Travel Guide Asia Cambodia



Markt in Siem Reap 3

Markt in Siem Reap 3

© irezumi

Cambodia, while a poor country, has much to offer visitors. A trip to Cambodia not only offers glimpses into the country's glorious (Angkor) and terrifying (Khmer Rouge period) history, but also a chance to experience a beautiful country and a beautiful culture. Tourism in Cambodia is no longer just about the past.

Nonetheless, travellers to Cambodia will be richly rewarded by doing a little research into the country's recent history. Civil war and genocide are of central importance to contemporary Cambodia. Hostilities ended in the mid-1990s but the country continues to struggle to recover from the previous 20 years of violence. War has ceased but the power vacuum has quickly been replaced by a political system recognised as one of the most corrupt in the world.

Tourists are returning in large numbers, flocking to Angkor, a stunning complex of Hindu and Buddhist temples uncovered in the heart of Cambodia's jungle. A visit to Phnom Penh, the nation's capital, is the best way to understand the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge and is a must for all travellers. At the same time, travelling to places like Kratié and Ratanakiri Province can help travellers understand Cambodians as they live today.



Brief history

The Rise and Fall of Angkor

Before the rise of Angkor there were several smaller Khmer kingdoms such as Funan, which was at its height from the 1st to 6th century AD, and Chenla. The Khmer Empire, with its capital of Angkor, flourished from the 9th century till the 13th century. The empire shared close cultural ties to Java, at that time a Hindu empire, and India. The empire converted from Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism to Theravada Buddhism in the 13th century. The main legacy of this empire are the amazing temples and city of Angkor. Many anthropologists believe that Angkor was the largest pre-industrial urban center in the world, covering a larger surface area than modern day New York City.

While there is still mush debate about the issue, many scholars believe that Angkor fell because of the inability the Kings to maintain infrastructure like canals for rice production and transportation. This might be because a growing population demanded too much water to support the canal system. At the same time, the neighboring Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya was growing in power. The Thais starting attacking in 1350 and continued to attack the Khmers until finally sacking the city of Angkor in 1431.

Dark Ages

The period between the mid 15th century and the take over by France in 1863 is considered Cambodia's Dark Ages. The Thais and Vietnamese slowly spread into Cambodia's territory. When the Thais sacked the new capital of Oudong it was almost impossible for the Khmer government to recover because the Thais marched thousands of peasants, skilled artisans, scholars and members of the Buddhist clergy back to their capital. Without its brain and manpower, the Khmer empire further declined. The Vietnamese slow move into the Mekong delta also didn't help, and by the end of the 17th century the Vietnamese had complete control of the delta and the coastline. By the mid 18th century, the Vietnamese reached their current day borders. This made the Khmer Empire dependent on Vietnam's permission for sea trade. These events put the Khmer kings into a submissive position to their neighbors. The Vietnamese and Thais continued to fight over control of Cambodia until 1863.


In 1863, when Cambodia became a protectorate of France, the process of forcing the Vietnamese and the Thais to hand Cambodia over to the French started. In 1887, the French announced the formation of the Union of Indochina and the final piece was added in 1893, when France forced the Thais to annex Laos to them. Cambodia was viewed as the backwater of the colonial empire and very little development happened in the area.

France maintained control of the Khmer Kings and therefore maintained control of the country. The French built some roads and encouraged rice cultivation but not much else. A nationalist movement began to grow in the 1930s, which became particularly fervent during World War II. Shortly after the war, a young King Sihanouk successfully campaigned for complete independence from Cambodia, and France gave up power in 1953.

Post Colonial

Cambodian history after colonialism is a shameful blemish on the records of powerful Western states and the United Nations. King Sihanouk was only able to keep the country out of neighboring wars for 15 years before he was forced to leave the country.

Heavy bombing of the Eastern half of Cambodia by American forces throughout the US/Vietnam war provided a rallying point for the Communist Khmer Rouge forces in defeating the US backed Lon Nol Government. The West's reluctance to intervene to stop the horrible atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in the latter half of the 1970s coupled with active support of the Khmer Rouge in forming a resistance to the Vietnamese caused incalculable damage to the country. It is somewhat ironic, in fact, that the nation's relief from Khmer rule came from communist Vietnam - a nation perceived as a threat to the West in the 1970s.

By the time the Vietnamese army pushed the Khmer Rouge from power 1.7 million people were killed in either extermination camps, forced labor or by starvation. The Vietnamese continued to fight in Cambodia until 1989, when the final troops left due to internal problems in Vietnam and the cessation of economic support from a struggling USSR and eastern European allies.

In 1992, UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia) took control of the country fractured by war and suffering. While they were not necessarily successful in stopping the fighting between the parties, they did bring about elections in which a large part of the population of the country participated.

The civil war did not officially end until 1998, when the Khmer Rouge officially surrendered, but there had been no heavy fighting since 1993. The peace process was slow throughout the 1990s. In the past few years, Cambodia has slowly been rebuilding itself - one shattered building and soul at a time.




