Cambodia has four seasons: (i) Nov-Feb: cool & dry, (ii) Mar-May: hot and dry, (iii) Jun-Aug: hot & wet and (iv) Sep-Oct: cool & wet. Fortunately when raining it is very rare for it to last the whole day and it rarely impacts on tours. Most showers are short and heavy and the rest of the day can be optimum weather for touring with emerald green rice paddies and glorious sunsets at their best.
Definitely light and easy to wear clothes in natural fabrics are the best suggestion to suit the warm Cambodian climate. Cambodia is a country more designed for dressing down than up. Though please be respectful and keep beach attire to the beach. Short shorts and miniskirts are not appreciated by the conservative Cambodians. When entering a place of worship such as an active temple then shoes and socks must be removed.
Fresh and tasty – and not to be confused with the neighbouring countries of Thailand or Vietnam. Travel Asia a la carte is happy to provide visitors with a list of recommended restaurants. The international food scene is developing and excellent European and other Asian cuisines are readily obtainable in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The choice is more limited away from these areas with the exception of Kep where delicious seafood is a highlight of any visit.
230V / 50Hz. Two-pin plugs are in use (both flat and round). Many hotels offer different electrical sockets and three-pin plugs will occasionally fit. It’s a good idea to bring a universal plug adaptor as hotels do not always have in good supply.
Whole books have been written on culture in Cambodia. Your guide will be able to give an explanation of do’s and don’ts. Our one request is quite simple – to respect the religion but not dressing in short clothes at temples. Shoulders should be covered and shorts should reach the knee in order to be respectful.
As Cambodians are very family orientated there are always pleased to see foreign families travelling in the country who are made to feel most welcome. Whilst there can be a culture shock children are usually more readable able to adapt than children. Should car seats be required for young children please let us know in advance.
The main festival periods are Khmer New Year, Pchum Ben and Water Festival. See Public Holidays for details. Khmer New Year is a fun time to travel in Cambodia but does not see rampant water throwing as in Thailand. Angkor Wat and over temples may see a lot of domestic travelers.
Pchum Ben is a spiritual experience and travelling and a visit to a temple over the 15 day duration is an incredible experience.
The Water Festival brings crowds of locals to Phnom Penh. A highlight is boat racing on the river which can also be seen in Siem Reap on a smaller scale.
Chinese New Year (late Jan 2017) is a not an official holiday but can see very large numbers of travelers to Siem Reap at that time. Travel Asia a la carte recommends to avoid travel to Siem Reap over Chinese New Year to beat the crowds.
Please consult your GP for detailed information. In our experience most travelers rarely experience health problems. If not used to the heat then take it easy especially for the first few days. Drink plenty of water and take breaks as required. Stomach upsets are possible as in all countries so bring some basic medicine even thought this can be easily purchased.
In case of sickness most hotels can call a doctor. Local clinics and chemists can prescribe medicines and usually understand good English. In the case of emergency then reasonable hospitals are available in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. However emergency cases are often evacuated to Bangkok.
In all cases it is the duty of the tourist to ensure for their own piece of mind (and financially) they have adequate insurance cover which should include medical evacuation.
Access is readily available and is free at most hotels and many tourist restaurants. The speed will vary however.
The national language of Cambodia is Khmer. Attempting a few words in the local language will win you smiling approval from Cambodians. However it is not necessary for tourists to learn in advance. Staff in hotels and restaurants often speak good or fair English and of course local transport providers such as tuk tuk drivers will also usually understand. The French language is spoken by a few older people and younger students who learn it at school.
It is quite easy to obtain a local SIM card in Cambodia and use in your phone. The cost is minimal and a guide can help in making a stop at a shop to make this arrangement. A passport copy and a couple of passport photos may be required. 3G coverage is good or reasonable throughout most of the country.
The Cambodian currency is called Riel and the exchange rate to the US dollar is around 4,000 Riel (KHR). Interesting the currency is notes only with no coins. However we do not suggest changing any money into riel. Instead use US dollars throughout which are accepted throughout the whole country. Sometimes change is given as a combination of riel and dollar. When less than $1 change will be in Riel as US coins are not accepted. It is best to have lower denomination notes where possible as outside of hotels and restaurants it may be difficult to change $50 or $100 notes. In some areas bordering or close to Thailand, baht may be accepted at fair rates.
Credit cards are accepted at large hotels and at some boutique hotels and restaurants. It is best to check in advance if you plan to pay with a card. ATM machines (Visa, Cirrus, Mastercard) can be found in the large cities and increasingly in smaller towns. They distribute US dollars ensuring you don’t need to carry large amounts of cash for the duration of your trip.
