"Cambodia is a magical place and everyone who visits somehow falls under its spell."
Everything about the country is amazing – the lush scenery as your travel through the rice paddies; watching the sun set over vast flood plains dotted with water buffalo; visiting the magnificent temple complex of Angkor Wat and imagining what it would have been like back in its heyday, an ancient legacy that lives on in the gestures of beautiful apsara dancing; the warm welcome you receive from all the locals who constantly greet you with a smile, and a history so heartrending you soon realise how fortunate you are to be able to visit it at all. Cambodia somehow possesses you and you will want to visit this beautiful land time and time again.
Gemma Parry, Travel Consultant – The Imaginative Traveller
Cambodia Dossier Note: As all of our tours in Cambodia begin in either Thailand or Vietnam you will need to read both country dossiers relevant to your trip - the Thailand Country Dossier or the Vietnam Country Dossier as well as this dossier - for full details of visa requirements and arrival transfers.
Capital: Phnom Penh
Official Language: Khmer
Religions: Predominantly Buddhist (88%), Muslim (2%), Christian (1%) and others (9%)
Voltage: 220 volts in Phnom Penh, but 110 volts in other areas. Sockets are usually of the two flat-pinned variety (i.e. American style but without the earth wire)
Visas are required by all nationalities. As regulations change frequently we strongly advise you to obtain your visa in advance. Visas for Cambodia can be obtained online at http://evisa.mfaic.gov.kh/ however, we do not recommend that you obtain an online visa if you are travelling on the Cambodia Discovery tour, as depending upon road conditions this tour may enter Cambodia at Pailin border crossing, which does not accept the online visa.
Usually visas can however also be obtained at the border.
As all of our tours in Cambodia begin in either Thailand or Vietnam the detailed information given here refers to obtaining visas at the border crossings rather than at Phnom Penh or Siem Reap International Airports. A 30 day Cambodian visa obtained at the Thai/Cambodia or Vietnam/Cambodia border crossings costs between US$20 and US$30. The fee should be paid in the currency of the country you are entering from (i.e. Thai Baht or Vietnamese Dong). You will also need to provide a passport photo. Although it is possible to purchase a visa with US dollars your fee is likely to be exchanged into the local currency at a poor rate.
It is also possible to obtain your visa in advance in Bangkok or Saigon if you are arriving at least one day before the start of the tour.
Please note: Visa regulations can change at very short notice. If you intend to obtain a Cambodian visa on arrival (or in Bangkok or Saigon) it is very important that you contact your nearest Cambodian Embassy or Consulate for up to date information shortly before you travel.
The monetary unit in Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel (KHR).
Approximate exchange rates (as at May 2008) are as follows:
US Dollars are widely accepted in Cambodia. In Phnom Penh and other towns many goods and services are priced in US$. If something costs US$1.50 you would pay US$1 and 2000 KHR. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that a visitor may bring into Cambodia, but very large sums should be declared on arrival.
XE.com is a useful site for currency conversion.
Please take note: There are no ATMs and credit cards are rarely accepted. Bank and exchange counters are available in cities and towns. Larger hotels will also exchange cash and traveller’s cheques. We recommend that you take US$ currency and traveller’s cheques as they are easiest to exchange (although it is possible to exchange other major currencies). You should note that outside Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville it can be difficult to cash traveller’s cheques. Credit Card advances are possible at banks but can be expensive.
As US dollars can be used to pay for many goods and services (at usually the same rate as with KHR) you will not need to change much currency (if any at all) if you are only staying in Cambodia for a few days.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Carry the majority of your spending money for Cambodia in US$ cash. Notes should be blemish free.
The Pre-Departure Information that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains general information about organising your spending money. Your Tour Leader will be able to advise you on local facilities.
Although our Traveller trips include entrance fees for all sites specified in your itinerary, there are some additional sites that you may like to visit. Adventurer trips do not include any entrance fees. The average entrance fees in Cambodia vary between US$0.40 and US$40 (for a three day Angkor Wat pass). Details of some popular entrance fees are as follows:
A pass to visit the outstanding Angkor Wat complex (including the main temples and surrounding area) costs US$20 for one day and US$40 for three days.
In Phnom Penh, entrance to the moving Tuol Sleng Museum (Museum of Genocide – formally S-21) and Choeung Ek (or the Killing Fields) cost US$2 each.
Phnom Penh's Royal Palace, National Museum and Wat Phnom cost US$3, US$3 and US$1 respectively, with an extra charge at the Royal Palace for cameras (US$5) and videos (US$15).
All of our itineraries include some free time, the amount of which usually depends on the style of tour you are travelling on (Adventurer trips generally have more than Traveller). If you wish to take optional excursions your Tour Leader will be able to advise you of the possibilities in each area.
