Here’s a detailed packing list for Cambodia to help you remember everything you need to bring to fully enjoy exploring this amazing country.
Bayon, Angkor, Cambodia. With bonus geese. © Chris Mitchell
Cambodia is rapidly developing and is now a mainstream tourism destination, meaning it’s getting ever easier to go there and travel around. In Siem Reap, the town nearest the Angkor temples, and Phnom Penh, the country’s capital, there’s plenty of places to shop for supplies. Elsewhere in the country it’s slim pickings so it’s wise to bring everything you need.
Travel Insurance Is Absolutely Essential For Cambodia
Cambodia’s medical facilities are currently not world class. If you have any kind of illness or injury you will want to be immediately removed to a hospital in neighbouring Thailand for treatment (Bangkok’s Bumrungrad and Samitevej hospitals are internationally renowned). As such it’s vital to have travel insurance for Cambodia. We use and recommend World Nomads which you can quickly buy online. Having travel insurance will give you peace of mind for any medical emergencies in Cambodia as well as providing cover if you lose your passport, money or luggage. Don’t travel without it!
Medicines and Toiletries
A well stocked toiletry bag can make all the difference to how much you enjoy your trip to Cambodia or anywhere else. Upset stomachs, allergies, cuts and scratches, skin rashes, sunburn – all these minor ailments can really take the edge off your holiday enjoyment if they’re not treated immediately.
Travel First Aid Kit: a small, well designed first aid kit with plasters, disinfectant etc means you can quickly treat cuts and scratches and stop them getting infected
Sunscreen: always apply sunscreen each morning and afternoon generously and use at least SPF 30. The Cambodian sun is brutal, especially after 10 am in the morning. Wear a hat and cover up when possible. Apply first thing in the morning and first thing in the afternoon.
Mosquito Repellent: as well as sunscreen, a good squirt of mozzie repellent is another essential each morning. If you’re enjoying sundowners sitting outside on a verandah or similar, make sure you’ve liberally applied repellent before you go out, or covered up completely as mozzies love the dusk. It’s really worth paying attention to this as living with itchy mozzie bites can be miserable – prevention is most definitely better than cure.
Stay Hydrated: Dehydration is the number one cause of people feeling crappy. Many people are dehydrated before they even go on holiday, and a tropical country like Cambodia with heat and humidity will quickly increase that. Remember to drink at least 2 litres of bottled water a day, and drink before you feel thirsty. Bottled water is readily available in Cambodia and sage. If you’re planning an extended hike around the temples, a dedicated Camelbak hydration pack or similar may be worthwhile.
Hand sanitiser: always useful just in case you can’t wash your hands at a particular moment
Diarrhoea tablets: Imodium or similar is good for temporarily stabilising your system. Usually diarrhoea is caused by a big change in what you’re eating rather than actual food poisoning – remember to drink a lot of water and seek medical advice if it doesn’t clear up after a couple of days.
Indigestion medicine: Gaviscon is my go-to for curing heartburn or similar if drinking soda water and having a good burp doesn’t clear it up first. Gaviscon is particularly useful in its individual sachets – perfect for keeping in your day bag
Well designed toiletry bag – get a bag with compartments to make everything easy to organise and access. Magic2Door is a good example.
Quick Drying Towel: this lightweight, small foldaway is an essential item in any backpack – it ensures you can dry off in any situation and also doubles as a makeshift blanket, head wrap to protect from the sun
- Condoms: Holiday romance might blossom – be prepared, always have protected sex and make sure you take care of yourself and your partner. Condoms also make handy novelty balloons or water bombs. So I’m told.
Backpacks, Daybags and Luggage
If you’re backpacking in Cambodia, investing in a well-made backpack like Osprey will make all the difference to making it easy to carry everything with you and not destroy your back in the process. You’ll need a daypack for when you’ve found somewhere to put the big bag down.
If you’re doing a trip where you’re being met at the airport and are generally being chauffeured around, (e.g. Flying in simply to see Angkor) then standard luggage is fine. A daypack is still essential.
Packing Cubes: whatever type of luggage you choose, packing cubes are an invaluable way of keeping things organised and locating items easily without having to unpack everything.
- Travel Wallet: as with anywhere in the world, split your money so it’s in more than one place on your person. A travel wallet worn around the neck is a good way of stashing away valuables and then keep small bills etc in your pockets or a bum bag.
Luggage locks: inexpensive and worth having to keep anything going missing from your checked-in luggage while in transit. If you’re going in and out of the USA, you’ll need TSA-approved luggage locks.
