Last updated on January 15, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Thailand

15-Point Showdown: Thailand Vs Cambodia best for travel

Thailand vs Cambodia – two neighbouring Southeast Asian countries that each offer amazing attractions for travellers.

Thailand is famous for its incredible islands and beaches, bustling cities, ornate temples and flavourful cuisine. Cambodia charms with the world’s largest ancient temple complex Angkor Wat, plenty of history, and up-and-coming beach towns.

In this extensive head-to-head showdown. I compare 15 important points, from visas, flights, costs and food to transportation and adventures that will help decide between incredible Thailand or Cambodia for your next holiday.

Let’s start straight away with a quick summary table of the key points. However, keep reading for a more detailed description of every fact.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia - The most impressive temple area in the world
Angkor Wat in Cambodia – The most impressive temple area in the world

Thailand Vs Cambodia – Key Points

SubjectThailandCambodiaMy Opinion/Final Call
Getting visas30-day visa-exempt entry for many countries. 60-day tourist visas available. Fees: $20-65 USD.30-day tourist visa on arrival. E-visas available online. Fees: $30.Cambodia offers fewer visa-exempt options than Thailand.
Ease and expense of flyingExtensive direct flight connections worldwide. Fares from USA/Europe: $800-1200 roundtrip.Fewer direct long-haul flights. Most visitors transit through regional hubs. Fares from USA/Europe: $900-1300 roundtrip.Thailand is easier and cheaper to reach.
Cost of livingBudget-friendly. Hotel rooms from $30/night. Meals are cheapSlightly higher than Thailand. Budget hotel rooms: $15-25/night. Meals: $3-5.Thailand provides more value for money.
WeatherHot year-round. Cooler, dry conditions from Nov-Feb. Rainy season: May-Oct.More pronounced wet and dry seasons. Cooler and dryer: Dec-May. Wet season: Jun-Nov.Weather is similar, with dry and wet seasons.
SafetyVery safe, especially in tourist areas. Some scams like taxi overcharging.Relatively safe, especially in major tourist sites. Petty theft is uncommon.Both countries are safe with basic precautions.
2-week itinerary2-3 days in Bangkok, trip to Ayutthaya, few days in Chiang Mai, relax on islands like Phuket or Koh Samui.3-4 days exploring Angkor Wat, 2 days in Phnom Penh, 3 days in Kampot and Kep, 2-3 days in Sihanoukville.Both great trips
Honeymoon suitabilityPerfect for honeymoons with world-class beach resorts and romantic luxury experiences.Some romantic accommodations ideal for newlyweds, especially around Siem Reap.Thailand is a better choice for honeymooners.
Adventure & activitiesJungle trekking, rock climbing, scuba diving, zip lining and more.Adventure opportunities around Angkor Wat and coastal areas.Thailand offers more organized trips and activities.
AccommodationExtensive lodging choices. Basic guesthouses under $30/night to luxurious 5-star resorts.Solid mid-range hotel options. Budget hotels and guesthouses from $15-25/night.Thailand has a wider range of accommodation tiers.
CuisineFamous for its mix of spicy, sour, sweet and salty flavours. Street food scene is incredible.Incorporates Thai and Vietnamese influences. Dining ranges from $3 meals at markets to upscale restaurants.Thai food is globally renowned and offers more variety.
BeachesOver 3000 km of stunning coastline. Best islands and beaches in the south.Beaches lag in infrastructure and accessibility compared to Thailand.Thailand’s beaches are world-class.
NightlifeFamous nightlife hotspots like Bangkok’s Khao San Road, Pattaya and Phuket.Minimal nightlife catering mainly to expats and tourists around Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.Thailand’s nightlife options are more varied and renowned.
Public TransportationExcellent public transit including taxis, tuk tuks, buses, Skytrain in Bangkok, and domestic flights.Developing public transportation. Buses, shared vans, and taxis can be arranged through guesthouses.Thailand’s infrastructure is more advanced.
Country SizeOver 500,000 square km. Comparable to Spain.Around 180,000 square km. Comparable to Greece.Thailand is larger in size.
Internet & connectivityAdvanced digital infrastructure. High-speed WiFi widely accessible.Improving but lags behind Thailand. Slower speeds and less reliability.Thailand has better internet infrastructure.
A quick comparison between Thailand and Cambodia

Getting visas for Thailand vs Cambodia

Thailand

Thailand offers easy 30-day visa-exempt entry for citizens of many countries including the USA, Canada, the UK, the EU, and Australia. Visa-on-arrival is available for others with just a short application on arrival.

60-day tourist visas can be arranged in advance. Fees run about $20-65 USD depending on the visa type. Overall getting a Thai visa is straightforward.

