Without a doubt, Thailand is one of the first countries you’ll have in mind for your trip to Southeast Asia. Riddled with beaches, tourist attractions, and more, you’ll get a bang for your buck in this nation. But more than that, the electrifying feel of Thailand is addicting to many, which is why it has many returning visitors.
But just beside Thailand lies a nation that is similar in many aspects, Cambodia. Tourists dub the latter as the alternative to the former. But this is an unfair statement, as Cambodia offers a distinct experience from its neighbor.
Though less developed, the quaint charm of Cambodia has many fans around the world. If you’re at a loss on which one to pick, this article will help guide you in your decision-making.
It’s easy to see why Thailand is one of the main tourist hotspots in mainland Southeast Asia turning first-timers into repeat visitors. The nation boasts a lively and colorful nightlife with spectacular natural sceneries in the backdrop. With this, Thailand attracts all types of tourists as there is an interesting mix of things to do in the country.
You can go trekking and rock climbing, and dabble in water activities during the daytime. Take a break by the blue-green sea under the swinging palm trees with a drink in your hand. And at night, unwind even further on neon-lit streets filled with bars.
What Makes Thailand Unique
Different Island, Different Attraction
Blessed with thousands of islands, Thailand is perfect to go on island hopping. Each isle offers something distinct from the other, so you’re always in for a treat.
Koh Lipe is best for laying out in the sun on soft powdery beaches while taking in the beauty of the clear blue waters. For some adrenaline rush that nature has to offer you, Koh Tao is your best bet. And if you want to experience Thailand in luxury, Koh Samui has opulent resorts with the finest cuisine to fill your belly.
A Plethora of Golden Beaches
You can’t talk about Thailand without mentioning their exotic and famous beaches. Krabi is the go-to for a relaxing beach trip by hidden caves and limestone monoliths. Meanwhile, Phuket is the place for you if you want to enjoy blue-green waters in a more lively setting.
As Thailand has so many stunning beaches to visit, it can be confusing where to start. To help you plan your trip, here are the top beach picks of the nation.
Not only is this one of the best beaches in the province, but Railay Beach is also a top tourist hotspot in the country. While you can only go here via a longtail boat, you’ll get rewarded as soon as you get there.
Adorned with limestone monoliths, cliffs, caves, and lush jungles, this beach is a feast for your eyes. It offers a perfect combo of lagoon-like pools, sandy white beaches, and lush gardens. You’ll have time for both relaxation and exploration in Railay Beach.
Nai Harn Beach
This beach can get pretty busy as it is one of the most desired attractions in Phuket. Nai Harn Beach has crystal clear blue waters, soft white sand, and gentle waves that are ideal for a dip.
With a reliable climate, Nai Harn Beach is a great visit no matter what month of the year. You can also hop onto other nearby beaches within walking distance from here.
If you’re looking for a more unique beach to visit, Pattaya Beach will not disappoint you. A stunning hillside temple rests on the beach’s golden sand. You’ll get a scenic view from both the beaches and architecture that Thailand is well-known for.
You won’t find water activities on Pattaya Beach, thus, it’s best for strolls. Nearby, you’ll find well-designed resorts and shopping areas to go to.
Picture-Perfect Offbeat Sceneries
Beaches are not the only reason why tourists flock to Thailand. This stunning nation also has hidden natural gems that are worth your visit. Get your cameras ready and capture the scenic views from the offbeat places below.
Red Lotus Sea
Rent a boat as you float through the sea of a million lotuses. The bright pink colors of the lotus are a nice contrast against the bluish lake, perfect for taking touristy pictures. This place is a unique visit for those who want to get some quiet time away from the busy capital.
Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phra Chom Klao Rachanusorn
Thailand has many temples to marvel at, but what makes this stand out is its floating temples. The temples of Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phra Chom Klao Rachanusorn sit on top of mountains. With pagodas carried by monks, the temples are now breathtaking tourist spots.
