CAMBODIA > FACTS ABOUT THE VISITORS
There are direct flights to the capital
of Phnom Penh from Bangkok, Hanoi, Hochiminh City,
Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Guangzou and
Vientiane. All of these cities serve as gateways
to Cambodia. From Phnom Penh, there are direct flights
to Siemreap the home of Angkor Wat, now operating
on a daily basis. Direct flights also exist from
Bangkok to Siem Reap. Cambodia can also be reached
by road from Thailand and Vietnam. From Poipet (Anranya
Prathet in Thailand), and Koh Kong (near Koh Chang
in Thailand). The latter involves a ferry from the
Thai side to Koh Kong then a speedboat into Sihanoukville.
From Vietnam there are daily buses running between
Ho Chi Minh City and Phonm Penh. Saigon Tourist
now offers a trip from Chau Doc in the Mekong Delta
to Phnom Penh by slow boat and speedboat. It is
also possible to travel into Laos from Cambodia,
but not entirely legal yet. From Stung Treng it's
possible to pay your way into southern Laos, but
it is necessary to charter a speedboat and pay bribes.
Make sure your visas are in order first.
The dress code for Cambodia is casual, and for
sightseeing tours, particularly Angkor Wat, cool
comfortable clothes, walking shoes, sunscreen
lotion and a hat are recommended. Visitors to
the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda should cover
their knees and shoulders, and shoes should be
removed before entering temples.
VISA AND DOCUMENTS
A fifteen-day tourist visa can be obtained at
US$ 20 upon arrival at Pochentong Airport. It
is valid for one month. Visitors should bring
along at least 4 photos, and sign the visa applications
form upon arrival. However, there are rumors that
this practice may be discontinued, so to be on
the safe side, apply for a visa elsewhere. Visa
extensions are possible through the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Security,
or the Office of Immigration. The processing time
is 10 days! If you fail to extend your visa, you
will be charged US$3 for each day you overstay.
When entering Cambodia, all visitors must declare
valuables, including foreign currency, gold, jewelry
and electronic equipment.
The official currency in Cambodia is the Riel
which come in denominations of 100, 200, 500,
1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 50000 and 100000 notes.
However, in the major towns and cities, US dollars
can be freely spent, it actually serves as a second
currency that is more readily accepted, although
travelers are recommended to use smaller denomination
notes as change may be difficult. Exchange rates
are subject to fluctuation. Most places will refuse
old, tatty or damaged US bills. Popular local
and international currencies can be exchanged
openly and freely. It can be difficult to change
traveler’s checks outside Phnom Penh, Siem
Reap, Sihanoukville, Battambang and Kompong Cham.
Otherwise, there are no ATMs and credit cards
are rarely accepted. You can get cash advances
on your credit card at several banks. In every
case, commissions are very high; they will have
to phone Bangkok for confirmation. It is possible
to change traveler’s checks and get credit
card cash advances in the casinos. Of course,
their motivation is to get the money "back"
at the tables. Banks are open during weekdays
from 7:30 to 14:30. Some open also at Saturday.
Tipping is not expected in Cambodia, but salaries
are very low so it is always appreciated. Bargaining
is the rule in markets, when hiring vehicles and
sometimes even when taking a room.
POST AND COMMUNICATIONS
From Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, it is normally
easy to make international calls, although it
is expensive. Calls are often charged even if
the connection is not made - check with the telephone
operator. Cambodia's international telephone code
is +855. The area code for Phnom Penh is 23. The
mobile phone has become a necessity in Cambodia.
Public telephones normally require purchase of
phone cards that can be bought at hotels post
offices and supermarkets. The postal system for
mail going out of the country is reasonably efficient,
with mail routed by air through Thailand. Incoming
post is extremely slow. Telegrams can be sent
to Australia, North America and Western Europe.
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Handbook by Michael
Footprint Cambodia Handbook: The Travel Guide
by Joshua Eliot, John Colet, Dinah Gardner
NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES
Foreign newspapers and magazines are not available
in Cambodia, even in Phnom Penh.
RADIO & TV:
It is possible to pick up the BBC World Service
and Voice of America.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO
It is wise to use discretion when taking photographs
and polite to ask people before taking their picture.
Cambodia is an exceptionally photogenic place
so expect to use a lot of film. Film for color
prints is readily available in Phnom Penh and
Siem Reap, but specialist equipment may be very
difficult or impossible to find.
TIME AND ELECTRICITY
Time: GMT + 7 hours. Electricity: 220 V, 50 Hz
The electricity supply in Phnom Penh and Siem
Reap is now regular, although most hotels and
restaurants still have their own generators. However,
power cuts should be expected in other parts of
the country, and in some areas electricity is
only available in the evenings from about 6:30pm
to 9:30pm. It is advisable to bring a torch and
candles. Most Cambodians light their houses with
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
All visitors to Cambodia should have up to date
inoculations as recommended by their doctors.
Although no health certificates or vaccinations
are required by the Cambodian authorities, it
is recommended that you get vaccinations against
tetanus, diphtheria, meningitis, a polio booster
and especially gamma globulin shots (against hepatitis
A). In addition to this, you should take a course
of malaria tablets. Take a medical kit including
Panadol, antihistamines, antibiotics, kaolin,
rehydration mixture, calamine lotion, bandages
and band-aids, scissors, insect repellent, etc.
