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Cambodia Travel Tips

 

Introduction

Ancient temples, empty beaches, mighty rivers, remote forests ... and (outside Angkor) only a handful of tourists. But the word is out - Cambodia has emerged from the decades of war and isolation that made it a byword for atrocities, refugees, poverty and political instability. Those magical Angkor temples are drawing gaping travellers by the busload once more, and Cambodia is well and truly back on the South-East Asian travel map.

The successor-state of the mighty Khmer Empire - which ruled much of what is now Vietnam, Laos and Thailand - Cambodia boasts a rich culture, French-era (albeit a little weathered) capital and impressive natural scenery. The peace is young but relatively stable, and the country is slowly attracting the tourism currently sweeping neighbouring Vietnam. However, the proliferation of land mines and banditry in remote areas means the picture isn't all rosy, and for now the beaten path remains by far the one best travelled.

Warning
Despite the easing of political tensions in Cambodia, sporadic outbreaks of violence still occur. Visitors are advised to avoid demonstrations and political gatherings, and to generally exercise caution. Cambodia remains one of the world's most heavily landmined countries, with an estimated four to six million UXOs dotted around the countryside waiting to be detonated. The most heavily mined part of the country is the Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces, but landmines are a problem nationwide. It's advisable to travel with a local guide in rural areas, and never venture off the path into forest or dry paddy fields - even when you're at Angkor. Avoid solo travel during the day outside provincial towns, and in all parts of the country at night. Street crime remains a problem in the capital - take particular care at night, and travel by taxi, rather than moto or cyclo. The potential for general banditry and lawlessness is high in the areas between Kratie, Snuol and Stung Treng, due in part to the illegal logging that goes on in the region.

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Language

National
 
Khmer
 
Foreign

English & French
In general, the older generation are more likely to speak French, the younger prefer to learn English. Cambodians like to practice, it is very easy to make friends here.

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Currency

Local Currency : Riel (R)
NOTES :
100, 200,500,1,000,2,000,5,000, 10,000
US$/Riel Rate :
$1=3910riel, April, 2001

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Visa and Custom

Visa :

  • Can be obtained at Royal Embassies and Consulates of Cambodia

  • Visas are available on arrival at international airports and Thai border check points.

  • Visa fee : Business visa : USD25, Tourist Visa: USD20

  • Airport Tax : International Airport tax: USD20 (Siem Reap: UDS15) Domestic Airport tax: USD5

International Gate Way

  • Pochentong International Airport, Phnom Penh

  • Siem Reap International Airport

  • Sihanouk Ville Port (Visa on Arrival Upon Request)

International Border Check Point

  • Bavet (Svay Rieng Province)

  • Kaam Samnor-Koh Rokar (Kandal-Prey Veng)

  • Cham Yeam (Koh Kong Province)

  • Poi Pet (Banteay Meanchhey Province)

  • O'Smach (Oddar Meanchhey Province)

  • Phnom Den (Takeo Province): No Visa on Arrival

  • Dong Krolor (Stung Treng Province): No Visa on Arrival

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Season

Cool(Best) : Nov-Feb 17-27C
Hot season : Mar-May 29-38C
Rainy : Jun-Oct 27-35C
Tourist Peak : Dec-Jan


The relative stability which Cambodia is now enjoying is having a significant impact on the tourism industry. The Angkor temples are unsurprisingly beginning to draw the considerable numbers of tourists previously discouraged by the security situation. Hotels, restaurants & travel companies are appearing at an alarming rate in Siem Reap. With an apparently stable government & the collapse of the Khmer Rouge due to large-scale defections, the country is now safer than at perhaps any time in the past 30 years.

Whereas before safety issues dictated that typically only Phnom Penh, Siem Reap & Sihanoukville were accessible, it is now possible to explore the country quite extensively & see other sides of Cambodia such as the hill tribes of Ratanakiri, primary forests in Mondulkiri & the deserted hill station at Bokor.

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Mail / Telephone

POST OFFICE Post Office GPO : on Preah Ang Eng No13 (between Wat Phnom & river)
Hours : Daily 7.00 - 11.00, 14.00 - 17.30
Poste Restante service, charge 500 riel per letter.
Address : c/o Poste Restante, GPO Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Telephone cards can be bought here & at many shops.
Denominations are 3$, 10$, 20$,50$, 100$.
 

Mail Japan Europe/AU/NZ USA Asia

 Post Card *

1,700 1,800 2,100 1,700

 Letter(10g)

2,200 2,300 2,500 2,000

 Small Parcel 1kg

47,100 58,400 81,000 28,300

Post Rest ante Receipt 300R
Direct phone service, phone cards, stamps. There is also an EMS (express mail office), hours not known.

