Cambodia, center of the mighty Khmer empire between the 9th and 14th centuries, is, in a word, astonishing. Its very recent tumultuous past is almost invisible in the optimism and charisma of the Cambodian people today. Spectacular Angkor Wat, whose elaborate temples and structures are spread out over roughly an incredible 60 square mile area, is the largest religious complex in the world. Built in the golden age of the Khmer Empire, many visitors find the beautiful carvings in the Angkor complex to be among the most extraordinary sights in the world. Over the centuries, thick jungle has reclaimed some of the highly stylized architecture, but the enormous roots and encroaching vegetation have created spectacular, mysterious unions of stone and natural scenery. Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, was once considered to be one of the most elegant cities of the East. With its ongoing restoration of the beautiful French colonial architecture, its incredible National Museum,the graceful Royal Palace and wonderful shopping, Phnom Penh is quickly regaining its original appeal and reputation. Unspoiled beaches can be discovered at Sihanoukville and nearby Kep, on the Gulf of Thailand. Cambodia today is a complete destination in its own right – or an important addition to a voyage within the region. Our highly trained local guides are delighted to share their knowledge of the eventful history of this country with you. Adventures Asia staff is ready to help you plan your ideal journey.
Two monsoons dictate Cambodia’s climate. From November to April, a north-eastern monsoon brings cool air but little rain, while a south-western monsoon, which occurs from May to October, causes heavy winds and rains. During the summer rainy season rains tend to take place in the late afternoons.
Generally speaking, November through June is the dry season and July through October is rainy. The temperature ranges between 27 C (80F) and 23 C (73F). Wear light, airy, covering clothing. The sun can be very intense, so bring a hat, sunglasses and sun block! Consider buying a traditional Khmer scarf (Krama) to keep the sun off your neck. Carry raincoat during the wet season, though you will probably only need it in the afternoon. You should have a mosquito repellent for sunrise and sunset hours. For serious temple exploration, a flashlight and compass come in handy. Sneakers are the best for exploring the ruins. The peak season is from November till March, best time of the year, no rain, not too hot, all activities in town operate, more flights, more bus & boat service.
In Southeast Asia, revealing clothing is unacceptable off the beach. Shorts are generally fine—as long as they aren’t too short. People tend to dress as well as they can afford to – Asian people are often astonished by some travelers’ choice of dirty and tattered clothing.
In terms of behavior, public displays of affection between men and women are considered shocking.
On the other hand, it’s perfectly normal for a pair of men or a pair of women to link arms or hold hands. Upon meeting someone new, people may simply nod to each other or may shake hands. Using both hands to shake someone’s hand is a warm gesture of respect.
Beckoning someone by crooking your finger is very rude. The correct way to call someone over is to extend your hand with the palm down and flap your fingers towards your wrist. To ask for the bill in a restaurant or shop, extend one hand in front of you with the palm raised and pretend to write on your palm with the other hand.
The majority of men in Southeast Asia smoke. While flights are non-smoking, very few restaurants or bars offer non-smoking seating.
IMMUNIZATIONS BEFORE TRAVELLING TO CAMBODIA
The following immunizations are recommended for travelers in Southeast Asia. Consult your doctor or local health department to discuss which ones you need:
Diphtheria and tetanus: Combined vaccinations for these two diseases are usually given in childhood and should be boosted every ten years.
Hepatitis A: Vaccination provides immunity for up to ten years and involves an initial injection followed by another six months to one year later.
Typhoid: Vaccination takes the form of an injection or capsules.
Meningococcal Meningitis: This vaccine is only recommended for travelers making extended visits to rural areas such as Rattanakiri, Udong, etc. Protection lasts for three years.
Rabies: People making longer trips to remote areas should consider rabies vaccination, which involves three injections over a period of three to four weeks.
Japanese B Encephalitis: People on trips of a month or more to areas suffering from recent outbreaks should consider getting this vaccine, which involves three shots over one month.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR TRAVELLING TO CAMBODIA
You should bring a money-belt to safely carry your travel documents and cash, and ensure that your luggage has a lock. Bring photo-copies of your passport and visa. When flying into or within Cambodia, you will probably be given baggage claim tags (they will be stuck to the back of your ticket). Keep these, as you will need to show them when leaving the airport.
SAFETY TIPS WHILE TRAVELLING IN CAMBODIA
In general, Cambodia is very safe for travelers. Violent attacks are rare, although theft is a problem. When possible, secure your valuables in the hotel safe. Remember to record your traveler’s check numbers and credit card info—just in case.
