Cambodia is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is an area of 181,035 square kilometers, bordered by Thailand in the northwest, Laos in the northeast, Vietnam in the east and the Gulf of Thailand in the southwest.
Cambodia’s climate, like the other countries of Southeast Asia, is dominated by monsoons. Hence, Cambodia has two distinct seasons: rainy and dry.
Below is some breakdown information to help you figure out when you should travel to Cambodia.
1. Dry season – Best season in the year – From November to April/Early May
Cambodia’s dry season lasts from November to April (sometimes to early May), which is itself subdivided into a cooler season and a warmer season. The cool (and dry) season spans from November to February: this is the peak time for tourism, with higher hotel rates and temperatures being mild enough (down to about 24°C) to explore temples comfortably yet also warm enough to enjoy the beaches along the coast. Humidity and temperatures start to rise from March to May, Phnom Penh reaching 32°C on average. This is an excellent time to sunbathe on the coast near Kep and Sihanoukville, while visiting Angkor Wat should probably wait for the weather to cool.
2. Rainy Season – Early mid-May to October
Cambodia’s wet season comes from the southwest monsoon and lasts from May to October, bringing with it almost 75% of Cambodia’s annual rainfall. Across Cambodia, throughout much of the rainy season, daytime average temperatures come to 27°C. The early months of the wet season (May – July) remain very hot with infrequent rainfall under the form of short downpours. In the last months, (late July – September) the rain tends to become more constant, especially in coastal and rural regions.
Traveling in the more remote corners of the country, such as Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri, is almost impossible due to the state of the roads. There is also a very limited access to Bamboo Island (near Kep) due to the high seas.
On the upside, traveling in monsoonal Cambodia does have advantages. The dust is gone and the lush greenery of the countryside returns. Angkor Wat, in particular, is stunning in the wet season, with moats brimming with water while visitors become scarce. High rainfall makes it the perfect time of the year for visiting the flooded forests and floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake by boat, as it swells to more than 5 times its size during the wet season.
In general, the best time to visit Cambodia is:
3. What you shouldn’t miss while traveling here:
a. Main cities you should visit: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kampot, Kep, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong Samloem
b. Key festivals throughout the year:
- Chaul Chnam Thmey: marks the end of the harvest and the start of the new year with three days of brightly decorated streets and cultural and sporting events. Cambodians clean and embellish their homes, make offerings at temples and throw water at each other as a blessing. While most Cambodian holidays follow the lunar calendar, Chaul Chnam Thmey follows the Gregorian calendar – celebrated for three days, from April 13 to 15.
- Royal Ploughing Day: the land and agriculture are highly significant for Cambodians, with oxen being central, even spiritual, to farming. Each May, next to the Royal Palace, an ox receives different types of food, and its choice what he eats is interpreted as a prediction of the success – or otherwise – of the following harvest. Look out for people in colourful Khmer clothing.
- Meak Bochea celebrates the spontaneous visit of 1,250 monks to pay homage to the Buddha. On the corresponding Gregorian calendar, the date for Meak Bochea is February 19th, 2019.
- Bon Om Touk (Water festival) is celebrated during the full moon of the 12th month of the Khmer lunar calendar. If the celebrations go on, they will take place on the following date of the Gregorian calendar: November 22nd, 2018.
c. Some places you should check out:
Angkor Wat, Killing Fields, Cardamom Mountains, Phnom Sampeu, Kampot River, Bokor Mountain, Kep Butterfly Farm, Preah Vihear temple…
d. Clothes to pack:
Light clothes, sneakers, swimwear, sunglasses, sunscreen.
Other notices for you while traveling to Cambodia
- Language: Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. It is spoken by over 90% of the country’s population. In recent years, Cambodia has seen a rise in tourism which has led to an increase in the use of English, especially in the biggest country’s towns.
- Currency: Cambodian Riel. Cambodia also uses US dollars for almost everything, thus you may sometimes receive Riel as change.
1 USD = 4,048 at the moment we are writing this post.
- Visa: a 30-day tourist visa is required for all visitors coming to Cambodia. Visas can be obtained on arrival for $30 in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Preah Sihanouk. It can be extended at the embassy in Phnom Penh for $45 for an additional 30-days. Citizens coming from ASEAN nations can get a free visa on arrival which lasts 30 days.
- Transportation: transportation from one place to another is fairly easy to find in Cambodia and is quite efficient. We recommend you downloading the appropriate apps (Grab, Pass App) and using the related websites to view bus, boat, and train schedules ahead of time.
- Accommodation: dorm rooms in hostels start from around 5$ per night. Private rooms in hostels and guesthouses generally go for 10$ per night, depending on where you are in the country or town. Free Wi-Fi is now common to every hostel, and a some of them will also include free breakfast. You can find comfortable guesthouse rooms for 20$ with air conditioning, TV, and other amenities.