TRAVEL TIPS - CAMBODIA
GMT +7 hours
The official language in Cambodia is Khmer. The language developed through many influences including Pali and Sanskrit as well as from the neighboring countries of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Some technical expressions have been derived from the French. Nowadays, English is commonly spoken in hotels, restaurants and business districts.
The national currency is Khmer Riel, however US dollars are also widely accepted.
In Cambodia, 97% of the population are devoted to Buddhism, while 2% follow Islam and less than 1% follow Christianity. With such a strong and devoted following, Buddhist traditions and customs play an important role in everyday life. Buddha images are considered sacred and therefore should not be desecrated in any way. It is often forbidden to climb on or touch religious monuments.
For full details on climate, please see Best Time to Go.
Arrival and Departure Formalities
Tourist visas are available on arrival at Phnom Penh or Siem Reap International Airports or at most major international border crossings. Visas on arrival are valid for a maximum stay of 30 days (single entry). Alternatively, visas can be obtained at a Cambodian embassy or consulate prior to departure from your point of origin. You may also apply for an e-visa online at www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa. The e-visa takes approximately three days to process, so please allow sufficient time to complete the application.
Nationals of Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia are permitted to stay in the country for up to 30 days without a tourist visa. Nationals of the Philippines may stay up to 21 days without a tourist visa.
Visas on arrival and e-visas are not available for nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Please apply for a visa at your nearest Cambodian embassy prior to departure from your point of origin.
US dollars are widely accepted at hotels, shops and restaurants. However, it is recommended to keep some local currency at hand. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are now accepted in many major hotels, restaurants and shops in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. However, do expect a 2-3% surcharge. It is recommended that you carry some cash in Khmer Riel or US dollars for emergencies. Diners Club Cards are not accepted.
Traveler's checks are not widely accepted and can be difficult to cash outside of major cities. Banks such as ANZ Bank and ACLEDA may change your traveler's checks for US Dollars but a commission of around 2-5% applies. Some of the more upscale hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and souvenir shops may accept traveler’s checks.
Banking hours are from Monday to Friday 08:00-15:00. Some banks are open on Saturdays, but close at 12:00. ATMs are now available in towns throughout the country.
Tipping is not compulsory and often not expected in Cambodia. At restaurants, a 5-10% service charge is typically included in your bill. However, you are welcome to offer additional gratuities as a sign of appreciation for services provided.
If you rent a cyclo or motorcycle tuk-tuk, a gratuity of US $1-2 for the driver would be appropriate, while hotel and airport porters would appreciate gratuities of US$1-2 per bag. For your guide and driver, gratuities are entirely up to you. As a guideline, we recommend US $15-20 per person per day for your guide and US $7-10 per person per day for your driver.
Comfortable, lightweight clothing and natural fabrics such as cotton are most suitable for traveling in Cambodia. It is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings to deter biting insects.
A sunhat or umbrella, sunscreen and sunglasses as well as a water bottle are recommended for protection from the heat and sun, particularly when visiting archaeological sites where you may be exposed to outdoors for long periods of time. Comfortable, soft-soled walking shoes are essential.
When visiting temples, shrines or the Royal Palace, it is best to dress conservatively as visitors may be refused entry if not dressed appropriately. It is often a requirement to wear a long skirt or trousers that cover the knees as well as long sleeves to cover the arms and shoulders. Avoid any see-through clothing. You may also be required to remove any footwear, so sandals may be more convenient.
The voltage supply in Cambodia is 220v 50Hz. Sockets are fit for two round prongs. It is recommended to bring along a universal travel adaptor as it may be difficult to find one along the way.
Please consult your doctor for the most up-to-date advice about vaccinations. In Cambodia, it is advisable to be immunized against hepatitis A, tetanus and diphtheria. Malaria is present in Cambodia, although visitors to major cities and typical tourist areas are at low risk. If traveling to remote areas, anti-malarial medication is recommended. Please consult your doctor as to the best medication for you.
In addition to anti-malarial medication, you can reduce the risk of mosquito bites by keeping your arms and legs covered as much as possible and by using insect repellent with the active ingredient DEET. Avoid perfumes, hairspray and other scented products.
Do not drink tap water in Cambodia and avoid ice in your drinks unless it is made from mineral water. Exercise caution when eating and drinking outside reputable hotels and restaurants and avoid eating fruit and vegetables if they have been peeled already. Seafood, dairy products and items such as mayonnaise should be consumed with care. Eating at street food vendors or unknown local places is not recommended.
Camera etiquette requires that you ask permission before photographing local people, unless you are shooting a crowded public scene. This applies especially to small children. Please be considerate of a desire not to be photographed.
Photography is not permitted at some designated locations, which may include some museums, art galleries and private houses, for example. These areas are usually clearly marked. In general, avoid taking photographs of government buildings or installations, and military or police personnel. If in doubt, please ask your guide.
Cambodian art is making a revival after the near loss of all artisans during the Khmer Rouge rule. The country is renowned for its beautiful religious carvings featuring Indian Ramayana and Mahabharata motifs. High quality replicas are available in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Locally crafted products include intricately designed Khmer silverware, religious carvings, bas relief rubbings, handmade jewelry, Cambodian silks and gemstones. Handicrafts produced by landmine victims also make good souvenirs and the proceeds assist with their rehabilitation.
The best shopping experiences in Cambodia are at the numerous markets located in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Bargaining is welcomed and most of the time expected, but please be respectful in your negotiations.
Cambodian or Khmer cuisine is often described as similar to Thai food, without the spiciness. Some Cambodian dishes are characterized by a strong sour taste, which comes from the use of prahok, a traditional fish paste. Some may find this to be an acquired taste.
A typical Cambodian meal consists of rice served as a staple, a fish dish and occasionally a meat dish, a sour soup and fresh vegetables. Curry dishes, such as 'amok', a delightful combination of coconut milk and fish, tend to be served mild. Pâté served on baguettes is a popular snack, a reminder of the country’s French colonial history.
Bottled water is available throughout Cambodia, as are soft drinks and a variety of international beer. Angkor beer is brewed locally using Australian techniques.