Kep or Kampot

Kep or Kampot in Cambodia? Which Coastal Town is Best

Is it better to stay in Kep or Kampot? Both coastal towns are perfect for relaxing, unwinding and enjoying the beauty and serenity of Cambodia’s west coast but which is better? I think it boils down to personal preference. Some people love Kep and others prefer Kampot,

If you enjoy the beach and forest head to Kep, and if a larger rural town with river and mountain views is more your style, go to Kampot. I’ve enjoyed staying in both small towns and would happily return to either Kampot or Kep.

But if I had to choose, Kep wins for me. I loved the stunning coastal sunsets and the lush forest but I also loved Kampot’s lovely rural setting!

I’ve compiled this post to help you decide whether staying in Kampot or Kep is better.

Sunset in lovely Kep Cambodia

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Kep or Kampot? Which is best?

Kep is a sleepy seaside resort town with a French feel, and a sandy beach lined with trees while Kampot is a riverside town and a backpacker favourite, a few kilometres away from the coast surrounded by green rice fields, salt fields, and farmland.

Kep has golden sands, palm trees, an offshore tropical island and lush green surrounds. A National Park borders the town and 50 square kilometres of lowland tropical forest are on the doorstep. Kep is popular with French tourists, Phnom Penh expats and flashpackers. 

Kampot, on the other hand, has a scenic riverside location, a charming Old Town with 19th-century French colonial architecture and a relaxed small-town atmosphere. Surrounded by fields and pastures, Kampot has a rural setting with lovely river and mountain views.

Both towns have a laidback feel, local markets and French colonial mansions and villas. You can choose either Kep or Kampot, find a chilled-out vibe and get a taste of rural life in Cambodia. Accommodation in Kep is a bit more expensive than in Kampot where there are more budget options in town.

Kampot or Kep: Safety

Cambodia is generally considered a safe destination for travellers to visit. Both Kep and Kampot have a low crime rate however all tourist destinations attract scammers and petty theft.

I was short-changed in Kep after paying for a meal in US dollars. The waiter assumed I didn’t understand the local currency. But when I questioned him, he apologised and gave me the correct change. Keep your wits about you and you’ll be safe enough in Kep and Kampot.

Compared to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and the tourist mecca at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Kep and Kampot are very quiet. I felt safe in both towns as a woman travelling alone in Cambodia.

a young boy climbing the stairs to a temple in Cambodia
Phnom Chhnork Cave Temple Cambodia

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Kampot or Kep: Location

Both Kep and Kampot can be found on Cambodia’s west coast. Kampot is just over 150 kilometres from Phnom Penh and around 3 hours by bus and a bit longer by train, while Kep is just over 160 kilometres and around 4 hours by bus from the Cambodian capital.

Kampot is a provincial capital and sits on the banks of the Praek Tuek Chhu River, around 5 kilometres from the coast while Kep is directly on the Gulf of Thailand.

Kep and Kampot are only 30 minutes apart by tuk-tuk or an hour by local bus. You can base yourself in either Kep or Kampot and see all the sights in the area. Ideally, you’ll have time to explore both towns but if you’re short of time, perhaps choose either Kampot or Kep as a base.

Kampot is on the way to the touristy beach resort town of Sihanoukville and the stunning islands Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem.

Kep is closer than Kampot to Vietnam, and the border crossing. If you’re heading to Vietnam, the border at Ha Tien is only 30 – 40 minutes from Kep while Kampot is about an hour away. But you could stay in Kep or Kampot on the way to Phu Quoc Island, the Mekong Delta or Ho Chi Minh City in South Vietnam.

Find the best time to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia and the best and worst times to go to Vietnam.

Pros & Cons of Kep and Kampot

Now let’s look at the pros and cons of staying in Kep and Kampot.

Kep: ProsKampot: Pros
A sleepy seaside resort townA former port town with a relaxed atmosphere
Coastal locationRiverside location
Kep BeachKampot River Beach and Coconut Beach, a few kilometres out of town
Has a selection of places to stayHas a good selection of places to stay
Kep Crab MarketNight Market & street food
Rabbit Island boat tripPepper plantation
Watch villagers catching crabs, pipis and oystersCave temples
French colonial architectureEnjoy rural life in Cambodia
Ruins of Kep Palace & colonial mansionsFrench Colonial architecture
Kep National Park HikingFlat and easy to walk around town
Cave TemplesFish Island
Pepper plantationsRiver rapids & kayaking
Gorgeous coastal sunsetsRiver sunset views
Explore on a bicycleExplore on a bicycle
Kep is closer to the Vietnam border (Ha Tien) only 30 minutes by carCloser to Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem
Surrounded by lush green forestsChoice of restaurants and resorts
 A gateway to Bokor National Park
a beautiful sunset over the water in Kep Cambodia
A stunning Sunset in Kep Cambodia
Kep: ConsKampot: Cons
The town is very spread out & harder to get around on footNo beach in town
Transport into town and up the hill to many of the resorts is neededLarger town
Pollution on the beach is not ideal for swimmingGeared towards backpackers
Very conservative localsConservative locals
4 hours by bus from Phnom Penh3 hours by bus from Phnom Penh
No NightlifeKampot is further away from the Vietnam border, 45km, about 1 hour

