Updated on February 19, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
This checklist for traveling to Cambodia has everything you’ll need to stay comfortable, healthy, and respectful while you’re there.
At the bottom is a list of what NOT to take on your trip, as well as some tips on the best clothes to wear in Cambodia and some frequently asked questions about travel there.
What to Pack for Cambodia – 17 Essentials
One of my top packing tips for Cambodia? Make sure you’re prepared for the rain. If you visit during the rainy season, you’re probably going to get caught in a downpour at least once, and you don’t want to be without an umbrella when that happens. It can rain during the dry season as well, so it’s a good idea to bring an umbrella any time of year.
When you’re traveling in Cambodia, there’s not always going to be soap and water to wash your hands. Given the presence of germs and bacteria your body might not be used to, as well as general dust and dirt, using hand sanitizing wipes can help keep you healthy.
3. Neck Wallet
You’ll obviously need to take your passport to Cambodia, and it’s not a bad idea to bring some extra headshots and photocopies of your passport’s ID page. A neck wallet will keep your passport and other important documents safe and organized. This one can also hold cash, credit cards, and even a cell phone, and is a good way to carry valuables when you’re in crowded places.
The tap water in Cambodia isn’t potable and should be avoided, especially for Western visitors. In the country’s tropical climate, though, you’ll need to be careful about staying hydrated. Bottled water is available for purchase throughout the country, but it creates a ton of plastic waste – and the cost will eventually add up. A better option is a LifeStraw, which filters tap water as you drink. They’re also relatively cheap and don’t take up much space.
There are a couple types of electrical outlets in Cambodia, and many of them don’t require an adapter (they can take either round European plugs or flat American ones). But you may encounter some that do need an adapter, especially if you’re bringing anything with grounded plugs. This universal adapter will have you covered anywhere in Cambodia and beyond.
Hopefully you can avoid getting sick in Cambodia by watching what you eat and drink, but many travelers do end up with a bout of illness. In case it happens to you, be prepared by bringing some activated charcoal on your trip. The capsules absorb toxins in your stomach, helping prevent diarrhea and other symptoms.
You will likely often connect to public WiFi sources while in Cambodia, whether it be at hotels, Airbnbs, airports, or internet cafes. Instead of leaving yourself vulnerable to potential hackers, keep your sensitive information like credit card numbers and passwords secure by using a VPN.
Using packing cubes means you won’t be able to cram quite as much stuff into your bag – but everything you do pack will be infinitely more organized. Without a set of cubes, you’ll be constantly digging through your backpack for small items and having to unpack everything to find them. Packing all your clothes in a few cubes, though, will completely eliminate that problem and help you to only bring the essentials.
Electrolytes are also useful to have on hand, in case you get sick and just for general hydration. Diarrhea and vomiting can leave you seriously dehydrated, and these tablets will help replenish the electrolytes you’re losing. Even if you don’t get sick, it can be hard to stay hydrated in a tropical country like Cambodia, especially if you spend a lot of time outside, and using these tablets on a regular basis can help.
When you’re out and about during the day, the last thing you want to worry about is having to stop somewhere to charge your phone. Especially if you plan to use your smartphone for photos, navigation, and music, your battery is likely to die at some point throughout the day. Combat this by bringing along a handy, lipstick-sized portable charger to ensure your battery stays charged when you need it most.
11. Travel Sheet
Some of the accommodations you find in Cambodia might be less than pristine, which makes it nice to have your own lightweight sheet to wrap up in. That’s especially true for hostels, so a travel sheet is one of the top Cambodia backpacking essentials. Even if you’re not on a shoestring budget, a sheet like this one is also useful on buses that have the A/C blasting.
Travel insurance should really be considered one of your Cambodia packing essentials. While more serious illnesses or injuries that require seeing a doctor or taking medication are less likely, you don’t want to be unprepared. World Nomads not only covers medical expenses, they’ll also pay to evacuate you in an emergency and replace belongings that get lost or stolen. Just knowing you have insurance in the case of these situations can give you some peace of mind while you’re on the road as well.
13. Quick dry towel
Not all guesthouses and hostels provide them, so a towel definitely needs to be on any Cambodia backpacking checklist. A regular bath towel is super bulky though, and these lightweight quick-dry towels are much more convenient for traveling. Even if you’re staying in higher-end places, a towel should still be on your packing list for Cambodia, since you’ll want one for beach days, picnics, or swimming in the lake or river.
