General Money Entry Requirements Health & safety Weather Embassies Etiquette Public Holidays Attractions Map
Kampong Speu ©Nicolas Pascarel
For many adventurous travellers the allure of an unspoilt and little-explored country is irresistible. Emerging from a violent past of human rights atrocities, war and political instability, Cambodia is steadily recovering and slowly emerging as a top destination on the Southeast Asian travel trail. The magnificent 'Lost City' of Angkor is undoubtedly one of the most magical tourist attractions in the world and a bucket-list destination for many, drawing hordes of travellers to Cambodia single-handedly.
Modern day Cambodia is the successor kingdom of the powerful Khmer Empire which ruled most of what is today Vietnam, Laos and Thailand from the 9th to 14th centuries. Although the country does not have the same volume of famous attractions as some of its neighbours, the Cambodian people are incredibly friendly, providing a warm welcome for travellers and authentic glimpses into their culture. This friendliness is amazing in itself given the suffering that Cambodians had to endure during the three-and-a-half year reign of Pol Pot, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated two million people. The Khmer Rouge, under Pol Pot's leadership, altered the face of the country. Overnight cities were emptied and property destroyed, the economy was left in tatters, and so were the lives of countless families. This period between 1975 and 1979 represents a particularly dark one in the nation's history.
For some travellers the horrors of the Khmer Rouge prove fascinating and the museums and sites commemorating this tragic chapter are an important part of the Cambodian itinerary; however, those who shy away from exploring the infamous Killing Fields will find that the country offers many more peaceful and cheerful diversions. Pleasurable moments can be had in the snatches of friendly conversations, in the tranquillity ushered in by Buddhist prayer, or in the sounds of workers in the rice paddies. One can also search out the charms of the French-flavoured capital city Phnom Penh, drift past sleepy riverside locations on a traditional boat and, best of all, explore the illustrious ancient history of the region at sites like Angkor Wat.
The scenery is beautiful and abundant, shaped by landscapes of lush green forests and jungles, banana plantations, agricultural fields and mighty rivers. People here live modest and simple lifestyles and the populace is largely rural. It is not a place of fast and efficient transport or luxurious hotels and resort pleasures. Infrastructure is basic and travelling between destinations can be quite an experience - fun for some and frustrating for others. The country's world-class attractions and less-explored reaches, golden beaches and islands beckon the enterprising traveller, and make Cambodia a unique travel destination.
The international access code for Cambodia is +855. The outgoing code is 001 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00144 for the United Kingdom). Phnom Penh's area code is (0)23; the code for Siem Reap is (0)63. Domestic and international calls can be made at post offices or telecom offices in most towns. Mobile phone operators cover Phnom Penh and other major cities. The country uses GSM networks, so US phones are not compatible. Mobile phones can be rented at Phnom Penh International Airport on arrival. Internet phones are available in some internet cafes and provide a cheaper alternative for international calls. Internet cafes provide a fast and inexpensive service in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and other main towns.
117 (Police); 119 (Ambulance); 118 (Fire)
Khmer is the official language. French is also spoken, but English is fast becoming popular with the younger generation.
Travellers to Cambodia are allowed to enter the country with a reasonable amount of tobacco products and spirits for personal use: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 200g of tobacco; about 350ml of perfume; and two litres of alcohol. Cambodian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations on the import or export of drugs, firearms, antiquities and ivory.
Local electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. The European round two-pin plug is standard. Travellers should be aware that power cuts are frequent and, outside the capital, electricity is generally only available in the evenings.
Cambodia's climate is tropical with seasonal monsoons. There are two distinct seasons, the rainy and dry. Temperatures during the rainy season, between June and October, average 81°F to 95°F (27°C to 35°C). The dry season can be divided into cool months, from November till February, with temperatures averaging 63°F to 81°F (17°C to 27°C); and hot months, from March till May, with temperatures averaging 84°F to 100°F (29°C to 38°C). The cooler, dry months of November to February are a pleasant time to visit Cambodia, but the best time to visit does vary depending on desired activities.
All visitors must have sufficient funds to cover their stay, documentation for onward travel and a ticket for onward travel. A visa can be issued on arrival for 30 days. For a visa to be issued on arrival one passport photo is required and an empty page in the passport is required, along with US$30 for a tourist visa or US$35 for a business visa. Extensions of visas are usually possible.
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US travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months from date of arrival, and a visa, which can be obtained on arrival for stays of up to 30 days.
Malaria is common in Cambodia and malaria prophylaxis is recommended for all areas except Phnom Penh and around Lake Tonle Sap. Dengue fever, transmitted by mosquitoes, is also prevalent, especially in the heavily populated areas. Insect protection measures should be taken throughout the day. Travellers staying long-term, or for more than one month, and those who may engage in extensive outdoor activities, should be vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis. Vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid are recommended for all travellers. If you come from a yellow-fever-infected area then a yellow fever vaccination is required. Tap water is not suitable for drinking but bottled water is widely available. Avoid uncooked meat, unpeeled fruit, salads and food sold by street vendors, and don't drink beverages containing ice. Medical facilities are very limited in most of Cambodia, except for a few expensive private clinics in Phnom Penh. Treatment must be paid for with cash and health insurance is essential.