Cambodia is hot all year round, even in rainy season – the heat and the humidity combine to make most tourists sweat a lot.
Tshirts, tops, trousers and shorts: Traditionally linen or cotton was the way to beat the heat but nowadays synthetic materials like those used by UnderArmour and similar sport brands are more effective at keeping you cool. Cotton and linen retain moisture as you sweat making the material damp and heavy – whereas synthetics wick the moisture away so remain feeling dry – or, at least, less sweaty.
Underwear: As well as UnderArmour tshirts and tops, I recommend investing in UnderArmour underwear – long boxer shorts for men and sports bras and panties for women keep sensitive areas cool and avoids chafing which can be extremely painful by the end of a day’s exploring.
I’d also suggest keeping some KY Jelly or other water-based lubricant handy to put on your sensitive skin areas to avoid chafing from underwear if you’re doing a lot of walking or other exercise. I know it sounds weird, but trust me, it will save you a lot of pain.
Hoodie: it might sound crazy to bring a hoodie to a tropical country but it’s perfect for keeping you warm on flights and doubles as a pillow and / or blanket – plus it’s useful to keep you dry and warm if there’s rain
A lightweight foldaway rain jacket is worth stashing in your bag for the same reason
Loose fitting long sleeved tops, trousers and long skirts: covering up in a hot climate might sound mad, but it’s great protection against the sun and mozzies. It’s worth having at least 1 baggy, long sleeved top and trousers to wear. If you’re wearing decent underwear you won’t get too hot.
CellPhones and Electronics
Get a decent shock absorbing case for your phone and tablet even if it obscures its graceful thin curves. You want a case that can safely protect the phone from being dropped on tiled floors and the like – the Otterbox range has saved my phone from several heart stopping fumbles.
if you’re travelling with a laptop, get a padded cover for it to keep it protected when not in use. Ensure you have a universal charger that has surge protection – it is not a myth that you can fry your computer due to power surges. Also invest in a decent daypack to make it comfortable to carry your laptop and keep a plastic bag within the pack to wrap your laptop in if it starts to rain. Most bags are NOT waterproof so don’t take the risk.
It’s easy – and cheap – to get a Cambodian SIM card at the airport when you arrive. This will save you a fortune in data costs so worth doing.
Ensure you have power for your phone while you’re out and about by getting a power bank – there are some very slim, lightweight, inexpensive models these days. Remember that taking photos and using Google Maps burns battery quickly.
Make sure you remember your phone charger!
You’ll need a Universal plug adaptor, preferably with surge protection. Cambodia uses 3 types of plug – 2 pin flat blade, 2 pin circular and the 3 pin plug, so an adapter is essential as you’ll never know what kind of plug socket you’re going to get.
Your phone also doubles as a torch with the flashlight function, but it’s wise to carry a tiny but super powerful torch on your keyring like the Nitecore Tube for better visibility both for you to see and to be seen by oncoming traffic etc. A personal security alarm that’s small but makes a huge noise is a good source of reassurance.
As your phone is probably the single most expensive item you will be carrying with you, consider getting specific insurance to cover it in car of breakage or loss. World Nomads offer an expensive item insurance policy which lets you protect phones, laptops, cameras and so on for extra peace of mind. Alternatively just buy a cheap alternative before you leave home
Planning Your Cambodia Trip – Flights, Visas, Hotels etc
If you haven’t done so already, compare the prices and timings of flights to Cambodia between all major airlines on Skyscanner. The two main airports are Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Guidebooks and online info: Cambodia is a big country with a lot to see. See the Travel Happy 1 week Cambodia itinerary and 2 week Cambodia itinerary for a sense of the major areas. For more detailed info, a guidebook like Lonely Planet Cambodia is still the easiest way to quickly get the specifics on each area
Passport, Vaccinations, Flight Tickets
The first thing you should check is the last thing you’ll read on this list to make sure you do it right now! Double check the critical items you need:
Make sure your passport has at least 6 months validity, and at least one blank page;
Check what type of visa you need for Cambodia. Most nationalities can get a visa on arrival at Siem Reap or Phnom Penh airports for $20 USD (you’ll need a passport photo too). I wrote about getting a visa on arrival at Siem Reap airport.
Check what vaccinations you need for Cambodia (see the FitForTravel website for recommendations) and get them at least 6 weeks before you depart;
if you have any prescription medicines, visit your doctor to get enough to keep you well supplied during your trip
Did I mention this before? Ensure you have travel insurance to cover you in case of any medical emergency, your luggage goes missing or other travel mishaps. Sorry to sound like your mum but it’s important!