Getting to Cambodia
Currently there are no direct flights to the country from outside Southeast Asia, but this is sure to change as it is growing in popularity with holiday makers wishing to enjoy a Cambodia tour. Cambodia is still, though, a relatively easy destination to get to. Travelers have the options of flying through one of the following airports; Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong or Seoul, before the final short leg to either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. In terms of travel time this obviously depends on how long you have to wait for your connection, but you are looking at approximately a total of 12 hours of flying time.
Please make sure your passport does not expire within six months of your travel period. Cambodian visas are issued on arrival at all crossings where foreigners can legally cross. You will need to bring with you 2 or 3 passport size photos.
Visas cost US$20 for a tourist visa which lasts for a period of 30 days. If you are looking to stay longer then ask for a Business visa US$25. A tourist visa can be extended for one month, but business visas can be extended indefinitely. You don’t have to have any special papers to get a business visa, simply pay the extra five dollars. (For every day you over-stay your visa, there is a $5 per day fine)
Please note that the airport departure tax should now be included in your airline flight ticket. However if for some reason it is not you will have to pay this when leaving. For domestic flights it will cost you $6 and for international flights $25.
Travel Insurance is compulsory for anyone travelling on a ‘See Cambodia Differently’ tour. Travel insurance can be acquired from a multitude of companies but it is vital that your insurance is comprehensive and covers you for all aspects of the trip you are taking. You should be covered against all cancellation costs, medical expenses, including repatriation in the event of accident or illness as well as airlift cover.
We are pleased to have teamed up with insureandgo who offer competitively priced travel insurance specifically designed for you
We recommend that you see your doctor or a travel clinic at least 6 weeks before your making your Cambodia tour, for general advice on travel risks, malaria and vaccinations.
Masta offers excellent medical advice from recommended vaccinations to malaria advice.
From them you can also buy a number of useful products including mosquito repellent, malaria tablets and many other forms of travel related products. As an alternative you might like to try the Travelpharm.
If you are currently taking any medicine please be certain that you take a sufficient supply to last through your trip. Also ensure that you have insurance for accident and sickness. If you need a doctor while in Cambodia, you must be prepared to pay for these services and claim it back on your insurance on your return. Ensure you keep all receipts and it is recommended that you take a copy of your prescription with you.
The Cambodian riel is the official currency of Cambodia; however the US dollar is the de-facto currency and is accepted pretty much everywhere.
Bank notes in circulation are: 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10000 Riel.
Make sure if you do pay in US dollars that the notes are not torn or marked in any way as these notes will not be accepted.
Because the Cambodian Riel used to be unstable and susceptible to fluctuation, it was decided to bind the Cambodian Riel to the US Dollar. Since that time, the Cambodian Riel has been a steady currency and the exchange rate has constantly remained at about 1 US Dollar = 4000 Riel.
There are several national banks where you can change or withdraw money whilst on tour in Cambodia. Working hours are 8am-3.30pm, Monday to Friday. All banks will accept traveler’s cheques at 2%-4% commission being the usual charge. Most of the provincial and large towns now have ATM’s however you should always double check before you leave for some of the remote areas.
What to Pack
For your Cambodia tour, wear light, airy, covering clothing to protect yourself from the sun during the day and mosquitoes at night. The sun can be quite intense at times so bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Consider buying a traditional Khmer scarf (karma) or a sarong to keep the sun off your neck. Carry a lightweight rain coat during the green season, though you will probably only need it in the afternoon. Lightweight throw away ponchos can be bought almost everywhere locally. You should have mosquito repellent for sunrise and sunset hours. Wear practical shoes when discovering the temples for climbing narrow steps and walking on uneven surfaces.
As in all warm climates you only require light clothing. If you do forget anything you can easily purchase essentials once you are here.
Passport (with photocopies)
Travel insurance (with photocopies)
Airline tickets (with photocopies)
USD cash and travellers checks
Credit or debit card
Sun hat, sun block, sunglasses
Sturdy walking shoes/sport sandals
Waterproof clothes for wet season May-Oct. Umbrella or waterproof jacket
Cover for backpack or plastic bags to keep clothes dry
Camera and film
First-aid kit (should contain lip salve, aspirin, band aids, anti-histamine, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhoea, re-hydration powder, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)
Responsible Travel (Charity)
We are committed to responsible and sustainable tourism and all of our Cambodia tours are designed with the local people and the culture of the country in mind.
