A Very Quick Guide to Cambodia

This very quick guide is a condensed introduction to the Kingdom of Cambodia. We have listed basic information and quick tips to help you understand the costs and practicalities of travelling in this wonderful country.

Visa

The  30 day Tourist Visa on Arrival is available for most nationalities. This costs $20 USD and you will need 1 or 2 passport photos for the application. As with most countries your passport must be valid for at least 6 months. You can also extend for a further 30 days at the Phenon Phen immigration office.

You can obtain a 30 day e-visa in advance from the Goverment Website which must be used within 3 months, this service costs $25 USD but be sure to check the website to see if the border you are crossing accept this type of visa as some of them still do not.

Money

The main currency used in Cambodia is the US Dollar, although they do not use US coins. For small change Cambodian Riel notes are used. As a general rule the $1 is 4000 Riel, the most common notes are 1000 Riel so its good to just think of these as a Quarter.

Cash machines dispense US dollars and you may have a problem if you try using Riel for larger purchases. Most places will also accept Thai Baht but make sure you know the exchange rate because you could find yourself losing a lot of cash. Also be careful to check your change in Riel, you may not lose much but some small shops will regularly short change tourists.

Angkor wat sunrise
Kelly at the Angkor Wat sunrise

Language

The official language of Cambodia is Khmer. English is widely spoken in the areas where travellers tend to be. The children may have learned English from a young age and it is very common to see very young children speaking perfect English. Older people may speak some French from the colonial era but English has really taken over as the second language of choice.

Some Basic Khmer Words
hello –¬†joohm ree-up soo-a
goodbye –¬†joohm ree-up lea [formal] / lee-hai [informal] please –¬†soam-un-jern
thank you –¬†arkun
sorry –¬†som-dtoah
yes –¬†baat
no –¬†a-dtay
More Here

Costs

Food

Like most countries in the area food is plentiful and cheap, most resturaunts will have food from $2 upwards but expect to pay $3-8 for a nice meal. Street food can be found from the $1 range. Local food is often cheaper than western food.

Drinks

Draft beer in a bar can be as low as 50 cents up to a few dollars, imported bottles are more expensive and you are usually looking between 1-4 dollars for most other drinks. Shops sell cans of beer at around 75 cents each and Wine and spirits can be found from around 5 dollars.

Hotels

Rooms can start as low as $5, but you really will not get much. Paying in the $10 – $20 range will usually get you a really nice room depending on location. Some hotels have bicycle rentals from $1 and standard Laundry service is usually $1 per kg.

Transport

Getting from city to city in Cambodia is relatively easy, expect to pay between $5 and $20 for buses around the country.  Boats can be more expensive at $30+. Getting around towns by tuk tuk is usually your cheapest option a $1 fare is pretty standard but can be more depending on the driver.

There is a lot of things you can bargain for in Cambodia, don’t be afraid of asking for a lower price but if they come down to your suggested price its pretty rude to not agree to the deal.

khmer amok
Khmer Amok – Some nicely presented local food under $2 with rice.

Popular Destinations

Siem Reap

Small city in the north west, very traveller friendly and the gateway to Angkor Wat. ¬†It has a little bit for everyone with a few nice temples, a lively night market and vibrant nightlife in the imaginatively¬†named “Pub Street.”

Angkor Wat Complex

Cambodia’s most famous attraction and amazing UNESCO world heritage site. A collection of amazing temples built around the 12th century in the hey day of the once mighty Khmer Empire. The full complex can take days to explore even by Tuk Tuk but there is still plenty to see if you prefer to take 1 or two days by tuk tuk or bicycle. Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is very popular and is definitely worth waking up early for, if you are rewarded with a clear day.

Phenom Phen

The capital city,  known for being a little bit grimy since the reign of the Khmer Rouge. It is centrally located, so you will probably end up here one or more times. The famous Killing fields are nearby as well as plenty of other activities.

Battambang

The second most populated city famous for its temples and killing caves.

Banlung 

A great place for more natural activities with Nation parks, lakes and waterfalls in abundance.

Sihanoukville

The southern coastal town known for its beaches a good gateway to the islands.

Kampot

A nice riverside town in the south used to access Bokor National Park.

Good To Know When Travelling Cambodia

Think of the Children

From time to time you will be approached by children or women with babies asking you to buy them milk or food, they will lead you to a shop where you purchase the goods and feel better about yourself. Unfortunately they will sell the goods straight back to the shop owner and the money will often go to an adult and keep them in this line if work instead of in school.

Childrens charities also recommend you do not buy goods from the children selling them, this can be hard to refuse and they are generally very poor and cute as hell but the problem remains that it will only lead to more child labor. Visits to orphanages are often seen to have a generally negative impact also as the children are in their home and can feel much more vulnerable if they are a tourist attraction.

This is not to say there are not some very good orphanages that allow visits but I would recommend much more further reading before you make the decision to visit an orphanage.

cambodian child
The little ones can be persistant

Sim Cards

It is very easy to buy a sim card in Cambodia, usually around 2 dollars. We use CellCard Cambodia which allowed unlimited* (*actually only 2gb at any decent speed) Data for $5. Calls are pretty cheap and standard across all the networks. Signal is usually good in the cities but lost in rural areas.

Massages

You may as well take advantage of the cheap massages here from $1, we are taking about the non sleazy kind here. The massages tend to be a little less rough than the Thai style massage and you can often see “blind massage” shops where they have blind people trained in the art of massage to make a living out of a skill they can master despite their blindness. Read More

Cambodian History

There is too much interesting Cambodian history to even begin to cover in this quick guide. From the Khmer Empire to the French colonial rule and the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime the story of Cambodia is remarkable and well worth reading up on before you arrive. Knowing the recent history will make you see todays Cambodia in a totally different way. Cambodian History Wikipedia Page

Further Reading

Wikitravel Cambodia РA much more In Depth guide to the country
Travelfish Cambodia – Guides written by travellers and people living in Cambodia as well as an active forum community
Lonely Planet Cambodia – Popular guidebook
WorldTravelist Cambodia A collection of blog posts from other travellers

Have any questions about Cambodia? Or do you have anything to add please leave a comment below.

Lee Carter

Born and raised in Accrington, UK, Lee has ventured far beyond his hometown, traveling throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, North America and New Zealand. He is the co-founder of Global Goose and as well as writing the occasional rant he can be found tweaking the code and taking photos of amazing things around the world. Lee and Kelly have no plans to stop their "Gap Decade" anytime soon.

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One Comment

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