A longtail boat moored near Palm trees and grass in Kep Cambodia
Kep Cambodia

Kep or Kampot? Best Things to Do

Things to do in Kep

Kep is an attractive coastal town with many fun things to do. Although Kep has a beach in the centre of town, the main attractions are the lush greenery of the National Park surrounding the town, the crab market and the stunning coastal sunsets. Kep is a lovely place to relax for a few days. 

Here are some of the best things to do:

  • Relax, swim and sunbathe on Kep Beach & enjoy the cafes and restaurants opposite the beach.
  • Visit the Kep Crab Market and try the local specialty “Pepper Crab”. It’s delicious but VERY MESSY to eat! Or enjoy a seafood meal and a sunset at one of many waterfront restaurants nearby.
  • Spend a few hours on Rabbit Island (Koh Tonsay). Relax on the beach & feed the rabbits that live on the island. Boats leave from Kep’s main port and it takes about 20 minutes to reach the island.
  • Hike in Kep National Park. A series of walking trails through the dense forest leads to a jungle temple and some stunning viewpoints.
  • Take a tuk-tuk tour of Kep’s abandoned French Villas and mansions
  • Visit the King’s Palace ruins, about 150 metres up the road from Kep Beach.  
  • Explore Kep on a pushbike and watch for local people catching crabs along the coast.
  • Visit the salt fields and a fishing village to see how the locals make a living
  • Visit the Kep Butterfly Garden
  • Take a day trip to Kampot by tuk-tuk or local bus
  • Visit the Phnom Chhngok Buddhist temple and the 7th century Phnom Chhnork Hindu Cave temple in Kampot Province.
stone staircase leading to a cave temple in the jungle
Steps to the Phnom Chhnork Cave Temple Kampot Cambodia

Things to do in Kampot

Kampot has a great selection of things to do. Relaxing by the river and the pool was high on the list for me but if you want to get and about, explore the town, enjoy the vibrant markets, visit the pepper plantation and see the cave temples.

The easiest way to see the sights of Kampot is to walk or hire a bicycle in the town and hire a tuk-tuk for those outside the town. Here are some of the best things to do in Kampot:

  • Explore the Kampot’s Old Town and enjoy the French colonial architecture.
  • Visit an organic pepper farm. I enjoyed seeing how pepper is grown at “La Plantation” near Kampot and bought some delicious pepper to bring home.
  • Visit the Phnom Chhngok Buddhist temple and Phnom Chhnork, a Hindu Cave temple in Kampot Province that dates back to the 7th century.
  • Hire a bicycle or a tuk-tuk and explore Fish Island (Koh Trey). Cross the bridge over the river and you’ll be on the island with rice fields and salt fields. If you keep going, you’ll come to an ocean beach with views of Vietnamese Phu Quoc Island.
  • Swim in the river at Kampot River Beach
  • Hire a Kayak and explore the mangroves and the wide river estuary of the Tuek Chhou River
  • Go tubing in the Tuek Chhou River Rapids.
  • Visit Tada Waterfall and swim in the baths. The waterfall is best in the wet season.
  • Take a tuk-tuk or cycle to Coconut Beach to swim or relax on the sand.
  • A day trip to Kep by tuk-tuk or local bus
  • Do Nothing at all – enjoy the serenity of the countryside & the lovely river & mountain views. I extended my stay at Villa Vedici in Kampot to relax by the pool, read and enjoy the beautiful, peaceful scenery.

How to get around Kep and Kampot

In both Kep and Kampot, walking, taking a tuk-tuk or riding a bicycle are the main ways to get around town.

Kep is very spread out along the coast and there are some steep hills up to some of the resorts. My accommodation was a few kilometres from the centre of town and I borrowed a bicycle from the guesthouse or took a tuk-tuk to get to the centre of Kep.

Kampot is easier to explore on foot. The town and its surrounds are flat and most restaurants and hotels are near the river.

In Kampot, I stayed at Villa Vedici, a couple of kilometres outside town. I loved the river views and the peaceful setting but it was a half-hour walk along a dirt road into town. When I didn’t want to walk, I took a tuk-tuk. I also hired a tuk-tuk for the day to visit the cave temples and the organic Pepper plantation near Kampot.

pool, lush green garden and river views at Vill Vedici in Kampot
Lovely river views at Villa Vedici in Kampot

Where to Stay In Kep and Kampot

Both Kep and Kampot have a good selection of resorts and guesthouses but Kep is a bit more upmarket with more expensive hotels and Kampot is more of a backpacker destination with a wider selection of cheaper guesthouses and hostels in town.  

