Cambodia holidays, Phnom Penh & Angkor

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24 Dec 2016
£ 2050
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17 Jan 2017
£ 1850
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Holiday type

Small group holiday

This is a 'small group adventure' - you will be sharing your experiences with like minded people. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 11 persons, a genuinely small group. Experience has taught us that smaller groups are less intrusive to local cultures and environments whilst allowing more interaction with local people. Furthermore it means greater flexibility on a day to day basis and on a social level it proves to be fun. Whether you are travelling alone or with friends/family its good value, and a great way to meet new people! The intention is to travel as a group of friends rather than a typical tour group, so don't expect stick-on name badges or any following the umbrella.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Cambodia holidays, Phnom Penh & Angkor

Environment

On our Cambodia holidays, all passengers are issued with a Staying Healthy in Cambodia leaflet, which was produced by an English doctor who works with The Cambodia Trust. In payment for her time and knowledge in compiling the leaflet we made a donation to the Trust, whose aim is to help people with disability regain their mobility, dignity and self-sufficiency, so they can lead full and productive lives as part of the community. We encourage our passengers to make contribution to the Trust at www.cambodiatrust.org.uk.

Throughout the duration of our Cambodia holidays we help sustain local businesses and enterprises through regular visits to their sites (and if present souvenir shops). These include the handicraft school for handicapped persons in Siem Reap and the 'land-mine museum' in Siem Reap where we help support the organizer's mine clearance operations through donations.

During our Cambodia holidays, travellers are taken to a family home just outside Siem Reap to enjoy traditional Khmer food which we purchase then enjoy with the family. This provides a unique insight into the everyday lives of the Cambodian people as well as fostering deeper understanding of the people themselves. It shows our passengers that there is more to Cambodia than stunning temples and a tragic history.

Information: Providing suitable, relevant information for our customers; to help them to gain a wider understanding of our style of tourism that focuses on learning, genuine interaction with the local communities, reciprocity and cultural exchange processes. To be aware of the potential impact of tourism on the local society, culture and environment, and to behave and dress appropriately with a respect and appreciation for local customs, mores and traditions and a respect for the ecology of areas visited. Our guides and leaders thus facilitate communication of our values to both travellers and local communities, educating them in sustainable tourism practices

Group sizes: By limiting groups to small sizes we aim to reduce the impact on both local communities and the environment whilst allowing for greater genuine interaction with said communities. It also results in a higher guide/customer ratio thus greater facility for supervision and individual assistance and allows us to use smaller hotels and restaurants and employ the services of more genuinely ‘local’ operators perhaps not otherwise well equipped for larger groups.

Destinations: We combine the well known tourist sites with many off-the-beaten-track, rarely visited destinations thus diverting tourist revenue and contact with responsible tourism into areas not usually benefiting as well as providing a more authentic view of the region visited.

Local products: As much as possible we aim to employ local personnel, (guides, drivers, agents etc), use local restaurants and smaller privately owned accommodation. Customers are also encouraged to buy and use local products and services as much as possible in order to support and stimulate the local economy.

Instruction: By explaining our methods and the reasons behind them local agents, guides and hotels are encouraged by us to adopt further responsible tourism practices themselves and guides and drivers are provided with additional training in this respect.

Community

Local products: As much as possible we aim to employ local personnel, (guides, drivers, agents etc), use local restaurants and smaller privately owned accommodation. Customers are also encouraged to buy and use local products and services as much as possible in order to support and stimulate the local economy.

Instruction: By explaining our methods and the reasons behind them local agents, guides and hotels are encouraged by us to adopt further responsible tourism practices themselves and guides and drivers are provided with additional training in this respect.

