Cambodia Travel Information
Cambodia is a well-known country in South-east Asia, steeped in history and rich culture. But 2 decades of war destroyed nearly the entire society, including the social economic infrastructure and human resources that are the key factors in developing a country. Since the election of a democratic government in 1993, Cambodia has welcomed tourists with open arms. In the last few years, the country has opened up with the coming of peace and it is now possible to visit many more attractions than in the past. Many of these destinations are unknown to the outside world, helping the visitor feel as much an explorer as a tourist. Cambodia is justly famous for its magnificent temples, but will soon be renowned for its abundant natural attractions and empty beaches. The tourist infrastructure in Cambodia has developed tremendously in recent years, including the opening of quality hotels and restaurants and the upgrading of roads and transport links, both within the country and to neighbouring countries. Cambodia is more accessible today than at any time in the past three decades and a journey here is a journey to a land of timeless grace and charm.
At a glance
|Capital city:||Phnom Penh (population 2,000,000)|
|Time zone:||(GMT+07:00) Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta|
|Electricity:||Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type C (European 2-pin)|
Best time to visit Cambodia
Any time of the year is a good time to travel in Cambodia, with each season having its advantages. The climate in Cambodia is generally hot and humid throughout the year. Temperatures stay in the 30s most of the year, dropping back to the 20s at night. There are officially two seasons in Cambodia – wet and dry. During November to May you can expect dry conditions, while June to October will have wetter weather. The highland areas of Monodulkiri and Ratanakiri offer a cooler climate.
December to February: Dry, comparatively cool. January is the "coolest" month and humid.
March and April: Dry. Temperatures become progressively hotter. April is the hottest month of the year with average afternoon temperatures of 35°C (94°F). High humidity.
May to November: Rainy season. September and October are the wettest. Cloudy and high humidity.
Culture and customs
The Khmer culture has lasted for centuries, and is based on tradition, honouring ancestors, respecting elders and living a life of honesty, humility and kindness. Which is probably why Cambodians are known for being some of the most warm, hospitable and humble people in the world. Above all these qualities, Cambodians are known for their remarkable ability to get on with life after enduring the atrocities that ravaged the country in the 1970s.
As with other neighbouring nations like Thailand, the concept of “saving face” is important. Displaying control and keeping a peaceful nature in public is paramount, as is not losing your temper or ridiculing others.
Most Khmer people are Buddhist. Monks are highly regarded and respected in society, and religious festivals and ceremonies are important parts of daily life. When visiting Cambodia, expect to see orange-robed monks and many displays of faith - from people visiting large, elaborate temples to them praying over small, humble shrines.
Despite the infiltration of modern ideas and concepts, Khmer customs and traditions are kept alive with traditional dance, art, festivals and costume enduring alongside modern pop music and dance.
Eating and drinking
Rice and fish are the staple diet for most Cambodians. Local specialities include curries, a variety of soups, and traditional beef, pork and poultry dishes. The national dish is amok, which is fresh fish steamed with coconut, curry paste and lemongrass in a banana leaf. Fresh seafood is also available and is especially popular with visitors travelling to the coast. Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine are also common in Cambodia, as is a variety of western cuisine which can be found in abundance in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Water is generally untreated and not safe to drink. Bottled water, fruit drinks, soft drinks, coffee and tea are all widely available and are safe to drink.
Things to try in Cambodia
1. Pork and rice
Served early mornings on street corners all over Cambodia, bai sach chrouk, or pork and rice, is one of the simplest and most delicious dishes the country has to offer. Thinly sliced pork is slow grilled over warm coals to bring out its natural sweetness. Sometimes the pork will be marinated in coconut milk or garlic -- no two bai sach chrouks are ever exactly the same. The grilled pork is served over a hearty portion of broken rice, with a helping of freshly pickled cucumbers and daikon radish with plenty of ginger. On the side, you'll often be given a bowl of chicken broth topped with scallions and fried onions.
