Things you should know (and buy) before heading to Koh Rong.
Before you go, you should be aware that Koh Rong is actually quite a large island, and because it does not have roads, different parts of the island are not easily accessible. So make sure you know where you are heading before you depart — you may need to take a taxi boat from to Koh Toch pier, or organize a boat from your guesthouse.
Although Koh Rong is the most developed of Cambodia’s islands, it still lacks some of the basic amenities you might expect. The trip from the island back to the mainland shore is at least an hour each way, so it’s best to be prepared in advance.
There are no ATMs on the island and no one accepts credit cards. However, some guesthouses are now doing credit-card-for-cash deals at extortionate rates, with fees around 10% or more. It’s better to bring enough cash to see you through your trip, and it is likely you will need more than you think!
Thefts are not uncommon on the island so we suggest bringing a lock for your suitcase or backpack. You might consider using a money belt if you’re bringing a lot of cash with you.
Recommended purchases before leaving Sihanoukville include: insect repellent, sunblock, cortisone cream (do not underestimate the power of Koh Rong mosquitoes, sand flies, and the occasional bedbug), condoms, shampoo and conditioner, and any medications you might need. If you’re mosquito sensitive, bring a mosquito-killing bat, and if you’re visiting in rainy season, a can of bug killer for your bungalow isn’t a bad idea. Many of the bungalows are very noisy, so we recommend bringing a pair of earplugs just in case.
We always bring baby wipes and a small first-aid kit with band-aids, antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, and Imodium, because facilities on the island are not particularly hygienic and small cuts and scrapes are common.
Things like insect repellent and sunblock are available on the island, as well as a limited supply of basic medications, but are often sold at inflated prices.
A sarong and a pair of flip-flops are completely optional but always handy. There are no roads, only sand beaches, so walking in sneakers is almost impossible. However, if you plan on doing any jungle trekking, bring close-toed shoes to protect your feet from snakes and other creepy-crawlies. Also, it’s recommended that you not trek through the jungle alone, particularly if you are female. There’s not a lot of crime on the island, but there’s enough that it is best not to be in secluded places on your own. It’s respectful to keep your clothes on around Cambodians, so bring a cover-up to wear over your bikini if you’re staying in a village or plan to visit one.
Because Internet on the island is poor, download anything you need before you leave the mainland. You can get digital books, music, and movies at the Rouge shop in Sihanoukville before you go. There are also several bookstores in Sihanoukville where you can pick up some light island reading.
Sandflies are a problem on parts of the island. Some people aren’t affected much by the bites, but others find them excruciating, so a very strong DEET insect repellent is a must. We’ve also heard coconut oil repels them. We’re sad to say that bedbugs are a common complaint as well, but we don’t know of anything that can protect you from that. When you check in at your guesthouse or bungalow, check the beds and look closely at the mattresses. If you seen any signs of bedbugs, ask to switch rooms.
If you require phone or Internet while you are on Koh Rong, get a Metfone or Smart SIM card before you arrive. It’s even possible to get a 4G connection with Smart, and you can create a hotspot with your phone to get your laptop online.
All these recommendations may seem like overkill, but whenever we’ve gone to the islands unprepared we’ve regretted it, so don’t make that mistake!
Looking for more? View the full Koh Rong island guide for tips on where to stay, what to eat, and where to party.
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