Reviews of Cambodia holidays, Phnom Penh & Angkor

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 08 Dec 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Because we were a small group, we were able to change the itinerary and instead of visiting one of the main temples, we went 'off the beaten track' and travelled to a temple way out of Siem Reap without any tourists there. It really felt like we made our own discovery! The journey down the river was also great and showed how some Cambodians still lived, which was quite an eyeopener

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Go with the flow, keep an open mind and drink lots of water...it's hot and humid in November

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I think it definitely benefited local people, we stayed in Cambodian owned hotels, ate at local restaurants and visited (and shopped!) at local villages. Not sure about the amount of water bottles though as that is not very sustainable but on the other hand difficult to avoid.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Had a great time and feel like I have a better understanding of both the country and its people.

Reviewed on 14 Mar 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Experiencing Cambodia moving on from the horrors of its recent history and meeting its charming people.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


A reasonable degree of fitness might aid enjoyment since there is some walking around the historic sights in hot weather.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Tourism is an important employer in Cambodia so our staying in small hotels and using local guides, river boats, the bamboo train etc were all supportive.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Reviewed on 26 Jan 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


So many things, it was crammed with experience, but probably the trip up river from Siem Reap to Battambong across ton le sap and past the front rooms of so many families scratching an existence from the river and surrounding landscape. Beautiful landscapes and such fundamental issues with sustainability. But Cambodian resilience seems to win out. A privilege to get so close to people's lives.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


We were not at all sure about doing a small group tour, but we had underestimated the impact of travelling with a guide with a plan.
We absolutely packed in the experience and really felt we had seen Cambodia in all its aspects by the time we left. IF you don't have as much time, this is a great way to learn lots.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


undoubtedly. whether it was small, local hotels or cycle tours to see rural businesses, this tour was mostly about local entrepreneurship and it was the better for it.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Fantastic window into cambodia. we needed a few days on a thai beach to assimilate it all.

Reviewed on 31 Aug 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


So many things were amazing. Seeing the sun rise at Angkor Wat, trekking in the Kulen mountains and camping overnight at the monastery at the top. My daughter would say it was riding on an elephant, something she has always wanted to do. Visiting the museum at Tuol Sleng and the Killing Field was incredibly moving. All the hotels we stayed at were better than we expected, all having air conditioning which was great. We wouldn't have got as much out of the trip if we hadn't had a brilliant guide called Fin. He went above and beyond the call of duty to make our experience what it was.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Talk to Lesley at the operator. Tell her your budget and what you want. We didn't think we could have the holiday we wanted for our budget but we got it! We were concerned that going in August would be a mistake as it is supposed to be the wettest month. Well it isn't any more! We got caught in one torrential downpour which was fun, it was still very warm, and then had showers on 3 other days. The rain didn't stop any of our activities.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We stayed in hotels run by locals, not big international chains which hopefully means the money stays in Cambodia. We used local restaurants and transport and our guide told us that tourism is now the 3rd biggest industry in the country. One thing we felt Cambodia is going to have to deal with soon is the rubbish. Piles of plastic bottles are not attractive.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Better than we had imagined. Certainly an experience that my 16 and 15 year old won't forget. If you want a holiday with variety, from temples to history to beaches to bartering in the Russian market then this is for you.

Reviewed on 11 Apr 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Rather to my surprise, given that I went solely to see Angkor, the most memorable part was probably eating real food in local Cambodian eating places. I am not a foodie and my experience of 'Asian' food is limited to takeaways from the local 'Chinese' (in other words maximum ignorance!) so all I know is what a pleasure it was to eat zingy fresh food that Cambodians eat. This was supported by being a small group of 7/8 so we were kind of able to blend in as many of the local people were also in similar sized groups. If we had been even a group of 15-20 it could not have been such a genuinely anonymous and enjoyable experience.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Well - none really! Everything I needed to know was covered beforehand either on the website or in the trip notes I was sent. I felt as well informed as I needed to be for such a brief visit to an engagingly complex country.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, with a couple of 'Buts' we had local guides and drivers, and as enthused about above, we ate in Cambodian places. I am confident that we supported conservation, though this wasn't particularly mentioned. Our driver joined us on our Drinking Towers evening which was my first experience of a trip that assumed that level of equality - I really appreciated it.

