Cambodia: A Guide to Koh Rong Island

Visit Koh Rong, an island in Cambodia, stay in Koh Tuich village with natives and immerse yourself in the culture. Mika Murovec Photos.
Visit Koh Rong, an island in Cambodia, stay in Koh Tuich village with natives and immerse yourself in the culture. Mika Murovec Photos.

Traveling through the Island in Cambodia

By Nika Murovec

In the South of Cambodia lies a little paradise island called Koh Rong.

It is the second largest island in Cambodia with four village communities. A lot of travelers who visit this country stay on the mainland and enjoy the seaside there.

Water buffalo walking on the beach in Koh Tuich village.
Water buffalo walking on the beach in Koh Tuich village.

But trust me, with only a one-hour boat ride away, turquoise blue ocean and white beaches are waiting for you. Koh Tuich village will be your place of arrival and it's the village where most of the guesthouses are located.

Make sure you bring enough money with you on the island. There are no ATM machines. You can borrow money in some of the guesthouses but the best way is to bring enough money with you from the mainland.

There is no hot water, no AC, no washing machines, no roads and no hospitals on the island. In the case of an emergency go to the pharmacy in the local village. If the case is very serious, you will have to go to the hospital on the mainland. But despite these limitations, Koh Rong is a place definitely worth visiting!

Why Go?

Koh Tuich Village.
Koh Tuich Village.

In the end, the question won't be 'Why go?', but 'Why leave?' A lot of people coming to the island planning to stay for a few days end up staying for a few months. You will like the islands chill vibe, its feeling of the surreal world and when you are there it feels like the time stopped. Based on what you want, you choose the spot to stay on the island.

If you just want to lay on the beach and have quiet holidays, Koh Rong is the perfect place for you. If you want to party all day every day, there are plenty of options for that too. Everyone can find a place they enjoy on this versatile island.

Natives playing music on the island in a public restaurant.
Locals playing music on the island in a public restaurant.

When to Go

The best time to visit Koh Rong is from November to March. In these months the temperatures are not too high, the sky is always blue and the ocean is calm.

From March to May temperatures get very high, but the weather is still nice and the island is worth visiting. From May to November rainy season hits the island. Some days, there is just a little bit of rain here and there, but on others, the rain doesn't stop all day long.

Getting there and around

To get to the island, you have to catch one of the boats on the mainland in Sihanoukville. You don't have to book the tickets in advance, just walk in one of the many agencies on the streets and ask for ferry tickets.

The boats leave at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and the last one at 3 p.m. Several companies offer boat transport to the island, with similar prices across the board. For the speed ferry, you pay 20$ and for the slow boat you pay 10$ for a return ticket.

Eating with locals on the island.
Eating with locals on the island.

Prices may vary and they depend on the season. You don't need an exact return date when you buy the ticket. Instead, one day before the departure, you go to the booking office in the Dive center on the pier and they will stamp the ticket for you, guaranteeing a spot for you on a boat back to the mainland.

If you buy the ticket for a slow boat, on the departure date you just wait on the pier and the boat will take you back to the mainland. The boats leave the island at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Koh Rong is still in the process of being developed. There are no roads in Koh Tuich Village but will change soon with work being done currently. There still are no motorbikes, tuk-tuks, bicycles or cars on the island so the only way to get around is to walk. The Village where most of the guesthouses are is very small -- you can walk from one side to another in less than 10 minutes.

After you arrive on the island you won't be needing shoes anymore. The best way to explore the island is barefoot. If you are more adventurous, I recommend an hour hike through the jungle all the way to Long beach, the nicest beach on the island.

Beaches and Attractions

Sunset at Long Beach.
Sunset at Long Beach.

Long Beach – Long beach is one of the nicest beaches on the island. It is seven kilometers long and on a sunny day, its blue waters and white sand are absolutely breathtaking. There is limited shade and only one restaurant at the start of the beach, so be sure to bring enough water and sunscreen with you.

