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Cambodia Travel Guide
 

Getting there Health
Getting around Going out
Passport & Visa Top things to do
Money Top things to see
Duty Free Communication
Public holidays Climate
Travel tips Map
Accommodation    

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GETTING THERE

Getting There by Air
Bangkok Airways (website: www.bangkokair.com) and Thai Airways International (website: www.thaiair.com) fly between Cambodia and Thailand. Malaysia Airlines (website: www.malaysiaairlines.com)  flies from Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam Airlines (website: www.vietnamairlines.com)  from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and Lao Airlines (website: www.laos-airlines.com)  from Vientiane.

Approximate Flight Times
From Bangkok to Phnom Penh is 1 hour 15 minutes (there are no long haul flights outside Asia). From London to Bangkok is 11 hours 20 minutes.

Main Airports
Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) (website: www.cambodia-airports.com/phnompenh)  is 10km (6 miles) from Phnom Penh. To/from the airport: Taxis and motorbike taxis to the city are available (journey time - 10 minutes). For pre-arranged tours a pick-up service is available. Facilities: Left luggage, bureaux de change, shops, duty-free, post office and light refreshments.

Siem Reap International Airport (REP) (website: www.cambodia-airports.com/siemreap)  is 8km (5 miles) from Siem Reap. To/from the airport: Taxis and motorbike taxis to Siem Reap are available (journey time - 7 to 10 minutes). For pre-arranged tours a pick-up service is available. Facilities: Left luggage, bureau de change, shops and light refreshments.

Departure Tax
US$25 levied on international departures at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap; US$13 for children under 12. Children less than two years of age are exempt.

Getting There by Water
Main ports: Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.

Phnom Penh can be reached via the Mekong Delta through Vietnam. This route is served by regular passenger ferry services from Chau Doc in Vietnam and can be booked through travel agencies or at the dock. Sihanoukville is reached from Thailand through the border crossing at Hat Lek and the boat from Koh Kong. Tickets can be purchased at the dock in Sihanoukville.

Getting There by Road
The Thai and Vietnamese borders are open for overland access. The main highway links the capital with the Vietnam border. Border checkpoints include Poipet, Cham Yeam, O'Smach, Anlong Veng and Psar Prom (Thailand), Bavet, Kaam Samnor and Phnom Den (Vietnam). The border with Laos at Stung Treng is currently closed so travellers should check the situation as it changes regularly. Cross-border bus services are from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam operated by Phnom Penh Sorya Transport Company (tel: (23) 210 359; website: www.ppsoryatransport.com).

Note: It is possible to drive from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City in a day but there are formalities involved regarding the use of the same vehicle all the way. Right-hand drive vehicles (quite common in Cambodia) are not allowed entry to Vietnam. Vietnamese visas must be obtained in advance but Cambodian visas can be obtained at the border.

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GETTING AROUND

Getting Around by Air
Internal flights operate between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for Angkor (journey time - 45 minutes). The main domestic carriers are Siem Reap Airways International (website: www.siemreapairways.com)  and PMT Air (website: www.pmtair.com). PMT Air has suspended internal flights in 2008 while they upgrade their fleet, but continue to fly internationally. Battambang, Sihanoukville, Banlung, Sen Monorom and Stung Treng all have airports, but at the time of writing there are only flights to Banlung from Phnom Penh.

Domestic airports: The upgraded Siem Reap Airport, the main gateway for visitors going to see the ancient temples at Angkor, is a 7- to 10-minute taxi ride from the city.

Departure Tax
US$60 for foreign nationals.

Getting Around by Water
Government-run ferries depart from the Psar Cha Ministry of Transport Ferry Landing between 102 and 104 Streets and go to Siem Reap, a route popular with travellers. Tickets can be bought in person at the dock or through a travel agent. Travel can be difficult in the dry season when the water level is very low and often boat services are suspended.

Getting Around by Rail
Cambodia has only one functioning train service, running once a week from Phnom Penh Railway Station to Battambang on Saturdays and vice-versa on Sundays. Although the carriage is basic and the trip takes longer than going by bus, it's an excellent way of viewing rural Cambodia.