Located between Latitude 10º-15º and Longitude 102º-108º, Cambodia is bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand. The country has a topography reminiscent of a frying pan, with a flat central river basin of young alluvial deposits and highlands defining the borders. Between Lake Tonle Sap and the Gulf of Thailand lie the Cardamon Mountains rising to over 1,800 metres. To the north of the central plain lie the Dangrek Mountains at around 500 metres and the to the northeast, the fertile and volcanic Rattanak Kirri Plateau.

The Mekong river system and lake Tonle Sap dominate the lowland regions with an annual flood proving rich agricultural lands and freshwater fishing grounds. Joined to the Mekong by the unique Tonle Sap River, which reverses direction of flow twice a year, is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia: Lake Tonle Sap. The flooding of the Mekong following seasonal melting of the Himalaya forces water into the lake which grows from around 3,000 km² to 10,000 km².




  • Cardamom and Elephant Mountains (Battambang, Kampot, Koh Kong, Pailin, Pursat, Sihanoukville, Bokor National Park, Kep) - the western mountain ranges, gulf coast beaches and offshore islands
  • Northwestern Cambodia (Angkor Archaeological Park, Anlong Veng, Siem Reap, Sisophon, Koh Ker, Poipet, Tonle Sap Lake, Preah Vihear) -ngkor, the main reason most visitors come to Cambodia, plus a huge lake and the northern mountains
  • Mekong Lowlands and Central Plains (Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham , Kompong Thom, Krek) - the capital city and the central flatlands
  • Eastern Cambodia (Banlung, Kratie, Sen Monorom, Stung Treng) - remote rural areas and national parks east of the mighty Mekong




  • Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and has many beautiful and historic sights.
  • Battambang is a sleepy town not far from the Thai border.
  • Sihanoukville is the gateway to the beaches of Cambodia.
  • Kep is a fisherman's town with fantastic fish restaurants and a fine beach.
  • Kampong Cham -
  • Kampot is a charming fishing village on the coast near Sihanoukville, where many drop by to explore the nearby Bokor Hill Station.
  • Koh Kong is a quaint village in western Cambodia, adjacent to the border with Thailand.
  • Siem Reap is the jumping point to reach Cambodia's claim to fame Angkor.
  • Kratié is known for being the home of the rare fresh water dolphin, the Irrawaddy.
  • Stung Treng is a sleepy small town on the Mekong River.
  • Banlung - the capital of Ratanakiri Province, is a great base to explore small mountain villages and hill tribes.
  • Prey Veng -



Sights and Activities


Angkor is an ancient city with a collection of over a thousand temples, including the world's largest religious structure ever built: Angkor Wat. After entering one of the stunning gates lined with statutes into the ruined city, the number of stone carvings and statues can become overwhelming. Temple after temple, of a size and complexity that most nations would kill for just to have their hands on one. It is very easy to spend several days or even almost a week climbing and descending the absolutely amazing temples of Angkor.

Tonlé Sap

Boat trip: Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Boat trip: Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

© MonicaTeal

Tonlé Sap is the large river lake in the centre of Cambodia. For most of the year this lake is only a meter deep but during the rainy season Mekong reverses flow and the lake swells in size and become over 9 metres deep. It is the largest lake in South East Asia and of huge importance to Cambodia.


Although not as developed or as crazy as the beaches in Thailand, the beaches in Cambodia do have a certain charm and fun. Sihanoukville is the main beach town but several more beach towns are starting to appear further east down the coast. This is a great place to spend a few days enjoying the sun and surf, while at the same time enjoying some Angkor Beer.

River Dolphins

Outside of Kratié there is a protected area for the rare Mekong River dolphin. Although you're not guaranteed to see one of the few fresh water dolphin species remaining, it is a nice trip. The river scenery is amazing and the boat ride is fun. Just remember that river dolphins do not make for great photos as it's difficult to capture them on photo, so this is an experience to be enjoyed, not documented.

Ratanakiri Province

The northeastern part of the country is a fantastic area to enjoy both the cultural and natural diversity of Cambodia. Visitors to Ratanakiri Province can trek out into protected forests and the Virachey National Park. They can take a day to wander among the beautiful waterfalls in the Banlung area. Or they can visit villages inhabited by non-Khmer ethnic groups with their own architecture, languages and traditions.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Bokor Hill Station - an interesting sight outside of Kampot.
  • Colonial Architecture - there are several places in Cambodia that offer great colonial buildings like Phnom Penh or Battambang that have survived the wars.
  • Heart of Darkness is one of the most famous bars/night clubs in all of Cambodia and Asia.
  • Shooting Ranges - ever dreamed of shooting an AK-47, Tommy Gun or throwing a hand grenade into a pond? What about firing a real rocket launcher? This is the place to do it, for a very responsible price.
  • Killing Fields - visiting one of the several killing fields around Cambodia is a sobering, enlightening experience and gives a glimpse into the horrors that man can commit.
  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Security Prison 21 or S-21) was one of the main processing centers for political prisoners in Phnom Penh before they were sent to the killing fields.