You can get there by hiking through the jungle for one hour or you can take a taxi boat from one of the many shops on the beach. The hike is not very hard to do, but make sure to wear sneakers.

The first 15 minutes are uphill, then 20 minutes through the jungle, and a final 15-minute climb over big rocks. Taxi boat costs $3 one way or $5 roundtrip. A lot of people go there to camp for a few nights. You can rent a hammock ($2/night) or a tent for 2 people ($5/night) on the beach as well.

4K Beach– A 20-minute walk on the beach away from the village lies another beautiful place called 4K beach. It is quiet with almost no tourists or hotels around. The only hotel is at the end of the beach. Earlier this year, the American television show, Survivor, was being filmed on this beach.

Dining locally on Koh Rong Island.
Dining locally on Koh Rong Island.

Viewpoint– From the top of the hill you get a very nice view of the island and the village. It is a nice place to take beautiful pictures of the island, especially on a sunny day. You get to the view point if you walk all the way through the local village and turn right at the end. You pass the Highpoint and climb some stairs to get to the top.

Best Activity or Tour

Boat Trips – On the beach, you will find many companies offering boat trips. They cost $10 and include water, fruit, mask and free BBQ. The departure is from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and lasts until sunset.

The company takes you snorkeling, fishing, to the Long beach to swim, watch the sunset and eat barbecue. When the sun sets and it gets dark outside on the way back to the village, the boat stops and you can swim with the bioluminescent plankton. The sparkling water around you is magical, a one-of-a-kind experience.

Diving Koh Rong dive center is situated on one of the piers and is the only dive center on the island. They offer diving courses every day of the week.

A snack stand on the Island.
A snack stand on the Island.

Zip Line High Point is one of the newest attractions for adrenaline junkies on Koh Rong. It is a mixture of adrenaline park and zip line. You can purchase tickets for $25 in low season and for $35 in high season. The tickets are available in Sihanoukville, at almost every bar on Koh Rong and in the High Point office.

Police Beach Parties Police Beach is a 10-minute walk from the village. The Village Project includes a group of people who organize parties on this beach every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. On Mondays, the tickets are free, on Wednesday and Saturday tickets cost $7, or $5 for pre-sale and $10 at the entrance.

They play mostly house, deep house and electronic music until sunrise. Police Beach is one of the best spots to watch the sunrise.
Pub Crawling – Once a week, a Pub Crawl is organized that takes place at five different bars on the island. For a fee of $5, you get free drinks in every bar, play games and win prizes. The best part of the experience is meeting people from all over the world.

Meeting people at different bars on the island during Pub Crawl.
Meeting people at different bars on the island during Pub Crawl.

Camping on Long Beach – Camping on a deserted beach is a unique experience. Rent a hammock for $2/night or a tent for $5/night and live in the wilderness for a day or two

Day trip to TO KOH RONG SANLOEM – Koh Rong Sanloem is just a half hour boat ride away from Koh Rong. It is more peaceful and less touristy and a one day trip to this island is a nice way to spend a day. There are two big villages on the island – Saracen Bay and M'Pay Bay. You can go to this island with a slow boat, speed ferry or private taxi boat.

Kayaking – Rent a kayak and paddle on the beach for $8 for 45 minutes to Small Island. Small Island has a small pagoda on top and is the best location for snorkeling.

Volunteer Friends of Koh Rong is an organization that helps children on the island with education and community capacity development. They have a lot of ongoing projects and if you want to do something good, stop by and ask for help. Help is always appreciated and the kids will make your day.

Best Lodgings

Volunteer with Friends of Koh Rong and enjoy spending time with the children on the island.
Volunteer with Friends of Koh Rong and enjoy spending time with the children on the island.

There are all sorts of accommodation available on the island. If you want something basic, cheap and quiet, walk to the left side of the local village. If you want something more western, a little bit more expensive with more nightlife, walk to the right side of the pier to one of the Western-owned guesthouses.

