Take note! This post shares essential things you need to know before visiting Koh Rong island in Cambodia. We talk about all the “musts knows” from money to health and what to expect!
Home to untouched beaches, Koh Rong embodies island life with lush jungles and tiny villages. Visiting the paradise island of Koh Rong is a must-have on your Cambodia itinerary! The charm of being an undeveloped island means that Koh Rong doesn’t come with the same luxuries as other more developed islands in Asia. For your comfort, safety and convenience, these are some things to know before you visit Koh Rong.
Things to Know for Koh Rong
As a tiny, still developing island, there are some key things you need to know before you travel to Koh Rong. Many of these things are minor and won’t prevent you from having a great trip, but the knowledge can go a long way in helping you prepare for the ultimate island experience.
1️⃣ There are no ATMs
As with many tiny islands, you have to come prepared that they might not have the same facilities as the mainland and Koh Rong is no exception! There are no ATMs on the island so you have to bring all the cash you need for your trip with you!
We brought a couple hundred dollars with us so we knew that we had plenty to last our time on the island. We also made sure to break up the bills into smaller nominations so we didn’t run into any inconveniences if places didn’t have change for us.
If you find yourself in a pinch and running out of cash, there are a couple of EFTPOS card payment terminals in Khao Touch town, where you can essentially make a card payment and take out cash. However, they do charge a 10% fee so it’s still best to bring enough cash with you.
2️⃣ Get ready to disconnect
Get ready to embrace remote island life and all that it comes with! Koh Rong has poor mobile signal, especially if you have a Cellcard4U sim. My boyfriend had slightly more luck connecting with his Smart sim, but we were still disconnected for the majority of our stay in Koh Rong; it was kind of blissful to be forced to put down technology.
Some of the restaurants and hotels have wifi but don’t bet on it being a strong connection, especially not reliable enough to work from the island.
3️⃣ Book an open return
Travelling on a budget and want to save some money on your ferry tickets? Make sure to book an open return! One-way ferry tickets from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong costs $14, whereas you can book a return for $25. The best part, you don’t need to pick a return date as return tickets are open, meaning you can return whenever you please.
When you pick up your tickets at the ferry terminal in Sihanoukville, the staff will give you a Whatsapp number through which you can confirm your return date/time. Alternatively, you ask your accommodation to help you organize your return with the ferry company, or speak to the staff at the main pier in Khao Touch.
📍 Book the ferry in person at Sihanoukville Port Autonomous, or pre-book using Camboticket*.
4️⃣ Stay in Khao Touch
While Koh Rong is small, it can be tricky to navigate as there are only a few roads that connect the bays of the islands. I highly recommend staying within walking distance of the main village, Khao Touch. As mentioned, this is where you’ll find places to take out more cash if you run out and the pharmacy, as well as restaurants, minimarts, and places to organize tours around the islands.
If staying further afield, be prepared to pay $3+/person for shuttle boats around the island.
5️⃣ Beware of sandflies
Koh Rong is home to one of the world’s most annoying insects; sandflies. These tiny little flies live in the sand and bite similar to mosquitoes, creating itchy swells.
During our trip in monsoon season, we didn’t encounter any issues with these little bugs but during my visit in dry season, I was covered in bites. Apparently, sandflies are most active during the dry season so it’s something to beware of if you are visiting between November to May.
Tips for dealing with sandflies
➡️ If you love to sunbathe, laying on a sunbed rather than a towel in the sand helps create distance from the flies.
➡️ Bring something like After Bite, tiger balm or a Bite Away pen to soothe any bites you get.
➡️ Avoid laying in the sand during dusk/dawn when sandflies are more active.
➡️ Sleep with a mosquito net and be sure to shower right after the beach, especially if you are in a beachside bungalow.
6️⃣ Avoid staying in Sihanoukville
Trust me, you’re best planning to avoid staying in Sihanoukville. In the past, the ferry port town of Sihanoukville where you need to catch the ferry to Koh Rong was actually pleasant to spend an overnight in, with a variety of hostels and a beachfront strip with restaurants… long gone are those days. Sihanoukville is overrun with massive construction from Chinese investors; think building sites and gaudy casinos.
Taking a morning bus/flight to Sihanoukville and catching one of the afternoon ferries to the island is optimal. If this isn’t possible for your itinerary, I recommend spending the night at Onederz Sihanoukville*, before continuing your travels the next day.
7️⃣ Where to find medical care in Koh Rong
As a tiny island, it is important to note that there is no hospital or serious medical care available on Koh Rong, the nearest hospital is on the mainland. There is however a pharmacy in Khao Touch village where you can pick up basic medication and bandages if you do find yourself hurt or sick. The pharmacist can help with wound cleaning but if you have a serious injury you need to get back to the mainland for treatment.
8️⃣ Know the seasons
Cambodia has two seasons; wet and dry. It’s good to know what the seasons are during your trip to Koh Rong so you can be prepared.
Dry seasons last from November to May with reliable sunny weather. This is a great time to visit Koh Rong but be prepared for high temperatures and slightly more expensive accommodation as it is one of the peak times to travel here.
The wet season lasts through the summer with a chance of daily rainstorms. That said, don’t let wet season completely deter you from visiting Koh Rong. We visited Koh Rong in June, at the height of monsoon season, yet there wasn’t a drop of rain or any sign of storms. Travelling in monsoon season, or the shoulder season, often means accommodation prices are cheaper and there is less need to pre-book.
If you struggle with seasickness, the dry season is the best time to visit as monsoon season brings with it rougher sea conditions.
Planning a Trip to Koh Rong
Koh Rong is now firmly on the backpacker trail for Cambodia, which thankfully makes planning a trip to the island much easier in 2022 than when I first visited in 2016.
How to get to Sihanoukville
To get to Koh Rong, you must take the ferry from Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville has an airport that serves both domestic and international flights (currently not international due to COVID 2022).
From Phnom Penh you can take the bus or train but, as the train only runs once a day, the bus is more convenient.
From Kampot, there are no bus links (I believe due to construction on the route) so you will need to organize a private car/minivan through your accommodation. Karma Traders* in Kampot helped us to organize a shared car for $45.
For travelling from other destinations in Cambodia, check out Baolau*, a search engine that compares all travel options to find the best for you.
How to get to Koh Rong Island
There are five ferry companies operating the route from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong, so finding a time that suits you is no challenge.
💰 Approx. $25 return
⏰ 45 mins
📍 You can book the ferry in person at Sihanoukville Port Autonomous, or pre-book your ferry using Camboticket.
Where to stay in Koh Rong
While not a huge island, Koh Rong can be tricky to navigate due to a lack of roads so it’s important to pick carefully where to stay. Kaoh Touch beach or the bottom of Long Set beach are great areas to stay on the island as they are within walking distance of the main village and piers. There are many hotels, resorts and hostels along this stretch, so finding accommodation* isn’t challenging.
Take note of these tips for visiting Koh Rong and you’ll be sure to have the ultimate island experience in Cambodia!
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Planning a Trip to Cambodia
For more information on planning a trip to Cambodia, be sure to check out my Complete Cambodia Travel Guide which includes everything you need to know for travelling around the country.