Cambodia

You can get a 30-day tourist visa on arrival when entering Cambodia by air, land or sea. Just bring a passport photo and $30 with you. E-visas are also available to apply online ahead of time. Extending for another 30 days is possible.

In both cases the process is easy, but Cambodia offers fewer visa-exempt options than Thailand.

Bang Bao, Koh Chang
Bang Bao, Koh Chang in Thailand

Is it easier and less expensive to fly to Cambodia or Thailand?

Thailand

Thailand has extensive direct flight connections to destinations worldwide thanks to Bangkok’s major airport. Low-cost carriers provide very affordable regional flights.

Fares from the USA and Europe average around $800-1200 roundtrip with many options. Thailand is easy and relatively cheap to reach by air.

Cambodia

Cambodia has far fewer direct long-haul flights beyond Southeast Asia. Most visitors transit through regional hubs like Bangkok, Singapore or Vietnam. Flying from the USA, Europe or Australia requires multiple segments, adding time and complexity.

Flight prices are slightly more expensive than to Thailand, usually $900-1300 roundtrip from North America and Europe.

From Australia, I usually fly on much cheaper fares, but still, I have to fly either through Malaysia, Hong Kong or Singapore, taking the full trip to 13-15 hours long.

Flying to Thailand
Flying to Thailand

Is Thailand or Cambodia cheaper?

Thailand

Thailand remains one of the most budget-friendly destinations in Southeast Asia. Comfortable hotel rooms start under $30 per night.

Meals at local restaurants and street stalls cost just a few dollars. Domestic transportation is very affordable. Thailand provides endless low-cost experiences.

Cambodia

While still cheap compared to the West, Cambodia has pricing on par with Vietnam – slightly higher than neighbouring Thailand. Budget hotel rooms start from around $15-25 per night.

Local cuisine meals are just $3-5. Tourist activities generally cost more than Thailand. But Cambodia offers plenty of value for budget travellers.

Here is a quick comparison table on the cost in the two countries. Values are just an indication. Prices can change widely based on where you are, where you eat, where you drink etc.

ItemThailand Price (USD)Cambodia Price (USD)Most expensive
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant2.53.5Cambodia
Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant25.030.0Cambodia
McMeal at McDonald’s5.56.5Cambodia
Domestic Beer (pint)2.01.0Thailand
Cappuccino/latte2.03.0Cambodia
Coke/Pepsi (small bottle)0.51.0Cambodia
Water (small bottle)0.50.5similar
Basic Backpacker Dorm5-105-10similar
Double Bedroom in Basic Place15-2015-25similar
Double Bedroom in Good Quality Hotel50-6050-70similar
Cost comparison between Thailand and Cambodia

Thailand and Cambodia weather

Thailand

Thailand stays hot year-round with temperatures averaging 28-32C/82-90F. Cooler, dry conditions last from November to February.

Thailand has a rainy season from May to October that brings humidity but fewer tourists. The weather is relatively consistent across Thailand’s different regions.

Cambodia

Cambodia also sits in the tropical zone but has more pronounced wet and dry seasons. December to May is cooler and dryer, while the June to November wet season brings monsoonal rains.

April’s searing heat precedes the rains. Cambodia has a more variable climate moving between seasons compared to Thailand.

Rainy day in Koh Samui. It does happen, especially late in the day
Rainy day in Koh Samui, Thailand. It does happen, especially late in the day

Safety and security

Thailand

Thailand is very safe with low violent crime rates, especially in tourist areas where police patrol heavily. Scams like taxi overcharging occur but you can easily avoid them by asking the final price before starting the trip.

Regular precautions should be taken with valuables and late-night activities. Overall Thailand provides a secure environment.

Cambodia

Cambodia is also relatively safe, especially within Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and most tourist sites where police keep a heavy presence. Petty theft is uncommon but valuables still require prudence. Remote areas near borders can have occasional troubles.

Overall both countries are very safe. You just need to take the basic precautions like not wearing valuables like gold, expensive watches, etc.

Exploring Angkor Wat
Exploring Angkor Wat

Thailand Vs Cambodia for a 2-week itinerary

Thailand

With 2 weeks in Thailand, spend 2-3 days in Bangkok seeing highlights like the Grand Palace, temples, and markets. Take a trip to the former capital of Ayutthaya. Fly north to Chiang Mai for temples, trekking and hiking for a few days. End by relaxing on islands like Phuket or Koh Samui for beaches, nightlife and island hopping.

Cambodia

A 2 week Cambodia trip allows for seeing the top attractions. Spend 3-4 days exploring Angkor Wat temples near Siem Reap. Travel to Phnom Penh for 2 days to visit the Killing Fields and Royal Palace.

Head to Kampot and Kep for 3 days of nature and relaxation by the coast. End with 2-3 days of beach time in Sihanoukville. Two weeks provides a great introduction to Cambodia.

