least three nights in Siem Reap to explore the cozy cafés, go on a cycle or join a cooking class.
Getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap
There are plenty of options to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap. My recommendation is to go by bus as the border crossing is quite adventurous and you can see more of the landscape. Click here to find out more about the whole journey. The bus costs around 40 USD and takes 7 hours. You can get the visa on arrival (30 days) at the border for 30 USD and don’t need to prepare a visa beforehand.
Things to do in Siem Reap
1 Angkor Wat
Are you ready to visit one of the seven wonders of the world? Angkor Wat is definitely a must when visiting Cambodia. You can choose from 1, 3 or 7 day passes. Either buy the tickets online or go to the ticket office in Siem Reap before your visit. If you’re planning to see the sunrise it’s best to get them the day before. For me personally, the 1 day ticket was enough. I also recommend booking a tuk tuk driver (around 25 USD for one day) who will drive you from temple to temple (ours even had cold drinks and towels which was a life saver!).
2 Siem Reap town
In Siem Reap you can hire a bicycle and ride along the river, spoil yourself with a massage or attend a cooking class. My favorite plant-based cafés were: Tevy’s Place, HeyBong and Banlle Vegetarian Restaurant.
Places to stay in Siem Reap
Here are two places to stay in Siem Reap for a budget:
- Private room with pool: Sweetdreams Guesthouse
- Hostel with pool: Onederz Siem Reap
You would like to do a guided tour in Siem reap? Have a look at the tours below
Day 5-9: Sen Monorom (Mondulkiri)
There is no better way to learn about a country, its culture, challenges and animals than by volunteering. Before the trip I did some research and discovered the EVP Mondulkiri project. The Elephant Valley Project protects aim is to improve the health and welfare of captive elephants. Most of them have had a tough live and can now roam around freely and peacefully. Apart from that the EVP project also supports and educates local people.
About the project
The project works a little bit like a circle. Tourists come to see elephants, they pay for the experience and donate money, the elephants benefit from their new life & the resources can be passed onto the local people. It’s a triple WIN. Find out more about EVP on their website. EVP offers different programs for an unforgettable stay learning more about elephants. What I liked most about the project is that there is no touching, washing or interaction with the elephant involved. It’s mostly observing.
Depending on your time schedule you could join the 3 Day / 2 Night (from 270 USD) excursion. The longer your stay the better! I recommend to spend at least one night as you’re going to sleep in the jungle away from mobile reception.
It’s going to be wonderful few days in the jungle – that’s for sure! You can either sleep in a shared room or get a private bungalow. Let me give you some buzzwords of what you can expect:
- Falling asleep and waking up to jungle sounds.
- Cold showers in the middle of the jungle.
- Eating fresh fruit and delicious Cambodian dishes.
- Sharing your stories with people from all over the world.
And then of course: Elephants and their individual stories. Every day you will observe them, hear about their stories and learn more about elephant behaviour. As you come as a volunteer you will also help with work around the area, for example cutting banana trees for the elephants or building new furniture out of bamboo for example. There’s always something to do!
EVP will provide a list with the most important things to bring. My top 3 were: Moscito repellant, sunscreen & open mindset.
Getting from Siem Reap to Sen Monorom
You can book a bus to Sen Monorom either via 12Go or just go to a travel office in Siem Reap. There are busses going from Siem Reap to Sen Monorom on a daily basis. The cost is around 18 USD and the journey takes 12 hours.
Day 9-10: Phnom Penh
Cambodia has a quite recent and sad history. To fully understand this country you should definitely spend some time diving into the history. The best place to do that is the capital city, Phnom Penh.
Getting from Sen Monorom to Phnom Penh
The best way to get to Phnom Penh from Sen Monorom is by night bus, as you don’t loose a day. The night busses in Cambodia have beds which make the whole journey a bit more comfortable. Check the connections here. The journey takes around 8 hours and costs 14 USD. Mind that the beds are usually shared beds, so if you don’t want to share your bed with someone else, ask for a single bed.
Things to do in Phnom Penh
In Phnom Penh you should visit the Killing Fields and the S21 genocide prison. It’s best to hire a tuktuk driver which will drive you around. I can highly recommend doing the tours via audio guide in your own pace. In the evening it’s worth going to the night market for dinner and stroll along the Mekong River. How about watching the night view over the city? You can enjoy a great view from the Eclipse Skybar – affordable cocktails and a nice breeze are awaiting you there!
Pay a visit to the Royal Palace, the National Museum and surrounding sights. Planta is a great restaurant with many plant-based options located in this area.
Organized tours in Phnom Penh
Places to stay in Phnom Penh
Onederz is a famous low-budget hostel among backpackers, located close to the night market and with a pool terrace.
Day 10 – 14: Koh Rong Samloem
After spending a few days in the city, time for some sandy feet & an ocean swim! I love combining inland trips with island trips – to get a little bit of both words. With Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem in the south, Cambodia has some beautiful spots to offer. Whitesand beach, crystal clear water.
Koh Rong Samloem is the smaller island of the two. I went there twice and loved it each time. It has a very special, laid-back atmosphere as the different bays are not connected with each other on land. You can only get from one to the other by taking a boat. As you’re walking space is limited you feel like you’re on a very tiny island. There is also no means of transportation. I’ve never experienced an island like Koh Rong Samloem before which is why I would recommend going there.
