Cambodia travel tips

Fast facts about Cambodia

+ The Kingdom of Cambodia
+ Capital City: Phnom Penh
+ Official language: Khmer
+ Religion: Theravada Buddhism (95%), Islam and Christianity
+ Population: 15,14 million (2013)
+ Area: 181,035 km2
+ Currency: Riel but US dollars are widely accepted throughout the country
+ Time Zone: GMT +7 hours
+ International calling code: +855

Weather

Located near the equator, Cambodia has a tropical climate with an average temperature of approximately 27oC. There are two distinct seasons in Cambodia: wet and dry season.

The wet season – from May to October – comes courtesy of the southeast monsoon and bringing with it some three-quarters of Cambodia’s annual rainfall. A raincoat or an umbrella is highly recommended if you don’t want to get wet while traveling during the peak of wet season – from July to September – as it seems to rain every day.

The dry season lasts from October to April, when the dusty north-east monsoon arrives, characterized by hot wind blowing across the entire country like a hair-dryer set to high. Whilst November to January are quite cool (high 20°C’s)

Thanks to the hot weather this is unsurprisingly the season when Cambodia’s tourist numbers peak. Most of them enjoy rainless and relative cool weather. By March, the weather might be hot and uncomfortable, while April can be excruciating.

Clothing

There are two distinct seasons in Kingdom of Cambodia: the wet season (May – October) and the dry season (November – April).

Lightweight, loose-fitting, and cotton clothing are highly recommended in dry season to combat heat and humidity. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts will be helpful if you participate in hiking, trekking or outdoor activities. Besides, hats and sunglasses will be very useful and should be brought with you during your trip to Cambodia.

In wet season, please make sure you prepare a raincoat – it is easy to buy a plastic poncho or an umbrella from street vendors. During the months of November and January, a light jacket is necessary as the weather becomes cooler.

If you visit temples or pagodas, including those of Angkor Wat, shorts and T-shirts are acceptable. Shoes (as well as hats) are generally removed at the entrance to pagodas. For visits to the Silver Pagoda, which is within the Royal Palace grounds in Phnom Penh, you must dress more formally. Gentlemen are required to wear long pants and ladies should wear long pants or long skirts.

Religion

It is estimated that 95% of Cambodia’s population follows Theravada Buddhism as it has been the Cambodian state religion since 13th century AD (excepting the Khmer Rouge period). The history of Buddhism in Cambodia spans nearly two thousand years, across a number of successive kingdoms and empires. Islam and Christianity are two minorities in Cambodia.

Visas

Foreign visitors to Cambodia can obtain a visa upon arrival at international airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The visa on arrival is valid for a 30-day stay and issued at a cost of US $30 per tourist and US$35 per business traveler.

You must prepare:
+ A passport valid for at least 6 months from the expiry date
+ 01 recent passport-sized photo

Some nationalities are required to get a visa in advance at Royal Embassy of Kingdom of Cambodia in their country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Arab Saudi, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Nigeria.

On the other hand, the nationals of the Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia do not need a tourist visa and may stay in Cambodia for 21 and 30 days respectively.

Shopping

One of the most popular and typical Cambodian souvenirs is Krama – a traditional cotton scarf. These multi-purpose garments, similar to a sarong, are used for bathing, cleaning, protection from the sun and many other purposes in the Khmer life. It is also one of the national symbols of Cambodia. It is easily found in markets or souvenir shops.

Note that there are a lot of gem shops in Cambodia. We strongly recommend you should not buy them unless you are a gem expert.

Public Holidays

  • 1st January – International New Year’s Day
  • 7st January – Victory Day over Genocidal Regime
  • 8th March – International Women’s day
  • 14th – 16th April – Cambodian New Year’s Day – most important holidays
  • 1st May – International Labor Day
  • 13-15th May – King’s Birthday
  • 1st June – International Children Day
  • 24th September – Constituation Day
  • September or October – Phchum Ben Day (known as Ancestor’s Day) – this holiday is for Buddhists paying their respects to deceased relatives
  • 9th November – Independence Day
  • October or November – Water Festival Day (Boat racing festival to mark the annual change in the Mekong and Tonie Sap rivers
  • 10th December – International Human’s Right Day

Note: The central tower of Angkor Wat is closed to visitors on Buddhist holidays.

Airport Tax

Cambodia previously had an international departure tax of US$ 25 but this has now been abolished with the tax integrated into the cost of the air ticket.

