Last updated: 24 Feb 2013
As we are based in Siem Reap we can provide you with all of the information you will need for your trip to Cambodia. We have therefore put together the following information, if however you need more information, do not hesitate to ask us when you are enquiring about our Angkor Tours and Guesthouses.
Population: Approx. 13 million
Capital: Phnom Penh
Language: Khmer but English widely spoken especially in Siem Reap
Time Zone: GMT +7 hours and BST +6 hours
Currency: Riel, but US dollars are widely accepted
Weights/Measures: Cambodia use the metric system
We recommend that you bring US dollars to Cambodia, as Riel is only used for buying small items and for tipping. There is approximately 4,000 Riel to 1 US dollar. You can use ATMs in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville to withdraw US dollars. The following cards are accepted at the ATMs; Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, Cirrus and Plus. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger hotels and in restaurants. Canadian Bank ATMs do NOT charge fees for withdrawing cash unlike most other banks. Traveler's cheques can be exchanged at banks, money exchangers and most of the bigger hotels at a charge of 2%. Cash advances are also available on Visa and MasterCard's from most banks and money exchangers. Banks are open from 8:00am to 3:30pm Monday to Friday and some banks are also open on Saturday mornings. Money exchangers open early and close around 10:00pm. All major currencies are easily exchanged especially Thai Baht and the Euro. Western Union and MoneyGram transfers are available in most major towns and cities. If you want to transfer money, then bank transfers are the cheapest way to do it.
Please be aware that there is a lot of counterfeit US dollars in Cambodia, so you should check your US dollars before you arrive and also when in Cambodia, even from banks. Also make sure that your US dollars are in good condition, because most places will not accept torn notes even if they are very small.
Since the end of November 2007, the electricity in Siem Reap has been on a trial period with electricity being supplied from Thailand. Prior to being supplied from Thailand, the electricity in Siem Reap was supplied by large diesel run generators. Siem Reap rarely has power cuts, but they do occur now and then. Most large hotels and restaurants have back up generators.
The electricity supply is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Most of the plugs are flat 2-pin, but round 2-pin plugs are also used in some places. Adaptors are widely available.
There is no longer departure tax to be paid.
All visitors require visas except nationals of Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. Tourist visas are single entry and are US$20. You will need to bring a passport sized photograph with you, although if you do not have a photograph the immigration officials will photocopy your passport for a fee of US$2. They are valid for a one month stay, but can be extended for a further month in Cambodia. However, they are expensive at around US$45. Children under 14 years of age do need visas but they are issued free. The minimum length of stay is 24 hours and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months on arrival. An onward ticket is very rarely asked for.
Business visas are single entry and are US$25. They can be extended for single entry for 1 month or 3 months and multiple entry visas for 6 months or 1 year.
Overstay of any visa is charged US$5 per day.
You may be able to obtain an e-visa. For more information see evisa.mfaic.gov.kh.
Nationals of the following countries must apply for a visa at a Cambodian Embassy before entering Cambodia and they must also have a letter of invitation or have a pre-arranged tour by a travel agent: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Sudan and a return is advised if you have letter of invitation.
Arriving at the airport
When you arrive at the Siem Reap airport you will need to fill out a form called the “Items to declare form” and an “Arrival and Departure" card. If you do not have a visa on arrival, you will also need to complete a visa application form and attach a passport sized photograph. If you do not have a passport photograph, then one of the officials will gladly take a photocopy of your passport so you can use that instead of a photograph in exchange for a few dollars. If you are taking one of our Angkor Tours we will arrange the free pick up from the airport.
Health and Hygiene
The most common illness amongst tourists to Cambodia is diahorea or sunstroke. We recommend that you always use bottled water and eat hot food, as this will reduce the chances of diahorea. Avoiding ice, salads and peeled fruit will help too. The heat and also drinking alcohol can have a big effect on your stomach as well. It's always a good idea to drink lots of water, wear a sun hat and keep out of direct sunlight.
Malaria is quite common in Cambodia, but not in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. Anti-malarial tablets are not really needed but we recommend you seek expert medical advice. If you are visiting other parts of Cambodia then it is advisable to take some form of anti-malarial tablets. Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes which normally bite you in the evenings. To help protect yourself against Malaria then the best protection is to ensure that you cover up bare skin, especially in the evenings, use a Diet based repellent, mosquito nets, mosquito coils and also spray your room with mosquito spray before going to bed.
Dengue fever is also quite common in Cambodia and, unlike Malaria, it can be easily contracted in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh if precautions are not taken to avoid mosquito bites, especially in the rainy season or just after the rainy season. Dengue fever, like Malaria, is transmitted by the mosquito, but these mosquitoes bite during daylight hours unlike the Malaria carrying mosquito which normally bites in the evenings or early mornings. There is no vaccination for Dengue fever and, although it is not pleasant if you get it, it is rarely fatal as long as you seek medical attention as soon as possible. Protection against mosquito bites is the best protection against Dengue fever, so by following the same advice as above you can protect yourself against mosquito bites.