TIP: In both Kep and Kampot, choose a resort with air-conditioning and a pool! Kampot’s beach is a few kilometres away from town and Kep’s beach is not ideal for swimming. The weather is hot and I enjoyed cooling down with a swim after a day of sightseeing.

Where to Stay in Kep

Lower Mid-Range: Kep Botanica Guesthouse is a few kilometres from the beach and the centre of Kep with a lovely pool, an onsite restaurant and a bus stop just outside. I enjoyed staying at this guesthouse & it gets great reviews. My comfortable bungalow was almost hidden amongst the lush greenery and had a balcony with a hammock.

Upper Mid-Range: Saravoan Kep has a perfect location on Kep Beach in the centre of town, comfortable rooms, an onsite restaurant and a pool with a view.

Luxury: Veranda Natural Resort is set high on a hill in Kep surrounded by forest and overlooking the town and the ocean. This resort has a pool, a restaurant and a bar with a beautiful view. I came here for a meal and a cocktail at sunset and would love to stay…

Where to stay in Kampot

Budget: Onederz This hostel is located in the centre of Kampot, has a pool and gets excellent reviews.

Lower Mid-Range: Villa Vedici has a beautiful riverside location a couple of kilometres outside town with superb river and mountain views. An onsite restaurant and pool make this guesthouse a great choice for a quiet getaway in Kampot. I loved the view from the upstairs balcony so much that I extended my stay as soon as I arrived.

Upper Mid-Range: Rikitikitavi has an ideal riverfront location in the centre of Kampot, offers comfortable accommodation and gets exceptional reviews. I enjoyed a drink at the bar and a lovely sunset from the terrace.  

Sunset over the garden at Villa Vedici in Kampot
Sunset at Villa Vedici in Kampot

Where to Eat in Kampot or Kep

Both Kep and Kampot have some great places for a meal. Eat in at your resort restaurant or head out to one of the following for a meal in Kep or Kampot.

Where to Eat in Kep

Kep Sailing Club: This is my favourite place to watch the sunset in Kep. Enjoy a drink, order a meal, and soak in the gorgeous evening sea views.

Veranda Natural Resort is another great place to visit at sunset to enjoy a meal and a pre-dinner drink. Located on a hill amongst the trees, Veranda has a lovely view over Kep and out to sea.

Kimly Seafood Restaurant on the waterfront at the crab market in Kep. I ordered the delicious local “Pepper Crab”. Come in the late afternoon and watch the sunset over the water.

Where to Eat in Kampot

Enjoy the street food at the Kampot Night Market, a vibrant and exciting place to discover the local Cambodian food.

Head to Aroma House for a kebab or a falafel wrap.

Simple Things serves healthy vegetarian meals near the Old Market in Kampot.

Rikitikitavi has a restaurant and bar on a terrace that overlooks the river. I came here for a pre-dinner drink and watched the sunset over the river. I enjoyed people-watching, chatting with other travellers and watching country life go by.

golden sand and calm blue water at Kep beach
Kep Beach Cambodia

TIP: The regional city of Battambang is also worth visiting if you have a few weeks in Cambodia.


What is Kep known for?

Kep is known for seafood and crab is a specialty in Kep. Kep also has a beautiful National Park and a pretty beach and the sunsets are stunning.

What is Kampot known for?

Kampot is famous for its pepper plantations. The town is a popular backpacker hangout with a pretty riverside location and an Old Town with French colonial architecture.

How many days do you need in Kampot?

Allow at least 2 or 3 days in Kampot and more if you just want to relax and enjoy the peaceful rural setting. Wander around the Old Town, visit the Pepper plantation and the cave temples and kayak on the river.

Does Kampot have a beach?

Yes, there are beaches near Kampot but there’s no beach in town. Kampot River Beach and Coconut Beach are nearby but Kampot is about 5 kilometres from the coast.

Final Thoughts: Is it Better to Stay in Kep or Kampot?

For me, Kep has the edge for a holiday in Cambodia. I loved the coastal location, the stunning sunsets, the lush greenery and the sleepy, colonial feel of Kep but I also loved the gorgeous rural countryside around Kampot. I extended my stay in Kampot just to enjoy the views.

But Kampot has a wider range of activities, a vibrant night market and a delightful Old Town and you could choose either Kampot or Kep to relax for a few days, escape the busy city and enjoy the peaceful Cambodian countryside. Both towns are a welcome change from busy Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

If you’re travelling to Vietnam, Kep is closer to the border crossing, just half an hour away, but Kampot is still within easy reach of the border and only an hour away from Ha Tien.

If you’re heading to Sihanoukville and Ko Rong or Koh Rong Sanloem then Kampot is on the way from Phnom Penh.

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