Money

The Kingdom currency is Riel, although US dollar is widely accepted throughout the country and in big markets. Riel is normally used when price is less than US $1, and US $1 = 4,073 KHR on October 2014. Riel denominations include: 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10000 notes.

ATMs can be easily found in big cities as Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville. Several ATMs can distribute US Dollars.

Language

The official language is Khmer. It is inherited and advanced from the application of Indic languages Pali and Sangkrit. English is becoming popular among youngsters while French is spoken by older people. Chinese is the forth popular in the Kingdom.

Health

Although there are no required vaccinations for entry to Cambodia, visitors are advised to check with their doctor or a travel immunization clinic for protecting against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and B. Some essential medications should be brought with because there is no guarantee they are available in Cambodia.

Before you travel, it is recommended that you inform your travel agency about your health conditions as well as travel insurance.

Medical Kit Check List

Check Items
Aspirin or paracetamol (acetaminophen in USA)
Antihistamine – for allergies
Cold and flu tablets, throat lozenges and nasal decongestant
Multivitamins
Antibiotics
Loperamide or diphenoxylate – for diarrhoea
Prochlorperazine or metaclopramide – for nausea and vomiting
Rehydration mixture – prevent dehydration
Insect repellent, sunscreen, lip balm and eye drops
Calamine lotion, sting relief spray or aloe vera – ease irritation from sunburn and insect bites
Antifungal cream or powder – for fungal skin infections and thrush
Antiseptic – fot cuts and grazes
Bandages, band-aids (plasters) and other wound dressings
Water purification tablets or iodine
Scissors, tweezers and a thermometer
Sterile kit

Foods

Khmer foods reflect the way of life, thought, and mind of Cambodian people. They create national identities in the taste of consumption of meat dishes and sweet food. With a variety of plans and crops, Cambodian meals could be suitable for different people.

As a Kingdom of Buddhists, Cambodian people strongly believe in the balance of life that food is one of most basis needs. They mostly use green plants in cooking and favorite vegetables include beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, and sweet corn.

Amok is the most well-known Cambodian dish. It is a coconut based curry that is cooked with fish traditionally, but with chicken commonly.

Drinks

Tap water is not recommended for visitors while you can easily buy bottle waters. Locally they produced mineral water. Coffee is sold in most restaurants in that country. Black coffee with or without condensed milk is optional. Besides, Chinese-style tea is popular in Khmer and Chinese restaurants.

With the abundance of fruits, smoothies – known as tikalok – can be found all over the country. Just point the flavors you like and point them, you will get it.

Local beers are also well-known. The local beers are Angkor, Phnom Penh, Kingdom and Cambodia. However, some international brands are available here as Heineken, Tiger, San Miguel, Asahi and Anchor. Cambodia can produce grape wine themselves with export standard so-called “Prasat Phnom Banon Grape Wine”. It is imported in European countries, Australia and USA.

A traditional Cambodian drink is palm juice as palm tree is a Cambodian symbol. There are various products made of palm such as palm wine, sour palm juice and palm sugar.

Tipping

Tipping is normal in Cambodia, especially in service industry. However, it is personal matter and travelers can do it if they feel comfortable. We suggest you a tipping guide below:

Chambermaid $1
Porter $1 each time
Guides $5-$10/day
Drivers $2-$5/day/person

Safety

Cambodia is very safe country for travelling. However, pickpockets are usual in main tourist areas, particularly in Phnom Penh. Be discreet with your possessions (especially cameras and cash) as you can be snatched by thief on their motorbikes. If you want to rent a motorbike, it is recommended to have your own lock for securing. Because staff of rental companies may have the copy of the key to seal bikes and leave the traveler to pay for the loss.

“Facilitation” money is normally asked if you want to police assistance. Bribes seem to most serious problem in this country. Please remember that rule of law is inconsistently applied.

Be aware of warning signs. Cambodia experienced through many wars. The result is left millions of land mines across the kingdom. However, land mines are minimal to non-existent threat in tourist areas that have been thoroughly de-mined.

Prostitution is widespread and a raising concern in Cambodia, especially for children. Please contact to responsible authority or ChildSafe Network if you find ones. This action will help to prevent worse situations.