Doi Mon Jong
A nature lover’s trip to Thailand is not complete without visiting Doi Mon Jong. With lands concealed by lush rhododendrons and the skies filled with stars, it’ll leave you speechless. You’ll get to enjoy the tranquility here surrounded by the country’s exotic species.
Exotic Wildlife Paradise
A whopping ten percent of animals around the globe call Thailand their home. No surprise here as 25 percent of the nation is rainforests and monsoon forests. And there is an interesting blend of wildlife in the country.
You’ll find the smallest mammal in the world, the bumblebee bat. The largest fish, the whale shark, and the biggest lizard, the monitor lizard, are also in Thailand.
More well-known here is the plethora of bird species that they have, making them a bird-watcher’s paradise. Thailand has 13 hornbill species, with some of them regarded as endangered. You’ll also find crested honey-buzzards, crested serpent eagles, and more.
The best part is that plenty of national parks dot the map of Thailand, and there are over a hundred of them. Khao Yai National park is one, only 124 miles (200 km) away from the capital. Erawan, Doi Inthanon, and Khao Sam Roi Yot national parks are also top picks.
Exhilarating and World-Renowned Nightlife
No trip to Thailand is complete without venturing out into the dark to experience their nightlife. There’s a place to go for romance, excitement, exoticism, and even for a chill night out. So you always have a say in how you want to spend your booze-fueled night.
Without a doubt, Bangkok has the best nightlife experience Thailand has to offer. Here, you’ll find go-go clubs, nightclubs, rooftop bars, and more almost everywhere.
For an electrifying nightclub, go to Levels. If you want a classier place to drink, Thonglor is your best bet. Bangkok also has hip and trendy bars, such as Iron Fairies in Thonglor, with live jazz and a unique ambiance.
Pattaya is world-famous for its crazy nightlife as it features plenty of nightclubs and go-go bars. Head over to Mixx Discotheque if you want to dance all night. But Pattaya also has more laid-back places, such as The Hard Rock Cafe.
Krabi province offers one of the best nightlife experiences by the beach.
Go to Sea La Vie Beach Bar in Koh Lipe and enjoy electronic music with your cocktails. Enjoy buckets of alcohol at pool parties at Ibiza Beach Club in Koh Phi Phi. Koh Lanta is the best place for relaxed drinking with live music and fire shows.
One of the main nightlife attractions in Thailand is the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan. This vibrant festival has blasting music, a lot of dancing and booze, fire shows, and more. Every tourist must experience this electrifying festival at least once in their lifetime.
Enigmatic yet captivating, Cambodia is not your usual tourist attraction. Culturally rich with a haunting past, this nation is a unique visit for any tourist. Thus, you’re in for a spiritual and soulful experience in this small country.
But more than their history, Cambodia also offers serene natural wonders for you. Like its neighboring countries, the nation is also blessed with pristine beaches and lush greeneries.
What Makes Cambodia Unique
Grand Cultural Attractions
Cambodia has astonishing and imposing temples, and the nation has thousands of them. Displaying unique architecture, these temples are one of the main tourist attractions of the country. Their intricate carvings and splendid statues will leave anyone speechless.
You cannot possibly visit every temple in this stunning nation. So here are the top picks to make your trip to Cambodia worthwhile.
The ruins of the ancient city of Angkor are a given. Not only is Angkor Wat the most massive religious monument on the globe. But it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This splendid temple is enough of a motivation for many to flock to Cambodia. There are one-day and three-day passes to choose from if you wish to visit Angkor Wat. But even with the latter, you cannot see the entirety of this massive temple.
The heart of the Angkor complex, the Bayon sits in the middle of Angkor Thom. Flanking the structure are intricate statues of gods and giants. These huge stone faces look in every direction, seemingly watching their visitors.
The first two temples above are famous for their majestic appeal. But the charm of Ta Prohm lies within its unkempt appearance. Densely overgrown trees and roots adorn this temple, giving it a dramatic and mystifying vibe.