Fish amok is a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk and kroeung, a type of Khmer curry paste made from lemongrass, turmeric root, garlic, shallots, galangal and fingerroot, or Chinese ginger. At upscale restaurants fish amok is steamed in a banana leaf, while more local places serve a boiled version that is more like a soupy fish curry than a mousse.
3. Khmer red curry
The dish features beef, chicken or fish, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, fresh coconut milk, lemongrass and kroeung. This delicious dish is usually served at special occasions in Cambodia such as weddings, family gatherings and religious holidays like Pchum Ben, or Ancestor's Day, where Cambodians make the dish to share with monks in honor of the departed.
4. Khmer noodles
Nom banh chok is a beloved Cambodian dish, so much so that in English it's called simply "Khmer noodles." Nom banh chok is a typical breakfast food, and you'll find it sold in the mornings by women carrying it on baskets hanging from a pole balanced on their shoulders. The dish consists of noodles laboriously pounded out of rice, topped with a fish-based green curry gravy made from lemongrass, turmeric root and kaffir lime. Fresh mint leaves, bean sprouts, green beans, banana flower, cucumbers and other greens are heaped on top. There is also a red curry version that's usually reserved for ceremonial occasions and wedding festivities.
A remnant of Cambodia’s French-colonial past, fresh, crunchy breads are sold from street stalls and at markets - and make a great, low-cost breakfast or snack.
6. Tropical Fruit
Jackfruit, mangoes, bananas, pineapple, dragon fruit and watermelon are all plentiful in Cambodian. Get a street vendor to mix up a fresh juice or smoothie for a refreshing treat.
Cambodia's national language is Khmer, which is also referred to as Cambodian. English is the first language among young students, while French is still spoken by some of the older generation. Chinese and Vietnamese are also widely spoken in urban areas and Thai is quite well understood in Western Cambodia.
Cambodia's official religion is Theravada Buddhism. It was introduced in Cambodia in the 12th century. It is enhanced by traditional animist beliefs and Brahmanist practices long imported from India to form a very Cambodian fusion religion. There are also 500,000 muslims, mostly of Cham origin.
Geography and Topography of Land
Occupying an area of approximately 181,000 sq km, Cambodia is bordered to the north and west by Laos and Thailand, to the east by Vietnam, and to the south by the Gulf of Thailand. Its shape is an almost-square polygon, with Kompong Thom province as its centre. It extends 440 kilometers wide from the north to south and 560 kilometers long from the east to west. Among the 10 member countries of the Association of South-east Asia Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia ranks eighth in land size and seventh in population. It geographical location makes Cambodia as easily accessible Ecotourism destination for the traders in neighboring countries and other parts of the world. The country is situated geographically between the 10th and 15th parallels of northern latitude and the 102nd and 108th parallels of the eastern longitude.
Cambodia’s surface is deep and plain at the center. It’s surrounded by mountains and plateaus, which are the wind-breakers. In the south-western part lies the coastal area.
Markets are plentiful in Cambodia - from the large markets like the Central and Russian Markets in Phnom Penh, to the smaller, local markets in regional areas. As with most markets in Asia, bargaining for a good price is commonplace.
It's also a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in Cambodia
1. Silver Jewellery
2. Stone and Wood Carvings
3. Traditional Cambodian Scarves (known as ‘Kramas’)
4. Hand-Woven Baskets
5. Silk Clothing and Sarongs
Festivals and Events in Cambodia
Khmer New Year (Chaul Chnam Thmey - April)
An important celebration in the Khmer calendar, the Cambodian New Year sees three days of people taking part in rituals, playing traditional games, performing gestures of goodwill towards others and enjoying feasts. Most Cambodians return to their homes to spend time with their families during this time but it’s still a fabulous time to see Cambodia shine.