Price Guide

Although Riel is official currency, US dollars are widely accepted.
US $1 = 4,073 KHR

Transportation Price (USD)
One-way Ticket (local transport 1.36
Monthly Pass (regular Price) 40
Taxi Start (normal Tariff) 2
Taxi 1km (normal tariff) 0.72
Tuk-tuk (3 km ride in Phnom Penh) 3 – 5
Tuk-tuk (all day) 20 – 25
Foods anh Drinks Price (USD)
Budget breakfast 1 – 3
Budget lunch 2 – 4
Budget dinner 3 – 6
Meal for 2, Mid-range restaurant, three-course 16.5
Domestic beer (0.5 liter draught) 1
Imported beer (0.33 liter bottle) 2
Water (0.33 liter bottle) 0.43
Accommodation Price (USD)
Dorm beds (guesthouses) 3 – 10 (per night)
Private room 5 – 13 (per night)
Comfortable hotels (air con, TV, and amenities) 12 – 22 (per night)

Note: Entrance fee for visiting Wats is required for all tourists.

Pre-departure checklist

Check List of items
O Passport with 6-month validity from entry date
O Photocopy of passport
O Visa
O Travel Insurance
O Money (US$ or credit cards)
O Vaccinations
O All relevant tickets (airplane, destination…)
O Clothing – light-weighted clothing for summer and warm clothing for highlands and winter
O Shoes, sandals or flip-flop
O First Aid Kit
O Adaptor – 220V/50Hz – 2-pin sockets
O Water bottle

Culture and Customs

Cambodia culture is dominated by the Khmer that can be easily recognized by the warmth of Cambodian people. Buddhism also strongly influence on this kingdom’s culture, customs, traditions and etiquette.

Generally, Cambodians are very friendly. They will be very patient with cultural faux pas because they understand you are from a different culture. However, the effort to understand Cambodian culture is much more appreciated as it makes you closer to Cambodian people.

Customs in Cambodia

Under a kingdom regime, social status of people is much more concerned than others. Cambodians usually ask your personal questions. It is when they want to establish your rank and the most appropriate way to talk to you.

Like other Indochina countries, the collective needs are far more important than individual needs. And public image is essential as well. It is always better to avoid making Cambodian publicly lose their face.

Greetings

The traditional way to greet other people is palms together as praying with hands in front of the chest and head inclined slightly in a bow. This way of greeting is showing your respect to other people, especially people with higher rank in society, and is called Som Peah. And, it is not unusual for shaking hand, remember that Cambodians used to live under French system.

When greeting, “lok” and “lok srey” are honorific titles for men and women respectively, and are followed by their first name. Cambodians traditionally Som Peah while saying Choum Reap Sur (Hello) and Som Peah again when leaving and saying Choum Reap Lir (Goodbye).

Public displays of romantic couples are quite offensive and inappropriate. However, it is usual for same sex people hugging, hand in hand walking together. These actions indicate a very close friendship.

You can also see the Do’s and Don’ts in Cambodia for more tips.

Phones & Internet service

GSM mobile system is used in Cambodia. You can buy a pre-paid SIM cards easily from US $1, but it requires a passport to buy. And you can ask a guest house or tuk-tuk driver for buying a SIM card for you. Mobitel is the largest operator in Cambodia.

In tourist areas, you can access to Wifi in cafes, restaurants, and bars as its price is around US $1/hour.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s Don’ts
+ Off the beach and outside the big city nightclubs, avoid short shorts and tops that reveal cleavage.

+ Dress well when visiting pagodas. Knees and shoulders should be covered and shoes, hats should be removed.

+ Do ask for permissions before taking photos of people or monks.

+ Do respectfully greet others by slightly bowing the head with hand pressing together at the chest (known as “Sampeah”)

+ Do bow when walking in front of or passing an elder.

+ Do bring a small gift to the host that you are invited to dine in a Cambodian family

+ Do cover your mouth if you use toothpick

+ Do remove shoes before entering a Cambodian home

+ Do present and accept business cards with both hands

+ Do try local specialty such as Amok and Num Bachok

+ Do bargain when buying things. Bargaining is normal and enjoyable experience

+ Do avoid hugging and kissing in public

+ Don’t point at someone with your feet or finger.

+ Don’t touch on a head of Cambodian people.

+ Don’t litter and plastic bags should be disposed properly

+ Women should never touch male monks or hand something directly to them

+ Never stand when talking to seated monks. It shows grave disrespect.

+ Don’t touch a Buddha statue or stand on the altar.

+ Never put hand on an elder’s shoulder. It is considered very rude.

+ Don’t put hands in pockets while talking

+ Don’t start before the elder when eating

+ Don’t give money to beggars, especially children. Give donation on established fund of local people instead.

+ Don’t give sweets to children in villages.

+ Don’t purchase historical artifacts

+ Don’t take home pieces of stone from the temples and tourist sites

+ Don’t involve in narcotic drug consumption and sexual exploitation of children

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