We try to help make a difference wherever we can, from supporting various charitable organizations to making the conscious effort of being as green. All vehicles used on our Cambodia tours run on Bio Diesel supplied by ‘Naga Bio Diesel’.
There are so many wonderful charities and projects in Cambodia. Unfortunately we can’t help them all, but we have chosen to support:
HUSK is a Cambodian NGO (Non Government Organization) that works towards improving the lives of families in Siem Reap creating opportunities for a brighter and healthier future. HUSK is initially working with the communities in Treak and Kompheim villages. Projects that HUSK are currently working on include: building water wells, providing communities with water filters and building schools as well as providing an English education for village children. See Cambodia Differently is happy to work alongside HUSK in an attempt to help improve the quality of living in these areas and hopefully give the local people a chance to broaden their horizons.
Exchange Rate (approximately)
- 1 US Dollar (USD) = 4000 riel
- 1 Pound (GBP) = 6644 riel
- 1 Euro (EUR) = 4897 riel
- 1 Hong Kong dollar (HKD) = 510 riel
- 1 Australian dollar (AUD) = 2863 riel
- 1 Canada dollar (CAN) = 2902 riel
Introduction to Cambodia
On a Cambodia tour, you will see a country of incredible beauty, with famous temples, fertile plains dotted with rice fields, and a history unlike any other. The dominant religion is Buddhism, which places value on hospitality and kindness. Each year, Cambodia draws millions of tourists who come to enjoy the country’s breathtaking sights and enter the walls of Angkor Wat – one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The ancient Khmer Empire ruled much of Southeast Asia for centuries and gave Angkor Wat to the world. However, for four years in the late 1970′s Cambodia came under the control of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. The country fell victim to a failed political ideal that left over two million of the nations citizens dead from disease, malnutrition and persecution.
Many people only know of Cambodia in terms of these two periods but there is far more to this country than ancient temples and past tragedies. Its topography and climate are as varied as its culture. The Tonle Sap Lake at the heart of Cambodia is one of the richest freshwater fishing grounds in the world and is home to a variety of migratory birds. Cambodia’s mountain and jungle areas abound with rare and beautiful fauna. In these regions the indigenous tribal peoples continue to follow a centuries-old way of life. Cambodia has its own unique and much underrated cuisine and produces delicious, organic meat and fruit. This was showcased in Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey cooking program and in Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape to Cambodia.
The burgeoning Cambodia tour industry has brought relative wealth to some Provinces while in others the life of Cambodia’s agricultural workers has changed little in a millennium. The Khmer people have a warmth, strength and spirituality that is a surprise and delight to most visitors. There seems to be an unquenchable spirit, humor and gentle pride in most Cambodians that perhaps explains how they have succeed in surviving years of political experimentation and civil war.
On you Cambodia tour, you will find an extraordinary country that offers the adventurous visitor a wealth of experiences. ‘See Cambodia Differently’ and explore this wonderful kingdom with us!
- Full name: Kingdom of Cambodia
- Population: 14.8 million (UN, 2009)
- Population Make Up: Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese 1%, Other 4%
- Capital and largest city: Phnom Penh
- Area: 181,035 sq km (69,898 sq miles)
- Time Zone: 1GMT + 7 Hours
- Major language: Khmer
- Major religion: Buddhism 95%
- Life expectancy: 59 years (men), 63 years (women) (UN)
- Main exports: Clothing, timber, rubber
- Economy: Agriculture 75%, Services and Industry 25%
- GNI per capita: US $600 (World Bank, 2008)
- International dialling code: +855
Cambodia has two main seasons the green season and the dry season, with a couple of what could be called sub-seasons in between where it is slightly hotter or cooler.
You can take a Cambodia tour at any time of the year, as it has a mild tropical climate. Travelers should not be put off by the myth of South East Asia’s monsoon period or ‘Green Period’ as we like to call it.
The ‘Green Season’ extends from May until October and is an extremely good time to travel. The rain tends to come in short sharp down pours and at this time the country is probably at its most beautiful. The sights are also a lot less crowded and Angkor is surrounded by lush foliage and the moats are all full of water, perfect for that picture postcard photograph.
The ‘Dry Season’ is from November to April. The most pleasant time to travel is from November to February when the weather is dry and cool; the days are full of bright crisp autumn like days.
The weather is at its hottest and stickiest in late March and April, when temperatures hover around thirty-five degrees centigrade.
