There are a few things to know before you go to Koh Rong, which will have an important impact on how much you enjoy your time there. While most of these issues are pretty minor, others can be the difference between an unforgettable time in this amazing Cambodia paradise or a regrettable time far from comfort and familiarity.

    The important thing to remember is that Koh Rong is relatively undeveloped. While this is the feature it is most loved for, it can be a double-edged sword. It means that many of the conveniences of well-established beach destinations like Sihanoukville, Bali or Phuket will not be available. You have to be a little more careful about what you bring with you, including bringing the right mentality for such an idyllic tropical island.


    Choose the right island

    It's very easy to get confused between Koh Rong and the nearby Koh Rong Sanloem. Both are very beautiful, with outstanding beaches and lovely resorts available, but they each offer a very different atmosphere. If you want to hang out with the backpacker crowd and spend your nights partying, the main island of Koh Rong is for you, especially in or around Koh Tui Village.

    If you’re looking for peace, relaxation, great snorkelling and diving and quiet nights, you should stay on Koh Rong Sanloem. It should be noted that the differences can also be quite distinct from beach to beach, as well as between the 2 main islands. So, it’s best to check the location of your hotel very carefully.

    photo by Wikirictor (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Bring plenty of cash

    Prices for pretty much everything on Koh Rong are very low, so a little money can go quite a long way. But what happens if it doesn’t quite go far enough? Well, then you have a problem because there is only one ATM on the island, in Koh Tui Village. With the growing popularity of Koh Rong, the chances are pretty good that it will be empty or broken when you need it most.

    Some bars and hotels will let you settle your bill on the mainland or will give you a loan while using your passport as collateral, but these are far from ideal solutions. It's much better to bring more money than you need, though be careful to store it safely and securely.


    Bring your essentials

    As with ATMs, shops are in pretty short supply on Koh Rong. There are a few convenience stores in the main tourist hubs, selling basic supplies like sun cream and shampoo, but they are obviously very limited in the brands and types they stock.

    The safest option is to bring all of your essentials with you, particularly if your needs are quite specific. At the very least, you should plan to stock up in Sihanoukville, before boarding the ferry.


    Weak Wi-Fi

    If you can’t picture spending a full day without Facebook, you should be prepared for just how much of a “getaway” Koh Rong is. The island is known for its desert island vibe, allowing you to get far from the stresses of modern life, and that includes getting away from the web. Hotels there have only recently managed to get reliable internet connections, so be prepared for very patchy and slow Wi-Fi and little to no data roaming.

    If your family and friends are expecting you to keep in regular contact during your travels, you'll need to warn them in advance that this might not be possible while you're on Koh Rong. It also means that you need to do all of your travel research in advance, including printing off maps for any attractions you plan on visiting.


    Time is 'meaningless' here

    The castaway feeling on Koh Rong not only means that you leave the conveniences of the modern world behind but also any hope of measuring time. It is alarmingly easy for a couple of days on Koh Rong to become a couple of months – the blissful peace is extremely addictive.

    The island already has quite a substantial expatriate community, which explains the surprisingly large number of western restaurants, particularly around the resort hubs. You may find that you have to really force yourself to board the ferry back to civilisation. Also, don’t expect anything to run on strict schedules – life just doesn’t work like that here.


    Medical facilities are poor

    It's important to note that medical facilities are extremely limited on Koh Rong. A group of expats have opened Koh Rong Emergency Services, based in Koh Tui Village, which offers free basic treatments to tourists and locals. They can also stabilise those with more serious issues before ferrying them to Sihanoukville for proper treatment.

    Other than that, you can find a very limited supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications in a few small pharmacies, mostly also in Koh Tui. If possible, you should bring any essential drugs and maybe even a basic first aid kit with you.

    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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