Review: Cambodia Angkor Air, Siem Reap to Sihanoukville

Cambodia Angkor Air’s Sihanoukville to Siem Reap flight has been in existence for two-and-a-half years. There is a lot of chatter online about this flight, so I decided to try it myself and see what all of the fuss is about.

Cambodia Angkor Air ATR72

Cambodia Angkor Air uses smaller ATR72s for the Siem Reap to Sihanoukville route.

Back in 2007, a PMTair flight from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville crashed in Kampot province, killing everyone on board. This was end of both PMTair and domestic flights in Cambodia outside of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (PMTair included Sihanoukville and Ratanakiri in its route map). It wasn’t until the end of 2011 that flights between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville started again, this time with Cambodia Angkor Air.

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The 10 best things to do on Otres

Located on the sunny shores of Southern Cambodia, the coastal community of Otres is so much more than just a beach destination. Although it is the perfect place to while away a few days enjoying sun, sand, and sea, you only have to scratch the surface and you’ll discover a fascinating community and an amazing array of activities to keep you entertained. As part of our guide to this beautiful beach, here’s our definitive list of the top things to do on Otres. We like the place so much that there are actually 11 activities on our top 10 list!

Things to do in Otres

Hit the high seas with a boat trip from Otres.

Boat trip

The classic. Become a castaway for a day exploring the spectacular beaches and colorful coral reefs of the numerous remote tropical islands off the coast of Southern Cambodia. Most boat trips from Otres take in up to three different islands, include snorkeling gear, lunch and beer and cost about $15. You can also hire a private boat for a group of you to go out deep sea fishing or go exploring in any direction you like!

Maximize your time in tropical paradise with a night or 2 at one of the beautiful rustic resorts on the picture-perfect island of Koh ta Kiev.

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How to get to Kep

Wondering how to get to Kep? Check our handy guide to getting to Kep from Phnom Penh, Kampot, Sihanoukville, and Siem Reap. We’ll cover all of your options for how to get to Kep, including taxis, tuk tuks, mini-buses, and even a riverboat.

How to get to Kep

Kep is within reach. Here’s how to get there.

How to get to Kep from Phnom Penh

Bus: Phnom Penh Sorya runs four buses a day to Kep, at 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:45 p.m. Tickets cost $7 and while they claim that the trip takes 3.5 hours, Sorya buses are known for usually taking at least an hour more than their estimated time, and sometimes several hours more. Sorya is not one of our favorite bus companies in Cambodia — all of their buses are quite old — but this is the only full-size bus that goes from Phnom Penh to Kep and tickets can be purchased online.

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Cambodia’s Water Festival

Cambodia’s famous Water Festival is one of the highlights of the calendar year, bringing together people from across the country for three unforgettable days of boat racing, fireworks and festivities. Heralding the end of the rainy season and the coming of the Harvest moon, the Water & Moon Festival, or Bon Om Touk, has been celebrated along the banks of Phnom Penh’s famed Sisowath Quay for hundreds of years.

Phnom Penh water festival

Enjoying the celebrations on the Phnom Penh riverside.

After the cancellation of the event in recent years, 2016’s festival marks just the second Water Festival since the tragic events of 2010. This year, the Water Festival falls on November 13th to 15th to coincide with the full moon of the Buddhist calendar month of Kadeuk. Also known as the Harvest Moon, the moon has long been seen as a good omen promising a bountiful rice crop. This auspicious day is celebrated in villages all across Cambodia, but none more jubilantly than in the capital, where the carnival-like atmosphere of the Water Festival is illuminated by the light of the full moon.

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It’s not just a temple…Banteay Srei District in Siem Reap

Most who have heard of Banteay Srei know it as one of the outlying temples of Angkor in Siem Reap. But Banteay Srei is more than just a single temple — it’s a whole district that has retained much of the charm of provincial Cambodia. These days, Siem Reap is a built-up tourist town that can feel more international than Cambodian. However, the rice paddies of Banteay Srei District are only a short ride away, and well worth stopping by for a day or two to see rural life in Cambodia before development changes the face of it.

Banteay Srei Siem Reap

Banteay Srei is still Siem Reap province but feels like it’s a world away.

Local business owners in Banteay Srei have started an awareness campaign to encourage tourism beyond the temple, and in truth the district offers a surprising number of activities for visitors. True, these offerings are not as polished as what you’ll find in the town of Siem Reap. But that’s Banteay Srei’s charm — its lack of experience with tourists means that it has retained the beauty and local flavor of the Cambodian countryside. Continue reading

The best backpacker hostels on Otres

The beautiful white sandy beaches of Otres are home to some of the best backpacker hostels in Southern Cambodia. The laid-back cousin of Sihanoukville, Otres is famous for its chilled vibes and rustic charm. While those seeking hot showers, AC, and swimming pools may still prefer the plush high-end digs of the city, if you’re looking for a home away from home on one of the most beautiful beaches in Cambodia, then you’ve come to the right place. Our helpful guide to budget accommodation on Otres will help you find the perfect place to set up shop for a few nights or even a few months!