Scenic Natural Wonders
Apart from culture, Cambodia is also a tourist hotspot for its natural beauty. This country gives you the best views of raw, untouched nature, which is a rarity these days.
Tonle Sap Lake, for example, is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. It serves a vital role in Cambodia’s ecosystem supporting a wide range of biodiversity.
What’s fascinating about this lake is that the water flow goes in two directions. It’ll change based on the seasons, during monsoon and drier months.
You can find a floating village at the edge of Tonle Sap Lake. You’ll find an interesting mix of markets, clinics, and fisheries here. For a more authentic experience, you can go further into the village.
Another natural wonder nearby is the Mekong River. One of the main attractions here is the Irrawaddy Dolphins. There are only around 90 of them left in the world, so make sure to visit this rare breed when you can.
Quaint White-Sand Beaches
Many do not instantly think of Cambodia as a beach destination. But the nation is home to some of the most alluring beaches in the world. Cambodian beaches may even be as beautiful as those found in Thailand, and they are far less crowded as well.
With this, you can enjoy soft powdery sands and emerald waters without much competition. From quaint, cheap beaches to stunning luxury resorts, there’s always a spot for you to visit.
While you may find some nice beaches on the country’s coast, you’ll find exceptional ones on the islands. A majority of them are accessible through ferries and speedboats in Sihanoukville.
If this is something you’re interested in, here are some of the top picks for a beach holiday in Cambodia:
The biggest island in the Koh Rong archipelago, Koh Rong is the top option. This is the most developed island for tourism. With long stretches of white sand and blue-green waters, it’ll leave you in awe.
Koh Rong Samloem
In contrast to the above, Kong Rong Samloem is the smallest island in the archipelago. It’s a sleepy, slow-paced island that’s perfect for complete relaxation. You’ll find bars and seafood restaurants here to complete your serene island life.
Six Senses Krabey Private Island
As you can tell from the name, this is a luxurious resort that may be a pricier option. But the amenities and the views will be worth every buck.
Six Senses Krabey has private pool villas that do not distract your eye from the lush greenery. There are meditation and yoga programs here with an incredible spa to unwind. To top it off, they have delicious Khmer food in their restaurants too.
Exotic and Delectable Cuisine
Cambodia’s rich culture translates well into its traditional cuisine, also called Khmer cuisine. Their delectable cuisine is distinguishable by its subtle mix of spices and flavors. The main component of their dishes is prahok, fermented fish paste.
Some must-try dishes are amok curry, num pang, kuy teav, and lok lak. Being bordered by other ASEAN countries, some of these dishes are inspired by them. Num pang and lok lak, for example, are both adapted from Vietnamese cuisine.
If you’re looking for more adventurous food finds, Cambodia has you covered. The nation is famous for its exotic delicacies. You can eat arachnids, reptiles, and insects here.
Some of these include spiders, scorpions, snakes, maggots, and even cockroaches. If you’re brave enough to have antennas and pincers in your mouth, then this is a unique experience for you.
Evocative Historical Sites
Cambodia has a dark history that you can immerse in through historical locations. You can confront yourself with this jarring, distant past if you want to get out of your comfort zone. By doing so, you may take home some awakening lessons other than souvenirs and pictures.
If you want to learn more about Cambodia’s history, here are two must-see destinations for you.
Toul Sleng Genocide Museum
This was once a high school building turned into a prison by the Khmer Rouge. Within the walls of Toul Sleng, thousands of Cambodians suffered. It still stands today as a reminder of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.
You’ll get an audiobook as you visit Toul Sleng, discussing extensive stories of the area. This may be a heavy visit, but it can also be a touching one. This is a rare moment for you to pay respects and honor the memory of the victims.
The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
This is another haunting testament to the Khmer Rouge’s crimes. The killing fields where mass killings of the Cambodian people occurred in the dead of the night. Today, it serves as a tourist attraction and a mass grave of over hundreds of thousands of Cambodians.
Like in Toul Sleng, you’ll also get an instructive audiobook here. This gives you a detailed overview of the nation’s tragic past as you walk through the site.
