Photo: Now that is a Royal Palace.

One week in Cambodia

Most first-time travellers to Cambodia opt for a trip like this – the bulk of the time spent exploring Angkor Wat and a quick trip to the capital Phnom Penh. Experiencing the grandeur of Angkor and the rustic charm of Phnom Penh allows first-time travellers the opportunity to see two extremes of the Cambodian nation.

Itinerary map



In a short trip to Cambodia like this you're you're visiting just the two locations – both of which are well-connected by boat, road and air – but there is ample opportunity for side-trips and extensions. Both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have international airports, so if you're in a hurry, look to fly in and out of the country. Those with more time can overland in and out of the country – Cambodia has overland borders with all of its neighbours.

Angkor Wat: There is nowhere else like it.

Angkor Wat: There is nowhere else like it. Photo: Caroline Major

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When to go

Cambodia has two distinct seasons – hot and wet and hot and dry – with the least hot dry part of the year, between November and January, being the most popular time to visit. Dry season runs from November to April on the back of the northeast monsoon and the wet season runs from May to October courtesy of the southwest monsoon, bringing with it some three quarters of Cambodia's annual rainfall. July to September are the wettest months characterised by some transport difficulties, especially in rural areas where roads can be damaged, and flooding – we're looking at you Phnom Penh.

As November to January is the most popular time to visit, it is also the most crowded and risking a bit of rain can pay off with slightly reduced crowds. Wet season does bring with it some minor advantages – Angkor Wat for one can be spectacular after a monsoon thunderstorm – just pack an umbrella. Cambodia's islands are not recommended in the height of wet season.


Ummmm. Photo: Stuart McDonald

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Suggested trip length

The suggested minimum time for a trip like this is four days, though at least a week is far more comfortable. With more days, you'll have enough time to slow down and smell the coffee so to speak, be that enough time to see points of interest in and around Siem Reap aside from Angkor Wat – visiting the Tonle Sap perhaps – or more time to explore fascinating Phnom Penh.

If you have less than four days, say two or three, then we would strongly recommend visiting just Siem Reap OR Phnom Penh – as if you try and fit both in you'll be spending most of your time shuttling between the two and really won't have enough time to get much out of either. Which one to drop? Well, if you've never been to Cambodia before, Angkor is about as close as it gets to a must see, so we'd be going with Siem Reap (the launching point for Angkor) and saving Phnom Penh for another time.

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Sample plan

1) Arrive Siem Reap (Angkor Wat – allow at least two days)
2) Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (capital city, Khmer Rouge history, colonial architecture, scenic riverside setting – allow two days)

The shocking Tuol Sleng.

The shocking Tuol Sleng. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

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Save some time

One day: fly from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
Two days: Fly into and out of Cambodia – both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have international airports.

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Take a side trip

Two days: Not far southwest of Siem Reap lies Battambang – a small, less touristed riverside town: visit ruins, see village life and take a ride on a nori!

Two days: Head north from Phnom Penh for an overnight stay at Kompong Cham where you can visit temples, silk villages and explore tributaries of the Mekong River.

Three days: Head south from Phnom Penh to Kampot and Kep to relax in the old seaside resort town of Kep and explore the mountain top Bokor National Park.

Three days: Head south from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville – Cambodia's premiere seaside destination. Note though this is not recommended in wet season.

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Sample trip times (in hours)

To help you work out how you'll get around, we've listed the trip durations for the various forms of transport available. Note that with the exception of flight times, these are average trip times, so no hate mail if you take the slow train.

CAMBODIA: One week explorer
From To Air Bus Train Boat Book online
Siem Reap Phnom Penh 1:10 5:00 - 6:00-8:00 Check rates
Siem Reap Battambang - 4:00 - 3:00-7:00 -
Phnom Penh Kompong Cham - 4:00 - - -
Phnom Penh Kampot - 3:00 - - Check rates
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More itineraries

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The region

This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.