Thien Ann Guesthouse – One of the cheapest options on the island, located in the middle of the local village. Very basic rooms inside of a bamboo house. Price is around $10 for a private room (WC + fan), $5 for a dorm room (fan) and $3 for a bed outside on a balcony (no fan).

Dreamcatch – Eco-friendly guesthouse in a local village, known for helping the Friends of Koh Rong organization. They have only private rooms for around $15 per night. They are also known for their fire show which takes place outside the guest house every night. The small restaurant and bar attached sell all kinds of Western and Cambodian food. Wi-fi is available.

WHITE ROSE GUESTHOUSE is a family business with private rooms for 2 or 4 people ($10-$15), all with shared bathrooms. On the top floor, there is a nice sitting area with a big TV.

Their restaurant is one of the best on the island where you can get everything from burgers and spaghetti to Mexican food and nachos for under $4. You get a free Klang beer with every meal. Wi-fi is available.

A local building a fire on the island.
Building a fire on the island.

NATURAL LOUNGE – Newly renovated guesthouse for people who want to relax in a quiet area. Twin, double and triple rooms all under $20.

COCOS – One of the most popular guesthouses among the travelers. You can accommodate in Sea View bungalows for $35, Graden View bungalows for $30 and Deluxe bungalows for $60. They have different themed parties every night and one of the best BBQs on the whole island for just $5. Wi-fi is available.

BUNNA'S PLACE – If you like to party, this is the place for you. A very friendly staff will make your stay very pleasant. They will teach you how to drink a shotgun and you will be able to put your name on a Shotgun leaderboard. Dorms from $5 per night and private rooms from $10 for double room and $15 for triple room. Wi-fi, restaurant and very good cocktails available.

Best Eats

You can get meals for just $1 on the island. In the local village, you can find local businesses selling traditional Khmer food (soup, fried rice, and noodles) for $1 or $2. Other dishes like curry, amok, lok lak are around $3. Western food is a little bit more expensive, up to $4 or $5. But you can get everything from burgers, toasties, spaghetti, Mexican food and pizza (Tree House bungalows – $6, Koh Lanta – $8)

Every night after 6 p.m. most of the hotels offer fresh BBQ for $5. You can choose from red snapper and all kinds of meat served with side salad, potatoes, and garlic bread. In some places, you get a free beer as well. Klang beer is $1, the same as bottled water. Cocktails are around $3, but cheaper if you catch happy hour that lasts from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fresh fruit shakes can be bought on the beach for $1.

Best Shopping (if appropriate!)

Spending time with the natives of the island.
Spending time with the natives of the island.

In the village, you can find some basic shops with food and drinks. Mathilda and Koh Rong shirts are very popular among the backpackers. You will see a lot of people wearing shirts saying 'It's all gone Koh Rong' and 'Rong place, Rong time.' You can buy the shirts in Bongs for up to $10 and Vagabonds and Dreamcatcher for $6.

Important Things to Note

Make sure you bring enough money with you on the island. There are no ATM machines. You can borrow money in some of the guesthouses but the best way is to bring enough money with you from the mainland.

There is no hot water, no AC, no washing machines, no roads and no hospitals on the island. In the case of an emergency go to the pharmacy in the local village. If the case is very serious, you will have to go to the hospital on the mainland.

Wi-fi connection is very bad most of the time. It is possible to check e-mails and facebook, but Skyping and downloading movies is impossible.

Sand flies are one of the things you have to be extremely careful about. The bites are very itchy and can get infected easily. The flies bite only when you lie on the beach and the only way to protect yourself is to put any kind of oil all over the body. Don't be afraid to look like a french fry - cover yourself in oil!

Finally, drink only bottled water!

Find out the latest news and tourist information at Visit Koh Rong.

Nika MurovecNika Murovec, from Slovenia, loves to travel and explore the world. She fell in love with Asia the first time she stepped in Thailand. Cambodia became her second home. You can visit her website and find her on Facebook here.

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