Approximate costs (per person) for popular excursions are as follows:
Note: All activities and prices are based on a minimum of 4 participants. All prices are per person.
On both Traveller and Adventurer tours you will find the meal plan clearly indicated in the brochure and on your Trip Dossier (where applicable). Meals are generally not included on our Adventurer tours in Cambodia although some trips may include a number of breakfasts. Approximate costs for meals and snacks are shown below:
For a guide to the type of food you will find in Cambodia see the Local Food & Drink section of this dossier.
Approximate costs for drinks bought in a shop in the street are shown below. Note: Prices in restaurants, hotels, and cruise boats can be as much as double those specified.
The most popular method of getting around is on a moto or motorbike taxi as these are inexpensive (a short journey around town should cost approx. US$1-2). With luck in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap you may get a driver who speaks a little English and can help you sightsee. For a dollar or two extra most drivers will be prepared to wait for you while you shop/eat (but before you get off take a careful look at his cap/clothes to make sure you can pick him out from the crowd of moto drivers who will tout for your business on your return). Alternatively you may want the freedom of hiring your own motorbike or bicycle. A motorbike will cost approx. US$6 per day while a bicycle will cost approx. US$1 per day. It is also possible to hire a car and driver although this is more expensive at approx. US$20-40 per day per car.
The Pre-Departure Booklet that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains a comprehensive list of items that you should consider bringing with you. There are certain items of equipment (e.g. sleeping bags, towels) that you will need on some tours and not on others. Please note that you DO NOT need a mosquito net on any of our tours in Cambodia; however you should protect yourself with a good mosquito repellent spray. Check your Trip Dossier for any special requirements.
As a general guideline clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard wearing and easily washed. In the hot summer months, cotton clothing is much more comfortable than man-made materials like nylon. Cambodia has a mixture of a tropical climate and temperate hill climate, so the weather is generally warm to hot all year round. Even so, a fleece can be invaluable and double as a pillow.
You should bear in mind that Cambodia has relatively conservative attitudes towards dress, particularly in remote areas. It is best to avoid displaying too much bare flesh although the most important point to remember is to keep yourself clean and tidy. Women, and also to a certain extent men, will find that the way they dress will often determine the degree of respect they receive from both men and women.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Make sure you bring lots of clothing that covers shoulders and knees and also at least one outfit which covers your legs to ankles and your arms past the elbows. A sarong is an invaluable item to carry as it can be used to instantly cover any exposed areas (i.e. head, legs).
In certain areas and religious sites, such as temples or wats, your Tour Leader may ask you to dress conservatively. Out of respect for local values, we ask that you follow your Tour Leader’s advice at all times.
It is important to bring durable soft luggage or a back pack as this is a lot more practical to transport.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Bring a backpack or easy to carry luggage and travel light!
Whilst few of our tours can be described as physically demanding you will find all activities more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and active.
Wherever you use a western or squat style toilet remember to place your toilet paper in the rubbish bin provided – DO NOT flush it down the toilet as this may block the sewerage system. You may also want to carry your own toilet paper as not all toilets will supply it.
We encourage travellers to experience religious festivals and visit temples but ask that you follow religious rules such as removing your shoes and refraining from taking photographs at certain sites. Often when visiting temples a small donation is appropriate. Your Tour Leader will be on hand to advise you of local sensitivities.
Cambodians are generally relaxed and easy going with regard to customs and you would find it difficult to unwittingly offend. In most cases your Tour Leader will brief you accordingly; however there are a couple of points which are worth noting. Patting someone (even a child) on the head or pointing your index finger is considered to be rude and insulting, and open displays of affection (such as kissing and holding hands) will generally draw the wrong kind of attention. Anger, such as losing your temper and yelling will lead to a loss of face and is highly unlikely to get you what you want. It is very important that you remove your shoes if you are visiting someone's house.
Bargaining is a way of life in much of South East Asia and is expected in Cambodia – for motos and in most markets and shops – but it is never heavy duty. Although you are expected to bargain until you reach a fair price the laid back attitude of the Cambodian people makes bargaining very relaxed easy-going. You should remember that it is considered disrespectful to agree a final price but then walk away.
As all of our tours in Cambodia begin in Thailand or Vietnam please refer to either the Thailand Country Dossier or the Vietnam Country Dossier for details of arrival transfers from the relevant airport.
The Meeting Point for your tour should be clearly marked on your travel vouchers.
It is a relatively simple matter to make your own way to the meeting point if you are not being transferred. If you are arriving in Bangkok please see the Thailand Country Dossier for full details of transport options. If you are arriving in Saigon please see the Vietnam Country Dossier.