Cambodia remains one of the most heavily land-mined countries in the world. When hiking or visiting rural areas, travel with a local guide and never stray off the main paths. It is not advisable to travel in rural areas at night.
Caution should be taken in the capital, Phnom Penh, especially at night, as street crime is a problem, and popular tourist nightspots may be targeted. After dark there is also a risk of crime in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. Visitors should be aware that bag snatching is becoming an increasing problem on tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis and while walking in the main towns. Due to the large numbers of tourists involved in road accidents on motorcycles, police in Siem Reap and other tourist centres have in the past banned rental outlets from hiring motorcycles to tourists - these bans are sporadic and may happen at any time.
There is some risk from terrorism due to continuing terrorist activity in Southeast Asia, and travellers are advised to be vigilant in public places and areas frequented by foreigners. Travellers are also advised to avoid the Cambodian-Thai border areas because of ongoing border disputes; the Preah Vihear temple area has become particularly dangerous.
Emergency Phone Number
117 (Police); 119 (Ambulance); 118 (Fire)
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
Riel (KHR) is the official currency and is divided into 100 sen. Foreign currency can be difficult to exchange, with the exception of US Dollars. Most transactions require cash but credit card use is on the rise, especially in tourist-orientated hotels and restaurants in larger cities and towns. US Dollars and Thai Baht are accepted, although smaller transactions are usually done in Riel. A torn US Dollar note is useless. There are ATMs in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville but they shouldn't be relied upon as a source of money.
Exchange RateNot available.
Embassies of Cambodia
Embassy of Cambodia, Washington DC, United States (also responsible for Canada): +1 206 726 7742.
Embassy of Cambodia, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 8451 7997.
Embassy of Cambodia, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 (0)2 6273 5867.
Foreign Embassies in Cambodia
United States Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 (0)23 728 000.
British Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 (0)23 427 124.
Canadian Embassy, Bangkok (also responsible for Cambodia): (66) 0 2646 4300.
Australian Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 (0)23 213 470.
South African Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand (also responsible for Cambodia): + 66 (0)2 659 2900
Irish Embassy, Hanoi, Vietnam (also responsible for Cambodia): +84 (0)4 974 3291.
New Zealand Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand (also responsible for Cambodia): +66 (0)2 254 2530.
Permission should be sought before taking pictures of people, particularly monks. Avoid touching someone on the head as it is considered the most sacred part of a person's body. When visiting religious sites, shoes should be removed, and shorts avoided; women in particular should dress modestly. A traditional greeting in Cambodia is a bow, bringing together the hands at chest level (similar to hand position for prayer). With foreigners Cambodians sometimes convert to the handshake. The simple rule is to respond with the same greeting you were given.
Developing a personal relationship in Cambodia is important before any business can be discussed, a process which might include shared meals and plenty of socialising. It is considered rude to cause any business associate to 'lose face' publically, so tact and politeness are important. On introduction, the most senior in the group will be introduced first, and visitors are advised to do likewise so that the hosts understand the hierarchy of the group; the highest-ranking person on both sides should greet each other first and perform the introductions. A light handshake is appropriate on introduction, after which business cards can be exchanged using both hands; it is considered impolite to put the card away without making a show of studying it for a short while. In Cambodia people are addressed with the honorific title 'Lok' for a man and 'Lok Srey' for a woman followed with the first name or both the first and surname. Dress is conservative, but formal business suits will be out of place in the tropical heat; lightweight suits can be worn for formal meetings. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, often with a long lunch from about 12pm till 2pm.
Tips are not necessarily expected, but are welcomed in restaurants and hotels. Hotels often add a 10 percent service charge to the bill, but small amounts for personal services are appreciated, as salaries in the country are low. Tour guides should be tipped.
Public Holidays in Cambodia
Cambodian attractions are unique, moulded by the country's culture and history, making sightseeing a real Khmer experience. The fact that Cambodia has only recently emerged as a popular tourist destination has ensured that visitors can still get an authentic experience of this ancient culture. Most people who holiday in Cambodia are lured in by the impressive ancient temple city of Angkor in Siem Riep. Although, once hooked by the ancient attractions, tourists discover that the more recent history of the Khmer Rouge, though tragic and frightening, is intriguing in its own way. The more sombre Phnom Penh attractions, such as the Killing Fields and Tuel Sleng Prison Museum, are in contrast to the vibrant Central Market and to the relaxation of the river front and lake side, not to mention the habitually friendly local population. For even more relaxation travellers may slide down to the beach towns of Kep and Sihanoukville on the Cambodian coast. Others enjoy the unique Irrawaddy river dolphins of the northeast.
Getting around Cambodia can be challenging and visitors should bear in mind that in monsoon season - June to October - the roads can get really muddy, making travel outside of the main centres more difficult. The rest of the year travel can be dusty but is more manageable.
Map of Cambodia
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