If you are considering visiting Cambodia or just interested in reading about it, continue on.
Who Should Visit Cambodia
If you are interested in historical and ancient architectural ruins, beach vacations, island exploration, up and coming Southeastern Asian cities and attractions and jungle treks, it probably should stay on your list.
Who Should Not Visit Cambodia
You should probably avoid Cambodia if you require good medical care, are paranoid about catching tropical diseases or require first-world infrastructure.
Contained within my notes will be the best time to go to Cambodia, foods to try and a host of other details.
Best Time to Visit Cambodia
The best time for visiting Cambodia is November through April, as far as weather is concerned. In May and June, tourist numbers have declined and the rains have started, but the rains should come in heavy, short bursts which allow for you to explore places like Angkor Wat in between showers. Beach activity is curtailed and not really a great idea once June comes around. October is another possible shoulder month to visit Cambodia with lower than usual crowds, but aim for later October if that is the month you visit.
If you are taking a trip up the Tonle Sap River into the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve to go birding, (or for instance, to see the floating village of Prek Toal) you’re best bet is also during dry season (November through April) as the river, perhaps counter-intuitively, will be at its highest and the birds most plentiful.
Where to Visit in Cambodia
Let’s look at the main hubs:
Phnom Penh French-built capital of Cambodia situated on a river. Major tourist hub and most populous city in Cambodia.
Siam Reap is the main jumping off point to visit temple ruins such as Angkor Wat. Has boomed as a tourist attraction with accommodations ranging from cheap to luxurious so be prepared.
Battambang is the second most populous city behind Phnom Penh. Chilled out city with French colonial architecture. Used as a jumping off spot for nearby temples and Siam Reap. Functions as a transit/tradepoint between Thailand and southeastern Cambodia.
Sihanoukville is a popular coastal beach city that has mostly transformed into a backpacker-infested beach party locale. Easy and regular access from Phnom Penh. Access to multiple islands with various vibes are in close proximity from Sihanoukville. For more tranquil beach climes, head to Otres Beach. For the party, Serendipity Beach is your ticket.
Kep and Kampot Kep is a coastal resort that had its hey-day in the 1960s, before the being upstaged. It is laid back, with good seafood (including excellent crabs), good beach, a nearby National Park jungle replete with monkeys and affordable guesthouses. Kampot is a relaxed riverside town (just off the coast) next to Kep.
Kep & Kampot are internationally-renowned for the peppercorns (black pepper, white pepper, green pepper and red pepper) that are grown here. Harvest typically takes place between the beginning of January and the end of May. Depending on processing method employed, black, white, green and red peppercorns are produced.
Where is Cambodia located?
Cambodia is located in southeast Asia, with Thailand to the west and north, Laos to the north, Vietnam running on along the eastern and southern border. To the south-southwest runs the coastline along the Gulf of Thailand.
Is Cambodia Expensive?
Generally not, but it can be if you want to go full luxury style.
Tipping in Cambodia
Not necessary or expected but as more tourism occurs, more locals expects a tip. 0% tip for Taxis, up to 10% for Restaurants and Spas. A couple dollars for hair & porters.
Do I need a Visa before visiting Cambodia?
Yes, except for a few countries, most everyone requires a visa. At certain land crossings and airports (Siam Reap, Phnom Penh), these can be obtained on arrival (bring passport photo, visa fee, completed application form, etc. You can also apply for an e-Visa or apply at an embassy/consulate.
See http://www.embassyofcambodia.org/faq.html for more on the Visas.
Do I need vaccines to visit Cambodia? Medical concerns?
No specific vaccines are required unless you are traveling from a country with yellow fever. Hepatitis A & B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies are possible vaccines to consider. Additionally, malaria is possible even if probabilities are low.
Transportation into and around Cambodia
Flying into Cambodia
To visit Phnom Penh (PNH), Cambodia via the air, figure on a 21.5+ hour flight with connection from NYC to Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH), Cambodia, 19.5+ hours out of Los Angeles with a connection, 13 hours with one-stop from Frankfurt, 12 hours from Sydney with connection and 1 hour non-stop from Bangkok and 45 minutes non-stop from Saigon, Vietnam (bus service from Saigon and the Mekong Delta to most major destinations in Cambodia is more affordable and relatively simple). Cambodia is serviced by many major airlines. You can also fly into Siam Reap International Aiport (REP) if more convenient.
