It might not look like much on first sight, but it’s likely that you’ll fall in love with this sleepy riverside town.
Previously the primary port of Cambodia, Kampot is now well-known for its relaxing riverside setting and ever evolving culinary scene. It’s also famous for producing the best pepper in the world, so a visit to a pepper plantation here is essential.
Whilst not the most beautiful town in Cambodia, the dilapidated colonial architecture has its own unique charm and visitors will enjoy wandering its streets. Those seeking adventure may find Kampot to be too quiet, but there is still plenty to do if lounging by the river is not your cup of tea.
It makes an excellent base to explore the stunning Bokor National Park, and the river offers plenty of opportunity for watersports and boat cruises in the evening. There’s also the nearby town of Kep that can be easily reached in under an hour, and Rabbit Island for those seeking some beach time.
Kampot was easily our favorite place in the whole of Cambodia; the atmosphere here is both peaceful and vibrant at the same time, whilst the surrounding countryside is beautiful and easily explored.
It’s also an excellent destination for food lovers; you can find pretty much everything here, including ribs, pizza, tapas, street food and dumplings to name but a few.
The café scene does not disappoint either, and one of the coffeehouses (Café Espresso) supposedly sells the best coffee in the whole of Cambodia.
Lots of travelers tend to only visit Phnom Penh and Siem Reap when they visit Cambodia, but we would strongly advise not missing out on Kampot. It’s the perfect place to recharge your batteries, especially if you are en route to the hectic city of Ho Chi Minh. The only downside of Kampot is that it’s very difficult to leave, and you may have to rethink your itinerary!
The best time to visit Kampot is during the cooler months from December through to February. Average temperatures are usually around 30°C, but during the hottest months from March to June, temperatures can reach 38°C. The rainy season is from June to October, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad time to visit, although it’s still very hot. The rain is usually only for an hour or two in the afternoon, with plenty of sunshine in the morning. The highest rainfall months are historically September and October, in case you want to avoid the worst of the rain.
Finding accommodation is very easy in Kampot, regardless of whether you’re on a tight budget or want to splash out. Even the more expensive options are still very good value considering the quality of service and location.
For those looking for some relaxation, there are plenty of guesthouses and resorts a few kilometers upriver from Kampot. GreenHouse (St. Toek Chhu, bungalows from US$25) is good for food lovers, whilst both Les Manguiers (Prey Thnot Village, room with shared bathroom US$11.50, 3 bedroom house US$85), and Villa Vedici (Kampong Treng, double rooms from US$30, family condo from US$55, family house US$125) are perfect choices for families, as they both offer a variety of activities to keep kids happy.
If you would rather stay in the town center, there are plenty of guesthouses, hotels and hostels to choose from. Both Mad Monkey (St 730, dorms US$5, double room US$10) and Pepe & the Viking (St 735, dorms US$6, private room US$8) are cheap options for backpackers, whilst Mea Culpa (44 Sovansokar, double rooms from US$25) and The Column (37 Phoum 1 Ouksophear, double rooms from US$48) are great for couples.
Visitors to Kampot are totally spoilt for choice when it comes to restaurants and bars. The riverside has lots of options, but as it’s a tourist spot, expect to pay slightly higher prices.
There are lots of food stalls at the Night market near the Durian roundabout if you are on a tight budget and are happy to eat street food. But if money isn’t an issue; it’s possible to eat a different cuisine every night of the week! Don’t miss out on the most famous ribs in Cambodia at the Rusty Keyhole, or the best coffee at Café Espresso.
There are also lots of great places to eat pizza in Kampot, including Mea Culpa and Ciao.
As previously mentioned, Kampot is most famous for its pepper, and plenty of restaurants use it in their cooking. In our opinion, it’s best to go to Kep and have fresh Kampot pepper crab. You can also buy some as a souvenir to use in your own cooking at home.
Getting around Kampot couldn’t be any easier, as the town itself is very compact and you can pretty much walk everywhere. It’s also easy to cycle around, as the roads are quiet with very little car traffic.
If you want to go further afar, tuk-tuks are a cheap option, and many offer half day or full day tours of the surrounding countryside and nearby attractions. For visitors wanting to explore Bokor National Park, the best option is to hire a motorcycle for the day, but if you are not comfortable doing this, there are organized tours available.
The best way to get to Kep is either by tuk-tuk or motorcycle, and it may even be worth staying over for a night, so as to take a boat trip to Rabbit Island the following day.
Getting in and out
Other than Kep, which can be easily reached by tuk-tuk, the main way travel to other popular spots in Cambodia is by bus. There are several mini-bus companies that go directly to Kampot without stopping in Kep, so the journey is under three hours.
The most popular (and safest) companies are Giant Ibis (one way, USD9) and Kampot Express (one way, USD8). There is now also a train service between Phnom Penh and Kampot, but this is only available on weekends.
To get to Sihanoukville from Kampot, there are several van companies that will take you there directly (fares start from USD5), although it is probably more cost effective to travel by shared taxi – the journey is only two hours long and costs around USU30.
You can also get a taxi between Phnom Penh and Kampot, but this could cost up to USD50.
It’s not very convenient to travel directly to Siem Reap from Kampot, so it’s best to travel via Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville.
If you want to travel by bus to Vietnam, you should first get to Phnom Penh from where there are direct buses to Ho Chi Minh.
Generally, Kampot is very a safe town for visitors, but you should still be very careful with your belongings, as there have been incidents of bags being stolen.
Medical facilities are basic here, and for more advanced care, the nearest location is Phnom Penh. In regards to malaria and dengue fever, it is advisable to cover up and wear plenty of mosquito repellent. Visitors should seek professional medical advice on whether any vaccinations are required.