TELEPHONE
General opening hours : M-F 6:30-21:00

Rates SEA Europe USA Asia
1min $1.6 $1.8 $1.8 $1.5
Fax 1min $6 $5 $5 $4

After 1 minute charged per 15 seconds. 20% discount on these prices at weekends.
 From Siem Reap card phones: all international calls cost $5/min.

Local Call
10cents/min Card Phone $2, $5, $10, $20

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Safety

Visitors to Phnom Penh should be aware that armed theft of tourists can occur & is more likely late at night. These are infrequent, isolated incidents & shouldn`t necessarily deter you from sampling Phnom Penh's extensive nightlife. Simply take just as much money as you need with you. Resident Ex-pats advise carrying a token 10-20$ & to hide any other money / valuables. Once it gets late & quieter, always use motos to get around the city, preferably with a driver you know. You'll also feel more comfortable if you go out with a group of people from your guest-house.

Cambodia has such an unstable recent history that no-one is ever quite sure what's around the corner. It is advisable to keep yourself well-informed about current affairs within the country.There are some excellent cheap English & French publications which allow you to do this : English: Cambodia Daily 1200 riel, Phnom Penh Post 3500 riel,fortnightly Bayon Pearnik - free monthly, French : Cambodge Soir, 1500 riel - daily.

The other major information sources are from guest-houses & people, both long-term resident ex-pats & travellers themselves. In Phnom Penh, Capitol GH is a renowned place for info, but now any friendly guest-house area is good for finding out what you need to know.

With regard landmines - There are still many thousands of land-mines & unexploded ordnance in more remote areas of Cambodia. The chances of approaching these areas unknown to you is very small. In rural areas, always seek local advice & don't stray from that path.

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Basic Travel Costs

Most tourist places accept riel & US$. Change given in riel and US$.
Basic min. price (R=Riel)
Room s$3 d$5 (Restaurant) local 4000+
(Local Stall) 2-4,000 (Restaurant) int'l $3+
Coffee 1500R Coffee (Milk) 1,500-2000
Drinking Water (1-L) 500+ Coke (Bottle) 1,000
Beer 3,000-4,000
Breakfast (Ame) 3,-4000 Breakfast (Local) 2-3,000
Toilet Paper 1,000
T-shirt $1-3 post card 500-2000

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National Transport

AIR : International Pochentong Airport 8 km west from city. shuttle bus US$2/p taxi (Official) US$7 or from outside: US$3-5/car. Airport Tax International: US$20, Domestic: Phnom Penh US$10,Regional Airports US$4.

International Destinations :
(Single & Return ticket price, US$) :
Bangkok OW$125,RT $215, Singapore $230/$360, Ho Chi Minh OW$65/RT$120, Vientiane OW$130, RT $250, Guangzhou $230/$390, Kuala Lumpur $190/$300, Hong Kong $230/$420, Several flights daily to/from Bangkok. Approx 2 flights daily from Ho Chi Minh. Approx 1 flight daily to/from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur. 2 flights/week to/from Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Vientiane.

Domestic Destinations :
Siem Reap $55/$105 - several flights daily
Battambang $45/$85 - 1 flight / day
Stung Treng $45/$85 - 5 flights/ week
Ratanakiri $55/$100 - 5 flights /week
Mondulkiri $50/$100 - 2 flights/week
Koh Kong $50/$100 - 2 flights/week
Prices vary between carriers & flight schedules alter frequently, please use above info as a general guide only.


Train :
Until recently Train travel in Cambodia had a reputation for being very dangerous. Now it's a bit of an unknown quantity. From Phnom Penh lines run north-west to Battambang/ Sisophon & south as far as Kampot. Reportedly, the trains are very slow & get extremely over-crowded. Arrive early to fight for a seat.
Phnom Penh to Battambang (4500 riel dep 06-00 arr 21-00).
Reverse journey leaves Battambang 06-30
Phnom Penh to Kampot (not known).
Battambang to Sisophon (dep 06-30, arr 11-00, 700 riel)

Bus :
Bus companies Ho-Wah Genting & GST operate routes to Sihanoukville & Takeo in comfortable A/C buses. They are expanding operations to further destinations (Kompong Chnang, Udong) and this will continue as road improvement projects are undertaken. Guesthouses can book for you.

Pickup : From Phnom Penh's Central Market, minibuses & trucks offer cheap transport all over Cambodia. The trucks will leave only when packed & the roads are often in terrible condition. What with the burning sun , dust-strewn air & crazed driver's, it's easy to imagine you are disputing the lead in the Paris-Dakar rally ..and that's just the dry season!!! Guest-houses can arrange trucks to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Thai border, commission charged.