Events and Festivals

  • Chinese New Year -Thanks to the large Chinese population in Cambodia, Chinese New Year is an important holiday even outside the Chinese community. It will fall some time between late January and late February every year following the lunar calendar. Many consider it the one day in Cambodia that everyone goes to bed with a full stomach.
  • Chaul Cham or the Khmer New Year, is held in mid-April, this is a massive party that lasts for 7 days. People visit wats with offerings and prayers.
  • Visakha Puja celebrates Buddha's birth enlightenment and passing in nirvana. Candle-let processions take place at Angkor Wat. It falls on the eighth day of the fourth moon (in May or June).
  • P'chum Ben or The Spirit Festival, is a celebration to honour ancestors in September or October, people make offerings to spirits at Buddhist Pagodas across the whole country.
  • Bon Om Tuk celebrates the reversal of the Tonle Sap river and falls in early November. Boat races take place all over the country. Phnom Penh has the largest celebration. The 2010 celebration attracted an estimated 2,000,000 visitors from outside the city (many city residents flee the city during this time). The city becomes very crowded, and as the events of the 2010 festival show, where close to 400 people died in one night, crowd control is a serious issue.
  • Visakha Puja (Buddha Day) - One of Cambodia’s most religious celebrations, Visakha Puja celebrates the life of Buddha, from his birth, to his enlightenment and eventually his passing away. The festival is held on the eighth day of the fourth moon and can be observed at temples around the country. Angkor Wat is a great place to experience the celebration, as hundreds of monks form a candle-lit processional.
  • Chat Preah Nengkal (Royal Ploughing Ceremony) - One of the kingdom’s more unusual dates on the calendar, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony is an annual agricultural celebration held in early May to discover how fruitful the year’s crop will be. Led by the royal family on a lawn outside of Phnom Penh’s National Museum, the royal oxen auspiciously lets the gathered crowd know the fate of their crop. A bizarre, but must-see ceremony!




Cambodia has a hot and humid tropical climate. The country is dominated by the wet southwest monsoon from May to October and the dry northeast monsoon from November to April. Most of the rain falls in the southwestern hilly area and the coastline facing the Gulf of Siam. The central lower areas are somewhat drier but hotter. Temperatures are between 23 °C and 26 °C at night, and 30 °C to 35 °C during the day most of the year, but April sees temperatures of 40 °C occasionally. September and October are the wettest months. The country experiences the heaviest precipitation from September to October with the driest period occurring from January to February. Disastrous flooding occurred in 2001 and again in 2002, with some degree of flooding almost every year.



Getting There

By Plane

Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) is near the capital Phnom Penh. Airlines serving the Phnom Penh are Asiana Airlines and Korean Air from Seoul, Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur, Cambodia Angkor Air from Ho Chi Minh City, Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur]], Bangkok Airways, Thai Air Asia and Thai Airways from Bangkok, China Airlines and EVA Air from Taipei, China Eastern Airlines from Kunming and Nanning, China Southern Airlines from Beijing and Guangzhou, Dragonair from Hong Kong, Jetstar Asia Airways and Silk Air from Singapore, Shanghai Airlines from Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Tri-MG Intra Asia Airlines from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore, and Vietnam Airlines from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Vientiane.

Siem Reap International Airport (REP) has slightly less flights but some of the same destinations as to/from Phnom Penh are served, plus flights to Busan, Luang Prabang, Da Nang.

Sihanoukville airport (KOS) has flights from Kuala Lumpur Air Asia , Siem Reap and from some Chinese towns.

By Train

It's not possible to travel by train between Cambodia and the neighbouring countries directly.

By Car

Currently only citizens from other South East Asian countries can bring cars into Cambodia legally.

Border crossing with Thailand include:

  • Aranyaprathet (Sakaew) - Poipet
  • Ban Phakkat (Chanthaburi) - Phrom
  • Ban Laem (Chanthaburi) - Daun Lem
  • Hat Lek (Trat) - Koh Kong
  • Chong Jom (Surin) - O'Smach
  • Chong Sa Ngam (Sisaket) - Anlong Veng

By Bus

It is possible to take buses or shared taxis from all neighbouring countries to Cambodia, although some border crossings are much easier to cross than others. The most difficult borders to cross at are usually those with Laos because of corruption that comes in the from of some sort of "stamp fee." Crossing can also involve a switch of buses or cars at the border.

By Boat

Although you can travel from Thailand to Cambodia using a combination of boats and (mini)buses, it's not possible to travel directly by boat between the two countries anymore.

There is a ferry from Phnom Penh in Cambodia to Chau Doc in the Mekong Delta. Tickets can be booked through local travel agents or at the dock. In addition, there is a service from Can Tho to Phnom Penh.
Update: the only regular boat service is now from Phnom Penh to the Vietnam border town, Chau Doc.



Getting Around

Riding on pick-up truck

Riding on pick-up truck

© jennrob

By Plane

The domestic aviation scene in Cambodia has improved. Three airports currently operating scheduled passenger flights: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville.

