Cambodia is one of my all time favourite travel destinations, mainly because of the temple complex of Angkor Wat which I spent a whole week exploring! Cambodia has so much to offer in terms of beaches, food and temples. It’s also great value for money for travellers. One of the questions I frequently get asked is what to wear in Cambodia, which prompted me to write today’s blog. I hope that you find it helpful.
When to go to Cambodia
The best time to visit Cambodia is December when the weather is warm and comfortable, but anytime from October to May is perfect. Most travellers avoid monsoon season in Cambodia, which runs from mid-May to early October. The strong prevailing winds of the southwest monsoon bring high humidity and heavy rainfall making monsoon season an uncomfortable time to travel. Pack a lightweight rain jacket just incase!
What to wear in Cambodia
Located in Southeast Asia, Cambodia has a tropical climate with high humidity and temperatures that can reach up to 40°C (104°F) during the dry season (November to May). There will be a lot of walking across a variety of terrain including cities, jungle and beaches. You will therefore want to go for light fabric clothing such as linen and cotton and comfortable footwear.
While the country is generally quite casual, it’s important to be mindful of local customs and cultural sensitivities when it comes to clothing. In this blog, I will provide some tips and suggestions on what to wear in Cambodia to help you stay comfortable and respectful during your visit.
It’s important to dress modestly and respectfully when visiting Cambodia, as Cambodian culture values modesty and conservative dress.
What to wear in Cambodia
- Walking trousers and leggings that cover your full leg.
- T-shirts and tops that cover your belly and shoulders well.
- Any other loose and light but conservative clothing such as maxi dresses (with shoulders in and no cleavage) or linen tunics with leggings are ideal.
- Breathable walking boots and mid-weight walking socks for the jungle terrain of Angkor Wat.
- It’s also a good idea to bring along a scarf or shawl that you can use to cover your head or shoulders if needed.
- A lightweight fleece with a zipper all the way down is comfortable for cooler evenings.
- Pack a breakable lightweight walking jacket in case of showers – I recommend one with one like this Bergaus jacket.
- Pack waterproof clothing if you are visiting Cambodia in the rainy season.
What Footwear is suitable for Cambodia?
One of the key questions on what to wear in Cambodia is always about footwear. I would say that a decent pair of breathable walking boots is absolutely essential. Mine are these lightweight and comfortable walking boots from Karrimor.
I did take a pair of converse with me which were very comfortable, but the problem with trainers and converse is that they are quite thin and the soles are not as sturdy. Bear in mind you are literally walking through the Cambodia jungle in the temples of Angkor Wat and with that comes the risk of thorns, scorpion stings and ant bites. I regretted wearing my converse when some sharp thorn went through the sole and into my foot! So I would always recommend walking boots over trainers for Cambodia if you need to make a choice between the two.
Of course, taking a pairs of trainers as a second piece of footwear for going around the markets or hanging out is a good idea if you can fit them in your case or backpack. Also remember to get some nice breathable walking socks. I bought this pack of 3 Anti Blister Lightweight Breathable Cotton Summer hiking socks with a Padded Sole and they were perfect for Cambodia – I wore them loads!
I would definitely recommend that you take a pair of comfortable sandals or flip-flops for beach and pool wear.
What to wear for Swimming in Cambodia
Most Siem Reap hostels and hotels have pools and if you go to the Islands or Kep and Kampot you will be spending time on the beach for sure!
Men have the easy option of taking swim shorts with a T-shirt and then you can just take off your T-shirt to go in the water.
Regarding swimwear for women, a bikini might be ok around the hotel pool, but you don’t want to be wearing one in public local areas. Go for a full swim suit with a kaftan over the top or even purchase a full body swimsuit that covers the shoulders and the top of your legs – something like this….
A kaftan is comfortable and versatile – I got given one by my mom and really love it. A kaftan is light and means tat you won’t feel too self conscious. Go for something like this…
What to wear in Cambodia for Women
Men should pack plenty of comfortable walking trousers or cargo pants and T-shirts, but avoid band T-shirts and T-shirts with slogans on. One pair of jeans is advised and also pack a light fleece and a light rain jacket (just incase).
If you want versatility in your trousers then you could opt for walking trousers that become zip off shorts – you can wear them as trousers in the day for visiting the temples and then remove the bottom to relax in shorts back at the hostel or hotel.
What to wear in Cambodia for Women
Women should opt for walking trousers, linen trousers or long pants and comfortable loose fitting tops. Dresses are Ok if they cover the shoulders and cleavage – go for light fabrics. Maxi dresses are ok, but if they are scrappy then take a T-shirt or kaftan to go over them. I wore a lot of three quarter length tunics with black leggings which were perfect – both comfortable and appropriate.
Taking a pashmina is a great idea as it doubles up as something to cover your head and or shoulders in temples and also can keep you warm at night. Go for something plain and neutral like this…
Pack less than you think you need!
A word of advice is to pack slightly less than you think – because of the warm climate in Cambodia you can wash t-shirts and dresses out in the sink and they will dry really quickly. Packing light means you get to carry less and you will also be able to buy clothes out there for really cheap – I picked up a elephant T-shirt for just $2 – in the local markets they were selling them for $1!
Behold – The Elephant Trousers!
Not many travellers will escape a trip to South East Asia without buying a pair of cotton elephant trousers! I picked these up for just a few dollars and they were so comfortable and well used during my Cambodia trip! Go to the local market and remember to haggle! Local guides and hotel staff will tell you how much you should be paying for things.
What NOT to wear in Cambodia
As well as considering what to pack and what to wear in Cambodia, you will also need to be aware of what to avoid…
- Tops or dresses that show a lot of cleavage – boobs on display are not appropriate!
- Avoid see-through or ‘slutty’ clothing!
- Bikinis – better to go for a full swim suit and if possible ones which cover shoulders or tops of your legs if you are swimming in local areas.
- Shorts – although it would be accepted for tourists to wear shorts in Cambodia the locals would keep covered and it is more respectful to stay with this trend.
- Any tops that show your shoulders or belly – it is impolite in Cambodian culture to show too much flesh.
- Any clothing with pictures of the Buddha – it is offensive to Cambodian Buddhists to see images of the Buddha on clothing or used in decoration.
- Avoid wearing clothing with offensive graphics or slogans – that means no T shirts with swearing, sexual phrases or graphic images of violence.
- Steer clear of dark colours and floral prints which can attract bugs in jungle areas!
I have spent 3 weeks in Cambodia and I’m already planning my next trip! If you are heading to Cambodia, you are in for a challenge and also a treat! I have written extensively on Cambodia and the temples of Angkor Wat so here are some more blog articles that you might find helpful…
- What to do in Siem Reap
- Shopping in Siem Reap
- Pub Street Siem Reap
- Cambodia solo female Travel Guide
- Angkor Wat small circuit
- Angkor Wat grand circuit
- Koh Ker Temples
There are plenty more Cambodia articles to be discovered in the Cambodia section on my blog here!