Shared taxi : A good option if there's a few of you. Check around Central Market in Phnom Penh and bargain hard.

Boat:

Express Boat : From Phnom Penh, express boats operate up the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap For the best deal bargain with the operators themselves. Agents & guest-houses will offer limited discount, guest-houses offer free transport to & from the boats at each end. Express boats also travel up the Mekong to Kompong Cham, Kratie & Stung Treng.

Slow boat : (May/June- Feb/Mar). For the more adventurous & well-prepared with plenty of time. Large cargo boats ply the Tonle Sap (Siem Reap) & Mekong (Kratie/Stung Treng) from Phnom Penh during the rainy season until the waters are too low. Take a hammock & food/drink. Crew may supply basic fish / meat & rice. To arrange, it's best to visit the docks 1 or 2 days before you wish to depart & ask around. Useful if your moto driver can act as interpreter. You will need to bargain hard. Trip to Siem Reap : (May/June - Jan/Feb)Cost is approx. $6-8. The journey takes about 2 days depending on water level.. See real life on the Tonle Sap as you drift by. Mekong : (May/June - Feb/Mar), From Phnom Penh to Kratie,$5 to Stung Treng $15 . The best stretch of the Mekong is north of Kratie. Watch out for Irrawaddy river dolphins.

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Local Transport

In Phnom Penh & Siem Reap, moto taxis are the main option.

Bus :
Newly erected bus shelters have been spotted in Phnom Penh!! As yet no information on services.

Taxi :
Phnom Penh Un-metered easily found around Central Market. One company ( Vantha Travel) does operate a couple of metered taxis. 24 hour service.

Car Hire :
Car hire US$20+/day incl. Driver. Bargain

Cyclo :
Cycle rickshaw. Phnom Penh. The most stylish way to see Phnom Penh. Single journey 1500 riel, must bargain !! usually $1/hour

Moto-Motorbike Taxi :
Motos are everywhere. Typically 1000 riel per journey. Bargain. One word of caution about moto drivers. The moto drivers at the GH's have good English. 95% of moto drivers in Phnom Penh have no English beyond .."you need moto?". It helps to know your way back from town to your GH or navigate by landmarks obvious to locals (Psah Central, Wat Phnom). On the upside, these guys are usually cheaper!!!
In Siem Reap
$5-6/day

Mo-ped :
$3/day, Dirt bike US$6/day ask at hotels, guest houses and agents. May need to show your passport.

Bicycle :
Phnom Penh $1+/day in very bad condition. The roads are also poor and the traffic is horrendous except on Sundays.
Resembles a very fast, high quality graphics game of frogger but you only get one life & no extra man after 10,000 points good luck.
No bicycle rental in Siem Reap which is a shame because it would be the best way to get about town.

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Customs

These customs are common throughout South East Asia.

Toilet :
Squat toilets are usual. Toilet paper is rare - cleaning by left hand is the custom. Flush with hand bucket. Most Guesthouses have western style toilets, some even have toilet paper.

Bathing :
take water from a water pool with a bucket and pour over your head. Most guesthouses have showers.

Left hand :
Do not touch others with your left hand as it is considered dirty - see above for explanation.

Touching the head of others :
It is quite insulting to Cambodians. Never ever touch with your left hand.

Tipping :
Not customary.

Clothing :
Casual dress is generally acceptable . However religious sites require that arms and legs be covered.

Footware (indoor) :
Locals don't wear shoes inside houses or temples. Remove your shoes before entry.

Bargaining :
Common practice in markets, street stalls, taxis, cyclos.

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Bank / Exchange

Cash : US$ are accepted everywhere. Change will be given in both $ and Riel. Most foreign currencies can be changed at banks & money changers. Embassies in Phnom Penh will only accept US$ for visa payment. It is strongly recommended you bring US$ cash/TC as exchange rates for other currencies are very low. Best to obtain US$ cash from the bank & change to riel from local money changers for the best rate. Many guest-houses, restaurants & bars throughout Cambodia charge in dollars so the best policy is to carry a mixture of dollars & riel. Thai baht is an acceptable alternative in Ko Kong, Battambang, Sisophon, Poipet). Banks operate nationwide policy in terms of commission rates, exchange rates etc & all but the most isolated provincial towns will have one or more banks offering travellers cheque exchange. Phnom Penh offers slightly higher dollar/riel exchange rates than in the provinces.