Samloem or Sanloem? Both works and is used by the locals. Sanloem means ‘far away’. Koh Rong Samloem will definitely help you to slow down. Time feels different on the island. The fact that not every guesthouse and restaurant has Wi-Fi is another plus – you don’t get that in many touristic places in the world these days.
Getting from Phnom Penh to Koh Rong Samloem
You can get from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville by bus within six hours (10 USD). From Sihanoukville you can then take the ferry (45 minutes) to Koh Rong Samloem. Go to one of the travel agencies in Phnom Penh to book the whole trip. If you leave the city at 9.30 am, you can then take the latest ferry at 3 pm and arrive on the island in the afternoon.
The ferry costs 25 USD both ways. The return ticket is open date, so you can decide on the island when to go back. Definitely tell the agency the bay your accommodation is in to check whether the ferry stops there or not.
Where to stay in Koh Rong Samloem
I loved staying in M’Pai bay (Did you know that M’Pai bay means 23? You will stumble across this number many times when walking through the streets). It’s a fishing village with a handful of nice restaurants. For the vegan food lovers: The best brunch you can get at the Seapony. When you’re standing at the pier and facing the village there is a restaurant on the right corner which serves amazing local food. Spicy23 is beautiful low-budget guesthouse located in the middle of the tiny village, very close to the beach and all restaurants.
You like food? Here’s a vegan food guide for Cambodia!
Things to do in Koh Rong Samloem
Even though Koh Rong Samloem has a very laid-back vibe there are a few things you can do during your stay.
- Hike to clearwater bay, a beautiful white-sand beach with turquoise water (it’s best to ask one of the locals for the way)
- Go snorkelling or diving
- Watch the sunset at the Cliff hostel
- Join a island boat tour to explore more beaches and the famous lighthouse
- Join the weekly beach clean up at ‘The Lost & Found’
Day 14 – 18: Kampot
Kampot is known for its lush pepper plantations. Some of the best black, white and red pepper is produced in this area and shipped into the whole world. The riverside town has a very nice atmosphere and many cozy cafes. On my second trip to Cambodia I stayed for one week! There are plenty of things to do.
Getting from Koh Rong Samloem to Kampot
As you already have purchased your return ticket you only need to book the onward journey from Sihanoukville. The bus to Kampot costs around 10 USD and takes 3 hours. You can book your tickets on Koh Rong Samloem.
Things to do in Kampot
1 Visit the pepper plantation
You should definitely pay a visit to ‘La Plantation’ to find out more about the pepper farms! You can either go by tuk tuk (20 USD) or rent a scooter (5 USD/day). The way there is gravel road, but if you have some experience on the scooter it’s very doable. It takes around 30 minutes to get to the plantation. They offer regular free tours where they take you around the plantation and give background information about their pepper. At the end of the tour you will then do a pepper tasting and go through over 15 different spices! How about trying Vanilla – Black Pepper ice cream or having lunch there? The views are beautiful.
2 Day trip to Bokor Hill
Spend another day exploring Bokor Hill national park! Driving into 20 degrees is a nice contrast to the hot temperatures down in Kampot. It’s best to check the weather forecast to not get caught in the rain or get too cold!
3 Enjoy Kampot town
In Kampot town there are amazing restaurants like Simple Things or Epic Arts. They both offer nutritious local and Western food, perfect for all diets. I visited Epic Arts in 2018 for the first time and came back in 2023! They bring people with and without disabilities together and offer inclusive education programmes. The café sells home made cookies and other delicious baked goods as well as brunch and lunch dishes (Don’t miss out cake day! You can get a Khmer iced coffee with a slice of cake for 2.50 USD).
The MonkeyRepublic hostel offers daily yoga drop-in classes for 6 USD – the best start into your day.
4 Go kayaking
Another great activity is going kayaking in the afternoon. Either rent a bicycle or a scooter to get to the kayak company. Renting a kayak for two hours costs 10 USD. There’s a small loop leading through a small canal surrounded by palm trees. At around 6pm you can then see the sun setting behind the mountains. A beautiful activity!
Where to stay in Kampot
Onederz Kampot is a low-budget hostel with very new facilities and central location! They have a pool, each bunkbed has a curtain, its own individual light and a comes with a locker.
Day 18 – 21: Traveling back
Another beautiful trip slowly comes to an end. It’s time to go back to Phnom Penh and then to Bangkok. I planned three days for the trip so you can have another day in Bangkok before heading home.
Getting from Kampot to Bangkok
From Kampot there are two options to get to Bangkok:
- Take a bus from Kampot (30 USD, 13 hours)
- Take a flight from Phnom Penh (9 USD bus, flight depending on availability)
Summing up, Cambodia is a beautiful country. If I had to compare it to its neighbour Thailand, I’d say it’s less developed and less busy, which makes it very special to travel as a backpacker. There are mostly individual travellers instead of the ‘staying on one place’ tourists, which also creates a different atmosphere.
Definitely take your time to explore Cambodia! I find it very sad when people only take one week to travel through Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Traveling alone as a woman is no problem at all. It’s a safe country and you will meet many travellers along the way. Also the Cambodian people are nice and friendly.
I hope you will enjoy your trip! If you have any more questions please send me a message or leave a comment below. I’m very happy to assist you with your trip!