By Train

Trains are super slow and not worth using. Many travellers have had horrible incidents on Cambodian trains, watching people and buses go faster then the train was moving. If you are a train enthusiast it is possible to ride a train from Sihanoukville all the way to Phnom Penh.

There is a frequent shuttle train between Phnom Penh airport and the train station in the town centre. Friday, Saturday and Sunday there is a train running from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville (7 hours and $8) via Kampot. From Phnom Penh via Battambang (11 hours) to Poipet (Thai border), there is at the moment only 1 train leaving Phnom Penh in the early morning and returning next evening.

By Car

In the more remote areas of the country or west of Siem Reap it is best to hire a car in order not to feel the pain of the horrible roads. The other highways linking Siem Reap to Sihanoukville are great. Just remember that jungle roads can be a bit dangerous and a 4-wheel-drive vehicle might be a good idea during the rainy season.

By Bike

Bicycle and motorcycle rental are available in most places there are tourists willing to rent them (except that non-residents may not rent motorcycles in Siem Reap). Motorcycles are often around US$4-5 per day for semi-automatic bikes and more for fully automatic. Longer term rentals, of course, reduce the daily rate. All rentals include a helmet (which is required by law. Meaning if a policeman sees a foreigner not wearing a helmet, he will pull you over and ask for money). Bicycle rental is also available and can be a very convenient and pleasant option outside of Phnom Penh and can be rented for as cheap as US$1 per day.

By Bus

To the east of Siem Reap, the roads are great and buses are the easiest way to get around the country. There are several bus companies linking the different cities multiple times a day. Departure and arrival points are constantly changing though, so it is best to buy tickets from a guesthouse and have them arrange transport to the buses starting point.

By Boat

It is still possible to take boats on many of Cambodia's large rivers. Sadly, less and less people are doing it because of and improved road and bus system. Most boats leave very early in the morning, take all day, and are more expensive then buses. If you feel like using boats, the most popular services include Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Siem Reap to Battambang and Sihanoukville to Koh Kong. The latter can be a good option when travelling between Cambodia and Thailand during certain times of the year.
Update: the only regular boat service is now from Phnom Penh to the Vietnam border town, Chau Doc.

By Hired Vehicle

The two main types of transportation services visitors use in Cambodia are motodops and tuktuks. Motodops are informal motorcycle taxis that can be found waiting at many corners and near markets of many cities. Tell the driver where you want to go and hop on the back. Prices begin at around 2,000 riel (US$.50) and increase depending on the distance travelled. Trips at night are usually more expensive, up to double the price.

Tuk Tuks, motorcycles with attached cabins, can take up to, well, lots of people depending on their size and willingness to be close to each other. Prices are slightly higher than for motodops and increase as the number of customers increase. They make for a comfortable, though slow, way of getting places.

Taxicabs are also visible on the streets of some Cambodian cities. Their fares are comparable to other forms of transportation, but they are yet to gain widespread popularity.



Red Tape

All visitors, except citizens of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, need a visa to enter Cambodia. The official price is US$30 for a Tourist Visa and US$35 for an Ordinary Visa and citizens of most countries can get a visa on arrival. Staff may try to charge more at some border crossings (including airports), but hold out for the official price, especially at major crossings.

Visa on Arrival is available at both international airports, all six international border crossings with Thailand, some international border crossings with Vietnam, and at the main border crossing with Laos. Visas can also be obtained at Cambodian embassies and consulates.

  • Tourist visas: all are valid for one stay of up to 30 days. Those issued in advance expire 90 days after issue. In Phnom Penh (or elsewhere via agencies), tourist visas can be extended only once, allowing an additional 30 days at a cost of US$30.
  • Ordinary visa or Type-E: the best choice for stays over two months and/or multiple entries, as they can be extended indefinitely (approx US$290 for a one year extension) and have multiple entry status when extended. Most Phnom Penh travel agencies process the extensions. Foreign nationals of some countries (such as India) require prior permission from the Department of Immigration or the Ministry of the Interior to obtain an Ordinary visa. Such visitors can also enter the country on a tourist visa and subsequently apply for said permission at the Department of Immigration near the airport in Phnom Penh , which, if granted, will enable them to leave the country and re-enter on an ordinary visa.

To apply for a visa, you will need one or two (depending on where you apply) passport-size (35x45mm) photos, a passport which is valid for at least 6 months and has at least one completely blank visa page remaining, and clean US dollar notes with which to pay the fee (expect to pay a substantially higher price if paying in a local currency). Passport photocopies may also be required when applying at some embassies/consulates, but not if applying on arrival. If you don't have a passport photo upon arrival at Phnom Penh airport (and possibly other entry points), they will scan the one on your passport for an extra US$2.

At Phnom Penh airport head to the Visa on Arrival desk, join the queue to the left, where your application form is reviewed (you should have been given the form on the plane). Then move to the right and wait for your name to be called. You then pay and receive your passport with the visa. Officials have difficulties pronouncing Western names so stay alert and listen out for any of your names in your passport, any of your given names or surname may be called. Once reunited with your passport, join the immigration queue.

