Why you should go to Koh Rong Samloem?
Updated on the 5/4/2020
I was in a subpar speedboat lurching through relentless waves. Inebriated with sea sickness, I cursed because I forgot to bring my medications.
As if all of these tortures were not enough to keep me entertained, sea water splashed every 5 minutes into the boat and I was wet and salty.
And then my jaw dropped.
Stretches of windswept beaches battered with turquoise waters came into sight. Coconut trees that were standing in line sway in unison, welcoming me from afar. A calming breeze washed over my body and I no longer felt the sickness that was hitting you hard.
A deep sensation of nothingness runs in me, and finally, I found my own slice of beautiful isolation unrivalled by any other.
Writing this from a hammock by the sandy beach of Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia.
Preparation Before going to Koh Rong Samloem
Be aware that there’s no road in Koh Rong Samloem. Getting around from bay to bay can be a pain. Before going on a boat to go to Koh Rong Samloem, check which bay your accommodation is at using Google Map. Tell the boat operator which bay or which accommodation you are staying at and make sure they drop you off at the right beach.
There’s no ATM in Koh Rong Samloem Make sure that you have enough money to cover for your accommodation and your expenses. If you are staying at a luxurious resort, see if you can pay online beforehand so that you don’t have to carry a large amount of cash. Remember, everything on the island is cash-term only. Bring enough money or you’ll starve like Robinson Crusoe.
You are gonna be so glad that you came prepared. Koh Rong Samloem is an island, it doesn’t have all kinds of shops to meet your sophisticated needs. Buy all your necessities from Sihanoukville and bring them here. Even if you forgot something, there are shops in M’ Pai Bai selling something like mosquito repellant, sunscreen, hats, shampoo, toothpaste and stuff. You just have to take the hassle to walk to that bay.
Most parts of Koh Rong Samloem island do not have an internet connection! There are some hotels in Saracen Bay that provide WiFi for free but you know, it’s not fast. Download everything (accommodation confirmation, playlists, eBooks) that you need before coming. If you really need to use the internet, make sure that you get a SIM card with a data plan in Sihanoukville or other Cambodian cities. Well, why not treat your body with a digital detox?
Getting to Koh Rong Samloem
There are many boat options to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem. The quickest way is to take a speedboat. I went with BuvaSea. It was a pretty good company (they include complimentary pick-up) and I recommend it.
Always check the official websites for more updated schedule. Boats don’t run if the weather is bad. If it’s full, they don’t wait for others. The best thing is just to go there and check the schedule and get a ticket straight away.
- BuvaSea: They stop at both Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem. Their vessels are relatively new compared. There are life jackets for everyone, although a few of them are on the floor soaking up the seawater. Besides, this is the only speedboat company that stops at Sunset Beach (read: Robinson Bungalows). This service is at 1400.
- Speedferry Cambodia: This is the only company that stops at Clear Water Bay (ie. if you are staying with Driftwood Hostel, this is the only one you can take).
- Island Speedboat Cambodia: Review has not been very great for the boats for this company. I later found out that the reviews are about the old ferries. Island Speedboat Cambodia now has a brand new 150-passenger air-conditioned ferry and is back in the competition.
- GTVC: This company is the latest addition to the speedboat market. They have the newest vessels. Do check them out.
- Other options: If you are running tight on budget and don’t mind taking a longer boat trip, you can opt for the supply boat. Their one-way tickets are priced at $5 and it takes two hours to reach Koh Rong Samloem. The boat departs from Pier 52. Tickets can be bought at Koh Rong Dive Center office. The return boat from Koh Rong Samloem is scheduled at 1600 but it tends to be late. If you are going to Lazy Beach, there’s only slow boat service that brings you there. The boat leaves Sihanoukville at 1200 every day. The journey takes two hours though, and it requires swimming sometimes. So it’s not as lazy as you thought.
Tickets can be acquired from many places – from the pier to major restaurants in Sihanoukville. The official price for a return ticket normally costs 20 USD. However, when they are desperate for customers, they tend to lower their price. Just ask around.