Most people find that Cambodia is a very friendly and hospitable country and feel quite comfortable wandering around alone during the day. However, as with any country you are not familiar with it is recommended that you exercise more caution at night especially if you are a lone female. This is particularly important in Phnom Penh where night time robberies and hold ups are not unheard of and you should always take taxis or stick to moto drivers you know rather than walk.
It is a well known and tragic fact that Cambodia has several million anti personnel mines buried around the country. Therefore it is very important to use guides wherever possible and stick to well worn paths, particularly around Siem Reap and when visiting remote temples.
Your Tour Leader's role is to ensure all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co-ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your Tour Leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour Leaders are supported by our regionally based office staff and, in most cases, a locally based manager.
In Cambodia we also use the services of licensed guides at sights of particular historical interest such as Angkor Wat, Toul Sleng and Choeung Ek.
Please note that some styles of trip, such as Imaginative Escapes or Imaginative Honeymoons, do not have a Tour Leader. However, there will be representatives on hand who will be able to assist you in arranging any excursions that you wish you take.
Our main criterion for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple but comfortable. Bathroom facilities may sometimes be shared and rooms may sometimes be multi-share rather than twin. Hotels on Traveller tours almost always have private bathrooms, air-conditioning or fans and often bar / restaurant facilities. In Cambodia accommodation can vary greatly. In the Angkor Wat area in Siem Reap we generally use family-style guesthouses while in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville we use budget style hotels. Please bear in mind that all hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties.
At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organise the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements. If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex (unless you have paid a single supplement*). If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds.
Note: Single supplements are only applicable to single travellers who wish to have their own room. Single supplements are also only available on Traveller tours and are not applicable on overnight boats and trains.
Most of the hotels we use in Cambodia provide a laundry service although this can be quite expensive, sometimes as much as US$1 per item. Alternatively the side streets of most towns and cities are teeming with laundries where the average cost per kilo of laundry is US$1.20.
As in many South East Asian countries, rice is the staple food of the Cambodian diet. This is usually served with dried, salted fish and seasoned with chillies, mint and garlic, although chicken, beef and pork are also eaten. Soup accompanies most meals and is eaten at the same time as the main dishes. Fish is often fresh from Tonle Sap Lake and is eaten with a spicy peanut sauce called tuk trey. Popular dishes include khao phonne, a noodle dish; sam chruk, a roll of sticky rice stuffed with soya bean and chopped pork; and amok, boneless fish cooked in coconut and spices. In more upmarket restaurants you can find dishes like barbecued shrimps and other seafood, roasted sunflower seeds, and duck eggs. If you are really adventurous may also like to try some more exotic delicacies like chong roet – crunchy cicadas!
Some of the legacies left over from the French colonial period include delicious crispy baguettes, pate, and crème caramel. Other foreign cuisines such as Chinese and Vietnamese are available in upmarket restaurants in main towns/cities.
Tea is the national drink in Cambodia and is usually drunk without sugar or milk. Coffee was introduced by the French, and is readily available, although if you ask for white coffee, the milk will be tinned. Canned soft drinks are available everywhere and soda water with lemon – called soda kroch chhmar – is also very popular.
Lager style beer is commonly available, and Angkor Beer, and VB (Victoria Bitter), are the most well known locally brewed brands.
Vegetarians will not have any difficulty finding a great choice of food as Khmer, Thai, French and Indian vegetarian dishes abound.
If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour Leader who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.
Please note: Unfortunately we can give no guarantee that special requirements can always be met.
Internet cafés can now be found almost everywhere in Cambodia. The cost for an hour is approx US$0.70
A 3 minute call (to the UK) will cost approx. US$15.00 from a hotel. International phone calls can be made from Post Offices but these are generally expensive at approx US$3 per minute. Internet cafés can provide cheaper calls over the Internet which cost approx US$1 per minute.
The postal service is fairly good and stamps are available everywhere. An overseas stamp will cost approx US$0.40 for most destinations.
Availability of Film
Camera film is widely available and generally of good quality. Many internet cafés and photo shops will also burn digital camera memory sticks to CD.
As in most parts of South East Asia, Cambodia experiences hot, humid weather most of the year. The country experiences two monsoons – the south-west monsoon from May to October which brings heavy rain, and the north-east monsoon which blows from October to April and brings with it the dry season. There are transitional periods between the heat and the rains and the best time to visit is during the dry season but before it gets too hot. The coolest period is between November and January and the hottest from February to April.
The following shows average daytime temperatures in Phom Penh (in degrees celsius):
Visak Bauchea (Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and Parenivana): April
Festivals and Events
The national language of Cambodia is Khmer and unlike most other languages in South East Asia it is not tonal. However, there are a number of sounds in Khmer, which are difficult for English speakers to pronounce. Nonetheless we encourage you try to speak a few words of Khmer as the locals will certainly appreciate your efforts.
The following words and phrases are spelled phonetically to help you with pronunciation.