How nature is keeping Angkor Wat together
How nature is keeping Angkor Wat together

Should I plan a honeymoon in Thailand or Cambodia?

Thailand

With its world-class beach resorts and romantic luxury experiences, Thailand is perfect for honeymoons. Pampering amenities like couples massages, private plunge pools, incredible beaches and sunset cruises provide special memories.

Thailand offers countless options tailored to honeymooners seeking a tropical paradise. I also suggest you add a couple of days to Bangkok to enjoy the famous sunset cocktails on the skyscrapers’ rooftop.

Cambodia

While not a typical honeymoon locale, Cambodia has some romantic and secluded accommodations ideal for newlyweds, especially around Siem Reap and coastal Kep. Couples can enjoy unique experiences like sunrise temple visits and night food markets together.

In saying that, Thailand is a better choice than Cambodia for honeymooning couples.

Koh Poda Island in Krabi Province
Koh Poda Island in Krabi Province

Adventure & activities

Thailand

Thailand excels for adventure travellers with activities like jungle trekking, rock climbing, scuba diving, zip lining and more. Top spots include mountainous Chiang Mai, coastal Krabi/Phuket, and inland Kanchanaburi.

For example, I loved my time in northern Thailand trekking in the Golden Triangle, visiting rural areas and natural wonders like the Phu Chi Fa Forest Park, the Mekong River and a few waterfalls.

Cambodia

Cambodia offers rewarding adventure opportunities centred around Angkor Wat and coastal areas. Bike tours through temple ruins, boating on Tonle Sap Lake, kayaking mangrove forests, and hiking Bokor National Park.

I enjoyed so much my daily adventures in Angkor Wat, probably the main tourist centre of Cambodia, exploring on a tuk tuk the most stunning temples in the world.

They are two totally different kinds of destinations. If you’re looking for organised trips and activities then Thailand works better. If you prefer to make the decision on what is next and be more independent, then Cambodia has more local and genuine options.

Rock climbing the Thaiwand Wall in Krabi - What a view
Rock climbing the Thaiwand Wall in Krabi – What a view

Accommodation – hotel options, costs, booking tips

Thailand

Thailand offers extensive lodging choices from basic guesthouses under $30/night to luxurious 5-star resorts averaging $150-300+/night. Then you can find also a bed in a hostel for 5-10 USD/night.

My biggest tip here is to book well in advance if you want to travel in peak season, between December and March, when the main touristy areas are very busy.

I have written a full guide to the best areas to visit and stay in Thailand that you should check out. Below is a quick summary table.

AreaIdeal forProsConsBest SeasonAccessibilityFamiliesCouplesNightlifeBeachesSafety and CleanlinessCharacter
BangkokCity ExplorersVibrant culture, shopping, nightlifeCrowded, pollutionNov-FebExcellentModerateModerateExcellentPoorGoodModern with historical pockets
AyutthayaHistory BuffsAncient ruins, less crowdedLimited nightlifeNov-FebGoodGoodGoodPoorPoorGoodHistorical
PattayaNightlifeWater sports, nightlifeTouristyNov-MarGoodModerateModerateExcellentGoodModerateTouristy with some culture
KrabiAdventure SeekersStunning beaches, water activitiesCan be expensiveNov-AprModerateExcellentExcellentModerateExcellentGoodNatural beauty with cliffs
PhuketResort GoersLuxury resorts, beachesExpensive, BusyNov-AprExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellentGoodTouristy but scenic
Phi Phi IslandsIsland HoppersStunning beaches, nightlifeBusy, expensiveNov-AprModerateModerateExcellentExcellentExcellentGood-ModerateIsland paradise
Koh SamuiRelaxationBeautiful beaches, relaxed atmosphereLess cultural activitiesDec-Feb, Jun-AugModerateExcellentExcellentModerateExcellentGoodIsland paradise
Koh Pha NganFull Moon PartyFull moon parties, beachesCrowded during full moonDec-Feb, Jun-AugModerateModerateModerateExcellentGoodGoodParty island
Koh TaoDivingExcellent diving spots, less crowdedLimited other activitiesDec-Feb, Jun-AugModerateGoodExcellentModerateExcellentGoodDiving paradise
Koh ChangNature LoversJungle treks, less crowdedLimited nightlifeNov-FebModerateGoodGoodPoorGoodGoodNatural and less developed
Koh Ngai & Koh MakQuiet RetreatSecluded beaches, relaxationLimited amenitiesNov-AprPoorGoodExcellentPoorExcellentGoodSecluded and natural
Chiang MaiCulture SeekersTemples, mountains, cultureFar from beachesNov-FebGoodExcellentGoodModeratePoorExcellentCultural and historical
Chiang RaiExplorersLess touristy, natural beautyLimited amenitiesNov-FebModerateGoodGoodPoorPoorGoodNatural and historical
Isan RegionOff-the-Beaten-PathAuthentic Thai culture, less crowdedLimited tourist facilitiesNov-FebPoorModerateGoodPoorPoorGoodAuthentic and rural
Best areas to stay in Thailand
Best areas to stay in Thailand

Cambodia

Cambodia has solid mid-range hotel options in the $30-60 per night range. High-end luxury hotels are limited outside Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Budget hotels and guesthouses start around $15-25 per night. A bed in a hostel usually costs 5-10 USD.

