Traveling in Cambodia has certainly become easier in recent years, but someone who’s trying to get anywhere in the company of a dog is often met with transport staff who shake their heads and apologetically say, “Can not, can not.” Is it possible to travel with a dog in Cambodia, and how difficult is it? We found out when we decided to travel with our puppy to Koh Rong Sanloem.
Royal Railway staff confirmed that dogs are not allowed on their service to the coast, and a number of bus reps gave me the same message, so a private taxi seemed to be the only option to get to Sihanoukville, the jumping-off point to the islands.
Not many Cambodian hotels and guesthouses allow pets, so I knew I’d better plan ahead, rather than just turn up and hope for the best. Even in Phnom Penh, dogs aren’t welcomed by most places. Of the more than 400 hotels, hostels, and guesthouses listed for Phnom Penh on one popular booking site, only 30 say they allow pets. Yes, that’s less than 10 percent.
Still, there are pet-friendly options for most budgets. And selecting the “pets” filter on Booking.com brought up a handful of options in Sihanoukville and on Koh Rong Sanloem that would accommodate two people and a puppy in need of shelter.
We spent a night in Sihanoukville at La Luna. (Pros: nice little garden area, very close to ferry terminal. Cons: nighttime noise from nearby club, but hey, it’s in Sihanoukville.) The next day we had no trouble getting the ferry over to Koh Rong Sanloem, aside from actually getting the dog into the ferry—nautical she ain’t. None of the staff seemed at all bothered by her presence. In fact, there was another dog on board on our return trip a few days later.
We were pleased to discover that Koh Rong Sanloem itself is very dog-friendly. The wide sandy beaches and forest walks gave our puppy plenty of space to run around in, and the other dogs we met, mostly belonging to guesthouses and restaurants on the island, were usually friendly.
Koh Rong Sanloem’s main beach, Saracen Bay, has developed quickly since the days when Lazy Beach was the only accommodation on the island. Today it offers a mix that ranges from low-cost backpacker party options all the way up to $120-a-night luxury. The island’s Cambodian restaurants serve standard seafood and noodle dishes, and there’s Turkish, Italian, and French cuisine for those missing the foods of home. And the best part is, they’re all dog-friendly.
Beach Park Resort was as dog-friendly as advertised and even had its own cute puppy to serve as a playmate. The evening music was rather too loud for the aging ears of the humans in our party, though. Somewhere catering less to flashpackers might be a better option to fully enjoy the islands, and finding a dog-friendly option on the notoriously laid-back islands isn’t difficult.
As for dog-entertaining adventures, the two-hour hike to the old French-colonial lighthouse is a standout, with an easy-to-follow trail through forests complete with monkeys and water buffalo for puppy distraction. (Enjoy these forests before they disappear!) The view from the top is worth the effort, but remember to bring water, since there is none to be found along the way.
And then there are the beaches, of course. White sands, clear water, and plenty of guesthouse staff picking up litter (especially over at Lazy Beach—great job, guys!) make the effort of getting to the island totally worth it, for however long you are able to escape the bustle and heat of Phnom Penh. Your dog will probably appreciate the change in scenery as much as you do.