Getting from PNH Airport to Phnom Penh
Take a taxi, a tuk tuk or a motorbike. See here for more detail.
Getting from REP Airport to Siam Reap
Take a van taxi, a taxi, tuk tuk or motorbike. See here for more detail.
Getting Around Cambodia
Roads are not very good as a general rule, but they are getting better. Your options would be bus, shared minivan, private driver/van and for some locations along the Mekong River, boat. Expect slow and long travel via road. Once again, the Seat61 expertise comes to our aid in breaking this down.
Other Countries to Visit from Cambodia via Land
The most popular countries visited to/from Cambodia are Vietnam and Thailand. You can also make your way up into Laos via land.
What to Buy & Try in Cambodia
Cambodian cuisine makes much use of blending spices and herbs into base pastes (Kroeung) similar to the process that Indian cuisine utilizes with its own spice blending (curries). Cambodian cuisine utilizes ingredients such as lemongrass (leaf and stalk), galangal, kaffir lime (zest and leaf), turmeric, garlic, shallot, dried chile peppers, coconut milk and prahok (fermented fish paste). The cuisine heavily utilizes rice and freshwater fish (with seafood being predominant logically along the coastline).
For dishes to try while visiting Cambodia:
Amok kroeung-coated, coconut-milk dipped fish wrapped in banana leaves and steamed
Fresh crab and/or peppercorn dishes in Kep or Kampot (pepper crab for instance)
Nom Banh Chok aka “Khmer Noodles”: Fermented rice noodles with vegetable dish (traditionally breakfast)
Bai sach chrouk Coconut marinated pork with rice (traditionally breakfast)
Kuy teav Noodle soup made from beef/pork stock and augmented with fish balls, pork or in some instances, offal (traditionally breakfast)
Char Kroeung Sach Ko stir-fried lemongrass beef
Lok lak Marinated beef/pork/chicken stir-fry
Products to Buy in Cambodia
Peppercorns from Kampot region. However, make sure that you are buying the real deal. There are sellers who sell Vietnamese or other non-Kampot peppercorns.
Palm sugar is another specialty of Cambodia although not sure it is really practical
Rattan and similar woven products, such as baskets and furniture
Handicrafts such as woodcarvings and hand-woven goods
Silks as either raw bolts or finished goods
Simple Words and Phrases in Khmer
If you want to brush up on some lingo before visiting Cambodia, WikiTravel, as usual, has a nice Phrase Book for Khmer. Reading Khmer is a whole different beast to tackle.
Quick Travel Facts About Cambodia
Can you get by in Cambodia with English?
As in most parts of the world, younger people are typically going to be more adept at English than the older generations. Also, places with more tourists are going to have higher English proficiency. That said, it is always good (and respectful) to know key words in the native language when traveling, but Khmer is a very difficult language
What Power Plugs are Used in Cambodia:
The American Plug (Type A) and the European Plug (Type C) seem to be the major players, with a couple rare showing of the UK plug (Type G). Frequency is 50Hz and Voltage is 230V. Be careful using things like US hairdryers without a converter. Most electronics (battery chargers, mobile phones, etc.) only need an adapter plug but you should check first by calling the manufacturer, reading the literature or checking the item for markings before assuming like a dope.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Cambodia?
It is not advisable to drink the water when visiting Cambodia unless you want to teach your immune system something new. However, after much modernization and effort, Phnom Penh does now have one of the most efficient water systems in the world and the water reportedly meets international standards. The minor catch is that contamination is possible at some stage of the distribution and safe or not, many do not drink it.
What currency is used in Cambodia?
Officially, Cambodia Riel (KHR). See conversion.
To do a quick & dirty conversion on the fly between KHR and USD (given the rates as of this writing of approx 4,000KHR = $1USD) – whatever the KHR amount is, move the decimal over 3 places to the left and divide by 4 (or if you are math challenged, divide by 5 for a less accurate but rough approximation). So 2000KHR would be 2.000/4 or .50USD
However, note that many transactions can be done in USD. Small transactions, like a motorbike taxis, will often be done in KHR. And, if you get change, you can expect KHR. However, for things like lodging and so forth, expect to pay in USD. There are also instances of Thai Baht being used in Cambodia’s western areas if that matters to you.
Other tips about Cambodia
None noted at this time