I am much less confident about our environmental impact. There is a lot of plastic waste in Cambodia and we added to it big time! We used absolutely dozens and dozens of small bottles of water and there was no recycling of them. On a ten day visit to Namibia a few years ago, the guide had a large collapsible water container and we refilled our bottles from that. The two hotels we used also had only small bottles in rooms and mini bars. The operator could invite hotels to install water coolers/fountains like UK offices have from which clients would refill their small bottle/proper flask. Also on the day that we had a picnic, each baguette came in a very large (because the sandwiches were large) polystyrene box. Yikes! They should have been in paper or paper bags. The operator could ask the shop to use paper bags - it would be a small but significant step.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I would rate is as well constructed and well led - and well enjoyed. What more could I have wanted? It was perfect.

Read the operator's response here:

We thank Christine for her kind comments and are so please she had such a positive experience of Cambodia.

We couldn't agree more in principal with the comments about plastic waste but we are largely constrained by common practice on the ground and what is safe and practical for our guests.

Remembering we are talking about a country just emerging from 30 years of civil war and the Khmer Rouge, where the average wage is less than $2 and many people still live hand to mouth, concepts such as littering, recycling and eco-tourism are totally alien to the majority of local people and firms. (Note though, having said that the majority of plastic bottles and cans are in fact collected by street kids etc for resale anyway.)

Where we can, we do use the large 20 litre bottles for example with larger groups or on longer trips - but often it is not practical.
a. We can't chill the large bottles and in climates such as Cambodia in April, customers usually want cold water.
b. With smaller groups there is too much wastage since water in such large bottles can only be kept a certain time before picking up an unpleasant taste,
c. Even in restaurants where large bottles are used people are often uncomfortable being offered water out of a bottle that is not sealed even if the guide assures them it's fine
d. We have to issue one or 2 small bottles of water per person when hiking or on the road where it would not be possible to refill from a larger bottle. (When we do overnight camping we do bring large bottles for refills.) We do endeavour to ensure that any small plastic water bottles we provide are disposed of in an appopriate manner.

Few hotels will refill personal water bottles, they do of course make money from selling bottled water.

We share Christine's concern about polystyrene containers but again at the moment that is what is almost universally used when we purchase packed lunches. There are currently few hygenic alternatives in Cambodia. Biodegradeable lunch boxes are available in Thailand but not to our knowledge in Cambodia. However, we will talk again to the restaurants concerned to see if they have any ideas.

Reviewed on 07 Mar 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Watching dawn break and the sun rise at Angkor Wat. Just magical.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Make sure you can cope with the heat. You need to be reasonably fit to walk around the temples in 34 degree heat. Take a torch for the power cuts.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I think it did benefit local people by providing jobs for them in restaurants, bars, hotels etc. and as guides and providing food. I'm not sure we minimized our impact on the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Well paced, very interesting and you need a good guide and we had one. There was quite a lot of travel by minibus but that's to be expected if you are covering a lot of the country but be prepared. Enjoyed the small group and there was a good mix of outings and time to oneself.

Read the operator's response here:

Many thanks for your comments Caroline - we are particularly pleased that you appreciated the pace of the tour and the blend of time to yourself and activity - it isn't always easy to get this just right, but we do try our best. Being rushed from place to place without having time to sit and watch the world go by is not our way. Lesley.

Reviewed on 07 Apr 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The visit to the prison and the Killing Fields were very moving and thought provoking, not enjoyable but really helped me understand. The temples were amazing.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take lots of memory cards for your camera as you will want to take loads of photos! Read up on the history before you go.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Visited small local restaurants and used local guides where possible.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I had an amazing time - the guides were great, really looked after me. I loved every minute and wouldn't hesitate to recommend the operator.