T/C :
Encashment only at banks and major hotels. Best rate for US dollars.
T/C commission:
1-2% Encash at Banks for US$ then change to riel at private money changers.


Credit Card :
Only at expensive hotels & restaurants. Travel agents may require a surcharge. Cash advance possible at some banks. Fee charged up to 4%, usually with a minimum charge of $10.

ATM'S :
None

Bank :
General Opening hours M-F 7:30-11:30 14:00-17:00 a few banks open on Saturday mornings.

Rate at Airport : $1/check $1 = 3850R

Airport Bank :
Pochentong Airport, Phnom Penh
Foreign Trade Bank Of Cambodia: Daily 8-30am - 6-00 pm
Good exchange rate of
$1=3920riel, B=87r
Credit card cash advance
This service will be available for Visa card only by summer (July /Aug). Charge will be 4%, min amount issued 200US$


Black/Alternative Market :
Many private moneychangers in main towns, usually in market areas.

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Immigration / Visa Border Crossing

Vietnam : Moc Bai
 
Thailand : 1) Aranyaprathet(th) - Poipet(cam),
2) Hat Lek(Th)-Koh Kong(Ca) then Sihanoukeville
 
Laos : No official land entry point at this time.

Vietnam Visa : MAKE SURE YOU HAVE MOC BAI SPECIFIED AS YOUR ENTRY POINT ON YOUR VIETNAM VISA, NOT NOI BAI (HANOI AIRPORT) OR TAN SON NHAT (HO CHI MINH AIRPORT). OTHERWISE YOU WILL BE REFUSED ENTRY & HAVE TO RETURN TO PHNOM PENH

Vietnam border crossing : via Moc Bai
Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) Saigon to P.Penh
by Bus
(245 km) non A/C$5, A/C$12. 7-9 hours incl 3h waiting at border. See transport P.Penh for more details.
Warning this service may be cancelled as the bus is often under repair.
by Taxi $20 $5/person, then walk to cross the border : then another taxi $20 $5/person, to P.Penh. journey takes 5-6 hours.

P.Penh to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh
by Taxi
$20-23/taxi to the border,
Cheap option if you can find 4 people to share. Taxi will come to your GH. Put a note up at your GH.
Capital GH arranges - $6/person Many Vietnamese taxis are lying in wait at the border, $20 or $5/person to Ho Chi Minh (bargain hard you're in Vietnam now!!)
Journey from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh takes 4-5hrs.
Taxi Stand: 2 block S from the Central Market Must bargain.
by Bus V.Oknhe Tep Phon, 182st+211St, behind Shell Station & large car repair garage. Buy ticket up to 1 hour before taking bus.
Bus on M/W/F 4:30, non a/c $5, Tu/Th Sa 4:30 a/c $12. Arrival time in Ho Chi Minh - 15:00 (Approx). Warning the bus was being fixed at the time of research.
Check with Guest Houses for the current situation. No one at the station speaks English so if you want to check there go with a moto driver who can translate for you.

Visa to Cambodia in Saigon : apply at Cambodian embassy in Saigon. 1mth Visa $20, 3 photos, issued same day.
Visa to Vietnam Vietnam Embassy : Monivong Blvd / junction St 436,Mon - Fri 8-11:00, 14-16:00, T425481
Visa from the embassy costs US$50. Changing stated visa entry point or date costs US$10 in each case.


Capitol GH
can also provide Vietnam Visa: 1-month Visa(Good from the day you specify) Overland entry possible. Price according to processing time (working days): $78/1day, $75/2 days, 65$/3 days, $50/4days:$42/5days

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Others

Souvenirs : Gems, silver. !Warning Gems are often fake.

Voltage :
220 volts, 60 cycles in Phnom Penh. 100volts, 50 cycles other areas. Most types of plugs can be used, except British.

Photography

There are some photo shops in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. OK quality.

Newspapers
Cambodia Daily,
1200R, (Some editions have a section in Japanese) Cambodge Soir (1500 riel, daily), are English/French newspapers which cover important events in Cambodia & internationally.e English Language Newspapers are essential to keep up with the political and safety situation in Cambodia :

Phnom Penh Post (3500 riel, every 2 weeks) Bayon Pearnik - monthly (free), some visitor info (Sometimes lists events or gives tourist info and excellent free city map mainly intended for the Ex-Pat community, contains amusing articles. Available from Guest Houses and some bars, restaurants, free.
Many of the articles are satirical, so take everything you read with a generous pinch of salt. can read on the internet: www.bayon-pearnik.com Newspapers: Bayon Pearnik - (free, monthly)

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  Information provided by Ministry of Tourism. Government of Cambodia.

 

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