- BuvaSea: 0800, 1100, 1400 (stops at Sunset Beach), 1700
- Speedferry Cambodia: 0900, 1200 (doesn’t stop at M’ Pai Bai), 1500
- Island Speedboat Cambodia: 0900, 1200, 1500
- GTVC: 0800, 1100, 1400, 1600
- Slow boat service (to Lazy Beach): 1200
- BuvaSea: 0700, 0930, 1230, 1530
- Speedferry Cambodia: 1000, 1230, 1600
- Island Speedboat Cambodia: 1015, 1315, 1615
- GTVC: 0800, 0845, 1145, 1445
Boat route: Check which beach you are getting off from the boat. Normally, the route will be like this:
- Saracen Bay
- EcoSeaDive resort – They don’t stop here if they are not aware of any customer stopping here. So make sure they know if you are going to EcoSeaDive Resort
- M’ Pai Bai
- Koh Rong – the bigger island
About Clear Water Bay: If you are going to Clear Water Bay (ie. if you are staying at Driftwood hostel), you can only go with Speedferry Cambodia as they are the only company that sends you directly to Clear Water Bay. If you book your tickets with other company, you’ll be required to pay for a taxi boat to take you to Clear Water Bay. Remember, there’s no road in Koh Rong Samloem!
Weather conditions: If you are travelling during the stormy season (from June to September), I would suggest you not to pre-book your ticket. If it’s too stormy, they won’t operate the boat trips. You will need to change your ticket when you are there. My advice is to just buy your ticket there when the weather is alright. Don’t worry about not getting a ticket on the spot because the stormy season is a low season.
For your trip from Koh Rong Samloem back to Sihanoukville, you are required to tell your accommodation 24 hours prior which boat you are planning to take to come back to the mainland. They will then make a booking with the boat company so they will come get you the next day.
If you don’t want to go back to Sihanoukville and want to go to Koh Rong, ask your guesthouse owner to make an arrangement with the boat company.
Best accommodations on Koh Rong Samloem
As Koh Rong Samloem is not too commercialised yet, there are not many accommodation options on the island.
Guesthouses and villas always get overbooked during the high season. According to my guesthouse, the high season is from November to March, and also late July and August.
She always has to reject walk-in customers during these months. So book early!
Prices are sky-high if you walk in and you might not even get a room that you want. Booking in advance is highly recommended so that you get the room you want. More so if you are travelling as a group.
The quality of the accommodation is gonna be very decisive on the overall island experience that you are gonna have in Koh Rong Samloem. So, do your research and hopefully, you won’t stay in a bad one.
If you are travelling during the low season (June and September), most guesthouses and hotels are empty. You can just walk in and get a room. However, I will still recommend booking your accommodation earlier so that you don’t have to bring too much cash to the island. Remember, everything on the island is cash term only.
My personal choice
From high-end villas to inexpensive bunk beds, Saracen Bay has it all. It’s also the only bay that has “real” internet on the island.
Green Blue Resort has both bungalows and dorm beds. If you are on a budget, you can get a dorm bed for 10-12 USD. It only sleeps up to 7 people (2 double beds and 3 single beds) so you have to get it quick. The bungalows are priced from 35 USD to 120 USD. Note that the rooms are not air-conditioned. There are ceiling fans and mosquito nets provided, but if the mosquitoes are big fans of you, bring along your insect repellent.
Sol Beach Resort is the most expensive resort on this island, with its bungalows priced between 100 USD to 180 USD during the low season. The price is sky high during the high season and it’s highly recommended to book earlier. If you are looking for a luxurious beach holiday, this is definitely for you. Well, they constantly receive high ratings and fabulous reviews for a reason.
M' Pai Bay
M’ Pai Bay is probably the second busiest bay on the island. There are a lot of cheap accommodation options in this bay. Parties happen at this beach though not as lit as Sihanoukville or Koh Rong. There are plenty of shops selling necessities and inexpensive eateries. Fun fact: There are Cambodian natives living in M’ Pai Bay, and the whole bay is like a small community, with all the guesthouse owners and workers knowing each other.
The Drift is perfect for those who are on a tight budget. Price for a dorm bed ranges from 5 USD to 7 USD, depending on the season when you’re in Koh Rong Samloem. Private rooms will normally set you off at 10 USD to 15 USD. This backpacker house is a great place for you to meet other travellers, but it can be really quiet during the low season. PS: There’s a stall right outside The Drift Hostel called The Fishing Hook selling really good fish sticks!
Dragonfly Guesthouse is one of the busier guesthouses in M’ Pai Bay, mainly because of its chill vibe. There’s a communal area which is a really cool area to watch the sunset. You can get a dorm bed for 6-7 USD and a private room for 15 USD. There’s a wonderful community over there which will make you feel at home. They are very inclusive, so don’t worry if you are travelling by yourself – you will have friends!
Lazy Beach and Sunset Beach
Located on the west coast of Koh Rong Samloem, Sunset Beach and Lazy Beach are pretty quiet as it’s not easy to get here. However, this is like a no man’s land you can totally enjoy your own solitude here.