Cambodia or Thailand – Which Is Better?
Both countries have stunning beaches, unique cultures, and mouth-watering cuisines. Whether one is better than the other will depend on what you want out of your trip.
If you want a livelier, more vibrant trip, then Thailand is the place to go. The nation can offer tranquil trips to its golden beaches, but the nuzzling city and island life is what they are well-known for. But because they are such a popular tourist hotspot, it can get crowded in Thailand.
Thailand is richer and larger, and they are more well-developed for tourism. The country can offer a lot more variety of things to do, and you’ll have plenty to do there.
Meanwhile, if you want a more serene and calming trip, choose Cambodia. It’s less developed, but this can be a good thing for laid-back tourists.
You’ll have less competition with other tourists, for one. Another bonus is that you’ll get a better view of the raw beauty that nature has to offer. And because of that, you’ll have a lot more outdoor activities in Cambodia if you’re a nature lover.
To top it off, Cambodia is also a cheaper travel option compared to Thailand. The latter’s economy heavily depends on tourism. Thus, prices for tourists are higher in Thailand.
But in most aspects, Cambodia can’t compete with Thailand.
Thailand has a better variety of beaches, for example. Its opulent city experience is something that the capital of Cambodia can’t rival. And it’s also easier to travel to and get around in Thailand.
Not to mention, Thailand has one of the best nightlife experiences in the world. While Cambodia has a vibrant one too, it just pales in comparison.
Is Cambodia Safer Than Thailand?
While both countries are relatively safe, Cambodia is a bit safer than Thailand. The latter is more crowded with crazier nightlife, being a popular tourist hub. Because of this, there are more tourist annoyances in Thailand.
Both countries face the same issues, and petty crimes are the most common problem. This includes petty theft, such as stealing your bags. In the busier areas of Thailand, this crime is easier for thieves to do.
Other than that, drugs are easily found in both countries. Although these are illegal in both, the law is not strictly enforced.
In Cambodia, they have something called “happy pizza” that you can get your hands on. These are laced with marijuana, but these restaurants operate without issue.
In Thailand, because they have a booming party scene, party drugs are rampant. Be careful as police are aggressive in tracking down tourists for possession. Thus, if you don’t want to spend the night in prison, decline any offers while partying.
Is Cambodia Cheaper Than Thailand?
You’ll be able to stretch out your finances more in Cambodia than in Thailand. The latter has been a tourist attraction way longer, and its popularity continues to rise. Because of this, vacation expenses in Thailand have been on the rise.
While that may be so, Thailand is still a cheap destination compared to most countries.
But Cambodia is the clear winner here. Its cheaper prices are mainly due to being less crowded and less developed.
To give you a better view of this, the average daily expense of one person in Thailand is $89. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, you’re only looking at $49 a day.
Hotel accommodation for one person in Thailand is $28, and in Cambodia, it’s $18. For couples, it’ll be $55 for the former and $36 for the latter.
The transportation cost in Thailand is $10, and in Cambodia, it’s $5.90. Daily meals have a smaller difference, it’ll be $13 in Thailand and $12 in Cambodia. The same goes for entertainment costs, as Thailand will cost you $14 and in Cambodia, it’ll be $12.
Thailand has one of the cheapest alcohol costs in the world at $6.87. Still, Cambodia has a cheaper price for this, at $4.73.
Beaches in Cambodia vs. Thailand
Thailand has world-renowned beaches that attract thousands of tourists each year. But Cambodia can rival them in this regard as they have noteworthy, pristine beaches too. People claim that Cambodia even has some of the best beaches in the entirety of Asia.
Although Cambodian beaches are beautiful, the only issue is that there aren’t many of them. Being a smaller country, you have limited beach options there. But when you do go to one, you’ll be in awe of the postcard-worthy scenery.
Thailand is the clear winner here when it comes to its beach variety. You have hidden gems tucked away if you want a more solemn time at the beach. But if you want a more lively ambiance, you have plenty of options as well.