We do not suggest travellers cheques as only the Acleda Bank readily exchange these.
Cambodia is still a very poor country and support is required for development. However given money to beggars or children selling souvenirs is not a good way of supporting them. Likewise visits to orphanages are strongly discouraged – many are not real orphanages and a professionally run centre would not allow unvetted visitors to visit vulnerable children. We support the Friends International, ‘Say No to Orphanage Tourism’ campaign.
Where possible Travel Asia a la carte seeks to include responsible tourism practices into our programmes. This can be the visit of a training restaurant for poor children or visiting Phare Circus which has helped provide a career and a focus for many children. We find these far better examples of Responsible Tourism than a short term donation which may provide one meal but does not help to alleviate the causes of poverty. However we appreciate that when travelling in poorer countries it is not always easy to make decisions on when to give money or not.
Don’t forget your camera as Cambodia is a very photogenic country! As in most countries you should ask if it is ok to take a photo of someone. Nearly always the answer is positive and rarely does anyone ask for money as a result. Your guide can ask in the Khmer language if it is ok to take a picture or you can show the camera and see if the person nods his or her head in approval.
If you need more memory cards we suggest to buy from a professional camera shop and not from a street seller – fake cards are often sold at discount prices.
There are lots of them! Many do not affect tourists in any way as it is rare for palces of interest to close for a festival. Below is a list of dates in 2017.
Jan 1 – International New Year’s Day
Jan 7 – Victory over Genocide Regime Day
Feb 11 – Meak Bochea Day
Mar 8 – International Women’s Day
Apr 14-16 – Khmer New Year
May 1 – International Labour Day
May 10 – Visak Bochea Day
May 13-15 – Royal Birthday of King Norodom Sihamoni
May 14 – Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Jun 1 – International Children’s Day
Jun 18 – Royal Birthday of Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk
Sep 19–21 – Pchum Ben Festival
Sep 24 – Constitution Day
Oct 15 – Commeration Day for the late King Norodom Sihanouk
Oct 23 – Paris Peace Accord Day
Oct 29 – Royal Coronation Anniversary of King Norodom Sihamoni
Nov 2-4 – Water Festival
Nov 9 – Independence Day
Dec 10 – International Human’s Right Day
Cambodia is a safe country for travelers. The biggest danger is traffic and bad driving! (be careful crossing the road in the cities!). Crime is overall low and against tourists is uncommon. Pickpointing and snatch theft of bags does happen in Phnom Penh so we advise to be careful of valuables and leave money in hotel safety boxes unless required. However when comparing the level of safety in Cambodia, it is far better than the majority of large or medium size European and American cities.
We do get asked about landmines and whether they still exist – they do but the last majority have been cleared and those remaining are not close to tourists areas. Even on an adventurous trekking holiday there would be no crossing of anywhere with mines. Seriously, this is of no concern to tourists though sadly some villagers have to take low level risks in fields each day.
In the areas mostly frequently visited by tourists there is a wide range of shops from selling simple souvenirs up to world class Khmer designer clothes. It is fair to say Cambodia is not the equivalent of Bangkok or Singapore so the selection is not as varied. Popular souvenirs include traditional scarves (krama), dried Kampot pepper, silver and bronze work. Travel Asia a la carte is happy to suggest a list of shopping venues to meet your needs.
GMT + 7.
Sunrise and sunset both come relatively early.
It is never compulsory but always appreciated in a country where salaries are low. For tour guides and drivers it does help supplement their regulated salaries but should only be given when good service is provided.
No vaccinations are required, except for Yellow Fever if you are arriving from a country where the disease is present.
Malaria is not found in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh but does exist in some other parts of the country.
We recommend to consult your GP before travel for their recommendations. Also a comprehensive travel insurance is recommended.
Visas can be obtained in your home country in some cases or also on arrival for nearly all nationalities. An online e-Visa service is also available. Most nationalities can obtain a visa on arrival – tourist visas are valid for 30 days, cost $30 and 1 passport photo is required. The queue on arrival is usually not long (5-15 minutes) though delays can be experienced when more than one flight arrives at the same time. The facility is available at the two international airports in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and at all land borders. Please ensure your passport has 6 months validity after the date of departure from Cambodia and enough space for the visa and stamps (2 pages).
There is no problem with women to travel by themselves in Cambodia. Like in all countries we recommend female travelers to be aware of their surroundings and ask guides advice on going out at night.
Note – the above is accurate at time of press. In an ever developing country everything is subject to change. Please treat as a guideline only.