Pchum Ben Day (September)
"Ancestors’ Day" involves Cambodians visiting pagodas bearing food, flowers, rice and gifts, which are given to monks to offer to the afterlife so the dead do not haunt the living. This is a particularly poignant celebration given Cambodia’s recent history.
Water Festival (November)
Celebrating the end of monsoon and the natural flow reversal of Tonle Sap and the Mekong, this festival is a visual feast featuring illuminated ornamental boats, music performances, colourful racing boats, fire works, dance, food and drink. With millions teeming into Phnom Penh, this is a great time to see Cambodia in high spirits – although it can get very crowded.
Health and Safety
It is your responsibility to consult with your travel doctor for up to date medical travel information well before departure. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information well before departure. No vaccinations are required for entry into Cambodia. However, it is recommended that all visitors be innoculated against typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis A and B. It is not wise to drink tap water. Prescription drugs are easily obtainable in urban areas. Precautions against malaria, such as doxycycline or larium, are not necessary for Phnom Penh or Siem Reap and other urban areas, but are recommended when visiting remoter provinces. Travellers should consult their doctor or travel centre before leaving for Cambodia.We recommend that you carry a First Aid kit and hand sanitizers / antibacterial wipes as well as any personal medical requirements. Please be aware that sometimes we are in remote areas and away from medical facilities, and for legal reasons our tour leader's are prohibited from administering any type of drug including headache tablets, antibiotics, etc. In Asia pharmacies tend to stock the same western drugs as you get at home but they are usually produced locally so please bring the full drug name with you when trying to purchase a prescription drug. When selecting your trip please carefully read the brochure and itinerary and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please refer to the Physical and Culture Shock ratings for trip specific information.
MD Travel Health
National Malaria Center
Please note, due to the nature of travel in Asia, a backpack is more more suited to this trip than a suitcase. There may be a weight restriction for the internal flight on this tour. Each passenger is allowed to carry one checked bag with a maximum weight of 15 kg (33lbs). Additional bags or excess weight charges may apply. These charges are the responsibility of the passengers.
Citizens from Canada and the US require a valid passport and a visa. Citizens of other nations should check with their nearest Cambodian Embassy for entry requirements. You must have a passport valid for at least six months beyond the conclusion of your trip in order to enter Cambodia.
Passports & Visas
One-month tourist visas, costing US$20 and requiring one passport-sized photograph, are available on arrival at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports and all land border crossings. Staff may try to charge more at some land border crossings: hold out for the official price, particularly at major crossings, but don't be upset if you have to pay US$1-2 extra.
It is also possible to arrange a visa through Cambodian embassies overseas or an online e-visa (US$25) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa/. Anyone planning an extended stay should get a one-month business visa for US$25, as these are easier to renew. *There will be a US$10 increase to all visa fees from 1 October 2014.
US$25 for international flights from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, but it is now included in the original ticket price, so no cash payment at the airport is required. The US$6 charge for domestic flights is also included in the ticket price.
There are no required vaccinations in Cambodia, although tetanus, typhoid, and anti-hepatitis vaccines are commonly recommended. There is malaria in parts of Cambodia and preventative measures are up to the discretion of travellers. We advise you to contact your nearest travel clinic for information on health requirements, as this information changes frequently. A good website for current information is The Centre for Disease Control.
Laundry facilities are offered by some of our hotels for a charge. There will be times when you may want to or have to do your own laundry so we suggest you bring non-polluting/biodegradable soap.
Using Credit Cards
Credit cards are usually accepted by modern hotels, restaurants and medium-large shops in tourist areas. Smaller shops, cafes, market stalls and places in remote areas probably won’t have facilities that support credit cards, so ensure you have enough cash to cover expenses while in rural areas or when visiting smaller vendors.
Internet access is growing in Cambodia. Internet cafes are easily found in large cities, but the speed may be slower than what you’re used to.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in urban areas, but can be patchy and less reliable in rural areas. Ensure global roaming is activated on your phone before you arrive in Cambodia.