I almost always bring a sarong when I travel because they’re cheap, lightweight, and surprisingly versatile. If you’re in a pinch, your sarong can act as a towel, curtain, picnic blanket, sheet, or even swimsuit cover-up. Used as a scarf, they also meet the dress code to enter temples. With so many uses, a sarong is one of the essential things to take to Cambodia.
15. Sturdy Sandals
Sturdy sandals are most travelers’ main shoes for Cambodia, and you’ll definitely want them for visiting beaches and using shared showers at hostels. Sandals with good traction are especially useful in the rainy season, since it doesn’t matter if they get wet and any mud can be easily washed off.
16. First Aid Kit
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time outside (and even if you’re not), be sure to put a First-Aid kit on your list of things to take to Cambodia. It’s easy to get small cuts and scrapes, which could potentially get infected if they’re not covered, so you’ll want to be able to care for them right away.
A rain cover is one of my top items to bring to Cambodia, and it’s useful for way more than just a rainy day. I always put the cover on when I’m in transit and will be stowing my bag under a bus or in the back of a minivan. Not only does the cover protect my pack in the case of rain, it also shields it from the dust and mud it might be exposed to. Plus, by making it much harder to get into your backpack, using a cover makes it less likely that things will get stolen.
Other Cambodia packing list items not to forget
Shaving cream: Women’s and Men’s
SteriPod toothbrush cover
Vitamins: Women’s and Men’s
Rain jacket: Women’s and Men’s
Hiking shoes: Women’s and Men’s
Sunglasses: Women’s and Men’s
Reusable cloth bag
Stainless steel water bottle
What should I wear in Cambodia?
Your clothing for Cambodia will depend on which parts of the country you’re visiting and what activities you’re planning to do, but lightweight fabrics and reasonably modest clothes will make the best Cambodia wardrobe. Though you’ll see tourists in revealing clothes throughout the country, covering up a bit is more respectful to the local culture, which is fairly conservative. This is especially true in more rural areas of the country, where bare midriffs and short-shorts really aren’t appropriate. The cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are more forgiving, as are the beaches and islands in the south.
One thing that’s not negotiable in Cambodia, as in much of Asia, is the dress code at temples. Both men and women need to have at least their shoulders and knees covered to enter temples, and this code is strictly enforced, including Angkor Wat. Women can usually get away with large scarf or shawl over a tank top, but otherwise, sleeves are required.
In pretty much any part of the country, the weather will most likely be hot and humid every day. When you’re packing for Cambodia, choose clothes made from lightweight fabrics like linen, rayon, merino wool, or cotton blends whenever possible. For outdoors activities like cycling and trekking, the key is to wear sweat-wicking fabrics, so the same activewear you’d normally wear during the summer should be fine.
What NOT to take to Cambodia
2) DON’T PACK heavy books. Even just a couple books will really weigh down your bag. If you want to do some reading during your trip, take a Kindle instead, which stores as many books as you want and takes up very little space. Many guesthouses and hostels in Cambodia also have book exchanges, where you can pick up a book for free and then return it or drop it off at another one.
3) DON’T TAKE lots of cash. Except in very rural areas, ATMs are located throughout Cambodia, so you shouldn’t have any trouble accessing cash once you arrive. There’s no reason to take a bunch of money with you and risk having it stolen.
4) DON’T PACK a mosquito net. Mosquito nets sometimes appear on packing lists for tropical countries, but it’s really not worth bringing one. At hotels where a net is necessary, one will normally be provided – and even if it isn’t, there’s usually not a way to hang up your own.
6) DON’T TAKE expensive jewelry. Flashy jewelry is best avoided since it can make you a target, and if you have anything valuable or sentimental, there’s no reason to risk it being lost or stolen.
7) DON’T BRING unnecessary electronics. You’ll probably want to bring some electronic devices with you, but leave whatever you won’t need at home. Unless you’re really going to use it during your trip, don’t run the risk of it getting lost or stolen on the road.
8) DON’T TAKE lots of warm clothes. The climate is hot and humid, so the best clothes for Cambodia are lightweight. A rain jacket is a good idea, and a light fleece or sweater can be useful on buses that crank up the A/C, but you really don’t need anything warmer than that.
FAQs about travel in Cambodia
1) What currency is used in Cambodia?
Though Cambodia has its own currency, the riel, it’s a unique country in that the economy is mostly dollarized. Most ATMs in Cambodia distribute U.S. dollars instead of riel, and prices are usually quoted in dollars. But because there are no U.S. coins (only bills), riel essentially take their place. If a price is listed as $3.75, that means $3 plus 3,000 riel (the riel is pegged at 4,000 to the dollar). Some prices for very low-cost items are listed in riel, especially in markets and at street food stalls, but you can always pay in either currency (and may receive either back in change).