Getting Around by Road
Traffic drives on the right. Roads vary from excellent to very poor and there are numbered routes from Phnom Penh with Route 1 leading to the Vietnamese border. Care should be taken while driving as accidents are relatively frequent. Other vehicles cannot always be relied on to use headlights at night. Given the predominant use of motorcycles for urban public transportation, travellers should ensure that any insurance policies provide coverage for riding as a driver or passenger. Cattle often stray onto the roads. In Siem Reap, the local police have banned rental outlets from hiring motorcycles to tourists because of the high number of accidents.

Coach/bus: Long-distance buses operated by Phnom Penh Sorya Transport Company (tel: (23) 210 359; website: www.ppsoryatransport.com)  travel to destinations such as Kampot, Sihanoukville, Battambang and Siem Reap.

Taxi: Taxis can be hired in main cities, although they are not metered so the price has to be fixed in advance. Tips are appreciated.

Car hire: It is really only possible to hire a car with a driver. Car hire can be arranged by private negotiation with a taxi waiting outside the hotels or through tour operators.

Regulations: The wearing of seat belts is not compulsory.

Documentation: An International Driving Permit is not recognized in Cambodia, and as car hire does not exist, visitors are advised to hire a car with a driver.

Around Towns and Cities
There are no public buses in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Taxis wait outside hotels and restaurants but, as they are unmetered, the fare should be fixed before leaving. Cyclos (tricycles) or motodops (motorcycle taxis) are an efficient and inexpensive way to get around and some of the drivers, especially those found outside main hotels, speak a little French or English. Siem Reap also has motorized tuk tuks.

Note: In terms of the greatest risks (particularly in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville), the greatest danger faced by visitors is from road traffic accidents, armed robbery after dark, bag snatching and landmines.

Journey Times
The following chart gives approximate journey times from Phnom Penh (in hours and minutes) to other major cities/towns in Cambodia.

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PASSPORT & VISA

 

Passport Required?
British                   Yes
Australian              Yes
Canadian               Yes
USA                      Yes
Other EU               Yes

Visa Required?
British                   Yes
Australian              Yes
Canadian               Yes
USA                      Yes
Other EU               Yes

Return Ticket Required?
British                   No
Australian              No
Canadian               No
USA                      No
Other EU               No

Passports
Passport valid for at least six months after date of return from Cambodia required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.

Visas
Required by all nationals referred to in chart above.

Note: Visitors arriving by air can obtain a visa for stays of up to 30 days on arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, Phnom Penh or Siem Reap International Airport, Angkor. Visas are also available from Immigration at the border posts of Bavet, Poi Pet and Koh Kong. Visitors are advised to check current situation before traveling. E-Visas are only valid for entry via Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport, Cham Yeam land border, Poi Pet land border and Bavet land border.

Note: Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements (see Contact Addresses).
Visa Note
Applications by post will only be accepted through a recognized visa courier. For further details, contact the nearest consulate (or consular section of embassy).

Nationals flying in to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap International Airport will be able to apply for a 30-day visa on arrival in Cambodia.
Types of Visa and Cost
Tourist (single-entry): £15 (£30 for express); Business (single-entry): £20 (£40 for express); Transit: £10 (£20 for express); E-Visa: US$20 plus an additional US$5 handling fee. Express visas are issued within 24 hours.

Validity
All visas are valid for a one month period, and visas issued by the embassy must be used within three months of date of issue. Extensions of up to one extra month for Tourist visas or six or 12 months for Business visas (which can be multiple) may be granted by the Ministry of the Interior at the Immigration Office in Phnom Penh.

Applications to:
Consulate (or consular section of embassy); see Contact Addresses.

Visitors can also apply for an electronic visa (e-Visa) online through the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation (website: www.mfaic.gov.kh). At present, visitors traveling on an e-Visa must enter Cambodia at either Phnom Penh International Airport or Siem Reap International Airport. Tourists on package tours will normally have their visas arranged by the tour operator.

Working Days Required
Five from day of receipt of application form. Express visas are issued within 24 hours. E-Visas are issued within three working days; the visa is delivered electronically to the applicant's mailbox.

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MONEY

 

Currency
Riel (KHR; symbol CR). Notes are in denominations of CR100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000, 500, 200 and 100.

Currency Exchange
US Dollars are widely accepted and exchanged as are Thai Baht close to the Thai border, but other currencies are generally only recognized at banks.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
Credit cards are now more widely accepted in upmarket hotels, shops and restaurants catering to visitors. There are ATMs in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. It is always best to carry cash (US Dollars if necessary) in small denominations.