Beaches in Cambodia are perfect for taking relaxation, as they are less crowded. Meanwhile, in Thailand, it can often get busy, especially when you’re at a beach party.
So if you are eyeing both countries for a beach trip, it’ll depend on what you want out of it. Do you want the serene beach ambiance of Cambodia? Or do you want the bustling vibe that the beaches that Thailand has to offer?
Scuba Diving in Cambodia vs. Thailand
Both countries have similar underwater environments, so either one is a great option. But Thailand has long been a diving destination, thus, they are well-developed in this regard. This can be a pro or a con, depending on how you see it.
For one, Thailand has plenty of diving spots. Koh Tao is the diving epicenter and is a great start for most people. But you can also go to Ko Lipe, Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi, and plenty of other places.
You can go scuba diving in Thailand no matter what month of the year. But the peak season is between November to April. If you want to see whale sharks, February to May is the best season to get a glimpse of them.
But since Thailand is a starting place for many divers, it can get crowded underwater, so you’ll have more competition.
Meanwhile, scuba diving in Cambodia is less busy. Many international divers haven’t discovered the underwater haven in this nation yet.
A drawback is that you’ll have fewer diving spot options in Cambodia. But most marine life here is still untouched, so you’re in for a treat.
Cambodia vs. Thailand Nightlife
Thailand has world-renowned nightlife, and it’s enough to push tourists to flock to the country. Meanwhile, Cambodia’s night scene is on a smaller scale. Thus, Thailand will offer night lovers more variety on how to spend their after-hours.
The bustling and colorful nightlife of Thailand is what’s so sought after. From the neon-lit bars that line the heart of Bangkok, to the all-nighter parties in Pattaya, there’s plenty to do in the nation in the dark of the night. If you’re looking for something more vibrant, attending the wild Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan is a must.
In contrast to this, Thailand also has a lot of options for their more laid-back tourists. In Bangkok alone, you’ll find bars with a relaxing ambiance and interesting interiors. Some of these are The Iron Fairies, HOBS, and Sweethearts Bar.
There are also a lot of fun places to go in Cambodia at night. But their nightlife is not as upbeat as Thailand’s. Instead, Cambodia is better for enjoying a relaxing bucket of chilled beer to unwind.
Pub Street in Siem Reap is arguably the most popular night scene spot in Cambodia. But you’ll also find thrilling beach parties in Sihanoukville and Koh Rong.
Is Cambodia Part of Thailand?
Cambodia and Thailand are two separate countries, thus, you can’t find one in the other. Instead, they share a border, sitting side by side in mainland Southeast Asia.
Is Cambodia Near Thailand?
The two countries sit next to each other on the map of mainland Southeast Asia. They have a land boundary called the Cambodia-Thailand border. This is to the west and northwest of Cambodia.
Cambodia to Thailand Distance
The straight line distance between Cambodia and Thailand is 351 miles (565 km). But if you’re traveling by land, the road distance is 475 miles (764 km).
How to Get From Thailand to Cambodia
If you want to get to Cambodia from Thailand fast, you can travel by plane. But since the two are immediate neighbors, you can also travel by land. You can do so via bus, car, or train.
Traveling by land gives you a scenic glimpse of Cambodia, depending on your route. If you go on a bus ride from Bangkok to Siem Reap, you’ll pass by Angkor Wat and other tourist attractions.
Thailand to Cambodia Flight
On average, the direct flight time from Thailand to Cambodia is 1 hour and 12 minutes. The fastest flight time is around 1 hour and 5 minutes. So while this is a pricier option to travel, you’ll get to see the stunning nation of Cambodia much faster.
Ticket prices from Bangkok to Phnom Penh range between 70 to 125 USD. But the cost can vary depending on which airport you originate from and go to. It’ll also depend on the season, how early you plan your trip, and the airline you choose.
The peak tourist season in Cambodia is around December to March. So you may want to avoid this or book your accommodation early.