Thailand has a wider range of accommodation tiers.

Loy La Long Hotel Bangkok
Magical view from my hotel in Bangkok

Cambodian and Thai cuisine

Thailand

Thai cuisine has gained global fame for its tantalizing mix of spicy, sour, sweet and salty flavours. Rice and noodle dishes prevail, along with regional curries and stir-fries. Pad Thai is my favourite dish, unmissable once there.

Thailand boasts an incredible street food scene. Meals suit all budgets from $1 street eats to gourmet restaurants where you can splurge as much as you want.

Cambodia

Cambodian food incorporates Thai and Vietnamese influences. Local specialties include fish amok, Lok Lak beef, and fresh spring rolls. Dining ranges from $3 meals at markets to upscale restaurants in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

While tasty, Cambodian cuisine is still behind if compared to the amazing food of Thai food.

Thai street food at the market in Phuket
Thai street food at the market in Phuket

Beaches in Cambodia and Thailand

Thailand

In Thailand, you will find over 3000 km (2000 miles) of stunning coastline. The best islands and beaches are in the south of the country, especially around Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi.

You’ll find soft white sand, gentle waters, picturesque palm trees, and unique beaches, all easily accessible. The number and quality of options are tough for Cambodia to compete with.

Cambodia

While the country has hundreds of miles of coastline, Cambodia’s beaches lag in infrastructure and accessibility compared to Thailand’s world-class options. Nice beaches exist around Sihanoukville and Kep/Kampot but remain low-key with limited resort development.

For a relaxed beach getaway, Cambodia has potential but lacks Thailand’s beauty.

Similan Island beach near Phuket
Similan Island beach near Phuket

Is Nightlife better in Cambodia or Thailand?

Thailand

Famous nightlife hotspots like Bangkok’s Khao San Road, Pattaya and Phuket keep travellers awake till the early morning hours. Go-go bars, nightclubs, rooftop lounges, beach parties, and more satisfy party-seekers.

Cambodia

Compared to Thailand, Cambodia has minimal nightlife catering mainly to expats and tourists around Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Beach hotspot Sihanoukville has some lively bars and clubs. But after-dark offerings are limited beyond these hubs.

Thailand’s nightlife options eclipse anywhere in Cambodia both in reputation and variety.

Clubbing in Pattaya is number 1 activity
Clubbing in Pattaya is the number 1 activity

Local Public Transportation in Cambodia Vs Thailand

Thailand

Thailand enjoys excellent public transit including affordable taxis, tuk tuks, buses, Skytrain (subway) in Bangkok, and domestic flights between destinations.

Large, organized bus and rail networks connect all corners of the country. Independent travel is so easy for visitors.

Cambodia

Getting around Cambodia with public transportation is possible but it is still developing compared to Thailand but offers basic options between hubs. Buses shared vans, and taxis can be arranged through guesthouses fairly easily.

Self-guided travel takes more effort but local drivers are readily available for hire to offset gaps.

Thailand’s infrastructure is more advanced.

What country is bigger in size, Thailand or Cambodia?

Thailand

Thailand covers over 500,000 square km comprising diverse regions from northern mountains to southern beaches. It stretches around 1,620 km from north to south. Besides the numbers, you can compare Thailand’s size to Spain’s, very similar although with a different shape.

Cambodia

Cambodia spans around 180,000 square km, making it comparable to Greece, although a bit bigger. The country is around 800 km long west to east, and between 200-600 km wide north to south.

The Mueang Tam Stone Sanctuary in the Isan Province
The Mueang Tam Stone Sanctuary in the Isan Province

Internet & connectivity

Thailand

Thailand enjoys advanced digital infrastructure including high-speed WiFi widely accessible across tourist areas. Local prepaid SIMs provide affordable connectivity.

One of the digital nomad world capitals is Chiang Mai, located in the north of the country. That’s where you will get probably the best data infrastructure in Thailand.

Cambodia

While improving, Cambodia’s internet still lags behind Thailand with slower speeds and less reliability. WiFi functions in major hotels and cafes but quality varies.

Local SIMs are affordable but data networks are still developing outside Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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