Traveler's Cheques
Limited acceptance. Traveler's cheques are generally not recommended. Traveler's cheques in US Dollars can be changed at banks and some hotels, but can be difficult to change outside major cities.

Banking Hours
Mon-Fri 0800-1500. Some banks are open on Saturdays 0800-1130.

Exchange Rate Indicators
Date Jan 09
£1.00 CR5,865.35
$1.00 CR4,047.95
€1.00= CR5,490.47

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DUTY FREE


The following goods may be imported into Cambodia without incurring customs duty:

• 200 cigarettes or equivalent in tobacco.
• Reasonable amount of perfume for personal use.
• One opened bottle of liquor.

Note: Currency must be declared.


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PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
 

2009
1 Jan New Year's Day.
7 Jan Victory Day.
Feb* Meak Bochea Day.
8 Mar Women's Day.
Apr* Cambodian New Year.
1 May Labour Day.
May* Visaka Buja Day (Birth of Buddha).
May* Royal Ploughing Day Ceremony.
13-15 May King Sihamoni's Birthday.
1 Jun International Children's Day.
18 Jun Former Queen's Birthday.
24 Sep Constitution and Coronation Day.
Sep/Oct* Pchum Ben Day.
23 Oct Paris Peace Agreement.
31 Oct Former King Sihanouk's Birthday.
Nov* Water Festival.
9 Nov Independence Day.
10 Dec Human Rights Day.

*Date to be confirmed.

Note
The religious festivals are determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar and are therefore variable. Public holidays falling on a Saturday or Sunday are carried forward to the following working day.


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HEALTH


Vaccinations

Special Precautions
Diphtheria                  Yes
Hepatitis A                 Yes
Malaria                      Yes
Rabies                       Sometimes
Tetanus                     Yes
Typhoid                     Yes
Yellow Fever              No*
Inoculation regulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice in the case of doubt. Where 'Sometimes' appears in the table above, precautions may be required, depending on the season and region visited.

* A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required by travelers arriving within 10 days from infected areas.

Food and Drink
All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should first be boiled or otherwise sterilised. Bottled water is widely available. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Other Risks
Cholera may be a serious risk in this country and precautions are essential. Up-to-date advice should be sought before deciding whether these precautions should include vaccination.

Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is present; avoid swimming and paddling in fresh water. Giardiasis, dysentery, typhoid fever and dengue fever are common throughout Cambodia. Hepatitis B is hyperendemic. Japanese encephalitis occurs in rural areas from May to November and is relatively common in the highlands, where there are rice fields and pigs, as both are needed for the disease to occur. The vaccine is only usually given for people traveling in rural areas for four weeks or more.

Epidemics of avian influenza (bird flu) were reported in Asia in 2004 and again in 2005, and some human cases were confirmed. Visitors should avoid bird farms or markets, where contact with poultry might occur.

HIV/AIDS is endemic and safe sex practices are essential.

Health Care
Health insurance, including emergency evacuation, is absolutely essential. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payments for any medical treatment. The cost of medical evacuation is high. The hospital in Phnom Penh is reliable. It is suggested that any visitors bring adequate supplies of any essential personal medication, since that medication may not be available in Cambodia.

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ACCOMMODATION

Hotels
Accommodation standards have improved greatly, especially in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, with a variety of hotels and hostels. Elsewhere there is usually one good standard hotel in town, although facilities are limited. There is no official grading of hotels and the prices are the only way to decide the quality of a hotel.

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have some superb hotels with all the facilities and services expected in international-standard properties, such as air conditioning, satellite TV, room service, restaurants, bars and swimming pool. There is also a good selection of mid-range hotels with many of the same facilities apart from room service and swimming pool.

Guest Houses
There is a variety of good guest houses available in the capital and in most towns around Cambodia. Facilities are limited but often include air conditioning or a fan and a restaurant. Some have shared bathrooms. Some budget guest houses do not have restaurants so guests have to buy breakfast in a local cafe.

Budget hotels and hostels are plentiful, although they tend to be very basic and are best suited to backpackers.

Camping/Caravanning
There are no campsites in Cambodia. A few travel companies arrange camping for organized groups who are traveling right off the beaten track, and all camping equipment is supplied. There are plans to build an extensive campsite at Kampot River, with a provisional opening date of October 2009.