The country has something to offer at any time of the year and our Cambodia tours and tailor made itineraries, will make sure you get the most out of your trip whatever time of year you travel.
Khmer New Year
Cambodian New Year ‘Chol Chnam Thmey’ means “Enter the New Year”. The holiday lasts for three days beginning on New Year’s Day, most commonly April 13th but sometimes on the 12th or 14th in their keeping with the lunar calendar. This time of the year is the end of the harvesting season. The farmers enjoy the fruits of their harvest and relax before the rainy season begins.
Khmer New Year is also the time to prepare special dishes. One of these is kralan, a cake made from steamed rice mixed with beans or peas, grated coconut and coconut milk. The mixture is stuffed inside a bamboo stick and slowly roasted.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony
The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is an ancient royal rite held in Cambodia and Thailand to mark the traditional beginning of the rice-growing season. In the Khmer language, it is called “Preah Reach Pithi Chrot Preah Neangkol”
It normally takes place in in May, but the date varies as it is determined by Hora (astrology)
Water Festival (Bonn Om Touk)
The Khmer Water Festival is celebrated in November with every town and province joining in the celebrations but the best place to be is Phnom Penh. For three days, workers from every province join with the city’s residents to celebrate by night and day.
The river comes alive with fireworks and a flotilla of over 300 brightly-lit boats propelled by precision-trained oarsmen who take part in the annual boat race. It is not surprising that the city takes on a carnival air during this period.You can even book a cruise from Groove Cruise and watch everything from a luxury boat.
The full moon which coincides with the festival is worshipped by many households as this good omen promises a bountiful harvest. The highlight of the festival is a series of boat races. These take place over three days and honor the twelfth century Khmer naval victories achieved under King Jayavarman VII.
Bon Om Thook is an ancient festival having its roots in a time when the Angkorian kings would test the fighting prowess of their warriors by holding competitions. The races were a form of training and a means by which the king could choose his champions. To this end they were used in a similar way to jousting tournaments in medieval Europe in apartments amsterdam. Cambodian temple carvings at Bayon and Banteay Chmar have numerous depictions of battles fought on water. Spiritually, the festival provides a chance to give thanks to Buddha for the year’s rice crop, to ask for sufficient rain in the coming year and usher in the fishing season.
The Water Festival also marks a unique natural phenomenon – the Tonle Sap River reverses the flow of its current. It is probably the only waterway in the world which flows in opposite directions at different times of the year. From November to May, the Tonle Sap River runs into the Mekong just like any other tributary. But with the arrival of the monsoon rains, there is such build-up of water in the main stream that excess pours into the Tonle Sap river, forcing it to change direction an flow back into the Tonle Sap lake.
Bon Phchom Ben (Khmer Festival of the Ancestors)
If taking a Cambodia tour in the Autumn, you can witness Bon Phchom Ben, the festival dedicated to the spirits of the dead. During this 15 day period following the full moon, food and money are offered to monks. On the 15th day of the festival the new moon appears. This day is Bonn Phchom Ben (the collection of the Bens, or offerings). It is believed that the souls of the dead will not leave a place in the light of the full moon so the festival ends when the night is at its darkest. It is also believed that dead relatives will return to haunt their descendents if suitable offerings are not made. Respect for ancestors and fear of ghosts (K’maoch) are both strong elements in the Khmer belief system.
There are so many cultural differences; it’s very useful if you read about some of them before making your Cambodia tour.
Permission should be sought before taking pictures of people, particularly monks. Avoid touching someone on the head as it is considered the most sacred part of a person’s body. Women should wear modest clothing, preferably a long skirt or loose-fitting trousers. When visiting religious sites, shoes should be removed, and shorts avoided. A traditional greeting in Cambodia is a bow, bringing together the hands at chest level (similar to hand position for prayer). With foreigners Cambodians sometimes convert to the handshake. The simple rule is to respond with the same greeting you were given.
Here are a few more points:
- Don’t go topless unless you’re on a beach – men and women alike.
- Do accept food when offered – it’s rude not to.
- Don’t point your feet at any religious statue or shrine.
- Do be prepared to be stared at like a zoo animal and be asked personal questions.
- Don’t touch monks if you’re female.
- Do be open and talkative – most people are thrilled to welcome and talk to you.
- Do carry your own toilet paper if it matters to you – it’s a rare commodity.
- Don’t offer food or drinks with your left hand – this is your hygiene hand in the absence of toilet paper.