In Poipet, several scams abound. A favourite is the Cambodian custom officers ask tourists to pay 1,200 baht (about US$35) for a visa on arrival, instead of US$30 Stand firm but stay friendly and keep smiling, they rarely insist. The penalty for having no photo is usually only US$1-2, but the price is also negotiable.

If you are exiting Cambodia to enter Thailand with the aim of getting a visa on entry there, the Cambodian airline authorities may point out that you need to have a minimum of $600 in cash. This guideline seems to be enforced especially for Indian tourists and possibly more stringently for single travellers.


Citizens of most nations can apply for an e-Visa online at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation website, through a service provided by a private Cambodian company (CINet). This is a normal Tourist Visa and also costs US$36. The visa arrives as a PDF file by e-mail within 3 business days. The application requires a digital photograph of yourself (in .jpg format). You can scan your passport photo or have a passport sized photograph taken with a digital camera. There are other websites pretending to make a Cambodian e-visa. At best, these are just online travel agencies which will overcharge you and get the same visa for you or worse you may end up with a fake e-visa.

You need to print two copies (one for entry and one for exit) of the PDF visa, cut out the visa parts and keep them with your passport.

Visas in advance (either on-line or from an embassy/consulate) save time at the border and you do get to skip the queues of people applying for the visa's delivery, although sometimes you may simply spend the saved time waiting at the airport luggage belt for your suitcase.

E-Visas are only valid for entry by air or at the three main border crossings: Bavet (on the Ho Chi Minh City-Phnom Penh road); Koh Kong (near Trat in Eastern Thailand); and Poipet (on the Bangkok-Siem Reap road). You may exit the country with an e-visa via any border crossing, however. Given the general reduction in visa scams at the major land borders, paying the extra US$5 to guarantee the price may (more likely if entering from Thailand) or may not worth it. Getting a tourist visa on arrival for US$20 is more likely than being overcharged. Plus it keeps the option open of the enjoyable Phnom Penh-Chau Doc boat trip (and the use of other minor border crossings)!

Visa On Arrival

It is also possible to obtain a visa on arrival at the following border checkpoints:[1]


Cambodia–Vietnam border:

  • Bavet (Svay Rieng Province)
  • Kha Orm Sam Nor (Kandal Province)
  • Koh Rohka (Prey Veng Province)
  • Banteay Chakrey (Preyveng Province)
  • Tropeang Sre (Kratie Province)
  • Prek Chak (Kampot Province)
  • Phnom Den (Takeo Province)
  • Oyadav (Rattankiri Province)
  • Tropieng Phlong (Kampong Cham Province).

Cambodia–Thailand border:

  • Cham Yeam (Koh Kong Province)
  • Poi Pet (Banteay Meanchey Province)
  • Osmach (Odor Meanchey Province)
  • Sihanoukville (Sihanoukville Province)
  • Choam Sanguam (Banteay Meanchey Province)
  • Prum (Pailin Province)
  • Doung (Battambang Province)
  • Preah Vihear (Preah Vihear Province).

Cambodia–Laos border:

  • Dong Krolar (Steung Treng Province)
  • Tropieng Kreal (Stung Treng Province).

The process is very easy therefore you don't need help from any of the touts. The visa fee is US$20, though visitors are advised to be wary of border officials trying to overcharge them by making them pay in Thai baht. To avoid getting overcharged, try following this Travellerspoint member's advice:

It is not easy to pay the official rate, but it can be done. You have to be out of baht and repeatedly point out the fee is US$20.


Travellers considering a longer stay in country might think about buying a business visa (US$25) at the border. Whereas tourist visas can be extended only one time for one more month, business visas can be extended indefinitely. Only once you have a business visa can you buy a three-month, six-month or yearlong visa. No additional documentation is necessary. A business visa is also called a class E-visa, not to be confused with the E-visa discussed above.

Cambodian Immigration authorities now fingerprint visitors on arrival and departure. These fingerprints may well find their way to your country's authorities or any other agency that cares to buy them. If you object to that, you could try bribing the official (USD1-2 should be sufficient if you're gutsy enough to try) or avoid the main entry points, e.g., airports, Poipet (on the Bangkok-Siem Reap road), Cham Yeam (near Koh Kong), and Bavet (on the Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh road). Smaller crossings such as Chong Sa-Ngam/Choam (for Anlong Veng) aren't equipped with hand scanners. Ban Pakkard/Pshar Prum (for Pailin) now collects fingerprints. You may not be fingerprinted if you are on a direct bus and your driver has paid to move things along faster (observed at Bavet going to Phnom Penh, YMMV.




See also: Money Matters

Official currency is the Cambodian Riel (KHR).

Banknotes come in denominations of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 Riel.
Coins come in 50, 100, 200 and 500 Riel (no longer commonly found in circulation).