2) What kind of visa do I need?
Unless you’re from another ASEAN country, a tourist visa is required to enter Cambodia. With the exception of citizens of select African and Asian nations, who must go to a Cambodian embassy in advance, visas are available on arrival. A single-entry 30-day tourist visa is $30, and must be paid in U.S. dollars. Crossing land borders into Cambodia tends to result in an additional “fee,” depending on the mood of your border agent that day.
3) How can I avoid scams at the Cambodian border?
Scams are rife at many of Cambodia’s borders, including the largest crossing with Thailand at Poipet.To avoid the scams, start by ignoring anyone who says they want to “help” you get through the border. There may be a quarantine or medical desk at the border, which is also a scam, so walk right past it.
Once you get to the actual border agent, they will likely tack some type of “fee” (bribe) onto the cost of the visa, often $5-8. If you repeatedly refuse to pay, they may eventually let you through, but how long you want to fight them on it is up to you.One way to largely avoid the bribes is to get your visa in advance, which is now very simple with the e-visaoption. There’s a $6 processing fee for the e-visa, so it probably won’t save you any money, but it will save you the hassle.Additionally, some bus companies deal with the border crossing for their passengers, which usually removes all the hassle, though they might charge an extra fee.
Either way, taking a bus to a destination within Cambodia, rather than just to the border, will also save you a lot of hassle and money. If your bus doesn’t go past the border, you’ll have to arrange onward transportation once you cross, where prices are inflated.
4) What is the weather like in Cambodia?
Like most of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is hot and humid year round. December-February (the high season for tourism) is the coolest time of year, though temperatures are still in the 80s throughout most of the country. March-June is the hottest period, when the mercury regularly climbs above 100, and humidity is high as well. The rainy season runs from June to November, though it sometimes rains during other months. All in all, unless you’re coming from another tropical climate, Cambodia will feel hot and steamy any time of year.
5) How can I visit Angkor Wat?
Angkor Archeological Park is located just outside Siem Reap, one of Cambodia’s main cities. After a recent price increase, a one-day pass is $37, and three- and seven-day passes are available for $62 and $72, respectively. Most people hire a tuk-tuk for the day, to ridearound the temple complex (which is huge!) with a driver who will act as your guide. Nearly every hotel and tour company in Siem Reap can arrange this. Another option is to rent a bicycle in Siem Reap for around $2 and then cycle to Angkor Wat and around the temples on your own. Most people get to the park for sunrise, which is around 5:45am.
6) What vaccines do I need to visit Cambodia?
Visitors to Cambodia need typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations, and should be up to date on routine vaccines for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (Tdap), chickenpox, and polio. A rabies vaccine is only recommended for visitors who will be spending a lot of time around animals or doing significant outdoors activities.
7) Should I take malaria prophylaxis?
Though malaria is present throughout the country (outside of Phnom Penh), the risk to Western travelers is generally low. Some travelers choose to take malaria prophylaxis, but it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about what’s best for you. Atovaquone-proguanil and doxycycline are effective throughout the country, and mefloquine is also an option in provinces not bordering Thailand.
8) Is the tap waterin Cambodia safe to drink?
No. The tap water in Cambodia will make most Western visitors sick and should be avoided. Bottled water is widely available, and some hotels provide drinking water for their guests. You can also treat tap water yourself, using a filter, UV system, or iodine tablets to make it drinkable.
9) Is there reliable Internetaccess?
In major towns in Cambodia, Wi-Fi is available at most hotels and restaurants, especially those catering to foreign tourists. In more rural areas, however, Internet access isharder to come by.
10) What’s the deal with orphanages in Cambodia?
In Cambodia, orphanages have morphed into something very different than places where children without parents can live. Recent studies have found that nearly 80 percent of children living in Cambodian orphanages are not actually orphans. Further, while legitimate orphanages do exist, many arejust money-making machines, keeping standards appalling low to attract donations,which line the pockets of their owners.
Orphanages in Cambodia have also become tourist attractions, bringing in unskilled visitors to volunteer for a couple weeks or even just drop by for an afternoon to look around. Psychologists argue that these practices exploit vulnerable children who are harmed by the revolving door of people, and humanitarian workers argue that short-term volunteers rarely make a meaningful impact. As a result, “anti-orphanage tourism” campaigns are prominent throughout Cambodia, aiming to discourage these activities. For travelers wanting to help the local community, a better option is to support local businesses and social enterprises or consider making a donation to an established organization.