Backpacker hostels Otres Sihanoukville beach

Guide to the best hostels of Otres (so you can stay forever).

The community of Otres is divided into three unique and varied locales, the backpacker-friendly Otres 1, the relaxed riverside haven of Otres Village and the more upscale Otres 2. Divided by an empty kilometer-long stretch of white sands and palm trees, Otres 1 and Otres 2 both have some of the best dorms and budget rooms around, with unbeatable sea views, Netflix lounges, family-style dinners and 50-cent draft beer.

Set a little way back from the beach, the up-and-coming Otres Village is home to the only free dorm in Sihanoukville*. Even with the world renowned Otres Market drawing in big crowds every Saturday, and an ever expanding array of new bars, restaurants, and activities, Otres Village still retains a relaxed riverside atmosphere. Plus, with the beach just five minutes away, you will never feel like you’re missing out.

With so much to choose from, it can be tough to make a decision, but that’s where we come in! So, without any further ado, this is our definitive guide to the best backpackers hostels on Otres. Continue reading

Cambodia scams: US dollar and currency scams

Foreigners living in large cities in Cambodia have the distinct advantage of using US dollars to pay for most goods and services (for now). Americans especially will appreciate being able to withdraw funds from their US bank accounts without having to ponder the classic currency exchange question of the ages — do you withdraw in local currency or USD?

However, the lack of currency import and export controls, and other relatively loose financial regulation, leaves several traps for the unwary, and can lead to expensive and embarrassing transactions. This is not a new problem, but one that seems to bubble up especially around major holidays and during tourist season. Here are some classic Cambodia currency traps:

Ripped bills Cambodia

Ripped, torn, or worn: These US dollars were all rejected in Cambodia.

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The best backpacker hostels in Sihanoukville

Before deciding which Sihanoukville hostel is right for you, it is important to understand the layout of town. There are three tourist hotspots: Victory Hill, Serendipity Beach, and Otres Beach. All areas have their own unique characteristics and are spaced along the coast around 7km apart from one another. In this guide to Sihanoukville’s best hostels, we’ll cover backpacker hostels in all three areas.

Monkey Republic Sihanoukville

Monkey Republic is one of the most popular hostels on Serendipity Beach Road.

Serendipity Beach is where all the action is. It is located at the center of the Sihanoukville coast line and delivers pretty much everything you could want from a coastal town: beach bars, loud music, and drinks served in buckets.

Victory Hill is the quietest of the three, and is more of an expat community than a tourist destination. It has some good restaurants for bargain prices, and it may be a place to keep in mind if you want to get away from the party scene in Sihanoukville.
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Which Cambodian island paradise is right for you?

With azure seas lapping at white sandy beaches, palm trees, and a horizon dotted with tropical islands, southern Cambodia is reminiscent of Thailand of days gone by. Thoughts of Cambodia normally conjure up images of temples, yellow-robed monks, and children riding buffalo through rice paddies, but the country also offers island paradises with days spent lazing on lush tropical beaches and nights partying away at an all-night jungle rave. With so many options to choose from you may wonder how to choose, but this handy summary will help you find your perfect Cambodia island destination.

Where the Cambodian coast meets the Gulf of Thailand, the ocean is dotted with hundreds of islands, with over 25 off the coast of Sihanoukville and Ream National Park alone. Although some are uninhabited and others are privately owned, there is definitely a sandy island paradise somewhere that’s just waiting to tick all your boxes!

Koh Rong Koh Toch

Koh Rong is known for cheap accommodation and more fun than you can handle.

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Understanding Phnom Penh property types

Cambodia’s capital city has more and more housing built every day, but most Phnom Penh real estate fall into one of six categories: Traditional Khmer houses, Khmer-style shophouses, renovated shophouses, Western apartments, full-service apartments, and freestanding villas.

Cambodian wooden house

Expats romanticize Cambodian wooden houses, but they aren’t easy to find!

Traditional Khmer houses

As Phnom Penh grows, traditional wooden Khmer houses are harder and harder to find in the city. Cambodian wooden houses are made of wood and on stilts (this isn’t the first year Phnom Penh has flooded, after all); traditionally the breezy area under the house was used for hanging hammocks, lounging, and keeping livestock safe. Today, almost all available wooden houses in Phnom Penh have been renovated, and the downstairs will have been turned into a ground floor made from concrete, and many have been turned into restaurants. While the idea of a wooden house is charming, they can be hot and prone to mosquitoes — many expats find themselves spending most of their time in the concrete part of the house because it’s easier to keep cool with air-conditioning. Continue reading