Squat toilets are the most common in Cambodia, but western-style toilets can be found in large hotels and in tourist areas. Be prepared to pay a small fee when visiting public toilets, and always carry your own toilet paper and soap as they are usually not provided.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
As currency exchange rates in South East Asia do fluctuate, we ask that you refer to the following website for the most up to date daily exchange rates: www.xe.com for each of the currencies. The Riel is Cambodia's official currency (US $1 = 4000 riel), but US dollars are widely accepted. Most hotels accept international credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard and travellers cheques can be easily cashed. The best way to carry your money is in debit cards, withdrawing cash in local currencies from ATM machines. There are now international debit card and credit card-compatible ATMs in most major towns and cities. Small charges are sometimes levied on withdrawals. Larger sums can be withdrawn over the counter with some identification such as a passport. Please note, ATMs in Cambodia will give you only USD. ATM card/s and some cash is the ideal mix. Travellers cheques can be tricky, timely and expensive to exchange. While we do not recommend that you bring them as your primary source of funds, it is great to have one or two cheques in case of emergency. Thomas Cook or American Express travellers' cheques in US currency are the easiest to exchange. Cash advances can also be made with some banks but are time consuming and tend to have high fees attached. Credit cards can be used at some upmarket restaurants, and at some larger stores if shopping for big items. If you are bringing US Dollars, please make sure that the notes are new and in good condition. Notes older than 2003, or with any tears or blemishes may not be accepted. Be fussy with your bank when buying cash!
It is customary in Asia to tip service providers such as waiters, at approximately 10%, depending on the service. Tipping is expected - though not compulsory - and shows an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you on your tour. Although it may not be customary to you, it is of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels. There are several times during the trip where there is opportunity to tip the local guides or drivers we use. Recommendations for tipping drivers and local guides would range from $1.5-$3.5 USD per person per day depending on the quality and length of the service; ask your tour leader for specific recommendations based on the circumstances and culture. Also at the end of each trip if you felt your tour leader did an outstanding job, tipping is appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline $20-25 USD per person, per week can be used.
What to Take
What you need to bring depends on the trip you have chosen and the countries or regions you are planning to visit. We suggest that you pack as lightly as possible as your are expected to carry your own luggage. You will also need a day pack/bag to carry water, cameras and other electronics like ipods and mobile phones. If your trip involves overnights in homestays, villages or camping then you usually have the opportunity to rent sleeping bags if need be instead of bringing them with you.
In Asia the dress standard is more conservative than it is back home. When you visit religious sites, temples, monasteries and Angkor Wat, avoid shorts and singlet cover your arms and legs to the knees, thank you. Cambodia climate is hot, so light weight clothing, hats, sunglasses, suncream and mosquito repellent for sunrise and sunset are essential, a light raincoat in the rainy season is useful.
Passport (with photocopies)
Travel insurance (with photocopies)
Airline tickets (with photocopies)
USD cash (small denominations preferred)
Credit or debit card (see personal spending money)
Any entry visas, additional passport photos or vaccination certificates required, Alarm clock
Sun hat, sunblock, sunglasses
Small towel and swim wear
Sturdy walking shoes/sport sandals
Warm clothes for Nov-Feb. Hat, gloves, fleece, windproof/waterproof jacket Waterproof clothes for wet season May-Oct. Umbrella or waterproof jacket
Cover for backpack or plastic bags to keep clothes dry
Clothes for temples – long pants or sarongs
Camera and film
First-aid kit (should contain lip salve, aspirin, band aids, anti-histamine, imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, re-hydration powder, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)
Do’s & Don’ts
When travelling Cambodia is it important to know and to follow the basic codes of behavior and cultural conventions. It is recommended to be sensitive about local traditions and pay respect to the local beliefs and culture. Please keep this list of basic Do & Don‘ts“ in mind, during your stay in Cambodia.
