Key information to discover Cambodia
Follow this practical guide to Cambodia to help you prepare for your trip! You will find in this section all the important elements and information you should know about Cambodia, before leaving on your trip.
For most visitors to the Kingdom, visas are obtainable upon arrival at both Phnom Phen and Siem Reap international airports. At land crossing from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, visas can be obtained at the International Check Point Border.
If you are from Afghanistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, Sudan, or Nigeria, you are required to get a visa in advance. You can do this at the Royal embassy of the Kingdom of Cambodia in your country.
A valid passport and visa are required upon entry. Tourists and business travellers may purchase a Cambodian visa valued for one month at the airports of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and borders. Both require a passport valid for at least six (6) months from the expiry date, 1 x recent passport sized photo. A departure tax is charged on all domestic and international flights.
The main international airports serving Cambodia are Siem Reap Airport and Phnom Penh Airport.
There are no direct flights to Cambodia. You will need to take one of the many flights with one or more stopovers
Here is a non-exhaustive list of airlines that offer these flights:
Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, United, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, ANA
Weather and geography
The climate is dominated by two seasons that punctuate rural life. The dry season, with little rain, runs from November to March. From May to early October, the southwest monsoon brings strong winds, high humidity and heavy rainfall. This is the rainy season. Temperatures vary from 8 to 35°C (46-95°F) depending on the month and region but are generally warm.
Cambodia covers an area of 181,035 km² (69,898 mi²). Cambodia is bordered on the west by Thailand, on the north by Thailand and Laos, on the east and southeast by Vietnam, and on the south by the Gulf of Thailand Sea.
Its capital is Phnom Penh, the center of the country. The other main cities are Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville. Cambodia's two main rivers are the Mekong River (almost 5 km (3 mi) wide in places), and the large Tonle Sap Lake.
Population and languages
Cambodia has a population of 16 million. Its density is 91 inhabitants per km².
The Khmer (An ethic group) or Cambodian language is spoken by 85% of the population of Cambodian. It is a language without tones, which is rather rare in this part of the world. The Khmer alphabet is derived from the Pallava script from South India. Other minority languages are spoken such as Vietnamese (3.5%), Cham (3.2%), Chinese (7.4%) and other ethnic minorities such as Kui, Mnong. There are also several dialects depending on the region. It can be said that French is the best-known foreign language (15% of the people), even ahead of English (5%) amongst the Cambodian population.
The majority of Cambodians are followers of Theravada Buddhism (teaching of the Wise Men), which emphasizes the three main aspects of life: the Dukkha (suffering, disappointment, illness), the Anica (transitory character of all things) and the Anatta (non-essential character of reality, absence of a permanent "soul"). The Cham community is Muslim. There are also Khmer and Vietnamese Catholic communities, but they are in a minority. Finally, some minority ethnic groups still practice animism, especially in the mountainous region of Mondolkiri.
When to go ?
The best time to go to Cambodia is during the dry season, especially from November to February. These are the most pleasant months in terms of temperature and sunshine because there is no rain. Moreover, during the end of January and the beginning of February, it is the occasion to attend a major event of the Asian culture: the Chinese New Year celebrated also in Cambodia.
Money and Electricity
The monetary unit is the riel. You will be able to change your currency at most banks; the U.S. dollar widely used. For any purchase made in dollars, the seller will give you change in riel.
Withdrawing money with a visa or MasterCard has been possible for a few years. It is easy to find ATMs in all major cities and tourist destinations. Visa and MasterCard are more and more accepted as a means of payment in large hotels and restaurants.
The electric current is 220 volts. Most of the time, the plugs are the same as in some European countries. It is recommended that you bring a universal adaptor when travelling.
Traditions and customs
Cambodians are considered one of the most charming people in Asia, with a lifestyle of great simplicity and naturalness. But, as any country in the world, there are certain rules of conduct that should not be ignored in order to avoid situations that might offend Cambodians.
Correct behavior in temples or other religious buildings is crucial in showing respect.
It is important to wear correct clothing (no shorts, tank tops, T-shirts) and to remove your shoes when entering a building where a Buddha icon is located. Buddha’s are sacred objects.
When you decide to sit in a religious building, your feet must not be pointed at the Buddha. To do this, you sit with your legs bent to the side, with your feet pointing backwards. Buddhist monks must not touch women or be touched by them. If a woman wants to give something to a monk, either give it to a man who will then give it to the monk, or place the object within the monk's reach.
It is important to behave well in religious buildings, and to avoid showing disrespect.
b. Gestures and Attitudes in society
When things take a bad turn, don't get angry! If you lose your temper, you lose face. Raising your voice is considered rude in any situation.
When you hold something out to someone, do it with both hands, or with the right hand, but never with the left hand, which is reserved for intimate ablutions. Books, as well as any written support, enjoy a privileged status over other objects: do not put them on the floor.
c. Head and feet
The feet are spiritually the most unclean part of the body. Never point them at anything or anyone. Don't put your feet on a chair or table when you are sitting down. Never touch someone with your foot.
Similarly, since the head is spiritually the purest part of the body, there are certain taboos: never put your hand on someone's head, and never stroke a child's (or an adult's) hair. If this happens to you, apologize immediately, as it may make you look extremely rude.
Never step over a person, even in a crowded area. Try to walk around the person or ask them to move.
d. Local Bargaining Rules
A wide variety of handicrafts and souvenirs are available in Cambodia at very reasonable prices. For those who don't have much time and want to avoid haggling, some items are on sale in shops where prices are displayed.
For those who prefer to haggle, patience and a smile will usually be enough to bring the price down. Humor and good humor are always good assets to establish a friendly contact with the salesperson. Don't get angry, the seller can refuse the sale in this case.