With the weakening of the US dollar at the end of 2010, the exchange rate has dropped to slightly more than 4,000 Riel per dollar. The US dollar is accepted virtually everywhere, so you could well hand over dollars and get change in riels according to the above rate, small denominations being far easier to use than larger bills. For major purchases, like plane tickets, hotel rooms, entrance tickets to sights or expensive gifts, prices are quoted in dollars far more often than riel. For smaller purchase on the street such as food, snacks, coffee or water it is better to use riel.
Dollars should be clean and not damaged in any way!




Working in Cambodia can be very rewarding although most people do not make much money. Most foreigners work as English teachers although there is a growing number people working in international aid and other NGOs.


SAGE Foundation Schools
SAGE Foundation Schools, near Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat), welcomes offers of volunteer help for one week or longer. A total of around 1,400 children are supported through these schools, many of whom would otherwise have few educational opportunities in this poor rural area. No fees are charged for this volunteer work but participants must be prepared to cover their own living expenses in Siem Reap and daily travel to and from the schools (43 kilometres).

There is a particular need for native English speakers to teach or assist (formal teacher trained or not). The schools are currently in recess until October, so the schools are seeking willing hands to help decorate/renovate some of the classrooms. Please contact Emily through the Asia forum.




The University system is slowly starting to repair itself after the civil war. This makes studying at them pretty difficult and the resources are limited. It is also possible to study Buddhism at many of the temples spread across the country.




Khmer is spoken by 95% of the population. Additional languages are English, Vietnamese, Chinese, French and languages spoken by ethnic minority groups found in the far eastern and western parts of the country.
Many of the younger people in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have at least a grasp of English, Korean or Japanese.




Cambodia's food is mainly rice with some sort of curry, more like Thai curry than Indian curry. Cambodia is also well known for its sour soups, and when Cambodians eat together there is usually a soup involved. International foods are available especially in the major cities. There is also plenty of fresh fruit to eat like pineapple, but most Khmers like to eat their fruit a little unripe.

Typical Khmer dishes include:

  • Amok - Arguably the most well known Cambodian dish. A coconut milk curried dish less spicy than those found in Thailand. Amok is usually made with chicken, fish, or shrimp, plus some vegetables. It is sometimes served in a hollowed-out coconut with rice on the side. Quite delicious.
  • K'tieu (Kuytheav) - A noodle soup generally served for breakfast. Can be made with pork, beef or seafood. Flavourings are added to the customers taste in the form of lime juice, chilli powder, sugar and fish sauce.
  • Somlah Machou Khmae - A sweet and sour soup made with pineapple, tomatoes and fish.
  • Bai Sarch Ch'rouk - Another breakfast staple. Rice (bai) with pork meat (sarch chrouk) often barbecued. Very tasty and served with some pickled vegetables.
  • Saik Ch'rouk Cha Kn'yei - Pork fried with ginger. Ginger is commonly used as a vegetable. This tasty dish is available just about everywhere.
  • Lok lak - Chopped up beef cooked quickly. Probably a holdover from the days of French colonization. Served with a simple dipping sauce made from lime juice and black pepper, lettuce, onion, and often with chips.
  • Mi/Bai Chaa - Fried noodles or rice. Never particularly inspiring, but a good traveller's staple.
  • Trey Ch'ien Chou 'Ayme - Trey (fish) fried with a sweet chilli sauce and vegetables. Very tasty. Chou 'ayme is the phrase for "sweet and sour".
  • K'dam - Crab. Kampot in the south is famous for its crab cooked in locally sourced black pepper. A very tasty meal.




Cambodia has a great diversity in lodging. From dingy rooms with no windows or fans for US$1 a night to 5-star hotels with western prices. This means finding the right housing for any traveller can be very easy. It is best to ask around for good recommendations for hotels because new ones are being added daily.




Iced coffee is ubiquitous in Cambodia. It's made Vietnamese-style, freshly brewed and mixed with sweetened condensed milk. Walk past a local eatery any time of the day and you are bound to see at least a table of locals drinking them. One glass costs 1,500-2,000 riel. Iced tea made with lemon and sugar is also refreshing and ubiquitous.

Fresh coconut can be found everywhere, you could say it is ubiquitous, and is healthy and sanitary if drunk straight from the fruit.


The two most popular domestic Cambodian beers are Anchor — pronounced "an-CHOR" with a ch sound! — and Angkor, both of which can be found in bottles, cans, and on draft, and generally for no more than US$1 each. New beers include the cheap Klang and Cambodia, while Beerlao and Tiger are popular beers with foreigners.

Most spirits are imported from neighbouring Thailand, although they are still well priced. Locally-made liquors found at small shops around the country are generally rice-based and may be flavored with herbs, roots or other "medicinal" additives.

It is possible to buy buckets at most of the bars in the beach areas of Cambodia, and they seem to be bit stronger than the ones in the islands of Thailand.




See also: Travel Health

Health Precautions Prior to Departure

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Cambodia. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Cambodia) where that disease is widely prevalent.

Be sure to contact your local medical authorities prior to departure, such as your local doctor or travel clinic. Arranging a last minute trip to Cambodia shouldn't be a problem for a healthy person. Be sure to always bring along your vaccination documents, if you have these. Of course, it's best to arrange vaccinations well before departure if at all possible.

