What to pack on a trip to Cambodia.

What currency do they use in Cambodia?

Whilst Cambodia does have its own currency (the Cambodian riel), it is secondary to the country’s de facto currency which is the US dollar. The reason the dollar is so popular is that the country had its currency wiped out by the totalitarian regime of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. In the absence of a national currency, the USD took its place as the country’s preferred method of payment, and has remained popular ever since.

With travel cards from companies such as Revolut and Monzo, you can convert your chosen currency into USD and withdraw it at the number of cash machines around Cambodia (ABA, ANZ, Canadia Bank). This prevents you paying unnecessary fees on withdrawals from your debit or credit cards from home.
However, just be prepared that in lieu of American coins in Cambodia, change from USD transactions will be given to you in riel. The way you can figure out the right change is to know that 4000 riel is equivalent to $1 (July 2019), so it might require a little bit of maths on your behalf! Ultimately, you will find that most day-to-day transactions will require you to pay with cash, so make sure that you are suitably prepared to tackle each day with USD (and riel) on your person.

What kind of rucksack for travelling Cambodia?

A lightweight backpack is a must-have whilst travelling around Cambodia. The backpack is vital for a number of things but the main items I lugged around on a daily basis included: bottled water, sunscreen, food, and miscellaneous documents.
More often than not you will find yourself in the back of a tuk tuk or maybe even a bike, and anything cumbersome and heavy will make those journeys even more uncomfortable and that little bit more adventurous.
If you are looking for a brand, I would recommend a bag made by Osprey. I was able to pick up the Farpoint 80L which is a 2-in-1 design; it functions either as a big travel bag, or unzips and becomes a very convenient, multi-weather backpack.
Whichever way you look at it, you will need something lightweight and pragmatic to carry around Cambodia.

Temple at Angkor Wat in Cambodia with trees in the foreground and a cloudy sky in the background

What to wear in Cambodia?

If you have never travelled to South East Asia before, you’ll discover unparalleled levels of heat and humidity you never thought possible. Throughout our ten days in Cambodia, we encountered an average of 86% humidity in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. This makes simple tasks such as walking seem like you are hiking in the cauldrons of hell. Light fabrics and white colours are a must in these conditions. Softer, lighter fabrics not only keep you cool, but they also act as a deterrent to pesky insects such as mosquitos, which are naturally drawn to darker colours.

In the hotter but more inclement months (March up until August), temperatures will rise from the 20s up to the 40s, so wearing jeans or long, restrictive trousers is nonsensical and totally impractical. You want to be wearing comfortable shorts or loose-fitting trousers which have plenty of ventilation, otherwise you will have some seriously uncomfortable sweat to worry about.

Equally, one of the best things to take with you to Cambodia is a comfortable but durable pair of walking and/or hiking shoes. On average in Cambodia we found ourselves walking in excess of 10km per day. This figure spiked when we visited Siem Reap and Angkor Wat and we were driven and guided most of the way there!
Not only is it sensible in terms of comfort but also safety. Many of the roads, pathways, walkways are not well maintained, so a good pair of shoes with sturdy grip is invaluable in traversing across the country. 

So, be kind to your feet and make an investment in some comfortable and safe shoes, otherwise you will soon discover walking in Cambodia to be an exhaustive, painful, and perilous exercise.

What to wear at Angkor Wat?

Both men and women have to be aware that they must abide by certain clothing rules whilst visiting Angkor Wat, too. Men are advised to keep their knees and shoulders covered.

Women are equally encouraged to keep their knees and shoulders covered but are also encouraged to not where anything “revealing”. Whilst these rules might seem draconian, they must be adhered to or you will not gain entry into the temple complex. 

I guarantee you'll be fine getting into any area of Angkor Wat in a pair of light-weight trousers and one of our Cambodia t-shirts - which even has a miniature Angkor Wat as part of the logo as a little reminder of your trip.

Man wearing rucksack walking towards Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Do I need insect repellent for Cambodia?

Now, I am unfortunate enough to be seen as a Michelin star rated meal by the insect world. Wherever I seem to travel to, I am incessantly bitten and attacked by a myriad of insects including mosquitoes, sand flies, and a collection of other nasties. However, since using DEET and Jungle Formula, my tasty blood and soft skin have remained untouched by the belligerent insects of the world, but most importantly, I remained bite free in mosquito dense Cambodia.

One caveat, though: avoid repellents with a concentration over 70%. This can cause your skin to become irritated and can cause damage to your skin with prolonged usage. My advice is to dab a small amount of the repellent on to a leg or an arm to make sure that it does not cause any redness or irritation.

If you are planning on visiting Angkor Wat or the surrounding jungle, it is an absolute imperative that you have the right repellent at your disposal. Mosquitos are particularly prevalent throughout the temple complex, so if mosquitos do have a predilection for your flesh and blood, then make sure you are adequately prepared or you will be exceedingly itchy for a little while.

A baby monkey sat down at Angkor Wat in Cambodia

What toiletries do I need for Cambodia?

Cambodia, for all of its boundless beauty, does have some serious problems with sanitation. It is easy as a Westerner to be supercilious but certain standards of hygiene are not safe or conducive for many foreign travellers.

I was very unfortunate to have a nasty bout of food poisoning whilst in Cambodia but I was very lucky that it did not ruin a significant chunk of the trip. My advice would be to pack some Imodium tablets; these will soften any nasty side effects that you may have if you eat anything that turns out to have been spoilt.

Also, whilst in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, I noticed that a lot of public toilets do not have soap or antibacterial dispensers. As a forward to this, I would suggest packing some strong antibacterial hand gel or hand wipes.

What kind of plug sockets are there in Cambodia?

Naturally you will find yourself using your electronics throughout your travels.
A decent and reliable powerbank would not go amiss during your travels as plug sockets are incredibly rare in public spaces.

Also, make sure that you are able to charge your electronics with the necessary travel adapter. Many of the plug sockets that I encountered were Type A but Cambodia also uses Type C and Type G plug sockets but I rarely encountered these types on my travels.

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