Reviewed on 21 Sep 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Many aspects of the holiday were memorable. The painful recent history, the friendly locals, the scenic beauty, variety and the welcoming attitude to tourists today. For the children, possibly the elephant riding, kayaking and opportunities to see cultures rather different to theirs, as well as to taste deep fried tarantula and fish pedicures!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Read about the history as you go. Be adventurous in you itinerary and be prepared to change it if necessary due to weather!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Definitely benefited local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Our help with itinerary was excellent and it was tailored to our family of older teenagers and a 10 year old. A variety of history, culture and activity was just right and everyone had a fabulous time. It was excellent in all aspects.

Reviewed on 04 Dec 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Obviously visiting Angkor - a long-held ambition of mine, was a highlight. I also really enjoyed the day we spent travelling up-river from Siem Riep to Battambang, just watching local life go by -fascinating. Also I was surprised how much I enjoyed Phnom Penh - the city has a fantastic vibe.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Use your free time wisely and try to explore as much as you can on your own - with hindsight I regret not doing more of this.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Absolutely - local guides were used, and we also visited some "local" restaurants sometimes, as opposed to just sticking to more touristy places, which was great, as these tended to have the most delicious food !

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I loved it! It was a hassle-free introduction to Cambodia, great for anyone who wants to see the country but has limited time. I would definitely do another tour with them.

Reviewed on 03 Mar 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Sunrise at Angkor Wat Temple Cambodia

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Expect to change twice a day due to the humidity. Surprisingly Cambodian's have a good grasp of English.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, local hotels/family run restaurants/guides

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


*****, Cambodia is amazing far better that my expectations. A must for anyone.

Reviewed on 14 Dec 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Angkor Wat, the temples, and the food.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Just remember that on some days a large part of the day will be spent in transport, mostly in a car. This is simply required if you wish to see a large number of sites in a short amount of time.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I feel the holiday benefited local people in that we ate at local restaurants and used local guides. Many of the businesses however are owned by foreigners, so we benefited locals because the businesses employed Cambodians. As for minimizing environmental impact, we did not damage any natural areas we visited, but I am not sure if we were used our resources wisely. We were a small group that did a good amount of traveling by car. We could have used a small car instead of van to conserve petrol, but I am not sure if this was possible. It may be that a smaller car was not available or using a smaller car would not have actually used less gas.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was amazing! The country has amazing cultural treasures. The history is also fascinating. The tour operators were professional, friendly, considerate, and always ensured that we were comfortable and happy.

Reviewed on 01 Jan 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Angkor was magical, crossing the road in Phnom Phen was certainly exciting!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Check the electricity connections in the shower before getting in, dangerous. And don't expect hot water. Try to book your flights with Ethiad, excellent service.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The impact of tourism on the temples and on Siem Reap is very strong, financially it is probably a good thing but environmentally it seems a disaster.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you for your comments and we are very pleased that you had such an enjoyable holiday.

With reference to two of the comments you make, we would like to assure you that safety is of paramount importance to us. Whilst in a very poor, relatively underdeveloped country electricity and plumbing standards do not always meet those of Western Europe, we so consider all hotels used on our tours to meet reasonable safety standards and hot water is certainly available at all hotels. If any wiring is deemed dangerous or hot water not available then a simple request to hotel reception re maintenance services should generally be sufficient. Or a request to move rooms should be made.

In terms of the impact of tourism on Siem Reap, it is undeniable that there is obvious widespread construction work in Siem Reap and vicinity but this is managed and has many positive benefits to the people and to the environment. Local water treatment, sewage treatment, road and communications infrastructure are being improved by the local authorities which, whilst causing some temporary unsightly construction work, will surely in the long term prove beneficial? Hotel zoning is in place and indeed anyone who has followed the recent growth of Siem Reap town will be aware that most new hotel ‘zones’ are situated on what was previously unused ‘waste land’ and indeed on some occasions cleared minefields.

