Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Kratie, Cambodia

Kratie is a small, laid back town on the Mekong River in Northeastern Cambodia, and makes a great spot to break up the journey between Phnom Penh and Laos. Old French Colonial buildings surround the town’s central market, and the picturesque Mekong River provides a perfect scene at sunset. Many people come here primarily to view the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins that live in the area, but the town has enough to offer to make spending a few days well worth it.

Street in Kratie, Cambodia

Things to do in Kratie

Dolphin Viewing

Kratie is the best place in Cambodia to view the rare freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins that inhabit the Mekong River. A pod of these small dolphins live in a stretch of the river that is around 15km north of Kratie in a village called Kampi. To get there, you can take a tuk tuk or motorbike taxi, or take yourself by rented scooter or bicycle to the village, where you can hire a boat and driver to take you out to see the dolphins. Viewing the dolphins costs $9 per person for up to two people in the boat. If you have a larger group, the price drops to $7 per person. The motor boat will take you out into the middle of the river and then turn off the engine and paddle the boat with an oar so as not to disturb the dolphins. They stay out there for about an hour, so you will definitely see some dolphins. They pop up for air quite regularly.

We arrived by hiring a scooter from our guesthouse for $7 for the whole day.

Dolphins in the Mekong River in Kratie, Cambodia

Irrawaddy Dolphins in the Mekong

Koh Trong

Koh Trong is a long island in the middle of the Mekong River and can be seen from the riverbank in Kratie. It is an excellent place to get a taste of the real rural Cambodia and makes for a relaxing and peaceful bike ride. Rent your bicycle in town and take it across to the island on the small ferry boat that crosses the river around every hour, although it may not leave until they have enough passengers. The ferry across to the island leaves from the main “pier” in town at the bottom of the concrete steps that lead down to the river bank and costs 2000 Riel ($0.50) for the one way trip. Simply hop on the boat and they will collect your money. On the island, the ferry simply pulls up at the river bank where you hop off.

We rented our bicycles from our guesthouse for $1 each for the whole day.

Farmer on Koh Trong in Kratie, Cambodia

Koh Trong

Mekong sunsets

Kratie has some of the best Mekong Sunsets that you will ever see. Locals and tourists alike all head down to the river at around 7pm each night to watch the sun slowly sink down over the river. It is always a relaxing way to end the day.

Sunset on the Mekong River in Kratie, Cambodia

Sunset on the Mekong River in Kratie

Central market

All towns in Cambodia have a central market, and Kratie is no different. It is the center of everything in town, and it is definitely an interesting place to wander through, but don’t expect to buy souvenirs here. This is a local market where people come to buy fresh produce, clothes and household items.

Central Market in Kratie, Cambodia

Exploring the market in Kratie

Where to stay in Kratie

Kratie is a fairly small town and there are only a handful of guesthouses, most of which are located in the area between the riverbank and the market. We arrived at night and found most of the places full.

You Hong Guesthouse

We actually first tried their other guesthouse, You Hong II, but were directed here when we were told that there were no rooms available. You Hong Guesthouse is located directly across from the market. The rooms are basic, but for $5 per night, we had nothing to complain about. It was clean and comfortable enough, the owners are friendly and their food isn’t bad either.

Riverfront in Kratie, Cambodia

Where to eat in Kratie

You’ll probably find yourself eating a lot of your meals at your guesthouse (or others) in Kratie, as there aren’t a lot of actual restaurants around.

You Hong

As we arrived at night and took a while to find a place to stay, our first meal was at our guesthouse, and we weren’t disappointed. They serve local and western dishes at cheap prices, and the food is pretty good. If you are riced out, try one of their pizzas.

Their other guesthouse, You Hong II, offers are similar menu and is located closer to the river.

Star Guesthouse

This is a popular guesthouse and restaurant located on a picturesque street corner that looks out at the central market. It is expat owned but their Cambodian chef cooks up some good food. Their Amok is well worth trying.

Food stalls in Kratie, Cambodia

Food stalls across from Star Guesthouse

Central Market

If you can speak some Khmer then you can definitely get a cheap and tasty meal at the market. There are also a few street food stalls that run during the day and night opposite the Star Guesthouse.

Getting to and around Kratie

We arrived in Kratie by bus from Phnom Penh which cost $11 per person and took around 7 hours. You can also arrive from most other places in Cambodia as well as from Si Phan Don or Pakse in Southern Laos.