Cambodia Vaccinations

  • DTP - Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio. These vaccinations are advised for most countries beyond Europe, the vaccination is valid for 10 years.
  • Hepatitis A - Choose from either short or long-term protection; long-term protection is valid for 10 years.
  • Stomach Typhoid Fever - This vaccination is advised by medical authorities if you decide to stay in Cambodia for longer than 2 weeks. The vaccination is valid for 3 years.

There is a risk of contracting Malaria in Cambodia all year round, especially beyond the larger cities. Therefore it is very important to limit the risk of contracting Malaria by taking preventative measures such as by taking Malaria medication. Other preventative measures are covering the arms, legs and feet in the evening, wearing mosquito repellent and using mosquito-netting to keep mosquitoes at bay. You can also saturate the mosquito-netting with a mosquito repellent. Also, be sure to bring something to hang your mosquito-netting up with such as rope and a screw-hook or cork-screw (Swiss army knife). The type of Malaria medication you should take depends on the length of your stay, your personal medical background and the area that you wish to visit. Advice on Malaria medication is quite personal. Therefore it's best to get advice about your personal situation from medical authorities.

Dengue and Japanese B-Encephalitis
Dengue and Japanese B Encephalitis are both illnesses which are spread by mosquitoes; therefore you should take the same precautions to ward of infection as you would for Malaria. There is no vaccine for dengue; however there is a vaccine for Japanese B-encephalitis. Vaccination is recommended if you are planning on staying in Asia for more than 6 months.

Additional Preparation

Preparing your own first-aid kit for the tropics (or buying one) is a smart move. There are also books available on how to stay healthy in the tropics that can help you put together your first-aid kit. Most places that offer vaccinations will provide some information on health. Hypochondriacs will probably enjoy reading about all the dangers of the tropics and fear that the first headache is a symptom of something much more severe (as some travellers tend to do). Try not to become too engrossed in books documenting tropical diseases as there really is no need to panic. Most travellers won't get ill at all.

If you are on medication, be sure to bring along the patient information leaflet. Also be sure to bring along extra medication so that you won't have to worry about finding a Cambodian pharmacy if you do lose some of your medication. Some of the medication might not be available in the country. Bring along an English explanation from your doctor regarding the medicine you are taking. If applicable, you may also want to bring along a clean set of syringes and needles. Remember to bring along a doctor's statement for these as well.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, bring along the optician's description or an extra pair of glasses or set of contact lenses.

Health on Location

Be sure that you have received the correct vaccinations for your holiday destination, as these might not be available in Cambodia or you might be too late by getting them once in the country. It's also important to try to be as healthy as possible prior to departure. Of course you will also want to avoid becoming ill while you are on holiday. Remain vigilant about your health, when in doubt, consult a doctor. There are no hospitals up to western standards in Cambodia. In case of a medical emergency requiring surgery or the need of a specialist evacuate to Bangkok at once. The medical care in Cambodia is basic at best.

Jet lag & Overcoming It
The common travellers' 'ailment' known as "jet lag" is caused by a disruption to your biological clock (primarily your sleeping and waking rhythms) due to flying through different time zones. The body needs time to adjust to the new biorhythm for the first few days after your flight. During this time you can feel tired and irritable. Try to avoid drinking coffee, tea, cola or alcohol during the flight or do so in limited amounts. Instead drink water or juices. On arrival in Cambodia, try not to demand too much of your body for the first couple of days. It's also best to adjust to the time-difference and the new sleeping rhythm as quickly as possible. It might be worth having an hours sleep after arrival and then remaining awake until (early) bedtime.

Diarrhoea & Preventing It
A change of rhythm, climate and food (especially spicy food) can cause your stomach to become out of sorts. As long as your only symptom is loose, watery stools and no other symptoms, you should be just fine if you rest a bit and drink plenty of water in small quantities. It may be necessary to take some Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) dissolved in water to prevent dehydration and this is especially important for the elderly and also for children. Drugs, such as loperamide and diphenoxylate, can be taken if you really need to when on the road to prevent diarrhoea (not suitable for children under two years old). These drugs prevent the peristaltic action of the intestine, which stops stomach cramps and suppresses the diarrhoea. Only use these drugs when you're on the road and do not have regular access to a toilet. If diarrhoea persists for more than 48 hours and is also accompanied by headache, vomiting, or blood in the stool or if you’re taking any other medication at the time, you should contact a doctor. The doctor can send a stool sample to a lab for analysis to determine the source of the problem. Diarrhoea can end suddenly, but can leave a lingering feeling of lethargy since your intestines need time to recover.
Only consume water and soft drinks from properly closed and sealed tins or bottles, or drink boiled water instead, such as tea or coffee. Ice is trustworthy in the form of machine-produced ice cubes. Fruit juice is safe, provided no water has been added. Food, particularly meat and fish, must be well cooked. We advise against the western-style salads offered in salad bars (even in expensive hotels). Hamburgers are generally a lot less safe than the normal meat the locals eat. It is not always safe to eat from street stalls in Cambodia. Eat where it's busy. The time between food preparation and consumption is shortest over there, which is good for the hygiene. Take note of how the plates, glasses and cutlery are washed. There is often no running water and only a bucket with soap in it, baking in the sun. If that is the case, it's sensible to find somewhere else to eat. Restaurants where you can see how clean it is are recommended, although you might not always be able to see the kitchen of course. With regards to street stalls, it’s probably smart not to eat meat at the end of the day. The meat can sometimes have been lying around all day un-refrigerated. A tried and trusted remedy to prevent dehydration during diarrhoea is to drink cola or bouillon. Cola can be bought everywhere and you can bring stock cubes and a single-cup beverage with you back home.