- Always respond to a smile with a smile.
- Adapt to local greeting habits. When you meet someone, it is polite to remove your hat, bow slightly, and put your hands together in a ‘prayer’ position, in particular elderly people or monks. However, most Cambodians greet foreigners by shaking hands.
- Dress appropriately: women must always cover their shoulders and wear at least knee length shorts or a skirt or Sarong, even when swimming. It is considered as extremely disrespectful not to cover yourself in temples, as they are sacred places.
- Ask for permission before taking photographs of any Cambodian people or monks.
- Take off shoes and hat when entering someone’s house or a pagoda.
- If invited to a Cambodian party, it is polite to bring a gift, take nicely presented fruit, sweets, pastries or flowers.
- Feel free to make a small donation while visiting a pagoda.
- Use both hands or right hand to give or to accept something from Cambodian people.
- Cover your open mouth when using toothpick, sneezing, coughing, yawning.
- Don’t give gifts to kids informally.
- Don’t touch people on the head and try not to point your feet at people or an object.
- Don’t show affection in public.
- Dining etiquette: Don’t begin eating if you are a guest at a dinner until the host has taken a bite. When invited to the dining table wait to be told where to sit as you would not want to upset any hierarchical arrangements.
- Don’t buy any wild animal products from villagers or support any manner of wild animal abuse.
- Don‘t barter to much on markets. Be respectful and settle on a reasonable price for both parties.
- Don’t step over food.
- Monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman.
- Smoke in front of others if they are not smoking.
Please do not hesitate to ask us any question you may have on this matter!
Trip Specific Safety
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travellers' cheques, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Some of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! Your feedback information is so important to us. We just hope to do our good job on this, but sometime thing never goes right. Only you words that can tell us what to do next.
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|When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge||Chanrithy Him|
|Angkor: Cambodia's Wondrous Khmer Temples||Dawn Rooney|
|Cambodia Now: Life in the Wake of War||Karen Coates|
|The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine||Somaly Mam|
Top 12 Responsible Travel Tips
The following tips are for your overall travel plans, not just for your time spent with Cambodian Pride Tours.
- Before leaving home, learn as much as possible about the countries you are visiting – the religion and culture, the local rules and values.
- Learn some of the local language and don’t be afraid to use it – simple pleasantries will help break the ice. Keep practicing.
- Learn what’s appropriate behaviour and body language. Like the concept of “saving face” in Asia or giving the thumbs up in western or central Europe.
- Support locally owned businesses, hotels, restaurants, and other services. Eat local food and drink local brands and brews. Use public transport, hire a bike or walk where convenient – you’ll meet local people and get to know the place.
- Think first. It’s best not to eat in restaurants, shop in stores or visit local shows, markets or zoos that promote cruelty or exploitation of endangered species.
- Shop from traditional artisans and for locally made products, helping keep traditional crafts alive and favour local products over imported items. Bargain if that is a local practice, but bear in mind that a small amount to you could be extremely important to the seller.
- Dress respectfully with an awareness of local standards. Dress modestly at religious sites and check what swim wear is suitable for pools and the beach.
- Always ask first before photographing or videoing people. Send them back copies of photos to help make it a two-way exchange.
- Be wary of giving gifts or money to beggars, children and people you have just met. Supporting the community through a local school, clinic, or development project may be more constructive.
- Leave only footprints…take care of the environment as you would your own home. Take out all you take in, to areas away from the cities. Use alternatives to plastic and say ‘no’ to plastic bags. For cigarette butts, an empty film container makes a perfect portable container.
- After returning home think how you can support programmes and organisations that are working to protect the welfare, culture and environment of where you’ve been lucky to visit.
- Smile – The traveller who wishes to have a happy and successful trip should keep as calm, cheerful and friendly as humanly possible. And have fun!
