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Cambodia Travel Tips

Cambodia is a reasonably safe destination and can be visited throughout the year. The capital, Phnom Penh, is rapidly developing, as are the other major cities and towns. Many of the comforts of home can be found here, from air-conditioning and wireless internet in many hotel rooms, restaurants and bars, to the availability of food and other products from around the world.

Other aspects of travel in the country may be less comfortable, such as uneven ground and heat in markets, and relentless heat if visiting tourist sites during the middle of the day. The usual precautions apply to maintaining personal safety, like locking valuables in your hotel safety deposit box before venturing out. If you have already booked your trip to Cambodia click here to download our pre-departure guide.

Full name
Kingdom of Cambodia
Voltage
Used in 127V/ 220V
Frequency
Used in 50HZ
 
Capital city
Phnom Penh
Population
14,150,000
Religion
Buddhist
 
Currency
Riel (KHR)
International code
+855
Time zone
UTC + 7 hours
 
 
Climate & times to visit
There are two distinctive seasons in Cambodia: wet and dry. In the wet, or monsoon, season (May to October) the temple moats around the Temples of Angkor are full, skies can be dramatic, and the rice-fields glimmer when the sun comes out after a brief downpour.

It usually only rains for a short time in the afternoon, and does not affect touring. In the dry season (November to March), daytime temperatures are a steady 30-35 degrees and rain is less likely. Roads can get dusty, but you will find it easier to walk through the leafy areas that surround the temples.
What to expect
Service standards in Cambodia are rapidly improving, and in top restaurants and hotels you can expect service levels to be of a similar standard as Australia. However in many cases, hotel and restaurant staff are still learning about the hospitality and tourism trade and misunderstandings can occur. As is always the case when travelling in Asia, patience and flexibility will serve you well in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are rapidly developing, and here you will have access to a range of international cuisines, wireless internet, and other modern conveniences. However when travelling in more remote areas, you can expect clean yet basic accommodation, bumpy roads, and less choice when it comes to eating. Cambodia is hot all year round; if you feel the heat it is advisable to avoid touring and covered markets in the middle of the day.
Events
In Cambodia, holidays are celebrated for a range of reasons: to celebrate royal birthdays, to mark significant anniversaries, to signal the change of season, and to mark milestones in Buddha’s life. The Khmers love a public holiday! Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the holidays listed below. As major holidays such as Bonn Um Tuk (Water Festival) are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our Australia-based Asia specialists for details.
 
 
 
Health & fitness
As with travelling to other parts of Asia, you need to take precautions when visiting Cambodia. Some of the diseases known to exist in Cambodia include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tuberculosis, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rabies and HIV/AIDS. You should talk to your doctor at least one month before you travel, to obtain up-to-date health advice and arrange any necessary vaccinations.

There are international clinics and hospitals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Outside these centres, medical care facilities are basic. For more serious medical requirements, transfer to a hospital in Bangkok will likely be needed.
Visa information
Australian travellers to Cambodia require a visa to enter the country. Visas on arrival can be obtained at Phnom Penh or Siem Reap airport for around 30 AUD cash. Visas are valid for 30 days and you will need a passport photo for your application, which can be filled out on the plane or on arrival at the airport. Australian passport holders can also obtain a visa on arrival at the following border crossings:

- Phnom Penh International Airport
- Siem Reap - Angkor International Airport
- Poipet (Meanchey Province, bordering Thailand)
- O’Smach (Oddar Meanchey Province, bordering Thailand)
- Cham Yeam (Koh Kong Province, bordering Thailand)
- Bavet (Svay Reing Province, bordering Vietnam)
- Kaam Samnor on the Mekong River (Kandal Province, bordering Vietnam).

If you prefer to arrange your visa before you travel, you can apply for a 30-day tourist visa at www.mfaic.gov.kh. This visa costs 35-40 AUD, payable by credit card. Please allow at least three full business days for delivery. Note: this visa is only valid for arrival at Phnom Penh or Siem Reap international airports, Cham Yeam (Koh Kong), Poi Pet (Banteay Meanchey) and Bavet (Svay Rieng).

Note: Cambodian visa regulations and arrangements are subject to change. We strongly advise that you check with the Cambodian embassy in Australia or consulate closest to you outside Australia prior to travel. It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa.
Travel updates
After the closing of the polls on Sunday 28th July there was some unrest in Phnom Penh. Fortunately this was very contained and it appears that on Monday has brought peace, quiet and calm back to city. All sites, restaurants and most businesses are open. Travel Indochina will continue to monitor the situation and follow the warnings or advice issued via DFAT and other International organizations however at this stage it appears there is no threat to the safety of any Travel Indochina clients on the ground in Cambodia.
Safety & security
Despite being one of the poorest nations on Earth, Cambodia is a relatively safe destination. The usual precautions apply to maintaining personal safety.

In Phnom Penh in particular, it is advisable to steer clear of badly lit streets at night, and to take taxis rather than cyclos. We recommend that throughout your travels in Cambodia you keep a hotel address card with you so you can show drivers where to go. Petty crime can also be a problem in Phnom Penh. It is a good idea to wear as little jewellery as possible when on the street, and to keep your money close to your body in a secure place.

Throughout your stay, always keep a photocopy of your passport, airline tickets and credit card numbers. These documents should be kept in a safe place separate from the originals. You should leave valuables in hotel safety deposit boxes wherever possible.
Recommended reading
'Angkor, an Introduction to the Temples (Odyssey), by Dawn Rooney' - will introduce you to the history of the Khmer Empire and each of the temples of Angkor.

‘Culture Shock Cambodia (A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette)’, by Peter North - The much-awaited Cambodia version in the ‘Culture Shock’ series contains practical information on the defining characteristics of Cambodian social norms and society. Highly recommended for responsible travellers who want more than just a surface understanding of a unique and complex culture.

