Cambodia - Before you go
Tips for vegan travellers
The country is amazing in every aspect. From ancient temple ruins in the jungle to white sand beaches, the landscape is simply a paradise. Along with fresh, delicious fruit and well prepared plant-based khmer dishes, Cambodia’s also more vegan-friendly than you might expect it to be. Here’s a quick round up of our trip and a handful of good tips so you too will hopefully experience a great journey as a vegan traveller in Cambodia.
Oyster sauce is very common in Cambodia and unfortunately also often used in vegetarian/vegan dishes. Don’t let that discourage you. Many pure vegetarian restaurants know the struggle and already indicate on the menu that they don’t use oyster sauce. At every other place you got to be sure and ask. However, if there’s no English speaking staff, you can rely on a Khmer translation. Movetocambodia.com made a very helpful list of ingredients that vegetarians or vegans do not wish to eat. We had to hand it over a few times and were very grateful it existed. Especially outside touristic places you cannot rely on English. A huge thank you to Lina Goldberg! (link below)
Another good source of information, besides happycow, was veganfoodquest. There’s an appreciable list of places with vegan options for many towns we relied on.
Where to go
Our two week trip included Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kampot, Sihanoukville/Otres and Koh Rong Samloem. You can read our experiences here and we can recommend pretty much everything we did. But there’s so many places we did not get to see that should be just as adventurous and fascinating. I.e. there’s Battambang, which gives, according to Lonely Planet and other blogs, a good insight in the real life of Cambodia. North of Angkor Thom you can find even more temples which should be less crowded and worth visiting. You’ll find enough spots to get off the beaten path.
Keep in mind that the places we’ve been to had a low to no risk of malaria. The border to Thailand or the north east of Cambodia have a much higher risk. Nevertheless you should be equipped with a good spray no matter where you go as dengue fever is also (respectiveley more) common in urban areas.
Outside the busy cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh we recommend renting a scooter to head out on your own and explore the environment. Some of our highlights happened that way, like cruising through the Ream National Park and small villages that probably don’t see many foreigners. However, bikes are not allowed to the area of Angkor Wat. You have to rely on tuk tuks, bycicles or your feet if you want to make your way around the temples.
Another highlight of ours was Kampot. The small, quiet town was just the right place after busy Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Delicious food, a ride along the rice paddies to the pepper farm, the sunset at the Kampot River and the peaceful Wat created great memories of our short stay.
Until now we didn’t talk about Cambodia’s history and the gruesome reign of the Khmer Rouge. You can visit the killing fields and museums if you are interested and want to learn more about these terrible events. We read a lot about it before visiting Cambodia and decided not to go to these places on purpose.
How to get around in Cambodia
To get from one place to the other, we often took the Giant Ibis Bus. A kind of “luxury” company that offers wi-fi and air conditioning. Considering that you spend about 6 hours in the bus, the choice was well made. We even took their night bus to travel from Siem Reap back to Phnom Penh. The seats were almost everytime sold out, so make sure you make a reservation in advance (online or at one of their offices). From Kampot to Sihanoukville, we hopped on a mini bus from Kampot Tours (again crowded, booked the day before). If you want to go to one of the islands of Koh Rong, you can buy a ferry ticket at every corner in Sihanoukville.
For everything else, there is always a tuk tuk waiting for you. Make sure to negociate and settle on a price before you hop on board. If your accomodation is somewhat remote, meaning not in the city centre, it helps by giving the driver clear directions or at least check your offline map where you are heading to. Almost every tuk tuk driver in Siem Reap lied about knowing where our resort was and got lost, so we had to turn on gps and show them the way.
To round it up, here’s a gallery of photos that didn’t make it into our articles. Thanks for reading!
Cambodia Travel Log
read about our journey