A Few Additional Tips

Skin Care

  • Take all cuts, scratches etc. in the tropics seriously. Keep a close eye on them, clean them with disinfectant and keep them covered with a plaster during the day. Don't scratch mosquito bites.
  • Always use a high factor sun lotion on exposed skin, even in the rainy season. Snorkelling with a T-shirt and shorts is a good idea as the sun is superstrong at the equator, even if it's cloudy.
  • You can avoid attracting biting insects, by not wearing brightly coloured or black clothing, strong perfume or deodorant or aftershave (try to avoid resembling a flower). It you are prone to skin irritations, wear cotton or linen clothing. You can help avoid prickly heat by using talcum powder on your body after your morning shower.
  • Wash or disinfect your hands after using the toilet and don't bite your nails.
  • During the dry season and in the woods, there’s a slight chance that a tick may land on you (in European woods there is a far greater chance). Check your body for these in the morning and evening. Especially behind the knees and in the crotch are places which ticks like. Should you find one, don't try to just pull it out, use tick pincers (obtainable from chemists) or seek medical attention. If, after being in the woods, you find a bloody circular skin wound, slowly increasing in size, seek professional medical attention.

Sunstroke can be prevented by wearing a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes. Always keep a bottle of water with you, especially if you are in the wilderness and unlikely to come across drinking water. If you suspect sunstroke (feeling light-headed, headaches, dehydrated), you can prevent it from getting worse by drinking water and finding a place somewhere in the shade to sit and stay there, if possible.

Health After Returning Home

If you have a fever, bowel problems or other physical complaints of an unknown nature after you return home (up to several months or even more after your return home), contact your doctor and let him/ her know you've been in Cambodia and inform him/her on the length of your stay and what you've done there.




See also: Travel Safety

Other than unexploded ordinances (UXO), bombs and other explosives left over from wartimes, Cambodia is pretty safe. In order to avoid unexploded ordinances, it is best to stay on marked trails and official roads at all times. This is because every year landmines that have been buried by rains can resurface meaning places have to be cleared regularly. The dangers of mines and unexploded ordinance to travellers is minimal, though. While Cambodians, especially children, in remote rural areas are still victimized by the remnants of the war, there are no reports of travellers ever being killed or injured by mines or UXO.

The other common threat to travellers are pick-pockets. Make sure you watch your bags and pockets at all times from pick-pockets, many of whom are street children. Some of them are very skilled and can get violent if confronted.

Lastly, watch out when walking on the beach late at night alone in some areas of the coast, as there have been some attacks on travellers lately. One attack involved a traveller getting stabbed by a local gang on the beach at around 10:00pm.

In general, staying safe in Cambodia is the same as being safe anywhere else. Always be aware of yourself, your possessions and your surroundings.



Keep Connected


Internet bars are starting to appear in most major towns in Cambodia. Connection speeds vary as does the quality of the computers. The best places to go online definitely are Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and outside of these centers it's generally also more expensive. In general prices are not much more than US1-2 an hour. Remember to take off your shoes when you enter as a sign of respect and to watch out for small shrines that are on the ground.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code of Cambodia is 855. To call out of Cambodia, dial 001 followed by the country code and telephone number of the other party. Many of the internet bars also have international calling options and you can also arrange calls at post offices. Services are usually run by the governmental telecommunication network Camintel. You can find telephone cards in many shops, starting from several US dollars to around US$50. Samart, Mobitel and Shinawrata are the main mobile phone providers, with Mobitel offering the best and most widespread services, although calling from outside towns (countryside) is still tricky.


Cambodia's national postal service offers a wide range of services, though in general things go slowly and are not always very reliable. That said, things have been getting better over the years, and you can expect for your postcard or letter to finally arrive after 5-10, depending from where you send it (avoid small towns) and to where you send it. Prices are around 2000-2,500 Riel to countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, and it's slightly more expensive sending it from more remote places in the provinces. Post offices in Cambodia generally are open from around 8:00am to 5:00pm, with some regional variations. Sendings parcels is only possible from the capital Phnom Penh and it's very expensive as well. You might be better to send it from Thailand, or otherwise check private companies like DHL, TNT or UPS, which are more reliable and might even be cheaper!



  1. 1 Visa and Passport. Tourism Cambodia. Retrieved on 2010–03–22.
  2. 2 Visiting Cambodia: Asia forum

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