‘Cambodia, Report from a Stricken Land’, by Henry Kamm' - Based on the author's career experiences as a journalist in Cambodia from the 1970s and numerous interviews with Khmer Rouge leaders and Norodom Sihanouk. The book provides a concise account of the steps leading up to the rise to power of the Khmer Rouge and its four year reign.

‘Sihanouk, Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness’, by Milton Osborne - Milton Osborne is one of the best and easiest to read writers on Indochina and Cambodia. Osborne lived in Phnom Penh from the late 1950s and used his societal contacts and other research sources to prepare this frank account of the enigmatic and ultimately self-centric Sihanouk.

'River of Time by Jon Swain' - provides a broad overview of the Indochina conflict. Writing from personal experience, Swain captures Cambodia’s lost decade, the 1970s, in all its horror and complexity.

‘A Dragon Apparent, Travels in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam by Norman Lewis’ - captures Cambodia at end of the colonial-era in the late 1950s. A classic.
 
What to take
  • Flat walking shoes & sandals
  • Hat & sunglasses
  • Swimming attire
  • Lightweight travel towel
  • Money belt
  • Lightweight waterproof coat or umbrella
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Alarm clock
  • Small torch (flashlight)
  • Travel plug/international adapter
  • Women’s sanitary products
  • Camera
  • Ear plugs/eye mask
  • Day pack and/or small backpack
  • Clothes for temples
 
 
 
 
Getting around
Arrival and departure transfers: Your transfer driver will be wearing a Travel Indochina t-shirt and carrying a Travel Indochina signboard with your name on it.

Road: For six travellers or more, air-conditioned Hyundai with 25-40 seats are used. If you are travelling in a smaller group, travel will be by air-conditioned minibus or modern sedan car. Metered taxis are cheap and plentiful in Phnom Penh, and tuk tuks provide a novel way to get around Siem Reap.

Air: Most flights within Cambodia are on ATR 72 planes. Flight schedules frequently change, which may impact travel plans.

Other: Tuk tuks, boats of varying sizes, bicycles and your feet.
Internet access & communication
Internet: Internet is generally inexpensive in Cambodia and readily available, either in your hotel or at an internet cafe. Many cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap provide free WiFi.

Phone: Mobile phone coverage in Cambodia is good in urban areas, but could be intermittent outside the major centres. You will need to contact your service provider to enable roaming before you leave. Purchasing a local SIM card on arrival is another option. The cheapest way of calling overseas (or locally) is via a VOIP service such as Skype. International phone and fax fees in hotels are expensive, ranging from 4-6 AUD per minute. It is not possible to make reverse charge calls in Cambodia.

Mail: International mail from Cambodia generally takes seven to ten days to reach its destination. Prices are equivalent to Western postal rates.
Food & drink
Cambodian cuisine is usually fragrant rather than spicy, with greater emphasis on fresh herbs and spices such as lemongrass, galangal and ginger rather than spicy hot chillies. Kroeung spice paste, which is similar in texture to the Thai curry pastes, forms the basis of many dishes and prahok, a fermented fish paste, is also commonly used. Rice is a staple, and noodles are also common. Soups are served with most meals.

Freshwater fish from Lake Tonle Sap is used to make Fish Amok, a mild curry in a coconut base, which is very popular with travellers and worth trying at least once. Along the southern coastline, delicious fresh seafood is readily available. As with the other countries of the former French Indochina, baguettes and pastries are widespread, cheap, and delicious.

A wide range of international food is available in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The range of food is limited outside the major centres. Vegetarian dishes are not a common feature of Khmer cuisine, however there are a number of vegetarian restaurants in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Elsewhere, even vegetable dishes may use fish or meat stock as a base.

In Cambodia, like other parts of the developing world, eating cold, uncooked dishes such as salad is more likely to lead to stomach upsets than cooked dishes. It is unadvisable to drink water from the tap, even in hotels; however bottled water can be purchased cheaply and is also provided complimentary in most hotel rooms.
Tipping
Tipping is a personal matter, and you should never feel obligated to provide a tip. However we believe that showing your appreciation with a tip is an appropriate way to reward great service.

Your local guide or Western tour leader will ask for a small sum in the local currency (the equivalent of around 50 cents a day) at the beginning of your stay in Cambodia. This will be used to tip hotel porters and boat crews during your trip. This means that you do not have to worry about having small change on hand, and helps to prevent over-tipping.

It is not compulsory to tip Travel Indochina guides, drivers and tour leaders. We are sure that you will be extremely happy with the service you receive from our representatives, and may choose to show your appreciation with a tip; however whether or not you choose to is entirely up to you.
Responsible travel
Travel Indochina is committed to responsible travel in all our destinations, including Cambodia. When you travel to Cambodia with Travel Indochina, especially on a Small Group Tour, you may have the chance to support sustainable projects, or provide funding for worthwhile causes.

ChildSafe: If you travel on one of our Small Group Tours to Cambodia, you will most likely visit the ChildSafe Centre in Phnom Penh, a chance for you to learn more about Cambodian street children and you can engage with them in a way that is helpful and respectful. We also give a pocket-sized 'ChildSafe Traveller Tips' card to all our travellers in Cambodia.

Friends International: Friends International is the organisation behind a number of charitable training institutions for former street children in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Our guides and tour leaders love taking groups to restaurants such as Romdeng and Marung - the food is delicious and it gives our travellers a chance to create secure futures for Cambodian young people.

Homestays: When you join our Cambodia Revealed Small Group Tour you will stay overnight in a family home in the small town of Takeo. In this way, you will not only experience a little of what life it like for people who live in rural Cambodia, but also make a vital financial contribution to the local community.