Youth Hostels
These are available in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.

Self Catering
Many companies offer villas for long stay breaks in Cambodia. The best are centered around major cities like Phnom Penh.
 

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GOING OUT


Food and Drink
Eating out is big business Cambodia, with many good restaurants in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. Food stalls are also common in all towns and cities, and are a great place to sample Cambodian food. Khmer cuisine is very similar to Thai, but with fewer spices involved and a preponderance for coconut milk.

National specialties:
• Prahok (fermented fish paste) is used to flavor most dishes.
• Succulent fruits include banana, coconut, the durian fruit (known for its distinctive odour), jackfruit, longan fruit, lychee, pineapple and rambutan fruit (which has translucent white flesh).
• Crispy fried spiders are a snack for the adventurous in Northern Cambodia.
• Amok trey (fish in a thick coconut curry sauce, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed).
• Rice noodles proliferate and can be bought covered in curry sauce from street vendors.

National drinks:
• Fresh coconut juice.
• Green tea.
• Rice wine.
• The local beer is called Angkor.
• The most popular, and refreshing, Khmer drink is soda water with a squeeze of lemon.

Legal drinking age: There are no age restrictions.

Tipping: Tips are appreciated in hotels and restaurants where no service charge has been added, and by tour guides.

Nightlife
The nightlife in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and to a lesser extent in Sihanoukville, is pretty vibrant, mainly because of the large number of visitors and expat residents. There are bars and restaurants but very few clubs and live music venues. Bars and restaurants range from dingy, smoky bars to upmarket cocktail bars and elegant restaurants. Major tourist areas of Phnom Penh can be pretty seedy, with numerous strip clubs, so make sure you check out a venue before paying the cover charge.

Major hotels offer entertainment, and weekly Apsara (traditional Khmer dance) performances are often held from November to March in hotel gardens, mainly in Siem Reap. Gambling is a major past time in Cambodia and there are several casinos in Sihanoukville and on the border with Thailand.

Shopping
Cambodian artisans are very skilled and there is no shortage of handicrafts to buy. Unique to Cambodia is the krama, a checked scarf made of cotton or silk. Silk is still handwoven in Cambodia and is a ‘must buy' either as lengths of material or in the form of scarves, bags or purses.

Silver is another great buy in Cambodia. Khmer silversmiths craft delicate anklets and necklaces, which make fantastic souvenirs. You can also buy silver cutlery and dining-ware.

The markets in Cambodia are always a great source of souvenirs. Try the Central Market, in Phnom Penh, which is well worth a visit as it sells clothes, gifts and jewellery. Gems are a particularly good buy but only spend large amounts if you know a bit about what you are buying. The Russian Market (Psar Toul Tom Poung) is crammed with stalls holding a vast selection of bargain souvenirs including clothing, silverware, jewellery, silk, bags, DVDs, CDs and ceramics, as is the Old Market in Siem Reap. Bargaining is expected in the markets, which are open daily from around 0700 to 1700 hours. Look out for shops selling handicrafts to raise money for disadvantaged Cambodians.

Shopping hours: Daily 0800-2000.

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TOP THINGS TO DO


• Take a river cruise along the Tonle Sap from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. It's a great way to laze through Cambodia's wetlands.

• Go for an elephant ride in Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri; remember to grab a tour guide.

• Be a part of the extravagant Water Festival. Taking place in October/November, it is around this time that the Tonle Sap changes direction, leaving behind an abundance of fish. Crowds mingle on the river banks in Phnom Penh to watch hundreds of brightly coloured boats and their paddlers battle it out for top honours.

• Watch a traditional Cambodian Apsara dance. Siem Reap is probably the best place to watch a dance display, although travellers can occasionally catch a spontaneous one in the villages.

• Go dolphin-spotting near Kratie. Viewing Cambodia's fresh water dolphins is immensely rewarding. The best time to go is early morning or late afternoon.

• Swim in volcanic Yak Lom lake near Banlung town in Rattanakiri province. The water is clear and cool and the surrounding forest is ideal for a picnic.

• Fire a rocket launcher or M-16 in Phnom Penh. There aren't many other places in the world that would let you near such lethal weaponry. A serious reminder of the troubles Cambodia's been through.
 

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TOP THINGS TO SEE

• Delight in Cambodia's Buddhist temples, such as Preah Vihear. Located in the Dangrek Mountains, the site is home to various festivals, especially during the Cambodian New Year.