Our scooter, exploring the countryside around Kratie, Cambodia

Kratie is a small town so walking or cycling is the best way to get around and see the place. For trips further afield you can rent a scooter or hire a moto driver to take you around. I did also see a couple of tuk tuks in town. Your guesthouse can usually organise anything that you need.

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17 comments… add one
  • Michael Mar 16, 2014

    It looks like a great place to visit with of course, an amazing sunset! Although not sure, I would buy meat from the market vendors!

    • Dean Wickham Mar 18, 2014

      Hi Michael. It may not look very appealing, but the market is the only place to buy meat in places like Cambodia. Even the meat you get served at the restaurants comes from the same place. It is perfectly safe. If the locals eat it then it must be ok πŸ™‚

  • alistair Mar 19, 2014

    A couple of observations – Firstly I agree with you about Kratie it is a great place.

    I would however add that there is quite a lot of accommodation in the town within easy access of the bus and market
    I would also point out that it is quite easy to get great food in the market even if you do not speak Khmer and I would add that “easy” transportation is perhaps not available as widely as you suggest from other Cambodian towns apart from Phnom Phen, Siem Reap and Stung Treng/laos routes

    • Dean Wickham Mar 20, 2014

      Hi Alistair. Thanks for your tips and your comment.

      From memory there was about half a dozen guesthouses in that market area, so yes there are some options. We just had some trouble as the first three or four places that we tried were full at the time. We rarely book places in advance. There are a couple of places further down the road as well along the riverfront if I remember correctly.
      It’s good to hear that you can get food easily at the market. I found that I had to point to get what I wanted as I don’t speak Khmer apart from a couple of basic words. I only tried the one stall though.
      I found that you could generally book a bus ticket from most major places in Cambodia, but most do have a bus change in Phnom Penh. I guess you are basically booking two buses. I found it convenient to book my buses that way. I saw bus tickets available to Kratie in all of the places that I went to. Phnom Penh, Kampot, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, Battambang and Kampong Cham. If you were in a lesser visited place, then of course you would have to head to a major destination (such as Phnom Penh) first.
      Cheers and happy travels.

  • alistair Mar 20, 2014

    Hi Dean,
    As you say pointing is the effective way without language and to be honest this is what I use and usually at most stalls you can either look at what others are eating or see from the display the type of things that the stall offers. True you might not always know what you are eating which may be a problem for some with allergies or are choosey about what they eat.

    The point you raise about the buses is true. it is possible to undertake the journey from most places with one bus company however as you say it will often involve a change of bus in Phnom Phen and may not be feasible in a day or involve a night bus which I would not recommend in Cambodia

    Hopefully people will read your post and visit kratie because together with Kampot they are great smaller towns to visit – and indeed hopefully it will encourage further exploration of Cambodia as there are many places well worth the trouble and effort of visiting

    Can’t wait to go back to Cambodia although these days I usually just stay in a small village and soak up life there

    • Dean Wickham Mar 23, 2014

      Hi Alistair. You can definitely have a more unique and genuine experience by staying in the smaller villages, so I can understand why you prefer that. I loved Cambodia and can’t wait to go back as well. Cheers.

  • Kristy Mar 21, 2014

    I want to see real dolphins! The place looks awesome and I really like the picture of the sunset. Good job.

    • Dean Wickham Mar 23, 2014

      Thanks Kristy. You’ve never seen dolphins in the wild? Something to add to your bucket list πŸ™‚

  • Kratie looks like an amazing place to visit. Beautiful photos- thanks for sharing!

    • Dean Wickham May 2, 2014

      Hi Bridget. I loved Kratie. Definitely recommend it πŸ™‚

  • citilink Apr 7, 2014

    Cambodia must be such a wonderful country to travel! And maybe even to live there permanently…?

    • Dean Wickham May 2, 2014

      I could probably live there, yes. I love Cambodia and can’t wait to go back πŸ™‚

  • Steve Apr 8, 2014

    damn i wish i made it over here when i was in cambodia! that pic you have of the market… it’s funny how nearly all markets in se asia looking exactly same same… but different πŸ™‚

    • Dean Wickham May 2, 2014

      Hey Steve. Same same but different. The perfect phrase to use to describe the markets in SE Asia. Haha, love it.

  • Agness of aTukTuk Apr 18, 2017

    Cambodia is one of the most amazing countries in the world. Your post was very useful anf motivational, Dean!

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