Get ready to boil, this place is hot, hot, hot.
If you don’t do what I did and go in April you might be cooler, but by that I mean 30-degrees instead of 45 with high humidity.
This is where covering up your legs, shoulders and chest to visit places like Angkor really becomes a challenge, and you have to put comfort to the side and deal with it. I got around this by wearing leggings and a t-shirt, but if nothing else, it means you don’t get as sunburnt.
Incredibly enough, even in this sticky heat locals are covered from head to toe in layers of long-sleeve shirts, hoodies, gloves, scarves, full-brimmed hats, jeans, socks and runners. When you’re lugging your carcass around like the sweat-machine you’ve become, seeing them so rugged-up is an eye-popping world of confusion, particularly when you notice they’re not even breaking a sweat.
Since locals are dressed so conservatively, it’s a good idea to try and follow suit as much as possible, especially in remote areas.
There are some exceptions to the rules – Siam Reap, District 1 in Saigon, and some beaches and islands like Koh Rong are jam-packed with tourists in swimmers, mini-skirts and shorts. Locals actually sell this stuff in these areas, so you can pretty much wear what you like, but like anywhere, it’s important to be aware and judge the situation.
Cambodians are ok if you flash your shoulders, which is great because this is likely all you will want to wear. But if you're heading to temples, religious sites, or small towns, bring a scarf to cover your shoulders as a sign of respect.
This is a discretionary suggestion. Cambodians are usually dressed from head to toe, and depending on where you are, they might be quite confronted if you're in a pair of hot pants. As previously stated, it's ok to wear short-shorts if you're in really, really touristy areas, but be mindful of where you are – small villages and religious sites are a definite no. If you need to wear shorts outside tourist dives, I suggest throwing fashion to the wind and rocking some mid-length shorts.
Long, flowy skirts are great no matter where you are. Pack them for temple-hopping on seriously hot days, otherwise keep them scrunched in the back of your bag. You can also get away with wearing some shorter ones in Siem Reap and at the beach.
I lived in loose yoga pants in South East Asia. They're so, so comfortable, light, and appropriate for almost any backpacking occasion.
Great for covering your shoulders at religious sites , otherwise roll it up nice and small and shove it in your daypack. You can buy some really nice ones in Cambodia, but it might also be a good idea to have one on-hand when you first arrive.
These are great for slipping on and off around temples and shoeless cafes, showering, and market trawling. They also look great with everything, and are really light and easy to clean – I never travel without them.
I prefer flip flops, but if you find them uncomfortable or want a nicer shoe for nicer places, choose a comfortable flat pair (brown goes with everything) that can get dirty.
Having said that, if you love heels like me, get some super-comfy ones with a slight wedge. While the idea of traipsing around in chunky platforms in all cities of the world sounds fabulous, the dirt roads of Cambodia aren't ideal. Look for some cheap ones at the markets at the end of Pub Street in Siem Reap.
Unless you're spending the whole time on a beach towel, it's usually a good idea to bring some lightweight closed-in shoes. I had some cheap black slip-on canvas ones that I didn't care much about, and they were really useful for long bus rides, and heading through towns from bus stops to hostels with a big bag.
Light, button-up shirt
These are so useful I don't even know where to start. Use them as light jackets, layer them with long sleeves, button them up to create a shirt, or stuff them in your bag for temple-viewing – the possibilities are endless.
Something to swim in
It's hot and there are beaches...need I say more? Touristy beaches mean locals aren't really fazed by skin at the beaches, but if you're the only one there, you might want to swim in shorts and a top.
I didn't bring dresses, but they're still a good option for keeping cool. Pick a lightweight, scrunchable one. You can also buy really cheap ones at markets.
What Not To Bring
Jeans – too hot and heavy. You won't need them.
Big sweaters – you might be tempted to bring one just in case, but you probably won’t use it and it’ll take up space. If you find yourself getting cold, buy a jacket from a market while you’re there.