Authorities are also taking action to limit environmental damage to the temple sites themselves including introduction of electric buses and bicycles for visiting the sites, stricter parking and road regulations and limiting access to particularly vulnerable areas. We feel all these initiatives should be encouraged and applauded particularly taking into account the context – namely that Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries in the world with widespread problems requiring urgent attention throughout the country in the fields of transport infrastructure, health, education, and food provision where the average daily income is still probably little more than $1.

With tourism now the country’s major source of revenue (after foreign aid), it’s difficult to envisage the government taking drastic steps such as limiting the number of tourists or limiting the number of new hotels constructed to house those tourists. We believe it’s encouraging to see that the government is not ignorant of potential environmental problems and is indeed taking steps to address the issue despite all their other problems. (Also please note that with Angkor now a UNESCO World Heritage Site the development and management of the temple sites is now undertaken with close consultation with UNESCO.)

Reviewed on 18 Dec 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Holiday in Cambodia reviewVisiting Angkor Wat and the other temples, having the guides was invaluable as with their knowledge we were taken to the best places and at times when hardly anyone else was there which we really appreciated when we saw the size of the crowds in some parts.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


When changing money get lots of $1 bills rather than larger notes as they are much more useful. Some antibacterial hand wash comes in handy! When in Bangkok ignore any 'helpful' people who tell you places are shut and don't say you only got there that day.

Markets, Holiday in CambodiaWe never felt unsafe at all which was good but you do need to be alert to people trying to scam you in Bangkok. We found the public river boat a really good cheap way of getting to some places (obviously the ones near the river) & it was a good way to avoid the crazy traffic jams.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


To some extent - 2 local guides were used who were both excellent, we were spending money in the area, and we were in a small group which was good, so we were using more vehicles to get to places but it was much better than going in a massive coach.

Reviewed on 31 Aug 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Angkor was stunning, as might be expected, but the real highlight was the six hour boat journey from Siem Reap to Battambang. It varied from narrow channels pushing through tree tops to wide open waters with locals paddling out by canoe to hop on board. It's a slow chug and a hard day, with the added excitement of the occasional engine problem and minor collisions, but great fun if you really want to see real Cambodian river life at first hand.

Cambodia holiday photo from Roger Vincent

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


The traveling can be tough, particularly the dirt road to the Thai border. Going in the rainy season means the boat trip is more likely to be available. But expect some storms each day so take an umbrella. Take note of the landmine warning signs and don't stray from tracks. Beware leeches after crossing into the Thai jungle.

Overall - the Cambodian section of the trip could not be faulted. The Thai locations were fine - it was only the weather which marred these a little, but we had expected that. An excellent two weeks, but be prepared for some disturbing images when visiting the sites relating to the Khmer Rouge.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


All meals - apart from breakfast - were taken at local small restaurants rather than in hotels. We are vegetarian and that does limit your choice, but there is always something you can find and there's usually a western-style breakfast in hotels if you want to fuel up for the day.

4. Any other comments?


Wonderful holiday - there is no escaping the relatively recent horrors or Cambodia's past, but that makes the resilience and friendliness of the people even more astonishing.

The tour operator's arrangements were ultra efficient with a good mix of accommodation, a variety of transport and a well-planned programme. As there were only two of us we had the tour leader to ourselves and this made it much easier too stop off for photos and meet people etc.

Reviewed on 18 Jan 2005 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Dawn at Angkor Wat

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take lots of 1-dollar notes, don't believe you have to wear long sleeves in temples, realise that you'll want to rest during he heat of the day. Crossing roads in Pnomh Penh? Just look and rush. Crossing roads in Bangkok? Take a tuktuk if road more than 3 lanes wide.

3. Any areas for improvement?


None, really good. First hotel a bit basic, but OK.

4. Any other comments?


Leader had very good local knowledge.

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