• Visit the interrogation centre of Pol Pot's regime in Phnom Penh, the chilling Toul Sleng Museum of Genocide, also called S-21 (security office 21). It is also possible to visit The Killing Fields/Cheoung Ek Memorial, just outside the city.

• Do not miss Phnom Penh's gorgeous Royal Palace, which has a stunning and famous Silver Pagoda. Be sure to pay extra attention to the floor - it contains 5,000 silver tiles.

• Explore the magnificent temples of Angkor, the remains of the once mighty Khmer civilisation. Angkor Wat is the most famous temple, but the surrounding areas are worth visiting too. Go at sunrise or sunset.

• See the much photographed Ta Prohm at Angkor, easily recognisable because of the roots of massive trees growing through the building. They are left there to show how many of the temples looked before they were reclaimed from the jungle.

• Examine the extensive collection of Khmer artifacts in the distinctive, red-brick, pseudo-Khmer-style National Museum, constructed by the French in 1917.

• Hold your nose at Stung Meanchey Garbage Dump. A visit here will show you how many children spend their days: sifting through rotting rubbish for food and things to sell. A shocking and humbling experience.

• Travel to the little-visited northeast province of Rattanakiri, where there are hill tribes, gem mines and unspoilt national parks.

• Climb up to abandoned Bokor, the former French hill station, where there are the eerie remains of a hotel, casino, church, villas and a former royal residence. Equally as eerie, take time to visit Kep, once a beach resort which was destroyed in the 1970s.

• Relax at Sihanoukville, Cambodia's only beach resort, with its sandy beaches and offshore islands which are ideal for scuba-diving.
 

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COMMUNICATIONS

 

Telephone
Country code: 855. Prepaid telephone cards are available in post offices, hotels and shops for public phones around Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Mobile Telephone
Roaming agreements exist with many international mobile phone companies. Coverage is good in major towns and cities and patchy elsewhere.

Internet
Available in some areas. Internet cafes are available in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and other major towns.

Post
Airmail to Europe takes at least a week, and longer to the USA. The main post office in Phnom Penh is located on the western side of 13 Street between 98 Street and 102 Street, open 0630-2100.

Post office hours: Generally Mon-Fri 0730/0800-1700/1730, sometimes closed for lunch.

Media
Much of Cambodia's media depends on support from political parties. Press freedom is not guaranteed but Prime Minister Hun Sen has declared his public support for press freedom. There are no restrictions on satellite dish ownership and neighbouring foreign radio broadcasts are easily received.

Press
• Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post (fortnightly) and are printed in English.
• Reaksmei Kampuchea and Kaoh Santepheap are pro-government dailies.

TV
• National Television of Cambodia (TVK) is a state broadcaster.
• Aspara TV and TV3 are commercial stations.
• CTN, CTV9, Bayon TV and TV5 are private broadcasters.

Radio
• National Radio of Cambodia is a state broadcaster.
• FM 95 (operated by Bayon Radio and TV News Agency), Radio FM 97 (operated by Aspara Radio and TV Radio) and Radio FM 103 are all commercial broadcasters.
 

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CLIMATE

Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate. The monsoon season runs from May to November. The most pleasant season is the dry season, from November/December to April. In the north, winters can be colder, while throughout most of the country temperatures remain fairly constant. There is often seasonal flooding in Phnom Penh and the rest of Cambodia in late July and early August, and travel may be disrupted at these times.

Required Clothing

Lightweight clothing is worn all year. Rainwear is essential during the monsoon season.


 

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MAP

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TRAVEL TIPS

Most visits to Cambodia are trouble-free, however public order is fragile. Travelers should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. The greatest risks to travelers are from road traffic accidents, armed robbery after dark, landmines and unexploded ordnance in rural areas.

Travelers should be aware of the risk of robbery and other crime (including sexual offences) in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, particularly after dark, and take sensible precautions. Travelers should be on their guard against pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially when traveling around the cities.

Outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) in Cambodia have resulted in a small number of human fatalities. As a precaution, travelers should avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where they may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
 

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Cambodia major places of interest:
 Phnom Penh, Mondulkiri, Siem Reap/ Angkor, Kratie, Battambang, Kampot, Preah Vihear
Banlung (Ratanakiri), Sihanoukville, Kampong Thom

 

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