Do not leave your wallet or mobile phone in the back pocket of your pants or anywhere else that’s easily reached (like an outer zip-up compartment on a backpack). Be especially vigilant in markets and other crowded places like ports and train stations. Pick-pocketing and purse-snatching are more of a problem in Phnom Penh. Some thieves approach on motorcycles, grab your belongings and race off before you’ve realized what’s happened. If you ride in a cyclo (Pedi cab) do not hold your bag in your lap. Sit on it! Wearing valuable jewelry (especially necklaces that can be easily grabbed) is not advisable.
Use common sense and don’t walk alone after dark. There have been many reports of muggings in Phnom Penh late at night. If confronted by a mugger, do not resist. Siem Reap is much safer. You’re always better off skipping cyclos or motorbike taxis at night; ask your hotel or restaurant to call a reputable taxi firm.
Traffic is chaotic. If you choose to ride a motorcycle or bike, wear a helmet. When crossing the street on foot, move at a slow and steady pace. Fight the urge to weave and run! Walk slowly and traffic will flow around you.
DRINK PLENTY OF BOTTLED WATER
Tap water is never safe to drink. During the summer months you should be drinking a minimum of 2 liters per day from sealed bottles. Do not accept water with broken seal. If you drink tea, coffee and alcohol you should increase water intake accordingly, as these drinks can lead to dehydration. Whatever you take, please bear in mind it is not recommended to drink with ice if you are not sure which water source they use to make ice cubes. Anyway, most restaurants have cold drinks in the fridge or you can have the restaurant waiters/ waitresses put your drinks in the ice-chest to keep them cold.
TOILETRIES & MEDICATION
While imported beauty products are readily available in major cities, you’d be wise to pack staples like sunscreen, contact lens solution, tampons and mosquito repellent, as well as prescription medication. Many medicines are available in Indochina without prescriptions, but they may be out-of-date or of poor quality.
If your trip to Cambodia includes stops at beaches and mountainous areas, you will need clothes for all temperatures. A swimsuit, sunglasses, a hat, t-shirts, shorts that are not too revealing, long trousers, some light-weight, long-sleeved tops and a light jacket that is wind- and-rain-resistant will get you through most trips. If trekking is on your agenda, you will need sturdy footwear—plus lots of socks.
Slip-on shoes or sandals are useful for visits to pagodas or people’s houses, as you’ll save time taking your shoes on and off.
Larger cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap offer upscale bars and restaurants, so be sure to pack some clothes and shoes for a nice evening out. Leave your flashy jewelry at home.
Cambodia’s currency, the Riel, exchanges at a rate of about 4,000 to US$1 US. Dollars are welcome. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are widely accepted in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Credit card advances for Master card, JCB and Visa are available at the Cambodian Commercial Bank on the corner of Pochentong and Monivong streets in Phnom Penh.
For ATM machine, you can find ATMs in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, cities of Cambodia. They are available 24hrs in many places in these two cities, might be one close to your hotel. The most convenience and globalize bank is AZN Royal Bank.
Cambodia country code: 855
INTERNET IN CAMBODIA
Wireless and cable internet access is available in most hotels throughout Cambodia and in internet cafes.
SHOPPING AND SHIPPING
If you go shopping in Cambodia, bargaining is necessary. It is also recommendable to check prices of the same items in the neighborhood before reaching a deal. If you choose to ship items home, we highly recommend that you buy shipping insurance and check the policy details. As shops are not responsible for damages incurred en route, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
DOs AND DON’Ts IN CAMBODIA
- Ask for permission before taking photographs of any Cambodian people or monks.
- It is customary to remove your shoes when entering a place of worship such as a pagoda or temple. Additionally, visitors should dress appropriately when inside a religious site (upper arms and legs should be covered, hats removed).
- It is respectful to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home.
- Though not always expected, a respectful way of greeting another individual is to bow the head slightly with hands pressed together at the chest (known as “Sampeah”).
- If invited to dine in a Cambodian family’s home, it is polite to bring a small gift for the host such as fruit, dessert, or flowers.
- If invited to attend a Cambodian wedding, it is customary to bring cash as a wedding gift.
- When using a toothpick at the table, use one hand to cover your mouth.
- Keep business cards ready, and present them with both hands. Accept business cards with both hands.
- Don’t use your feet to point at someone.
- Don’t touch a Cambodian person on the head.
- Don’t begin eating if you are a guest at a dinner and the host has yet to take a bite.
- Women should never touch male monks or hand something directly to them.
- Keep public displays of affection to a respectful minimum.
There are lots of things you should and shouldn’t do when visiting Cambodia, but don’t worry, if you have any query or need local assitance, please feel free to contact us at Adventures Asia to have an affordable, safe and local journey in Cambodia.