If you do become ill, let your hotel manager know as most of the time they will know where to find a good doctor. For emergencies then go to the new Royal Angkor Hospital on the airport road (see www.royalangkorhospital.com). We strongly recommend that you take out good travel insurance, one that will pay for transportation to Bangkok or home in case of emergency. You may also be better to see a doctor rather than go to some of the clinics for non emergencies, as you may find a receptionist diagnosing you with a serious medical problem.
Postal services and communications
The main post office in Siem Reap is on the West side of the river on Pokambor Avenue which faces Siem Reap river and it maybe easier to find FCC Hotel then it is about 400m from there following the river. You can send postcards, letters and parcels abroad and the service is pretty good. You can also make domestic or international phone calls and their also have a fax machine if you need to fax something back home.
The post office is open Monday to Saturday from 7:30am to 11:00pm and also 7:30am to 5:30pm on Sundays.
There a number of parcel service companies that have opened up in Siem Reap, but the one that most people will know is DHL Express, which is located on Sivatha Boulevard which is the street in Siem Reap town centre.
Internet cafes and telephone calls
There are probably over 200 internet cafes in Siem Reap where you can use internet facilities and also make domestic and international phone calls. Internet rates are normally US$0.50 to US$1.00 per hour. International phone calls via the internet are nearly all under US$1.00 per minute to all countries.
To phone Cambodia the international code is 855 and area code for Siem Reap is 63. If you are inside Cambodia then you will need a “0” in front of the 63 to phone Siem Reap.
Mobile SIM cards
Tourist SIM cards are now available from around US$2 each and they last for 2 weeks. Officially you need to be a Cambodian national with an ID card or you need to live and work in Cambodia to be able to buy a SIM card for your mobile phone for longer than 2 weeks.
There are many photo shops in Siem Reap where you can develop photos or put your pictures onto a CD. Memory cards for digital cameras are widely available and are much cheaper than in the west. Camera batteries are also readily available in Siem Reap.
Tipping is not expected, although it will be much appreciated by someone who is earning an average of US$50 a month in a restaurant. A few thousand riel or one US dollar is enough if you think they have served you well.
Theft is the main concern in Siem Reap as the Police authorities take crime very seriously when it involves the tourists. However, Siem Reap is probably one of safest towns in Asia and definitely safer than most towns in the West.
Commonsense can prevent theft, such as not carrying shoulder bags where someone on a motorbike could snatch it from you. Always put your valuables in a hotel safe or deposit box. Most hotels and guesthouses will tell you not to leave any valuables in the room, because they will not be held responsible. This includes cameras, money, passports and anything else that is of great value to you. You should always keep valuables in the hotel safe but when you do not, then it is at your own risk not the hotel management's. Most staff in hotels and guesthouses will NOT steal from your room but the temptation can still be too great for them if you left, say, US$500 in your room which is over 1 year's salary to them!
When greeting each other formally, Cambodians say Jim-reep-soo which means "how do you do?" and when saying this they will put their hands together like a prayer up to their face and then bow their heads gently towards each other. If they know each other well, then the greeting is less formal and they will say Sok-Sa-Bai which means "how are you?" and they will not greet with their hands. A lot of Cambodians are now changing over to the western ways with a hand shake especially in Siem Reap, so most Cambodians do not take offence if you offer your hand. However, do not offer your hand to a lady unless she offers her hand to you first.
General information about Cambodian culture
It is rude to make eye contact for too long with someone.
Losing your temper in public is regarded as bad manners and a weakness.
People use their right hand when receiving or giving something.
White is the color of mourning.
When invited to someone’s home a small gift is normally given but is not open in front of the person.
Birthdays are not celebrated in Cambodia and many people will not know their proper birthday.
Cambodians in general will say they were born on Khmer New Year (April 13th) and they will also be 9 months old when they were born.
Dress code is formal unless going to an informal affair.
Dress with respect when visiting religious temples.
Cambodians regard putting all the dishes on a table as being inappropriate when having a meal. There is always a type of soup as part of the main meal, but not as a starter which is why sometimes you will not get your soup first when ordering a meal.
Haggling or bartering is normal and is part of every day life.
Pointing your feet towards someone is considered impolite.
Patting or touching someone’s head is considered very offensive.
Taking off your shoes when entering a home is considered polite and respectful.
Cambodia’s Public Holidays in 2013
International New Year
Victory Day – The overthrow of Pol Pot
Chinese New Year (although not an official holiday)
Meak Bochea Day – Buddhism Ceremony
International Women’s Day
14th - 16th April
Khmer New Year celebrations
International Labor Day
13th - 15th May
The King’s Birthday Celebrations
Visak Bochea Day
Royal Ploughing Day
International Children's Day
The King's mother's Birthday
3rd - 5th October
Bonn Pchum Ben Day – This is a big holiday to Cambodians which is the festival of the dead where respects, prayers and offerings are giving to the spirits at the pagoda.
Commemoration Day of the King’s Father
Paris Peace Agreements Day
The King's Coronation Day
Cambodia Independence Day from the French
16th - 18th November
Water Festival (Bonn Om Tuk) – Many activities in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap especially boat races.
International Human Rights day
If any holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday then the following Monday will be an official holiday.