Responsible Travel Code of Conduct
Irrawaddy River Dolphins
Location: The Mekong River between Kratie and Stung Treng
Who and What : Mekong fresh water irrawaddy dolphin (Trey Pisaut) is an endangered species throughout Asia, with shrinking numbers inhabiting stretches of the Mekong in Cambodia and Laos, and isolated pockets in Bangladesh and Myanmar. (Lonely Planet)
The Experience: Mekong River dolphin spotting. A fantastic chance to catch a rare glimpse of this rare endangered species. Kampi is the best, easiest and cheapest place to see them.
From Cambodian Pride
The only way to save the Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins is to attract tourism and hence revenue to the area, in this way the locals will see the benefits of protecting the beautiful but endangered mammals.
- Dolphins are now protected
- Mekong has become more environmentally friendly
- Your financial supporting provides funding for the river polices to help control, monitor and protect the dolphin habitat
- The level of life is getting better
- Children can go to school
- Good way of life
- 20% of our profit will go to local families
- Tourism provides people a source of income that makes them no longer have to engage in dangerous fishing activities
Mekong Discovery Trail
Location: The Mekong River between Kratie and Stung Treng
Who and What : The Mekong Discovery Trail takes you into the heart of the Mekong where the beauty of the river and the friendliness of the people create unforgettable river life experiences in northeast Cambodia. The Mekong Discovery Trail is a network of safe, ecotourism journeys through some of the most natural and least populated parts of the Mekong.
The Experience: Mekong River dolphin spotting. A fantastic chance to catch a rare glimpse of this rare endangered species. Take a relaxed cycle through cheerful villages and rice fields. Enjoy an exclusive Mekong Safari. Camping under the stars on the banks of the mystic Mekong is truly unforgettable. Only with Hanuman.
From Cambodian Pride
The Mekong Discovery Trail was aimed at having tourists experience the Mekong River by organising different activities such as kayaking, biking, traditional home stays, trekking, dolphin spotting and camping on the Mekong's beach.
Unfortunately funding for the project ran out in 2012. However, local guides are still able to provide the same experiences.
We are committed to carrying on the legacy of this project and delivering the same level of in depth exposure to true Cambodian life and wildlife.
Location: Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor
Who and What : Artisans d'Angkor promotes the sustainable development of Cambodian arts and crafts to benefit rural communities. It provides training to young Cambodians, enabling them to rediscover lost talents and make a living in their home villages. It has created over 1,000 jobs, including 624 craftsmen. The craftsmen have formed an association known as Artisanat Khmer.
The Experience: Visit one of the many Artisans d’Angkor showrooms and support their project through the purchase of exquisite and high quality artisans and handicrafts. These can be found in town, in front of Angkor Wat and at the airports. Visit the silk farm and watch the silk evolve from pupae to fine finished product.
From Cambodian Pride
Artisans d'Angkor is one of the most successful craft revitalisation projects in Cambodia. The showroom opposite Angkor Wat is a delightful place to unwind after exploring the world's largest religious building, including an air-conditioned cafe. The original Chantiers Ecoles in Siem Reap is a great place to see the arts and crafts being carefully made. For those with an interest in textiles, the silk farm is a wonderful experience.
Location: Kratie – Koh Trong, Koh Pdao.
Who and What : Home stay in the village is very safe as it is in the peaceful country side with many families in the village. As with most country people, they are welcoming and kind. Also the village leader will be sure to take care of visitors who will be staying in the village, as they are there to support the inhabitants and help to develop the community.
The Experience: By spending overnight homestay mean that you have supported directly to local community especially the family.
From Cambodian Pride
With our home stay tour you will venture off the beaten track, and you will learn about rural life in Cambodia. You will have the opportunity to connect with the people and communities you will visit, and talk with people from the Khmer Rouge Era. Experience farm life, and taste traditional meals. Families are especially welcome on this tour!
Lonely Planet Mentioned
Local tours website operated by two enthusiastic young guides from the Kratie area keen to promote real life experiences.