Do not drink water directly from the tap. Visitors
should take preventive measures against mosquitoes
as in any tropical country, especially at dusk,
in the evenings; wear trousers, socks and long
sleeved shirts, and use insect repellent. According
to recent figures by UNAIDS, the United Nations
program, about half of Cambodia's prostitutes
are HIV positive. The total figure of the population
with the disease is estimated at 120,000, with
the most explosive growth in Asia. Bilharzias
(schistosomiasis) is a parasitic infection, caught
by contact with river water, and just getting
wet may be enough. The microscopic parasites in
the water burrow into the skin and causes damage
to the liver and other organs. It is a chronic
debilitation disease and Cambodia is one of the
most dangerous regions in Southeast Asia for contracting
Health insurance, especially medical evacuation
cover is recommended, as international standard
healthcare is minimal, especially in rural areas.
Although there are good doctors, hospitals are
sadly lacking up-to-date medical equipment. Doctors
and hospitals normally expect immediate cash payment.
If you regularly need some medicine, bring enough
of it with you since chances are that you will
not get the same or a replacement for it.
Despite the easing of political tensions in Cambodia,
violent outbreaks still occur. Visitors are advised
to avoid political gatherings, and to exercise
caution. Cambodia remains one of the world's most
heavily land mined countries, with an estimated
four to six million unexploded landmines strewn
around the countryside. The most heavily mined
part of the country is the Battambang, Banteay
Meanchey, Pursat, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces.
It is recommended that you travel with a local
guide in rural areas, and never venture off the
path into forest or dry paddy fields, even at
Angkor. Avoid solo travel during the day outside
provincial towns, and in all parts of the country
at night. Street crime is prevalent in the capital,
so take particular care at night.
Government offices: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and
2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Business offices:
08:00 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday
to Saturday. Shops: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 7 days a
week. Banks: 8:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Markets: 6:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. 7 days a week.
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
Water festival (October or November). This huge
festival is the biggest celebration of the year.
Over three days starting with the last full moon
day in October or the beginning of November, up
to a million people flock to the banks of Tonle
Sap and Mekong Rivers in Phnom Penh to watch the
boat racing which comprises of hundreds of brightly
colored boats with over 50 paddlers. In the evening
brightly decorated floats cruise along the river,
followed by beautiful fireworks displays. The
festival marks the changing of the flow of the
Tonle Sap River; it flows upstream during the
rainy season and changes direction when the rains
cease. The festival is also seen as thanksgiving
to the Mekong River for providing the country
with fertile land and abundant fish.
Pchum Ben (September) this is the most religiously
significant event of the year. The festival of
souls blesses the souls of ancestors, relatives,
and friends who have passed away. All Buddhist
temples, especially Wat Phnom, are the focal points
for this festival.
King Sihanouk's Birthday Celebration (October
31) Celebrations and festivities are held throughout
the capital. To honor the King's birthday. Sometimes
this coincides with the Water festivals resulting
in a massive celebration in front of the Royal
Khmer New Year's Day (Mid April) is celebrated
at the same time as the Thai New Year. Cambodians
decorate their homes to please the Heaven God
and people on the streets use small bags of water
and water pistols to bless people passing by.
This festival is one of the happiest times of
the year and everybody smiles.
Angkor Festival (November or December) this is
a performing arts festival at Angkor Wat with
artists from all over Asia performing great epic
stories, including the Ramayana, with their own
national dance costumes and music.
Royal Ploughing Day (May) This cultural ceremony
takes place in the large park next to the Royal
Palace and in front of the National Museum. The
Cambodians believe that the Ox has a role in determining
the fate of the agricultural harvest and the colorful
festival depicts real ploughing activities with
the King driving the Ox.
Independence Day (November 9) This ceremony takes
place at the site of the Independence Monument
at the junction of Norodom and Sihanouk Boulevards.
It is a celebration of Cambodia's gaining of independence
from France in 1953 with flags and bunting decorating
the whole city.
Chinese New Year (January or February) The Chinese
New Year is widely celebrated in Cambodia, especially
in Phnom Penh with some wonderful firework displays.
National Day (January 7) This festival marks the
end of the Khmer Rouge Regime.
International Half Marathon (Late December) This
International Half Marathon is held at Angkor
Wat and attracts competitors from all over the
Other Holidays and Festivals Cambodia also celebrates
other special days including: International Women's
Day (8 March), International Worker's Day (1 May),
Genocide Day (9 May), Vesak Bucha Day - the anniversary
of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha
(Late May), Ploughing the Holy Furrow (Late May),
Chol Vassa - Buddhist Lent (July), and International
Human Rights Day (10 December).
Cambodian cuisine is influenced by Thailand, Laos
and Vietnam, but there are some distinct local
dishes. Rice and Fish is the main staple of the
typical Cambodian diet though many dishes are
prepared with beef, pork or chicken. Seafood,
especially shrimps and crabs, is abundant in coastal
areas. Local specialties include Amok, fish cooked
in coconut milk, and a variety of soups and curries.
Most Cambodian dishes are cooked in a wok known
locally as a chnang khteak. Phnom Penh is very
cosmopolitan with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai,
Vietnamese, Malaysian, Nepalese, Indian, Turkish,
Mexican, French, and Western restaurants.
There is a large choice of entertainment venues
around Phnom Penh including lively nightclubs,
karaoke bars and fully licensed casinos. There
is also traditional Cambodian music and dance
and the Russian trained royal ballet. Bars and
nightclubs are plentiful, and many of them overlook
the river. Many of the international hotels provide
live entertainment for their guests such as jazz
pianists and vocalists singing contemporary ballads.
THINGS TO BUY
There are plenty of handicrafts and souvenirs
to buy in Cambodia, both at local souvenir stalls
and markets as well as in the smarter shops, especially
in the hotels. Handicrafts include beautiful Cambodian
silk and cotton, silver, gems woodcarvings, and
paintings. It is illegal to export antiques.