How Far Is Cambodia From Thailand by Plane?
The flight distance between Cambodia and Thailand will depend on your chosen airports. If you’re traveling to and from the capital, the flight distance between Phnom Penh and Bangkok is 313 miles (504 km). But if you’re traveling from Siem Reap to Bangkok, the flight distance will be around 337 miles (542 km).
Thailand to Cambodia by Boat
Unfortunately, there are no ferries that will take you from Thailand to Cambodia. You can only travel between the two countries by air or by land.
Cambodia to Thailand by Train
There are no direct trains that will take you from Cambodia to Thailand. If you wish to travel by train, you’ll have to take a bus and then the train to Bangkok.
From Cambodia, take a bus to Aranyaprathet. This is a border town in the east of Thailand. Near this is the busiest land crossing in Cambodia, thus, this is a popular route for those traveling between the two countries.
From there, you can find trains heading for Bangkok daily. Your travel time from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok will take around six hours.
Keep in mind that you cannot book tickets online. With this, you’ll need to reach the border town early, as the earliest train leaves at around 6:40 am.
Thailand to Cambodia by Road
Traveling to Cambodia from Thailand is possible via bus or train. The former is the easiest method, as there are buses that bring you directly to Siem Reap. But some still opt to go by train as it is cheaper, but you’ll have to go through extra steps.
To travel by train, you need to wake up early to catch a train to Aranyaprathet in Thailand. The earliest train leaves at 5:55 AM, so the queue gets long early too.
Once there, you need to take a tuk-tuk or a taxi to the Thailand-Cambodia border. You may want to share the ride with other people to get a better price.
Now you’ll have to go through the Thai Border Crossing to get stamped out of Thailand. Nearby, you’ll find the Cambodia Border Crossing. Follow the process and then you’ll soon get stamped into Cambodia.
After that, you’ll find a free shuttle to the bus station. There, you can take a bus to Siem Reap and you’re on your way to explore Cambodia!
Bus From Thailand to Cambodia
You have direct bus options to take you from Bangkok in Thailand to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
If you want to go to Phnom Penh, you’ll find buses at Khao San Road in Bangkok. These buses operate twice a day, every day. The estimated travel time is around 14 hours.
For Siem Reap, you can either go for Giant Ibis, Travel Mark Bangkok, or Nattakan Bus.
The Giant Ibis Stop is at Phra Sumen Road, near Khao San Road. They offer luxury bus travels at two schedules, at 7:45 AM and 8:45 AM.
If you want to go for Travel Mark Bangkok, there’s a bus pick up at Khao San Road in Bangkok, fronting McDonald’s. The cost for the 8:30 AM bus is around 23 USD. Meanwhile, the 12:45 AM bus will cost you 30 USD.
Meanwhile, you can find the Nattakan Buses at Mo Chit Bus Terminals #21 to #23. There are also two bus schedules, 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM. Ticket prices are anywhere between 22 to 28 USD, depending on where you book your tickets.
Driving From Thailand to Cambodia
It’s possible to drive from Thailand to Cambodia, but be aware that the border crossing laws change from time to time. Nevertheless, you will always need to get a permit for this from Phnom Penh. To do so, you have to park your car at the border and then take a bus to the capital customs office for a permit.
Once have one, you can head back and take your vehicle with you to Cambodia.
Thailand and Cambodia share many borders. But foreigners can only use a few of them. Some of the easier borders to get into Cambodia are Chom Chom to O’smach, Choam to Sa-Ngam, and Phsar Phrum to Banpuggard.
Before heading there, you must prepare the original copy and photocopies of the necessary documents. This includes your passport, vehicle registration card, and national registration identity card.
Make your way to your chosen border crossing and get stamped out of Thailand first. Once you’re at the Cambodian border, park your vehicle and go to the immigration center. Provide your needed documents, and then get stamped into Cambodia.
Take note that there’s no required insurance at the border into Cambodia. Thus, you may want to get one in the city.