Robinson Bungalows offer both tents and bungalows. The bungalows are very famous for their awesome beach views. Also, the sunset here is to die for. You can also do a small trek (45 minutes depending on your speed) which will get you to Saracen Bay if you are too bored. You can also rent a tent if the weather permits. A night in the cheapest bungalow will cost 28 USD and renting a tent will cost 20 USD.
Huba-Huba is another hit on this beach. It has a whole range of accommodation options from hammock to dorm beds to tent to bungalows! A dorm bed costs 5 USD and the cheapest bungalow costs 20 USD. The other accommodation options are subjected to availability.
Best things to do in Koh Rong Samloem
If you are a diving connoisseur, Koh Rong Samloem is gonna be your thing. You don’t have to go too far away to see stuff.
Prices are not cheap. One open water dive will cost around 50 USD depending on which company you’re following. If you are a beginner, or if you have forgotten how to dive, you can take a refresh dive (diving from the beach) which will cost around 40 USD. If you wanna take a PADI course, expect to 300-400 USD.
For more information, you can visit:
If you don’t feel like diving, you can also do some free-and-easy snorkelling. Most guesthouses offer gear rental for the day at prices as low as 5 USD. As a lot of the guesthouses are run by volunteers, you can ask them to snorkel with you if you are not too experienced (and if they are happy to).
The marine life off the coast of Sunset Beach and Lazy beach is the most diverse one. The Lithuanian volunteer in my guesthouse kept raving about it when I was staying at Eco Sea Dive Resort. She said it’s the island’s most beautiful snorkelling site.
If you wanna have an idea of what to expect, visit https://visitkohrong.com/snorkelling-on-lazy-beach-koh-rong-samloem-editors-notes/
As there’s no road, you can only trek the jungle to get from bay to bay. So it’s not necessarily a leisure activity but a need if you want to go to another bay.
The most famous trek that you can do is from Saracen Bay to Sunset Beach to see the sunset. The sunset is beautiful and it’s really worth the trek. But do remember that it’s gonna be dark when you come back. Bring along a torch (or your smartphone with a torch feature). The path is well-trodden so don’t worry.
Another famous one is the jungle trek from M’ Pai Bay to Clear Water Bay. I wouldn’t say that this trek is spectacular but you do find somewhere that’s completely isolated where you can enjoy your own peace.
There are kayak and paddleboard rentals everywhere. If your accommodation doesn’t offer it, just walk to another guesthouse or hotel to ask if they have it.
All the rentals are calculated by hours (5 USD per hour). If you are renting it for the whole day, make sure you negotiate with them as they normally will give you a small discount.
If you are a beginner, go to Saracen Bay to do it as they water is normally calmer than other bays in Koh Rong Samloem.
I mean, it’s okay if you don’t do anything at all. You don’t have to always keep yourself that busy. After all, we always need to take a break right?
Pick up a book from the bookshelf of your resort. Or you can do some yoga. If not, immerse yourself in the cerulean water. Or spread your mat on the sandy beach and bathe in the sun.
Time stops here in Koh Rong Samloem, you don’t have to do anything!
Food and alcohol in Koh Rong Samloem
Your accommodation will have their own restaurants. As the supplies are shipped from the mainland, the price is not as cheap as what you can get in Sihanoukville.
- Basic Cambodian Chicken Fried Rice – 3.50 USD
- A buffet lunch (4 dishes with fruits) will cost 5 USD
- A can of coke will cost 1.50 USD
- If you don’t have enough drinking water, you can ask your guesthouse to refill it for you. One refill will cost 0.50 USD.
- A can of Angkor Beer can cost you 1.50 USD, which you can get it for 0.50 USD or less from Sihanoukville.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re gonna fill your bag with alcohol and then bring them with you to the island right? Unfortunately, most accommodations won’t allow their guests.
But, you know, it’s not like they will check. You know what I mean.
If you are sick of the food offered by your accommodation, there are plenty of options if you are staying at Saracen Bay or M’ Pai Bay, less so in Sunset Beach and Clear Water Bay.
As there are a lot of luxurious resorts at Saracen Bay, you will have a wide array of choices. You can get Turkish food from Green Blue Resort and authentic Italian food from Cita Resort. They are also sunset dining option which would be a perfect ending to your island adventure.
If you are at M’ Pai Bay, you can go to the Fishing Hook for really good fish nuggets or fish sticks. They are really cheap! When I was there, a big paper cup of fish nuggets only cost me 1.50 USD! As there are locals living here, there’s also a place called Mom’s Home Cooking where you can get authentic Khmer food for a cheap price.
M’ Pai Bay has the cheapest beer in Koh Rong Samloem. I had to bold it so no one misses this important statement. For example, you can get a cocktail as cheap as 2 USD and an Angkor Beer for only 0.75 USD!
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